[WESTERN DISTRICT] Letter written by a young woman on Paul de Castella’s Quamby run, near Woolsthorpe, Western Victoria, describing her recent voyage from England to Portland, thence to Port Fairy by brig and overland to Quamby by dray. New Year’s Day, 1855.
Manuscript in ink on blue laid paper, comprising a quarto bifolium, 250 x 200 mm,  pp closely written on each side, with an octavo bifolium insert, 150 x 200 mm,  pp (the last two cross-written); headed ‘Quamby, January 1st 1855’, the letter is addressed to ‘Dear Aunt and Cousins’ and is signed on the last octavo page ‘Yours truly, Mary Bluett’; original folds, clean and complete (but lacking the postal envelope with English address); accompanied by a previous owner’s typed transcript of the first three-quarters of the letter.
An unpublished gold rush era travel account written by a female writer.
From 1853 to 1859 the 25,000 acre Quamby run, near Woolsthorpe in Victoria’s Western District, was owned by Swiss immigrant and pioneer vigneron Paul Frederic de Castella (1827–1903), brother of Hubert de Castella. It was one of the largest sheep stations in this wealthy pastoral region that had been dubbed ‘Australia Felix’ by Thomas Mitchell. Towards the end of her letter young Mary Bluett, who had just completed the three-month voyage from England with her parents and her siblings Richard, Rebecca and Charlotte (they reached Portland on 19 November 1854), explains to her aunt back home in England that she is staying with the family of Mr. Doyle, an employee of Castella’s, on Quamby station. She describes how Castella, Doyle and her uncle had met them at Port Fairy, where they stayed in the most comfortable hotel available, and how Castella had offered his own horse to Charlotte for the overland journey to Quamby – for which their uncle purchased Charlotte a new side-saddle, while the rest of the entourage travelled in a dray. The first three-quarters of the letter are taken up with a detailed account of the outward voyage: Teneriffe; encounters with other ships; shipboard entertainments such as the Crossing the Line ceremony and dances on deck; relations between the “girls” on board and the ship’s crew; the monotony and awfulness of the food; rough weather; religious services; the health of passengers; sightings of exotic fish, and the joyous arrival in Portland Bay.
Presumably, the Bluett family were immigrants who planned to start a new life in the Colony of Victoria, and they appear to have had a family member who was already residing in the Western District. Further research might be able to establish what the connection was between the young letter writer’s family and the Doyles of Quamby.