Letters of Kate (Catherine Jane) Parker nee Cook
to her sister Eleanor Watson
(part 1 of 2, 1878-1879)

[Note: the Parkers are beginning their emigration to Australia; the Watsons are living in North-East England.]

Whitfields Hotel,

[June 1878]

My dear Ellie,

Here we are nearly baked during the day, and stewed every night. The thermometer stood at 90 in the shade yesterday, too hot to go sight seeing or anything in the way of exertion that can possibly be avoided. Thomas and Robert have had a great deal of running about looking after luggage business etc. but we are about all ready to set sail. Everything gone to the ship but just as much as Thomas can carry in a bag. I have had just shopping to do here. I bought each of the boys two very smart linen suits one to (wear while I) wash the other. It seems the sailors will do us a little washing for a consideration, so I will trust them to do small things such as coloured cotton stockings etc. We were at Hide Park the other day and Nellie tossed out her hat that you got her right in the busy part of the streets, of course there was no chance of getting it again, but what amused me was Ellie's evident joy that it was gone. We had such trouble with her constantly pulling it off and throwing it down, so I went to Himus's (?) warehouse and got her three white cotton hoods, of course a very great improvement upon the old shape, a kind that are made expressly for the Indies and Australia. She looks very sweet in them and I got a large white one for myself trimmed with white muslin and lace and black cherries. Thomas has got fit out from head to foot in cool light coloured clothing. It is so excessively hot here that Nellie does not wear any petticoats only a frock shirt and pinney and thin cotton socks. I have one cotton skirt on and am still too hot. Robert says there is nothing so suitable in the way of attire as swimming drawers and a coat of white wash. I must finish for I am not going to give way to any sentiment or talk of how I feel until I am fairly off or landed.

Yours lovingly Kate.

S. S. Lusitania
off the Coast Africa

8th July 1878

My Dear Ellie

We have been more than a week at sea now, and this is the first day I have felt inclined to try to write to you. I have been so miserably ill. There is not any one on board has paid such full tribute to Father Neptune as I have done, although every woman in the ship has been sick, and the greater part of the men and nearly all the little ones. Ours were all three very sick in the Bay of Biscay, but it only continued one day with them, and every one says we are having such a smooth passage - but what they call smooth does not answer to my ideas of smoothness. Even today, I can scarcely write for the pitching of the vessel; and I have a constant sensation of giddiness. But I suppose I will get accustomed to it, by and by.

13th July [1878]

I had to leave off here suddenly and adjourn to my Cabin. I have been sick more or less ever since until today, and all day have felt much better, eating with a great relish. We had a very good dinner today, both for our selves, and little ones. We have got a very nice little nurse for Ellie, out of the third class passengers. Thomas has had a dreadful time of it; he has come out strong, as a nurse, lady's maid, washerwoman and scavenger in general. The Doctor was right about the voyage doing me good, for I feel the benefit of it all ready [sic]: my cough is almost gone but, what is far better, the dreadful spit I have so long had has entirely left me; and I am full of hope that I will be entirely cured by this change. I have thinned considerably with the intense heat; but, now that it is turning a little cooler, I feel so much more active and light footed. The heat in coming through the Tropics was terrific. We crossed the line yesterday, and the air is very much cooler today.

18th July [1878]

I have been very sick every day since writing the last; my sufferings have been terrible. Today the sea is beautifully calm and the vessel does not pitch so, and I am all right. But I know now that I will be sick whenever the sea is rough.

Our little ones keep very well. Nellie is very much improved. We still have the little nurse: she takes well too [sic] her, and it is a great relief to us. We expect to have her services until the end of the voyage.

There is a Lady on board, very much to be pitied. She has one little girl just out of the Hospital, other two boys in tow [?], all of Chicken pox, and a puny baby of four months, just alive, dying of a sort of wa[sting?] of the bowels, the Dr. is very attentive of it and we all try to do what we can for her but there is no hope of it pulling through it is in convulsions today and we expect its death every minute. Poor woman her anguish is terrible to see, her husband went to Sydney last September and has never seen the infant.

The cooking is very nice on board and very nicely set out, silver and fine linen, the entire ship has been fitted out for this voyage, almost regardless of expense, every cabin of our size is supplied with eight fine white towels per week and clean linen every week on beds. Every article is new, never been slept in before and the whole vessel kept exquisitely clean. Our dinner today was soup, roast leg of mutton, roast shoulder ditto, potatoes, haricot beans and several dishes of Irish stew, dainty rice puddings and stewed pippins, and iced water every day. Some days we have dessert and on Sundays, always chickens, roast beef, plum pudding and delicious pastry etc. So that you see whatever we suffer from it will not be hunger. We saw such a shoal of porpoises today springing high out of the water, it was a very interesting site. There were very many thousands of them. I have seen two whales and thousands of flying fish. Thomas has been so much engaged with the little ones etc. that he has not seen so many of the sights on deck as I have. I have spent the greater part of my time there with periodical rushes to the ship's side.


Dear Nellie.

