To really get a feel for a time in history, there is nothing better than a diary, letter, memoir or personal account. Some of my favourite Western District history books are those from pioneer times, such as “The Diaries of Sarah Midgley and Richard Skilbeck” and James Bonwick’s educational tour of Western Victoria in 1857. There is another on my list that I haven’t shared with you before, “After Many Day’s: being the reminisces of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh. Even better, the book is available online. (See link at end of post)
Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, born in Ireland in 1837, published his memoir in 1918, when he was 81, written, he claims, after much prodding from his wife, Flora and friends particularly a friend from the later part of his life, writer Walter G. Henderson of Albury. Much thanks must go to them, because their persuading resulted in a 414 page rollicking yarn, packed with places, names and stories from the first half of Cuthbert’s life. And there are illustrations.
This is not just a story of the Western District, but of life in Ireland and Germany during Cuthbert’s childhood. There is also a wonderful description of his passage on a second-class ticket to Melbourne aboard the “Sussex” in 1853. Cuthbert spent some time in Melbourne before he went to the Henty’s Muntham Station (p.90) in the Western District, and his account brings 1850s Melbourne to life.
He outlines his friendship with Thomas Browne/Rolf Boldrewood author of “Robbery Under Arms “(p 40). He includes the obituary of his father, Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, who spent time as a Police Magistrate at Hamilton (p.52). During his time there, Cuthbert senior, resided at Correagh at Strathkeller, just north of Hamilton. (Today, Correagh is in excellent condition and was featured in an issue of Home Life magazine, available online)
There are stories of horse breaking, bushrangers, colonial racing and more.
Some of the Western District identities he met included members of the Henty family, Samuel Pratt Cooke, Acheson Ffrench and the Learmonths. But there were also stockmen, horse breakers and crack riders.
He associated with Adam Lindsay Gordon (p.165), a person he admired for his riding skill and poetry, and there are several extracts of ALG’s verse.
Cuthbert devoted several pages to George Waines (p177) and the trial, that saw Waines convicted and sentenced to hang for the murders of Casterton couple Robert and Mary Hunt.
After Muntham, Cuthbert travelled to Queensland via Sydney. On the way he dropped in at the Chirnside’s Mt William Station at the foot of the Grampians. It is was there he saw the “western mare” Alice Hawthorne, in the days when she was beginning her Cinderella story, transforming from station hack to champion racehorse.
After lengthy reminisces of his time in Queensland, past Rockhampton, Cuthbert then focused on his life in N.S.W where he spent two years as an Anglican minister. He died in Wellington, N.S.W. in 1925, aged 88, remembered as a pastoral leader.
What the critics said:
At the time of the book’s release, the Sydney Stock and Station Journal described the book as “pure Australian”
When Cuthbert died in 1925, Walter Henderson wrote of his friend and the book he persuaded Cuthbert to write.