Harriet’s life in brief

Harriet Blaxland was the eldest child of John Blaxland, who arrived as one of the first free settlers of substance in the colony of Sydney in 1806. On a whim, she accepted the invitation to live with her aunt in Calcutta. By sixteen, she was married to Alexander Macdonald Ritchie, partner in one of the richest mercantile agencies in India, and living in Agra with views of the ruins of the Taj Mahal from her veranda.  Bankruptcy and the death of her husband brought Harriet back to Sydney in 1827. Eight years later, she married Sir James Dowling, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His death prompted her to return to England at the age of forty-seven. Prompted by reading her unpublished memoir, I’ve been exploring her life further with a view to writing both a fictional account and a short biography.

Dowling, H. Memoir of the Early Life of Harriott Mary Dowling Nee Blaxland: Or Sketches of India and Australia in Old Times. Typescript copy, held with Dowling family papers 1767-1905, held at State Library of New South Wales (Mitchell Library), Sydney,  DLMSQ 305, Item 5, 1875.

Author: Alison Ferguson

Back in the 1970s, Alison Ferguson completed one of the first Bachelor of Arts degrees in Professional Writing and then went on to qualify as a speech pathologist, working as a clinician and academic for over thirty years. As well as writing research-based book chapters and papers for international refereed journals, Alison authored two scholarly books (published by Plural Publishing, and Palgrave Macmillan). Recently retired, Alison is pursuing her long-standing fascination with story writing in both non-fiction and fiction.

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