Main content

Title: McMahon Glynn, Patrick to Glynn, James P., 1882
CollectionPatrick McMahon Glynn: Letters to his family (1874-1927) [Gerald Glynn O'Collins]
SenderMcMahon Glynn, Patrick
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationtravel agent
Sender Religionunknown
OriginBallarat, Victoria, Australia
DestinationGort, Co. Galway, Ireland
RecipientGlynn, James P.
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1444
Genrenew job, account of Ballarat, travelling
TranscriptBallarat 19th March
Victoria 1882

My dear James
I have come into Ballarat for the Sunday, and can't find a sheet
of note paper anywhere; neither have any of the fellows in the room
got one. As I will be off again by dawn in the morning, I think it
better to write on this than let another week sup. I am rather tired
[of] writing, so you must only expect a hurried letter.
A few days after the receipt of your letter I started as Travelling
Agent for the Mutual Life Assurance Society of Victoria and the
Singer Sewing Machines. We went first—I mean my partner and
myself—to a prettily situated township called Egerton, about 65 miles
from Melbourne. It is built on the top of a mountain and commands
a delightful prospect of the surrounding country, and is exclusively
given to mining. Here my friend McLoughlin was pulling along as
chemist and boarded at the same Hotel. The landlady and her
daughter were most agreeable, and we were prime favourites. Poor
McLoughlin I am sorry to say shortly afterwards lost his situation
through having gone on the spree on a holiday, and is down again.
I have just written to him about our future.
Having remained three weeks at Egerton, gone down the mines
several times, and canvassed the whole district we started to travel
amongst the farmers. My time in Egerton all went for nothing. I did
some business in insuring lives but when the time for paying the
premiums arrived the miners went on strike so that the proposals fell
through. It was a case of extreme bad luck. Amongst the farmers I
began to do a little better. In fact since I started I made about £. 10
but had to spend £ 15. Travelling is expensive—every hotel means a
few shillings on drink and commission comes in very slowly. If a
fellow was on his own hook, had plenty of energy and perseverance
and the whole of the Commission—not as in my case one third—he
could make £ 7 or £.8 per week out of it. But what a man does one
week may not prove remunerative for several weeks, so that one
requires to stick to it. We visited Ballarat for a day or so several
times, which I found to be a very pretty city of about 35,000 in habitants. It has 2 theatres, and one of those Subscription libraries
and reading Rooms which are so creditable to the colonies. The girls
look and dress as well as in Melbourne or London, and the Stock
Exchange business is as brisk as anywhere. Mines all round. The
principal street, Sturt St., is wider than Sackville St., and is ornamented
with a double row of trees with seats down the centre and single
rows on each side. When in town I generally spend an evening with
our Dr.—Bunce by name, an old fellow who keeps a good table, fine
liquor, and of polished manners.
Nicholls, with whom I travel, is a very curious card. He is a
Midland county Englishman of about 45 but looks only 30, a
desperate man after women, everyone of whom he fancies falls in
love with him. He was originally an iron roller by trade, then a
commercial traveller, came out here and had a Hotel for six months
in Sydney, sold it to advantage, and took up with this business. He
is a fellow of great energy and perseverance, never -takes a rebuff and
in money matters I believe perfectly straight. Any education he has
got is the result of his own study late in life and he makes the best
use of it. To hear him quote poetry from the Insurance agents' hand
book you would think he was a scholar prefacing quotations from
Young, Shakespeare, Homer etc. with "as Shakespeare says." Some
how or another I think he has got an idea that Shakespeare was the
only poet ever lived, and that he must have been a nigger. Altogether
he is a most amusing card.
We travel through the bush in a buggy and have an excellent
horse who often covers 40 and 50 miles a day. The roads are in
general very rough and exceedingly dangerous on a dark night, as,
with the exception of the main or metal roads, as they are called, they
consist simply of tracks, heavy with red dust, full of deep ruts,
protruding stones; stumps, fallen trees etc. obstructing everywhere. I
can imagine now what difficulty the first settlers here had to contend
with. On taking possession of their farms they had to begin to clear it
of scrub and big trees as dense or rather much denser than
Cool[e]wood, an operation which took many of them 15 or twenty
years to accomplish.
Since I wrote this last sentence I have driven 18 miles and have
just had tea at the Hotel at which I put up for the night. My partner
is asleep on the sofa, and they are all pretty well drunk at the bar.
The inconvenience of this life is that a fellow has to drink whether he
likes it or not. On my way here I stopped at a Hotel—the public
houses are hotels here—the landlord of which insisted on my having a drink with him, another fellow also, and so on. We generally shake
the dice for drinks here. Yankey grab is the game. At those public
houses one meets all classes—swagsmen or vagrants who carry their
all packed up in what they call their swags, slung over their
shoulders. They camp at night on the roadside, and wander from
place to place in search of work, always managing to get food on the
way. They include broken down docters, fellows like myself and
common loafers in their ranks. I shouted for—which means stood a
drink to—a swagsman the other day who was on the verge of
delerium tremens and was a B. A. of the Dublin University. We have
sometimes to drive long distances ourselves to get a bed and once had
to sleep under a stack of straw for want of one. The night was lovely,
so that I did not mind it, but the climate is very treacherous and it
might have been like winter before dawn.
We travelled through a very rough country about 10 days ago
and succeeded in breaking our buggey on one day and a large
machine wagon on another, my companion having been pitched out
and the trap rolled over him. Another night last week we missed
reaching before bed time a hotel which was burned down before
morning. You can have no idea what the bush roads are. You meet
nothing but teams of 16 or 18 bullocks or 6 or 8 horses dragging
loads of timber, the vehicle being tossed up and down by the ruts
just like a vessel at sea. Then you meet a few houses round a sawmill
where the women are as buxom and smart as in London. We
generally share pot luck when it is on but sometimes have long fasts.
Nothing but trees everywhere—the cleared land being covered with
stumps of felled timber. When I have time I may write a letter to the
Freeman's Journal about Australian Bush life.
The business I am engaged on is not one to save money at. In
fact I have about £3.10 in my pocket and don't expect to increase it
very much. But when I have a little more to spare I will try my
profession again in New South Wales.
Now as to your kind offer to give Mrs. McDonald a bill for my
stay with her I [am] much obliged to you for it, but I would see her
hanged first. Any sum I may consider she is entitled to I will pay
here myself if my fortune ever brightens—if not she may go to the
devil. I could not either think of taking any money from you—with
better luck I dare say I will pull through. When writing you can tell me all the news. Direct to 97 St., Melbourne, which will find me. I am writing this at lightening speed and must now go to bed as I am fagged out. Tomorrow early we will leave this place as it seems a miserable sand scrub. The city consists of 3 public houses. But Ballarat where I slept last night is a lovely city.
Hoping soon to hear from you I am

Your affectionate brother
P. McM. Glynn