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William Dalgety Moore (1835-1910): The making of a Merchant Prince as reflected in his journal 1853-1858

Richard K. Moore

Moore, Richard K., 2001, 'William Dalgety Moore: the making a of a merchant prince as reflected in his journal 1853-1858', Fremantle Studies, 2: 85-105.


During the last third of the 19th century, William Dalgety Moore was one of a small circle of Fremantle identities whom Patricia Brown has styled ‘merchant princes’. 1 Although he was to spend the greater pan of his working life in Fremantle, William’s growing years were spent on his parents’ property ‘Oakover’ at Middle Swan. They had arrived in the colony in April 1834 and William, their first child, was born on August 30 of the following year.

William’s father Samuel had an elder brother, George Fletcher Moore, who was already in the colony. He had arrived early in November 1830, just 18 months after settlement. A lawyer by profession, he was appointed Advocate General in the year that Samuel and Dora arrived.

The Moores were of Scots-Irish stock. Although the family came from Ireland, from the 13th century their lineage is traceable in Scotland. There, with the coming of the Protestant Reformation, all the family branches allied themselves with the Covenanters. It seems that it was the persecution they suffered as Covenanters in the last third of the 17th century that led some of the family to migrate to Ireland shortly before 1700. George Fletcher Moore and Samuel spent their growing years at Bond’s Glen, a beautiful valley in County Derry, 18 kms south-east of Londonderry in the north of Ireland. Shortly before migrating, Samuel had married Dora Mary Jane Dalgety, daughter of Alexander Dalgety, a lieutenant in the 89m Royal Irish Fusiliers, who for a time was based in Canada. 2

As was the case with their neighbours at Middle Swan, Samuel and Dora were primarily mixed farmers, with cropping and animal husbandry the main industries. In time, William was joined by a sister (Mary, known as ‘Sissie’), a brother (Fred), another sister (Annie) and another brother (Samuel). William was ten when tragedy struck the family: young Samuel, now three and a half years old, became entangled with a horse working the mill on their farm, and was trampled to death. When another son was born shortly afterwards, he too was given the name Samuel (Samuel Joseph Fortescue). Only three years later a second tragedy struck the family, this time threatening its very existence, when William’s father Samuel died of a heart condition at only 46 years of age. He was buried alongside his young namesake at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Middle Swan.

At the time, William was thirteen going on fourteen, the oldest of five children of whom the youngest was three. His mother was in her early forties. William’s uncle George Fletcher Moore lived several miles to the north at Upper Swan. As Advocate General, he held a significant post in the small colony, but in 1852, following differences with the Colonial Office, he left the colony permanently and settled in London. It must have been a further blow to William, then aged 16.

In July of the following year, William began keeping the journal which he sustained for just over five years. It is a curious fact that William became the third member of the Moore family in Western Australia to utilize the diary genre. The 1830s were covered reasonably extensively by his uncle, George Fletcher Moore. The version of GF Moore’s diary published in 1884 was under the title Diary of Ten Years Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia. The unpublished Farm Journal of William’s father, Samuel Moore, covers mainly the 1840s. Though it too is concerned largely with the farm and its activities, it also contains some personalia of value for social and family history. William’s Journal No 1 extends from July 1853 to July 1858. (As far as is known, it did not have any successors.)

In the 121 pages of his journal, William records events and people impacting on his life between the ages of 17 and 22. He often expresses his own feelings about the matters he records, or gives a personal evaluation of them. According to the title he placed on its cover, it is a personal journal, not intended for the eyes of others. However, after almost a century and a half, it has survived in the family in good condition, and in the opinion of this descendant, deserves wider circulation. The focus of this paper is the contribution that William’s journal can make to our understanding of colonial life in the 1850s.

The Journal

The journal is bound in leather, originally light tan in colour. It measures 221 x 132 x 24 mm. It has a brass clasp on the side opposite the spine. The feint lines run parallel with the spine, not at right angles to it as is usually the case. On the right hand side is a pouch (also in leather) for a writing instrument. The inscription on the front cover, running parallel with the spine, reads:

No. 1. /W.D. Moore / private / Journal

It is in ink, except for the word ‘private’ which appears to have been stamped in. The handwriting is generally clear, but it has certain idiosyncrasies; the upper case ‘I’, for example, is indistinguishable from the upper case ‘J’, and final ‘d’s have a peculiar form.

The written portion occupies only a little more than half of the available space. Two pages of pencilled ‘Bank account’ entries precede the journal entries; and immediately following the last journal entry in 1858, there are records of mail sent in August 1861, and then two pages of addresses relating mainly to the family. The final two pages comprise ‘WD Moore in account with Mrs S Moore’ [his mother], with entries running from 1 May 1855 to 9 September 1856. The five years (1853 - 1858) covered by the journal can be divided into four periods of differing locations and/or employment:

1. Perth Survey Office 24 July 1853 - 31 December 1855 (William aged 17 to 20 years):

At the time of the first Journal entry, William was boarding in Perth in order to be close to the Surveyor General’s Office where he was employed as a Second Clerk (J p 28). The Surveyor General at that time was John Septimus Roe, and in the same office was one of his sons, James Broun Roe, two years older than William. The two were obviously good friends, and James is the most frequently mentioned companion during this period. He is featured again in the fourth period in 1858, when he was second in command of Gregory’s Gascoyne expedition.

