New Accession: Return of Diary to Australia after One Hundred and Fifty years in England

Tom Bird's Diary

Accession 28997:

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



We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Hi, It would be interesting to see some of the entries re the voyage of the ship Sultana from Plymouth to Moreton Bay in 1862 as my Great, great grandparents also travelled on this ship as immigrants to Australia. Their names were Henry Marsden and Hannah Marsden (nee Briscoe) Please let me know how I could see this. Many thanks.Lorraine Fursey

My Great great grandfatherand his whole family were also on this voyage and I would dearly love to get a copy of this dairy, His name was John Smith Booth,

Hi Gary. Unfortunately this diary has not been digitised, but is available for perusal at State Library -…

My Great Grandparents and family were on this ship to Australia. Their names were Joel and Jane Wilde and they had four children, Henry, Hannah, John, and Hester. Hester (a toddler) died on the way and was buried at sea. We have a paper cut death certificate for her with some of her braided hair on it. A short while after they arrived, Jane died during childbirth in a tent at Kangaroo Point.I too would love to read this diary. I have a copy of "They Came Direct, The Sultana 1862" which has a lot of information about the voyage.

My great- grandfather Alfred Patrick was also on this ship.What a great resource for the descendants of the 400-500 people who arrived on this ship so long ago.

Hi Brenda, I'm wondering whether we are looking at the same Alfred Patrick who was also my great grandfather. He was a publican in Cooktown and married Maria Dearnley Hall. Perhaps you will never see this again. Catherine Donaghue

Yes he is the same Alfred Patrick and we are related. I am the grand daughter of Alfred's youngest son Colin Dearnley Patrick whose first child ( born during World War 1) was my father Douglas Dearnley Patrick.