Mrs. Whitman's little baby died yesterday and was buried at sea today. Thomas gives an account of the funeral and, as you have all to see it, I will avoid giving the same news. I felt very much for her, she is a nice intelligent lady and it is her first loss. Her other little ones are recovering nicely. There is some fear that we may be put in quarantine at the Cape and you can have no idea of the state of anxiety we all are in about it. I am longing so for the change. I have not seen land for three weeks and I am weary, weary of sea nothing but sea. I am better of sea sickness today, the rolling does not affect, it is the bow to stern pitching that upsets me. I must here say that you must excuse bad writing for the "Lusitania" is rocking her children and occasionally she turns vicious and almost "coups" us out, it was very dangerous yesterday on deck, and my head was so bad that I could not go down below so Thomas had my chair securely lashed and I had a rope to hold on by, and it was all I could do to keep from rolling down to the deck side. The vessel is light and high out of the water or we would have shipped the sea. A great many of the waves were higher than the top of the deck and it was awful to look at them coming sideways on the ship but she rode over them beautifully, and then oh! Horror! The settling down into the tremendous trough of sea and the rushing down of every loose thing was a thing to be seen to be understood. If she had behaved so at first I would have been frightened out of my senses but I have got so accustomed now to it that I made myself quite ill with laughing. Of course I was assured there was not any danger, only inconvenience in the situation. The breaking of glasses and crockery was tremendous and the whole scene all day altogether indescribable. There was very little sleep for any one last night and often during the night I pictured you sweetly asleep with dear little John on your arm. I should think you often think of us. I do of you sometimes with an aching heart but I try as far as possible to look on the bright side.

[letter finishes at this point]

S.S. Lusitania

August 5th 1878.

My dear Ellie,

We enjoyed ourselves very much at Simons Town (see Thomas's letter for full particulars). It was such a delightful change after three weeks confinement to have the use of one's legs, for the vessel is such a fearful roller in rough weather and we have not had much else that ladies have to be very nimble and active to walk on deck. We were detained much longer in the coaling business, than we ought have been, owing to the heavy sea, we could not coal at Cape Town, there had been four wrecks the day before we arrived, several lives lost one of the Captains lost too. We came behind heavy storms for more than a week and I considered it quite rough enough, I have not been up on deck since Tuesday until today and I could not stay many minutes then. I have been rather poorly yesterday and today owing to a heavy fall. The ship gave a heavy and unexpected lurch and I was sent several yards forward and struck on by bowels against the steward's sideboard. Now and then I am sick in the morning


Dear Ellie,

It has been so dreadfully rough since I wrote the last, that it was a matter of impossibility to do anything more than sit holding on, the rolling and the pitching has been something frightful, we have had such rough squally weather, that we could not go up on deck, and port holes and doors and windows were all closed in. I can assure (you) the stench both night and day was very disagreeable. The vessel is rather overcrowded and it was a delightful change yesterday to wake and find the sea so calm that we could all open and get up on deck. We were twice at church yesterday, but I got a seat .so near the end of the vessel that I did not hear anything save the pounding of the screw. I feel dreadfully weary of the voyage.

