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Here is a letter from Georgiana to her mother which has been transcribed but as you can see it is very difficult to guess every word. The untranscribed words are marked in the typed transcription below with a number and xxxxx. Please number each of your guesses and send them back to us in the comments section.
If you click on the photo of the handwriting you should be able to enlarge the picture.You may be able to zoom in to see the words better although if you zoom too far they will become hazy. This is an experiment, so fingers crossed!
The problem with inserting the transcription into this blog entry is that the text alignment keeping getting messed up. Despite many hours of trying to fix this the post may not keep the alignment. I apologise in advance if this happens.
Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope Janr.12 1830
My dearest Mother
We arrived here this morning after a most favourable
voyage from Port Praga both as to wind and weather and I have
not suffered nearly so much as before 1xxxxxxx at that Port.
Molloy also has been wonderfully well throughout.The animals
have stood it better and this past week we have had three
lambs two of which I hope will survive, one died yesterday.
We have not 2xxxxx and since I wrote before. Cape Town is
prettily situated with immense Rocks behind it & a
singular shaped mountain called Table Mount.
It is now their summer and I have just been feasting
on Grapes a large 3xxxxx for a shilling and some Pears which
are tasteless not so highly flavoured as British fruit and a
beautiful Craw fish for four pence which Staples seized upon
and had instantly boiled for me. Molloy has now gone in search of
a domicile for himself and me as the expense of taking
our servants on shore would be heavy. Some mountains to
the left right reminds me of those at the head
of Gair Loch but these you do not know. We thought much of
you all on 4xxxxxxx New Years Day last and consoled ourselves
with thinking you would all think much of us and drink our
health, it was very unlike Xmas from its being oppressively hot.
I think you will just be seeing our Letters from Porto Praga at this (time)
Proteas such as they have at Holbrook are used for fuel and whole 5xxxxx of them. Lady Lowry
kindly stopped and brought all the beautiful plants to me. They think nothing of driving
10 & 14 horses at a time in their wagons which resemble the covered 6xxxxxxxx of
England. And innumerable fruit of the most luxurious kind perfectly
7xxxxxx. Grapes, Mulberries, Peaches Figs, Loquats a Chinese fruit covered the
Breakfast Table and everything is so beautifully clean. I am infinitely better than
I am on Board, as then every day I am sick but doubtless there are reasons for it and
all may be comfortably arranged by May. Mrs. Dawson is to be confined in
March and I have been so ill & felt the idea so repugnant,
of working before any one. I have not put in a single 8 xxxxxx for myself altho’ some
Ladies on board have offered their patterns. If you send the things I
ordered I shall be thankful to receive them but if you have not sent them I shall
not regret it as Molloy will not be out of pocket, he does not know I have ordered
them. The accounts of Swan River are varied according to the idea of the
persons who give them some reports favourable others not, we think passage will (be)
We always wondered if there were any letters from Georgiana out there in the world that were notin our collection that we have sourced in Australia and the UK . One has just found its way to us via a collector who purchased the letter at an auction. The letter is from Georgiana to her friend Elizabeth.
Before I continue, I must tell you about the wonderful Patrick Richardson Bunbury, a descendent of Georgiana and John Molloy, who has been our quiet and dedicated transcriber. Over the years Patrick has typed up some of the most difficult letters and diaries and so he was the first person we told when we were contacted by the collector in the UK who has the newly discovered letter.
This discovery which the collector notified us about also highlights the importance of having a website and blog. We really value people around the world who share our interest contacting us.
Back to the new discovery – while we are undertaking the necessary release forms to get permission to publish the entire letter, we can tell you that it contains information that we always wanted to know. i.e. Where did she get married and what did she wear?
The wedding of Georgiana Kennedy and John Molloy was a pivotal moment in both their lives. Georgiana had prayed in search of an answer to her future. For some time she had felt extremely content staying as a guest at the Dunlop family home. She had left her own home in Carlisle because she was unhappy with her family and some of their wayward ways.When her closest friend Helen Dunlop married the Reverend Story and moved from Keppoch House to the Rosneath Manse, Georgiana felt she may be overstaying her welcome and even considered becoming a governess in India.
