On Tuesday, May 26, 2009 we reported that...

HISTORIANS in Australia are doing some detective work in an attempt to piece together the identity of an unknown Dumbarton man who wrote a diary more than 150 years ago.

The volume details the day-to-day life of an ex-pat who was working as a miner in the state of Victoria during the 1850s goldrush.

The appeal by experts to the Reporter’s readers comes as Victoria State Library nears its target of $50,000 to buy the fascinating read.

Shane Carmody, director of Collections and Access at the State Library, hopes someone living in Dumbarton and the Vale could possibly help put an identity to the mystery diarist.

He added that the document is a valuable resource for historians trying to paint a picture of life in 1855 in Ballarat, one of the regions caught up in the goldrush.

Mr Carmody said: “The charm of the diary lies in the intimate detail, and that this is but a fragment of this man’s life.

“We speculate that there were earlier and perhaps later volumes, and we wonder if some volumes were sent back ‘home’ as a record of life.

“Internal evidence in the diary suggests a link to Dumbarton, but we can’t be sure.

“The detective story, and one that the good folk of Dumbarton might be able to help us with, is — who was the diarist?

“We think a sustained effort in research will uncover this or at least narrow the possibilities.

“Our diarist was meticulous in recording full names of the people he encountered.

“This too may add some clues to the story or further links to his home — is it possible that in a drawer or attic somewhere there lurk other volumes?”

In one particularly vivid passage, the miner recounts the escape of a tiger from a passing zoo in the Oz town, and after making its bid for freedom, the “Bengal gent” strolled into a grocery store. There the beast, “went through the shop into the

kitchen where it found a leg of mutton which it seized and devoured.”

The writer adds: “The storekeeper was behind the counter at the time and vanished into a box.”

Read more: Archive Hour: Dumbarton man discovers ancestor was Liverpool legend

While in August 1855 the diarist twice mentions meeting and having a “long yarn” with Tom McFarlane, a former Renton grocer.

And the writer also records how “Tom MacIntyre from Dumbarton” told him about “John Patterson’s death” in November of 1855.

On September 5, 1855, he mentions having “a long chat about the old Burgh” with two men — Jack Arrochar and Hugh Weir — over supper.

The only family member named is on August 11 1855: “I got home letter and, oh, what joy the news to learn and I found it to be from my friend and brother Bob.”

Currently, the library has raised $47,000 and is very confident it will acquire the diary, so it can then make it available online for people around the world to access it.

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