Alfred John Collis of Sawyers Bay diary extracts: 1905

Alfred John Collis was born in the UK in 1859. ThHannah Collis nursing Fred (UK)is photo (one of two) is the oldest in our family history located (to date) of  young Alfred, on his mother’s lap circa 1860’s. Fred is the son of Hannah and Henry Collis. Fred also lived in 1) NSW for a short time as a youngster,  2) Recherche Bay, Tasmania his parents were teachers, 3) Badger Island 4) Cape Barren Island, lastly, Sawyer’s Bay where he remained the rest of his life. He was active in the community, setting up the Road Trust along with his brother-in-law James Holt (Badger Corner) and various other old names still affiliated with Flinders. Fred’s income: delivering the mail from Settlement Point up through the north. His diaries tell us his travels involved overnight stops with various families.

He is  affectionately called  ‘Uncle Fred’ even today by various relatives recalling their parents fond memories. Grandfather Horace was very fond of ‘Uncle Fred’, clear in the oral history recalled by Dad. Fred lived at Sawyer’s Bay,  married to Ellen ‘Nell’ and they had a daughter Hannah 1906 (Brooks) and a son  Alfred 1911 – I remember Anna as she called herself, she was great friends with Grandma Maud –  only now I realise the family connection. Fred also ran a small farm. Earlier this year I found this reference to the Collis diaries written by Fred. Here is a shortened version of his 1905 diary, ‘Uncle Fred’ wrote capturing daily weather snapshots on Flinders Island, more importantly allowing us significant glimpses of relationships with family and friends. I love his reference to his beloved sister as ‘Em’  not ‘Emily’ which suits her and he always refer to James his brother in-law as J Holt. He does refer to another Emily and this was neighbour Emily Huitfeld, and becomes complicated when she married Cyril Robinson, they also had a son called James (The Five Mile Robinson’s). To give an idea of family dynamics in 1905: Fred 46, Nell 21,(Marriage 4/8/1904) daughter Hannah born 1906. Emily (Holt) Robinson 44, James (Holt) Robinson 53, Tuck Holt 21 and Horace Holt 11. Henry Collis 38.

When Fred mentions Tip – this is Tip Brown, famous for his music as you can read in this link on page 132.

The Mrs Bryant should have been spelt Briant, he was great friends with both Harry and Alfred Briant.

Fred Collis




Ellen remarried twice after Fred died, her third husband’s surname was Batten.


January 1. 1905 – Sunday

I and Nellie staying with J Holt’s. I returned to Badger Corner from Little Dog Island after assisting him to put a fire out.

January 2. I, Nell, Tuck and Walter went down to Mr Gunter’s and Jansen’s and spent a pleasant afternoon. I spent most of the day with Mr Dean. Nell and Em went down and saw Mrs Bryant.

January 5. I and J Holt went down to Alf Bryant’s then went over to Little Dog Island to see if the fire was all out. Nell and some of the children went over with us.

 January 6. I, J Holt and John left Badger Corner about six to be at a road meeting at J Vireaux arriving there about one, done my business and got home early brought three sheep almost home then lost them. I got my cow and calf in found things alright. I left my wife at J Holt’s to come up in the boat later on.

January 7. I was working about home in the morning the Linda arrived with mail I went to the Settlement then out to Mr Huitfelds and took his mail. I sent out one bale and a half of wool and one bale of Lambswool.

January 8. I delivered the mail all round and stayed at Mr Ferguson’s.

January 9. Nell came home I returned home calling at the mine. I took a bag of skins for Mr Gardener a bag of clippings and four sheep skins for Mr Harrap (mine?) brought the pig down and the rooster set my snares cut some poles to do my fence on the waters edge.

January 14. I carried some poles for my fence Henry came down and burnt the lower block we had a very good burn

January 16. Henry called on his way to the piggery.

January 20. I and Nell went to Mr Vireaux I opened the tenders for road and track C Vireaux got the contract. We went onto Walkers then returned home I paid Mrs Walker for the goods owing

January 24. I was clearing around my fence The mail arrived the Linda the Purdon did not come up this time 

February 4. I went along the road with Claud & Paby then attended a road meeting. Mr J Walker  Gustavrd Missner & Wm Holt was elected as member of the trust.

February 12. Huitfelds Ella and Beatrice Amy and Dora Jane came down I and Nell and the boy went out to Mr Huitfelds and spent the evening.

February 22. I left home called at Killiecrankie the mines and Marshall Cottages met F Boyes and F Goer and the two young O’Dohertys on the road

March 8. I and Horace went early for the sheep got 5 I then went to my snares caught 3 kangaroos and two wallaby called at Mr Huitfelts and left a kangaroo the Linda left  Henry, Jack and Horace went by her.

March 18. Nell and I was very unwell with a cold.

March 22. The Linda arrived with mail Henry came home I received two bags of chaff one bag of potatoes a freight parcel small box  from Mr ….Dargavele forgot to land the cheese from ….. Nell got 3 three pounds of butter from Amy.

 April 2. I found some of my fence washed away had to go and put up temporary a day of rest.

 April 18. (West fresh) I started for Little Dog blown too hard went to Green Island. It was blowing to hard

 April 19 I stayed at Green Island (Big) and helped Bill Philips to kill a pig

 April 20 Helped Bill Philip cut the pig up and then got down to Little Dog early.

