The Goulds in the Hunter Region of NSW 1839 – 1840

The Goulds in the Hunter Region of NSW 1839 – 1840

See also:

Featured Image:

LHS: ‘Birdman’ John Gould at the age of 45 by T H Maguire

RHS: Elizabeth Gould in a portrait after her death at the age of 37. The cockatiel she holds was one of those brought back from Australia.

Gratefully Acknowledge:

Albrecht, based on the map ‘Journeys on horseback, Hunter/Goulburn Valley, NSW,, December 1842 – March 1943 in Aurousseau 1968, p. 610 and map ‘Probable Arrangements of the Hunter River Delta, circa 1800’ in ‘Inquiry into Pollution. Kooragang Island’ E. J. Coffey (Commissioner), 1973, p. 20)

Naturae Number 2, ‘The Goulds in the Hunter Region of NSW, 1839 – 1840’ by Glenn and Jillian Albrecht, August 1992. ISSN 1038-5371. ISBN 0 7326 0411 7

John and Elizabeth Gould were married in 1829 both aged 25. Elizabeth Gould’s brothers Charles and Stephen Coxen had already emigrated to Australia taking up land in the Dartbrook region of the Upper Hunter Valley in NSW. (See also: Charles Coxen had been requested by the Zoological Society in London to study and collect native species of Australian birds.

During their peripatetic sojourn in the Upper Hunter and the Liverpool Plains 1839/1840 the Gould’s were able to describe, document and record at least 106 local species. (See pp. 27 – 34 of Naturae Number 2, ‘The Goulds in the Hunter Region of NSW, 1839 – 1840’ by Glenn and Jillian Albrecht, August 1992. ISSN 1038-5371. ISBN 0 7326 0411 7.

This was the foundation of the epic “The Birds of Australia 1840 – 1848”, 7 Volumes, London. Glenn and Jillian Albrecht conclude: ‘How fortunate that a major part of their Australian visit was spent in a region in which such natural abundance, in such a favourable season. We may indeed be grateful that circumstances guided John and Elizabeth Gould to the Hunter Region in 1839-40’.

Elizabeth and John Gould

English natural history artist Elizabeth Gould (nee Coxen) (1804-1841) and her husband John Gould spent time at ‘Yarrundi’, near Scone, in the late 1830s. ‘Yarrundi’ was owned by Elizabeth’s brothers, Charles and Stephen Coxen. The brothers provided Elizabeth and John with hundreds of Australian bird specimens, which were illustrated and described in the two-volume publication, Synopsis of the Birds of Australia (1837-38).

Elizabeth busied herself sketching birds while her husband and Aboriginal helpers collected new species. ADFAS in the Community 10 John Gould FRS* (1804 –1881) was an English ornithologist and bird artist. He published several monographs on birds, illustrated by plates that he produced with the assistance of his wife, Elizabeth Gould, and several other artists. [ * Fellow of the Royal Society] He has been considered the father of bird study in Australia and the Gould League in Australia is named after him.

His identification of the birds now nicknamed “Darwin’s finches” played a role in the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould’s work is referenced in Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species. He is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. In 1838 John and Elizabeth Gould sailed to Australia, intending to study the birds of that country and be the first to produce a major work on the subject. They took with them the collector John Gilbert. They arrived in Tasmania in September, making the acquaintance of the governor Sir John Franklin and his wife. Gould and Gilbert collected on the island.

In February 1839 Gould sailed to Sydney, leaving his pregnant wife with the Franklins. He travelled to his brother-in-law Stephen Coxen’s station at ‘Yarrundi’ Scone, spending his time searching for bowerbirds and lyrebirds in the Liverpool Range. He reported to Elizabeth that ‘he was in excellent health and the colony agrees with me well’. He also mentioned the devastating drought. In April he returned to Tasmania for the birth of his son. In May he sailed to Adelaide to meet Charles Sturt, who was preparing to lead an expedition to the Murray River. Gould collected in the Mount Lofty Range, the Murray Scrubs and Kangaroo Island, returning to Hobart in July. He then travelled with his wife to ‘Yarrundi’.

They returned home to England in May 1840. The result of the trip was The Birds of Australia (1840–1848). It included a total of 600 plates in seven volumes, 328 of which were new to science and named by Gould. He also published A Monograph of the Macropodidae, or Family of Kangaroos (1841– 1842) and the three volumes work The Mammals of Australia (1849–1861). Elizabeth died in 1841 after the birth of their eighth child, Sarah, and Gould’s books subsequently used illustrations by several artists, including Edward Lear, Henry Constantine Richter, William Matthew Hart and Joseph Wolf.

John Gilbert spent further time with the Coxens of ‘Yarrundi’ in 1944 before moving north to the Darling Downs in Queensland. It was in Queensland that he joined the exploration party of Ludwig Leichhardt to journey overland from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. Gilbert was speared to death by Aborigines near the Gulf of Carpentaria in June 1845 (Sauer 1982:123-124).