On 9 July 1855, William recorded in his Journal a rumour that some clerks from his department were to be made redundant, and anticipated that he could be among them (J pp 25, 26). In the event, that is how things turned out. His work came to an end on the last day of the year (J p 28), and the first and longest phase of the journal - almost two and a half years - concludes at this point. During this first period, William also did some clerical work of a legal nature for George Stone (Registrar General, 1841-1854). Stone was later appointed Advocate General (1854-1856), 3 the same office held by William’s uncle, George Fletcher Moore, until 1852 (J pp 2, 3, 4 ,6). 4

In Perth, William took lodgings at the boarding house of a Mrs Purkis. 5 Evidently he got on well with his landlady. He pruned grape vines for her (J p 25); she put on a dance for the household just a few days before one of her two female boarders was to leave (J p 26). They were a Miss Cohen and a Miss Susannah Monger, the latter from York. About this time William, a keen woodworker and woodturner, gave each of his fellow boarders a wooden box and top he had turned. Susannah left the boarding-house a few days after the dance, and Miss Cohen about a fortnight after that (J p 27). A few months later (2 Nov 1855, J p 3), William himself left Mrs Purkis’s lodgings, having arranged to live at the family home ‘Oakover’ in Middle Swan. He rode down to Perth and back each day of his last two months at the Survey Office in Perth.

During this first period of the journal (almost two and a half years), we find William attending several ‘juvenile parties’; among them, two at the home of Mr George Stone, one at the home of Mr A Stone, and one at the Simmons’ home (J pp 13, 18, 22). Apparently, to go home from such parties at midnight was to go home early (J p 22). At a large party held at the Conroys’, they ‘kept it up’ until five in the morning (J p 14); at the Viveash’s at Middle Swan, until 4 am (J p 15). At the Grand Freemasons’ Ball, William reported, ‘we literally “danced all night to the broad daylight”, most not going to bed at all.’(J p 16).

2. Middle Swan, on the family property ‘Oakover’, 1 Jan 1856 - 21 Apr 1957. (William aged 20 - 22 years)

When he was made redundant at the Survey Office, William was fortunate in being able to return to the family property ‘Oakover’ in Middle Swan, where the second period is set. He was already well versed in a considerable range of activities involved in running the farm and managing the family’s extensive land holdings elsewhere in the colony. The journal sketches a graphic picture of the local Middle Swan community, and of the changes just starting to become apparent as a consequence of the industrial revolution in the mother country.

This second period came to an end when William decided to leave the Swan River Colony. The immediate cause was a major falling out with a neighbour who failed to take adequate action to prevent his pigs from roaming across the boundary into the vineyard at ‘Oakover’. Faced with this situation, which extended over a considerable period of time, William eventually shot several of the pigs. Their owner, Squire Harris, threatened legal action, and although he (Harris) failed to show up on the day set down for the court hearing, William seems to have become browned off with the whole situation. Among the circle of neighbours who showed their concern for him were Mr [William?] Shaw, Dr Viveash and Rev. W Mitchell (J p 54). His thoughts turned initially to Melbourne, but eventually he decided instead to go to the Irwin River.

There seems little doubt that it was not merely the pigs incident that led to this decision. William’s relations with his mother were often strained, and a delicate balancing act was needed to attend to the demands of keeping the farm going as well as managing their numerous and widely dispersed properties. This was particularly so in a situation where scarcity of labour often meant that suitable labourers and tenants were simply not available. William left Middle Swan for the Irwin River on 21 Apr 1857 (J p 56), initiating the third period of the Journal.

3. Irwin River, 7 May 1857 - 8 Apr 1858: (William aged 21-22 years)

William arrived at the Irwin River on 7 May 1857 (J p 57). In his year there, he seems to have been employed in the cattle industry on a property owned by the Hamersleys. 6

4. Gascoyne River Expedition - 8 April 1858 to 29 June 1858: (William aged 22 years)

The fourth and final period covered almost three months when William was one of a party of six travelling north under the leadership of PT Gregory to explore the Gascoyne River. Unfortunately the Journal contains almost no entries for this period. Entries had already become less frequent during William’s stay at the Irwin River. Following his return, there are just two further brief entries for the following month: one recording letters he had sent, the other noting the travels of his close companion at the Irwin, Lock Burges. The last Journal entry is followed by records of mail sent by William in August 1861. Although certainty on the matter cannot be established, evidence strongly suggests that the Journal was not maintained after the final entry of 27 July 1858, and that William’s impressively titled ‘Journal No. l’ had no successor.

The portrait of WD Moore and his times that emerges from his Journal: William’s family

When William started his Journal, more than four years had passed since his father’s death. Of Samuel’s formative influence there can be no doubt. 7 Although William was only 13 when his father died, in important respects he simply took over and built upon his father’s work - farming at ‘Oakover’, managing family properties, pursuing commercial interests in Fremantle. Over time, William re-shaped what he had inherited from his father, and the Fremantle connection came to dominate all others. Of the five references to his father in the Journal, one records that his tombstone was being repainted (J p 38), three refer to the Estate (J pp 38, 46, 47), and the last reference reports that William had ridden to Perth to obtain a copy of his father’s will (J p 50).

