Holtermann on Holtermann

Behind the scenes

∫Holtermann Papers ZML MSS 968 item1, held by Mitchell Library

 This is an interesting 18 page manuscript about Bernhardt Otto Holtermann written by Holtermann in the third person, full of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes and difficult to read. Holtermann misused the obsolete English long ‘s’, so that ‘success’ looks like ‘succes∫,' and always spelt ‘then‘ as ‘than’ and ‘trial’ as trail’. He liberally used capital letters, but rarely started a sentence with a capital and rarely ended them. The confusing long ‘s’ has been removed in this transcription, but the other errors have been left. From internal evidence, it seems to have been written in late 1875.

This is the transcription.

"BOH [Holtermann] was born in Hamburg, North Germany 29 April 1838 and was for five years employed in a mercantile house of well known Repute, as Holtermann & Köpke and of late years H.H. Holterman, in 1858 he made up his mind to see the world or rather far famed Gold land Australia, moreso as he had a brother in this colony for Several years and secondly he did not believe to be dressed in military cloth or lose three years of the best of his life as a Soldier, he made a start from Hamburg in a Steamboat to Liverpool on the 15 April [1858] without any English language, started for train to Liverpool, stayed at Liverpool in a Boarding House for ten days with many a little Narrative in this large City as an Mumory [memory] than was imbarked [embarked] as a Sterage [steerage] passenger in the ship “Salem” Capt Watt for Melbourne and started from Liverpool on the 29 April. on the Starting he was surprised as a sign of bad luck as he Terms it, by a large Piece of timber being thrown to on his foot completely Crushing his big toe but to wind up at night he was laid up with the beautifull Sensation of Sea Sickness and combined with being partly Heartbroken without a friend to care for him escept [except] an American Native, than Cabin Cook on Board who attended him like a father and brought him nice things to eat, untill he recovered from his Sickness some 14 days but more like 14 month to him, he than look as no one knows him and wanted something to do to assist the Cook when ever he could and received nothing but real kindness from the whole ship principally the Captain who was as nicer man as ever he meet.

Several dozen Incidents occurred on Board of which he narrated one or two to us, he for the first time in his life saw one day two men quite coldly Stand before one an other, one a Small Englishman and the other a very big Frichman [Frenchman] whom held fell out over something and was Satisfying themselves by punching one an others head & face for about half an hour when the Small man was the Successful one and than both Shoke [shook] hand as friends to his surprise on an other occasion he tried to oblige the Cook with bringing a Pudding to the Cabin in a very Rough Sea, when all at once he and pudding was rolling about the deck of the Ship to the Amusement of the others on Board, on an other occasion he heard some noise down the Hatchway, where his trunks with goods where he got up to look but soon was told to hold his tongue and a very handsome fist shown with the words, if you say anything you go overboard, to which Touring he did not approve and had a couple of days to tell the Captain by being called upon that he had not seen anything fearing some of the Crews determination, on an other day the Stewart [steward] brought a beautiful Ham to the Kitchen for dinner for the Cabin, the Cook a real good fellow, not being ready, hung this Ham up in the Gully [galley] for a few minutes, this Ham did not long hang long before the Sailors prepared to have it and gave me signs of quieting when one began talking to him an other taking it and a third planting it forit [forward], dinner came and Stewart waited for the Ham but after searching with forks in the Boiler the Ham was not there and words issued but was shown by marks the watery Prospect so Silence was my his plea untill a week after the Cook had to cook Portion of this Ham for the sailors when it was proved.

A very bad Disease broke out and they burried [buried] four untill He tried by my his medicine on a German party woman very weak and nearly exhausted and was afraid she had to follow the others, but thanks he safed her and Several others from Severe illness or death and many more mimos [memos] he has during his Passage, which he fully intends Publishing in a small book shortly.

