What a gem of a biography!
George and Sarah Suttor
Pioneers of Early Australian Horticulture
by Margaret Winmill
“This book tells the story of George Suttor (1776-1859), and his wife Sarah, and their journey to Australia bringing plants to New South Wales in 1800 for Sir Joseph Banks. It follows their life in the new colony: initially in Sydney, involvement in the rum rebellion, crossing the Blue Mountains and settling in Bathurst, and their later journey around Europe in 1839 to study methods of grape growing and wine making.
“The book includes references to particular friends and associates including George Caley, Allan Cunningham, John Lewin, Colonel William Paterson and Captain John Piper.
“The book’s 323 pages includes 54 illustrations (colour and black and white), a bibliography, family trees, plant lists, letters, table of contents, and an index.”
I’m impressed with the way this biography, of George and Sarah Suttor, has been structured by Margaret Winmill, George and Sarah’s great-great-great-granddaughter. The internal design of the book makes its content accessible. The paper quality and dimensions are good, the font size and font choice make the reading comfortable, and the white space is generous. The text is written in a style that makes for easy reading, and feeds the desire to know more.
After reading Ms Winmill’s book, I formed the opinion that I would have liked George Suttor. I gleaned this feeling of respect from the tone of his voice in his memoir, which is quoted throughout the book. His words reflect the fact that he was a kind and thoughtful man, methinks.
We here at The Allan Cunningham Project devour all information that links Allan Cunningham to others in the colony, and the links between George Suttor and Allan Cunningham and Sir Joseph Banks are quite strong. From the moment Mr Cunningham arrived in the colony, George Suttor keenly accommodates him, allowing the King’s Botanist to search the Suttor properties for botanic samples. He was often a house guest at the Suttor’s various residences. In the book, it was with interest I read about the Suttor’s house in Elizabeth Street Sydney, where Allan Cunningham convalesced in the months before his death. In the Cunningham Journals, Mr Cunningham rarely mentions people’s names, instead he refers to people as “friends”, it’s fun working out who the “friend” is. Many times the “friend” turns out to be George Suttor.
Another area of interest for me in this biography was the Suttor’s visit to the UK in 1839 -1845. The journey of the Suttor family in Europe is intriguing for those of us who wonder what our colonial founders’ experience was like, returning to the home of their birth after years away, after living in a colony detached from so much they loved and valued. Several well known colonial characters temporarily left Australia, travelling back to England, then travelled to Europe for a tour of several months. I’m fascinated to learn what these men and women saw, who they met, what mode of transport they used, and how they felt about this short moment of luxury in their difficult and rough colonial lives. Allan Cunningham too, temporarily returned to England, and to Kew, from Australia in the 1830s.
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