The Whittaker Story

William Whittaker married Louisa Grant in 1841. He had arrived in Sydney from England in 1839 and purchased the Snowy River run, sight unseen, from W. Ross – 102 head of cattle at four pounds per head and three horses at thirty-five pounds each.

Sometime after their marriage, the Whittakers and another young couple, the Marriots, travelled to the Monaro. The Whittakers lived first with an uncle of Louisa’s, Thomas Matthew Moore of ‘Burnima’, where Louise housekept  while William worked as overseer and book-keeper, as well as working his own run. [1]

In 1843, William purchased Tombong from Thomas Moore and sold the Snowy River run to pay for it. Their first child, Mary Atkinson (Minnie) was born. Minnie was later to marry Eyre Louis Bruce and herself gave birth to a daughter, the author Mary Grant Bruce, the author of the Billabong books. William and Louise had 11 children, of whom 9 survived.

While living at Tombong, William used his bullock team to draw timber to help build the Church of England at Delegate.

There is a copy of an agreement with shearers in the 1840s which states: “We the undersigned agree to wash and shear the Tombong sheep at the rate of three shillings per day and four glasses of grog.” Four shearers put their marks to that agreement. Before shearing, sheep were washed in the river, where hurdle yards were set up and strewn with clean rushes. From 3000 sheep there were only 4596 lbs of washed wool; 160 fleeces went to the bale; fleeces averaging one and a half pounds were sold in England for a shilling a pound.

In 1849 the Whittakers purchased Tubbut, although diaries seem to show that the whole family didn’t move there until 1851. The run was on the Jingallala River (now known as Deddick) and the house actually had glass windows and a wooden floor in the parlour. William notes in his diary of digging clay for the chimney, cutting slabs, and drawing bark for the roof. Clothes were washed in the river and if the river rose during the night, all hands would be downstream searching for those precious clothes!

Many employees are mentioned in the diary: names such as Catherine Marriott, Tom Rich, Billy Hobbs and Billy Coe.

In 1864, Louisa’s aunt Martha sold her school ‘Moore Hall’ in Sydney and came to Tubbut where a new house was built for her. She even had a piano brought in by packhorse! Teddy Ingram says that Mary Grant Bruce later stayed in old Miss Moore’s house (as a child) and you can see the Tubbut influence in her books.

Visitors during the 1860s included: A.W. Howitt, Mr and Mrs McKeachie of Delegate Station, Bruce of Mr Black’s survey party (later to marry Minnie). On his way to the wedding at Tubbut, Bruce was saved from the flooded Snowy by hanging on to the tail of a horse.

In 1871 Aunt Martha Moore wanted to go to Bairnsdale to live with Minnie and the only way to go was by horse. So she learned to ride at the age of 70. She lived with the Bruces in Bairnsdale until she died at the age of 91.

William was getting old and the run was losing money so in 1871 they gave it up and moved to Loy Yang on the Latrobe River.

 

 

 

[1] Burnima embraced Archer’s Flat run, Crankies Plain and Coolennbootia out to the Bald Hill and nearly to the Dragon at Cathcart.[1]