Monthly Archives: January 2011

Some bookshops in the Blue Mountains

As a book-lover the Unhurried Traveller finds it hard to walk past a bookshop without going in to spend at least a few minutes browsing. This is a list of some bookshops in the Blue Mountains, to be revised over time:

BLACKHEATH:  Gleebooks, Shop 1, Collier’s Arcade, Govetts Leap Road.

KATOOMBA:  Blue Mountains Books, 66 Katoomba Street.  Chekhov’s Three Sisters Second Hand Books, 84 Bathurst Road.  Katoomba Book Exchange, 34 Katoomba Street (second-hand books).  Mr Pickwick’s Fine Old Books, 86 Katoomba Street.

LEURA:  Megalong Books, 183 The Mall.  [Leura Books is now an online second-hand and out-of-print books distributor based in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands.]

SPRINGWOOD:  Brown Books, Shop 4, 125 Macquarie Road (Macquarie Centre Arcade).  The Turning Page Bookshop, new address: Shop 1, 125 Macquarie Road.

Wanting coal for the colony

In enumerating in June 1815 the natural resources of the Blue Mountains and the Western country, Governor Macquarie was pleased to report that there were enough water and grass in the mountains to support cattle taken over them, and on the other side enough ‘fertile soil and rich pasturage’ to support any increase in population and stock for many years.

However, there were certain deficiencies. Timber to the west of the mountains was everywhere ‘much inferior both in size and quality to that within the present Colony.’ Fortunately there was enough timber ‘of tolerable quality’ around Bathurst for building and farming purposes.

There was another deficiency which occasioned particular dismay:

The Governor has here to lament, that neither Coals or Lime-stone have been yet discovered in the Western Country: articles in themselves of so much importance, that the want of them must be severely felt whenever that country shall be settled.

A dozen years earlier the Sydney Gazette had reported on the discovery of coal in the region of Hunter’s River. A new mine had been found likely to yield ‘the finest coal that has ever been witnessed.’ The Governor (Philip King) planned to send a sample back to England, ‘and from the accounts given of the mine, we have every reason to affirm, that it will prove highly beneficial to the general interests of the Colony.’ The coal resembled that at Leith near Edinburgh but was even better. A month later more coals arrived in Sydney from the New Colliery at Hunter’s River, and these were ‘of superior quality to those formerly procured at the River, and promise to the Colony a lasting resource.’ Later in the same month coal from Hunter’s River was being compared with the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in ancient Colchis.

Governor King found that he had to step in and regulate the extraction, sale and export of coal from the Hunter region, and the getting of timber there. In an Order of 24 March 1804 he declared that, ‘The Coals and Timber of all descriptions are the entire and exclusive property of the Crown wherever found or growing’; and by the same Order taxes were levied on coal and timber at set rates under the heading of ‘King’s Dues for Orphans.’

Two hundred years later, coal interests and governments are still acting in liaison despite the realisation that coal is not ‘highly beneficial to the general interests’ of society.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2. A new mine at Hunter’s River: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 8/5/ 1803, p. 3. Coals ‘of superior quality’: 12/6/1803, p. 3. The Golden Fleece: 19/6/1803, p. 3. Governor King’s Order: 25/3/1804, p. 1.

Governor Macquarie: impressed and impressionable

Governor Macquarie’s report on his tour across the Western or Blue Mountains in April-May 1815 is a remarkable document not only for its objectivity of observation but for its evidence of an emotional response to scenes observed.

There are many passages which reveal Macquarie’s official interests and concerns. His purpose in causing a road to be built across the mountains was ‘for the Passage and Conveyance of Cattle and Provisions to the Interior.’ He was on the look-out for good soil and pasturage, in conformity with the colony’s need to develop its agricultural and pastoral resources. He repeatedly refers to areas of good soil and grass. ‘On descending Cox’s Pass, the Governor was much gratified by the appearance of good pasture land and soil fit for cultivation, which was the first he had met with since the commencement of his Tour.’ In the Vale of Clwyd, ‘The grass in this vale is of a good quality, and very abundant, and a rivulet of fine water runs along it from the eastward…’ West of Cox’s River, ‘the country again becomes hilly, but is generally open forest land, and very good pasturage.’

