ADELAIDE'S FIRST CHEMIST.
Letters of William Bickford.
In a recent search for certain details in connection with the firm of A. M. Bickford & Sons, Limited, letters written by the founder
of the firm more than four score years ago were found in an old deedbox. 'What I am bent on I have reason to expect will, in the course of time, prove beneficial to me, not but what I must expect a great many difficulties and dis appointments and also trouble in the first place, which I am fully prepared for, and hope to be able to contend against.' The foregoing is a passage written by a young Englishman of 23 to his mother on July 27, 1838. The writer was William Bick ford, the founder of the first distinct chemist's business in Adelaide, a business which subsequently developed to the large extent we see it to-day. The sen timent expressed typified the spirit of our earliest pioneers. William Bickford went on to ask his mother — in beautiful terms of filial affection — not to grieve or think much about his decision to come to South Australia- 'I shall land there with very little money in my pocket,' he added. 'You will very naturally ask what I am going to do there without a friend or any money to help myself with. My answer is — work and earn my bread at any employment I can procure, and there is no fear of not getting employment there. The colony is in a prosperous state. I hope one day or other I shall be prosper ing there too.' With what better moral armour could a young man be clad to try his fortune in a new land? 'I detest being under an obligation to any one,' wrote young Bickford further, referring to conditions as they then existed in the old country. 'When a young man is in a situation it is impossible for him to save much money, the salary is so very low, particularly in, the drug business, so I might be an assistant for 20 years, and he very little better for it. It is no g0od to think of opening business in England, for there is not a place where a person can find room to open with any prospect of success. It is that, and nothing more, that has made me determine to go to South Australia. I have no doubt that you and all my friends are averse to my going, but as I have determined on going no person shall persuade me to the con trary. If I am headstrong, and will not hearken to reason for once, and have to suffer for it, it must all come on my back, as I shall have no one to take a part.' Fateful Sea Voyage. In September, 1838, William Bickford again wrote to his mother, telling her how be had inspected his berth on the ship Platena before sailing. While in London he made 'the best use of my time in seeing as many of the novelties of this immense city as I possibly can, but for my part I can see nothing in it either wonderful or surprising.' The next letter William Bickford wrote to his sister a fortnight later at sea. There were 40 passengers in the steerage, and when the ship arrived at Weymouth the number would be in creased to 50. Personally he had nothing to complain about: he had the most comfortable berth in the steerage and a very good roomate who had previously resided in Western Aus tralia for five years. In the cabin they had several reputable and wealthy people who were going out to settle, and also several respectable families in the inter mediate, most of them farmers with their wives and families. On the voyage to the Cape eight deaths occurred — six chil dren and two women. 'Mr. Reed, an intermediate passenger, lost three chil dren, being all he has, all of dysentery, two one week and one the next.'
Arrival in Adelaide. When William Bickford arrived in Ade- laide he wrote a lengthy letter to his mother, brothers, and sisters from North Terrace, dated April 16, 1838 — two months after coming here. 'The first three weeks after landing,'' he intimated, ''my time was occupied principally in getting my luggage from the Port, which was a troublesome and tedious job, as I had to walk to the Port day after day and find my things not landed; consequently was obliged to return without them. The Port is seven miles from the city, which is a great inconvenience to every one, more particularly to people in extensive busi- ness, as the carriage of goods is very ex- pensive. The first night after landing I with two or three others was obliged to sleep in the open air close alongside of the delightful River Torrens in conse- quence of the carts upsetting and our boxes and so on all having been thrown out. The first thing in the morning I stood with one leg on either side of the 'immense' river, and washed my face and hands. My luggage cost me nothing. I had it all taken up by the Commissioner's wagons, which are employed to convey our goods to the town, where there is a square containing about 90 wooden houses, to re ceive emigrants. There is no floor in the houses, and we were obliged to sleep on the earth or contrive to fix up boxes or anything we could get to lay our beds on. I was in the delightful square three weeks, during which time I was tormented beyond measure by the fleas, bugs, and mice.' . . . William Bickford pro ceeded to explain that he had got a very comfortable situation in his own business, and was then living with Mr. Bright, a surgeon, as an assistant in a retail shop at a salary of 40/ a week with board and lodging. 'Every one said when I left that it was no good to take any drugs with me, as there was no sickness, and consequently no drugs required; that all surgeons that were here were starving and could earn nothing at their own pro fession. Ever since I have been here they have scarcely known where to go to first, and if I had had it in my power to have brought out £100 worth o£ drugs I could have made 200 per cent by them. I bought some tartaric acid for Mrs. Bright last week and gave 6/ lb. for it. Sulphur, for instance, is retailed at 4d and 5d oz., and essence of lemon 60/ lb. If I had £100 at my command I would send it to England and have some drugs sent out as quickly as possible. Any person that has a mind to be industrious can save money, but he must think nothing of the comforts he enjoyed in England.' Success in His Own Business. Eight months elapsed before William Bickford again recorded his doings to his people in England. 'Since my last,' he wrote on March 20, 1840, 'Dr. Bright, whom I was living with at the time, has left the colony, and left the business in the hands of his creditors to be disposed of, and men in charge to carry on same until disposed of, which was about two months. The person who bought it did not want an assistant; consequently I was out of a situation, but I was very fortu nate in soon securing another in my own business, where I have been ever since. At first my salary was £2 a week, with out board and lodging. Since that the proprietors--both of whom are surgeons-- have established another shop and placed me to carry on the retail and dispensing branches of the business, and one is in attendance every day to give advice.' The following passage occurred in a let ter, dated April 10, 1841:-'The people of Adelaide complain very much of the dullness of trade, and the general outcry is the scarcity of money. Every one ap pears full of complaints. Still there is no distress to be seen. For my own part I have no reason to complain. I have a very good business, and I believe a fair share of the drug trade. I am doing very well in every respect, much , better than I ever expected. When I left Plymouth I little thought I should be in business for myself as chemist within 20 months after landing in the colony. As for liking the colony, I have every reason to be satisfied with it. I have done very well since I have been here, and have never been subject to much privation as others have. What I have been deprived of may be termed luxuries, which everv person who views the thing in a proper light must expect on coming to a new country as this was when I first arrived. Business is going on prosperously, and I have a comfortable home at my own fire side and a good wife, who studies my interest in every respect. William Bick ford celebrated the twenty-fourth anniver sary of his birth by marrying a young lady — Ann Margaret Garrett — whom he had met on the voyage out. (To be Continued.)