September 3,

My dear Ellie,

I resume my letter. I have no more voyage news to send you, I got more and more tired of it every day so that when we arrived here my feeling of thankfulness was something altogether indescribable and when we got into our own house I felt an almost childish delight in everything. It seemed all bright and pleasant even the very inconveniences we had to contend with (and of course they were not few) was subject for amusement for Thomas and myself and to the children everything was simply delightful. Poor little Ellie's great joy in finding the use of her legs was very laughable to see. She seemed in such an ecstasy that she was allowed to run about for we could not let her walk the greater part of the voyage it was so rough that it was not safe and she had to be nursed constantly. She is very well now and so fat and rosy, she is beginning to talk very nicely and promises to be a very plain speaker. Every day she gets more engaging and she grows better tempered and very girl like in her little ways. The boys are very well, they have just gone to school today and now I think I must tell you how I am myself (for Thomas was never better). Well the improvement in my health is something wonderful - my cough has gone entirely, no spitting, no chest pains, in fact the air here seems so light and easy to breathe that one never thinks about having lungs at all. I have a good appetite and sleep well at nights generally. We have a good house, most convenient in arrangement, all on one floor, it was nice and clean being newly papered and painted so that we are in a tolerable order now. Thomas helped me very much - he worked very hard the first week, he is busy this week in the city doing some extra work for a Mr Grainger, and has a prospect of more from another Architect. I have got two very nice neighbours, one on each side of me in detached cottages the same as ours, they are both members and very kind friendly people. Mrs. Bisanko will do almost anything for me. She is a plain working women and not at all intrusive, Mrs Hopwood, the other one is quite an old woman, very stout and jolly and good. She is a professed mid-wife, although she does not go out much now but she is coming to me and will come every day to wash the infant until I am well, of course I have a washer engaged too. I will be having a nurse, a member, I did not intend having one, but Thomas insists upon it as he will be busy and away from home part of every day, and the servant I have got is only young. Our house is in a most beautiful locality. The view from our front verandah is very grand. There is an uninterrupted view of the Mt.Lofty range of hills and they are altogether different I ever saw. There are trees growing right up to the top of them, and all on the foot of them, and peeping out so far up are the mansions of the wealthy men of the city. I often think of you when I sit under our front verandah wonder how you are and John and the dear children and most of all dear Robert - I miss him more than all and so does Thomas. It is our spring here and soon dark and when we gather round the bright wood fire in our cosy little sitting room at night, then we think of home and the loved ones there. Sometimes Thomas will say "I wonder if Robert will come along tonight". I can hardly tell you how I feel how I seem to realise the immense distance between us, but still this is only at times. I am so well and it is such a beautiful country and so much to make one feel happy that one cannot harbour regretful feelings for long, one feels as if it would be almost a sin. I have just been called into the kitchen to receive a present from Mrs.Hopwood of a basket of green peas and a boiling of new potatoes. It is very early for them - they are out of her own garden and the first I have seen. She has such a lovely garden. Ours is a fine one, but hers is better. We have a good few English flowers - a number of rose trees, they are in bud now some monthly ones in full flower and the geraniums flower all the year. They are as large as a good sized gooseberry bush and any one of the scores of flowers always on them would take a prize at a show at home. They are all double and so large and fine. We have wall-flowers in bloom and pinks and such glorious lilies like poor Mother's. One of ours has such a lot of flowers on our peach, quince and plum trees are all in blossom the scene altogether looks so strange to English eyes to see fruits and flowers growing so freely in the open air that we have only been accustomed to see in hot houses at home. It seems such a land of plenty, we don't see anyone looking poor. Everyone seems well clothed and comfortable. I had to drop here, Thomas came into to tea and directly after Mrs West, the nurse, called. I have engaged her for two weeks at 1 pound a week. She seems very respectable and this is considered moderate payment here. I think that perhaps by next mail we will be able to send you the news of the little colonist's arrival. I do not think I have any more news to send unless I begin and describe our furniture and perhaps you would laugh at that. We have got some very substantial things and neat, but nothing very flashy, our own bedroom and sitting are very nice, good substantial iron bedstead cane seated chairs, chest of drawers entirely made of cedar wood ,wash stand and dressing table etc .to match well polished pretty matting on floor of sitting room and hair seated chairs, one oak arm chair and a dear little rocking chair for me, a strong dining table and couch in cedar and ? leather. We have a handsome bronze lamp (kerosene) that Thomas bought at a sale for 8 shillings. It gives a splendid light and is so much cheaper than gas. I bought half a gallon of kerosene when we came for 10 pence and we have not used half of it yet. We burn it in the kitchen too. A few pictures and chimney ornaments that he bought about finish the description of these rooms. We got three good bedsteads and fittings for the other two rooms but that is about all. Yet Thomas is going to a sale tomorrow and will be buying a lot more things likely. He got all sorts of useful utensils at one the other day for a mere nothing. All sorts of that I very much needed .I cant walk any distance so that he has all the shopping to do. I must draw to a close now for I am wearied with sitting so long as you will see by my bad writing. Give my very kindest love to all enquiring friends. I cannot enumerate them all. I hope niece Lizzie is stronger and Annie better also.

Tell dear Robert we are looking so anxiously for a letter from him. Give him and Hannah a kiss for me and your dear John and little John and my name sake and Grandma and the same your own dear self.

From your loving sister, Kate.

Mitchell Street,
Goodwood Park,
South Australia

14 September 1878

My dear Ellie,

I was confined on Tuesday evening September 10th at 9 o'clock of a fine daughter, not quite so large a child as Nellie was but still a fine plump one. She came before the Doctor could be got of course but the mid-wife was in attendance and the whole affair was got over without any fuss and just as nicely as it was possible to have been. Of course she is a very good looking baby! But without any joking she is a pretty little creature having escaped my pug, and like little Nellie in other features and tokens to be very good tempered. I am doing very well indeed. I like my nurse very much. She is skilful and attentive and best of all not fussy, but quite careful enough. We are having glorious weather. It will be very pleasant when I am able to get out and I have a good many invitations out as soon as I can. I had Mrs. Harvey (Mrs T.Oliver's sister) and Mrs Angas Johnson on Tuesday afternoon paying me a visit. The latter lady is married to a grandson of George Fife Angas (the founder of the Colony) and they are the wealthiest and most influential family here. She came in her own carriage left her nurse and infant in it and stayed chatting most agreeably with me for half an hour, and the lady friends I made in the ship had all been to see me. One has got married since she came, very happily too I think, and the other one got engaged to a Gentleman a fellow passenger of ours a Mr. Darrett. She had never seen him before. He seemed a very nice man as far as one could judge. There was an English Mail on September 9th, I was fearfully disappointed that there was not a letter from Robert as one posted three weeks after we left London would have arrived by this mail and they put out a list of all letters to be called for but Thomas says I must be patient for likely he had not much news to send so soon. I suppose you will have got our letters all right, I sent one to you from Simons Town and another from here and Thomas sent the same to Robert. Nurse has brought me my luncheon composed of egg flip made with delicious goats milk and as I am thoroughly tired out I will bid you good morning - Kate.

