The decision to leave
Everard Digby, son, brother, barrister, gentleman, intellectual, writer, Irishman, Catholic. All these words could be used to describe this man whose life began in one country and when he ended in another, could be added husband, father and soldier.
Everard was fatherless from a very young age - his father died when he was only five years old - and as the elder of two sons, after matriculating from school he found himself responsible for the well being of his family, particularly his mother, Kate Digby, as he took on the roles of agent and manager of the Digby lands in Roscommon County. His education at Stonyhurst College and his life as a member of the gentry is described in the previous story, Life at the Big House, but here are fuller excerpts by Everard of his life, penned under the title Retrospective, on May 20th, 1882, the year after he arrived in Australia. These reflections on his life he wrote between 1882 to 1886.
In the month of August 1874 I returned from school to Drumdaff to find my mother with the charge of our property on her shoulders, her only brother (brother agent) being a drunkard and her nephew also the same. To try and settle matters so that we might live, I remained at home doing agent's work and manager's work. Provided with a house and made much of by my mother and sisters, being fresh from school, I unfortunately fell into a country life uneventful and unprofitable. Before twelve months, however, on return of my brother from school I had discovered that my time was being wasted, yet, wishing to keep my mother and sisters comfortable, and being ignorant of every walk of life, I held on. On my brother joining the medical profession in November 1875 my discontent became very great, yet, until spring of 1887, owing to my time being pleasantly diversified with cricket, hunting and shooting...I did not take any steps towards doing anything for myself. During a trip I made to Dublin in the Spring of 1887 I met an old friend...talking to him on various personal matters, he asked why I buried myself in the country, and why I did not go into the World in some profession. This set me thinking seriously. I felt infinitely disgusted with the life I had been living. I paid a visit to Stonyhurst in August the same year, on my way to which I stopped with my uncle in Dublin . The general opinion of the household was that I ought to leave Drumdaff and choose a profession, which sank deeply into my mind. On my return from Stonyhurst, while lying in the bath on board the steamer, I went over everything that I thought was open to me. I may state here that I always felt an inclination for the Law, ignorant indeed of the difficulties attending it. I used to think it would be very fine to speak in court and defend prisoners successfully. Besides, too, it was an intellectual occupation which had great charms for me, both by giving power and position, and by taking one from among a society the member's company which had not thoughts or ambitions above the sheep and cattle they dealt in. I always had ambitions and desires which had ever been my curse, since I am painfully conscious of my own want of ability, power and special education, to compete with superior opponents, which knowledge makes me diffident and unwilling to enter such contests and my male relatives, being neither willing nor able to direct me, I was left a waif to pick up such knowledge as I could under the charge of my mother, doing charitable and everything good, but wholly unacquainted with struggle ever going in the great world. Poor mother, had you known earlier that there is wealth and position to be gained by hard struggle, I would have been, before this, in a better position to help you. To return from this digression: I suppose my fancy for the law had an appreciable affect on directing me to the Bar, for in the succeeding January (1878) I went to Dublin and entered the King's Inns, having obtained the necessary payment of fees and other matters by negotiating a bill for sixty pounds. During my first year as a law student I discovered that I could not get as full a training as I desired owing to my want of money. This poverty was discouraging, and that too in more ways than one. It prevented me from getting into the society of leading men whose acquaintance would be useful, and left me among a set, pleasant and poor and with not a little ability, but not in any position amongst men. However, I applied myself to learn law after a fashion, and until my "call" in November 1880, I am satisfied to do all I could do to obtain knowledge. The problem of human life and the objects of it in 1879 began to increase my self-discontent. I was not objectively discontented and gave a distempered tinge to my mind, which it unfortunately still bears.
During his university year of 1879 Everard suffered a severe respiratory illness that impacted further on his state of mind about his studies, but more profoundly, set a completely new course in his life, a course that meant him leaving his family and his beloved Ireland, never to live there again.