Arriving at Melbourne, after being 101 days out he started for Sydney by Steamer City of Sydney, arrived at Sydney late in the Evening, went a Shore to trace his brother but was told that he had left for the diggings, when with a full heart on Board and made an other Search next day, but was told the Same Story in Bridge Str by a Country man, whom offered him to Stay until he found Employment, he knew no one and had no letters nor could speak much English, after several trails [trials] he engaged on Board of a Small boat as Stewart at 5 £ pr month, paid up his Landlord than in lower George Street now Nil Desperandum Hotel and went to the South Sea Lands & New Caladonian [New Caledonia] for 5 Month among the Blacks with the Ship Rebecca Capt Suther [Souter] arrived at Sydney, again tried many a Billet that was advertised as a Waiter in Photo Gallerie, than at North Shore as a Groom to mind a little Pony and occasionaly pull a Boat to Sydney , which place was just filled by some one ilse and many other trails until He engaged as honourable Waiter in a Public House than the Hamburg Hotel in King Street for ten Shilling pr week, but the Owner a Gentlemanly Master gave him 12/- instead, He stayed there for a few month, had some exsperiance with Gold Miners principally one very rich one from Adelong at them days, he did not like his billet and was going to Adelong or Fairfield [Drake NSW] but his late mate Mr. Beyers Stayed at the Hotel and he made up his mind to have a trail at the than worked out Tambaroora Goldfield or Bald Hill now Hill End, and he never left it for the first five years through not having much success but has many little Annecdotes & mumos [memos] to refer to as a digger and many other occupation that came to hand.

I[n] 1861 he started with Mr. Beyers prospecting Hawkins Hill and never interely left it to present day and Still believes in it with practical men as Leaders, he had many a narrow escape of being killed while Prospecting this Hill and had as many as twenty different Mates, Mr. Beyers leaving him three times the last time he wrote for him to New Zealand, Mr. Beyers was allways ready with labour or money for prospecting this now famous Hill, among many a hardship for years and no assistance from any one except Credit, which often made them look very dull but providence rewarded their Search pretty Handsomely in 1871.in 1866 Mr.Holtmn started through having a few Hundred Pounds Stg from a Surface Crushing, Hotel keeping at Hill End but keeping hold to his claim by Paying in and parting with some Interest 1869 he sold the Hotel and commenced Store keeping, butchering & backing at Chambers Creek, started & finished a Hotel but the Place turn out to be no good and lost all he had besides owed 150 £ Stg. with Balance of Goods after Building a Place at Root Hog he shifted there but neither succeeded in doing any good , he than started and build with his Brother a boat out of a backing through to bring People and horses across the River when up, he made in three month some thirty Pounds, At this time had several offers for his mining Interests, and had nearly closed with one for 200 £, but fortune smiled on him and he did not sell, but undertook to sink their lucky shaft on Speck to get paid his own & his brother wages at 2 £ 10 pr week if payable and nothing if Claim was no good they worked 8 hours shifts from Sunday evening 12 untill Saturday evening 12. he went Security for his & his brothers Share of Debt , he was many a time unable to work, but had to do it as his mates made him and his brother sign an Agreement to the foregoing effect.

Panorama of Central Hawkins Hill (showing Holtermann goldmine), Hill End

He could relate many an incident in his life so would form a good lesson for young people but we will leave that as he is writing a book containing an account of the many incidents both troubles & pleasure that he has undergone still he related some very nice little Annecdotes as to the friendship he received from many a family as we are informed he was never backward in assisting or keeping in Sickness or little odds and Ends that were wanted such as Blacksmithing, Backing [baking] Sundays dinners mending Clocks and any other matter that came to hand but principally the diseased whom he gave medicine & frequently safed life without this he done out of pleasure & comfort to his own feelings for a prosperous future.

B.O.Holtermann (2nd from left), Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Beyers (2nd from right), with reef gold from Star of Hope mine

He made by his mining a deal of money and at once decided to chance one half for the Benefit of the Country and himself in some future time, he started Prospecting a large Field and spent some 8,000 £ but does not know any more now than he did when he started except that the shaft makes about 5000 Gallons of water every hour, but he has Machinery to Pump three times the amount quantity if needed all the original party left but one man and this Claim has been idle the last 18 month. He also started by the idea of a friend, four years ago (Mr Beaufoy Merlin) to take Views and Photographs of the different Parts of this colony and at the same time to collect all information possible in reference of Resources & Population of the different Districts to inable him at some future day to make a Grand show in the European Countries, but Since Mr Merlin died suddenly, he engaged Mr Charles Bayliss of Melbourne, formerly with Mr Merlin and we are proud to state that he has turned out to be as good a Photographer as the following discription will Show. Mr Holtermann has now on hand, some 1000 Nagatives of different Views in the Colony such as Sydney, Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo, Hill End etc etc and in our Sister Colony Victoria, Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo or Sandhurst, Pleasant Creek, Castlemaine etc etc and for the finishing Touch he has taken with Mr Bayliss a splendid Panoramic View of the whole of our City & Suburbs, Harbour and North Shore on direct Nagatives of 18x22 inch forming a length of 33 feet well joined and embracing little more than half a circle, showing distinctly All the Principal Buildings of Sydney & Suburbs for a distance of 4 Miles and more accurately than can be seen with the naked eye, for instance Sign boards four 3 miles off can be read easily on the Photograph, when the House can barely be seen with the naked Eye. this was a piece of work of no small amount of difficulty and Expense, but from the Elevation from where it was taken Mr H [‘s] Tower is of such a commanding position, that every object in the City and surroundings can easily be seen.

