TLM-P's Diaries

Diaries were written for a variety of purposes in the 19th century, with only some meant to be private. TLM-P's diaries appear to be primarily written as aide memoires. The ones written when he is at Maroon or other properties are the documents of a working farmer. One modern reader complains of the boredom of reading, day after day, 'Morning Fine', concluding that, overall, 'his diaries are a study in dullness'.1) The reality is that the weather is of vital interest to all who make a living from the land, and that the diaries were not written to entertain future generations. Yet most will find some aspects of the diaries a fascinating glimpse of past life. Their historical interest is enhanced because most were private documents, so less susceptible to self-censorship. Most of the diaries are in the Mitchell Library (MLMSS 3117).See Catalogue entry2)

Diary 1848

Accordingly to Patricia Clarke, TLM-P wrote in this diary about how fearful he was of Aboriginal resistance, and the measures he was prepared to take. He wrote that the Aborigines from the coast (perhaps driven inland from the more settled coast) were 'troublesome on the Logan', had killed some of his cattle and that he was 'at feud' with them. As he rode, he was also watching for trouble though he thought conditions were less troublesome on Bromelton than on nearby properties. He described one instance were he saw an Aboriginal man standing still, so rode towards him with his pistol raised. It turned out that the terrified Aboriginal man was a station employee ironically known by the whites as 'Master'.3)

Private Journal for 1858

This diary is at the back of ledger for 1854-58. To see a transcription of entries for 15 September to 15 October 1858, click on Sept-Oct 1858. Like TLM-P's other diaries, this one reveals a highly energetic man, though he did admit (on 26 September) that, after riding about 80 miles (nearly 129km) in two days, he was 'tired'. As befitted a friend of Ludwig Leichhardt, he had strong scientific interests. The one event that was underlined is for 13th October: 'I saw a small Comet'. During this period he was heavily investing in land, recording on 24 September that he had bought land worth nearly £226, and on 28 September that he had bought a little more than 522 acres costing just over £522. He was also involved in moving into a house at Kangaroo Point (Shafston?), buying a sideboard, piano and other furniture.

Just as interesting is what is not in this diary - on 10 October 1858, he noted the heavy rain, that he bought some furniture and spent the night with the Mowbrays: nothing that day or the following ones to say that Matilda had given birth to their son Redmond. The only reference to the event at all is the note on 17th September that Jemima Fraser was hired as a nurse at £25 p.a. with a month's notice (i.e. each side would give a month's notice re her leaving); and on 14 October that 'Matilda was able to walk as far as the Mowbrays where we called [upon them]'. The nurse Jemima would have added some confusion to the household: in the entries for the month, TLM-P refers to three different Jemimas: the nurse; his step-sister (whom he paid £60); and his mare. And what do we make of the silence around Matilda giving birth compared with an entry that Jemima the mare had foaled and 'looked very bad'?! And while he mentions 'Tommy', none of his other children are mentioned. To some extent, the omissions and details included can be accounted by the diary being an aide memoire to keep track of business dealings, employees and purchases. Perhaps it was simply that he had no need for an aid to remember Redmond's birth.

According to Andrew Darbyshire, this diary has been digitalised and is 'available' on the NA [National Archives of Australia branch in Queensland] website.4) I have been unable to locate it there. The original was held by Australia Post at GPO Brisbane.

Australia Post's Queensland Stat Office did send a sample entry to ESM-P (from Jim Lightfoot, Historical Officer, 9 May 1979) as follows:

Wednesday 19 March 1862 Samson Steamer not in. Clarence sailed for the Northern Ports 9.30 a.m. About an hour after she left Samson was signaled coming up the river with English mail. Went to Australasian Steam Navigation Co. and to the Customs to see if I could get a boat to take down mail. Telegraphed to Mr McDonald at Lytton to detain the Clarence for the English mail, til I sent it down. Samson's Mail in at 12.30 p.m. delivering letters at 2p.m. - all hands very hard at work. Got off the Northern Mails, all the letter and nearly all the papers by 4.45p.m. Sent them down by the Cab for 10/- to Breakfast Creek, where the Customs boat from Lytton took them to the Bar. Sent letters by Express mail about 3p.m. and kept Woods til 5p.m.for the papers which he took up. Had some dinner at 6 and returned. Got the English mail ready and on board the Kembla about 9p.m. just before she started. I went down to see that they were all safe and right. Night looked dirty. Hope she will get down in time. Forwarded letter to Mr. Patterson accepting offer of A.S.N. Co. vide letter book date. Home by 9.15 p.m. very tired.