It seems likely that expressions of gratification combine an official and a personal pleasure, and perhaps a sense of relief that the effort of exploring and road-building has been worthwhile. On reaching the Campbell River (a river that bore his wife’s maiden name), ‘The Governor was highly gratified by the appearance of the country, which there began to exhibit an open and extensive view of gently rising grounds and fertile plains.’ The soil on the banks of the river ‘is uncommonly rich and the grass is consequently luxuriant.’ This is despite the fact that there has apparently been an ‘extraordinary drought’ for the last three years and the river has been reduced to ‘a Chain of Pools.’

The literary quality of the prose is typical of the time. Its sensitivity and expressiveness may reflect not Macquarie’s personal attitudes purely but also those of his wife and his compeers. Nevertheless, the document is surely revealing not only of levels of thinking, feeling and discourse which prevailed in the Governor’s circle and received his approval, but of ideas and sensations which carried his personal stamp.

Most personal perhaps, while still retaining marks of objectivity, is the description of the Bathurst Plains, ‘a rich tract of champaign country of 11 miles in length, bounded on both sides by gently rising and very beautiful hills, thinly wooded’:

It is impossible to behold this grand scene without a feeling of admiration and surprise, whilst the silence and solitude which reign in a space of such extent and beauty as seems designed by Nature for the occupancy and comfort of Man, create a degree of melancholy in the mind which may be more easily imagined than described.

Some of the descriptions may suggest something of the real estate agent eager to encourage settlers, but here the Governor is moved to register an emotional response at least partially at variance with any policy of advertisement.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2.

From Emu Ford to the Bathurst Plains

Governor Lachlan Macquarie, in reporting his tour to the Bathurst Plains in April-May 1815, recalls his earlier surprise at ‘the want of effort’ during the first twenty-five years of the life of the colony to find a way over the Blue Mountains. He was less surprised now, he confesses, considering the thickness and near impenetrability of the forest, and the amount of land that was already available to supply the needs of the colony at that time.

Macquarie’s journey, although called a tour of inspection, was itself also one of exploration. There was plenty of opportunity to observe the country more carefully, and to make excursions in various directions. It is of interest that he speaks of ‘the Western or Blue Mountains’; the terminology was still not completely fixed.

The party left on 25 April 1815 and began their return from Bathurst on 11 May, arriving back on 19 May. The stages of the journey out, with the distances in miles calculated from Emu Ford on the Nepean River, were as follows: Spring Wood (12), Jamison’s Valley or second depot (28), Blackheath (41), Cox’s River (56), the Fish River (72), Sidmouth Valley (80), Campbell River (91) and Bathurst (101½). Each of these stages had abundant water and good grass.

