A speck in the cosmos

Adventurous life of Henry Caulfeild
By Henry St George Caulfeild
Editors: Colleen Watts and Louise BrodieA Speck in the Cosmos front cover

This unusual autobiography of Henry St George Caulfeild (1851–1943) gives a peek into his life during colonial times in Ceylon and on the sugar plantations in Queensland, Australia.

Reading ‘A Speck in the Cosmos’ reveals a fascinating insight into Henry St George Caulfeild’s life in colonial Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known), when coffee was grown and where he worked as a plantation manager.

When coffee failed there, Henry moved to Queensland during Australia’s era of imported labour from the South Sea Islands for the rapidly developing sugar plantations around Bundaberg, a topic which subsequently became controversial.

Written in the somewhat constrained language of the time, this autobiography nevertheless remains a primary historical resource of a lifestyle of that era and puts a first-hand and very personal touch to British and Australian enterprises of the time.

Although the autobiography was never formally published at the time, a portion of A speck in the cosmos was serialised in a pre-World War II Australian magazine called ‘The Steering Wheel and Society & Home’.

Associated free booklet of the sections published in The Steering Wheel and Society & Home: download here

Henry St George Caulfeild

Henry and Janie Caulfeild

About the author

Henry St George Caulfeild (1851–1943) wrote his autobiography towards the end of his life and called it percipiently, A speck in the cosmos.

In 1870, he found himself, at the age of nineteen, leaving Ireland and England to journey to Ceylon, his country of birth, to take up the position of coffee plantation manager. For the next thirteen years he lived and worked on various coffee plantations in a country that was colourful, fascinating and challenging. When Ceylon’s coffee plantations failed due to disease in the early 1880s, he eventually immigrated to Australia with his young family.

In a total life change, he found himself working as a public servant in Bundaberg, Queensland, as the Polynesian Inspector charged with the welfare of the Pacific lslander sugar cane workers known as the Kanakas.

In this autobiography, he relates his adventures, and the triumphs and tragedies of his remarkable life.

About the editors

Sisters Colleen Watts and Louise Brodie, Henry’s great grandchildren, have carefully compiled this book, using the previously published pages and a selection of family and historical photographs. Also included is a section of the family tree to give context to the autobiography and the family members mentioned. Caulfeild’s Boer War Compendium (an extraordinary amount of material relating to the Boer War and referred to in this autobiography) is housed by the State Library of Queensland, Australia in the John Oxley Library in Brisbane.

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