  • 1 January-14 February 1863, when Postmaster-General, MLMSS 3117/Box 2. Andrew Darbyshire, A Fair Slice of St Lucia lists the entries. They all indicate a new service, with TLM-P making decisions on how to improve and expand. The first entry for new year's day was considering expanding to Fortitude Valley to provide a postal service for around 1,800 inhabitants. Two days later salaries of new postal employees at Toowoomba and Warwick were noted. When the Governor complained of late delivery of mail via his Aide de Camp, a speedy solution was soon found. There were problems with the Ipswich steamer, and details about the issue of stamps. As Darbyshire notes, Queensland's first postage stamps were issued three years before, in 1860. There were post boxes to be erected and painted/lettered and staffing problems. The last entry was notes on 'Telegraphic Money Orders', one of the ways the colony needed to transfer money.5)
  • Private journal Postmaster-General 1863 No. 3, being a daily account of the Postmaster-General's activities, 16 January-4 October 1863, MLMSS 3117/Box 3. The entry of 18 January 1863 notes that Matilda did not go to church, an unusual occurrence probably indicating she was too ill to do so.6)
  • Diary MLMSS 3117/Box 1. October 1863-?December 1864

It is in this diary that TLM-P records his postal tour of inspection, taking a steamer up to Rockhampton, visiting post offices along the way; when he arrived back in Brisbane on 24 October 1863, he noted it had been a hard trip lasting 54 days and included riding 1,017 miles. Other entries indicate the rapidly increasing demand for postal services - need for a coach as the mail was now too heavy for a horse (27 October 1863); problems with findign suitable men especially to replace soldiers who are ill suited to the job but always get preference; and dealing with opportunistic lobbyists such as Captain Robert Towns who wanted the mail service to accommodate their needs (30 October 1863).

On 6 October 1863, TLM-P had the misfortune to stay the night at Exmoor and was rather dismissive of his host's sisters: 'Mr Henning has a comfortable humpy and two unmarried sisters living with him, somewhat passed their first youth'. One of those sisters, Rachel Henning, formed her own unfavourable view of TLM-P which she published in the very popular The Letters of Rachel Henning. Other entries detail his travel by horse to outback properties, one day recording a journey of 27 miles, another two of 35 miles. He was researching postal routes but also, when needed, making new appointments. He also took the opportunity to record his conversation with James Morrell who was well known for having been ship-wrecked and living for 17 years with the local Aboriginal Australians. He also assesses land in each area, along with its value.7)

He visited England this year.8)

This small diary (MLMSS 3117) begins on 21 May 1882 as a record of TLM-P's first visit to England since he left 43 years ago. He was then an adventurous 19 year old Englishman; by 1882, he was 63 years old and seeing things very much through a colonial grazier's eyes. As he travelled through the countryside in early spring, memories returned ('I began to get a glimmer of former life') but the countryside still looked strange: 'more like gardens and home paddocks in a very fine season abutting upon one another' (22 May).

The diary notes that he left Brisbane on 28 April 9) and begins with his arrival at Plymouth less than two months later. He then made his way to his step-sister Louisa's home in Fernlea Road in the south London suburb of Balham. There he was also reunited with his daughter 'Rosie', Rosa Praed. On the 25th, Jemima his other step-sister arrived to see him. After some time at Louisa's he visited Rosa then Jemima in their homes, the latter at Portsmouth.10) After that, he visited other relatives, and those of his wife Nora. The surnames of those he visited included: Darvall, Sterling, Maurice, Barton, Francis, Aikman, Johnson, Samuda, Balfour, Dawson, Sinclair, Price and Buttenshaw.(e.g. 30 June). He also visited Nora's sister Georgie Martin and her family.

He bought gifts from Australia, but he only mentioned the one that had to be inspected by customs: 'a mounted emu egg'(21 May) - perhaps this one or one like it? 11)

His main activities on this visit is to see his family, go to cultural events - art gallery, concerts etc - and also races and anything else involving horses, as well as sight-seeing. He described a memorable trip to the Parliament and gave a detailed account of inspecting naval ships and their guns before the fleet sailed to war in Egypt. In this age before cheap photographs, the diary was used as an aide memoire on his return, especially when telling his wife about her relatives. So it is not just superficiality when he goes into details about the appearance of the people he meets, though he does particularly note if the women were attractive. He also regularly weighs himself, worrying that he was putting on weight.12) He doesn't comment on public affairs much because, as he notes, 'the papers have all this'(11 July). The trip was expensive, even with so many relatives to stay with. The cost of his passage (return?) he noted as £63 (roughly $7,868 in 2017 values)(2 July).

This diary reveals a number of fundamentals about TLM-P. There is his intense love of his immediate and extended family; his pride in and support for Rosie's writings; his love of art and a wide variety of entertainment including opera and theatre; and his absorbing interest in horses, the latest farming technology and cattle breeds. Especially striking is his habit of chatting to anyone he thought interesting, regardless of considerations of their social standing or, in the case of two women on the train, concerns about their morality - well, one did shock by smoking, though TLM-P was not sure whether it was a 'lark' or indicating they were 'not what they should be'(24 June).

The diary also reveals that he took every opportunity to view art, and regularly complained that his visits to galleries were too rushed. One example was the statues at the Crystal Palace: they 'want more than a passing look'.13) He found the National Gallery too crowded with both paintings and people - 'so much better to go alone and be able to have a good look at those one likes'. When he did go back by himself, he regretted that he had not taken his opera glasses which would have allowed a closer look.14) He felt the same when he visited the Grosvenor Gallery with his daughter Rosa Praed: it was too crowded and he too rushed. He later enjoyed the Doré Gallery where he had time to linger over the paintings and analyse their qualities in his diary, but even then he planned to go again by himself 'and have a long look at these paintings'. His careful appreciation of art is particularly seen in a long diary entry about a painting he saw in London on 21 June 1882. Despite regularly complaining he had insufficient time to write up his 'log' (diary) and send letters home, he gives a long and detailed description of it and its merits.15) The painting was almost certainly Christ in front of Pilate by Mihály Munkácsy. It created a sensation in London when first exhibited in 1882.