William’s mother, Dora Moore (née Dalgety), was just over 40 years of age when she lost her husband, leaving her to rear five children ranging from 13 years of age down to 3. Although we have little direct information about her; we may infer that since she came from a well-to-do English family, she had probably been accustomed to the refinements of early 19th century English society. Certainly that is how her husband understood the situation. Soon after their marriage and on the eve of their departure for Western Australia, he commented:

I look forward to better prospects & if a good and amiable wife be any assistance I am blessed with one who though not well fitted to bear the roughs of this world is calculated to alleviate them. 8

Together they established a relatively comfortable and functional home in the colony; a home renowned for its hospitality. The evidence of the Journal seems to point to a continuation of such hospitality even after Samuel Moore’s death, but at a level that his Estate could not sustain. In fact, at the time of his death, the Estate was not in good shape. Samuel Moore lamented in his Farm Journal in 1849, the year of his death:

The Year 1848 has been one marked with much trial to me. All matters which I have touched and attended to, have turned out badly. I have lost the labour of years, and strange how one loss has brought on another. The non-arrival and loss of supplies to upwards of one thousands pounds, [and] non-payment of a large amount of debts has driven me to discounts and to pay high interest for money, and one loss has followed another for three years so that chances of trade have run more unfavorably than during my whole mercantile life. 9

As the oldest son, William assumed de facto the role of ‘man of the house’. From his perspective, his mother’s apparent commitment to open and apparently unlimited hospitality had the potential to be a source of friction between them. This was especially the case in 1856 and the early months of 1857. Whether stemming from shyness or from a shrewd sense that hospitality was not affordable at the level at which it was occurring, we find comments such as:

[24 Dec 1855 (the day before Christmas Day)] Robert Brockman’s family arrived at our house yesterday with a host of children, dogs, and horses.

[30 Apr 1856] An invasion of the Robert Brockman family - taking Annie away from school.

[17 May 1856] Had numerous visitors today - who interrupted my work.

[12 Jul 1856] W Brockman, C. & H. Hamersley, Leeson, & S. Walcott, also 2 Gregorys, all here. We have had our house constantly full of visitors lately.

[13 Jul 1856] More visitors today - only nine besides our own family here today.

[31 Aug 1856] We sat down to dinner twelve in number today - we are completely eaten up with visitors, and I do not know how the house will stand. 10

Hospitality was not the only source of tension between William and his mother. Money was another bone of contention. In William’s view, his mother was over-spending, a habit she financed by over-borrowing. Judging by the Journal, she did not take her oldest son into her confidence on such matters; she was evidently content to let him manage the farm and their properties, but not to consult him on financial affairs. He had occasion to write to his Uncle George (George Fletcher Moore} about it. But the problem was bi-directional: As his mother perceived it, he was appropriating what was rightly hers. Fortunately, William was meticulous in keeping a ledger of income and expenditure of what was his and what was his mother’s. It was located on the end-papers of his Journal. Further, he often recorded transactions in the Journal itself.

Occasionally it was farm policy which set them at loggerheads. William reported:

Had a desperate row with my mother about preventing the harrows going to Harrises—carried my point. 11

But there was also another factor which soured their relationship. After one of their altercations about money, William wrote frankly about it, but apparently without rancour:

She is either going out of her mind or is half drunk (the latter most likely) half her time. 12

When news of the death of his uncle Frederick Dalgety (possibly his mother’s uncle) reached the family in December 1856, William recorded in his Journal:

my mother felt it so much that she got drunk the day after she heard it and read the letter to every [one] about. 13

William’s oldest sibling was Mary Ellen, two years his junior. She was affectionately known as ‘Sissie’, a nickname that seems to have stuck for the rest of her life. William was clearly fond of her, and frequently transported her (often with their younger sister Annie) to and from Perth, or accompanied her to a dance or party. She receives frequent mention in the Journal. While William was working in Perth, Sissie spent some time at Gingin. 14

The third child was Frederick Henry, whom William refers to as ‘Freddy’. In December 1853, when William was 18 and Freddy just 14, William took Freddy down to Fremantle to board the Louisa, on which Freddy was to sail to Melbourne. The first day they could not get out to the boat; however they were able to board her at 7.00 the next morning. William recorded the parting:

Freddy was dreadfully sick. The two Roes came on board at about 10 and the vessel got under way immediately. Freddy bore the separation better than I expected. 15

Freddy was on his way to England for further schooling. It seems that he travelled there from Melbourne, accompanied by his maternal uncle, Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety (1817-1894). Freddy proved a good correspondent when absent from home, and finds frequent mention in the Journal as William reported the arrival of his letters and often a little of their content. Ultimately he found his vocation in his uncle’s mercantile firm, Dalgety & Co., working in its branches in the eastern colonies. In 1928 - eighteen years after his oldest brother had died, and when he was in his 89th year - he made a return visit to Western Australia with his second wife, and provided a member of the Royal Historical Society with a graphic account of colonial society at the Swan River in the 1840s and 1850s. 16

William’s younger sister Anne (‘Annie’) was six years his junior. She was 11 years old when he commenced his Journal, 16 when it concluded. Apart from the last few entries, she is invariably paired with Sissie, and has only half the number of entries of her older sister. Their youngest brother Samuel (‘Sam’ or ‘Sammy’) has just four entries. He was 7 years of age when the Journal commenced, 12 years old when it concluded.