The first part of the ascent up the mountains was found relatively easy. Four miles beyond Spring Wood the ground became rugged and difficult. At the 18th mile mark a pile of stones was interpreted as the furthest point reached by Mr. Caley, and the Governor named that part of the mountain Caley’s Repulse. The difficult terrain continued till the 26th mile, where the country opened out to an extensive plain on ‘the summit of the Western Mountains.’ From here there was a fine view back to Windsor, the Hawkesbury River, Prospect Hill and other places. The Governor, mindful of his position as the King’s representative, named this feature after the King himself, as the King’s Table Land. Also named after royalty in the course of the tour were The Prince Regent’s Glen, a ‘romantically beautiful’ place beneath immense cliffs on the south-western side of the King’s Table Land, and Mount York, a ‘magnificently grand’ termination of a mountain ridge on the further side of the mountains, named after His Royal Highness the Duke of York. Two features were named after prominent politicians: at the 33rd mile a picturesque opening seen on the south-west side of the Prince Regent’s Glen, circular in shape and revealing mountains beyond mountains, was named Pitt’s Amphitheatre after the late Right Honourable William Pitt; and out in the western plains a site fixed on for a future town was named Bathurst after the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Other places named on the tour include Cox’s Pass, the precipitous descent down the further side of the Mountains, where Cox’s skill in constructing a road down was highly commended by the Governor; the Vale of Clwyd at the foot of Mount York, thought to resemble a valley of that name in North Wales; Cox’s River, which runs from the Prince Regent’s Glen to the Nepean and forms a boundary to the Vale of Clwyd; Mount Blaxland, Wentworth’s Sugar Loaf and Lawson’s Sugar Loaf, three ‘beautiful high hills joining each other’ three miles west of the Vale of Clwyd, where Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth had terminated their explorations; and Clarence Hilly Range, a range of high hills and narrow valleys between the Cox’s and Fish Rivers, difficult for cattle. Various features had been named in the course of the expedition of George Evans, including Mount Evans, ‘a very singular and beautiful Mountain’ with a distinctive round rock at the top; the explorer had named the mountain after himself.

The Fish and Campbell Rivers join to form the Macquarie River, which winds through the Bathurst Plains. On the south side of the Macquarie River, but above the level of floods, the site of Bathurst was chosen ‘to derive all the advantages’ of that ‘clear and beautiful stream.’ Macquarie noted that this location, with its rich and fertile soil, would be a fine place for ‘Mechanics and Settlers of whatever description.’

One anticipated advantage had evaporated:

The Governor must however add, that the hopes which were once so sanguinely entertained of this River becoming navigable to the Western Sea have ended in disappointment.

Report of the Governor’s tour: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2. Report of the expedition of George Evans: ibid. 12/2/1814, p. 1.

Governor Macquarie goes on tour

In an order dated 22 April 1815 and published on that day in the Sydney Gazette, Lachlan Macquarie, ‘Governor and Commander of the Forces,’ formally announced his intention to proceed on a tour of inspection of the newly discovered country to the west of the Blue Mountains, and directed that during his absence the heads of the civil and military departments should submit their returns and reports to Lieutenant Governor Molle. The tour would not last more than a few weeks and anyone wishing to submit an application on public business should wait until the Governor’s return.

On the following Tuesday 25 April, as the Sydney Gazette reported in its edition of Saturday 29th, the Governor, accompanied by Mrs Macquarie, left town to visit the newly discovered plains. The Governor took with him a substantial group of dignitaries: the Secretary (John Thomas Campbell); a Major of Brigade (Captain Antill); the Governor’s aide de camp (Lieutenant Watts); Sir John Jamieson; William Cox; the Surveyor General (John Oxley); the Assistant Surgeon (William Redfern); the Deputy Surveyor General (James Meehan); Deputy Surveyor G.W. Evans; and a painter and naturalist (I.W. Lewin).

In the Sydney Gazette of 10 June 1815, the first item is a lengthy report of that date by the Governor describing his tour and acknowledging the contributions of various people to the opening up of the country. A brief history is given of efforts to cross the Blue Mountains, including mention of the attempts by Mr. Bass and Mr. Caley before the successes of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, George Evans, and finally William Cox who supervised construction of the road.

It was perhaps rather nerve-wracking for Cox to accompany Macquarie on the tour of inspection, knowing that at any point the Governor might be displeased with the methods or quality of the work. But if Macquarie did find anything amiss he does not mention it in this report.

Indeed a notable aspect of the report is the exceptionally fulsome praise of Cox expressed by the Governor. Thus we read that the road was built in six months, ‘without the loss of a man, or any serious accident. The Governor is at a loss to appreciate fully the services rendered by Mr. Cox to this Colony, in the execution of this arduous work, which promises to be of the greatest public utility…’ Given the difficulty of the task and the absence from home and family, ‘it is difficult to express the sentiments of approbation to which such privations and services are entitled.’

