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Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 23 March 1865

December 10, 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. 

Before reading this letter, it would be helpful for you to know that Thomas, was involved in an accident at Kyneton, on 18 November 1864. His left hand was injured, and he lost the sight of his right eye in an accident involving blasting powder. He was admitted to Kyneton Hospital and discharged on 30 December 1864.

Kyneton 23 March 1865

Dear David
I received your letter a few days back, announcing the death of poor father. I was not taken in much by surprise, not hearing from you for such a length of time. I thought something must have occurred to prevent you writing. I think it is three years since you informed me of his having lost the use of one side by an attack of paralysis, and I think it is more than twelve months since I heard from you. During that time, thoughts out of number flashed through my mind. Sometimes I would think I should see him again alive, but no, I was not to do so in this world, but I hope to be prepared to meet him in a better place.

I suppose my last would have reached you about the time I got yours, and on reading its contents you would think I had a narrow escape. I am happy to say I can use my right hand, and have good sight in my left eye, but I cannot see with the right. My left hand is getting much stronger, but I fear it will be some time before I am able to use it, as I have hitherto done.

I hope I shall be fortunate enough to get some light work such as attending in a store or writing. I have lately been writing for a solicitor, copying deeds leases etc., and have engrossed some for them. I may say what I have done has given great satisfaction. I not only found it awkward writing with the sight of only one eye, but to sit any time it caused a pain in the eye effected. I am obliged to wear a shade over it, although I cannot see with it, the light effects it very much. The doctor at the hospital is anxious to operate upon it. I think he wants to turn it. I had much rather they would not, as I can see well with one, and the other I hope, will become better, as I can do without the shade. I may be able to get as good a living as if I had both.

I am in great hopes. My wife has worked very hard. I have been out of the hospital three months, and not been able to earn anything myself until very lately. I am now in great hopes of doing better, if I get the work I am expecting. Light work pays better than heavy, and they have promised to give me as much as possible. She has stuck to the wash tub like a brick, and making the matter worse, she has a young child at the breast, but with all our trouble we have scraped up a comfortable living.

I was greatly in hopes I should hear George’s leg had got quite sound again. He must have received a severe injury. I trust I may shortly hear of his recovery. I hope to hear of your all being comfortably settled.

I was pleased to hear of poor Willy being taken in hand by his grandfather. I hope he will do well. I have not the slightest doubt but Tommy Burton will,  if he is spared, do well. From the appearance of the card you sent me it is a fine establishment. He one day may become the proprietor of a similar one. When you see him tell him to write to his Uncle Thomas. I hope you will not neglect writing to me as often as you can, I mean any of you. I would like to hear from you.

You will,  I have no doubt, push yourselves forward in the world, now you have a foundation to work upon, and I trust you may all succeed in whatever you may undertake. As for myself, should I be spared to receive the amount allotted for me. I cannot say, but I might go to Adelaide. My wife’s friends are there, and I am pretty well known, and I am inclined to think I should be more comfortable there than here, but there will be time for me to consider those things. If I can get a good living here, I will do so for the present, and watch for an opportunity of bettering myself.

I have promised to send my likeness for a length of time, but have never been able to do it until now. I may send another like it next mail. I can get now as many as I like for a shilling each. I am only sorry I had not my wife with me at the time. The cost would have been no more. I will send hers and the children, as soon as I possibly can. I have no doubt you would like to see theirs as well as mine. You will see by mine, that I was standing so as to hide the right side of my head.  The hair has not grown on it yet properly. It punished me to stand looking as I did, without the shade over the Eye. He advised me to put my left hand in my pocket not that the hand is disfigured so very much, but I fear it will never be its natural shape again, although I may be able to use it almost as well as ever.

I was pleased you sent the likeness of your dear wife. I should not have known it, had you not have put the name on it. I can see now a great resemblance of her poor father. Whether you do or not, I hope you will send me your own, and the little boy’s. George must send me his, and William, Edith and Eliza. In fact if possible I must have them all.

I was sorry to hear of the death’s of uncle and James Kidman. Is aunt still living? Let me know if the farm is still kept on at Edworth. Please remember me to any that you may see. I was very sorry to hear of Uncle Luxton’s misfortune. If you hear from him, let me know how, and where he is. I will write to him.

I will write to Messrs Masters & Ryder today, but first of all, I must obtain what intelligence I can, as to a branch bank in England. I would like the money to come through the bank. I have nothing more to say at present, but we are all well with the exception of my youngest boy, David. He has some illness upon him, like a great many other children in this district.

Our loves to all, not forgetting yourself. I cannot send you a paper this mail, but I hope you will send me one as often as you can.

And Remain

Yours truly Thomas Waters

Brief timeline for Thomas Waters

Links to previous letters written by Thomas Waters:

Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – May 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire Kyneton 23 May 1864

*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.

From → family history

  1. flissie permalink

    Oh, poor Thomas – he just suffers one thing after another. But he tries to keep his spirits up. Obviously, the family photos are just so important to him. Bless him

  2. Thomas sounds a little more hopeful in this one. I saw in his last letter that he was having trouble with his eyes. In this letter, it sounds as if he suffered some kind of injury, maybe from an accident?

  3. kaypilk permalink

    The sharing of portrait photos must have been so important to families separated across the world. It’s a common theme in our family letters too.

  4. Laura Hedgecock permalink

    What an optimistic spirit! Think how hard it would be to get news of someone passing long after the event.

  5. My first thought while reading this letter is how literate Thomas is. I know you edited punctuation and paragraphs but even so, he writes beautifully. What a treasure these letters are! And what a struggle for him and his wife. Poor man! How did he decide to move from England to Australia?

    • His literacy impressed me also Nancy. His arrival in Australia is a bit of a mystery as I haven’t been able to find shipping records. He was married in England and left his wife behind.

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