The Diaries of Jane Macartney

Diaries, 1859-Sep 1884 RHSV Manuscripts Collection (MS 12929)

by Alannah Croom

Jane Macartney (formerly Hardman) was born in Ireland on 19 January 1803. Jane was the wife of Hussey Burgh Macartney, who held the position of Dean of Melbourne from 1852 until his death in 1894. Together with their eight children, the Macartney’s sailed to Australia on the Stag and arrived in Melbourne on 24 January 1848. Throughout her life, Jane Macartney dedicated much of her time to working with the sick and poor and was a well-loved and respected member of society. She passed away on 10 January 1885 at the age of 82.

The RHSV holds three large bound copies of Jane’s personal diaries, written during the period September 1859 to 1884 (1866 missing or not completed). Despite the understandable deterioration of the books binding, the entries within have been well preserved and are clearly readable by those that can decipher the intricate mid-nineteenth century hand-writing. In terms of how the diaries are composed, Jane preferred a more concise approach, with the entries being much more like a series of bullet points, rather than long, more detailed entries.

This is an invaluable resource which gives the reader a valuable insight into the life of an upper-class woman in mid-nineteenth century Melbourne.

As the catalogue entry notes, Jane’s diaries cover a number of significant social, moral and spiritual issues of the time, with ‘both daily life and philosophy of life… exemplified’. Her record of daily life events ‘mainly related to family life, ministerial work of her husband and the role Jane Macartney played in society: her involvement with numerous benevolent societies and institutions, committee work, Sunday school teaching, visitations to the poor and the sick, social life and general domestic existence as it was for the upper social classes during this period which gives and overall impression of a woman’s life and work in this environment’.

Also mentioned are ‘particular reference[s] to several well known families, and details of social activities, the place of religion in one’s daily life, the importance of public transport, suburban social visits as far as Brighton, the extent of the Macartney’s travels in Victoria; ministrations and work re early hospitals and orphanages; general references to family life include details of births, baptisms, sickness and death, past-times, notion of the extended family, the belief in God and life after death and general importance placed upon family life and social relationships’.

Examples of entries

Transcription by Joyce Thomson. Some minor amendments to punctuation and corrections to original spelling and abbreviations have been made to assist readability. Only entries of particular interest have been included.

Notes which accompany Box 166These diaries contain detailed entries for most days in 25 year period. The diaries commence on 27 January 1859. The pages for 13-26 January are missing. Pages 1-12 January are blank.

1859 – 1st Month – 27 Thursday – January 27 to 30

Left Mr Godfrey’s as mentioned before & spent the evening after tea in working and music. H. & girls sat up to write stories,

28 Friday

Off from Kilmore at 5 in the morning – cool & delightful without dust. Got to Seymour a 9 – breakfast, prayers, reading – off again at 2 – reached Avenel at ½ past 4 – having been obliged to cross the creeks one by one in a boat made of a small piece of bark & only holding the native beside, who paddled it. The floods had been higher than for 20 years – The carriage got across thro ‘The Water’.

31 to 2 Jan & Feb – 31 Monday – 1st and 2nd Month 1859

Left Warrenbayne at 5 in the morning – breakfasted with the Freemans in Benalla, & set out again ½ past 01 – lunched at Mr J. Reids at Wangaratta – Billy M. brought horses to meet us – but one of them wold not draw – the others brought us on to Dr. Mackay’s – Kind as usual remained that night – in their new house.

9 Wednesday

Cool & pleasant – read & worked till dinner time – We all prepared peaches for jam afterwards., while Edwd. read aloud – Hussey – E, & 3 girls rode out till teatime – Charlotte – Charlie B. & I made Peach and Damson Jam – English letters arrived – Poor Harry B lost his baby of 14 months – all well besides thank God – our dear boy – beloved Mother etc.

1859 – 2nd Month – 10 Thursday – February 10 & 13

After breakfast H. 4 girls & I walked to the top of a high hill & got a lovely view of the whole Country – Mountains & wood – a lovely bright, cool day – a very steep ascent near the top – walked about 7 miles – dinner at 2 – all the boys out. Writing for the mail till tea –

1859 – 3d Month – 10 Thursday – March 10 to 13

Hussey wakened very unwell – & covered with Nettle Rash – Could not go into town as we had intended – H. stupid & sleepy all day. Charlotte & Fanny went to the Clarks to stay till Saturday. Mrs G. missing. – J. & I drove to Gillibrand’s Hill to visit. Hte. Staid with H. Little Murray taken very ill with croup in the evening & was ill all night.

12 Saturday

Thank God we are again at home – mercy & goodness having followed us all thru’ our journeyings & brought back in safety – H. much better & able to drive in – No letter to relieve our anxiety – The Lord send us peace & joy – No letter to relieve our anxiety – Edwd. Thinking of forwarding Mr Faithful’s gun with Mrs Greene – Hussey recovering –

Feb 1 Tuesday

The ovens so high that the carriage could not be got across – E. & Billy M. went off to Glencarty ? very early. & brought a dray, 3 saddle horses & a Buggy of Morris’s to get us on after crossing the river in the Boat – the carriage horses swam – 9 horses in requisition on this occasion – Charles B. assisted brining us up – arrived at G. about 7 – finding the house in excellent order & everything looking lovely after the rain – quantities of fine peaches – milk butter, eggs etc.

Further Reading:

At the RHSV – Macartney Family Papers – MS 000622, Box O_7 [3-16] and Box 78 [27-29]. For the folder containing documents relating specifically to Jane Macartney see MS 000622 Box O_7 [7].

For more information on Dean Macartney, see the Australian Dictionary of Biography

‘Mrs Macartney’, The Church of England Messenger and Ecclesiastical Gazette for the Diocese of Melbourne and Ballarat, 5 Feb 1885, p. 3. Available on Trove