An Autobiography HTML version
Half a long life 'mid Scotland's heaths and pines,
And half among our South Australian vines;
Though loving reverence bound her to the past,
Eager for truth and progress to the last.
Although my mother had the greatest love for Sir Walter Scott, and the highest
appreciation of his poems and novels, she never liked Melrose. She liked Australia better
after a while. Indeed, when we arrived in November, 1839, to a country so hot, so dry, so
new, we felt like the good old founder of The Adelaide Register, Robert Thomas, when
he came to the land described in his own paper as "flowing with milk and honey."
Dropped anchor at Holdfast Bay. "When I saw the place at which we were to land I felt
inclined to go and cut my throat." When we sat down on a log in Light square, waiting till
my father brought the key of the wooden house In Gilles street, in spite of the dignity of
my 14 years just attained, I had a good cry. There had been such a drought that they had a
dearth, almost a famine. People like ourselves with 80 acre land orders were frightened to
attempt cultivation in an unknown climate, with seed wheat at 25/ a bushel or more, and
stuck to the town. We lived a month in Gilles street, then we bought a large marquee, and
pitched it on Brownhill Creek, above where Mitcham now stands, bought 15 cows and a
pony and cart, and sold the milk in town at 1/ a quart. But how little milk the cows gave
in those days! After seven months' encamping, in which the family lived chiefly on rice--
the only cheap food, of which we bought a ton--we came with our herd to West terrace,
Adelaide. My father got the position of Town Clerk at 150 pounds a year twelve months
after our arrival, and kept it till the muncipal corporation was ended, as the City of
Adelaide was too poor to maintain the machinery; but 75 pounds was the rent of the
house and yards. We sold the cows, and my brothers went farming, and we took cheaper
quarters in Halifax street.
The Town Clerkship, however, was the means of giving me a lesson in electoral methods.
Into the Municipal Bill, drawn up under the superintendence of Rowland Hill (afterward
the great post office reformer, but then the Secretary of the Colonization Commissioner
for South Australia), he had introduced a clause providing for proportional representation
at the option of the ratepayers. The twentieth part of the Adelaide ratepayers by uniting
their votes upon one man instead of voting for 18, could on the day before the ordinary
election appear and declare this their intention, and he would be a Councillor on their
votes. In the first election, November, 1840, two such quorums elected two Councillors.
The workmen in Borrow and Goodear's building elected their foreman, and another
quorum of citizens elected Mr. William Senden; and this was the first quota
representation in the world. My father explained this unique provision to me at the time,
and showed its bearings for minority representation.
After the break up of the municipality and the loss of his income my father lost health
and spirits. The brothers did not succeed in the country. My sister had married Andrew
Murray, an apparently prosperous man, in 1841, but the protecting of the Government
bills bought for remitting to England, and other causes, brought down every mercantile
firm in Adelaide except A. L. Elder, who had not been long established; and Murray &
Greig came down too. Mr. Murray was a ready writer, and got work on The South