16th September.

My dear Ellie,

Thomas has gone to Harwood? To preach this evening and while a little light remains, I thought I would sit up in bed and talk a little to you. The time that I have been lying with no occupation, my thoughts have been almost constantly with you. This morning when left quite alone for a short time I indulged in a regular "good cry", I felt such a sick longing to see your dear face at my bedside. I am getting on very nicely, I feel very much stronger than I generally am at this date. As I lie I look out upon the most charming view. My bedroom is in the front of the house and looks on the flower and fruit garden, the peach trees and plums are in full blossom, the almonds and figs are on the trees but are green so are the oranges. It seems altogether a charming place to be confined in. The boys and Ellie are very much delighted with the baby. Thomas takes very little notice of her. I tell him the thing is getting too common now, he says that considering that Doctors and nurses fees are so much higher here I must not upon any account think of having babies oftener than once a year! He is still busy with Mr Mc.Manus(?). He has the offer of three situations, he has no arrangement with Mr McM. As to terms until he has been with him a few weeks and he sees what are his capabilities. The other assistant has 6 pounds a week. Thomas will be offered nothing less, but I scarcely think he would accept a permanent engagement at that or even a good deal more for everyone thinks he would get on splendidly for himself but he thinks he may as well be earning as much as will keep the "wolf from the door' while he is getting known in the Colony and he finds he is gaining experience of Colonial ways too. I had such a kind letter of congratulations from Mrs. Marcus yesterday, she is coming to see me in a fortnights time she says. Baby is fidgeting now so I will say good evening.

Tuesday evening
September, 17th.

My dear Ellie,

I have been so lazy and tired since Sunday that I have not troubled to get on with my letter to you but am better today. Have been up to tea and when Thomas came home he brought me word that the "Lusitania" was lying off Adelaide and letters could be sent home by her so I thought I would finish this off and you would get news of baby's birth a little sooner than if I waited to send by ordinary mail steamer. Thomas is in the city this evening, he is appointed vice-president of the Young Mens' Christian Association and this is the first meeting he has attended. He is looking so stout and well and so are the children. I see a wonderful difference in Addison and Ellie, they have got quite sturdy and fat. You would see a great difference in my appearance. I have gone very much thinner since you saw me. I think the intense heat of the tropics and long continued sea-sickness have ensured this, but I need not care about that seeing I feel so much better in other respects. Baby's name is not finally fixed upon but I think it will most likely be Mary Addison, she is a quiet sleepy little creature so far. I often wonder how your dear little John is getting on if he still keeps as fat as ever. I would like to have his portrait soon. When my little girl gets a little bigger I will have her photographed for you. At present I think there is rather too little of her. Thomas has been looking at some furniture today, we have a pretty drawing room but have not got it furnished yet. It is to be my first trip to town to choose the things for it. Our goods have not arrived from England yet. Tell Robert the box with the most necessary things in happened to come with us so that we have not felt so very much inconvenienced and all my sheets, bed curtains, toilet mats (?) and numberless other bedroom requisites were in it. When our other things come, we can make the whole house look very nice. I am looking very anxiously forward to the arrival of the next mail. I hope that there will be a letter from dear Robert, I scarcely expect one from you so soon. There was another death on board the "Lusitania" the day after we left here, a poor woman in the third class, she was ill all the way. I noticed her sometimes on deck when weather was fine on the early part of the voyage and though death stamped upon her face she was taken ashore and buried ashore at Melbourne. Her poor husband not being in circumstances to afford to go with her, he went on to Sydney. I do not think I have any more news to send and I am very tired so I must come to a close. I hope soon to have a great big letter from you. Wishing dearest love to every one of you, I am your loving sister. K.Parker.

[note from Thomas]

Dear Ellie,

Will you please tell Robert I have not time since leaving that the "Lusitania" will take letters to write him and it is also only a short time since I wrote; but I am gathering up by the way as I go on from day to day and will write him more as to my views of this City and Colony. Of course only having been here about a month I do not feel prepared to say much as yet. Tell him I was at the Young Mens' Association Meeting at our city Church last night and we had about 10 present and a prospect of more and I think it promises better than the Byker Association., at least in respect to Readings and Recitations, for that was last nights programme - I haven't yet discovered any Metaphysics tell him; but I am on the lookout. Kind love to John, and hope to hear from him a long measure letter please. Love to Robert and all enquiring friends. Yours affectionately Thomas.

