In this video, Jock Murphy, from the State Library of Victoria, describes the process of acquiring the diaries of Joseph Jenkins, also known as the Welsh Swagman, an itinerant labourer in Victoria in the mid 1800s.
Further InformationAcquiring the Joseph Jenkins Diaries
Interview with Jock Murphy
Transcript of video
State Library of Victoria
In 1975, this book, the ‘Diary of a Welsh Swagman’ was published here in Melbourne by Sun books. It aroused immediate and continuing interest. People would often contact the Library just assuming that we held the original diaries, because of course having been given an introduction by looking at the published form, they wanted to see the full 25 years worth, not just an edited version. But in fact the diaries were not held here, at the State Library nor were they held in any other Library in Australia. No one at any of the major Australian Libraries knew of the location of the original diaries or even whether they still existed.
Peter Bristow, a man from Mt Eliza here in Melbourne, had been on a trip to the UK and he had gone to Wales. He had taken, purely of his own volition, the initiative of finding Miss Frances Evans who owned the diary and contacting her, knocking on her door and suggesting to her that she should think of placing the diaries here in the State Library’s Collection. So you can imagine my surprise when in October 1995 I was contacted by Peter Bristow who told me this story and told me that I should now contact Miss Frances Evans and see what I could do about arranging to have the Library acquire the diaries.
I wrote to Miss Evans in Wales and I arranged for her to be visited by Miss Sarah Joins who’s a Library Consultant who’s based at Australia House in London. And so Sarah Joins went to Wales and visited Miss Evans. We were expecting that Sarah would simply look at the diaries and provide us with a report but instead of that we had our second great breakthrough when Sarah returned to London she was able to contact me and tell me that in fact Miss Evans had agreed to her taking the diaries and that she had permission to send them to Australia so that we could assess them.
Once the diaries were received by Sarah Joins on behalf of the Library they were taken to London. There she had to obtain an export licence which is what we can see here, to take them out of the UK and then they had to be sent to Australia by courier and of course they had to be insured while they were travelling. Here in Australia we had to assess the diaries then we had a valuer come in to look at them. Then we had to obtain the approval of the Library Board because this was quite a major purchase.