Guide to the Diary of James Whitelaw Craig (as filmed by AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Craig, James Whitelaw
Papers of James Whitelaw Craig (as filmed by AJCP)
Date Range
23 September 1873 - 7 February 1877
Collection Number
1 item
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Diary of James Whitelaw Craig, 23 September 1873 – 7 February 1877. Details Craig's trip to southern France and Australia. The diary provides little information about his personal life but goes into greater detail about his zoological, ornithological and botanical activities and his growing interest in the Australian Aboriginals.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at Paisley Central Library, Scotland, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1978 (AJCP Reel: M978). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Central Library, High Street, Paisley, Renfrewshire Scotland.

Collection reference: MS PC137. For further information, see Heritage Centre, Central Library, Paisley, Scotland (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.

Advisory Statement

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this Finding Aid contains material and descriptive information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. This Finding Aid contains terms that reflect authors' views or those of the historical period, but which may not be considered appropriate today. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.


Australia: flora and fauna; Birds: Australia; Botany: Australia; Botany: France; Brisbane, Queensland: visits to; Craig, James W.; Flora and fauna: Queensland; France; Indigenous Australians: Queensland; Insects: Australia; Insects: France; Melbourne, Victoria: visits to; Meteorology; Museums; Naturalists; Paintings, drawings and prints; Paintings, drawings and prints: New South Wales; Paintings, drawings and prints: Queensland; Paisley, Scotland; Sydney, New South Wales: visits to; Victoria: flora and fauna


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 116, p42.

Biographical / Historical

James Whitelaw Craig (1849-1880), the son of an engineer, was born in Paisley, near Glasgow. He always had a strong interest in natural history and built up a substantial collection of entomological, ornithological and zoological specimens. He was apprenticed as an engineer with his father's works. In 1873, however, his health declined. On medical advice, he spent the winter in the south of France and later in the year he sailed to Australia, where he lived for two years. After his return, his health continued to decline and he made another trip to Pau, in France, in 1879. He died the following year at the age of 31.

A large part of Craig's scientific collections were presented to the museum attached to the Paisley Free Library. In 1908 his brother A.F. Craig edited his 1874-77 diary and it was published, together with photographs and drawings, under the Diary of a Naturalist (Paisley, J. & R. Parlane, 1908).

Item Descriptions

Diary of James Craig, 23 September 1873 - 7 February 1877 (File 1)

The first part of the diary records a collecting trip to southern France, leaving Paisley, Scotland, in September 1873 and visiting Bordeaux, Pau, Biarritz and Cauterets, returning to Paisley in August 1874. It mostly describes his excursions catching butterflies, moths and other insects, frogs, birds and reptiles.

The major part of the diary records Craig's visit to Australia, his voyage from Greenock to Williamstown on the Ben Cruachan (29 Aug.-14 Nov. 1974), collecting in the Dromana district, visits to Healesville (March 1875) and Ballarat (April 1875), a short visit to Sydney and Parramatta, his arrival in Brisbane (10 June 1875), collecting in the Sandgate district, his move to 'The Gap', a property near Warwick, in the Darling Downs (Jan. 1876), his return to Sydney (Nov. 1876), and the voyage back to Britain on the Ben Cruachan (12 Nov. 1876-7 Feb. 1877).

The diaries contain very little about Craig's personal life but deal very largely with his zoological, ornithological and botanical activities and his growing interest in the Australian Aboriginals. They refer to his shooting and collecting birds, snakes, lizards, koalas, kangaroos, kangaroo rats, possums, platypi, ants, butterflies, and plants. Craig records meetings in Brisbane with the ornithologist Silvester Diggles and the naturalist Charles Coxen (Jan. 1876).

Craig visited an Australian Aboriginal settlement at Healesville, near Melbourne, in March 1875, and his interest in the languages, arts and social organisation of Australian Aboriginals became a major preoccupation when he was living in Brisbane and the Darling Downs. In Jan. 1876 he met the Lutheran missionary J.G. Hausmann (1811-1901) and talked about his experiences in working with Indigenous Australians since his arrival in Moreton Bay in 1838. Craig had many meetings and conversations with Indigenous Australians, including 'King Sandy', made notes about their weapons and tools, and recorded their vocabularies. He also dealt with Australian Aboriginal-settler relations and the murders of Australian Aboriginals.

The entries in the later part of the diary tend to be more detailed than in the earlier part. They contain a number of small sketches.