Notre Dame academic gives insight to the lost diary of colonial artist

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 6-11-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



Rats, fleas, famine and sand: just some of the aspects of Fremantle that spoiled Mary Ann Friend's experience when she visited the Swan River Colony in 1830, according to her researcher Associate Professor Deborah Gare at The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus.

The location of Mary Ann Friend's diary has, for many years, been a mystery. Now the journal, which includes maps and three of the earliest paintings of Fremantle, has been purchased by the State Library of Western Australia at a London auction for nearly $200,000. This represents a significant addition to the historical record of WA's early colonial period.

Assoc Prof Gare, who is currently writing a biography of the talented Mrs Friend, said the journal told stories of women who were present in the fledgling years of the former colony.

"Mary Ann's diary tells of the extraordinary voyages around the world which British women experienced in 1829 and 1830 on their way to the Swan River. Some faced gruelling journeys while heavily pregnant and many were accompanied by young families. Conditions on arrival were harsh," Assoc Prof Gare said.

"But what adventures many had! Friend's journal includes stories of an early elopement, pianos left in sand hills, lost cows, missing children, ship wrecks and exotic meals, including her favourite - black swan. On her journey to Fremantle she faced political intrigue and slavery."

Mrs Friend, an accomplished artist and storyteller, made a two-year journey with her husband, Captain Matthew Curling Friend, in 1829, which included a stop in the Swan River colony. They carried British migrants to Fremantle and Hobart.

The diary describes Fremantle as like "a country fair" with colourful tents scattered across the sandy landscape. Mrs Friend's beautiful and detailed watercolour paintings captured the scene.

"Perhaps more than anything, the diary is a love story," Assoc. Prof. Gare said.

"Mary Ann loved her husband deeply. The prospect of two years apart, while he was at sea, was not something she looked forward to. So she packed her bags and joined him."

Earlier this year, two Notre Dame students were recognised for their research into the history of women in early colonial and wartime Fremantle at the City of Fremantle/Town of East Fremantle 2012 Heritage Awards.

Madison Lloyd-Jones, a PhD student, was awarded first place in the category of 'unpublished work' at the Awards ceremony for her submission that derived from her research into the experiences of Fremantle's women during World War Two.

Graduate, Toni Church, was awarded second place in the same category for her honours studies about the history of Fremantle's women in the decade which followed British colonisation of the Swan River in 1829.

"Fremantle's women have an extraordinary history to be told," Assoc. Prof. Gare said.

"It is one of rich personal stories and experiences."

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