In the spring of 1879 I suffered an attack of Inflammation of the Lungs which nearly carried me off, and which left me in a state of health that life was not worth living in the climate of Ireland. This, in connection with the difficulties of money and others which I saw arising, helped to discourage my legal studies, and between February 1789 and November 1880 I on more than one occasion entertained the idea of giving up the bar, and embarking on something that would give me a fixed salary, however small, in a favourable climate. My friends dissuaded me from this and I was eventually called to the bar in Nov. 1880 having negotiated another bill to provide the money needed.
After considering all his options for a place to live that would best suit him, Everard finally said farewell to his mother, sisters Caroline and Mary and brother George, setting off on the S.S. "Cuzco" in October 1881, his hopes high for a new, healthy life in a warmer climate. His later writings also suggest he was escaping his mother's expectations of him, and seeking a freedom he could not find in Roscommon, or perhaps even in Ireland.
I had been revolving in my mind whither I should go and having learned what I could about the W. Indies, India, the Cape and Australia I decided on the latter as being the most suitable climate...(and) with an increasing populations affording good inducements to a member of my profession. Learning that Sydney was less crowded than Melbourne and that a young man had a better chance there, and also that the prospects of N.S.W. looked brighter than those in Victoria, I decided to see Sydney. Moreover, knowing that I had a relative in N.S.W. any interest that I may have had was drawn to that colony.
Life on the high seas
Everard, always keen to put pen to paper, took the opportunity to record his trip to Australia from October 1st to November 21st, 1881, joining forces with another passenger on the Cuzco, a Messr. Standish. They produced three volumes which they named The Cuzco Chronicle, including, as well as articles, a daily log.
The Cuzco Chronicle
Selections from Daily Notes of the Voyage on the S.S. Cuzco of the Orient Line
Saturday October 1st
Left Plymouth en route to Australia. Weather charming. Two of the saloon passengers left behind.
Tuesday October 4th
Sea sickness pretty general and each passenger engaged in contemplating self.
Wednesday October 5th
Sighted Madeira at 9.30a.m. Saw some flying fish. Sea sickness wearing off. Danced on the deck in the evening.
Sunday October 9th
Anchored at St Vincent at 8a.m. Passengers spent day ashore.
Wednesday October 12th
In the "Doldrums". A boxing contest of the deck by second saloon passengers.
Friday October 14th
Crossed the line at noon. Saw no sign of Neptune nor of the line either
Abstract of Log up to 12 noon Friday 14th October 1881
.0.0 Long 11.37 W. Dist from Plymouth 3444 miles
Wednesday October 19th
Passed some wreckage at 1.40. Had some high jumping on the deck in the afternoon.
Friday October 21st
Sea still rough. Passengers permitted to their baggage.
Summary of log up to Noon, Friday 21st October 1881
Lat 25.01S Long 9.07E Distance from Plymouth 5367 miles
Sunday 23rd October
A whale seen...8.30a.m. Tug-of-war, leapfrogging during the afternoon.
Monday 24th October
Arrived at Cape Town...Passengers spent the day ashore.
Thursday 26th October
Weather squally. Passengers lashed to their seats.
Wednesday 2nd November
Concert given by third class at 7.30p.m.
Wednesday 9th October
Fog in the morning & ditto all day. Presentation of watch and address to Capt. Ridler after dinner.
Saturday 12th November
...in the evening an address was presented to E. Digby in the Ladies' First Salon.
Wednesday 16th November
Made Melbourne 10a.m. Day ashore
Saturday 19th November
Log 38.21S 149.39E
Gabo Island and frontier line at 5.55p.m.
Monday 21st November
Sydney wharf 8 a.m.
Farewell to the "Cuzco".
The trip, though, was not all dinner at the Captain's table and quoits on the deck as Everard's following poem shows. It was penned as he sat on the deck of the Cuzco as it "ploughed through the Bay of Biscay," in "intervals of fierce spasms", on October 10th.
Oh many a wish I had
In the days of the past, far away!
I had wished for both good things and bad:
I had wished, I had wished, but now say:
At present my earnest desire
My wish of all wishes to be -
To saw off the tops of the billows
And fill up the ruts i the sea.
