Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Richard Fennell to his brother William, 1st May 1865

Lake MacQuarie
1st May 1865

Dear William,

You must have thought it very negligent on my part not to have written before, but I really have not had a moment to spare in the daytime and I cannot see at all now either to read or write by candlelight and times are too bad to buy spectacles. This dreadful pleuro pneumonia among the cattle has completely ruined me, and hundreds of others it has swept off all. It confined itself at first to the Dairy cattle, but since I wrote to you last it has killed so many of my working bullocks that I have not enough left to work the farm, and have to delay the land what the plough ought to perform, which occupies too much time to make any profit.

These losses have happened unfortunately at a time when they are most hard to bear just as we were commencing on our own land and we wanted the dairy and [teams] to keep the house supplied while the farm was being got into a state to become profitable for in reclaiming ground from its primitive wild state it takes at least three years of hard labour before you can expect one penny of return. Hard work it is indeed felling, clearing, burning off, taking out stumps, fencing, building and no end of other little doings too numerous to specify (as the [achievers] say) but the worst is I am getting old and not so well able to cope with these little difficulties as I used to be, and it makes me very low spirited to see that Mrs Fennell, though she never complains, is pining and wasting away, not that she cares for herself, but she cannot bear to see the children wanting the comforts they have always been accustomed to; it is however Gods will that it should be so. The same blessed hand that gave has taken away and that it is for some beneficent purpose. I do not for a moment doubt we have very much yet to be thankful for the children are in excellent health and so united that I never hear a word of disagreement amongst them, and if I am not forced to part with the little farm I yet hope that we might weather the storm, my encumbrances are not great for £40 covers all the debts I owe, but it might as well be £100 to a man who has no means to meet them.

Do you ever hear anything of our Australian Wines in England? Are they of a quality to suit your market? If so when you write state all you know about them and if it would be worthwhile for any of our vineyard agents to forward you samples so as to open out a business either agency or otherwise. I would communicate with them. I do not myself know, but I am told that the qualities of some of the light table wines is really good and a young country like ours ought to push every export to the fullest extent; all the best are made in this district and if a trade could be opened the very novelty of the thing would be a partial recommendation if you think the thing as valuable, I will do what I can to interest the wine growers here .

I am so seldom from home that I cannot tell you any news, indeed I daresay you in England often hear before I do what is passing in this country. I only know that everything is in a depressed state, the disease among the cattle – scab [on the] sheep - fearful floods, aphis in the garden, rust in the wheat, over speculation causing a reaction in the coal trade etc., etc. united with bad legislation has brought the country into a most impoverished condition, and I fear it will be some time before an improvement is likely to take place.

I have managed after a host of enquiries to discover Tom's whereabouts, his present address care of

Mr. Holmes
Post Office
South Australia.

I may be able to tell you more about him when I see Mr Sparkes who kindly wrote to South Australia to get me the information, and I think has had a letter from him. Walter has just come in to tell me that the only cow we had to give us a drop of milk has died this morning, Gods will Be done, Amen, but I must say goodbye as I must go to see the body properly burned to prevent the infection spreading more than we can help.

With kindest love to Mary and all the Olive branches, believe me my dearest brother
Your most affectionate

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