The letter was sent “Per 1st Steamer” with the indigo blue 2½d ‘POSTAGE’ stamp postmarked Melbourne 10 / PM/ 3 30/ 30.6.03, and was addressed to Miss Mullin, “Home for Incurables”, Wentworth Street, St. John, New Brunswick, Canada (Figure 1).
The reverse had 3 postmarks, of which two were totally legible. A transit mark of WINDSOR/ 16/ AU 1/ 03/ ONT and a roller reception mark of ST JOHN, N.B. – CAN/ AUG 3/ 1-PM/ 1903 (Figure 2).
There was an enclosed letter of 8 tightly written small pages describing interesting events mostly in Melbourne Victoria, but also in Tasmania. In summary, there is a description of a two week Railway strike in which Melbourne University students acted as special Constables, engine drivers and porters; of heavy rains that broke a severe drought conditions; and an outbreak of small pox in Tasmania. There is also passing reference to a Melbourne Home for Incurables, similar to the one in St. John, New Brunswick, as well as the building-up of St. John after a fire. The letter is quoted in its entirety:
48 Berry Street
26th June 1903
My dearest Kate
I had looked so long and vainly for a postal that when your letter of March 23 arrived it was indeed a glad surprise – you do not say if you recd the letter I directed to the care of the Rector of Trinity in July 1902 but as you have my present address it must be so.
I rejoice to learn that you do not suffer pain like so many around you while from your handwriting I gather that you are stronger than when you last wrote. You never told me exactly how your terrible accident happened.
We had a Railway ‘strike’ lately which caused great inconvenience. It looked very odd – lines of Railway Carriages motionless at the stations for days – and every [one] watched against any attempt of the strikers to destroy them. The students at the University got broken in as Special Constables for this and some of the young fellows were patriotic enough to offer themselves as Engine Drivers and Porters.
Fortunately we had a capable Prime Minister who would make no concessions but insisted on absolute surrender on the part of the disaffected workmen (who were led by ‘Stump’ orators) so, within a fortnight the ‘Strike’ was crushed out.
Our new Commonwealth has begun extravagantly but with time it may improve.
Winter has just begun. There has been recent rains which it is hoped may compensate in some measure for the long and terrible drought in the interior where the crops were a dead failure – and we (near the Coast) had to keep the Farmers families from starvation and send them comforts & Clothing. Govt has supplied them with fresh seed from which great crops are expected for the rains have drenched the land.
Poor ( ? ) had a bad turn two months ago. She looked such a sad thing on our bed, but the enforced rest has been beneficial and she is now about again, looking wonderfully improved. She will take too much out of herself by long walks, and she has many kind young friends who come in turn every day to read or to take her out. This interests her and keeps her cheerful under her great calamity.
You know, I think that my mother(?) died nearly two years ago. Since when, I hear nothing of the Elliott family in America. He was constantly sending and receiving newspapers from them.
I am much interested in your nice Home. It seems to be admirably managed going on your accounts of comfort and enjoyment. You do not say if it is a Government Institution or founded by some benevolent individuals. Here we have Named Hospitals for Incurables founded by a Lady. It has grown very large and receives now a grant from govt every year, besides contributions and bequests from the Citizens.
How thankful we should be to possess such Institutions so fully equipped to shelter and lessen the loneliness of life to the careworn and enfeebled! How I wish I possessed a likeness of you dear Kate. The ‘Views of St. John’ now on my mantle-shelf are the only memento I have of our old days, and the new building-up of the City after its Fires has quite changed its face to me.
The photos we sent you from London were the best ever taken of Alban and myself. I have sent ones of dear old Moses taken in Tasmania, destroyed as unworthy. We hear by telegram to-day that small pox has broken out severely in Tasmania – my first friend there when I arrived as a young girl from Sydney has just died at the age of 80 – not one acquaintance remains – only a cousin in Launceston recently a widow – her two sisters live in this State and in South Australia – they are daughters of Wm Bell – who when poor Joseph died became as a son to our mother, whom he did not long survive.
Good bye dear old friend do not delay to write for our time here will soon end – my feebleness increases rapidly. Thanking you for your interesting letters, Believe me my dear Kate,
Yours lovingly, E. Stonor
Addendum: The Home for the Incurables in St. John, New Brunswick since 1946 is now known as Turnbull Home.