Part of a Panorama of Ballarat taken from the Town Hall clocktower with detail from the last section of buildings on the right

This Picture is supposed to be the longest Photo Panorama ever taken in the world. Mr H. has also two smaller Panoramas of same Sights 5 feet and 12 feet long and very handsome.With an Instrument of Superior Class, the Scenery was achieved that has surprised all Artists here and will surprise the whole world principally every Photographer, was to get the largest direct negatives ever taken in the world, which after many attempts for Camera, baths and Collodionising the large Plate Glass weighing some 50lb. was nearly given up in dispair, still on the first trails getting a very good edea [idea] of what could be done and Mr B. O.H. with his Artist Mr Charles Bayliss after many a trail to manipulate a plate of such unusual size and it must be understood, that it was taken by the wet plate process. The greatest difficulty to be contended with was the Collodionizing both in regards to make the Colodion flow evenly over the large glass Plates, and to run it off before any Portion of it dried. this was all achieved on the top of Mr H. [‘s] Tower 10x12 feet and about 90 feet high from where the Plates had to be carried down wet, for to be varnished by the fire, after a few trails this was accomplished and two Nagatives 5 Feet by 3 feet 2 inch representing a View of Sydney Harbour & Suburbs and two others of 4 feet 6 inch by 3 feet 2 inch of Suburbs & Harbour, the whole representing the principal Parts of the City & Harbour these large Photographs are really work of Art in clearness good definition & Sharpness and free from Stains, will compare favourably with a good Card De Visite negative. These are three times larger than any Direct Nagative in the world. Mr H. intends to forward some Copies to Philadelphia for Exhibition and Expects to get the first prise in Photographic for size, and to incourage Emigration to these Colonies we think the Government should support the undertaking as it has allready cost some 4000£ Strl and nothing to our View would do more for Emigration than the real Photo of our Cities & Towns & Country Scenery. Seeing is far superior to lecturing and it would incourage more independent men to come out here. It seems Mr. H after being fortunate did not leave this Colony like many others, but has contributed to several Institutions and Build a most manificent House on one of the Prettiest Spots in this Colony on St Leonards near Sydney it cost him some 12,000 £ with the Land nearly 8 Acre, his Sight can be not be interfeared with by any Party even out of his Varandah or Ground floor, all his Rooms ar very laufty 14 &15 feet high in the Main building the House Contains some 20 Rooms and the Kitchen, Laundry, Stables etc, it overlooks the whole Harbour, St Leonards, city of Sydney, Botany and all Surrounding Subburbs for some 30 miles Distance even the Ocean in three places, it is impossible to discribe the view with a pen in a few Columns it being so extensive and beautifull, it is by all who have seen the Sights acknowledged to be the finest in the world etc I[n] March next we are inform Mr.H is going to take a trip through the Principal Places of Europe and takes with him as an Introduction several of his Photographs of these Colonies which will do the Colony a deal of good by giving far Distant places a sight of our beautiful Harbour etc”

 After a short space, there follows a précis of events in his life which it seems Holtermann intended to expand upon, but never did so.

 “Cautioned public in Mining Speculation 20 Novbr 71. Herald

Effigy was burned for above beginning of Decbr by Diggers & Leaders.

Was Lectunuring [electioneering] for Parliament Service against very able man and beaten by only a few votes”

Transcribed By Alan Davies

[1] Rebecca departed Sydney 12 Sept 1858, returned 17 Jan 1859