Ellen Clacy set off from England to accompany her brother to the Victorian diggings in 1852. In 1963, editor Patricia Thompson noted that she seemed an ‘ideal girl’ to take to the diggings: ‘She noticed everything, enjoyed everything, and willingly turned her hand to cooking, camping or washing for gold.’ She filled a diary with descriptions of goldfields life and ‘adventures’ involving bushrangers, orphaned children, falling in love and getting married. This was published almost as soon as she arrived back in England in 1853 and quickly sold out. Further biographical details remain sketchy. Margaret Anderson points to new research that hints at an absconding husband and an illegitimate child born at sea, suggesting that Clacy’s life was in fact more complex, harder, and less ‘respectable’ than the one she constructed in her published account. ****** It may be deemed presumptuous that one of my age and sex should venture to give to the public an account of personal adventures in a land which has so often been descanted upon by other and abler pens; but when I reflect on the many mothers, wives, and sisters in England, whose hearts are ever longing for information respecting the dangers and privations to which their relatives at the antipodes are exposed, I cannot but hope that the presumption of my undertaking may be pardoned in consideration of the pleasure which an accurate description of some of the Australian Gold Fields may perhaps afford to many; and although the time of my residence in the colonies was short, I had the advantage (not only in Melbourne, but whilst in the bush) of constant intercourse with many experienced diggers and old colonists—thus having every facility for acquiring information respecting Victoria and the other colonies.
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Published October 26, 2006
History, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Biographies & Memoirs.