Thursday, September 27, 2012

The tree

Vale Norway spruce, with many thanks to The Care of Trees in New Haven, Conn., who performed the operation with such amazing efficiency. I have now counted the rings, and it was 83 years old, exactly contemporaneous with the house. Poor old soldier.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The motor

In one of his late broadcasts, on July 30, 1999, Alistair Cooke quoted the opening sentences of two novels, both published in 1933. The first was this, “a piece of considered literary prose that could have been written in 1923 or even 1913…[and] for an audience rather like the writer: literary, sensitive, leisured.”

They drove uncertainly along the avenue that led to the house, through the bars of light that fell between the tree-trunks and made the shadows of the lime-trees strike obliquely across the gravel. The navy-blue car was built high off the ground and the name on its bonnet recalled a bankrupt, forgotten firm of motor-makers. Inside, the car was done up in a material like grey corduroy, with folding seats in unexpected places, constructed liberally to accommodate some Edwardian Swiss Family Robinson. This was a period piece. An exhibit. The brakes had ceased to work long since.
The second was the opening passage of To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway, the centenary of whose birth Cooke went on to eulogize through the rest of the broadcast. However, he did not bother to identify the English author of the first. Perhaps he thought his listeners would recognize it.

Being just now preoccupied by the Edwardian frame of mind, I made a mental note to track down the passage and its author. Fortunately this took not fifty seconds on the Internet. It is the opening of Anthony Powell’s early novel From a View to a Death, which I have never read, in which a young London-based artist Arthur Zouch—worryingly bearded—is delivered to Passenger Court, a large country house maintained (together with the car and driver) by the parents of his prospective bride Mary Passenger, their younger daughter.

These sentences do their work admirably. The avenue of limes and gravel makes it clear that this is a stately home, and the old limousine without brakes does the rest—an apt metaphor for an ancient family marooned, like the defunct manufacturer, in the recent but moribund Edwardian past. The car can no longer be made to stop unless (with luck) it drifts to a standstill when the chauffeur, perhaps a little rustyThey drove uncertainlyeither disengages the gears or shuts off the engine within reach of a commodious, hopefully flat forecourt. Perilous speed is simply beyond its capacity.

The interior being so “done up,” is a reminder, too, that motor cars before the Great War were luxurious, and consisted of a handmade engine-and-chassis with custom coachwork added separately. This almost always comprised two completely interchangeable bodies, an open one for adventurous summer motoring with scarf, gauntlets and goggles, and a closed compartment switched for the winter months. The interior was decorated to taste with soft furnishings and thoughtful appurtenances such as retractable cigar-lighters, blinds, folding tables, thermos holders, and a speaking tube. Motor cars of this kind were sometimes also supplied daily with fresh flowers. That it had not yet been repaired or replaced was apparently a consequence of more general decline.

Mrs. P.

Mrs. P. invariably signed her letters “Yours very sincerely, Mary D. Park.” That “very,” inserted so deliberately between “Yours” and “sincerely,” was a kind and thoughtful nuance that has now almost completely vanished from written correspondence, though at times I know my own grandmother certainly practiced it. The locution was, I think, a sign that the salutation extended affectionately beyond mere epistolary convention, while retaining a degree of formality that was not distant so much as careful, in the best sense, certainly stopping short of anything that might be taken to presume too great a degree of familiarity: hence the full signature with that appealing middle initial, which, incidentally, stood for Davis. There was an added inflection, too, when at length the “very” gave way to the sprightly “v.” Alas, e-mail is busily sweeping these things into the dustbin of vanished usage, but that is neither here nor there.

I have been going back over her letters and some of the photographs, jogging my memory, because I knew that there was a dimension to Mrs. P.’s surprise two-week visit to Government House for Jean and Davis’s golden wedding anniversary in September 1990 that I had completely forgotten. What on earth was it?