It is interesting to observe Macquarie giving credit in this way where credit was due.

Announcement of forthcoming tour: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 22/4/1815, p. 1. The Governor has left town: 29/4/1815, p. 2. Report of the tour: 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2.

William Cox, road-maker

William Cox (1764-1837) arrived in Sydney in January 1800 as an officer in the New South Wales Corps. He succeeded John Macarthur as paymaster but got into financial difficulties when he bought for more than he could afford Macarthur’s Brush Farm at Dundas and other properties. This caused considerable inconvenience as it meant that others had to oversee the process of selling off his estate to pay his debts. He also incurred official displeasure owing to misuse of funds he was supposed to administer as paymaster. He was arrested, and in February 1807 sent to England, but a trial apparently did not eventuate. In 1810 he returned to New South Wales, having resigned his army commission the previous year, and began a rehabilitated life under Governor Macquarie. He lived, farmed and served as a magistrate in the Hawkesbury area, where his conduct won popular approval. He undertook a number of building works for the government, and this gave him a background for offering to construct a road across the Blue Mountains.

By a Government and General Order of 12 July 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared the construction of a road across the Blue Mountains ‘to the extensive Tract of Champaign Country lately explored by Mr. Evans’ to be ‘an object of the first Importance to the future Prosperity of the Colony.’ Acknowledgment was made of the ‘very handsome and liberal Manner’ in which William Cox had tendered his personal services for the undertaking. The Governor had accepted his proposal, had ‘entrusted to his Care and Judgment the entire Execution of the said Work,’ and was now making it known that the public were to keep away from the road under construction, so that the work could proceed unhindered and be completed as quickly as possible. Any unauthorised persons proceeding to the road or even crossing over the Nepean River to ‘Emu Plains’ while the road was being made would be taken prisoner by the Military Guard to be stationed at Emu Plains and sent to Sydney.

The term ‘Emu Plains’ was expressly used in this Order for that area ‘hitherto erroneously called Emu Island.’ It was from Emu Plains, on the left bank of the Nepean River, that the road was to start. Construction would begin in a few days’ time with the sending out of a working party of thirty men with a guard of eight soldiers. An announcement would be made in the Sydney Gazette when the road became ‘passable for Carts or Carriages of any kind.’

‘Government and General Order’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/7/1814, p. 1. Edna Hickson, ‘Cox, William (1764-1837)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 258-259, and online. William Cox, A Narrative of Proceedings of William Cox, Esq., of Clarendon, lately holding a commission in the New South Wales Corps or 102nd Regiment, in constructing a road from Capt. Woodriffe’s farm on the Nepean River, opposite Emu Plains, over the Blue Mountains, and from thence to Bathurst Plains, on the banks of the Macquarie River, in the years 1814 & 1815, Sydney, White, 1888.

A commemoration dinner for the Governor

On Thursday 28 December 1809 His Majesty’s ship Hindostan and the store-ship Dromedary arrived in Port Jackson, with His Excellency Lachlan M‘Quarrie Esquire on board the latter ship. Delayed by contrary winds, they came to anchor in Sydney Cove on the Saturday, and His Excellency the Governor and his Lady landed at ten on the Sunday morning with due ceremony and proceeded to Government House.

The event signalled a new phase in the life of the colony, in which the King’s authority had to be re-asserted after the rebellion against Governor William Bligh. Macquarie was a strong figure, and the public were left in no doubt that it was in the interests of the civil and military establishment and all citizens to remain on good terms with him.

Three years later, in the Sydney Gazette of 9 January 1813, we find a notice announcing that, ‘A number of respectable Inhabitants of this Colony propose dining together on the 29th instant in order to commemorate His Excellency Governor Macquarie’s Landing in, and assuming the Command of this Territory.’ The next issue notified readers that the dinner would take place at No. 11, George-street, Sydney, and listed the names of the seventeen Stewards from whom one could obtain tickets. At the head of the list is ‘Wm. Cox, Esq.’

