Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Richard Fennell to his brother William, 17th June 1850

Lake MacQuarie
17th June 1850

Dear William,

It is now nearly 2 years since I last wrote to you and during that period I have only received one very short letter from you in which you kindly condoled with me on my total prostration in financial matters which I am happy to inform you at that time were in anything but the unhappy positions they appear to have been represented to you, though I am sorry to say they are rather queer like at present, but as I am again a householder on my own account, I hope prospects will be brighter. You will most likely be bothered with scrawls again as usual having been for a long period what [some] may call conceits an "erratic Vagabond" & having had nothing comfortable to communicate has kept me this long silent, but will now give you an epitome of events which have occurred during this long period. The last you heard from me was an attempt to better my condition by doing Boniface at the Gap, but I soon found I had burned my fingers in that speculation which, to tell you the truth, did not give me much uneasiness, for when business was doing it was of so disgusting a nature that I really preferred the calm of doing nothing. I could not dispose of the business so was forced to see out the 9 months till the license expired, the most miserable period of my whole existence. Tom had arrived previous to my going down to the house and from his ways I could plainly see that he would soon squander away what money he brought with him unless it was in a manner out of his reach, so I got him to lend it to me to be paid as he required it giving him security on cattle in case of accidents. The sum was £40 out of which he bought a mare from me for £16.

I wished him to take a situation until I was clear of the public house, but he could not meet with one to his satisfaction, and continued to reside with me. We did not, I am sorry to say, agree very well during that time for his temper when he got a glass or two of brandy, which I could not always avoid, was most unbearable, though I am sure everything was done for him that any reasonable being would wish for and far more than my circumstances in duty to my family warranted. He had appointments where he need not have known it was an inn unless he chose to enter into it, but enough of this. After winding up matters I found I was all my ready money and 6 horses out of pocket. I owed one debt of £50 which the parties being old friends and very well off would not pressure me for at the time, so I determined to keep the place on at a reduced rent, as a farm and a house of accommodation without selling any grog and for which no license was required, but in the meantime, Tom received a remittance of money from you with the promises, we understood, of a pretty large supply in perspective. He went to Sydney to receive it and on his return informed me he had taken a farm on the Hunter at £100 a year which completely dumfounded me, as I knew that it required not only very large means, put most excellent management to render such a place viable. But the thing was done and it was only to make the best of it and he wished me to join him in the speculation. This however I would not do but I promised to undertake the management for him on such terms that I should not injure my own family, who of course had larger claims, and we entered the following arrangement: that he should give me £25 for the year (just half what is usual) and keep a house servant, as Louisa, with a young baby, could not attend to that; pay my expenses down and find conveyance, and I promised him the profits of my dairy cattle to liquidate that expense. This was agreed to and shortly afterwards he went to take possession of the station, leaving me about £10 to defray expenses. I waited some time expecting money from him to purchase a team of bullocks and a draught horse himself to come back to help down with the cattle, but a letter from him convinced me I might expect neither, and not liking to leave him in the lurch I was forced to use money I intended to pay off part of the £50 debt to the purchase of what I required hoping to have it returned when he got his money. The team cost me £20 and the horsed £8 after a variety of delays from bad weather etc., we at last made a start; the toil and misery of that journey I will not grieve you with, recapitulating exposed to all weather with 3 little children and a very sickly infant. Louisa you may believe had a dreadful time of it she had no milk for poor little Billy and it was only at times along the road we would get any milk for him besides which we could not get along the road. Tom had directed us to go and were forced to proceed to Sydney where I was obliged to sell the horses and ship the bullocks, drays etc., on board the steamer ( or retrace our steps 150 miles, then have 200 more to travel) which put me to an extra expense of between £7 to £8, the price of the horse.

Having embarked, we arrived safely at Newcastle where Tom met and took us to the station; I forget to mention that a valuable bull, [and] one of the workers was drowned putting him on board the steamer. On looking over the station at Merryland, I found that Tom had been most shamefully taken in and that it would cost him at least £100 to put the place in anything like repair, and also on making enquiries discovered that the gentleman the place belonged to could not act up to his agreement as regarded the mares and cows that were left for Tom's use, and I advised him immediately to throw up the whole concern and having heard of another place only 8 miles distant just that very day vacated, we went to look at it and found it in most excellent repair and equal quantity of land and rent only £30 a year. It was immediately taken and our things removed there without unloading the dray and at Trialba Station and I must terminate promising a continuance by next mail. Louisa joins me in most grateful thanks for your kind sympathy in our misfortunes, and with the kindest love to Mary and kisses for the little ones.

believe me dear William,
now as ever your sincere friend and affectionate brother.

Tell mother I will write to her as soon as well settled. Regards to all friends and relatives. You must excuse this dirty concern but I have no time to write it again. It has got into this mess being so long in my pocket.

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