George Fletcher Moore was the uncle on his father’s side to whom William related most closely. GF Moore had left the colony in 1852 - the year before the Journal commenced - to settle in London. As late as 1884 when he wrote the preface to his Diary of ten years, he still held 24,000 acres and several town allotments in the colony. 17 When he died two years later, under the terms of his will (1880), a considerable amount of his Western Australian property was inherited by William and Samuel.

A cousin, David (‘Davie’) Moore, who came out with George Fletcher Moore when he returned to the colony in 1843, also resided in Fremantle. It is clear that William was on good terms with him. David is frequently mentioned in the Journal. It was probably distance that prevented them from seeing more of each other.

On his mother’s side were Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety, her younger brother, and Frederick Henry Dalgety, (possibly his mother’s uncle). 18 Another uncle was Major James N Dalgety of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Two relatives from his father’s side (George Fletcher Moore and his older brother, Joseph Scott Moore) and two from his mother’s side (Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety and Frederick Henry Dalgety) are referred to variously as the ‘Friends at Home’ or the ‘Friends in England’. They cooperated to ease the financial distress of the family in Western Australia by advancing money for the purchase of the family property on the Murray River (J pp 6, 18, 23, 24, 53).

William’s education

We have seen that the middle brother of the family, Freddy, was sent off to England to further his education. What of William’s education? That he was well educated in the ‘3 Rs’ is evident from his Journal. The little information we have about his upbringing indicates that he was educated locally. 19 It may well have been his parents’ intention that, like Freddy, William was to have been sent back to England to continue his education; but his father’s sudden death may have upset those plans. As William was only thirteen when his father died, whereas Freddy was fourteen when he went across, we can only speculate. By the time young Samuel had reached that age, the educational scene for boys in the colony had improved considerably, with the establishment of Bishop Hale’s school in 1858. 20 It was to serve Samuel Joseph Fortescue Moore 21 and three successive generations of the WD Moore family. 22

Although he was strong in the ‘3 Rs’ so necessary for his later clerical, legal, and commercial involvement, it is probable that William’s education did not have the same richness or diversity as that of his father back in Ireland. 23 It was practical rather than literary. In his Journal there is reference to just one novel: William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847-48), which he evaluates as ‘a very clever work I think in its way’ (J p38).

Besides his formal education, however, it is clear that, from his earliest days, William gained a considerable fund of practical experience on the farm at ‘Oakover’. When he returned there late in 1855 to begin working fulltime from the commencement of the following year, he was involved in the full range of agricultural and husbandry activities, although he obtained specialized help with the latter (e.g. castrating bulls, J p 44) from time to time. He was also involved in winemaking, and according to his brother’s 1928 account, ‘Oakover’ produced ‘some that was said to be the finest ever made in the colony’. 24 He was a practical person and turned his hand to the unending range of repairs called for by farm equipment. Beyond this, however, he evidently enjoyed working with his hands. Mention has been made of his woodworking (including wood turning) for leisure. He had an inventive streak, and in farm matters carried out planned experiments.

A related activity which engaged a considerable amount of his time was management of family properties. It seems that the main farm at ‘Oakover’ was leased (J p 9), but the family had property literally in all directions. To the west, on the other side of the Swan, was ‘West Oakover’. To the north, the family owned ‘Neerabup’ at Wanneroo. Closer to home, just several miles up the Swan, was George Fletcher Moore’s property ‘Millendon’. Although the family probably did not have direct responsibility for its management, they certainly visited there from time to time and reported to Uncle George on its condition (J pp 2, 15). In fact, George Fletcher Moore’s servant, known to us only as Letty, continued to reside there until at least the 1880s. William made sure he paid Letty a visit to say farewell before he left for the Irwin district in 1857 (J p 56). After GF Moore’s death in 1886, the family inherited ‘Millendon’, and for some years it was run by one of William’s sons, whose name was identical with his father’s; in the family he was known as ‘Uncle Willy’.

Eastwards, the family had property interests at York. To the south, they held property in the town of Perth, along the Canning River, and on the Murray River.

William’s upbringing in the young colony provided another kind of education which we may put under the rubric of ‘the school of hard knocks’. When his youngest brother Samuel was killed (aged just three and a half and just prior to the birth of Samuel Joseph Fortescue), William’s father lamented:

It is my first severe bereavement ‘Why was he removed?“

At the time his father was 43 years of age. But even before William commenced the Journal, he (William) had experienced not only the death of his brother just recounted, but also the death of his father three years later. Further, with Freddy, four years his junior, William had come across their Indian coolie hanging from a banksia tree. 26 He had also witnessed the life-threatening treatment by members of another tribe of an orphaned Aboriginal lad attached to ‘Oakover’. The lad was about 13 or 14 when William discovered him in the blacksmith’s shed in a pool of blood. He had crawled there from more than a kilometre away after having had two spears driven into his body, one from his collarbone down towards his heart. In addition, his head had been gashed with stone tomahawks. William summoned the help of Rev. W Mitchell, a neighbour, and the lad recovered. 27

Colonial Society in the 1850s

A significant factor in William’s life was the small and close-knit society comprising the Swan River Colony in the 18505. It provided a network of contacts which proved fruitful in a variety of ways. When it came to engaging workmen or lending a pony, it did not take long to find out who was to be relied upon and who was not. The network extended beyond the immediate geographical setting around the Swan basin and, even in those days of limited means of communication, there was sufficient mobility for William to arrange permanent work in the Irwin River district.

