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Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Archival detective work in action at the University of Newcastle


Emeritus Professor Ken Dutton and the Jarry-Gray manuscript

The hunt for authors of manuscript begins….

The Jarry – Gray manuscript was purchased in March 2001 as an early settler’s diary by the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections’ then archivist Denis Rowe. Mr Rowe retired soon after and it stayed under lock and key until late 2005 when I was conducting a valuation survey through the collection and came across the manuscript again.

On the 6th December 2005 together with a Christmas greeting I wrote to Professor Ken Dutton, our Emeritus Professor of French and fellow collaborator, asking him to look over the manuscript for us, as most of it was a French transcribed text with a diary at the back of the book written in English. He wrote back within a couple of hours and there it began. Within two days I had a full copy of the manuscript on CDrom for him to work on over the Christmas break. For the next year Ken worked on this thing and together with Denis and myself adding our two bobs worth, and the rest of the cast and crew, nutted out the mystery of this mysterious work.

I assisted in tracking down the names of the convicts and others mentioned in the diary and matching them to their Colonial master.

Diligent research solves mystery

After intensive research in the Auchmuty Library Cultural Collections, Professor Dutton identified the writing in the volume as that of two authors: General Francois Jarry, a leading French general of the Napoleonic era, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles George Gray, one of the pioneer settlers in the Port Macquarie district.

The French manuscript consists of over 300 pages on military fortifications and the mapping of battlefields. But when turned upside down and opened at the other end, it is written in English and is the working diary of a settler near Port Macquarie in the second half of 1839.

There was no indication in the text as to its authorship. The only clue was on the spine with the words JARRY TOM 1.

Sample leaves from Lieutenant Colonel Charles George Gray’s diary from the 17 May 1839

Sample leaves from Lieutenant Colonel Charles George Gray’s diary from 17 May 1839

Some detailed detective work involved

In the words of Professor Dutton “Solving the mystery involved eliminating a number of military men of the period…..Extensive investigation identified the author as General Francois Jarry, who had headed Frederick the Great’s military school in Berlin. Jarry later fled to England at the time of the French Revolution and in 1799 founded a private college for army officers at High Wycombe, later to become the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.”

Samples of Jarry’s handwriting obtained from the British Library and compared with the diary held in Newcastle provided conclusive evidence that the French text was in Jarry’s own hand.

Final confirmation of the work’s second author came when a bookplate inside the diary’s cover was found to correspond to the arms of the Gray family.

Lieutenant C.G. Gray had probably acquired the volume while a student at High Wycombe in 1809 and brought it to Port Macquarie where he kept it as a diary.”

Gray was born in Edinburgh in 1786 and fought Napoleon at Waterloo before settling in Port Macquarie, and later building himself a residence which he called Huntington House. Gray later moved north where he became the Police Magistrate at Ipswich, and Queensland’s first Parliamentary Librarian and Usher of the Black Rod in 1860. He died in 1873.

Sample diary page (2)

Some additional excerpts from Lieutenant Charles Gray's diary

Snapshot of 19th Century Life

“The volume is of exceptional value,” says Professor Dutton. “It gives us an unusual picture of what an officer would have learned at a British military academy in the early years of the 19th century, and a vivid snapshot of the severe life of assigned convicts in an early Australian settlement.”

Ken has written a book about his investigation called A French General and a Scots Colonel A Most Unusual Volume and the Search for its Authorship. When it was launched at Queensland Parliament there were about 25 descendants of Colonel Gray present.

The important thing to remember about archives and manuscripts is that we are not dealing with dead and disembodied things, every object is connected in some way with a living and breathing person. In the case of this manuscript it is certainly a marvelous thing to see how many connections have been forged between the University and the rest of the world that were not present before this research was conducted by Professor Ken Dutton.

Best Wishes,
Gionni Di Gravio

Click to view the entire manuscript online here

Text and images reproduced courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collections

  • says:

    This is a topic which is near to my heart… Many thanks!

    Exactly where are your contact details though?

    June 10, 2014 at 4:49 pm