Some wish for a life on the wave -
I am sure they have never left land -
And for "homes on the rolling deep" rave
I just wish they were here nigh at hand.
If e'er you got me to go sailing
The first thing I tell you must be
To cut off the tops of the billows
And fill up the ruts in the sea.
My country I've left far behind me,
And leagues of the ocean sailed o'er:
Ah! I once hoped a few years would find me
Returning to visit her shore.
But all my fond hopes are now shattered,
I'm an exile determined to be
Till they've cut off the tops of the billows
And filled up the ruts in the sea.
Everard's co-editor was suffering from something other than seasickness, with the reality of having said goodbye to a loved one eating at his heart, as he describes in the following, simply called "Verse", which appeared in Volume 1 of the Cuzco Chronicles. No doubt many others leaving their homeland would have been feeling as he did as they sailed off into an unknown future far away.
Sad and dejected am I now
That I have said adieu
Oh sometimes think dear one of me
I'll always think of you
Tho' far and farther we remove
Beyond the range of sight
Still closer with the bonds of love
Our kindred souls unite
Full is my heart sincere my sigh
On this I cannot dwell;
What grief it was to say "goodbye"
My heart alone can tell.
Everard, on the other hand, seemed full of thoughts of an idyllic and different future when he penned "Pro Natura", for Volume 2. By Volume 3 he was contemplating the meaning of life and its uncertainties in "A Choice".
I would that it never were taught me
To read or to write or to spell
The troubles that all these have brought me
I am wholly unable to tell
Thro' the World I'd happily wander
Without any care or annoy
On the future I never would ponder
And only the present enjoy
I'd rejoice in my strength and my stature
I'd dive and I'd swim and I'd run
I would eat but when prompted by Nature
And bask in the beams of the sun
My limbs would be free and unfettered
My mind unencumbered by Lore
I would live like the savage - unlettered
And die - to be heard of No more.
My life is but a little span
I know not e'en its length;
I take of joy what'ere I can
While I have got the strength
I know not when I'll be compelled
To quit the life I hold
So now, before the tree is felled
I'll pluck its fruit of gold
And if to pluck the fruit be mine
'Tis but one boon I crave
That 'ere life's sun has ceased to shine
I rest within the grave
Our years should be with pleasure rife
A laugh our latest breath,
For but an Epigram is life
Of which the point is death.
Life in Sydney
Everard set up practice as a barrister at 83 Elizabeth St, Sydney but found it very hard to establish himself, believing both his nationality and his religion to be working against him, making it very hard to gain what he saw as meaningful and regular work. Consequently, much of his writing over the early years in Sydney reflects his despair, doubting his capacity to make a decent living. To add to his misery he missed his family, particularly his mother, and he missed Ireland terribly. At times his uncertainty led him to consider death as a way out.
Prayer in depression and doubt
20th October 1882
Almighty power whose will decreed
This form of clay;
Turn not away from me in need,
But hearken when I pray.
If thou dost shape my earthly course
I ask thee to show
Whither may lead my beings force
While exiled here below.
In drear uncertainty I grope,
And darksome night;
Leave me not thus, let kindling Hope
Shine out with certain light.
But health and work is all I ask,
Then I am blest;
Equal to grapple with every task
I'll answer for the rest.
Verses 1 & 3 of 6
Though the land of my birthplace, my green island home
Save dreaming I never shall see,
Be my fate what it may whereso'er I may roam
I will ever be faithful to thee,
I will ever be faithful to thee
Though from Erin I'm driven by fate's cruel jest
To wander, a pilgrim of woe,
A heart-burning longing - as pigeon from nest -
I cherish: my thoughts to you go,
Every minute my thoughts to you go.
Despite his early optimism, Everard's dreams soured as he struggled to find a place in his new country. Reasoning why he chose Australia, Everard had mentioned a relative living there. This person was Charles Lloyd whose sister was Everard's paternal grandmother having married her cousin, Thomas George Digby. Charley Lloyd, as he was known, left Ireland with his brother Tom in 1852 to try their luck on the Victorian goldfields. then, after managing one grazing property he bought another, Yamma Station, near Narrandera, New South Wales, in 1857. Charley Lloyd spent his life with his wife Lucy between Yamma station and their house, Lissadurn in the well heeled Melbourne suburb of South Yarra. His great love was horse racing, and he was well known in racing circles. It was at Yamma that he was residing when Everard arrived in Sydney, 350 miles west of that city. Despite the distance, Everard found his way there two months after his arrival, in January 1882.