He comments that almost everyone he met in England 'has an history' before proceeding to recount a story that could serve as one of Rosa's plots (with the husband as the victim rather than the wife). The significance of his comment is that so many people he meets confide in him, and that he listens attentively. Perhaps too attentively in this case, as he records the story of the man's multiple liaisons in his diary, along with comment that he had four sons living in Australia, including one in Brisbane working for the Registrar General's office (10 July). It is also clear that TLM-P could laugh at himself - when visiting cousins one young woman joined the family group, but was quite distant with him and said nothing. He thought that was 'rich for a cousin, so said, come we must have a warmer introduction, got up, shook hands and kissed her. She … looked astonished'. As well she might, as he found out he was greeting the non-English-speaking French governess: 'Most ridiculous, I got into a fit of laughter, as did the rest, the thing was too absurd'; he then apologised to her in French.(13 July)

While he had retained a love of his original homeland, and like his contemporaries saw no conflict between being British and colonial, his diary entries make it clear he saw himself as irrevocably Australian. At times, his preference strongly swung to Australia over Britain. One such occasion was when he had opened a front window at his sister Louisa's home in London and forgotten to shut it overnight. A policeman (these were the days of regular foot patrols) called in the next morning to point this out, warning that the house might have been robbed. TLM-P was mortified that he'd risked his sister's possessions, but also ended with the sardonic comment, 'a nice country to live in'.(16 July) A final aspect of TLM-P's character as revealed in this diary, is his care for his appearance and fitness, with a special concern that he kept a trim body. He was concerned that his trip had resulted in him putting on weight: when he weighed himself he was 12 stone 7 or 8 lbs - around 79.6 kilos.16)

TLM-P returned to Brisbane, via Sydney, on 19 January 1883.17) One of the Murray-Prior family left Brisbane, again bound for London, on the Merkara on 22 April 1885.18) Darbyshire explains that the Merkara was a 'sail assisted steamer' used for 'the first regular British India Line direct from Brisbane to London. It was heavily subsidised by the Queensland Government. The trip, via the Suez canal, took around 8 weeks.19)

TLM-P kept this diary from 3 May to 7 November. It begins with him leaving England where he had been visiting with his wife Nora and some of their children - they remained behind while he returned to Queensland. It ends shortly before he returns to England to be reunited with Nora and the children. It appears to have been an aide memoir when writing to them as well as a means of relieving his loneliness while his family was away.

It is valuable for its glimpses of travel and life in 1888 as well its insights into his character - particularly his insatiable curiosity along with the self-confidence to talk to all manner of people on their expertise. For more on this diary, click 1888 or read Judith Godden, 'Glimpses of 1888 - the diary of T.L. Murray Prior', Australia 1888 Bulletin, vol. 4, 1980, pp.60-65.

In 1888, a railway line connecting Brisbane to the southern states was opened, making travel easier.20)

Several account books for various stations are also with the ML. The ones for 1854-71 includes some inventories.

Rutherford, Jennifer, 'The After Silence of the Son/g', The Australian Feminist Law Journal, Vol. 33, December 201, pp.3-18.
Provenance: donated by J. Godden on behalf of her father E.S.M-P.
Patricia Clarke, The Murray-Priors at Bromelton 1844-1853 in Patricia Savage (compiled), They came to Bromelton: a brief outline of the life and times of the early pioneers who came to Bromelton - from the pages of history, personal diaries, old letters and family recollections, Patricia Savage, 2004, pp.20-21.
Darbyshire, A Fair Slice of St. Lucia, pp.38,41
Andrew Darbyshire, A Fair Slice of St Lucia. Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, St Lucia History Group research paper no. 8, p.14-15.
Australia's Representative Men, ed. T.W.H. Leavitt, Improved Edition, Melbourne: Wells and Leavitt, c.1889, entry for T.L. Murray-Prior. The book used was one TLM-P signed as owner, dated 14th June 1889. It is likely that TLM-P provided the information. Provenance: J. Godden.
entry for 28 June 1882
TLM-P, Diary, 2 June 1882
Provenance: J. Godden. The egg itself was a more recent gift from a friend.
e.g. 26 June 1882
TLM-P, Diary, 29 June 1882
TLM-P, Diary,310 August 1882
TLM-P, Diary, 9, 13, 15, 21 June 1882
TLM-P, Diary, 9 June 1882
The Brisbane Courier, 19 January 1883, cited in Darbyshire.
The Brisbane Courier, 22 April 1885, cited in Darbyshire.
19) , 20)
Andrew Darbyshire, A Fair Slice of St Lucia. Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior, St Lucia History Group research paper no. 8, p.68n
  • tlm-p_s_diaries.txt
  • Last modified: 2021/07/04 10:14
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