Writing afterwards from Moyrath House, Belmont Road, Belfast, Mrs. P. rejoiced in “how well the surprise worked.” She went on: “I think almost the best aspect of it was that no one knew who else knew!” And that’s the missing link that lifts this little story to a higher plane of exquisiteness, because with Karla-level ingenuity over many months beforehand Mrs. P. contrived to recruit willing collaborators, by airmail, both among her nieces and nephews but also scattered throughout the Office of the Governor, none of whom were aware of the role played by each and every other, or even their identity. In lesser organizations a cat might well have been let out of the bag, but at Government House, Melbourne, discretion was everything. It was as if Mary D. Park were busily planting moles, and with remarkable success. Clearly she was a missed opportunity for MI6. What I do recall, however, is for weeks beforehand being eaten up with curiosity about who knew what, and when, but Karla’s recruitment process took account of every potential foible, based on the wisdom accumulated over the course of a lifetime as the doughty widow of a Northern Irish Presbyterian minister. Fortunately on this, our secret mission nobody ever discovered the consequences of failure.

Here we are, a few days later, Mrs. P. and I, consoling each other in defeat following another epic struggle against Jean and Davis on the croquet lawn at Government House—the dream team, Irish rules this time, and not Moscow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The conspiracy

I cannot now remember who conceived the surprise for Jean and Davis’s fiftieth wedding anniversary on Thursday, September 6, 1990. What I do recall is that there was a number of carefully-briefed conspirators (purely on a need-to-know basis), and that watches were synchronized, all contingencies covered, with military precision. Forget vice-regal service, we really ought to have been in counter-espionage. My small role was to rendezvous with dear Mary Nicholson at Tullamarine, collect the merchandise, under cover of pre-dawn half-light, and to smuggle her into Government House so that she could make a deus ex machina entrance just before lunch.

Patrick had flown in from Hartford, Conn. Davis’s brother William had come over from Ireland. Most if not all of the other McCaughey children were there. Brigid operated the photographic equipment, so I hope she will not mind if I post this portion of her dossier. The merchandise, in this case, was the late and much lamented Mrs. Park. Mary D. Park, Davis’s widowed sister, was a frequent visitor from Northern Ireland, usually accompanied by her old pal Dr. Margaret Haire, though not on this occasion.

Everybody loved Mrs. Park. Apart from being a whole lot of fun (and funny), she had the Irishwoman’s knack of discovering shared connections in the unlikeliest of places. Wherever she went Mrs. Park knew someone who knew someone… even in Australia, where she had never lived. She was shrewd. She was tough. She had a vast memory bank, and the gift of excellent story-telling. She was also pretty good at croquet (Irish rules, of course), but no match for la maîtresse

Certainly no party to our conspiracy was more meticulous or better prepared. I shall never forget my first glimpse of Mrs. P. in that bleak, early-morning setting of suitcases and bustle in the arrivals concourse at Tullamarine. She was wearing a slightly flamboyant, patterned silk head-scarf and large dark-glasses, channeling Jackie Kennedy, lest she be recognized—which, in her case, seemed not an unlikely prospect. So Mrs. P. was in that moment the ne plus ultra of furtiveness, clutching her British passport, stealing glances left and right, her already sharp reflexes operating at the level of a coiled steel spring. I have never seen anyone derive quite so much pleasure from traveling incognita.

We made the drop. Headquarters were notified. Half an hour later, as we glided through the front gates Mrs. P. (still wearing the scarf and specs) physically sank in the back seat—as if Jean or Davis might be prowling the grounds with a pair of binoculars at six o’clock in the morning. We stole up the back stairs, and delivered her to the Hopetoun Suite, where she lurked impatiently for several hours, receiving secret visitors. Three short knocks, followed by one slightly louder. Everything went according to plan, and when in due course Mrs. P. appeared at the top of the stairsan entrance worthy not so much of Norma Desmond as Cleopatra—Jean said afterwards that she really did think she was seeing a ghost.