October 22nd, 1882
A source of grievous trouble to me is that I am the recipient of kindness which, while conscious of my deserving, I am entirely unable to repay. At present I cannot assist myself, let alone anybody else, and for me it is manifest that, in then future, I will be unable to repay any kindness that I at present receive.
I am at a loss to understand how I got into my present state. Unfortunately circumstances, owing to the early death of my father, meant I would be compelled to try and choose for myself a suitable course in life. I may say truly that I made use of all opportunities attended for me for then acquisition of knowledge and passed my studies conscientiously and to the best of my power. I have not been extravagant, on the contrary I have striven to be economical amongst many inducements to spend. I have not been a drunkard but have always been sober and ready for any call at any moment. I am willing to work if work is to be provided to me...Further, I am anxious to help my mother and sisters and would deny myself many things to see them comfortable. Added to these I am not deficient in intelligence, and yet - I am in idleness and poverty with every prospect of remaining so if I try to keep in the position for which I am fitted, and to which, at one time Fate seemed to impel me...
May 4th, 1883
I am in receipt of a letter from Ireland in which I am told to have patience, and to pray that my reward will be "success". But I am growing old and my temper is getting spoiled: disappointment and ill treatment have done their work. Patience I must have perforce; but prayer I cannot utter. I have abandoned God and he has abandoned me so that it would be mere presumption to ask for assistance on High.
Two years after his visit to Charles Lloyd and Yamma Station, on April 28th, 1884, Everard wrote the following which tells us much about his thoughts and feelings at the time.
Fugit Ineperabile tempus
I've passed life here on life's journey, in this distant southern clime
To let my thoughts run backwards in the past:
There crowds upon me scenes and faces of the bygone time
Which I little thought could ever go so fast.
The graceful myall shades me with its drooping feath'ry bough,
The harsh voiced parrots chatter o'er my head;
The kangaroo hops slowly by and stops to view me now
As knowing that my thoughts are with the dead.
The iguana crawls upon the blue-gum's ghostly trunk,
Pale spectre of the spirit of the plains;
Wild turkeys careless of me in the tussocks thick are slunk:
'Tis noontide in the bush and quiet reigns,
The glaring sun, and burning air, and everything around
Remind me I'm an exile and alone.
My gaze through twisted branches is on the blue profound,
My mind is far away and wandering on.
Ah! Mother shall I see her face, or hear her voice again:-
Why, why did I not love her as I should!
I curse myself when e'er I think of how I caused her pain,
And so often - how could I hurt one so good.
But I was ever restless and more irksome grew her love
When she tried to still my spirit bent to roam;
She loved me best of all; to keep me by her side she strove,
Yet I left her, I could not stay caged at home.
I have not once regretted the step that I have ta'en
Tho' times are not the brightest for me now -
The folks may call me restless, and my life appears but vain,
Thank God no shame is marked upon my brow.
My name is still unsullied:- then what are then odds I pray
Whether I am poor or rich, or up or down -
There is no use in stopping short or grumbling by the way,
A smile's as lightly carried as a frown.
The dead return not, come not back the seasons they are gone,
Most of mine I don't care to see:
I chose my path, I'd not go back or choose another one:-
If I chose wrong the fault's alone with me.
I blame no others, yet I think had other fate been mine
A happier time I would perhaps have seen,
And my life might be worth living - well, at times I have great doubt
That it's worth the slightest struggle to maintain:-
I'm often sorely tempted to put my own candle out,
For I fail to see how ought can by me gain.
Away those bootless fancies - I'm sure the life of man
Has got a time of pleasure and of woe:
The first I've had my share of and quickly through it ran,
So I must not grumble if this life is slow
And at times it's very dreary, for I ever love the pace
Which in the end is always sure to kill -
Yet there's no use in my flagging when I'm well out of the race
And I must pull up tho' sorely 'gainst my will.