In his 1928 account, Frederick Henry Moore gives a detailed description of the family’s neighbours at ‘Oakover’. 28 Immediately to their north was the family of William Locke Brockman (1802-1872) 29 of ‘Herne Hill’. Three kilometers to the north of ‘Oakover’ was ‘Millendon’, belonging to George Fletcher Moore, now resident in London. To the north again was the family of Captain William Shaw (1788-1562), a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Their 7284 acre property at Upper Swan was known as ‘Belvoir’. 30

On the south side of ‘Oakover’ lived William Harris and his family. They resided at ‘Strelley’, immediately adjacent to the Moores, but also owned ‘Houghton’, immediately to their south. South again resided Rev William Mitchell, rector of the original octagonal church of St Mary’s, Middle Swan. Next to the Mitchells lived Dr Viveash and his family. They were the last permanent settlers before Guildford.

Across the Swan River from ‘Oakover’ was ‘West Oakover’, owned by the family of the late Samuel Moore. Earlier it had been let to Robert Brockman (a brother of W. L. Brockman); 31 currently it was being leased by William Grover. To its north, opposite ‘Herne Hill’, lay the property of Edmund Barrett-Lennard. Further north again was Col. Irwin’s holding, ‘Henley Park’; and beyond that, on Ellen Brook, was Cruse’s Mill.

South of ‘West Oakover’ at ‘Rainsworth’ was Joseph Strelley Harris. The property adjoining to the south (‘Sandalford’) belonged to the Surveyor General, John Septimus Roe. South again, on the bank opposite the town of Guildford, were the Lefroys and the Hamersleys.

All of these neighbours receive mention in the Journal. The Hamersleys, JS Harrises and W Harrises, the Brockmans, Lennards, Mitchells, and Cruse’s Mill are particularly prominent. In the next generation or so, the Moore family became linked with the Hamersleys, the Fergusons and the Lefroys through marriage.

If we let the Journal be our guide, William’s closest friend in the first two periods of the Journal was James Roe (1833-1907) , son of Surveyor General John Septimus Roe, his former boss. James Roe and William had worked together in Roe’s office, and James Roe was one of the six on Gregory’s three month expedition to explore the Gascoyne River. When he was working on the Irwin River, William’s closest companion was Lock Burges, whose family had property in that district.

The quest for a life partner

At the particular period of William’s life covered by the Journal, the quest for a suitable wife was clearly a priority in colonial society. The Journal does not disappoint in this respect. The first entry concerns a dream William had that he was married to a certain ‘Capel R’ (J 5 Nov 1853, p 5). After that, the Journal remains silent on affairs of the heart until 12 February 1855, when he attended a ‘very pleasant evening’ at the Fergusons’.“ 32 Among the guests was a Miss Brockman. Two days later (J 14 Feb 1855 St Valentine’s Day, p 19), he received a Valentine. On 21 April 1855, he noted that Annie Brockman had come down to Perth for schooling. She was to board with a Mrs Cameron, but was ‘under very strict discipline not to go out at all.’ It is very likely that she was the ‘Miss Brockman’ noted earlier. 33 Two days later, William took a Lilly Brown to a ‘juvenile party’ at Alfred Stone’s home, where they had ‘capital fun’ even though the area for dancing was rather small. At the conclusion, he also took Lilly Brown home.

Later that year he presented to the two girls in the same boarding house a box and a spinning top he had made (J 28 Jul 1855; p 26). Three days later, Miss [Susannah] Monger, one of the girls at the boarding house, left for good to return to her home at York. Despite the strictures William had noted in regard to Annie Brockman, early in August he sent a message from Perth to his mother at ‘Oakover’, asking her to send two horses so that he and Annie could ride up to ‘Oakover’. This took place on 4 August 1855 (J p 26), and William described the occasion with a certain relish:

Rode up the Swan with Annie Brockman; we went at such a rate through the Town that people thought I had run away with her. 34

William evidently returned to Perth for work soon after; but on 20 August 1855 he records that he ‘rode down with Annie Brockman and sent up the horses immediately’ (J p 27). Early the following year he sent a Valentine to:

‘... a certain young lady, my intended. I won’t say who for fear of its meeting somebody else’s prying eyes. 35

The verse commenced: ‘These lines my choice convey ...’ (J p 34). Later events indicate that he refers here to Susannah Monger.

A few months later on l June 1856, Sissie received a letter from Lizzie Ferguson 36 in Bath. Lizzie was staying with the Irwins, and she informed Sissy how much the Irwin children had grown (J pp 39-40). In recording these details about Lizzy, William confided to his Journal ‘I think she would make a capital wife for me.’

From this point on, however, William’s thoughts were focused on one of the two female boarders with whom he had formerly shared lodgings. For just under a week, from 23-29 October 1856, (J p 47) he was in York. On arriving back, he wrote:

I intended when I first opened my Journal this night committing a secret to paper, but have thought better of it, since it is only known to myself and another party, and we agreed not to take any steps in the matter for about a year or two. This memo. is explicit enough for me, and if any person’s eye should happen to see it—which I will take good care shall not happen if I can prevent it— I hope it will be an enigma to them. 37

From this point on the circle of those ‘in the know’ grows, albeit ever so slowly. At the same time it is clear that even if people were not aware of the informal engagement into which William and Susannah had entered, some were well aware that they were in love. So we find that, while at the Hamersleys’ just a few days later, he ‘got an awful roasting about Susannah Monger’ (J l Nov 1856, p 47; see also p 51). Back in Perth the following month, he endeavoured to purchase an engagement ring, but none was to be found anywhere in the town (J p 50).