The dinner duly took place and in view of the warmth of the season was organised as a fête champêtre, with a tent erected in the front garden of Mr. Robert Jenkins, one of the Stewards and Treasurer. The tent was ‘fancifully decorated with various ensigns, together with a variety of shrubs and boughs, formed into wreaths, festoons, and other neat devices,’ and ‘on the outside of the tent the British Colours were displayed.’ There were nearly 150 persons present, ‘among whom were many Gentlemen of the first respectability.’

The company sat down to dinner at six and during dinner the band of the 73rd Regiment supplied musical accompaniment, playing ‘a number of appropriate airs.’ The President was William Gore, Esq., and the Vice-President William Cox. Each of these two gentlemen sat ‘supported by a Clergyman on the right; the Stewards were seated at equal distances from each other; and the rest of the Company placed themselves promiscuously without respect to rank or difference of condition.’

After dinner there were fifteen toasts, ‘all of which were followed by well adapted airs.’ The toasts indicate ideals and preoccupations of the time. The first three toasts were to the King, the Prince Regent, and the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. After a toast to the success of ‘the British Arms, by Sea and Land’ came the toast to the Governor: ‘Governor Macquarie! May the Anniversary of his assuming the Command of this Territory be commemorated and reverenced by our latest Posterity!’ The next two toasts were to ‘the Founder of the Colony’, Governor Phillip, and the Minister for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst. The eighth and central toast is interesting and perhaps surprising: ‘Mr. Wilberforce, the Friend of the Colony, and of Mankind in general.’ This was followed by a toast to religion and virtue: ‘May Religion and Virtue be the Foundation whereon the Superstructure of our Colony will be reared.’ The next four toasts developed further the theme of progress in the colony, by way of unanimity, commercial and agricultural prosperity, the establishment of an export trade, and an ‘intended Library. May every Inhabitant of our Colony unite in promoting the general diffusion of useful Knowledge!’ The second-last toast, ‘proposed by a Gentleman’, was to Lieutenant Colonel O’Connell and his 73rd Regiment. And the final toast was, ‘Good Night!’

The landing: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 7/1/1810, pp. 2-3. Notice of proposed Commemoration Dinner: 9/1/1813, p. 1. Stewards: 16/1/1813, p. 2. Report of the dinner: 30/1/1813, p. 2.

An ode for the Queen’s birthday

On Saturday 20 January 1816 the Sydney Gazette reported that, ‘Thursday last being the Anniversary of the auspicious Birth of Our Gracious Queen, was celebrated with the fullest demonstrations of loyalty and joy.’

The Royal Standard (at Fort Phillip) and the Union Flag (at Dawes’s Point) were displayed at sunrise. A Royal Salute was fired at 12 noon, and the Governor inspected the 46th Regiment and the Royal Veteran Company in Hyde Park. His Majesty’s armed brig Emu fired a Royal Salute at one o’clock, and the Governor held a levee at Government House, ‘and received the Congratulations of the Civil and Military Officers, and other Gentlemen of the Colony.’

At the levee, ‘The Laureat Bard (for so we may venture to call him, from the frequency of his tributes on such occasions) presented his offering of an Ode, which, at the instance of His Excellency, he recited in an emphatic and appropriate style; the distinguished approbation of those who had the satisfaction to hear it, will best convey the high opinion entertained of the merits of this production – We have the pleasure of introducing it to our Readers in our present columns.’

In the evening a ball and supper, attended by over 120 ladies and gentlemen, were held at the New General Hospital, Government House being too small for the occasion. That morning, news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo had arrived, and the decorations included a salute to this triumph.

