This diary is an account of Tom Bird’s experiences, observations and thoughts recorded on board the ship Sultana during a voyage from England to Australia in 1862. The ship sailed from Plymouth and reached Moreton Bay, Queensland 90 days later on the 31st October.
Having arrived at his destination, found lodgings and taken up employment he resumed writing the diary and recorded details of his daily life and work in Brisbane, from the 1st January to the 16th January 1863. He added the date 17th January clearly intending to continue the diary but at this point something happened….
For some reason the diary was returned to England to Tom’s mother and step-father, Margaret and Charles Webster. It was forwarded to them by a Mr Saul Grimley of Jimbour, Queensland and stayed in the family until a descendant John Frederick Webster, decided to pursue some family history research. In doing so he discovered that Tom Bird had married and had a family before he died in Queensland in 1881.
Further investigation led John Webster to Tom’s great-grandchildren in Brisbane and the diary was returned to them last year. They, in turn, have generously donated the diary to the John Oxley Library.
Patricia Parr – Original Materials Librarian, State Library of Queensland