And yet it's very hard on me, when I have got the stuff
To finish in a place, to feel I'm beat
For want of that condition - for me little is enough -
Opportunity: I'd soon move in my seat,
I've stirred to ride my fences in the places I have picked:
Which principle I hold is never wrong -
How easy t'is to say we're right, how willingly we're tricked
By our own opinion whether weak or strong.
I would the race were over - but while between then flags
I'll cheer my heart and still keep ploughing on,
Lest I fall further backward; for if one ever lags
When the finish comes his chances will be gone.
But why should I be saddened now, the race is not yet o'er,
The time's not come in Pluto's hall to sup:-
A race is never lost 'til won, "tis never won before
The numbers on then board are hoisted up.
E. D. 83 Elizabeth St, Sydney
The scene of the above musings is not in my chamber but is in the Riverina, N.S.W. The thoughts
and ideas expressed occurred to me in January 1881 when in then bush at Yamma, but it is only
at then present writing that I put them in words.
In March, 1886, Everard's writing shows his continuing frustration at his lack of advancement in any of the aspects of his life he saw as important.
I have been, during the last couple of days, taking a retrospect of my lie in Australia and I have come to the conclusion that I have made but little headway in a financial point of view, and indeed in any other. Inability to conquer my pride and to accept the beliefs and opinions of the majority is the main enemy that has opposed my progress while in strong auxiliary has been my poverty which has prevented me from making the necessary advances in social life which are, I may say, of vital importance to a stranger who wants to make headway in Sydney. My religion (R.C) has also been a bar to my advancement, tho I am not in any way bigoted.
The following summary of Everard's finances from 1st December 1881, the month after he arrived in Sydney, until May, 1884, gives a more specific picture of his position, and includes loans from Charles Lloyd (CML).
1st December 1881 - 0
1st December 1882 - 1 years Cost me £400
1st December 1883 - 2 which equals £160
1st December 1884 - 6 months
Received from CML £250 by cheques
" " " £70
Had on hand £160
Less cost of life £400
£80 balance in Bank + due outside
RHL 35/- per week 91-0-0 1st December 1883
Chambers 46/- per month 27-0-0 to 1st June 1884 85-0-0
2 suits clothes 7-0-0
2 pairs boots 32/6 3-5-0
2 hats 13/- 1-0-6
Shirts, gloves, collars, ties etc 5-0-0
Necessaries £ 141-11-0
Charles Lloyd was one of the few men, if not the only one in Australia, who Everard could turn to for help. In a letter written on September 12th, 1886 Charles offers him some financial assistance and vital words of advice.
12th September 86
My dear Everard
I got yours on the 3rd inst. when I was starting for the Wagga Show and this is the first post by which I could answer it since my return.
You ask for my advice - which I give you "in one act", Stick to your profession at all risks I'll see you through - By the time shearing is finished I shall be Square with the Bank, and if you can hold on for about a month longer I will square you up also - I cannot do it before as you know I have a very heavy overdraft myself - but it will be all right if we live long enough. I hope the Bank is not pressing you, if so I will act at once. So write and tell me - Never mind your indebtedness to me, all that will come right - I'm not frightened, as you need not be - I wish you would make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness and see Dalley Jennings and the so called leading men of your own faith, if you would only put your pride in your pocket, you would be sure to get on, like a house on fire - I know this will be unpalatable advice to you but there is nothing like sticking to the rising men...
I cannot go - as the shearing will be over by 26th and I must stay to settle up -
The place looks beautiful but I hope we shall have more rain. Frosts last three nights.
Write again soon
Charles M Lloyd
Everard's writings show that his concern about failing his mother was strongly on his mind, as this excerpt from March 6th, 1884 illustrates.
The knowledge that my mother expects me to advance in life and that she must suffer previously when she knows of my failure (how I hate then word) causes me more uneasiness than anything that can affect me personally. I would do anything to please her, and yet, tho' I have the will the way is wanting. Am I to fill up the cup of her trials in this world, I in whom she placed such hopes, I who am most unworthy of her affection, she who has borne me.
