Happy Australia Day!

I know I’m posting this a bit early, but I’m a bit grumpy today (for reasons beyond explaining but have to do with work). I’ve been working on this post for a few days, and it could also count as part of Kulcha T’ursdy, so I’m posting it now. :)


Happy Australia Day one and all!

This is the day for BBQ’s, drinking and staying up late with your countrymen! For fireworks, the Green and Gold and Waltzing Matilda!

And to commemorate, I’ve been reading up on the story of the founding of Australia in Thomas Keneally’s book – conveniently titled “The Commonwealth of Thieves: the story of the founding of Australia”. Incredibly interesting, and very detailed narrative. I’m feeling very patriotic reading this – and have done since the dedication page, which quotes The Morning Post, London, 1 November 1786…

This thief colony might hereafter become a great empire, whose nobles will probably, like the nobles of Rome, boast of their blood.

To to celebrate Australia Day 2007 – my 7th away from my homeland – I thought I’d provide you with a brief history of the First Fleet landing and the birth of the colony, excerpted and paraphrased from Mr Keneally’s fabulous work.

3 May 1787 – the First Fleet of 11 ships departs Portsmouth. They are; Sirius, Lady Penrhyn, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Borrowdale, Golden Grove, Fishburn, Alexander, Scarborough, Friendship and Supply.

19 Jan 1788 -After over 8 months at sea, the first division of the First Fleet (the Fleet split up into 2 divisions, divided by speed, after leaving Cape Town) arrives in Botany Bay. They find it easily from Captain Cook’s topography descriptions from 18 years previous, but find the land to be terribly swampy and boggy, with no access to water – no natural spring.

22 Jan 1788 – Capt Arthur Phillip, the fleet commander and man appointed to be commandant of the new colony, leaves Botany Bay in a longboat to explore for more suitable colony site to the north in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). In a report to the UK Home Office Secretary, Lord Sydney, (who appointed Phillip to the expedition) he says, “We got into Port Jackson early in the afternoon, and had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security.” Phillip also named Manly Cove this day, as a tribute to the general style and demeanor of the natives who appeared on the beaches that afternoon and watched the boat go past.

Philllip finds and lands at Farm Cove (first called Camp Cove, funnily enough because they camped there!) and sends the longboat back to Botany Bay to notify the Fleet.

24 Jan 1788 – The French (!!) arrive in Botany Bay, but are unable to anchor due to a ‘ferocious nor-easterly’ wind. The expedition of Comte (Capt) de La Perouse, had set out to explore the pacific 3 years before in La Boussole and L’Astrolabe. (Funny.. there’s a suburb in Sydney near Botany Bay called La Perouse nowadays. Do you think they could be connected?? :)

26 Jan 1788 – First boats of First Fleet landed in Farm Cove (Sydney Harbour). Hurrah!

The Founding of Australia, Jan. 26th 1788, by Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove
Original oil sketch [1937] by Algernon Talmadge R.A.


The French make landfall in Botany Bay.

As La Perouse entered the bay just as the Sirius was leaving, it being the last of the British ships to depart for Port Jackson. Sirius sent off a longboat to help guide the French into port and away from the bay’s southern shoals. Arthur Phillip wanted there to be no misunderstanding about peaceful British intentions. A marine on the Sirius commented in his journal, “The two commanders had barely time to exchange civilities; and it must naturally have created some surprise in M. de La Perouse to find our fleet abandoning the harbour at the very time he was preparing to anchor in it.”

Young capt of the marines, Watkin Tench, arrived in Port Jackson that evening, and found a bay superior “in extent and excellency to all we had seen before. We continued to run up the harbour about four miles, in a westerly direction, enjoying the luxuriant prospects of its shores, covered with trees to the waters edge..”

The fleet anchors at Farm Cove and begins to unload. A tent city erupts from the earth (and is subsequently flattened in a typical Sydney thunderstorm on 2 Feb! :) and the colony is at first named Albion, but Sydney is more commonly used among the convicts, and soon sticks.

5 Feb 1788 – The final convict passengers of the Fleet, the women, were landed ashore, prompting a mass outdoor party, “Sydney’s first fete of hedonism”. Sailors, soldiers and convicts all joined the celebrations, some singing, some fighting, some gambling, some screwing, all drinking long through what turned out to be a night of a great and terrible (ahem.. normal, for Sydney) thunderstorm which killed 6 sheep, 2 lambs and a pig. The revelry prevailed until the small hours of 7 Feb, but by noon that day ‘civic formalities’ took hold.

Capt Arthur Phillip read the patents and charters handed down from King George III to claim New South Wales which was, as Keneally quotes, “… an area declared to run from the northern extremity of the coast, Cape York, to the southern extremity of South Cape – from 10 degrees South to 43 degrees South. Or the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of from the Tagus River in Portugal to the Trondheim in Norway. The claim also extended to all the country inland to the west as far as 135 degrees East (1500miles west of Sydney – a greater distance than London to Moscow). A massive stretch of earth had been mysteriously transformed. It had become, for the first time, estate and realm.” Hurrah!

Now, please be upstanding for our national anthem… Nah, let’s go straight to the boozing! :)

Happy Aussie Day. I wish I was in Sydney (Hurrah! Hurrah!) for the fireworks tonight…


About Miss J

Gen-x Australian female - out of my mind and my country. Cast adrift, as it were :) Enjoys: cat-cuddling, books, movies, music, theatre, travel, rpgs, cricket, F1 racing and all things to do with the sea..
This entry was posted in australiana, birfdys, kulcha tursdy, reviews, strange but true, waxing philosophical. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Happy Australia Day!

  1. Pingback: Faces of Australia: Woollarawarre Bennelong

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