Extracts from 'A Backward Glance, The Story of John Ridley a Pioneer '
by Annie E Ridley, London James Clarke & Co 1904
The following information was extracted from the above publication by Reg Butler (Hahndorf Historian) ..
In 1824 within a radius of seven miles with Gateshead as the centre, might have been found a man off 35 years, a youth of 18 and a boy of 8, at that date unkonwn to each other, but all destined to meet, closely linked together, on the other side of the globe in a land which was to owe much to each of the three - Angas, John Ridley and Anthony Forster. The boy, Anthony Forster, became one of the first historians of the new country, and also, as editor of the leading journal, as as member of the House of Legislature, played an active part in the passing of the Torrens Land Act … Mr Torrens arrived in SA at about the same date as my father, a friendship begun then lasting to the end of their long lives … They were both from the land of the Tyne and the Wear, both members of the same Methodist Connection, in which both had been local preachers, and both had the same literary tastes.
Thomas Magary, the purchaser of John Ridley’s mill at Hindmarsh, said ‘Northumberland, the country of big heads and big inventions’. The Stephenson brothers came from there. He brought with him one of Watt’s steam-engines, known as the grasshopper engine. There was at first no wheat to grind, and he at once adapted it to t asaw, set up a saw mill and cut pine from what was then called the Pine Forest but now Enfield, Nailsworth etc. There are those now living who who carted to him and sold him the first pines for the use of his mill. Afterwards, he obtained wheat from Valparaiso and Van Diemen’s Land, now called Tasmania. The engine which he then set ujp was the first erected in the colony, and still remains upon the identical gum blocks upon which he set it up 48 years ago, and is still occasionally worked.
Before the youngest of the trio had reached manhood, Mr Angas had left the north of England, and, in London, had become engaged in many philanthropic movements, at first for the benefit of sailors. Afterwards, he took up the cause of the slaves in Honduras; but all through his early life he had watched the efforts of EG Wakefield and Robert Gouger to start the new colony of SA, though it was not till 1835 that he came forward, and, throwing all the influence of his character and his wealth into the work, carried to successful issue the formation of the SA Land Company.
All the worldly possessions of the enterprising pair were sent to London be sea, and whilst waiting for the ship there was an interval of rest and enjoyment of the sights of the great city. They stayed with my mother’s married brother in the then entirely rural suburb of Kentish Town. ‘Mother Redcap’ was a country hostelry and Chalk Farm only a secluded farm-house, still retired enough for the duellists (not quite extinct) who selected it for its remoteness. From the recently-constructed Regent’s Park, a tract of fields and country lanes extended to the far-away heights of Hampstead and Highgate.
A fellow passenger aboard the Warrior recalled some 50 years later John Ridley’s appearance at that time: I seem to recollect him as a tall and rather spare figure, and although genial in manner when addressed, of rather sombre countenance, and often - I may almost say usually - very absorbed, as if working out difficulties mentally … Whilst on board, during a severe storm, your father had a narrow escape from a bad accident. The vessel having given a sudden lurch, he was thrown off his balance, and nearly fell backwards down an open hatchway. By an active effort he saved himself from the fall, and, having his watch in his hand at the moment, in his effort to clutch at a rope he threw the watch overboard … We were often in such danger during these storms that we thought little of our worldly goods.
As soon as the ship dropped anchor she was boarded by eager colonists asking for news of home, and ready on their part with news of the colony, of which the more importantitem was that of the hope of most abundant harvest, but unfortunately of little use, since there was no menas of grinding the corn. Bread was still at a ruinous price, and so serious was the crisis that a public meeting had been called to consider the best means of overcoming the difficulty …
No time was lost in the purchase of a suitable Section close to the River Torrens at Hindmarsh, a mile or so from Adelaide. Here, within a very short time, the mill was ready for work, but whilst waiiting for the harvest, the steam-power was used for sawing wood. In this Hindmarsh steam flour-mill - the first in SA - was ground the flour from the first-fruits of the harvests …
A carpenter’s shop and smith’s forge formed a necessary part of the establishment for the repairs of the machinery, and for making as well as mending, since at any moment there might come an order for something new, working out some bright idea that had flashed into the master’s ever-active brain. In this shop and forge the reaping machine first took shape. My delight was in the constant display of fireworks in the forge, as showers of bright sparks rose and fell with the strokes on the anvil.
The appearance of the dwellings of the first settlers was very singular. Both the walls and roofs of some were composed of mud and grass, others of rushes or brushwood, and the walls of others, again, were formed of a mixture of lime-stone, marl and red earth, in cementing of which but little water being used, they were ‘run up’ with the rapidity of modern English building, and were thatched with a layer of hay about three inches thick, thus consitituting them warm and comfortable abodes. Another class, however, were more sightly, being constructed of wooden frames, neatly covered with canvas, or of panels screwed together; whilst not a few of the emigrants literally ‘pitched their tents’ on the hitherto untrodden wilds of SA. Their fireplaces, too, were of a most primitive description, being no more than ‘a square spot enclosed on three sides with stone to about eighteen inches high, and open in front’.