Good Friday April 21 (south west) took a walk around Little Dog.

 April 22. Helped J Holt he done twelve hundred birds

 April 23 (Sunday) Went and had 5 hours with Jack and Bill. Walter took my boat to  Green Islands (Little)

 May 14. Nell got a parcel by the Linda owe one shilling freight

May 15. The Linda went to Tanners yesterday then onto ….. I sent four dozen kangaroos and one dozen wallaby I was working about home in the morning then started digging Henry and Amy and the children came down

May 21 (Sun) Mrs Huitfeld and the children came down. Amy and Henry and the children came down looking for the….. Mr Archer called on his way home took the sails of the boat.

May 29. (south east Squally) I have got a bad cold I did not do much work only cut some wood. C Harly called on his way home to Whitemark

June 1. Cleaning up and burning rubbish all the morning. Walter Beeton called on his way to Tips I was digging in my paddock all afternoon A miserable day

June 4. I started for home called at F Boyes saw the surveyors and got their mails met Mr Hermaline and Mrs Huitfelds and the children Henry got home late he having attended a funeral D Maynard having died.

June 9.  I & Nell and the boy and Amy and Dora went down to Green Island started about twelve o’clock and got there about four Wind light.

June 10. I got two small pigs from Mrs Robinson started home no wind till evening then it blew fresh. I went into Long Point and .. all night. the Purdon came in and stayed all night.

June 11. We all started and walked home I left my boat at Long Point. Amy & Nell carried Dora I carried the two pigs a very squally day Henry came down and carried the child home for her

June 12. I made a pigsty an cleaned the other one out it rained all day.

June 26. I have been away to my snares…..Amy came down and brought a fish. J Maynard called on his way home from Town at settlement the craft left Chalky going North

July 14 Mr and Mrs Maynard called in on the way to Double Corner. I and Nell went to the Settlement the Purdon and the Linda arrived 

August 3.  I went to Whitemark attended a road meeting paid H Walker what I owed him returned home calling at double corner and Tip’s.

August 11. Mr and Mrs Maynard called on their way home and staid all night. Saw the Linda laying at Little Hummockey

August 12. I skinned the game then worked till late at my fences. Mr and Mrs Maynard left for the Settlement. I saw a white ketch pass going North……The EH Purdon arrived late with mail.

August 14.  I left Eden’s early called at F Boyes an left his mail there came onto my snares caught three wallaby and one Poss.

August 20. A rough day went and got some winkles.

August 27. I Nell and the boy went out to Mr Huitfelds. Nell fell off Rowdie the saddle rolled

September 15. A very dirty day rains and blows the glass very low at eleven o’clock standing at 29 + 30. I was working in the paddock most of the day very stormy. Nell took ill and passed a lot of blood.

September 16. A very boisterous day I went to my snares caught wallaby and one Poss. Nell took seriously ill and back to her bed. Amy came down and staid all night . I ran to the Settlement

September 17. Amy left for home after giving us all the assistance that late – in her power I was very thankful for Nellie will have to lay in bed for a time. Henry came down.

September 18. I could not get away. Nell being in bed ill Amy and Mrs Huitfeld came down I saw a craft at Green Island not make out

September 20. I went up to the Settlement and brought three boxes and a parcel and remainder of the wire home. Amy came down and stayed the afternoon with Nell and done some ironing.

September 21. I was working around home. Amy came down and helped us most of the day. Nell got up out of bed

September 22. Nell got up and stayed up all day

October 4. I delivered the mail all round I met Mrs …..on her way home from She Oak Point I got 2 lbs of cheese one pound of coffee one pound of cocoa and two…….from Mr Allison. Walter Holt came up.

October 6. We had a good rain. Walter took the mail to White Mark I was working in my paddocks.

October 7. I and Walter went and put some posts in then went out to Mr Huitfelds. I took him a kangaroo and some vegetables.

October 8. Walter Holt left for home paid him two shillings H armstrong came over and took old Lass I went to Long Point got back for dinner Emily and Ella came down.

October 22. I delivered the mail all round paid Mr Allison and paid Mrs Eden W Maynard called.

October 25. I started shearing sheared 19 of my own and one of Mr Huitfelds. The Linda and the Purdon Hailed

October 26. I was shearing all day sheared 21 sheep. Nell went out to Mrs Huitfelds and told him about I having two sheep

November 7. I finished my shearing done the wool up and took to the Settlement. The Purdon arrived Amy heard of her brothers death and one…..

November 15. I got my boat up on the blocks then was cleaning all the morning then was looking for the Purdon. The wind backed into the North East. The Purdon came up. Nelly and Amy and Dora left for Town

November 24. The Purdon arrived. Nell came home.

November 30. Tared the tank then went looking for Doll found her bogged had a very hard piece of work to get out Mr Washbourne Henry and the boys assisted me to get her out

December 1. I and Mr Washbourne got the horse up to the house. I formented Dolls legs Mr Washbourne left for home. The Purdon came up and took 11 sheep from Rabbit Island. I felt very unwell.

December 2. I feel too ill to do anything I formented Dolls legs.

December 4. I have a very bad cold the weather being bad I could not get out to do much I spend a good bit of my time looking after the horse.

December 5. I was working about home looking after Doll Mr J Maynard came down then went to the Settlement

December 31. We all went and spent the afternoon at Huitfelds and I got rather to much wine.

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