[letter is missing pages 1-8 inclusive]

Sunday evening
Nov. 10th 1878

Dear Ellie,

Thomas is preaching at Kitchener? tonight, I am feeling rather lonely and too much given to retrospection. I have been trying to read for the last half hour but it was of no use, my thoughts will wander off to Robert and you and all the dear ones connected with you, so I have laid it to one side and will have a talk with you. Oh! For an hours real talk. I am gradually gaining strength, hope soon to be quite well. I have only once been able to go to Chapel. The boys go to a Sunday School at Galey?Park about half a mile from our house. They are going to have a picnic to Glenelg tomorrow a general holiday here on account of Prince of Wales' birthday. The next holiday will be on the 28th Dec. the anniversary day of the Colony. Great crowds go down to Glenelg Bay to visit the tree under which the founders stood when they proclaimed the founding of the Colony. It has a silver plate upon it and of course it is a fine old gum tree. People take tents and provisions down. It is too hot to sit on the sands long. Think of us at Christmas time! The hottest time of the year. This letter will not reach you until after Christmas but you may be sure we wish you a happy one and will drink your healths. I am looking forward to the next mail on the 9th Dec. I hope it will be like the last one , here, several days before she was due, heard the great signal gun go off at Glenelg when she arrived at midnight and the next morning the dear old flag was flying from the tower of our magnificent Post Office causing many a heart to thrill with joy at the thought of "news from home". I think mine will dance wildly if there is a letter from Robert. Thomas is sending out Circulars and going to make a strenuous push to get on in business. I hope his way will be opened out for him. I do not feel oppressed with care about it, I feel sure he will be guided aright. I know we are in our Providential way that matter was a settled one with me before we decided to come.

The night is closing in, the stars are appearing one by one in the deep blue of our beautiful sky and I must say Good Night darling as there are little domestic duties waiting for me to attend to. Kate xxxxxx.

Monday night.

Dear Ellie,

It is nearly bed-time, I have washed baby and put her into her cot and Addison has rocked her to sleep. Baby is thriving now very nicely. She is now just about the size Nellie was when born, she is very fair but she seems thin. She is not so small made as that she wants filling up. Other people think her a fine baby and not so small but after Nellie she is little to my eyes.

November 13th

Dear Ellie,

It is only 9 o'clock and the heat is tremendous and yet on account of the dryness of the air, it does not feel an enervating sort of heat. The work of our house is nearly all done. We all rise very early, I am dressed for the day in a cool linen dress. I am going to do some sewing, make Addison a light grey suit. At present the boys are wearing the suits Robert and I got for them in London and they look so nice in them. Whenever I look at them I am reminded of him and of his thoughtful kindness to us that last week we spent together. Mr.& Mrs. Wright drove down here yesterday evening. He went to preach at the Church having Mrs.W. with me and called after service and had supper. We had a very pleasant evening indeed. You would like Mrs. Wright I am sure.

Nov. 16th

I have just come in from having such a delightful drive, it was so pleasant, there is a sweet cool south wind today and after the hot east and north winds we have had the last few days it is very enjoyable. We had a fine view of the sea, and oh! How I thought of you. I always feel a yearning of the sight of the dear ones when I see the mighty ocean that parts us. I am thankful to be able to say that I am quite well now, and my breast is nearly better. I will not get the use of it again I am afraid, but I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for the many perils He has brought me through, for I have indeed had a sore time of it. I had a walk out this morning to a store not far from here. They deal in all sorts of things. I bought some drapery and groceries and a few articles of glass all at the same shop. The glass is very dear, I treated myself to one honey pot, one jam glass and a cake dish the three cost me 6 shillings and nine pence. I look upon them with not a little pride and respect. I paid 2 shillings for two common basins! I have had very little to buy in this way, for Thomas bought such a lot of crockery of all sorts at a sale and got them for a mere song. I can tell you I am very glad, for since I have gone to price such things I find that there has been an immense saving. They all have to be imported and that is the reason. I was so sorry but I had put a few such things into the boxes. I was in the garden this afternoon with Nellie. It was amusing to see her run under the locquat trees and point upwards, repeating "Nellie, Nellie" over and over again until she got supplied with one or two of this most delicious fruit. We have an orange tree loaded with fruit but not ripe yet, another young one has a few on, but we will have more peaches and plums than anything else, excepting of course the grapes, there will be any amount of them and ours are a very fine kind. Good many are Muscatel and I intend to dry a large quantity for raisins in the season grapes are sold for a penny and 3 half pence a pound. They say the flavour is finer than English hot house grapes.

Goodbye I am going to join Thomas in the garden, he is busy there. Kate.

[letter starts at page 5]

Wednesday evening
Dec. 18th 1878.

My dear Ellie,

I am keeping in splendid health and so are the children. Baby is growing very active and lively, how I do wish you could see her! It seems so strange for me to have a child that you have not seen. Sometimes when I am washing her and she laughs up into my face (as she always does when I wash her), I think with a spasm of pain if only dear Ellie could see my sweet little Mary, but who knows, perhaps you may see her before so very long, for I cannot face the idea that we can have to pass our lives apart from each other or be even so long parted, but God knows and what He wills is best, I try to simply trust in Him.

Thomas has been rather poorly since Sunday. Had too hard a day and enjoyed the apricots rather too freely. He is sitting opposite to me with Ellie on his knee, having beef tea for supper and she is looking out very sharp that she gets her share. She is such a pet for her Da, follows him all over like a little dog and as soon as ever he comes in runs to get him his slippers. Thomas received another small commission on Saturday, a small Church at Tarcowie ?, about 100 miles from here. He got it through Mr. Wright. He has been so kind to us considering the time Thomas has been here. He has had very fair success and I have no fear that he will get on, but I must say goodnight for the dear little rebels are running about and making a terrible noise. Kate.

