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Diary of Mary Thomas
Title : Diary of Mary Thomas Diary of Mary Thomas
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Creator : Thomas, Mary, 1787-1875
Source : PRG 1160/1
Date of creation : 1836
Additional Creator : Thomas family
Format : Diary
Dimensions : 21.0 cm x 13.5 cm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Diary kept by pioneer Mary Thomas during a voyage aboard the Africaine to South Australia, 1836. The Thomas family brought the first printing press to South Australia from which the first South Australian newspaper was printed. In time, she settled her family in Hindley Street. There, Mary attempted to preserve English traditions, including plum pudding, but had also become accustomed to such delicacies as parrot pie.

July 2 - We again set sail, I having been up all night in attendance of the children. I went on deck at daylight, and saw the Isle of Wight hills, the last view that I had of my native country, and the reflection that in all probability it would be the last cost me some tears.

July 5 - The weather hitherto has been remarkably fine, but this afternoon the rain fell and the wind rose considerably; the night proved squally, and I was again up with the two invalids in my cabin, William with the scarlet fever, and Mary with such a violent pain in her head, and excessive weakness, that I was afraid to trust her out of my sight. Helen was now better. The next cabin had been allotted to my three daughters and a young person whom we bought out with us as an assistant. We also had with us two men engaged as agricultural labourers, and two printers, one an apprentice, as Mr. Thomas intended to issue a newspaper as soon as possible in conjunction with Mr. Stevenson, the Governor's Secretary, who was to be the editor, and with whom he had entered into partnership for the purpose. Much of our luggage on board, of which we had great quantity, consisted of a printing press (the Stanhope Press, preserved in the office of The Register newspaper), type, and other materials necessary for the undertaking. William usually slept in a hammock which was slung near us in the intermediate.....

September 1 - We had by this time managed a littler better with regard to our cooking, that is, we had made friends with the cabin cook, and by the occasional bribe of a glass of rum he would bake for us whenever he could; sometimes a beefsteak pie (salt beef, of course) or a rice pudding (the latter without either eggs or milk) or a dripping cake. Dripping, which in some measure answered the purpose of butter, I purchased from him at a shilling a pound. The wine also was better than at first, whether from the effects of the voyage or not I cannot tell, but we had some of a very fair quality.

September 5 - ....The doctor.... was called out about 2 o'clock to a woman in the steerage.... This had been expected for sometime, and consequently all the men in that part of the vessel were instantly turned out of their berths and sent upon deck for two hours, which in the midst of a cold, dark, and stormy night could not be very agreeable. In the meantime, however, a new passenger made his appearance in the form of a male infant, thus bringing the total number of souls onboard to exactly one hundred. The child was born amidst the roaring of the wind, the splashing of the waters, and the incessant rocking of the ship, and afterwards named James Africaine, in memory of his having been born on that vessel.

Robert Thomas established the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register [newspaper] , and later the Register newspaper. Mr and Mrs Thomas were accompanied by their children Frances Amelia (Skipper) 1818-1855, Robert George, 1820-1885, William Kyffin, 1821 -1878, Mary (Skipper), 1823-1881 and Helen (Mantegani), 1825-1921. Another child, Alfred, died in infancy. The State Library also holds a selection of extracts from the diary of Mary Thomas (PRG 1160/6 - see attached PDF), who later became the second wife of colonial artist, J.M. Skipper.

Related names :

Thomas, Robert, 1782-1860

Thomas, Mary, 1787-1875

Thomas, Mary, 1823-1881

Thomas family

Stephen, George Milner

Coverage year : 1836
Period : 1836-1851
Place : South Australia
Region : Adelaide city
Further reading :

Duncan, Beth Mary Thomas : founding mother : the life and times of a South Australian pioneer Kent Town, S. Aust. : Wakefield Press, 2007

Hope, Penelope. Voyage of the Africaine: a collection of journals, letters and extracts from contemporary publications South Yarra, Vic.: Heinemann Educational Australia, 1968

Pike, Douglas. Paradise of dissent : South Australia 1829-1857 London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1957

Pitt, G.H. The press in South Australia, 1836-1850 Adelaide, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 1946.

Thomas, Evan Kyffin. The diary and letters of Mary Thomas (1836-1866) : being a record of the early days of South Australia Adelaide, S. Aust.: Gillingham Printers, 1983

Internet links :

SA Memory, Foundation of South Australia 1800-1851 South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register [newspaper]

SA Memory, Foundation of South Australia 1800-1851 Register

SA Memory, Foundation of South Australia 1800-1851 Settler's Hut

State Library of South Australia, Thomas family papers, PRG 1160

A Penchant for Parrot Pie, National Library of Australia News, June 2006

The Newsletter of the Historical Society of South Australia, no. 194 March 2008; See page 6, Book Review and Notes, Beth Duncan, Mary Thomas, Founding Mother.Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2007

State Library of South Australia, General Information Factsheets Online: Shipping and passenger records

State Library of South Australia, General Information Factsheets Online: Women in South Australia

Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition Search for Mary Thomas



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