Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Barnett, Emily Caroline (1860–1944)

by Winsome J. M. Maff

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Emily Caroline Barnett (1860-1944), explorer, was born on 1 November 1860 in a ship in the Bay of Bengal, India, daughter of Captain George Cayley Robinson, Royal Artillery officer, and his wife Mary Harriet, née Woodward. Following Caroline's birth, Robinson took his family to England. They lived at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, where Caroline was educated, and migrated to Australia in 1876. She gave her place of residence as her uncle's home at Goodna, Queensland, when she married Irish-born Harry Alington Creaghe, a station-manager, on 7 December 1881 in St Paul's Anglican Church, Ipswich; they were to have three sons, the first of whom died in infancy.

In December 1882 the Creaghes left Sydney by steamer to join Ernest Favenc and his wife on Thursday Island. Favenc planned to explore a region in the Northern Territory bounded by the Nicholson River, Powells Creek and the Macarthur (McArthur) River. The two women were to be part of the expedition. Travelling by sea, the party landed at Normanton on 17 January 1883. There Elizabeth Favenc became ill and her husband escorted her to Sydney, while Caroline accompanied Harry and four other men on a two hundred-mile (322 km) ride south-west to Carl Creek station which they reached at the end of the month; one man died of sunstroke en route. Ten weeks later they retraced their steps as far as Gregory Downs station where Favenc and Lindsay Crawford were waiting. On 14 April the explorers set out westwards.

Battling thirst and flies, with food supplies dwindling, they were frequently exhausted and occasionally in fear of attack by Aborigines, but reached the telegraph station at Powells Creek on 14 May. After a few days rest Harry and Caroline, now pregnant, drove the weaker horses north to Katherine telegraph station. Favenc and Crawford pushed east to inspect the country near the Macarthur River. Accompanied by Alfred and Augusta Giles of Springvale station, the Creaghes made a leisurely journey to Port Darwin and left for Sydney by sea on 22 August. From 1 January 1883 Caroline had kept a diary of her adventures which contained descriptions of topography and vegetation, observations of frontier life and comments on the relations between Whites and Aborigines.

The Creaghes returned to the land in Queensland where Harry was accidentally killed in 1886. On 10 December 1889 in St Paul's Church, Rockhampton, Caroline married English-born Joseph Jupp Smallman Barnett (d.1922); they were to have six children. Joseph was the manager of nearby Apis Creek and Marlborough stations. Intending to visit her sister, in 1899 Caroline sailed for New Zealand with five of her children and a nurse as the only passengers in the Perthshire. Disabled by a broken propeller-shaft on 28 April, the ship drifted perilously in the Tasman Sea for seven weeks until she was taken in tow and returned to Sydney: Caroline recounted the experience to a press interviewer with characteristic equanimity. She and Joseph lived at Marlborough for some twenty years, before shifting to Rockhampton—where Caroline ran a guest house—and finally moving to Sydney in 1920. Two of her sons, one of whom died of wounds in France, served in the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. Survived by a son of her first marriage, and by three sons and two daughters of her second, she died on 11 November 1944 in Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Frost, The Last Explorer, the Life and Work of Ernest Favenc (Townsville, 1983)
  • W. Maff, Katherine's No Lady (Katherine, 1986)
  • D. Carment, R. Maynard and A. Powell (eds), Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, vol 1 (Darwin, 1990)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1883-84 (181)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 June 1899, 13, 14, 20 May 1976
  • E. C. Creaghe Diary (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Alfred Giles Diary (State Library of South Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Winsome J. M. Maff, 'Barnett, Emily Caroline (1860–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/barnett-emily-caroline-9439/text16595, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 3 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Robinson, Caroline
  • Creaghe, Caroline
Birth

1 November 1860
at sea

Death

11 November 1944
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Occupation