Dec.20th 1878.

You will see that this is the date of Addison's birth. We have not had a cake. He got a penny this morning. He does not think much of Australian birthdays. He is very much stouter but not so much improved as Nellie. I have just got my black silk dress home. I have had it remade, it was mildewed with damp in the ship. I snipped it entirely to pieces and cleaned it with ammonia, it has made up like new and only cost me 6 shillings and nine pence altogether. Of course you will know that there is no mourning worn here except by widows, if a very near friend, wealthy people appear a few times in black, if in the summer entirely in white, as this is considered mourning, but the general way of signifying that you have lost a dear one is to wear a band of black around the left arm sleeve. I thought it looked so funny at first when I came to see people in quite light coloured clothes on and about 2 inches of crepe around the sleeve, but now I think nothing of it as it would be quite out of the question to wear black in such a climate. I have made Nellie a linen frock out of a piece I had off mine. She wears nothing but a cotton shirt, cotton petticoat and print dress and baby the same, and my costume is even lighter sometimes. This will give you an idea of the heat. At nights I lay baby in her cradle or cot with a light cotton cover over her and her mosquito curtains of white net drawn around her and she sleeps all night so nicely. In general the intense heat I have been describing only lasts two or three days and then there is a change. We get cool sea breezes for a day or so and then heat again. We have had it very hot for a few days and last night it was so hot that we could not sleep. Early this morning it changed. I leant out of the window several times while I was dressing to enjoy the sweet morning air from the sea. Of course we have all sorts of contrivances to keep our houses cool and the water also.

I have not had any sea bathing yet, but I intend as soon as I can to run down to Glenelg and have a few. There are bathing machines and the sharks do not come into shallow water! There is also a good deal of bathing from the rocks and sands. I heard a very funny story the other day of a young Gentleman who had just had his dip and was come out but had not got an article of clothing on when he was suddenly surprised by some lady friends coming round the corner. He completely lost his presence of mind and picked up his hat and stuck it on his head! And there he stood the picture of helplessness! I said if he had got his gloves on the picture would have been complete.

Now my dear I must finish for this time. I will send more next time. I am anxiously looking forward to your next letters. This is not the regular mail we are sending by the "Cusco" you will have them ten days sooner. We will likely send papers by the mail on the 30th. Thomas is writing to Robert. You will be sure to see it as I avoid giving the same news.

I hope you will write me long letters, send news of all kinds and all sorts of people, those that one did not care very much about at home, one would feel interested to hear anything of them now! Give my love to Lizzie Kidman when you see her and any other friends who may enquire for us. With kind love to Grandma, John, Kate and kisses for dear little John. Your loving sister Kate.

South Australia

Jan 24 [1879]

My dear Ellie,

The regular mail leaves on Monday. I expect to have a proof of baby Mary's portrait by then to send you if they are good. We took her yesterday. There was such a peace of work to get her to sit. She would keep on (?) and (?) to the photographer, and just as he would be going to take her he would shout and talk to her to fix her attention, but she generally threw up her hands and burst into a regular giggle. You would have enjoyed the scene. I am longing for your dear little John's. I hope to have it by the time this reaches you, and dear little Kate, it is time she was taken again. Thomas has reflected upon himself very much that we did not get Robert to sit when in London, not that we need anything to remind us of him, but it is pleasant to have them to look at now and then, and oh! When the letters come we are just over-joyed. I generally pass a sleepless night. I lie going over in my mind the many happy times we have had together. I hope before very long we will be all together again, in this new and better land. I feel almost sure Robert would get on here, a steady man can't help it. He has definitely promised in his last letter, so I have that to look forward to. It would be nice if you all came together. We often please ourselves by fancying how we would come to meet you and the greetings there would be between us.

We have not succeeded in getting a house yet at the Port. We have searched all over the place but they are difficult to get. There are some very nice houses but none to let. People have them built for themselves, there is very little speculative building. It is very inconvenient for Thomas going up and down every day. You would think the salary small, everyone does here, but then it is only for one year and it is a public position. Thomas has got more known in this one week than all the other time that he has been in the Colony, and 250 pounds a year goes farther here than at home. Food and clothing is so cheap, one of the Councillor's said to Thomas the other day, to the Council "to build us a house when he got them into a good humour some day". It is just possible they may, for we have such a trouble about getting one and will likely have to take an unsuitable one at last, it is very wearying work wandering about searching, in all the burning heat. I have had several days of it and would be glad to be settled down for a little bit. Thomas is very well, he looks bronzed and foreign looking but he is so jolly and hearty.

Monday 27th

Dear Ellie,

The mail leaves today, Freddie and I are going up to the city by the next bus to post our letters. I send you the specimens the photographer sent us, she has moved her little arm and looks sleepy otherwise. No.1 is a perfect likeness. No.2 is a failure in every respect, excepting the eyes, so I think between the two you will see what my baby is like. She is rather "lumped together" in the waist, but then she is a very young baby to be taken sitting alone. We will be moving in a week's time. Thomas will make final arrangements today. We have the choice of two, I do not like either of them, but will have to put up with what will not quite suit. I can assure you I make a capital Colonist's wife! I am quite delighted with the chance of getting a four roomed cottage with the front door opening directly into the parlour! But after all, these mere externals do not make your happiness. Thomas and I are very happy. We see a better future before us and are full of hope. I have not time to send you more this time. This is an extra letter, I will give you longer measure next. Your loving Kate.