Upon much reflection in the early hours of this morning, I wonder if one can fully understand Davis and Jean without having known Mary D. Park also. She was, in a sense, the strongest, most enduring link to their life before Australia. With Mrs. P. Jean shared the double bond not only of being devoted sisters-in-law, each to the other, but also of having been for many decades the hard-working wives of Presbyterian clergymen—perfectly positioned, as dear Naomi reminded me overnight, to observe at the heart of their respective communities that “the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

How fortunate we are that none of these truly amazing people led hidden lives, quite the opposite.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Further Jean

Giving careful consideration to strategic matters

It occurs to me that among the most important of Jean McCaughey’s achievements while Davis was Governor of Victoria, was the significant part she played in strengthening the fledgling sister-relations with Jiangsu Province and the city of Tianjin in the People’s Republic of China. 

Davis and Jean made at least two official visits there in the late 1980s, possibly three (I cannot now recall), and, twenty-five years on, it is difficult to grasp how much less routine such trade missions were then than they are today. Jean and Davis were sanguine about the fact that being well into their seventies helped enormously, because of the Chinese veneration of old age. Yet they genuinely loved their visits to China. I have no doubt they endeared themselves to their hosts. It was mighty hard work. All this was just prior to the trauma of Tiananmen Square.

I think they stayed with the Governor at Government House, Hong Kong, on their way in and out. During their tour on the mainland they were given many lunches and evening banquets consisting of innumerable toasts and courses, the staging posts in an already very full program of day-long visits to new businesses, factories, and educational and cultural institutions. They were fortunate in having cast-iron constitutions. There were many excellent stories upon their return to Melbourne. One in particular made Jean laugh and laugh. 

It involved the practical arrangements. 

Davis’s official secretary Charles Curwen traveled with them, together with the intrepid Jeff Fitzgerald of the Premier’s Department, a China trade specialist, and I think possibly several others in the Victorian department of protocol. Wherever they went there was a bewildering number of Chinese party officials to meet, and an equally enormous entourage of locals assigned to escort them from place to place—interpreters, guides, officials, minders, and helpers, all jumping in and out of a long line of sleek black official cars, a sort of continual diplomatic rugby scrum with Davis and Jean poised serenely at its epicenter. No doubt it was a sobering task to keep track of everybody. 

Indeed, Jean’s abiding memory of their first visit to Suzhou was the sight of Jeff Fitzgerald’s slightly sweaty brow appearing suddenly outside the rear passenger window of Davis’s limousine as they were about to move on to their next official engagement. What Jeff then said, craning through the plate glass and leaving behind a little cloud of condensation, improves considerably if you imagine his sense of urgency, together with the broad-ish Australian accent, and, of course, Jean and Davis’s complete powerlessness in that moment to render him any assistance at all

What have you done with Madame Wu?

With the laughter there was much seriousness also. Jean introduced me to Marguerite Yourcenar, Francois Mauriac, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. She regularly re-read George Eliot and Tolstoy, and I shall never forget her account of being a busy young mother in wartime London, somehow managing her coupons like everyone else, and in between-times immersed in War and Peace, when the action of the last quarter of the novel—Napoleon’s ill-fated retreat from Moscow—ran eerily parallel with the collapse of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, in real time. 

If her laughter was infectious, from time to time one also became familiar with the shrewd, pursed-lipped, eye-narrowing, no-nonsense look with which Jean greeted a proposition she obviously regarded with deep suspicion, usually but not always relating to Mrs. Thatcher. By instinct, as deep as it was resolutely partisan, Jean always sided with the underdog. She was deeply opposed to queue-jumping, except very occasionally when, for example, Sandy the dog required urgent veterinary assistance, in which case she saw no reason not to fight like a lioness. To my knowledge, Jean never bore a grudge, and in moments of difficulty or exasperation or plain fatigue she used to quote from the Sermon on the Mount, with a sigh, and in the sing-song Irish accent she always retained:  “Ah well, Davis, ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,’” and she meant it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Overnight I received word from Melbourne that Jean McCaughey has died.

I have been sitting here for quite a while, brooding over my early-morning cup of tea. So many memories are crowding in. All of them are happy, and most hilarious. A good number (though not by any means all) relate to the beautifully manicured croquet lawn at Government House, Melbourne. 

