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TOPIC: Book review

Book review 16 Jan 2012 04:28 #203

Hi everyone, I have recently read the book “A Voyage to Australia, 1838-39” by James Bell.

James Bell, aged 21 set sail on the Planter from London on 19 November 1838 bound for the new colony of Adelaide. James, a Scotsman and staunch Presbyterian, maintained a daily journal during the long and arduous voyage. The voyage took nearly six months to complete rather than the expected 130 days due to the incompetence of the captain and many misadventures along the way.

Journals can be tedious to read, but James’ entries are reasonably short and the events he records maintained my interest. He describes his fellow passengers in some detail and also passes judgement on them all. He comes across as a bit of a wowser and winger but when you take into account his rural background and Presbyterian upbringing, it’s easy to understand his attitude.

The journal is a good record of the conditions faced by the prospective settlers during their voyage to a new life. As well as the events that took place on board the vessel, you are also given a glimpse of life at some of the ports they called into along the way.

This journal somehow found its way back to England where it lay unknown for more than 150 years. It was found in a country bookstall and eventually was sold at auction to the State Library of South Australia. The introduction and epilogue were written by Anthony Laube of the State Library. The epilogue is valuable because it traces, as far as possible, the lives of the passengers from this voyage after they reached Adelaide. Some found a good life in the new colony while others faced a different outcome. I won’t tell you the fate of the adventurous James Bell!

The book is fairly small and a quick read. Every voyage at that time had its trials and adventures but this voyage seems to have had more than its fair share and I'm sure all the passengers were very grateful to eventually reach Adelaide. It again puts me in awe of what my ancestors went through to get to this country.

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