~ colonial newspapers | niche history


colonial newspapers ~ niche history 





Niche history. Not pigeon-holed though. Not the big picture, but characters and their connections. Uncovering forgotten stories by modern detecting.


I am currently writing a (very different sort of) biography of probably Australia’s most recognisable colonial artist (by work rather than by name) – Samuel Thomas Gill. There is mystery there as well as a recent historical controversy. So at present you will find me mostly in the 1840s or 1850s, when the telegraph was by flag.


I am on fair terms with the servants of the public that carry responsibility for registration – especially deaths and shipping. I used to have several inter-colonial newspapers delivered to me direct into town from the port, but that was before the invention of the National Library of Australia’s Trove electric telegraph. Now I have more colonial newspapers than the shipping reporter could ever have rowed in. I also correct various mischiefs of the printers’ devils, tweeting trifles of unintended wit and humour using #TroveAuTextCorrection.


If you desire occasional colonial news in your day or some research finds that humour or interest me (and hopefully you), I recommend the clippings from my electric twittergraph.


You may also send me a message via the electric post:


Mr David Coombe begs to invite his friends and the public generally, to an early inspection of his quill driving, and respectfully solicits a share of their patronage, which it will be his constant study to merit.


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I have written two e-books. My favourite is Three Rabbits Alibi – A True Story of Murder, Madness & the News in Colonial Melbourne.


It's 1850s Australia

A double murder

A locked room

The murderer is dying from a gunshot

But the reporter says the scene is near impossible


In Three Rabbits Alibi you will meet several characters, including (arguably) colonial Melbourne’s best journalist, Edmund Finn, also known as Garryowen, author of The Chronicles of Early Melbourne. There are also bushrangers. And yes, it is all factual.


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More recently I posted 10 episodes in 100 days on S.T. Gill.

History Controversy adds Intrigue to Colonial Art Exhibition


Fresh Original Research into the Colonial Artist S. T. Gill.


By necessity this is detail packed, so it may not be a bedtime read. Better to read an episode on the train. It was also researched and written under pressure exerted by effluxion of time, an art exhibition and an historical controversy. But with that pressure now released, the artist Mr Gill can posthumously anticipate an excellent and revealing biography.


Now Writing: a very different kind of biography of S.T. Gill. I hope to have this published (traditionally) in 2018.


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You will find some of my earlier family history research:

Mostly Coombe in Australia & Coumbe in North Hill, Cornwall

Family History & Genealogy





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I began rewriting my first e-book Deaths at Josephine’s Gasworks Hotel, but became waylaid by Mr Gill. Eventually it will have more fascinating publicans, be more rigorous and better written. The early history of the Brickmakers’ Arms – later the (New) Gasworks Hotel – makes for an intriguing story. You can read it now, but I do want to tell it better!




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And some miscellanea:

#TroveGenie: A Social Media Experiment To Crowd Solve a #HistoryMystery using NLA’s Trove

TROVE tips

Bowden, Brompton and Hindmarsh

Charles SMITH of Colonial Victoria as a one name study of sorts.


Copyright © David Coombe, 2000-17, except where noted otherwise.

Reading newspaper: IMAGE DETAIL FROM: Captain John Finnis. A drawing from S.T.Gill's "Heads of the People". Artist's caption: “True Blue”

Looking over left shoulder: IMAGE DETAIL FROM: S.T. Gill, artist, Hamel & Ferguson, printer, Title page: The Australian Sketchbook by S.T.G 1864, colour lithograph, State Library Victoria, Accession no(s) H17158.