Some people play croquet to stretch their legs, get a breath of fresh air, keep the children occupied, mess about, or else to engage in light banter before the cocktail hour. Mrs. Mac was not one of those people. To say that she was a committed player is a dangerous understatement. She was not content with mere victory, but rather set herself the task of totally annihilating her opponents, who were often decades younger—cheerfully, and always with impeccable courtesy. Nevertheless the air of sharp concentration and of seriousness with which, eyeing the lawn, she approached this objective brings to mind a steadily wheeling falcon who, fastening upon a small rodent snuffling obliviously in the undergrowth far below, swoops, seizes, and instantaneously dispatches in one seamless motiona sudden flash of feather and talon, the superb result of millions of years of natural selection. 

In other words, no-one was safe when confronted by a sweet-natured but determined assault from Jean on the croquet lawn. The cunning curve ball. The harmfully obstructing dribble. The choppy short stroke. The long, gracefully arcing croquet shot of quite breathtaking power and accuracy. Clack!” Without the slightest hesitation Jean drove a wedge of tempered steel between members of the opposing side, and summarily banished them to the Outer Siberia of the baseline in one direction, and the top corner in the other, restraining them there, toying with them I daresay, while calmly proceeding with an effortless five-, six-, or seven-hoop rally, gallantly bringing her partner pro tempore along for the ride—and quite often, I am proud to say, that fortunate person was me. Women of the bedchamber, certain middle-level Commonwealth governors-general and prime ministers were not immune from the full treatment, and nor were recently retired chairmen of the Australian joint defense chiefs, who, if they were not yet aware of the caliber of their opponent, might have given the impression beforehand that they could easily win the contest. Jean was magnificent.

At times like this it is hard not to resort to clichés, however it is certainly true that Jean Middlemas McCaughey touched, as indeed she made a huge difference to, the lives of many, many people. And this was by no means restricted to Ormond College in the University of Melbourne, or to Davis’s period in office at Government House, to which Jean made a contribution that is impossible to overstate, or through her pioneering work with computers in the 1960s on the systematic statistical analysis of poverty in Australia when she was a research fellow at the Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research. Her books were excellent. I have A Bit of a Struggle here in front of me; the prose style is admirably spare. One also thinks of her many years of service on the board of management of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and as chairman of the council of St. Hilda’s College, and as inaugural chair of the Key Centre for the Study of Women’s Health in Society—the list goes on and on.

Mrs. Mac was also a superb story-teller, in this respect no less than in many others, I think, a proud daughter of Ireland. My favorite, because it combines those familiar elements of simplicity, absurdity, and harmless fun, with a tiny soupcon of mischief, is the tale of Blanche.

It was customary for warm-hearted persons, alerted ahead of time by mutual acquaintances in Britain, to make contact with migrant families bound for Melbourne or Sydney, but temporarily arriving by ship at Fremantle, and there to extend generous hospitality by taking them out for their very first day of sightseeing in Australia. Such was the case with the McCaughey family on that bright morning in 1953. However, in this case neither Jean nor Davis had the faintest idea who the mutual acquaintance was. They knew only that her name was “Blanche,” for that is what their Western Australian hostess indicated in the note she delivered to the ship. Blanche. It is an unusual name in any case, but was especially so in post-war Britain—with a hint of Edwardian cosmopolitanism. Could she be a parishioner? An impossibly distant relation? A neighbor in Golders Green? The well-meaning mother of one of the boys’ school friends? In due course breezy answers from the steering wheel to each and every tactfully phrased, and increasingly desperate query—“How is Blanche?”—stubbornly resisted any form of elucidation, and consistently withheld even a single clue. The longer this went on, gliding past the Swan River and through the leafy suburbs of Perth, the greater was their hostess’s presumption that Jean and Davis were on terms of easy familiarity with the mysterious Blanche, and therefore the more impossible it was to make a full confession (to James and Patrick’s exquisite pleasure, giggling in the back seat). Naturally, also, the risk of embarrassing exposure increased correspondingly as that long day wore on. At last delivered back to the ship—“Do please remember us to Blanche”—they were none the wiser, and as far as I know the identity of the thoughtful Blanche remained a mystery.

Until, perhaps, this morning.

Successive premiers and governments of the state of Victoria, along with innumerable charitable organizations, have good reason to be thankful for the immense contribution Jean McCaughey made to the national life, as do the rest of us. May light perpetual shine upon her.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Shorthorns and murder

When Laura and Henrietta Travers arrived in East Gippsland in the southern winter of 1858, it cannot have taken very long for them to discover that among the many things that their future husbands, William Pearson of Kilmany Park and Lemuel Bolden of Strathfieldsaye, had in common was that they were both seasoned killers. Even as recently as the 1930s Australian newspapers were readily prepared to present such facts as were disclosed, indeed mythologized, by the perpetrators themselves in as generous as possible a light—usually in the absence of any other plausible witnesses. The following article, for example, appeared on the country page in the Melbourne Argus on Tuesday, September 11, 1934 (page 3), and the diminishing headlines already set out the sub-editor’s depressing sense of priority, “First Stud Shorthorns: The Bolden Brothers: Duels to Death with Blacks”:
Some of the best cattle from the leading Shorthorn studs in England were brought out to Port Phillip in 1840 by the Bolden brothers, who occupied the whole of the country between Mortlake and Warrnambool. Their stations included Grassmere, Minjah, and Merang. The site of Warrnambool was part of their heifer paddock. They were the first to fence extensively, and one of the Bolden fences ran from the Hopkins River to Woodford. Evidence of one of their out-stations may still be seen at Woolongoon.

Out with a blackfellow in search of horses, a Bolden was attacked by his companion, and to save his life he was obliged to shoot his assailant. Another Bolden came up with a native in the act of spearing cattle. A fight to the death ensued, and the squatter won. But soon afterwards the Boldens sold their western runs and their cattle herds. Their stud shorthorns were acquired by John and Peter Manifold. Among the stud shorthorns brought out by the Boldens was Mussulman, by Old Cherry, bred by Colonel Cradock. Mussulman was the most valuable bull of his day. He was purchased for 400 guineas to go to Port Phillip, and the purchaser were required to sign a bond agreeing to pay 1,200 guineas should he be taken back to England. Mussulman was hired by the Booths of Warlaby before his exportation. The celebrated Bracelet—twin sister of Necklace—was mated with him, and the great sire Buckingham was the reward. Leonard, another noted Warlaby sire, was by Mussulman. The Old Cherry blood was used also by Thomas Bates, who produced the Cherry Duchess tribe, prized throughout the shorthorn world. The cows introduced to the colony by these pioneers included Lady Vane, the dam of Viscount, and Red Rose, the dam of Mussulman the younger. Choked by a potato, one of the best of the cows died on the voyage out.

After leaving the Hopkins country, the Boldens were interested in other runs. They had Perrin Yallock for a time, Sandford Bolden was at Banyule, Heidelberg, and Lemuel Bolden was interested in Stathfieldsaye. One of the brothers returned to England, and became a shorthorn authority there. The Grand Duchess herd of Edward Bolden at [Springfield Hall] Lancaster was developed on the advice given by this old Port Phillip squatter. That herd reached the top of the shorthorn tree. It was sold subsequently to Betts and Atherton, who paid 300 guineas for every animal, including the oldest bull and the last born calf.

