Friday, 19 April 2013


The recent discovery of the personal diary of John Hindmarsh, First Governor of the Colony of South Australia amongst a collection of papers related to the administration of Heligoland, lodged at the British Museum, offers new insights into the early settlement of this now prosperous State.

In this diary, clearly not meant for the public gaze, Hindmarsh records his day to day experience of the adventure of settlement and a series of remarkably frank observations regarding the early commissioners and settlers. In no other source do we see such a lively and insightful analysis of the process of establishing a colony, all told in Hindmarsh's acerbic and down to earth manner.

It must be stressed that this was Hindmarsh's personal diary, meant only for his own eyes and never intended for either circulation or publication. As such it contains views and comments of a sometimes surprising nature.

George Stevenson, writing in his journal on board the Buffalo, was of the opinion that "The Governor cannot write two sentences of grammar or common sense, that is the simple truth." But that "simple truth" is belied here, where the Governor regularly writes two or even three grammatical sentences. As in so much else Stevenson is shown to be wrong in his judgements.

Note on the text.

The early part of the diary (that covering the voyage out on board the Buffalo) has been severely edited for this edition. For days at a time the diary consists of the usual contents of a professional sailor's diary: observations of the winds, weather, tides and positions. An example drawn at random is given below:

Friday, Octr 14. Fresh breezes & hazy. Wind N.E.b N. Head S.E.b E. Set & in tgt sails occasionally. Noon. Do Wr. Miles run, 180 + 6854 = 7034. Lat. obs. 27E30′ So. Longe 39E26′ Wt. P.M. Do Wr.

While all of these entries will be included in a forthcoming full academic edition, in an edition for the general reader it has been felt that these entries will be of little interest and have been omitted.

1 comment:

  1. We at the State Library absolutely love this diary - well done to the 'editor' ! A.