Location: Queensland, Australia
"Dear Will .... "
The following transcript only covers the first attached PDF.
Union Camp Hodgkinson River, Thornborough, Queensland Sunday, March 1883
I now take the pleasure of writing you a few lines hoping to find you in good health as this leaves me at present.
I am very glad to tell you that we arrived up here alright without having experienced any startling adventures. We have been up here five weeks now and father has been away four weeks out of that, so I have been by myself a good while. This is the worst place for Blacks we have been in yet. Two or three days after we came here I was out on horseback and I seen seven blacks one of them had a good tomahawk which he must have stolen from someone. They were in the bottom of a deep creek and I did not see them till I was about ten yards off them. They had no spears with them or else they might have made short work of me and the horse too. About two days ago there was a young man I knew named Delissa was speared by the blacks about two miles and a half from here. He had two or three tame blackboys with him and they were minding 2 or 3 hundred bullocks for a man named Middlemiss. It happened that 50 or 60 of the bullocks strayed away and he left the two blackboys looking after the main lot and he went after the strays he did not come back that night and the two blackboys stripped, so that the wild blacks would not know them, and went to look for him they found his horse tied up to a tree and they seen a mob of wild blacks a little way off but they could not see the man they thought he had been speared so one of them went into Thornborough for to tell the Police. They came out and looked for him and found him laying on top of a rock with two spears through him and a lot of spears lying about him. He had a revolver in his hand. You must excuse me for not writing before as the river has been flooded several times lately and the mail could not cross. I will now conclude for present with best respects to your Mother and Father and the children and all my old friends and accept the same yourself. I remain your sincere friend. E.W. Burns P.S. Send your address in your next letter. My address is Master E.W. Burns Union Camp Hodgkinson River near Thornborough Queensland
For William Johnstone. Union Camp Hodgkinson Goldfields, Queensland July 15th 1883
I received your very welcome letter dated June 16th all right and was glad to see by it that you were in good health as this leaves me at present. You said in your letter that you had formed a football Club in the Choir. I hope you will have success with it and I wish I was able to be a member too. Do you remember the great match we played once up in Waverly park against the Grammarians and how we were greatly defeated by them. You also said in your letter that you had seen Charlie Clarke at the Grammar School Sports and that he said that he had written to me and received no answer to his letter. If you see him again you can tell him that I received and answered his letter about the same time as I wrote to you last. I do not go fossicking up here as I did out at Slatey Creek as I have good work to do all the week and up till dinner time on Sundays also so I have not got much time to fossick. I now get two pounds per week wages and I have to pay one pound per week for board out of it so I could save one pound per week early. Dear Will, you told me before I left Sydney that you were going to get some monthly books or papers such as the “Boys World” etc. If you have got any old numbers of them you can send us some up if you like as it is very miserable having nothing hardly to read here. The Blacks have come right into this camp lately and we give them old shirts, blankets etc so as to keep on friendly terms with them they are a treacherous lot and some of the people would sooner that they did not come in at all as when they get to know the run of the place they may attack it some night when least expected. If they only was to try I think they could do it right enough. One day we leveled an old auger at four of them and they took it for a rifle and cleared like Old Harry. I have no more news to tell at present so will conclude with best respects to your father and mother and sisters and accept the same yourself. I remain your sincere Chum. E.W. Burns P.S. Give Ivy two kisses for me
Union Camp March
I received your very welcome letter all right and was sorry to hear that Gwein had been ill with the liver complaint, but I hope that he is quite well again now. You said that Reginald since had given you some books for me of which I am very glad as I have read all the books that you sent up. I am surprised at you for saying that you would pay me what it cost for bringing down a few curios and if you say that again I will have a good mind not to bring any, so there. For your next letter will you please send me up a receipt for preserving bird skins as I have had a good few and they all went rotten and I had to throw them away and if I go on that way I will not be able to fetch any down to you. There was a man killed here the other day. He was out in the bush stripping bark off a tree when a dead limb fell on his head and crushed it. When he was found he was quite black looking which I suppose was the effect of the sun. You said in your letter that when I come down next you will swim me for £10,000 which challenge I accept and if you like, you can alter it to £20,000. I can swim across the river here when it is up and there is a current of six or seven miles an hour, but I might not be able to do much in the breakers as I expect you have to get used to it like anything else. The blacks have speared two horses about ten miles from here since my last one of which got away with the spear in it, but they killed and ate the other. I was coming home from being out looking for horses the other day when I met a mob of blacks in the river. Some of the bucks had 4 or 5 spears each but as they knew me and were coming into the camp they did not do anything to me. If I had met them two or three miles away I would not get in their reach. I have no more news to tell you this time so will conclude with kind. Love to Gwein and yourself. I remain your Faithfull chum, Ted Remember me to your Mother and Father and Sister. E.W.B
A couple of Queenslanders accompanied this. E.W.B
Union Camp September 1883
