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Annabella Alexandrina Boswell (1826–1914)

by Ngaire M. Souter

This article was published:

Annabella Alexandrina Campbell Boswell (1826-1914), diarist and gentlewoman, was born on 16 September 1826 at Yarrows, Bathurst Plains, New South Wales, elder daughter of George Innes, a landholder, and his wife Georgianna Lorn Moorshead, neé Campbell, both Scottish born. In 1834 Annabella's parents moved sixty miles (97 km) north to a cattle station, Glen Alice, at Capertee, while she attended Mrs Evans's boarding school in Bridge Street, Sydney. After twelve months she rejoined her family to be tutored by governesses. Tall and handsome, she was a bright pupil and a prolific reader with a preference for European history and Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels. To Annabella's regret, her mother banned the works of Shakespeare as 'unsuitable'.

In 1839, hoping to improve his health, her father took his family to stay at Port Macquarie with his brother Major Archibald Innes. Four months later George died. Mrs Innes and her daughters returned to Capertee, sold Glen Alice and, after two years at Parramatta, rejoined their relations at Port Macquarie in 1843. Already a prolific diarist, Annabella found much to write about at Lake Innes House and the nearby settlement. Remote though they were, the family borrowed regularly from the Australian Subscription Library, Sydney. The house was noted for its hospitality, aided by liveried footmen, maids, stable hands and a piper. Foremost among the many guests was Governor FitzRoy with his entourage. Lively reports of events, fashions worn, foods consumed and visitors' personal quirks duly appeared in Annabella's journal.

A knowledgeable gardener and horsewoman, Annabella was proficient in most of the domestic skills required of a countrywoman. Quick to learn, she could crack a whip as well as any stockman or churn butter. She was also a fine water-colourist and pianist. In March 1843 a giant comet appeared, terrifying local people, who were convinced it presaged the end of the world. Annabella described it as, 'magnificent—the tail is beautiful, springing upwards from the star like an aigrette of light'.

By 1848, without convict staff to maintain it, Lake Innes was no longer viable. Major Innes was appointed police magistrate at Newcastle, where in 1849 Annabella met Patrick Charles Douglas Boswell. A free settler from Ayrshire, Scotland, who was related to James Boswell, the biographer, Patrick was employed by the Bank of New South Wales as accountant, later becoming manager. On 17 June 1856 Annabella married Boswell at Christ Church Cathedral with Anglican rites. She bore one son and three daughters before their departure in 1865 for Scotland, where Patrick had inherited the family estate. In 1867 Annabella's last child was born at their home, Garrallan, Old Cumnock, Ayrshire. She continued to live the life of a gentlewoman. Patrick died in 1892.

Annabella expressed nostalgia for her birthplace by publishing three books based on her diaries. Her pamphlet, Recollections of Some Australian Blacks, was written in 1890. Some Recollections of My Early Days (1908) was republished as Annabella Boswell's Journal (Sydney, 1965 and reprinted 1981 and 1993). Her vivid account of colonial life, Further Recollections of My Early Days in Australia (1911), was republished as Annabella Boswell's Other Journal (Canberra, 1992). She had died at Garrallan on 25 October 1914. One son and three daughters survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Crittenden, introduction to Annabella Boswell’s Other Journal 1848-1851 (Canb, 1992)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Aug 1911, p 5
  • Innes papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • information from Hastings District Family History Society and Port Macquarie History Society.

Citation details

Ngaire M. Souter, 'Boswell, Annabella Alexandrina (1826–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Innes, Annabella

16 September, 1826
Yarrows, New South Wales, Australia


25 October, 1914 (aged 88)
Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland

Cultural Heritage

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