P.S. We will send portraits for Robert and others by next mail.

[Note: the Watsons began their journey from England to South Africa in March 1879.]

Port Adelaide
South Australia

Sunday April 27th [1879]

My Dear Ellie

We received your interesting letters on the 21st. Glad to learn that you were all well and in pretty good spirits, on the eve of starting your long journey. But I know it would be a terrible tug, to you both, at the last; and it is worse after you reach your destination, and have to settle down in a strange place. But time helps a little, although I beleive [sic] if I stay here for twenty years, I will not feel reconciled to be parted from you and dear Robert. The thought of meeting in the future, alone makes the present endurable.

We were so delighted with your portraits; they are all very good. Dear little Kate's is delightful; I never tire of looking at it. I fancy there is a shade of sorrow on your own dear face. I daresay [sic] there well may be, but there are sweets with the bitters. You have two strong towers: you know the first and best; the next is the true love of your good Husband, as well as a host of joys in the little ones, known only to mothers.

We are constantly talking about you, wondering how you are getting on in your journey. Thomas says he does not think you will be further than Port Elizabeth. I hope you are further on than that. I hope we will soon have a letter from the Cape.

I have had an interval here. We have been to Church at evening service. Revd Raymond has preached, or tried [doubly underlined]. I have not heard much preaching since I left home; but he is a very good and (what does not alway [sic] follow) very nice man. Thomas is always preaching. There was a talk of a need for a second preacher in this circuit; but, since Thomas came, that notion has dropped.

Baby has got two teeth; she is turning a dear little creature. Freddy is very busy writing to you. I have been wondering how you would get on with the wood fires; I suppose you will have no coals in Africa. You must not be backward in asking information of old colonists. If you have Charcoal-box irons at Aliwal, by all means get one; they are so nice, much better than flat irons. Ask all particulars about using them.

I must say good night now, my own dear Ellie.

May 11th [1879]

My Dear Ellie

We received your welcome letter from the Cape; Thomas brought it in with him. I opened the front door for him. I saw by his beaming face he had news. He called out "a letter from the Cape"! and then I felt almost frenzied until I got hold of it; and he was so provokingly slow in getting it out of his pocket; and I tearing round him, all the time like a wild thing. But oh! what a treat when I did get it; it was so very interesting to me, and I was so thankful you had got so far on your long journey safely; although the worst is to come after you leave the cape, the "Bullock waggons" are dreadful affairs. It was a grand thing you were not sick; if I had not been sick, I should have quite enjoyed it, rough as it was.

By this time you will be in your new home at Aliwal. Tell me all about what it is like, how furnished, number of rooms etc; in fact, I gloat over the details of your life apart from me. I hope dear little John will bear the journey well; I have had great fears for your little ones. I hope you would be able to get into houses to sleep: it would be very cold at this time of the year, sleeping in the waggon.

It was very nice for you having a stewardess: second class passengers have not that advantage. I often wished we had had one, when I lay in my close berth so sick, and never a woman to speak to me. But now, Ellie, I am going to tell you a strange thing. I felt the whole of the voyage that my dear Mother's spirit was with me. I felt concious [sic] of her sympathy; sometimes in the dreary darkness of the night, when Thomas was fast asleep in his berth above mine, and the little ones, all asleep; nothing but the noises of the ship to be heard, and the bellowing of the bullocks immediately overhead, and the waves thundering over the deck. I would feel so nervous, and think my lot a hard one to be in such circumstances, at such a time. I would call out in my misery -- oh! mother! mother dear, do you know how I suffer? And, in an instant, I felt so comforted; and I know [triple underline], I am certain, her spirit was near through the weary long hours of the night, when I could not sleep.

Well it is all over now, and we are very comfortably settled down, and all in very good health; and I am devoutly thankful to my Heavenly Father for his goodness to us in all the changes we have passed through. Your in love


Siddon Place
Portland Estate

Aug 11th [1879]

My Dear Ellie

Thomas and Mr Raymond are hammering away at Jevon's logic. It just reminds me of dear Robert, how he used to peg away at it, and set me thinking of home. So I thought I would sit down and write to you. Now I do wish you could look in and see our happy little home, and join me in a glorious "crack" while the "Boys" are argufying [sic] in their usual style; and dear John, what - a treat -- it would be to hear his clear ringing voice again.

I am looking forward quite anxiously for the mail to come in, as we hope for a letter from Robert; his last was dated February, six months ago! Thomas asked John Parker in his last to go down and see him, to ascertain if he was well, as I keep tormenting myself with the idea that he must be ill. But, still, I hope a great deal from the knowledge that he is not a very good correspondent at any time, and your leaving would upset him again.

