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Diary of Joseph Bird Burgess 1872

As mentioned in our April Blog this page will be dedicated to excerpts and information on Joseph Bird Burgess, Piano Tuner in the Southern Riverina and Northern Victorian region covering the year 1872.

His name is mentioned on a website dedicated to Piano Tuning


There are also pieces of his musical works held at the National Library of Australia.

Below are excerpts from his diary relating to the area around Cobram,Yarrawonga and the names of the people he met on his travels.

There is a map viewable online at the NLA that has Riverina Stations in 1877. This is close to the time of these diaries. Visit at http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/cdview?pi=nla.map-f277 – new squatting map of Riverina district of N.S.W. [cartographic material]

Saturday 5th October 1872

Weather fine - I slept splendidly last night. I tuned the Erard Oblique and afterwards I looked over the old Piano in the dining room. The Erard had stood wonderfully well. It is a beautiful Piano. The Ulupna mail arrived at tea time. I felt so very sorry that I had not known we should have been here as dear dear Margaret would have been able to written us. I should so have loved to have heard from her. I trust that she is going on well. The river has now commenced falling. We shall not be able to get over to the other side so there is no alternative but to go home and take the opportunity of doing Murchison, Colbinabbin and Stanhope on our way. We may get home by the week after next. We propose starting for Cobram on Monday morning. I have sung 15 songs this evening to Mr. James Rutherford's delight - they are really fine people - Tom Rutherford is here tonight. It is now just 12 o'clock. Another week has gone. Truly it has been a week of mercies. May we all have a peaceful Sabbath. Lord bless my dear dear wife and children. I think very much of dear dear Margaret. I feel to love her more than ever. Truly countless mercies.

Sunday 6th October 1872.

Weather fine - I slept very well. I have very much cause for thankfulness in being able to sleep so well. It is a real blessing. I commenced writing to dear dear Margaret this afternoon. Mr. John Brown, Mr. Mackay and Mr. Rennisson left for Bajanna at about 4 o'clock. Mr. Tom Rutherford also left with them. This evening I have sung a lot of my sacred pieces of music. Mr. James Rutherford likes them very much. Mr. and Mrs. James Rutherford are remarkably kind. They are truly fine people - the essence of hospitality. I pray that dear dear Margaret continues well. I should so love to hear from her. Lord fit me for tomorrow's duties .

May I feel thankful for the good health I am permitted to enjoy.

Come near and bless us when we wake.

Ere Thro' the world our way we take.

Till in the ocean of Thy love,

We lose ourselves in heaven above.

10000 E's.

Monday 7th October 1872.

I finished writing to dear dear Margaret and I wrote a few lines to dear Father. The English mail leaves Melbourne on Friday next. I gave the two letters to Mr. Jas Rutherford to put in the mail bag at Bajanna. Dear Margaret ought to get the letter tomorrow afternoon. I hope. Mr. Rutherford will not forget them. We left Ulupna at about 9.30. Mr. Jas Rutherford punted us over splendidly - without any bother. The horses stood very quietly. Mr. Rutherford came with us as far as Duffy's water hole. It was then eleven o’clock. We reached Cobram between half past one and two o'clock. Miss Jemima Rutherford rode with us - I drove today. Mrs McPherson received us very kindly. Mr. McPherson and Gid are at the sheepwash. Angus came home from the wool shed this evening. Mrs. Gideon Rutherford is staying at Cobram. Weather awfully close this afternoon and evening, as if lots of thunder was hanging about. There was lightning and distant thunder after tea. I have been singing a few songs. Jenny McPherson has greatly improved in her playing. Miss Moss the Governess gets her on very well. She (Jenny) seems very apt at music. I tuned the Cobram Piano this afternoon. It has stood remarkably well this time. I hope dear dear M, and all are well. 10000 E's.

Tuesday 8th October 1872.

Weather awfully heavy. I woke up in the night with great pains in my left arm – rheumatism- it kept me awake for some time. I finished the Cobram Piano this forenoon. At about noon there was a very heavy shower - the rain literally poured down in torrents. It last for more than half an hour. I wrote a few lines to dear dear Margaret and left the letter with Mrs. McPherson to go by their mail. We started from Cobram at a quarter to one. Mrs. McPherson wanted us very much to stay to dinner. We got to Yarrawonga about half past two. We had called at the Cobram wool shed. Ross gave me some samples of their wool. Cold water washed very well done. Mr. John Rutherford and Mr. Hay came over from Boomanoomana this afternoon - Mr. Heney and Mr. Geo Hay with them. Mr. Hay would have taken me over with them but he could not guarantee to send me back for several days - as they are so busy shearing. It is a long pull of nearly five miles now the water is up - he was as friendly as ever. Mr. John Rutherford remains at Yarrawonga. I felt very poorly with rheumatic pains. It is very trying weather - most unhealthy. I did not know positively today whether I should have this Piano to tune tho' I came up thoroughly expecting it. I felt so awfully unsettled all this afternoon. The house seems dreadfully dull. This evening we had rain with thunder and lightning. A Mr. Nicoll (Mr. Telford's partner) is staying here. I have not seen Mrs. Armstrong. I find she has a little son only 3 (three) weeks old on Friday next. When I was lifting one of my boxes at Cobram this morning I had such an awful twitch of lumbago. I could scarcely move. My joints ache. 10000 E's.

Wednesday 9th October 1872.

Weather finer tho' still unsettled. My rheumatic pains still trouble me. It lightened me very much when I went to bed last night. Mr. John Rutherford told me to tune the Piano and he would pay me for it. He says he will go up to Peechelba with me if I will wait for him until tomorrow. He has to go to Killewarra and he wants a seat in the buggy as far as Peechelba. He is a fine genial man, full of life - and very kind. I tuned and cleaned the Piano today. It had not been tuned since April 1871. It has stood wonderfully well - but I see the moths have commenced eating the felting of some of the lower hammers. I saw Mrs. Armstrong this afternoon - she came out to see me. I also saw her little son. They are now busy shearing here. Mr John Rutherford sung some of his favourite Scotch songs this evening. I also sung a few songs. This house is not very cheerful. I felt so glad that Mr. John Rutherford is here. Miss Bessie Telford here. 10000 E's.

Thursday 10th October 1872.

The weather is now very trying- so heavy and close. I am full of rheumatic pains. I have not felt at all well the last two days. I feel assured it is the weather. I think there will be a thunderstorm ere very long. We did not breakfast until half past nine o'clock.

I received One Pound from Mr. Boyd of Yarrawonga for some of my compositions. I am to give them to him as I return. We left at about 10 o'clock. We called in at the Yarrawonga wool shed Mr. John Rutherford rode with us in our buggy from there to Peechelba. He is a fine genial man - very kind. As we went along he gave me a cheque for Two pounds two shillings for the tuning of Mrs Armstrong's Piano. We arrived at Peechelba at about 3.30. Jack had driven the 14 miles from the boundary. He had made the horses go first rate. He drives very well. I shall miss him in very many ways. He is going to ride to Wangaratta (22) twenty two miles - tomorrow, to post a letter for dear dear Margaret. I have just, written part of it - I hope that she and all of them are well. We are kindly entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Geo Rutherford- happily the health of Mrs. Geo is much improved. I have sung a few songs this evening - and Mr. John Rutherford has sung some Scotch songs. There is a large halo around the moon betokening rain. I feel assured that rain is not far off. Jack is snoring awfully while I write. Another day of great mercies.

An abundance of grass now.