Diary handwritten by Ally Heathcote on 'SS Northumberland', during her migrant voyage from England to Melbourne in 1874. Her two-page Preface outlines a brief biography. Born in Preston in the North of England, she arrived in Australia at the age of 19 with her parents and two siblings, Willie and Maggie, whom she states 'had for years thought of visiting Australia at length'. Ally also states that she had often thought of immigrating but that she 'never had the remotest idea that my dreams of travelling 16 thousand miles would ever be realised.'.

Ally's diary begins with the departure: they left on Monday 21 September 1874, travelling on the steamship 'Northumberland,' they considered travelling by clipper but due to her mother's health, wanted the shortest journey possible. She describes the route, shipboard life, food, illnesses, navigational details such as longitude and latitude, distances and speed, first impressions of Australia and general feelings of excitement, the sorrow of separation, the joys and relief of arrival.

The diary has been written with a sense of audience. Near the beginning is an undertaking to her uncle to keep a diary, and at its conclusion there is a letter written by Ally from 88 Drummond St Carlton to her aunt and uncle which implies that she sent it to them in England. In the letter she invites them to circulate it and even to perhaps get printed in the 'Times'.

Physical Description

76 page handwritten stitched journal, densely written on front and reverse pages. Diary commences with a preface then continues "Steamship Northumberland - passage to Australia in 52 days - Brief sketches of life onboard a steam vessel." The diary is divided into dated, day by day descriptions.


Journals such as these offer an invaluable insight into the migrant experience. They represent an important memory tool for the people who create them and a sense of the historical importance of their undertaking. They record the freshness of the personal voice at the time of the experience, rather than the retrospective recollections after many years past. Ally's experience represents the experience of thousands of late nineteenth century migrants and provides an invaluable research tool in terms of her descriptions of shipboard life, other passengers, navigational details and first views of Melbourne. The diary concludes with a fascinating glimpse into the initial landing, Yarra Yarra and Hobsons Bay, train journey from Sandridge to the Pier and then on through Brunswick St Fitzroy to Northcote. Her style is very engaging, light, heartfelt, sometimes humorous and provides may 'quotable quotes' for exhibitions and web publishing.

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