Monday, 19 January 2009

Darwin in Bathurst

20th January, 1836: Darwin arrives in Bathurst. The day's entry opens with an introduction to the nomenclature of the locals.
A "squatter" is a freed, or "ticket of leave" man, who builds a hut with bark on unoccupied ground, buys or steals a few animals, sells spirits without a licence, receives stolen goods, —and so at last becomes rich and turns farmer: he is the horror of all his honest neighbours. A "crawler" is an assigned convict, who runs away, and lives how he can, by labour and petty theft. The "bush ranger" is an open villain, who subsists by highway robbery and plunder: generally he is desperate, and will sooner be killed than taken alive. In the country it is necessary to understand these three names, for they are in common use.

The town itself did not make a good impression on him. Established two decades earlier, Bathurst was the first inland town and the administrative centre of the developing pastoral industry. At the time Darwin visited, the town and surrounding district had a population of about 3,500 people, 2,000 of whom were convicts.
Bathurst has a singular and not very inviting appearance. Groups of small houses and a few large ones are scattered rather thickly over two or three miles of a bare country, which is divided into numerous fields by lines of rails. A good many gentlemen live in the neighbourhood, and some possess very comfortable houses. A hideous little red brick church stands by itself on a hill; and barracks and government buildings occupy the centre of the township. I was told not to form too bad an opinion of the country by judging from that on the road-side, nor too good a one from Bathurst; in this latter respect I did not feel myself in the least danger of being prejudiced. It must be confessed that the season had been one of great drought, and that the country did not wear a favourable aspect; although I understand it was incomparably worse two or three months before. The secret of the rapidly growing prosperity of Bathurst is, that the brown pasture which appears to the stranger's eye so wretched is excellent for sheep-grazing.


Duncan said...

Really enjoying these excerpts Snail, thanks. The word verification for this comment is bankeri, sounds like a name Darwin could have given something. :-)

Snail said...

Sounds as though he might have observed a few in Sydney Town.