Review Blog

Dec 01 2014

Memoirs of mixed fortunes edited by Mary Louise Simpson

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Wakefield Press, 2014. ISBN 9781743053355
(Age: 16+) Samuel Joseph Stuckey made a major contribution to the establishment of the South Australian pastoral industry but believed that he had been overlooked by history. By editing his memoirs, Samuel's great-grand-daughter, historian Marie Louise Simpson, has provided insights into the life of a determined and resilient man, and the process of colonisation itself.
Convinced that he was the first male child born in South Australia, Stuckey seems to have felt a sense of his own destiny as a 'pioneer'. His remarkable achievements include journeys to the far north-east of the colony, the procurement of camels and Afghan cameleers in what is now Pakistan, the establishment of a sheep station in the northern Flinders Ranges, his partnership with the pastoralist Thomas Elder and his exposure of fraud by government employees charged with draining swamps in the South-East. Marie Louise Simpson's interest in her ancestor was prompted by her discovery that he had shot an Aboriginal man known as Pompey. By examining newspapers of the time, a police report and the pastoralist's two memoirs, she has opened a window onto frontier conflict as it was seen from the European point of view. Stuckey's matter-of-fact account of this and other episodes suggest that he was task-oriented and reticent. Yet occasional flashes of emotion - his 'annoyance' at being charged with murder, stress during his handling of embezzlement and bitterness at his failure to gain recognition - reveal a complex human being.
Readers interested in primary sources will be rewarded with descriptions of India under British rule and pastoralism in regions remote from Adelaide. Family trees and photographs offer glimpses of relatives who are rarely mentioned. While the editor's preface and footnotes are helpful, the text and unexplained terms may be challenging for anyone unfamiliar with the historical context in which Samuel Stuckey told his story.
By revealing the actions and beliefs of one among the many who established European-style agriculture on the Australian continent, Memoirs of mixed fortunes can enrich our understanding of nineteenth-century colonial society.
Elizabeth Bor

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