The State Library of Queensland wish to thank all volunteers that have been involved in the transcription of the Claudius Buchanan Whish diaries. This project commenced in 2009 and through the diligent work of our dedicated volunteers, we have forty-six diaries in digital format.
Claudius Buchanan Whish (1827-1890), sugar-planter and civil servant, was born on 5 January 1827 in Meerut, India. He was the son of Lieutenant General Sir William Sampson Whish KC, who was Colonel Commandant of the Bengal Horse Artillery (1787 – 1853) and his wife Mary, née Hardwicke.
In 1851 he gained a commission in the 14th Light Dragoons and served in India, where he had family connections. He was interpreter and bazaar master for the regiment, officer in charge of public works in one of the native states, and assistant quartermaster general of cavalry on General Jacob’s staff during the Persian campaign of 1856.
In 1857 he was sent to Australia to buy cavalry remounts for the Indian Army, and on his return he heard in Bombay that the reign of the East India Company had come to an end. It was during this time that Claudius married Miss Annie Ker, whom he had known for most of his life. The wedding took place on the 16th September 1858, at St Mary’s Church, Poona. The Indian rebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company and after the capture of the rebel leader Tantia Tope, Whish and his regiment, the 14th Light Dragoons returned home to England, to take up another post in Ireland. His diary records in July 1859 that his wife was unwell and that she would go ahead of the troops to England to stay at her parents’ home in Manchester where she later gave birth to a daughter.
It was through a friend, who had connections with the O’Connell family in Brisbane that he decided to migrate to Queensland. Whish and his family arrived in Queensland on the 15 August 1862, aboard the Young Australia. Whish, established himself on the Oakland’s Sugar Plantation at Caboolture.
Though Whish was not the pioneer of the sugar industry in Queensland, he raised a better crop than his main competitor, Louis Hope, becoming the first sugar-planter to market commercial quantities and to produce high-quality rum. He was chairman of the local planters’ association and, as he was experienced in non-European labour, he hired Pacific islanders to work for him, which made him unpopular among nearby townspeople and selectors. This issue contributed to the failure of his bid for a Parliamentary seat in East Moreton in 1867. His partnership with Col. Trevilian came to a close in 1872, after he announced his intention to marry and return to England, “Oakland’s” was auctioned at a price not stated that same year.
The Whish family moved to Brisbane, later occupying a residence on a lovely hilltop on the north eastern slopes of Eildon Hill. Their family grew with the arrival of many grandchildren making their days in Windsor some of the happiest times. Towards the end of the 1880’s both Claudius and his wife were experiencing some health issues and on hearing their friends travel plans decided to take the same voyage back to England to see family, friends and familiar places. They sailed in the Quetta which sadly sank in the Torres Straits on the night of 28 February 1890, both Claudius and his wife Anne perished; they were survived by two sons and four daughters.
Transcriptions of the diaries of Claudius Buchanan Whish, are available for viewing and can be requested at the reference desk on level 4 of the State Library, between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.
- ‘Tantia Topi, the Indian rebel leader’, 1857.E. Thorne, The Queen of the Colonies (Lond, 1876)
- Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1869, 2, 60
- C. T. Wood, ‘Hope, Buhot, Whish’, Producers’ Review (Brisbane), 15 July 1964, and ‘The sugar industry depicted in the Whish and Davidson diaries’, JRHSQ, 3 (1965)
- Whish diaries (State Library of Queensland).
Janette Garrad – Senior Technician, Published Content, State Library of Queensland.