Although they flourished for but a brief period as cattle breeders in Port Phillip, the Bolden brothers deserve to rank among the principal pioneers of the cattle industry of Australia. The choice shorthorns which they brought to the colony laid the foundations of many of the best herds in the land.
I suppose the best that can be said is that in due course Laura and Henrietta may have been able to exercise a measure of civilizing influence over their much older husbands, however by the end of the 1850s the veil of secrecy that enabled the early squatters to get away with murder was already lifted—and they could no longer do quite so much as they pleased. In any case most of the worst damage was already done, and, along with many other Scots settlers in East Gippsland, Mr. Pearson and Mr. Bolden were pursuing the not altogether different aims of acquiring wealth and respectability.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Future scholars of the better florists of Edwardian London may well be indebted to Violet W. Stevenson, whose Successful Flower Marketing and The Encyclopaedia of Floristry, though published respectively in 1952 and 1954 by W. H. Collingridge Limited and Transatlantic Arts Incorporated, appear to codify many practices that must have been firmly established fifty years earlier. Miss Stevenson’s style is brisk, sensible, and businesslike. Aesthetic judgments are cautious but firm, her emphases generally technical: for instance, one is struck by the elaborateness and sheer number of fiddly processes of wiring, indeed the enormous quantity of wire that went into every arrangement and bouquet—nine different gauges in various lengths, on reels, and in coils used for many different purposes such as strengthening stems, straightening leaves, and preventing blooms from disintegrating prematurely. All of this is reminiscent of the ostrich-feather industry, which was similarly wire dependent. Miss Stevenson’s business was obviously geared towards furnishing “shower bouquets” for weddings as opposed to presentations at Court, though the finished articles themselves must have been pretty much identical, a froth of blooms and wispy ferns that could easily descend as far as the hem, if not farther. By the 1950s tuberoses had gone out of fashion, presumably absorbed by the booming postwar fragrance industry, though wartime austerities must surely have played their part. The article on gladioli is somewhat surprising, commending as it does their usefulness in creating enormous corsage ornaments, as well as structuring bouquets and sheaves around them. Imagine the size of a corsage ornament consisting of a couple of thrusting glads. No doubt this fashion was the target of Barry Humphries’s 1955 creation of Mrs. Everage. “It should not be assumed,” writes Miss Stevenson, “that grasses are only permissible in Victorian floristry. Modern designs lend themselves quite well to certain varieties of grass, not the quaking grass of our grandmothers but the bolder, water-grass, eryanthus, wheat and barley. Most of these are obtainable from the [horticultural] sundriesman in their natural colours, bleached or dyed.” According to the OED, quaking grass, n., is “any of various grasses of the genus Briza, having broad, flattened spikelets dangling on slender stalks which tremble in the breeze; esp. (more fully common quaking grass) B. media, which is widely distributed in Eurasia,” and was therefore, of course, ideal for the sort of tremulous shower bouquets that we have seen in considerable abundance at the glittering evening Courts of King Edward and Queen Alexandra at Buckingham Palace.

As one might expect, Miss Stevenson’s mini-dissertation on color rewards close inspection. “The development of colour consciousness,” she writes, “and the true appreciation of colour harmony is an essential qualification for the would-be successful florist,” and their under-development, by implication, almost a guarantee of failure. “There is often so little regard to the suitability of certain colour combinations that far too many floral designs appear to have been assembled with little or no thought of colour harmony...It is not enough to say that the hue of one flower never clashes with another unless you embrace the whole subject and go on to add, when sufficient green is present in stem and foliage to act as a buffer between each colour and the next. No florist can afford to disregard the value of green. It is an important ingredient in floral colour harmonies.” Miss Stevenson does tend to state identical points twice in neighboring sentences, for emphasis. She goes on to recite the standard line on primaries, secondaries, and complimentaries in the color spectrum; the distinctions between hue and tone, shade and tint, pure and “broken” colors, and between contrasting and analogous two- and three-color harmonies. She warns against unfortunate stridency or the jarring effect of ill-conceived adjacencies, and suggests ingenious methods of re-introducing softness and/or pallor. Here, I think, we may identify the point at which Miss Stevenson diverges from her Edwardian predecessors, for not long ago we observed that for them no color combination was too riotous, no effect of texture too assertive or forceful, and no shape or assemblage disproportionate in scale, on the contrary. Wisely, however, Miss Stevenson advises against coronet and veil ornaments composed of lilies, daisies, or daffodils (!), recommending instead “waxy, white flowers, such as stephanotis, gardenias, or camellias, that have about them a slight air of luxury.” And it is back to luxury that this curiously neglected branch of London commerce invariably leads us.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Florine

