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Monday, July 12, 2010

Michael Flanagan Part 2

Brisbane Queensland, February 18, 1865

“My Dear Uncle, I trust that my long silence has not made you in any way uneasy or the people at home on our account. It must be nearly four months from the present time since I wrote to you last but you must have learned from Michael to whom I wrote a short time since the cause of me not writing as usual.”

The above quote starts the letter that Michael Flanagan wrote to his uncle, Fr. Richard Flanagan, in Ireland. I am impressed with the clarity of Michael’s writing. His letters seem so eloquent, especially for the time. He and his siblings were obviously educated. Sometimes I wonder about the education of those in the 19th century. I’m not sure that it was that great in rural and other parts of the United States. Obviously, in Co. Louth, Ireland just north of Dublin, education was available. It is wonderful that these letters exist. It definitely shows that the Flanagan Family felt connected even with thousands of miles between them.

Here’s the rest of the letter:

“About the end of August last I left Melbourne for this colony to join Pat from a few days previous to me leaving in which he gave a rather favourable account of the diggings which were going on here at the that time and then I was not doing anything myself nor did I expect to be able to do anything for some time afterwards. In two days from Melbourne I reached Sydney and here I gained an opportunity I had long wished for – to see Sydney.”

I really like Michael’s description of Sydney as follows:

“Sydney is considered by some to be the prettiest of all Australian cities. Its situation is certainly very beautiful indeed on the edge of a little bay about four or five miles from the sea. The entrance to the bay from the sea is the most wonderful sight I ever beheld. Here between cliffs which extend for some distance along the coast and at each side of the entrance are about a hundred and fifty feet in height quite perpendicular you enter a very narrow passage for a short distance and then into the bay from which you have a full view of Sydney and more novel and pleasing sight I have not seen for a long time. The city when you enter it puts one in mind of some of the home country cities it differs so much in many respects from Melbourne. It is not so large as Melbourne but it is very prettily laid out and has very excellent gardens and pleasure grounds running along the edge of the bay. There are many fine buildings but they are not able to compete with Melbourne in this respect.”

You can tell that religion is very important to Michael as it was for many people of this day by the following:

“The Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary’s is a fine building and at present the largest in Australia as it will be until St. Patrick’s in Melbourne is completed. I remained for three or four days in Sydney an again started in search of Pat. I got to Brisbane in a couple of days and had to remain here a couple of days also.”

More about Michael’s journey to Pat (Patrick Flanagan, his brother):

“This city (Brisbane) is the capital of the colony of Queensland. It is rather a small place but it is daily and rapidly growing larger. There are two newspapers published daily in the city and another weekly. There is a considerable shipping trade going on in this port. Steamers run about twice or three times a week to and from Sydney and also to other ports further north. In Moreton Bay at the mouth of the Brisbane River are anchored several large immigrant ships which cannot come up to the city the river not being deep enough in places to admit them. Still further north I proceeded and arrived next at Rockhampton a small sea-port town situate exactly on the line of Capricorn and this was the end of my journey by sea. Now I had before me a road of three hundred miles to trudge on ‘shanks pony’ and carry my knapsack or in colonial vocabulary “swag” which generally of late years consists of all the diggers ‘real and personal estate’. The following day after the night I landed here I started in company with six Germans who were the only arrivals by the same steamer as myself bound for the distant diggings and although all strangers to me I was glad of their company for it is anything at all but pleasant to have to go over that much marching by oneself and have to camp thirteen nights by the way side without companion.”

Michael finds Patrick:

“The time passed well enough during our journey the nights being pretty cool compensated us a little for the fatigues of the day under the nearly perpendicular sun. On the thirteenth day from our leaving the coast we got a first glimpse of a curiously made up little township composed of bark and slabs and this was the diggings. I was over a week on the diggings before I found Pat. One day I was winding my way amongst the bark and slabs which compose the township and I saw advancing before me a curious looking bushman and as I came closer and got a little nearer him I found I saw the face before but not until he put his hand and began laughing did I fully recognise the man I was searching of. Pat was a good deal changed since I saw him before. His appearance would nearly put one in mind of a Maori.”

This has got to be one of my favorite letters. Here’s more:

“The sun of Queensland browned him very much but the climate did not disagree with him. He was in perfect health but he looked rather thinner than when I last saw him and although New Zealand seems to have agreed well him during the three years he was there he did not look three years younger after all.”

To be continued……….

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