About this time, Governor Stirling wrote to John Molloy from the Swan Colony in Western Australia inviting him to participate in colonizing a vast land in Western Australia.He also suggested it would be wise for Molloy to bring a wife with him. John Molloy and Georgiana were not particularly well known to each other but he knew of her family and had probably had heard of her virtues. (We have a draft of John’s proposal where he signed off using his own nickname which Bernice has finally deduced to mean “Nose of the Crow”). At short notice and with the encouragement of her elders Georgiana accepted John’s offer, knowing full well it meant leaving her home, country, family and friends.
In the two books about Georgiana previously published, it was assumed she was married at Rosneath Church because the marriage was conducted by the Rev. Story. Our research of the documents could never verify this. With the help of Mike Rumble, it transpired that the ceremony was extremely likely to have taken place at Keppoch House. In Georgiana’s diary she mentions collecting the wedding flowers from the garden at Keppoch House and “putting them in their rooms”. She made no mention of any travel on that day – something she usually would note in her diary. Additionally, it was not unusual to use the formal rooms in a big house for a wedding and one the Dunlop daughters is on record of having been married at there.
The letter Georgiana wrote to her dear friend Elizabeth, talks precisely about the wedding taking place at Keppoch House which is final confirmation! But even more enchanting for us is that she describes her wedding dress, which means we can more closely approximate the dress for any filming or representation.
Bernice travels to the London for her education consultancy work quite frequently and she happened to be leaving a week after we got the news. She managed to fit a visit into the collector (to photograph the letter) and also travelled up to Cumbria (despite the extreme weather and floods) to follow up on a lead from the letter and in the hope of discovering more. Bernice, our researcher, undertakes this on a voluntary basis, as we are not currently funded for this project. At the Cumbria records office she made some headway to only be frustrated with a lack of time. When time allows she hopes to continue at the very next opportunity because while we have many of Georgiana’s letters to her family, it is very likely she wrote frequently to close friends.
On my last visit to London which co-incided with Bernice our researcher being there (for other work for the UK education department) Bernice arranged a surprise for me. I had a few days R&R and thought that visiting Kew would be relaxing. When we arrived she guided me to the Herbarium so that I could see the building and I asked her to take a photo of me on the steps. She obliged but said she had more news for me and that we actually had an appointment inside.
We entered and signed in to then be escorted on a tour and a special viewing of the Georgiana Molloy specimens by the residing Australian Botanist.
It was a very special time and quite an achievement for Bernice to coordinate to make sure we were on the steps at the appointed time!
News for you; Kew Herbarium Collection is now online and you can see the actual specimens that Georgiana collected in the south west of Western Australia.
After five months in London my time was running out and there weren’t many days left to follow Georgiana’s trail before we returned home to Western Australia. There was just one more place I wanted to explore before we left. Just like me, in the last few weeks before her journey to Australia, she needed to do some shopping.
While Georgiana and John were staying in London and waiting for The Warrior to be ready for the voyage to the Swan River colony, they stayed in a street that is now part of the busiest shopping area in London, just off Oxford Street. I had been there many times as a student in the 1970s and more recently so I already knew that the house where they stayed was now no more than the side of a huge department store.
However, Georgiana does mention in her journal that she went one day to ‘St Paul’s churchyard’ to buy shoes and fabrics. Mike and I set off on a sunny morning to retrace her footsteps and to find out what might still exist that she had passed by that day in 1829.
St Paul’s is one of the oldest buildings in London and although the area around it has changed, the churchyard itself is still the same as it was in the 19th Century when she was there. City workers still seek the shade there to eat their lunch during the summer and tourists still sit there to soak up the peace and quiet amid the bustle of that frenetic city.
I had found (by searching on the Internet) an engraving of the firm that she mentions, Hitchcock and Rogers. They were a ‘linen drapers, silk mercers, haberdashers and hosiers’ so they would’ve been the ideal hunting ground for her at a time when she needed to stock up with everything required not only for the voyage but for years to come after that.
With ‘St Paul’s churchyard’ as their address, their advertising simply tells customers to find them ‘opposite the tree’. In the engraving, the tree can be seen clearly and since the position of the great cathedral has not changed, it was not hard for us to work out just where Georgiana went shopping. We found exactly where the tree and the shop were. The tree (now much larger of course) still stands there.
