New accessions: Edith and William Warnes Diaries (Accession 29618)

This interesting new accession comprises 38 diaries kept by a Queensland couple, Edith and William Warnes, between 1890 and 1927.

Accession 29618, Series 1: Diaries

William John Warnes was born on 20 February 1862 in Norfolk England. He came to Queensland when he was 21, in March 1883 on the Bulimba. Edith Mary Grant was born in New South Wales on 12 September 1868. William and Edith married on 13 October 1887 at Edith’s home in Nundah. They had six children: Herbert William (born in 1889, but died soon after birth), Horace William Stanley (born in 1890), Albert Percy (born in 1894), Florence Hilda May (born in 1896), Leslie Sydney Gordon (born in 1897) and Donald Ivan Vincent (born in 1908). Edith died on 18 December 1944 and William on 11 December 1946. Both were buried in Nundah Cemetery.

 

Accession 29618, Series 1: Diaries

It is not known why Edith and William Warnes began to keep a daily record of their lives in 1890 or why they suddenly stopped in 1927.

Accession 29618, Series 1: Diaries

 

Accession 29618, Series 1: Diaries

Most entries are about the weather, farm work, domestic life and social matters. There are personal details, such as: ‘Our Ma died at 10 o’clock’ (6 February 1894); ‘Sis [Edith] weaned the baby’ (4 March 1895) and, on Christmas 1914: ‘There was only Florrie, Mum, Don and I for dinner we did not enjoy ourselves very much as Stanley and Albert were gone to the war and Jack is away and will not come home and poor little Beryl has only been dead two months so we miss her very much.’

On 11 November 1918, Edith writes: ‘Peace day … Germans signed the peace terms. Whistles blowing and bells ringing at half past eight pm’ and on the next day: ‘We all went to the Great Peace March to the Exhibition Grounds.’

In the 1890s Warnes were farmers in north Brisbane, probably Strathpine, and were selling vegetables, eggs, dairy products and fruit in Brisbane. In the early 1894 they joined the Protestant Unity Commune, a community near Pomona. While at the Commune, Edith and William slept in a bark hut and worked on clearing the land and growing food. They left in 1895 and eventually bought their own property, a dairy farm near Gympie.

Towards the end of World War 1 the family settled in Brisbane, where Edith and William owned shops in Paddington, Enoggera and West End. The diaries describe a rich social life, filled with dances, singing and sport, as well as connections to church groups, especially the Salvation Army.

Veronika Farley, Archivist, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland