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Thomas Waters Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862

November 6, 2018

Thomas Waters was my great great grandfather. He was born on 05 October 1829, at the family farm, ‘Newtonbury’ Dunton, Bedfordshire, England.  He died on 28 June 1913 at Rochester, Victoria, Australia

Some years ago, I obtained from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, letters that Thomas had written from Kyneton to his family in Bedfordshire, between 1862 and 1874. I have copies of these letters at hand. They make very interesting reading, giving a glimpse into the life of a battling newcomer to Australia in the 19th century, The letters outline his difficulties in trying to support his family without economic or family support.  The homesickness Thomas is feeling for his family in England, is very obvious and heartbreaking to read.
HSV Location: Box 79-2
Item Type: MSS Collection
Item No: MS000976

I have decided to publish these letters over a series of blog posts, in the hope that family members may see them and contact me. I am very interested to make contact with other researchers of this family, so we can compare notes about the Waters family. I have started compiling articles for a book detailing the life of Thomas Waters and his family, both in Australia and England. 

Letter from Kyneton August 1862

My dear Father

Since I last wrote, I am sorry to say, I have not been able to do much good, as the weather has been so very unfavourable. I think, to my best recollection for the last two months, we have had but four fine days a very great deal of rain, with frosts occasionally. The frosts here are not like in England – it disappears as soon as the sun rises. We have on one or two occasions had a little snow, but not sufficient to see it five minutes after it has fallen. In fact it is a rare thing to see snow in this Colony.

You may think it strange speaking of winter, when you are in the midst of harvest, but our harvest does not come on until about Christmas Day. This world is upside down here, although I can’t exactly see it, but there are times I don’t know whether I am on my head or my feet. Myself and two others took a contract to make a road, £50 Job but the weather being so bad we have not been able to get the stone carted on the road. We should have made about six shillings per day each, but as it is, I am afraid it will not be one half,  but as the fine weather will I have no doubt soon set in, I shall I hope, be able to do better. I was obliged leave my tent, owing to the bad weather and rent a house which I am paying four shillings per week.

I shall expect a letter from England next mail. I was on the look out for one this mail, but I could scarcely expect one so soon. God knows whether I shall ever see home again, but I live in hopes of so doing, and I will if I am spared, once make a start and then you can go ahead. This is a fine country to make money if a person can only make a beginning and push ahead.

I should very much like to know how all are at home and what you are doing. I might get a letter every month. I intend to write every month myself. I was too late for the last mail.

I have not heard from Mr. Birt since I wrote to you. If you see Joseph Robarts, tell him to write. Be sure and give me his address when you write me. I would like to hear from him. Let me know how my relations are getting on at Edworth (Bedfordshire) and Havannah (Farm). Remember me to them when you see them. Is Mr. Taddy preaching at Dunton Church still? I should very much like to hear him there on Sunday.

I am sorry to say the Sundays are spent very miserably here, with a great many. There are a great many that never think on entering a church. This place has got very thickly populated with a railroad that is being made from Melbourne to Bendigo – a distance of one hundred miles. It has done good for the labouring men, and brought thousands from all parts of the world. In fact brought too many to get a good living. I think there is two Irish men to one English man. This town is principally inhabited by Irish and the farms round the country for a considerable distance.

I do not like this Country so well as Adelaide yet, but I dare say I shall as I get better known. Any person that could spend a month here for amusemen,t might enjoy themselves. There are many different kinds of wild animals to be seen by just walking into the bush. There is the kangaroo which weighs from 100 to 150 pounds. They run on their hind legs, requires a very swift dog to catch them. They are greyhounds, but very strong. I used to get a kangaroo occasionally when I was in Adelaide. I had a couple of good dogs, and was often crossing the bush to serve summonses when I would get some good sport. The hind quarter is very nice eating just like a hare. The tail is thought a great deal of for making soup. It is about as thick as ones arm and about 4 feet long.

Then there is the opossum , an animal about the size of a good large cat always to be seen on the trees on moonlight nights. They have a head very much like a fox and will bite as sharp. I think they live principally upon the green leaves on the trees. The trees here are always green, they shed their bark instead of their leaves.

There is the flying squirrel. That is an animal very much like the opossum.. It flies without wings. There is a piece of skin that joins on to its hind legs from the fore ones which keeps it into the air as it springs from one tree to the other. If they spring from a high tree they can go about 100 yards.

There are many other animals which are plentiful in some parts of the bush. and most of them good to eat. I have not tasted all, but have shot nearly all sorts. There is the Wallaby, the bandicoot, the wombat, the kangaroo rat. In fact they are too numerous to mention and there are some of the most splendid birds that eyes could see.

Cockatoos are as numerous here as crows in England and parrots of every description and colour. Wild ducks, geese and swans on some on the lakes may be seen by thousands. I have shot more wild ducks in two hours than I could carry but that was some years ago, when they were thought nothing of.

I am sorry I have not the chance now. I do intend some time or other, if I can to send you, some skins of different animals and birds. You could get them stuffed there and I think you would be pleased them as a curiosity.

Snakes are very plentiful here in the summer. We occasionally hear of deaths caused by the bite of them. My eldest boy, Thomas, was bit by one in the leg, but by binding up his leg tight and sucking the wound, it was the means of saving his life. People must be very cautious when walking in long grass or rushes near water. There are many kind of snakes here. I think the black ones are the most deadly.

There are a very great number of lizards here but they appear to be harmless. There are several kinds of them and vary from six inches to three feet in length very much the shape of a crocodile…..(undecipherable)

Ready made clothing may be obtained here very reasonable but unfortunately they don’t last long. Clothes made to order come very expensive. Lace up shoes from 20 to 30 shillings. I paid 22 Shillings for a pair a very short time back. Meat from 4d to 6d per pound, read 10d the four pound loaf. Sheep are sold in large quantities at about 5/- a head to stock a run. Good draught horses will fetch from 50 to 100 pounds, but light horses being so plentiful they are thought but little of

I have to post this today or I shall be too late for the mail. I am sorry I can’t get a paper to send with this. I wish you would send me a paper from home sometimes. I am happy to say myself, wife and family are quite well. Trusting I may hear the same from yourselves. Acccept my best love and believe me to remain

Your dutiful Son.

Thomas Waters

Brief timeline for Thomas Waters

Links to previous letters written by Thomas Waters

Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – May 1862

 *Punctuation and paragraphs  have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading
My thanks to Graham Revill, Surrey, England, for transcribing these letters and lodging them with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.
  1. Oh my goodness, I love old letters! Absolutely wonderful!! Also, that picture is amazing. I love how he is in his nice suit surrounded by shrubs and vines. Fab!

  2. Fascinating letter. What an interesting project. I do feel for the man. He does sound so homesick.

  3. Laura Hedgecock permalink

    I love the way he writes about the world being upside down. So poignant!

  4. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris
    fascinating reading..

  5. ric lucas permalink


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  1. Thomas Waters’ letters to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863 | Tracking Down The Family

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