GEORGIANA McCRAE'S JOURNAL


Georgiana Huntly Gordon was an illegitimate child of Jane Graham and George Gordon, who was the Marquis of Huntly, and later 5th Duke of Gordon, in Scotland. She was born on 15th March 1804, and had an aristocratic upbringing.

Well educated at a convent in London, she became recognised later as an excellent portrait painter, specialising in minatures. After the death of her mother, she lived at Gordon Castle but did not get on well with her father's wife, Elizabeth Brodie, the Duchess of Gordon. After the Duchess thwarted a romance with a Catholic cousin, Georgiana married a lawyer named Andrew McCrae in 1830. This was not a great love affair. She wrote: "left my easel and changed my name."

Following other members of the McCrae family, Andrew migrated to Port Phillip in 1838. A reluctant migrant, Georgaina followed with their 4 children in 1840. The Duchess of Gordon helped finance the journey but was probably pleased to see her go.

Georgiana was unhappy with her first home in Little Lonsdale Street west: "One tolerable large room and four closets, called bedrooms." She was shocked at the cost and the scarcity of vegetables. She referred to a man arriving at the house with what looked like a "large green parrot" on his wrist. It turned out to be a cos lettuce - one of the first grown in the Colony.

She continued to have children, on one occasion going into labour whilst entertaining guests. She maintained her role as hostess and at 3 am "gave birth to a fine girl."

Georgiana made good use of her family connections. She mixed with important people and familiar names are mentioned in the diary. She attended both St. James, and the Scottish Church. She entertained Bishop Broughton, the Rev. James Forbes, as well as the Catholic priest, Rev. Geoghegan. She was a friend of the Latrobe family, Redmond Barry and Captain Lonsdale.

In keeping with her own education, Georgiana hired a tutor for her children.

Andrew McCrae had a falling out with his business partner James Montgomery and gave up the law. During an argument between the men, Georgiana wrote: "retired to my room." Andrew decided to buy land and build a home at Arthur's Seat. Again the reluctant migrant, Georgiana's description of travelling to her new home, via Mordialloc seems amazingly arduous. Georgiana was the most talented minaturist in the Colony, but she was forbidden by her husband to paint for money even though they were in financial need.

Georgiana received a 6 monthly allowance from her father's estate but on the death of the Duchess, was not named as a beneficiary. This would have been an enormous blow, as an inheritance would have allowed her to go home. Her relationship with her husband was poor and she sought advice on obtaining a separation. Andrew visited Scotland and on his return in 1874, was in bad health. Georgiana cared for him until his death.

The diary makes references to aborigines, to diseases like infantile dysentery, depression amongst migrants, and hazards such as snakes in the house. She described in unflattering terms, clothing at social gatherings, but shared an enjoyable meal of scallops on a day when the landscape was "hidden by mist." There is a preoccupation with the weather throughout the diary: "Thunder and lightning, kitchen chimney caught fire."

Georgiana died in 1890. She had edited the diary herself, transcribed it into exercise books and destroyed the original. It is quite understated and although we must try to read between the lines, it remains however one of the most important documents of early Port Phillip.

(The Above is a Report on the Address by Professor John Ricard, former Professor of History at Monash University, at the Annual General Meeting on 13 March 2004)

Contributed by Jan Hanslow ( PPPG Member No. 1057 )


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