I received your very welcome letter dated 20th August all right and was glad to see by it that you were in good health as this leaves me at present. Dear Will, this place is pretty dull now there are not may boys of my own age about to mix up with. I wish that you were only living up here we could have such jolly fine sport going out shooting parrots, pigeons etc. and every Sunday we could get two or three more chaps and go out riding. I have only got one good mate up here whose name is Jerry Whalen. He is driving a horse wagon, he is about 19 or 20 years of age. He and I have rare old rides mustering horses. He and we go into the Chows gardens and make them shout – Bananas, Granadillas Melons, and so on. Dear Will, there are very few kangaroos about here. I have not seen one since I been here. The niggers hunt them all for food. Yesterday, me and another chap, went for a bogey and we came up on a large camp of about 30 or 40 Blacks. They were making spears. They had an awful lot of them and some of them were ugly looking weapons about 9 or 10 feet long and barbs at the points and pieces of sharp quartz stuck along near the point. I was showing some of them. But I could not manage to get one this time. I will try to get you a few boomerangs if I can. There are no bird’s nests about yet as it is too early in the season. Dear Will, you said in your last letter that you had two copies of the “Boys of England” and also two of the “Boys own Paper”. I would be very glad if you would send them up as I would like to read them. I will send down a few stamps to put on them and if you like you could send up the “Sydney Mail” sometime and I will send you down the “Queenslander” or the “Wild River Times”. Dear Will, you can tell Erve Schneider that he can write up if he likes for I do not know his address. He can get my address of you. Dear Will, you said in your letters that you thought Charlie Clarke was my “chum”. Indeed, he is not as him and me have never been such mates as you and I are and have been. So if you like you and I will be sworn “chums” and stick to one another through thick and thin. I have no more news to tell you at present so will conclude with kind love to Erve, Madge and all old friends also to your mother, father and sisters and accept the same yourself. I remain, your sincere “Chum”. E.W. Burns P.S. Excuse scribbling as I am in a hurry. Write Soon Please
Union Camp Hodgkinson Goldfields, Queensland October 20th, 1883
I received your very welcome letter last Sunday and was sorry to see by it that you had a bad cold, but I hope it is all right by this time. You said in your letter that you would send up the books at once, but I have not received them yet. I might get them tomorrow. I said in the letter that I would send some stamps to put on them. I enclosed about a shilling’s worth with it and then I found out that Queensland stamps would be no good in Sydney so I tore it open and took them out and being in a great hurry I did not scratch it out but it is no matter. I will booze you up when I come down next. You said in your last that you had nearly had a quarrel with Alf Allen about the cricket ball and that you thought Joe Sutton had put him up to it. I would not wonder a bit as I never liked Sutton at school. I always thought that he was a sly speaking coward.
the bird nesting season is hardly in up here yet but when it is I will keep a bright lookout for eggs of any description. I think the chance of getting a Kangaroo for you is very green as I have been out all over the country about here horse hunting and I never seen one yet. I have only seen the tracks of one small one and that was about fourteen miles down the river.
I am getting to be a pretty good swimmer now. I am not afraid of going out of my depth. Next wet season, I am going to try and swim across this river when it is up. I swam across last wet season on horseback and I got drenched up to my neck nearly and you could only see the horse head and tail. I do not think that I will be coming down for a good while yet and I would like to come down to see my old chums.
do you call to mind the prizes that Harrison promised us for drawing? I expect that they look as “green” as ever. I wish I did not let him have all my good drawings.
Dear Will, I forgot to tell you in my last letter that I had an Uncle and Aunt and eleven cousins just arrived from England. I have not seen them yet. My Uncle is a tinsmith etc. and has just opened a shop a few doors above the National School at Paddington. Their name is Crabbe. I expect you pass that way going to work of a morning. I have no more news to tell you at present so will conclude with kind love to Erve, Modge, R Houston, Parker and all old friends and accept the same yourself. I remain your Sincere “Chum” E.W. Burns P.S. A Queenslander accompanies this. EWB
Union Camp Hodgkinson Goldfields, Queensland November 29th, 1883
I received your very welcome letter all right also the four books for which I am very much obliged to you. I have been expecting them this last month as I have no books up here hardly.
I have the pleasure to tell you we have had rain up here at last and it was very badly wanted as we have had none for between eight or nine months and there was not a bit of grass about the place and all the cattle and horses were nearly starving. It began to rain on Sunday morning at about nine o’clock at night the river was coming down a banker. It has done a good deal of damage at Thornborough having washed away a dam that cost about ₤1000. There are plenty of fish here now, I have rare sport catching them at night. I light a fire on the bank which attracts them and then I put in a line or two and sometimes haul out a good many fish some of which weigh two pounds. They always come up here to breed in the rainy season from the Mitchell, a very large river that runs into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Since I wrote just, there has been a man speared by the Blacks about 15 miles down the river. He is an old friend of mine, named McGwinney of whom I told you about in a former letter. He was looking after cattle when he came upon a mob of niggers who were having a glorious feast having speared a cow and calf. He rode up to them and they did not run away. He was riding a young horse which got fidgety and having a rifle in one hand he could hardly hold her, and when he had his back turned towards them they threw a lot of spears at him, one of which entered from the back just below the shoulder and went through him. He then galloped away a quarter of a mile with the whole tribe after him yelling like a lot of devils they thought he would be weak and fall off the horse, but he did not. He then got off and broke off the long end of the spear in the fork of a tree and came up here with the other part of the spear in him all the time and had it pulled out. It was a very narrow escape for him. He is all right again now. I have no more news to tell you at present. I would like to come down for a trip at Christmas, but I don’t think I will be able to. I will now conclude for present with kind love to Erve, Modge and accept the same yourself. I remain your Sincere “Chum” Ted P.S. If you have any more Boy Own? papers down there that you do not want you can send them up.