On 8 March 1857, William visited Susannah in York again. By this time he had come to a firm decision to leave ‘Oakover’. He described the visit in his Journal:

I found Susannah charming and expecting me anxiously. I told old Monger I had been engaged to his daughter for a long time at which he did not seem greatly surprised but gave his consent—at the same time saying she must go home with him. It is now known by five individuals and I suppose can be no longer considered a secret. I feel rather dismal about leaving her for so long but [we] must console one another by corresponding. 38

And that is just what happened. By 17 January 1858 he was writing Letter No12 to Susie. The next two occasions when he reported writing do not indicate the numbers, but by the time that he was in the Irwin district and on the Gascoyne expedition, his Journal entries were becoming spasmodic and less frequent. William and Susannah married at York on 19 July 1860; the bridegroom then almost 25, his bride not yet 21.

Before leaving consideration of the society reflected in William’s Journal, two further observations are in order:

1. Since 1850, at the request of the settlers, convicts had been coming to the colony. William has only a few references either to them or to those in charge of them: 300 arrive on a convict vessel (J p 2, cf p 13); their chaplain preaches (J p 14); a convict is hanged for striking a warder (J p 29); Tom Moore, a ticket- of-leave man, is reported to the Governor by one of the Swan Valley settlers as a nuisance to that district (J p 55).

2. William has very little to say about Aborigines (referred to as ‘natives’). Prior to his going to the Irwin district, they receive only one mention: when a ‘black’ was hanged for a crime William does not specify (J p 22). In the Irwin, Aborigines engaged in extensive slaughter of the settlers’ cattle (J pp 57-60).On the other hand, one of the team of six making up the Gascoyne expedition was an Aboriginal policeman, Dugel. The situation described by William in the Swan Valley in the 1850s provides a stark contrast from descriptions in the diary of his uncle, George Fletcher Moore, for the same area twenty years earlier. In the 1830s, according to GF Moore’s Diary, the presence of Aborigines is felt constantly; in the latter period, they are all but invisible, and certainly pose no danger to the settlers.

Physical constitution

William had a sound physical constitution. In later years, William Wade (a farm hand at ‘Oakover’ in earlier days) wrote of his ‘splendid health, vigour, and form’ at that time. The Journal includes only four references to his health problems over the five years that it covers: rheumatism (J p 25); bowels (J p 32); a general malaise - ‘very ill all day’ (J p 47); and a suspected heart problem (J p 57). The last is of especial interest, the Journal entry having been written while he was in the Irwin district. It will be recalled that his father had died of a heart condition at just 46 years of age. William wrote:

John Drummond obliged to return on account of his heart complaint. I am afraid I shall die of it. I have long known that I was subject to it, but have felt it more frequently lately. It is a disease that requires perfect quiet and rest from excitement to retard its progress, and I have always been as careful of myself as possible. 39

In the event, the fears expressed here did not eventuate although, according to William Wade, William’s last decade was marred by acute rheumatism and paralysis.

Physical strength was a great asset in the vigorous outdoor life William led from 1856 on. It had its negative and positive aspects. On the negative side we read:

Obliged to give S[am] Mitchell [one year his senior, son of Rev W Mitchell] a cuff on the head for impudence (J p 5)
I had a grand row with W Harris [neighbour on the southern boundary]; cuffed his head and turned him out of the house, which greatly displeased my mother (J p 49)
I was obliged to give our Cow boy a hiding for carelessness (J p 50)
I pitched into one of the men and nearly choked him (J p5 9)

On the positive side it was manifest in exploration and a love of cricket, which was just one of a range of leisure activities which emerge from the Journal. Mention has already been made of dancing and of his skill in woodturning, and he also engaged in shooting and sailing. Guy Fawkes night (November 5th) was observed. There was also horse racing and ‘theatricals’.


The Journal gives an insight into the significance (as well as the difficulty) of communication in the 1850s. Critical were the mails that came into the colony and the ships that brought them (23 of them are named in the Journal). It also contains numerous references to the ‘overland mail’ or ‘Sound mail’ (referring to the fact that much of the mail was brought overland from King George’s Sound at Albany). It was not until the turn of the 20”‘ century when it gained enhanced port facilities, that Fremantle, as the port serving the capital, becoming the preferred port of call for ships travelling to or from the United Kingdom.

Previously many ships and cargoes had docked instead at Albany, over 400 kms to the south. In the first phase of his Journal, William kept a careful record of how long it took ships to convey mail from the United Kingdom to the colony:

Jul 9 to Sep 15 = 2 months 6 days (J p 3)
Nov 8 to Jan 18 = 2 months, 10 days (J p 8)
May 8 to Mar 15 = 2 months, 7 days (J p 11)
Sep 9 to 10 Nov = 2 months, 1 day (J p 16)
Dec 4 to Mar 14 = 3 months, 10 days (J p 20)

Reference is made in July 1855 to work being done to improve the road to Albany (J pp 21, 26).