Here I am standing beneath The Tree and wondering if Georgiana ever stood there too, for shade, wearied from the excitement of her mammoth shopping task.
We discovered that a street called “Shoe Lane’ is right beside St Pauls and , like other streets named in the same way, would almost certainly have been the place to buy shoes at that time.
Unsurprisingly, we also discovered that the spot where Hitchcock and Rogers once stood has been built on and is now part of a beautifully designed modern complex with wide open spaces that invite the public to sit and gaze on the ancient churchyard.
In the 19th Century, the area was an open space surrounded by intensive shopping opportunities (shoes, shoes, shoes!) and although the narrow streets and exciting shops have been replaced by smooth, tall, white office buildings, the open view of the ever-fascinating facade of St Paul’s has been retained.
I sat quietly there on a bench and looked at the map. My view was almost the same as hers but there were no longer any shoes to be had. A good thing, as I most certainly would have bought some too!
One of the few remaining features apart from St Paul’s itself, is the old pump. I doubt that G would have needed water badly enough to drink from what was more often used for watering horses but it was heartening to know that there was something else around that, without any doubt, she would have walked past on her way to the boot-makers.
This was to be the last time that we went looking for Georgiana in England or Scotland before we made the long, long journey across oceans to the other side of the world – just as she had. Soon we would arrive home again in the far south west of WA. But ahead of us was a 24 hour trip in a comfortable aeroplane, rather than a six-month voyage of great hardship and considerable nutritional deprivation.
We stopped at Rhu (Row) to visit the place where G would have taken the ferry to Rosneath when she visited her friends while staying at Keppoch House.
View back towards Rhu from the old ferry path.
The road from Keppoch still you leads clearly from Rhu and along the old ferry path.
The track is surfaced now but little else has changed. This is the way that G’s carriage would have taken her down to the beach. She could already see the coast at Rosneath on the other side. How excited she must have been at the prospect of seeing her friends and enjoying their good company. Everything I’ve read about the Dunlops from friends, family and visitors tells of their wise, witty conversation, their kindness to everyone rich or poor and their warm hospitality at the manse.
As my shoes crunched on the beach stones, I looked over at Rosneath and thought that this was the first view Georgiana ever had of the place she would remember with such happy memories until the day she died, far away at Fairlawn.
I felt so sad to be leaving.
And that was when I realised that it would have been her last view of Rosneath too – as she stepped out of the ferry on her final visit, soon to begin a new life on the other side of the world. I cried, and wondered if she did too.
The rest of the UK was under torrential rain but we were lucky. Our last day in Scotland was sunny and we explored the old churchyard again, better equipped than the evening before. Mike had his specs with him for deciphering old writing on gravestones. He had also requisitioned his nice white face flannel for cleaning the mud and moss off the stone so we could read the inscription clearly…
CENTRE The gravestone of Rev Robert and Helen Boyle Story.
The remains of the flowers that Jen and I had left at Helen Dunlop’s grave, “from Georgiana’ a year earlier were still there under the brambles. White spring blossom was abundant in the churchyard and midges danced in the sunlight over the clachan stream. A chaffinch sang loudly, a dog barked in the distance and children laughed as they played nearby. In some places, time can stand still…
It was time to leave the manse. Richard and Helena helped us so much with the research and spent a whole evening telling us about the history of ‘Easter Garth’.
When we left, Richard gave me a very special gift. He’s discovered the old rubbish dump for the manse, probably the same one that the family used in 1829. His wonderful collection of glass and earthenware items tells the story of his discoveries so far. The old glass medicine bottle he gave me was clearly designed to have a cork stopper, not a screw cap. Thrown away by some past resident of the house, many years ago. Thank you so much, Richard. Let us know if you’ve made any new finds!
There were still several hours before the flight back to London and every moment was precious so we headed for the other side of the Gareloch.
It was only about a 30 minute drive to Roseneath from Keppoch House (all the way around the banks of the Gareloch) but already the sky was looking ominous so we decided to explore before the rain arrived. We took the path up the hill behind the Clachan, partly to get a good view of the village from above and partly because I felt sure that Georgiana must have enjoyed exactly the same walk many times. The steep fields behind the church can’t have changed at all since she stayed there.