Letter Register 31/5/1886
Thomas Magary, the purchaser of John Ridley’s mill at Hindmarsh, said: The first thing which caused me to wonder on my first arrival here on a beautiful September evening as I came up from the Port, was the purpose of an unfinished wooden structure upon a Section near the Port Road. It remained for many years afterwards. It was an attempt by Mr Ridley to raise water for the irrigation of the Adelaide Plains by means of a kind of horizontal windmill, the plan of which he had found in a book. Old colonists will remember it. It was never completed …
At the time I speak of Mr Ridley’s workshop was full of mechanics, and his yard full of patterns and cast-off machinery. ‘He brought with him one of Watt’s steam-engines, known as the Grasshopper engine. There was at first no wheat to grind, and he at once adapted it to a saw, set up a saw mill and cut pine from what was then called the Pine Forest but now Enfield, Nailsworth etc. There are those now living who who carted to him and sold him the first pines for the use of his mill. Afterwards, he obtained wheat from Valparaiso and Van Diemen’s Land, now called Tasmania. The engine which he then set up was the first erected in the colony, and still remains upon the identical gum blocks upon which he set it up 48 years ago, and is still occasionally worked.
In 1846, when my father bought his Section at The Bay, it was still in primaeval wildness. Our section consisted for the most part of sand-hill and bog, until carting the sand into the bog made a foundation of terra firma. Soil had to be imported for the garden, which, however, speedily produced flowers and vegetables of rare excellence. One specimen of broccoli became traditional , since all the kitchen weights failed to weigh half of it.
Only a low sand-hill, carefully fenced in, separated us from the sea, with its beach of finest silver sand stretching for miles on either side, hard and firm for riding, where my father took me for many a delightful gallop. This beach, after a storm, offered a wealth of shells and sea treasures that gave joy unspeakable to the children of that day. In most other places along the shore, trodden down by cattle and free to the winds, the sand-hills were either blown away or heaped into drifts of dazzling whiteness. But our portion, protected by its fence, remained green, like another garden, with its berry-bearing shrubs, and yellow, pink, and white Helichrysum or everlasings, as they were called. There were also masses of purple Mesembryanthemum (for some inscrutable reason known as pig faces) with edible fruit; and the long trails of Kennedya prostrata, with clusters of crimson pea-flowers set in glossy trefoil leaves, supplied us with ready-made garlands.
Our kind friend Mr William Owen, whose voyages in his own ships to Singapore and the South Sea Islands were sources of constant and varied interest, especially in the tales he brought us at first hand … Once we had a whole crew of coolies belonging to one of Mr Owen’s ships, who stayed at The Bay during the reloading. There were women amongst them, and the party made themselves comfortable in their own way in some outhouses near our stable. The men went fishing and they all lived on the fish, with a bag of sugar and a bag of rice, and any extras that we might give. They were a quiet, gentle people …
In our visits to Mr Forster, then resident at Greenock Creek, we found ourselves on the verge of what was still the primitive Bush.
The drive of 50 miles from Adelaide was accomplished in a long day. Sometimes, it was shortened by spending the night at Montefiore, Mr Crawford’s new two-storeyed house in North Adelaide.
Two-storeyed houses were still uncommon. I can recall only two staircases, this and another near Brighton where Mr Kearne had built a thoroughly substantial English house. Everything outside the house, however, was supremely Australian. From the wide verandah, steps led down to a long vine-trellis, covered at vintage with huge clusters of white and purple grapes. Beyond the flower garden, on either side stretched peach orchard and orange grove, and over the garden gate bananas waved. Oaklands also had the rather rare distinction of a running stream, as the Sturt made its way through a wattle grove behind the house.
After leaving the Pine Forest, beyond North Adelaide, our way went over wide plains of deadly monotony, varied only by the always fascinating mirage, with its magical visions of placid lake and fairy islet.
There was always a long halt in the middle of the day for the refreshment of man and beast …
Occasionally we spent the night at Gawler Town in a comfortable inn, driving on in the cool of the early morning. But in this case, we missed the great charm of the evening hours, when we might come on a glade of wattle in full bloom, golden in the light of moonshine that was only a softer day, and filling the still air with heavy intoxicating fragrance.
Once we came on a grand bushfire, and were near enough to see the tongues of flame lapping up the dry grass, or darting from tree to tree amid the crash of the falling branches.
The story of Paradise and the Peri from Lalla Rookh. The Peri for some fault has been excluded from Paradise, and she can regain readmittance only by taking with her the most precious thing that earth possesses. Turns out to be the prayers and purity of an innocent child.
Ridley to Anthony Forster Kettenhof Weg, Frankfur/Main 4/4/1857
We saw a little of Germans in Australia. They are very civil and polite, and what intercourse I have had with them has been very pleasant. They don’t seem such go-ahead people as Englishmen become in a colony-not so impulsive. They are fond of precedent, follow the beaten track, and dislike new modes of proceeding. They want more energy, I think.
Newcastle and its surrounding pit-villages. John Wesley ‘I was surprised: so much drunkenness, cursing and swearing, even from the mouths of little children, do I never remember to have seen and heard in so short a time’. Preached first in Sandgate, the lowest and poorest part of the town, on Sunday 30 May 1742, to a crowd which increased from 3-4 people to 1,500 before he had done preaching.
Since that gathering in Sandgate, in 1742, when John Wesley preached to ‘the most godless congregation’ ever assembled to hear him, great changes had taken place in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Much of the moral improvement was due to Wesley and his followers, but much also must be ascribed to the Society of Friends. Ladies at the forefront of helping the oppressed, including the freeing of the slaves in the USA. Sent money to slave owners to buy the freedom of talented slaves. Notroglycerine explosion at Newcastle at Christmas 1868 killed several talented citizens.