The ‘Laureat Bard’ was Michael Massey Robinson, who held several positions of trust in the colony despite having been transported for blackmail and having been detected acting in breach of regulations. Over the course of a decade during Governor Macquarie’s tenure he was regularly looked to for an ode for the King’s and Queen’s birthdays. It is intriguing that, if the year of his birth is correctly given as 1744 (there is some doubt about the date), he was born in the same year as Queen Charlotte, a circumstance which may have given him an additional emotional investment in poetically marking the passage of time and reflecting on human progress.

The odes vary in quality and clarity, but they have a sense of feeling and power, and they give valuable insights into the thinking of the time. While audiences may not have followed every convoluted thought or expression, even in an age when convolution was accepted as a part of high style, they no doubt appreciated the values that Robinson was careful to promote: pride in ‘Albion’ and her heroes in war and peace; a commitment to reason, civilisation, the wisdom of classical Athens, Christianity, the arts and sciences, education (with mention of Oxford, where Robinson studied, and Cambridge), and human valour and industry in such fields as exploration and agriculture; and firm rejection of all that was regarded as unsympathetic to these ideals.

Each ode develops a timely theme. That for the Queen’s birthday in 1816 begins by praising those who have explored the world by sea, including Columbus (a great but flawed adventurer) and even more so Albion’s heroic representatives (‘Firm as the Oak that bound their Vessels’ Sides’). The poet then considers the glorious and patriotic achievements of adventurous Britons whose explorations take them across ‘Tracts of untravers’d Earth’ in Australia, and in particular ‘Where yon Blue Mountains, with tremendous Brow, / Frown on the humbler Vales that wind below, / Where scarcely human Footsteps ever trac’d / The craggy Cliffs that guard the lingering Waste / O’er the wild Surface of the Western Plains…’ Bringing agriculture to this new domain caused surprise: ‘Invaded Nature startled at the Plan’; but the ‘stubborn Glebe’ yielded, shared in the triumph and disclosed its riches. ‘And proud Posterity shall prize the Land / That owes its Culture to a Briton’s Hand!’

One can imagine Governor Lachlan Macquarie being very pleased with these sentiments.

The date of the Queen’s birthday, and the date of its celebration, present some difficulties. George III (4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whose dates seem generally to be given as 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818. According to Percy Fitzgerald, The Good Queen Charlotte (1899), p. 6: ‘The future queen, Sophia Charlotte, was born May 16th or May 19th, o.s. 1744.’ In colonial New South Wales the anniversary was celebrated on 18 January (or 19 January if the 18th was a Sunday). It seems that Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball (a traditional occasion for the coming out of debutantes) is held in May in Britain but in January in at least one or two places elsewhere.

Given the recent and current floods in eastern Australia (though not in the Sydney region), it is interesting to note that this period in January 1816 was a time of rains with a threat of floods, as the Sydney Gazette reported below its description of the Queen’s birthday celebrations: ‘The continuance of the rains begins to excite apprehension for the safety of the crop of wheat newly gathered, as well as for the growing maize. The earth is already saturated, the lagoons and hollows are in general full, and are likely to overflow unless the rains should cease.’

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 20/1/1816, p. 2, including Mr. Michael Robinson, ‘Ode for the Queen’s Birth Day, 1816’. Donovan Clarke, ‘Robinson, Michael Massey (1744-1826)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 387-389, and online. George Mackaness (ed.), Odes of Michael Massey Robinson, First Poet Laureate of Australia, with five illustrations, Sydney, Ford, 1946. Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald, The Good Queen Charlotte, London, Downey, 1899; ‘o.s.’ = ‘old style’.

Over the mountains and along the stream

In a Government Order of 12 February 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie rehearsed the story of the recent expedition of George William Evans, an Assistant Land Surveyor, who with two free men and three convicts crossed the Blue Mountains and explored the country beyond. The Order acknowledged the contribution of Evans and his men and recorded rewards to be given to them and to their volunteer predecessors over the Blue Mountains, Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth.