Queenslander accompanies this.
Union Camp May 17th, 1884
I received your very welcome letter on Sunday and it was dated March 7th as it must have been mislaid somewhere or other. I am glad you sent me a receipt for the bird skins and I will start getting some as soon as I can. I am glad to hear that you have joined the Artillery Corps, when I come down I might join it if I can. Do you get a carbine to take home or do you only get them off a Saturday. You said in your letter that you sent some books with it. I did not get them last Sunday but expect to next Sunday. You also said that you proposed to write on the receipt of one another letters. But we only get the mail here once a week and when it comes it only stops an hour or so. So that when I get a letter from you I am not able to answer it until the next week. I am sorry to here that Erve has cut you and taken to Erne MacKenzie but then when I come down we will be just as well without him. The was an accident happened in the Claim a couple of weeks ago by which a man named Jim Simpson had his collar bone broken, but he is getting better by degrees now. He was Lopsman at the Claim, landing buckets and he had to send some saplings down in the bucket and they got stuck at the mouth of the shaft and he told the boy that was driving the whip horse to hold the rope while he fixed the bucket, so he gave it a push and it did not budge. He then jumped on it and it suddenly gave way and the boy was not strong enough to hold the rope so had to let go (and as the shaft is not straight but slanting like the roof of a house) and Jim slid down to the bottom, a distance of 200ft. When he was brought up to the surface everybody thought he was killed, all his back was skinned and he was bruised all over and his collar bone was broken. I had to go to Thornborough (20 mile) for a doctor. I had a good horse and galloped nearly all the way. The doctor sent a cart for to fetch him to the hospital. It will be a couple of months before he is all right again. You asked me how long it would be before I came down. We might come down in 3 or 4 months or we might not come down for a year. I am getting sick of being up here with no mates. I have no more news to tell you at present so will conclude with kind love to your mother and father and sisters also Reg. Since I accept the same yourself. I remain your faithful Chum; Ted
Union Camp July 12th 1884
I received your very welcome letter all right on Sunday week and the books last Sunday for which I am very much obliged to you and I wish I had some to send you down in return. You must please excuse me for not writing last week after I got your letter but I put off writing it until Saturday night and it happened to have something to do until twelve O’clock at night and as I was tired and had to go to work pretty early on Sunday morning I thought I would leave it till this week. I am sorry to hear that you and Erve are not very great Chums now as he has taken to Earn McKenzie. I got a letter from Erve a couple of weeks ago and he said that he had been laid up for three weeks through a charge of powder exploding in his gun while out shooting. It was a good job he did not loose his sight altogether. It was a very mean trick of Arthur Gullick to play on Reg Smee about the Choir money. I am very much obliged for the information you gave me about the Artillery Cadets and feel proud to have one of them for a Chum and if we both get pretty good shots we will be able to have some rare old shooting bouts when we go Elephant hunting in Africa – The weather is very cold up here now as it is the depth of winter and we can bear a few extra blankets of a night. I saw by one of the papers that Will Shorts father is gone insolvent. Dear Will, I wish that you were up here now as I have rare old shooting expeditions on Sunday and I mostly get some good pidgeons or ducks. The water is all drying up in the creeks and lagoons and the ducks come onto the river for water and I sometimes see an odd Turkey or two but I have not shot any yet. I must now conclude for present with Kind love to you Mother and Father and Ivey and all the little ones and Meg and the same for yourself. I remain your faithful Chum; Ted I will write soon a longer letter.
Excuse scribbling, please. Ted
Clifton House Hunley Street Burwood Nov 7th 1884
You must please excuse me for not writing or calling to see you before but we shifted up here about a month ago, and I took a bad cold somehow or other, and it turned into a slight touch of bronchitis, but I am getting all right again now. I think it was through knocking about too much in the cold nights after coming down from the hot climate. If it is fine on Monday next I intend to come down and going out somewhere with my cousins. And if you have got a holiday I would be very glad if you would come with us as I would like to spend the day with you or if you cannot come I will come up and see you on Monday night. I have no more news to tell you at present so will conclude with kind love to your father and Mother and Jim and all the rest and accept the same yourself. I remain your faithful old chum; EW Burns
P.S. Try and come on Monday and if you can, will you meet me at about nine o’clock at my cousins.
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