Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Richard Fennell to his brother William, 10th March 1851

Lake Macquarie
10th March 1851

Dear William,

I have not received any letters from you since I last wrote, and I must say that I feel much mortified that you did not write me if it had only been a dozen lines to present the announcement of poor dear Mother's sudden death; coming from another it seems so contrary to your usual kind heartedness that I know not what to think. Tom showed me the letter you wrote to him, of which more anon.

My principal reason for writing the present is to announce another increase in my family, a fine boy who has arrived in a gloomy epoch of our history, as I hardly know how to keep the wolfs from the door and for the first time since I have had children, they have asked for bread and none to give them. I fear I shall have to go to service of some sort for I cannot see my way clear to keep house much longer. My cattle are dwindling away from disease and [I am] being forced to sell, and when they are gone I must shut up shop. But the worst of all, my courage is gone. I have neither heart nor strength to struggle against the misfortunes that beset me, the hardship I endured in travelling down to this benighted part of the country have completely undermined my constitution (weak before), I am always ill and cannot pay for medical advice. I merely mention all this that you may not feel surprised at not hearing from me often as I cannot write cheerfully under such circumstances.

27th March. I was called away when I got thus far to fetch some of my cattle that were trespassing, and as I have to go into Newcastle today, this letter will necessarily be a short one. Tom was here yesterday to borrow my working bullocks; I believe he has rented a piece of ground for cultivation. He says he has not heard from you again, neither has the box you mention come. I hope that mother did not sell or give away the watch that father gave me. I promised him on his death bed not to part with it. I left the chain and watch with mother when I left England that they might be safe, the seals I brought with me and the intrinsic value of the thing was not much, but the price I set on it is very great and the only gift I have from my dear father, but mother no doubt ordered it to be sent to me she was well aware of what I mention. I did not see it enumerated in Tom’s letter, [and this] makes me write about it now for you know how greatly these little mementos are valued.

With respect to the distribution of the money, of course for my family’s sake I regret that mother altered her will to my exclusion and when you say it was just, I think you are not aware of all the circumstances. At all events it was very unkind to buoy us up with hopes she did not intend to realise; to show you which I will send you extracts from two letters only, though have several others to show that her promises did not accord with what has since been done, and under existing circumstances it seems almost cruel as the little wife and myself always looked to this as a sort of provision for the little ones. On the 29th April 1847 Mother writes concerning the bond I gave her "Do not make yourself uneasy about its being recalled for whilst I live it is not likely to be so, and at my death William will have the instructions given for you to receive no inconvenience this kindness you know", and in a subsequent letter I find the following decidedly stating that I was to have my share "there will be £100 come to you at my death from my father’s property, at my death his will directing me to receive the interest for my life and at my death be divided share and share alike amongst my children". I could send you numerous other extracts to the like effect, but the above are sufficient to show you tho I should have been sorry to have received anything to the prejudice of the other members of the family - it is however another blow that has struck us most severely hoping as we did. God’s will be done, it is all for some good purpose that we are afflicted.

Louisa has been troubled with a very nasty hacking cough and pain in her side this last fortnight. I am going to the Doctor about her today as I feel very anxious and have just sold my last two cows to get her advice and buy some nourishment for the family, my mother in law has a few which will keep us going a little longer, and I have got four working bullocks and I shall persevere as long as I can for I think it will break my heart to have to be a servant it may be a wicked pride but I cannot help it.

Give my best love to Mary and kiss the little ones for me and believe me my dearest brother
Your sincere and much attached brother

You will hear from me again shortly as I wish to send you an account of what money transactions have passed between Tom and myself in case any of the scandalous reports he has circulated respecting me should reach you. I hope when he gets his next remittance he will be a little less extravagant and put it to some good purpose. I think he might after the experience he has now had, but unfortunately Tom, by a species of sophistication peculiar to some people, can always shift his errors on to the backs of other folks instead of bearing his own burden! Such is the case. Mail is very slow. The last letter I received from you was dated 30th January 1849.

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