Even on a thundery afternoon, the western isles of Scotland are beautiful. Wild, silvery and open to the sky. We had to walk through farmland and this old gate shows just how slowly time passes in those hills.
From the top of the hill we looked down onto the Clachan. You can see the ruins of the church where Georgiana worshipped and just to the right, the new manse where we would be staying for the next two nights. If you ignore the telephone wires, this view is just as it would have been in 1829.
You can also see how very close the other shore of the Gareloch is at Roseneath. Almost certainly, Georgiana would have used the little ferry when she visited rather than making the long journey around the head of the loch as we had to do. For her, it would have been a short carriage drive from Keppoch House and then a tiny wooden boat across the narrows at Rhu (or ‘Row’), to land on the stony beach at Roseneath.
We went back down to the village and walked to the beach where the ferry used to come and go.
The pathway from the ferry point back up to the Clachan is tarmac now but clearly covers exactly the same route. No-one around and just the trees on either side and birds singing. She must have walked that way so many times.
I sat on the beach there for a while, thinking about how G would have felt when she first set foot in that beautiful spot, just as I had and how she must have compared it with the beach at Augusta – just as I was doing. I also recorded the sound of the loch lapping against the shore – I’ll be able to listen to that when I get home to WA but she only had her memory to rely on.
The old Ferry Inn is still there, a private home now but we took a photo. Those steps up to the inn must have been the first welcome for many travellers in the 19th Century.
Richard Fryer gave us a warm welcome at Easter Garth, the manse that the Storys had built several years after G had left for Australia, when the old one fell into bad disrepair.
The first delight was the garden.
An old gate is still there between the house and the glebe land where the new church stands. I’m not a gate expert but it looks very old. I imagined Georgiana going through the garden and up the hill through this gate, the way we had walked earlier.
Jennifer and I had always wondered whether the new manse stood on the same spot as the old one where G stayed with Helen and her husband, the Rev. Robert Story. Richard told us that they had found clues that this was the case. When Richard and his wife, Helena, did some renovations, they found old rubble under the floor and filling in a wall. It seems unlikely that anyone would have taken the trouble to move house rubble far in an era when they would have to do it with shovels! The new graveyard was the orchard of the old manse so that, too, shows the likely position of the original building.
It was exciting to think that we were going to stay in exactly the place that G had loved so much, and the home that that Helen lived in for many years until her death, bedridden at the end just like her close friend Georgiana.
Our second surprise was the room we were given. Our window looked straight down onto the old churchyard and just a few metres below us was the grave of Helen Boyle Story (Dunlop) – the one that Jennifer and I found on our last visit, hidden under the brambles. I was overwhelmed… We planned to explore the graveyard the next day and went off for dinner at the castle-like hotel where Jen and I had rested our weary bones a year earlier. And wher Jen had her first (and last!) taste of Scottish kipper for breakfast…
Then we spent the evening reading old books that Richard had kindly provided about the history of the area. I really didn’t want to sleep – it felt so strange to be there and so wonderful – but I slept like a log.
It didn’t surprise me to hear from Cath that Keppoch House once had its own kitchen garden. We’d already seen the size of the stables so it was clear that Alexander Dunlop was a wealthy man with all that was needed to run a comfortable country home. The kitchen garden has been sold so we peeped through the gates and imagined tidy rows of vegetables and herbs growing there in 1829. The grey, stone wall is high and very long. I hadn’t really noticed just how long until Cath took out a large, old key from her pocket and asked if we would like to see the flower garden. I’m not sure if she noticed the look on my face as I realised that the answer to one of our big mysteries had just been handed to me.
Next to what was the kitchen garden is the most enormous flower garden and beyond that, further down the hill and along the drive, is another walled garden, that was an orchard full of fruit trees in 1829.
There’s something very personal about reading a woman’s diary entry for the morning of her wedding day. Georgiana wrote “I gathered my wedding flowers and put them in their rooms.” It’s always puzzled me. Why would such a genteel young lady have to go and collect wild flowers when there were plenty of servants to do so? I assumed that she’d preferred to gather wild flowers herself because she already loved them – but I worried that her collection might look rather frugal in such a grand setting. How could she possibly collect enough for a wedding display? It seemed unlikely that she’d plundered them from the formal gardens around the house – it really would’ve been bad taste for a guest to do such a thing when the flower beds would probably have been manicured down to the last petal by a gardener. And suddenly I knew!