James Shaw, The Admella wrecked, Cape Banks, 6th August, 1859 (AGSA)

According to the “Shipping Intelligence” column in the Argus on Monday, July 5, 1858 (page 4), the four-year-old 1,042-ton Florine, which sailed from Liverpool on February 23, and might easily have sunk after she was dismasted à la Admella (above) in early April, carried the following enormous cargo in addition to our nineteen-year-old great-great-grandmother Laura Travers and her knitting—an impressive ballast that may well have made all the difference during that terrible gale in the South Atlantic: 237 hogsheads of Hale and Stuart ale; 20 hogsheads of beer; 200 cases of Callender and Caldwell spirits; 125 bundles of wire; 64 flagstones; 2,000 fire-bricks; a number of boilers; many packages of “machinery”; 50 barrels of salt; one case of seeds; five tierces of fish; 650 cases of bottled porter; 621 boxes of oilmen’s stores; 125 kegs of nails; one range; two trusses; eight cases of “hardware”; 2 pedestal clocks; 1,600 bushels of barley; 438 bars of iron; 30 firkins of butter; 5 casks of chicory; eight dog-carts; six bales of linen; 231 cast-iron pipes; 60 tons of pig iron; six casks of sausage skins; 13 tierces of hams; one bin of malt; 40 bags of refined sugar; 68,000 slates; 7,040 tiles; four Parkin and Wharton mangles; four crates of earthenware; four casks of horseshoes; six bales of paper; 42 grindstones; 117 tons of coal; 13 cases of plate-glass; 53 cases of pickles, and much else besides—in other words leaning heavily towards alcohol, food, and building materials, most if not all intended for sale at the diggings. 

If the experience of sailing aboard the Florine had tested Laura up to the limits of endurance, at least she survived and prospered. Alas, Dr. and Mrs. Ffloyd Minter Peck, to whose party she and her elder sister Henrietta had been attached, did not fare so well. At first Dr. Peck slotted conveniently into the local community of East Gippsland, serving alongside our great-great-grandfather William Pearson on the committee of management of the Sale Agricultural Society from its inception on December 16, 1859—along with John Johnson, the future Judge Johnson, who with his family was another cabin passenger on the Florine. However, Mrs. Peck died very soon afterwards, and, following a rather brief period of mourning, Dr. Peck remarried on August 15, 1860, to Menie, the daughter of Duncan Campbell, Esq., of Rockside, Islay, Argyllshire. He died, aged 43, on January 7, 1864, at their residence, Islay Cottage, in Cuninghame Street, Sale. Having lived at such close quarters with the five Peck children, and having shared the ordeal of the Florine, it is inconceivable that Laura and Henrietta did not each maintain a kindly interest in their welfare through the 1860s, as both women started producing their own bewildering number of children for William Pearson and his crony Lemuel Bolden of Strathfieldsaye on the northwest shore of Lake Wellington.

Eventually Laura and Henrietta were separated, when Mr. Bolden diversified his interests and went to southern Queensland. He died in Brisbane on January 27, 1898. Henrietta proved far more durable even than Laura, who died at her enormous house in suburban Melbourne, aged 59, in 1896. A few months after her eighty-first birthday in 1916, Henrietta Bolden died in Brisbane. And even then her obituary notice clung stubbornly to the memory of the old rogue whose peccadilloes eighty years earlier did more than anything else to define the harsh trajectory followed by both sisters: “There passed away on July 10 [1916] an old colonist in Henrietta Bolden, of Hyning, Sandgate, Queensland. The deceased was a daughter of the late Judge Travers, of Madras Residency. She came to Australia in 1858, and in 1860 married the late Lemuel Bolden, of Victoria, who was the first squatter to import Bates pure-bred short-horn cattle. Later they went to Queensland, and lived at Northbrook, on the Brisbane River, but for the last 18 years Mrs. Bolden had lived quietly at Sandgate. She leaves five sons and two daughters” (The Daily News, Perth, Western Australia, Thursday, July 27, 1916, page 4).