John Pirie journal writer

The diary kept on board the schooner John Pirie lacks the first two pages so that the author is not identified and even its subject has to be deduced from internal evidence. However it is obvious from similar sentiments and even turns of phrase to be seen in the letters from Captain George Martin to both his wife and to George Fife Angas that captain and author were closely associated. The author was deeply involved with the animals on board, but there is nothing in the lists of crew and passengers, or in the Directors’ Minutes of the South Australian Company, that links anybody specifically to this duty.

Later records, however, enable the author of the diary to be identified. On 26 March 1842 The Register published the news that John Brown, who had come out as a storekeeper with the South Australian Company, had been speared by Aboriginal people at Port Lincoln. The South Australian reported three days later that he came from Shields, County Durham, and was the only cabin passenger on board the John Pirie with the late Captain Martin. As a Company servant, Brown was listed in the ‘Register of Emigrant Labourers’, which records that he was a farmer’s labourer aged 28, single, and at the time of application resident at 43 Bell Wharf, Lower Shadwell. He was engaged at eighteen shillings per week.

It therefore seems very likely that John Brown was the author of the diary. He is not to be confused with the Emigration Agent of the same name who came out by the Africaine.

The executor of Brown’s will, which is held at the Supreme Court, was Captain John Bishop, who had arrived in Port Lincoln in 1839 as master of the brig Dorset. Bishop evidently retained the diary as being of no commercial value and it remained amongst his papers. A copy came into the possession of the State Library through one of its staff, Helen Thomson, who was a Bishop descendant.

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