This was also the age when steam was being applied to ships and boats. After a voyage of four and a half months (J p 16), Helpman’s steamer arrived from Britain and proceeded on to Adelaide, with James Roe’s two brothers among the passengers (J p 17). In 1855, English mail steamers were taken off the run for use as transports for the Crimean War (J p 20).

Steam was also in use on the Swan River by this time. Les Trois Amis was a small steamer intended for the Perth to Fremantle run, but on its first trip - with the Governor and party aboard - it was unable to progress far upriver (J p 20). Soon afterwards, however, a trip in the reverse direction took a party of picnickers to Fremantle (J p 21). Eight months later, Campbell, its owner, was found drowned; but whether he died by suicide or accident was not clear (J pp 30-31); Two years later a Mr Cook was operating a steamer on the Swan, and the Governor was among his passengers. (J p 52).

The Journal also gives several references to contractors such as Maxwell and Toovey who worked the mail run, or provided conveyance between Perth and Guildford (J p 13). Postage stamps were introduced on 1 August 1854 (J pp 12- 13), replacing the older system which required letters to be franked. (J p 31). At the time, William, who was still working in the Survey Office, was instructed by the Colonial Secretary’s Office to superintend operation of the lithographic press for production of postage stamps, in cooperation with Alfred Durlacher (1827-1869), with whom he later went into business partnership.

A final observation on colonial communications during this period is that the only major event outside the Swan River Colony reported by William in the five years of his Journal entries was the Crimean War, in which one of his mother’s relatives lost his life (J pp 8, 20).

Colonial and personal religion

On the more reflective side of life, William appears to have been regular or at least frequent in his church attendance. He comments on sermons he heard and on the various clergy to whose ministry he was exposed. The octagonal church of St Mary’s, Middle Swan was the family church, where his father and younger brother were buried. Rev William Mitchell, its minister at this time, was a neighbour and friend. When his son went through a period of unbalanced religious fervour, Mitchell sought some help from William (J p 42). However, apart from recording attendance at services and other such detail, the Journal carries no record or expression of personal piety such as private prayer, Scripture reading or personal faith.


Finally, what role did Fremantle play in the Journal? Four years after the last Journal entry, William moved to Fremantle to spend the rest of his life in the capital’s port. His father had acquired business interests there, and the family had often spent the summer months in the vicinity of the port. As one would expect, Fremantle features in the Journal as the point of departure for people leaving the colony; so we read of William being at Fremantle to farewell his younger brother Freddy, bound for Melbourne and then England for further schooling (J p 7).

Fremantle was also the place where David Moore, William’s cousin, resided. In September 1853 William’s boss, JS Roe, was in Fremantle. Roe may well have been the source of information recorded by William that there were twelve vessels in the harbour ‘a thing not known since the earliest days of the colony’ (J p 3). Several months later, William went down to Fremantle himself. The trip was made by boat in the company of a neighbour, Dr Ferguson. The port made such an impression on William that he noted on 9 November 1853:

The Town is so totally changed that I nearly lost my way (J p6).

On 22 March of the following year, the view was less optimistic. William noted that there was a great scarcity of flour in Fremantle, with only enough to last for the next few days (J p 9). This was the period of spectacular gold discoveries in the eastern colonies, and William reports several (false) rumours of gold being discovered in Western Australia, one involving Mt Mackie near York, the other near Kelmscott. William attributed the latter solely to ‘a lie got up by the Fremantle people’ (J p 10). His report of a steamer taking a party of picnickers downstream to the Old Ferry at Fremantle (J p 21) brings a reminder that there was no bridge over the river in the vicinity of the port at that time.

On 28 April 1855, William was able to obtain leave from work to sail to Fremantle with Charles Gregory and George Phillips (J p 23). No doubt that would have been a much more pleasant way of getting there than by the land route which - according to his youngest brother’s account - went around the Mount [i.e. Mount Eliza] but ‘was only a bush track and very heavy with sand.’ 40

There were other problems too. The Journal entry for 18 May 1855 reads:

All the juveniles in Perth are going to Fremantle to a party at Richard Brown’s. I was invited, but excused myself, saying that I was obliged to go up the Swan on Saturday. But it is too expensive going down. (J p 24).

Two days later he reported:

Hear a glowing account of Brown’s party. (J p 24).

The following month he recorded similar sentiments:

Great doings at Fremantle and a ball in the Evening. I stayed at home, not liking to go to the expense’ (J p 25).

William was a keen cricketer. Several times he reports practising for Perth to play a match against the Fremantle Club, but in the event he did not play - though he noted in his Journal that Perth won by five wickets (J pp 31, 32).

Finally, he records that Lieutenant Leeson, whom William had got to know through the latter’s frequent visits to Middle Swan, had been arrested for leaving his duties at Fremantle and replaced. (J p 44).

These, then, are a few cameos of the society and times in which William Dalgety Moore moved, and some of the factors involved in the making of one of Fremantle’s significant ‘merchant princes’.


J : This refers throughout to William Dalgety Moore’s unpublished manuscript Journal No1, being a private journal for the period July 1853 — July 1858. References to this journal are mostly given in brackets in the body of the text.