Such a grand house had a huge walled garden just for growing the cut flowers they needed for display. And so this was where Georgiana went on her wedding morning. Not for the first time on this trip, my breathing was short and I think the dogs could sense my anticipation as I stepped through the same doorway as she did that day under a low, stone lintel and walked into the garden. I wanted the moment to go on forever.
Although the rows and rows of flowers have been replaced largely by beautiful lawns, the basic shape of the garden is the same, with a central path, a sundial and pathways around the sides. The greenhouse looks as if it may be the original one, with heating beneath the brick floor to warm delicate flowers during the cold Scottish spring and autumn. Are there any experts out there who can tell from the photographs? Please let us know if you’re an expert on 19th Century greenhouses! I have some more close-ups of the interior.
Some of the large trees must have been growing there when she last walked in the garden, that same day. This was one of the times when I felt as if she was very close by my shoulder.
It’s such a quiet place and so warm, protected by the high stone walls and facing to the sun. I’m sure she would have thought of this beautiful garden when John laid out her own smaller garden for the first time at Augusta.
In the far wall there was once a doorway, now bricked up with a small statue placed there. You can just see it on the left in the photograph below. In 1829 it led out from the garden and into the forest beyond. What a wonderful escape from the daily life of the house for Georgiana and her friends, the Dunlop girls.
I would have liked to stay longer and to explore more but we had already imposed on Cath’s hospitality beyond anything reasonable so we bade our farewells.
Mike set off in the car but I decided to walk back down to the road on my own. I just wanted to walk away down the drive as G would have done so many times. I wasn’t sure that I would ever go to Keppoch House again. I feel that Georgiana had just that same feeling in 1829. It was a special walk, something much too personal to try to describe to you. A feeling that felt shared with someone else.
But how could I feel miserable?! We were on our way to Roseneath!
If anyone wondered why Georgiana loved staying at Keppoch House so much, they would understand if they walked in the gardens.
They must have been more spectacularly manicured in 1829 and probably more formal too, but they couldn’t have been more beautiful than they are now. In the distance, from the hill where the house stands, you can just see Roseneath on the peninsula at the other side of the loch. The gardens slope gently down towards the road and, behind the house and old stables, are the green hills where buzzards and kestrels hunt in a wide, bright sky not unlike the sky of WA. The sounds of birds and squirrels, wind rustling long grasses gently and the dogs occasionally barking are the only things you’ll hear if you take just a few steps away from the house.
Cath gave us the grand tour of the gardens. While she was talking with Mike, I lagged behind whenever I could without seeming rude, just to be alone with my thoughts and to soak in the same sounds that Georgiana would have heard. I veered off along a path through the bluebells and wondered how often her feet had trodden the same steps..
One of the things I wanted to find most was a place where she had been walking in the gardens when she saw John Molloy and her brother, Dalton, driving up in the carriage just prior to the wedding.
It was the beginning of her new life and she recorded the moment in her diary. There are several places where the drive can be clearly seen from the gardens at the front and side of the house. I thought I had found the spot when I stood and looked back down the drive but somehow it didn’t feel quite right.
Then I walked away on my own, along a small, muddy path under the trees and further down in the garden, away from the house. One of the dogs joined me, tugging playfully at my shawl as I explored deeper into the greenery. Mike and Cath’s voices had disappeared altogether. It was very, very still and quiet and the leaves were slippery under my feet.
Something stopped me and I knew that I had to turn and look back – yes, I could just see the driveway through the trees. I knew that this was where Georgiana was standing when she saw her future husband arriving to claim his bride. Perhaps it was a silly thing but I spoke to Georgiana as if she was there with me – it felt almost as if we had shared a secret, as friends do.
But the garden’s best secret was yet to come. I’ll tell you next time how the garden gave us the answer to one of our biggest questions about Georgiana’s wedding and how we found something more special than I could have anticipated! Here’s a clue….
Research and education use is encouraged, with correct references - www.georgianamolloy.com.au by Jag Films, Margaret River, Western Australia.
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