Oxley Library Connection to Early Works

Recently, Brisbane resident, Sylvia Hodgson contacted the John Oxley Library seeking confirmation on works of fiction written by her great-grandfather – Alfred Bernie Bell. She was delighted to find that there are indeed works written by this author.  

Since contacting us, Sylvia has visited over four weekends to read the content in these small journals published here in Brisbane.

The works include :- The pioneers (1893) RBJ A823.2 bel ; Wild rocket and The diamond of Glen Rock : Australian tales (1894) RBJ A823.2 bel ; Australian camp fire tales (1894) RBJ A828 bel ; Oscar : a romance of Australia and New Caledonia (1894) RBJ A823.2 bel. 

“My grandmother Georgina Hodgson (nee Bell) had always said her father had written a book, but my father, Gordon ( Georgina’s only son) never believed her. He said she used to ‘romance on’. It is just as well that I, the curious daughter, decided to ‘Google’ my great-grandfather’s name.   To my immense delight, not only is there one book but four, and that’s how I came to contact the John Oxley Library!”

 

Sylvia tells us that Alfred Bernie Bell was born in Melbourne in 1851, and came to Queensland in the 1870’s.

“Alfred’s father Joseph was an early Victorian pioneer. Bernie married in 1876 in Rockhampton –   he was a drover at this stage, hence the story The Australian Camp Fire Tales.  There are verses by some famous poets at the commencement of most chapters in The Pioneers, but one in particular in Camp Fire Tales that I think Bernie wrote himself.   I personally like to write poetry and it’s nice to know that one of my ancestors did too”.

A search for Alfred Bernie Bell in the Brisbane Courier Mail provides a little more intrigue. In 1939, the columnist of ‘Brisbane Diary’ asks of his readers.

“This is what comes of lifting the curtains of yesterday. Several weeks ago I mentioned in the Diary that Alfred Bernie Bell, a well known man about town in the nineties, had given in 'The Diamond of Glen Rock' a native legend about the light that is said to be occasionally seen in a mountain near Esk.  

The paragraph was read by an eminent book collector in Sydney and he is now seeking information about the author. He was able to get a copv of the book, but knows nothing of the writer. And he has me feeling like a small boy in an examination room with no knowledge of his subject. I know the books of Alfred Bernie Bell, but know little about him except that he used to contribute to the old Brisbane Courier. So I am depending upon my friends, who have come to my assistance many times, depending on them to tell me something that I can pass on to the Sydney collector and at the same time to the Oxley Memorial Library”.                                                  The Courier-Mail, 25 August 1939, Pg 6 

It appears that the author of ‘Brisbane Diary’ received many letters from his readers, his next column stating:- 

“to mention the names of all who have written to me about Mr Bell would change this paragraph into a  kind of catalogue.” 

Alfred’s stories were often published as Bush Yarns in The Courier Mail. The aboriginal legend referred to as The Diamond of Glen’s Rock was published with another short story, Wild Rocket.

For more information about the books, readers are encouraged to contact the Oxley Library on 3840 7880 or check the One Search catalogue for holdings on Alfred Bernie Bell.

Anne Scheu

Library Technician - Australian Library of Art

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I work at the Smithsonian Institution on transactions and correspondence. I came across two cards, the first refers to 222 specimens of Lepidoptera purchased from A. Bernie Bell of Cairns, Queensland Australia. The second refers to correspondence with A. B. Bell of Atherton, via Cairns, Queensland referring to payment for and collecting more insects for the museum. I assume these are the same person and probably the same Alfred Bernie Bell mentioned here. Any thoughts? Thanks