Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Richard Fennell to his brother William, 25th October 1850

Lake Macquarie
25th October, 1850

Dear William,

I have heard nothing directly or indirectly from you since I last wrote. I shall now, according to promises given give you some account of my present locality.

I am situated in a little nook of land jutting into an inland lake connected with the main waters by a very narrow entrance, too shallow for any but flat bottomed boats to enter. This small portion of land comprises about 150 acres of which about 30 acres cleared and the whole can be enclosed by about 200 rods of fencing running from one portion of the lake to another. The Hut and all other like necessaries are at present most deplorable, as I have as yet had not much time to make improvements in that respect being too much occupied in preparing ground for cultures to be getting some return (as it is all in at the spigot and out at the bung with me now). The situation is beautiful as I may be able some day to properly describe to you, but our powers of delineation fail when the mind is warped and contracted with worldly care, happier hours may bring you a more fabulous description than I can at present give - owing to the bareness of the land for pasturage and very small portions being available for agriculture, joined with the distance from market compared with the rich lands on the Hunter and Patterson.

The only inhabitants on the borders of the Lake (which is large) are two or three poor miserable mortals like myself who have claims to respectability and all that sort of thing but whom are driven by necessity and perhaps a little pride to hide their diminished heads in these desert wilds. We manage at times to find each other out, but any stranger would find it impossible to get at us without a guide. It is a sort of refuge for the destitute and a very delightful refuge it would be for any person who possessed a moderate income. But I fear but a sorry spot for a man to push his way to even competency. My reason for taking this place was the advantage of as much open run for what cattle I have left, as if I were paying £30 or £40 a year for a farm, and as my landlord allows me a certain remuneration for what permanent improvements I make on the place, the £10 a year will not come so hard upon me. I have planted a number of fruit trees and about 200 vines, which in a few years will be a source of profit for preserves etc., and if I can muster about £20 to buy a boat and net, a great deal of money is to be made by salting fish, which are extremely abundant in the water, and the lowest price given for salt fish is £15 a ton. These are matters in perspective and at present I am cultivating for corn and potatoes. If we catch a few fish from the shore with lines and plant cabbage tree to make [nets] for sale if my crops are good, it will help me much, but I shall have no return for them for six months yet, and eight hungry mouths to be fed till then will run away with a mans cattle, and clothing is wanted, for the big box valuables are nearly all gone. It was a perfect Eldorado to us; it has not cost me one pound for clothing except boots, since I got it, and I much grieve [that] so ill a return has been made for so much kindness, but everything some way has gone against me. This cruel journey has completely disabled my resources; it was undertaken however from a good motive, and I hope I may eventually weather my present difficulties, but whether it be from bodily debility or mental weakness, I do not feel the same persevering spirit to surmount obstacles I once had. I suppose I am getting old and cranky. I suppose Thomas will have informed you that he has taken a situation as Clerk at some coal works near Hexham. I have not seen him since he went there. I am not aware what remuneration he received. I am glad he has at last stirred himself to do something for the inactive life he has so long led, is very prejudicial to young men like him. I most sincerely wish both for his sake and mine he had never come to this country. I have a house full of influenza and dysentery, all sick from least to largest. Louisa has a most awful cough which shakes her sadly as she is near her confinement which is another great trouble to me as I cannot get her many little comforts she has been accustomed to on such occasions.

You must excuse this egotistical letter but I imagine that although you now take no notice of us that you may yet feel some slight interest in what concerns me and mine and I am in not much humour to write anything to interest you. I should only spoil it as John Penbingle says.

Please give our united remembrances to your Mary. I should like to see her hand writing on air again. Indeed, I am very anxious to hear some tidings of you all, for it is twelve months since I have heard anything of or from you.

I shall write you again next post (God willing) meanwhile believe me
Your affectionate brother Richard

Duty and love to mother and all who care to accept it.

E and O.E. errors and omissions to be excused, I write half asleep - the plough works me sadly now.

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