Thomas Andrew Hamilton was born in Liverpool in 1860 and migrated to Brisbane with his parents, Margaret and Andrew Hamilton and 2 sisters in 1866. Brisbane was a frontier town – free settlement had been legalized only about 20 years previously. Immigration from the British Isles and Europe was assisted by the promise of free or very cheap land.
The family lived near Gregory Terrace for a short time. Andrew went to Gympie hoping to make his fortune on the recently discovered gold fields. He made more money from his trade as a carpenter and joiner and returned to Brisbane to buy land from one of his mining acquaintances. He bought 20 acres at Downfall Creek, later known as Chermside, and he intended to farm the property. It was not good farming land and he was an artisan rather than a farmer. He soon discovered that local farmers could use his building skills and began to make drays for them to transport their crops to the Brisbane markets. His business grew and blacksmithing became another of his trades.
Thomas was the only son to grow to adulthood and he must have been a very observant child. In later years, he described the initial trip to the distant Downfall Creek. He wrote his diaries from about 1890 to 1950. There is a gap of about 10 years from 1891 when some of the diaries appear to have been lost. There are occasional letters, some newspaper clippings, brochures, cards and receipts in some of the diaries. They were never a “dear diary”, dealing with his intimate thoughts but more a record of the daily activities of his family and his business.
From a family history aspect, the diaries give a wonderful picture of the family and life in a growing community. It’s possible to trace the growth of businesses, education, communications, religion and churches, local government and leisure activities from a close scrutiny of these diaries. Thomas and his wife, Margaret, were interested in all these aspects of daily living and it is difficult to see where he had time to actually write up his diaries.
They also show how outside influences affected the family –chain migration, Federation debates, World War1 and World War 11, Spanish flu, the Depression and the growing automobile industry. He never wrote when he went on holidays or when he was seriously ill. His daughter-in-law, Mary Hamilton wrote the final entries for his diary. He was aware of their value as a historical record and that probably explains the low emotional aspect of the diaries, except on two occasions – when his son returned from the war and when his wife died.
Their value to historians will only increase in the coming years and we are grateful to his descendants who have allowed generous access to this material.
Photographing the Hamilton Diaries
It was a real achievement to photograph each page of the Hamilton Diaries (46 books) over the 12 month period of 2006. The work was done by Beverley Isdale, Carol Cunningham, Margaret Argo and Peggy Endres. This was a pleasant task as the group would meet once a week at Joan Hamilton’s home, working in her pool room under the house and be served the most delicious morning tea by Joan every time.
The diaries had been kept for many years in an old tin trunk and each page was photographed by a digital camera, downloaded onto a laptop and then cropped to an appropriate size for easy reading. These pages were printed by Able to Copy and a full set presented to the Hamilton family by the society. A full set is held at the home of the society and can be viewed by attending the old school building during opening hours or by organizing a time with a member of the executive committee for a private viewing.
Peggy Endres typed 11 years of the diaries before moving to Bribie Island to live. Currently there are two volunteers typing diaries for our society through the Queensland State Library volunteer group.
- Hamilton diaries transcribed - This list shows where we are at in transcribing the Andrew Hamilton diaries