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891 ABC Afternoon Delights at the State Library: 17 February 2004

Carole Whitelock talked with Michael Talbot

As well as books and periodicals there are many things in the State Library of South Australia's collections that you might not expect to find in a library. It's my intention to talk about some of these, and also about the way our collections can give an insight into life in South Australia at various times.

This is my first appearance on 891 ABC Afternoons. Firsts are important, so I thought I'd talk about a few South Australian firsts from the State Library.

William Voules Brown and his wife Harriet arrived at Holdfast Bay in the Coromandel in January 1837.

There are pictures of both of them taken at the time of their 25th wedding anniversary in 1859 in Gum leaf and cow hide : William Voules Brown, South Australian pioneer and his family 1809-1986, by Jenny Rich, published in 1986. There are preservation copies in the State Library's South Australiana collection.


Among the 'Records of William Voules Brown (of Brighton) and his descendants' - given to the State Library by the family - is a piece of cow hide said to be from the first cow in South Australia.

According to family tradition, Governor Hindmarsh's cow (which came to South Australia in the Buffalo and was one of the first cows in the colony) helped to feed William Perkins and Adelaide, infant children of William and Harriet. The children did not survive. The cow hide came into the family's possession. It was used as a bed covering for a time. Later it was stored, became moth-eaten and was to be burnt. A piece was kept as a souvenir.

One of the problems of historical research is that there can be quite different explanations for the same item. William Voules Brown's obituary in the Observer (4 February 1893) says he ran a dairy at Alberton for a couple of years. According to the paper: 'The dairy consisted at first of one cow, which was the first cow imported to the colony. She came by the store ship Indus and Mr. Brown paid the fancy price of £40 for her.'

First Newspaper in South Australia

The first page of the South Australian gazette and colonial register 3 June 1837 is on show in the State Library Treasures Wall until the end of February [2004]. You can also view it on the Treasures Wall website.

The catalogue entry is interesting to a librarian like me because it hints at so many questions. The gap of about a year between publication of the first issue in London and the second in South Australia does not go into details of the vicissitudes of establishing a printing business in a new colony.

Because the newspaper was also the government gazette, the first page has a lot of proclamations and government appointments - catching up on the six months since settlement. There is also a 1½ column report on a committee meeting to name Adelaide streets - most names have to do with people involved with colonising South Australia.

As with the cow hide, if you look behind the scenes there is more than one story. John Brown the immigration agent wrote that Governor Hindmarsh wanted to name the streets after 'Royal & Naval heroes' but was voted down.

More Afternoon Delights

ABC Afternoon Delights at the State Library was a series in which Carole Whitelock talked with Michael Talbot from the State Library about South Australian topics, illustrated by items from the Library's collections. View the associated SA Memory page for each topic.



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