With instructions from Governor Macquarie, Evans’ party left Emu Island on 20 November 1813 and arrived back at the same place on 8 January 1814 after a journey of seven weeks. The purpose of the journey was ‘to ascertain what Resources this Colony might possess in the Interior.’ Evans was to ‘discover a Passage over the Blue Mountains’ and ascertain ‘the Quality and general Properties of the Soil he should meet with to the Westward of them.’ The direction of the journey was to be as nearly westerly as possible, and the party was to continue for as long as their means would permit.

Based on details in Evans’ journal, the narrative indicates that after leaving Emu Island the party reached the other side of the mountains on the fifth day. Moving along a ‘beautiful and fertile’ valley ‘with a rapid Stream running through it,’ they came to the point at which Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth had stopped, and then went on for twenty-one days before returning. The journey took them over ‘several Plains of great Extent, interspersed with Hills and Vallies,’ where the soil was rich and there were various streams and chains of ponds.

A number of distances are given. Emu Island is stated to be about 36 miles from Sydney. From the end-point of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth’s explorations the party continued another 98½ miles, and they were not less than 150 miles from Emu Island when they turned back.

The stream flowing from the other side of the mountains and continuing in a westerly direction, ‘with many and great Accessions of other Streams, becomes a capacious and beautiful River, abounding in Fish of very large Size and fine Flavour.’

As for what may lie beyond the furthest extent of their researches:

This River is supposed to empty itself into the Ocean on the western Side of New South Wales, at a Distance of from 2 to 300 Miles from the Termination of the Tour.

‘Government Order’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 12/2/1814, p. 1.

The Blue Mountains: forbidding and forbidden

Rugged, precipitous and densely wooded, the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney could easily seem an inhospitable and rather frightening place to someone unaccustomed to the ways of the Australian bush.

An article by a ‘Sydney correspondent’ in the Brisbane Courier in 1876, in which the writer reflected on the significance of the expedition of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, described the Blue Mountains as ‘that seemingly impenetrable succession of gaunt ranges, dense forests, and rocky fastnesses.’ In 1813 settlement was confined to the area between Newcastle to the north, Shoalhaven to the south, ‘and the base of the grim, defiant Blue Mountains in the west.’ There were settlers on the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers, but in the west ‘those gloomy sentinels stood barring the passage and forbidding further progress.’

An authoritarian government added to this sense of inaccessibility by declaring the country west of the Nepean out of bounds to all but a favoured few. Preoccupied with issues of public order and land use, the early Governors did not want convicts or settlers escaping from lawful oversight beyond the bounds of approved settlement.

At the foot of the mountains, on the western bank of the Nepean, lay a grassed area known as Emu Island. In an Order of 11 April 1812 Governor Macquarie noted that some settlers and others had been in the habit of sending ‘Horses and Horned Cattle’ to graze on this and other crown land west of the Nepean. In future anyone found guilty of such trespass would be severely punished. Moreover, no one was allowed to cross the Nepean River or travel in the country west of it without a written pass from the Governor or Lieutenant Governor. The only exception was for those associated with the sheep farms of Messrs. M‘Arthur and Davidson in the area known as the Cowpastures. Wild cattle grazing west of the Nepean were government property, and anyone found hunting, stealing or killing them would be prosecuted for felony, ‘and punished in the most exemplary Manner.’

The more the Blue Mountains were magnified in the public imagination as a near insuperable obstacle, the greater the achievement of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth might seem after the explorers found a way through. And the more energetic the Government was in claiming crown rights over the country west of the Nepean, the more subordinate the mountains and plains might seem to the dictates of officialdom. So proceeded the grand conquest of the mountains and the opening up of the territory beyond for pasturage and agriculture.

‘Crossing the Blue Mountains sixty-three years ago’, Brisbane Courier 15/4/1876, p. 6; also in The Queenslander 22/4/1876, p. 14. ‘Government and General Orders’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 18/4/1812, p. 1.