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Emily Mary Barton (1817 – 1909)

Emily Mary Barton was christened Emily Mary Darvall at the church of St Helen's, in the city of York, on 3 December 1817. She was the daughter of Major Edward Darvall and his wife Emily (née Johnson); the family was relatively wealthy, and Emily Mary spent much of her childhood in Belgium and France, where she received a classical education.

In 1839, the family travelled to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney in January 1840. Here Emily Mary met Robert Barton, a retired naval officer and grazier, whom she married in September 1840. The couple moved to Barton's large station, Boree Nyrang, in the central west of New South Wales, and would have eight children together. Despite her child-rearing and domestic duties on the isolated station, Emily Mary was also writing poetry from the early 1840s.

Robert Barton died of pneumonia in 1863, and Emily Mary sold Boree Nyrang and moved with her large family to ‘Rockend’, in Gladesville, Sydney. Emily Mary lived at ‘Rockend’ for the rest of her life, often with various members of her extended family; her grandson Andrew Barton Paterson boarded with her while attending Sydney Grammar school in the 1870s.

Emily Mary continued to write poetry, and in 1885 published her first book, a collection of children's verse entitled A Few of Grandmamma's Prizes for the Little Ones. In 1907, at the age of 90, she published another collection, Straws on the Stream. Emily Mary Barton died at ‘Rockend’ on 24 August 1909; a new collection of her poems, also using the title Straws on the Stream, was published posthumously in 1910.

Poetry Collections
  • A Few of Granmamma's Prizes for the Little Ones Sydney Gibbs, Shallard and Co., 1885
  • Straws on the Stream Sydney [The Author] 1907
  • Straws on the Stream Sydney W. E. Smith 1910
Suggested Further Reading
  • Jeremy Long Strugglers and Settlers: Darvall Family Letters 1839-1849 Springwood, NSW Butterfly Books 1994