Robert Scott | State Library of New South Wales

Robert Scott

Robert Scott, 1820, attributed to Miss SharpeRobert Scott, 1820, attributed to Miss Sharpe. Watercolour on ivory miniature  MIN 354

On his second exploratory journey into the Hunter region, Robert was impressed with the quality of the land and applied for land grants for areas on the Paterson River and Paterson Plains.

Robert recognised the importance of establishing his estate on higher lands above the river and wrote in his diary of his interest in climbing the heights above the wetlands and lagoons. The Scott brothers’ estate was one of the few homesteads to avoid floods. Robert wrote,

‘I have little doubt but that the country improves very much as you get up, indeed those who have been up say so. After arranging matters …I got another black fellow and went out to look at the country … large lagoons all along the river crowded with a variety of water fowl, especially ducks, divers, red bills (or native hens). The latter are very plentiful, about the size of a large fowl and of a glossy black, tinged with blue when the sun shines … I shot 5 of these myself.’





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[Portion of a] journal describing a voyage from the Hunter River to Sydney in company with Rev. Middleton, Mr Bowman and Mr Dixon, by Robert Scott, Vol. 7, MLMSS A2266



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Hunters (No. 2) River
... high up as this the Country in places should be so low; in every direction there are extensive Lagoons & swamps but as far as I could judge they are all higher than the River therefore easily drained by cutting through the high banks: the soil is very good – When we arrived at the Govt Cottage we found the Boat had arrived before us. The Cottage here is an excellent one, & beautifully situated in a bend of the River & commanding a very pretty view; we have here for the first time a view of distant hills & high land, I have little doubt but that the Country improves very much as you get up, indeed those who have been up say so. After arranging matters M[itchell] & I got another blackfellow & went out to look at the Country: there are here as below, large Lagoons all along the River covered with a variety of water Fowl, especially Ducks, Divers, Red Bills (or Water hens) &, the latter are very plenty about the size of a large fowl & of a glossy black tinged with blue when the sun shines, but the most remarkable thing about them is the large strong red Bill, from wh. it takes its name; they are waders & live chiefly upon a plant that grows on the mud banks; I shot 5 of them myself: the Native shot one Wonga-wonga, a speckled black & white pidgeon, about twice as large as our common tame ones in England. Both of these birds are most excellent eating, the Red Bill has very much the Game flavour, but the strong legs formed for walking is very tough & stringy – after dinner we went out again & visited the

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Native Camp; they are a much finer race of people than those about Sydney & much more numerous. “Cobborn Nobody” (big nobody) the chief is the largest native I ever saw nearly 6 ft. high, stout & well made except in the neck wh is very short & seems to grow out of the chest more than from between the shoulders: there is more personal vanity about this man than any other I have seen, he talks of his exploits with a great air: I told him he was very little insignificant sized fellow” long time ago that by G_, yes by G-, merry long ago, shaking his head & looking very big: I asked him if he speared men with the spears he had in his hand Yes by G-, by G- yes, merry plenty tumble down black fellow. He gave us a long description of how he knocked down a Giant black in the neighbourhood & 5 men one after another without getting once knocked down himself: I never before observed any particular mark of distinction being paid to the Chiefs: Cobborn & Nobody together with two others had a large pot of “homine” (boiled Indian Corn Meal) given to them, wh. they emptied out into a clean sheet of bark & began to devour with small pieces of bark for spoons. CN had a plate in his left hand, into wh. for every mouthful that he took he

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put another & so went on until the whole was finished thus getting a double share. The man who has the charge of the Cottage says that had we not been in a hurry for one of the party to go with us, he would not have allowed any of the others to eat with him. The whole Tribe are making preparations for some great occasion or other, thier spears are all made of the Grass tree & pointed with about 2ft. of hardwood, bound together with the strong fibres of the Corryjong Bark & Gum from the Mimosa: the points are made very sharp by means of broken glass or when they cannot procure this, flint the points are then rubbed over with Gum & (I think) ashes at the same time preserving the wood & poisoning the wound inflicted: Mr Evans says he had a man speared once & that the would was very difficult to heal: neither the men nor women have the least sense of shame but all go quite naked: there are a great number of healthy looking children & plenty of women, both very scarce in the other tribes I have seen. The moment that their children can walk their Mothers put them among the common herd, like the Spartans, the fathers never seem to trouble themselves at all about them: if a man has a Djin he has a separate fire & in rainy weather pieces of Bark, all the unmarried men sleep together, & all the little Boys & Girls have


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have each a camp for themselves; at night it is a pretty thing to see an encampment with 20 or 30 little fires; I have seen some of the little ones lying asleep with the heads upon the very log that was burning, & the fire quite close to them. At Nelsons Plains the man has nothing but his Govt. Rations, here they are little farmers & our dinner was quite magnificent, potatoes, Cabbage, Butter Eggs, a Duck Red Bills, Beff & we know today how to enjoy a good dinner, & at Tea we had plenty of Milk.
We are about 45 Miles from Newcastle.
Oct 15th. We took great care last night that we should not be short of wood as we were
the night before; the room is a very large one & therefore the fire we made proportionate & slept warm enough & altho the boards were horribly hard & gave us all the hip & shoulder aches still we managed to sleep very well; we had little the night before. Our time is rendered so short by the long Voyage that we are obliged to shape our course back again. M & I agreed to walk to Nelsons Plains across the Country if we could have got a Native to show us the way & meet the others there; The grand preparations that were going on yesterday were as I thought for some particular occasion: it seems there is to be a grand Cabbra (Grub) Feast