Whether or not it was because of concern about his brother's state of mind, George Digby travelled to Sydney at the end of 1884, arriving on December 30th on the Abergeldic, having sailed from Plymouth. The only remaining evidence of his trip are some portrait photographs taken of him in Sydney. No more, either, is known of Everard's relationship with Charles Lloyd, who died in 1908. His wife, Lucy, maintained contact with Everard and became the god-mother of Everard and Edie's first son, John. Lucy Lloyd was to play a part in the family's life during the First World War and eventually went back to England.
Despite his brother's visit, things did not appear to improve any too soon for Everard, whose despairing tone continued. He was very self-critical, seeing himself as "proud and sensitive and too conscious of my shortcomings" and "unfit to compete with those who have no true self-respect."
On all sides I have found that my Nationality and Creed have been hostile to me. Had I made my friends and acquaintances amongst the Catholics I might have met with more support, but I was not used to their kind of society which, tho' respectable and honest, did not possess the refinement and style I found among then other Social Class. Besides, the connections were among the anti-Irish Catholic Class...
In November 1889 Everard made application to become a solicitor, petitioning the government to allow a barrister to practice as a solicitor without taking the solicitor's exams. As a result of his action a law was passed to that end the following year, as a report in the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday, 30th August,1890.
In a more recent publication, "A History of Solicitors in New South Wales" by J. M. Bennett, a reference is made to this change on page 211, and outlines Everard's role in it.
(i) Yesterday the court gave through a long list of general motions, many of which were formal in character. Mr Everard Digby, barrister, was, upon his own application, disbarred that he might practice as a solicitor. During then application Mr Justice Windeyer expressed his approval of the Bill now before Parliament for the amalgamation of the two branches of the legal profession.
(ii) On 29 November 1890 Everard Digby signed the roll of solicitors following his admission into that capacity after having his name, at his own request, removed from the Bar roll. He was the first to be so without service of articles. It was a symbolic occasion for it went far to demonstrate that the sharp division forced upon the legal profession in 1834 had been eased appreciably...
In passing, Digby may be noticed here as an interesting figure. Born in Ireland in 1854, he went on to read the law, becoming a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and being called to the Bar at King's Inns. He arrived in Sydney in 1881 and practised at the Bar until securing his admission as a solicitor. He kept his name on the roll until World War I...
Australian Men of Mark
In his time in Sydney, one person Everard did become associated with, to his advantage, was Charles Frederick Maxwell, a member of a well-known law publishing family and agent for Sweet and Maxwell in London. They ran a book selling business at 81 Chancery Lane, Melbourne and in the late 1880's the business operated out of Victoria Arcade, 79 Elizabeth St, Sydney. In 1888 Maxwell appointed Everard editor of a special centennial work, Australian Men of Mark. Written in two large and impressive volumes, it embodied the work of "many months careful labour" and which were further described by the publisher as "creditable specimens of the publishing art, and worthy repositories of the records of the first century af Australian history." Inside the red and gold embossed covers are one hundred biographies, all men, who were deemed to have made their mark in the development of Australia from 1788 to 1888, each one accompanied by a full page lithographic portrait.
Unfortunately Charles Maxwell did not live to see the finished books. He died on June 4th, 1889. Consequently Everard, as editor, took on the completion of the publication with official assistance from George C. Addison, a barrister, in the editing. Addison went on to become Chief Industrial Magistrate in New South Wales.
The only surviving item relating to Everard and Men of Mark is a small notebook, mainly containg his poetry. In the back are records of proof reading the biographies returned to the publisher from 1888 and '89. The notes show that whilst George Addison was the official editorial assistant, another person who had come into Everard's life, who was his unofficial assistant. She was a beautiful young red-head, Edith Macknight.
The notebook also contains details, month by month, of work done and of payments from Maxwell to Everard totalling six hundred and ninety pounds. Considering the struggles he had been having, the money must have been very welcome.