I am so glad you like your life in Africa, and are happy; there is a great deal in making up your mind to be so, and being adaptable, in a new Country. I would like very much to have a description of your house and Furniture. Our House here is not a very good one, not so large or convenient as the first one, and not nearly so well furnished; as we had to part with all our best things, on account of the difficulty of getting them here: the roads are so very bad from Adelaide to the Port. But, we are very comfortable, have all we need. I would like to have a piano, but Thomas thinks we had better not burden ourselves with any more things, until we have been here longer and are more settled. For, of course, he will keep a look out and, if he has a chance, will better himself; and we might have to move again.

Freddy works away at his lessons; seems very anxious to get on. He was disapp[ointed] that there was not a note in your last for him: he eagerly expected one. Addison is getting better of the Hooping [sic] cough. Nellie and Mary A have it very bad still, but nothing alarming, I think: it does not prostrate them at all. I hope your dear little Kate and John are quite well. I seem to know so little of the latter. I often try to picture the dear little man walking, but I seem as if I cannot. I see instead a great fat lump of a Baby, always with a laugh when spoken to, and his hat too small for him. That is the way he looked when I last saw him; precious little pet. Kiss him, and hug him well for me.

We have just got in by Mr Raymond our P. M. literature -- "Ambassador Magazines" and "Messenger" and Child's Friend. It is nice to get connexional news. We see the Primitive sometimes, but do not take it in ourselves.

Mr R has had supper with us and gone. It is now ten oclock, so I think I will wish you good night dear.


Aug 13th [1879]

Dear Ellie

We received your first letter (the missing one) from Aliwal, by the English mail; it supplies the news we so much wished for. There was one from dear Robert also, and a portrait of himself: it is a likeness, but so sorrowful looking; in fact he looks hopelessly miserable, and his letter is to match. I am afraid he is in a very low state of mind. I wish he could be got out of his present surroundings. I fear the continual irritation and chafing arising therefrom will ruin him. I have felt quite ill all day about him. I am afraid he will defer leaving until it will be too late: he looks far from strong now. He asks me to write to him; since you left, he misses my gabbling epistles. I will write him a cheery letter. I wish I might urge him to come, but I cant [sic] do that, as Hannah is so much opposed to it. I can only hope that time will bring the thing right, and we must all pray more for him. May God bless and guide him.


Port Adelaide
South Australia

Dec 23rd 1879

My Dear Ellie

What a long time it seems since I wrote to you. I have had two interesting letters from you since then, and would have liked to have replied. But oh, I am kept so frightfully busy, I always have more work than I can possibly get through. And lately it has been worse than ever, for I can not get a washerwoman, and for six weeks I have had my own washing to do. I wash every week: we have as many as we used to have for three weeks at home, and it is a whole days [sic] work to iron them. It seems such a strain. You will not be surprised to hear that I have not been very well, for we have had some very hot days, and that has made it very trying; but I am better again.

We are all well. Thomas would tell you about the Children's illness, but they are all firstrate [sic] now. Mary had a very close shave of it: she was in great danger. I longed to have some one near me then that I knew; but we got through, and the little pet has been in better health since her illness, than ever she had before. She is a fine creeper, and tries to pull herself up by the chairs. I do wish you could see her, Ellie. She is the sweetest child I have had, and such a sunny contented little creature. She will play on the floor all day and never look to be taken up until near tea time, when I get myself washed and my dress changed. Then she keeps looking up and pleading for a little nurse. I find it a delicious rest to sit down, and devour her with kisses for a while. Then I give her a biscuit in her hand, and down she goes again as happy as a queen. I know by my own heart, dear Ellie, that you will appreci[ate] even this nonsense.

I must say good night dear. I have still some odd jobs to do, and it is near bedtime, and I am very tired.


Dec 26th [1879]

Dear Ellie

I hope you had a happy Christmas. We had a quiet one: we did our best to keep it and tried to feel festive, but it was so different from home. I could not help looking back to past Christmas's, and now and then felt very sad. I thought often of you and dear Robert, and wondered how you spent the day. We had a nice little goose to dinner, and, directly after, all set off for the Semaphore. It is nice to get the sea air, but there is nothing else: it is about as dreary a looking coast as any one can see. But, anything for a change. I do not like this place, never will. Adelaide and suburbs are lovely; I hope some time we may be able to live there again.

I do not think you need ever trouble about us ever leaving the P. M. Church: on account of the past, and its associations, we never could do that, and never seriously thought of such a thing. I do not wonder at people who have been prims [sic] in the north doing so: it is so different. But I think I could get on better if I lived in Adelaide and could attend Morphett St: they are so hearty and kind there, and they have class meetings. But there are some in this circuit; and such dreary "dead and alive" services; and poor[?] Mr Raymond trying to preach, stumbling and stammering out his platitudes -- like a great over grown shy school boy bungling through a task. I never go to church now, have not been for months, find it more profitable to read at home. Now and then I go to the Congregational Church: they have splendid music there. There is no denomination so far behind as ours, and no wonder -- the poor sticks we have for Ministers. They cut such a figure on the platform with any other Ministers, I am sometimes quite

[remainder of letter missing]