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somewhere in the neighbourhood, & nothing in this world could induce them to be absent from so interesting an entertainment: the Cabbra is a long thin animal that is found in particular rivers in the Country. There is one small River running into the Nepean called Cabbra-matta from the number of these insects found in it: I have never seen any of them myself. As we could not get a native, Mitchell & I were afraid to trust ourselves in the forests, therefore we only walked to the same spot we disembarked last night. We shot & killed 3 Red Bills close by the shore of a Lagoon, we waided up to knees after them but found it deepen so fast that we sounded a retreat in a moment & left the Birds to fatten the Fish: we re-embarked opposite to Mr. Evans’s farm & got down to Newcastle to Dinner the rain has eased & we had a very pleasant pull: it is a beautiful River. When we approached the flats I observed long lines of something white & of an immense size, & was told they were Pelicans, we have tried to get a shot but could not succeed. The Evening has been very cold. There are great plenty of Ducks on the River but necessarily shy; we did not see a single swan: fish there are plenty leaping about on the flats. What a great pity it is that all the land in the lower part of this beautiful River should be one combined swamp: what eligible spots the large islands, fenced round by a natural boundary, would be, did they but contain even indifferent soil: however the water is deep for

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a very considerable way up, where Mr Dangar (one of the Asst Surveyors) says there is the finest land: every thing has conspired against us this journey; but I have seen enough to induce me to come to the determination of reviewing this place without fixing any limit to our expedition. Indeed I cannot see what we have done this journey, or what purpose served, unless it be that we have learnt a little wisdom & got acquainted with the Officers in command at the settlement; “Nemo omnibus horis sapit”
Oct: 16th. Well, I have slept most luxuriously on my very indifferent bed, & could scarcely persuade myself to get up for Breakfast at Mr Brookes. We have shaped our journey exactly to our time; the Brig finished loading yesterday Evening & sailed in such a hurry this Morning & she left us all behind: the vessel is such a miserable tub that if she had lost the tide we should have been obliged till the tide turned again; we hastened down to the wharf when the Gun fired & found a Boat waiting for us, we overtook the brig Just as she got into the surf off Nobby’s I., We found the Clergyman of that district on board, Middleton is his name a short thick young man with a very, very white face & rather a strong tinge of yellow spread over his broad countenance, wh. gave him any thing but a look of sprightliness; his dress was that of a rich pig dealer: it seems


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that this Gent thinks much more of “things of this World”, than of Kingdom come; his meanness on several occasions has been conspicuous: all day however he has been very quiet & altho’ neither ornamental nor useful, still he has not annoyed any one, we stowed him away in the Whale Boat & there he has continued ever since without even uttering a whisper; & as for the Revd’s generosity, we have seen nothing of it, except to the fish, to them he certainly has been very liberal !! We have had a nice breeze all day & if it continues shall be at Sydney tomorrow morning - & tho we (the party) are not yet excellent sailors, still we have made a great improvement on out last voyage – I several times began to yawn, but I said not a word about it & laughed & talked as if there were nothing the matter.
What a strange propensity some people have for scandal! I don’t know whether it is natural or acquired, but it seems to be Bowmans greatest delight; Dixon is one of a certain set in Sydney, & B has been doing nothing else all of this long day but pump the man on their politics & opinions; their character & private transactions. B. told us today with seeming pleasure “well I have pumped out of Dixon things that I have long wished to know” Talk of any person in the Colony of NSW & their deficiencies [?], it is ten to one but B. can tell you the whole private & publick history of that individual; Dixon he despises most heartily, or pretends to do so: my notion of despising a man, always conveys the idea of avoiding


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that same person; & when you do come in contact holding as little communion with the gent as possible; but men to serve a favourite passion or purpose will stoop to a great deal – This said Dixon was in Engd. a Civil Engineer & came here 5 or 6 years ago, under what circumstances I don’t know; he brought a steam engine out with himwh. he employs in turning a Corn Mill & has made a large & rapid fortune; he is a keen fellow but his ideas extend but a very short distance beyond pounds, shs. & pence; presumptuous & forward, of course, he is, & to sum up all, he is an Atheist. To give the Devil his due, he has got the name of being one of the fairest dealers in Sydney; no very great praise perhaps you’ld say: it seems that Dixon was employed by Govt. to inspect the Corn Mills & see whether they were properly carried, he deprecated this system entirely, altho’ I do not myself think he is an over competent person; however the Gent in his own opinion seems properly equal to the task, & if he is not, the more the blame for his employers
Oct. 17th When we got fairly into the harbour the wind was against us & therefore we went on shore on one of points about 8 O’Clock & walked home. Our voyage has been a much more prosperous one than the last; it occupied but 21 hours, & a good wind all the way.