John Julian is a historical biography of an early pioneering farmer, John Julian, who married a young Elizabeth Keast in 1843. Soon after the wedding the couple left the green fields of Cornwall they knew so well to start a new life on the other side of the world – in Australia. John was twenty six years old, and Elizabeth only twenty three. At first they travelled to Sydney, and found work on a farm. A year later they sailed up the coast with a baby in Elizabeth’s arms to the Macleay River. In the late 1840s the Macleay River was a dangerous, remote outpost where contracted farm workers lived and worked alongside convicts, and all survived on meagre rations given out by the squatter. Survival depended on being as self-sufficient as possible.
The record starts with details on several generations of ancestors back in Cornwall, then the impressive life of John and Elizabeth Julian, including the many trials and disasters of life at the time.
Following on are biographies of several generations of descendants. In one, that of John’s son Joseph Julian, we discover how Joseph spent much of his life improving and beautifying the town of South West Rocks, and how he became a respected figure locally.
The appendix includes military records of all the Julian family members from the Kempsey district who enlisted in the military during World War I and World War II, some of whom suffered terribly. All veterans were descendants of John and Elizabeth Julian.
Every chapter has a detailed reference listing.
In general the events portrayed give a deeper understanding of life in Australia, and especially the north coast of New South Wales, during the 1800s. This was a period of rapid development, when the majority of the thick coastal rainforest was progressively cleared for intensive farming, using only saws, picks and axes.
The stories told also make it obvious that ‘socially acceptable behaviour’ in the 1800s was very strict, rigid, and clearly defined. In comparison, society today is very flexible, tolerant and forgiving.