Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Tom Fennell to his brother William, 25th April 1852


25th April 1852

My Dear William,

I have no doubt that you will before this have received the letter that I wrote to Hity telling her that I was then about starting a long journey. It was to the Peel diggings, for like all other unfortunates of this country, I determined to try if my bad luck would take a turn or good . I am sorry to say that we found the district by no means so rich as the papers represented it to be so after remaining there for the space of five weeks we again packed our camp and started for the Maroo. We managed just to clear our expenses at the Peel. We have now been on the Maroo for about a fortnight but have not yet met with a claim that will pay for working, but hope to do so soon, there are plenty to be bought but I have not the means. If I had but £50 it would be the making of hundreds. Since I last wrote I have ridden upwards of six hundred miles and I have come five and seventy this morning purposely to write this though it must be short for I have to return tonight and our roads are not like those in old England. There is no writing in the bush. It is awful work and the cold is playing the deuce with me, you are picking and levelling all day sometimes 20 foot below the surface, or in a tunnel and at night I have to lay on the ground with nothing but a blanket to roll myself up in and nothing over me and the grass coated with white frost in the morning. I can with difficulty walk sometimes in a morning owing to the cramps and pains in my limbs. Think of this when you go to your warm bed at night. I have managed to get a few specimens of quartz intermixed with gold, silver, copper and lead, to send you if I should ever have the chance, thinking that they might meet your acceptance in remembrance of me. I intend to stick at gold digging if my health will stand it for 12 months and give it a fair trial. It is a complete lottery; you might work for that time and get nothing and then again you might tomorrow get into a claim and get thousands. Most parties are very comfortable having servants and are many who never hardly has had meat in England are now spending thousands, such is gold digging. Society is in a dreadful state, the educated man you might say is a beggar and the bullock dinner takes the place of a menial man.

I would have you tell your friends to beware of the gold companies that some speculating men are getting up in England, for instance, I saw one for working a gold field at Singleton. It states near Maitland wanting a capital of 100,000 with Hargraves name and other influential men connected with it, now it is all rank humbug. I spoke to Hargraves myself the other day, gave no sanction for his name to be used and more than that there is no gold field within one hundred miles of the same place. Therefore no gold field can be worked; that is only one instance, therefore tell your friends to beware and look before they leap, for £1 in the hand is worth £20 in the bush. At the same time if you will get me a situation as manager or sub manager of a good company you will do me much good. I have with your influence with the folks like gentlemen you can soon do it, and as to fulfilling such an appointment of my employer I can do it much better than many who are engaged in it, if certificates as to honesty and is all wanted I can get them here at any time and my experience in mining is of course much in my favour. There do good best for me. I received an introduction last week to the manager of a quartz crushing company a few days since engaged on the Maroo and had much pleasure in going over the work with him. As to all my deals and friends in England, remember me to them, though with the rags on my back they would not know me. But you need not tell them that . My dear little nephews and nieces will accept my love I cannot refrain a tear when I think of them, and to dear Sisters particularly Hity and Mary remember me. You must remember me as soon as you can in mothers.

You must excuse this scrawl, stiff hands with work, bad public house pen and about a dozen bullock drivers in the next room who have been drinking champagne and all night so that their tongue is surely (unreadable). William sends his respects. My old horse is stood at the door, he has brought me 25 miles and will have to return that distance without a feed. It is dangerous riding at night for holes of 15 or 20 feet deep are dug close to the road side.

Dear William believe me to remain
with love to all
your affectionate brother

N.T. Fennell

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