Other abbreviations are found in endnotes as follows:

ADB: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 8 vols, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1966 -

BDWA: The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australian, pre-1829-1888, 4 vols, UWA Press, Nedlands 1988

ED: Early Days, Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society (Perth, 1927-).


Brown, Patricia M., The Merchant Princes of Fremantle: the Rise and Decline of a Colonial Elite 1870-1900. UWA Press, Nedlands, 1996

Burton, A., The Story of the Swan District, 1843-1938 [J. Muhling, Perth, 1938]

Cyclopedia of Western Australia, 2 vols, The Cyclopedia Company, Perth, 1912

Moore, George Fletcher Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia (London; Walbrook, 1884; reissued in facsimile, Nedlands: UWA Press, 1979)

Moore, Samuel, Farm Journal, 1839-1849 [Unpublished manuscript].

Moore, William Dalgety, Journal No1 [unpublished manuscript, July 1853 — July 1858]

Presented at the Fremantle Studies Day 29 October 2000


l. Patricia M Brown, The Merchant Princes of Fremantle: the Rise and Decline of a Colonial Elite 1870-1900, Nedlands, UWA Press, 1996, p 1

2. Vaughan-Thomas, Wynford, Dalgety: The Romance of a Business, Henry Melland. London, 1984, p 11; ADB v4 p 4

3. Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australia, vol 4, p 2959

4. From the nature of the work in which William Moore was engaged for George Stone, it seems the latter may have temporarily assumed the duties of Advocate General after George Fletcher Moore’s resignation in 1852

5. Evidently this was Mrs Mary Ann Purkis, widow of George Martin. She married James Purkis on 8 Nov 1851. She was widowed a second time when Purkis died two years later (4 Dec 1853) [BDWA, vol 3, p2547]. She is first mentioned in the Journal on 2 Mar 1854 ( p.8)

6. Australian Dictionary of Biography (1851-1890) vol 5, p 280

7. This is particularly evident from Samuel Moore’s Farm Journal, 1839-1849.

8. Samuel Moore to Andrew Moore (13 Nov 1833) [letter in the possession of Richard K Moore].

9. Samuel Moore, Farm Journal, 1839-1849, p 84

10. WD Moore Journal No 1, pp 32, 35, 38, 42, 42, 44

1 1. ibid, pp 46, 39

12. ibid, p 46

13. ibid, p 50

14. ibid, p 11

15. ibid, p 7

16. FH Moore, ‘The reminiscences of Mr. Fred H Moore’, Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, vl part 9 (1931), pp 65-69

17. George Fletcher Moore, Diary of Ten Years Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia, First edn 1884, facsimile reprint, UWA Press, Nedlands, 1978, p vi

18. ‘Presumably he is the ‘Uncle Frederick‘ who died in 1856, causing William‘s mother so much distress (J p 50). It seems probable that Samuel and Dora‘s second son, Frederick Henry Moore (1839 - 1934) was named after him.’

19. The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, The Cyclopedia Co. (1912), vl, p 684

20. It is of interest that Archdeacon Hale receives two mentions in the Journal for 1856, two years before the establishment of his school (pp. 45, 46)

21. The Cyclopedia of Western Australia, The Cyclopedia Co, Perth, 1912, v 1, p 349

22. Eg, (to take just one line): George Frederick Moore, John Hamersley Moore, Richard Kingsley Moore.

23. According to Samuel Moore’s [unpublished] Farm Journal, 1939-1849, p 60, his studies in Ireland included the Greek, Latin, and French languages; and in literature Ovid, Caesar, Horace, Aesop’s Fables, and the Greek [New?] Testament.

24. ‘The reminiscences of Mr. Fred H Moore’ Early Days, vl part 9 (1931), p 66

25. Samuel Moore, Farm Journal, 1839-1849, p 59

26. ‘The reminiscences of Mr Fred H Moore’ Early Days, v1, part 9 (1931), p 65

27. ‘The reminiscences of Mr Fred H. Moore’ Early Days, vl, part 9 (1931), p 66

28. ‘The reminiscences of Mr Fred H. Moore’ Early Days, vl part 9 (1931), pp 67-68. See also the map accompanying A Burton The story of the Swan District, 1843-1938, [Perth, JH Muhling, 1938].

29. BDWA, v 1 p 325

30. BDWA, v 4 p 2784

31. ‘The reminiscences of Mr. Fred H Moore’ Early Days, v1 part 9 (1931), p67

32. Almost certainly he refers here to the home of Dr John and Isabella Ferguson, who lived at Middle Swan.

33. It is clear that Annie Brockman was the daughter of Robert James Brockman (1812-1858), although no daughter of that name is listed in BDWA v1, p 324; see, however, ‘The reminiscences of Mr. Fred H Moore’ Early Days 1:9 (1931) p 67.

34. Journal No 1, p 26

35. Journal No 1, p 34

36. The reference is no doubt to Elizabeth Stormonth Ferguson (1839-1918), daughter of Dr John and Mrs Isabella Ferguson. There was another Elizabeth Ferguson born in the colony in 1839, but the former was known to be overseas at this time and was connected with the Middle Swan.

37. Journal No 1, p 47

38. Journal No 1, p 55

39. Journal No 1, p 57

40. ‘The reminiscences of Mr. Fred. H. Moore’ Early Days, v1 part 9 (1931), pp 68, 65 105

Garry Gillard | New: 24 August, 2017 | Now: 16 December, 2018