Tag Archives: Campbell Drummond Riddell

The commencement of a bright and happy era

On Wednesday 30 November 1831, ‘the sons of brave old Scotland,’ in the words of the Sydney Gazette, celebrated St. Andrew’s Day ‘with the customary honours, shewing that however far awa’, they still reverence and love the land of their fathers.’ In the evening they held a dinner at the Royal Hotel, ‘accompanied by a number of their brethren of the rose, the shamrock and the leek.’ An assembly of some 80 or 90 people, ‘comprising many of the highest rank in the colony,’ sat down to enjoy the national feast. There was enough on the tables ‘to gladden the heart of an alderman.’ Peter Macintyre, Esq., wore the costume of a Highland Chief which he had worn when welcoming the arrival of His late Majesty in Scotland in 1822. Under the chairmanship of the Colonial Treasurer, Campbell Drummond Riddell, Esq., and with the Acting Governor Colonel Patrick Lindesay in attendance, there were toasts and speeches. The new Governor, General Richard Bourke, was expected any day, and the toasts to him and Colonel Lindesay ‘were received with loud and long-continued bursts of applause.’ For the toast to the Irish-born General Bourke the band of the 39th Regiment played the air Erin go brah (‘Ireland for ever’) and for the Scottish-born Colonel Lindesay, the British Grenadiers.

Two days later General Bourke’s ship the Margaret sailed into Port Jackson ‘in gallant style’, amid high expectation on the part of the local inhabitants, and cast anchor in Sydney Cove. Captain Westmacot, His Excellency’s aide-de-camp, landed and proceeded to Government House. General Bourke stepped ashore on Saturday 3 December and took the oaths of office, and the flow of official announcements over his name began to be published.

The people of Sydney were preparing to welcome their new Governor with an ‘illumination’ – the lighting up of buildings and streets and the lighting of fireworks – and carried out their plan on Monday 5th. Volume I, number 35 of the recently founded Sydney Herald, precursor of the Sydney Morning Herald, reported that, ‘On Monday evening, the most extensive and general illumination ever exhibited in this Colony, took place.’ It noted that lamps, transparencies and candles were used to form ‘emblematical devices’ and other effects. ‘Fire balloons and fire works of every description’ appeared, and there was firing of guns by ships in the harbour. The ‘emblematical devices’ were described in more detail by the Sydney Gazette.  Lamps and transparencies were used to form words and symbols: ‘William the Fourth, the patriot King!’, ‘Forward, Australia!’, ‘Bourke’s our Anchor of Hope!’, ‘W. IV’ with a crown between the letters, a crown with ‘W.R. IV’ and ‘Bourke’, ‘G.B.’ with a crown in the centre, a crown with ‘The King, Bourke and Reform’ and ‘Honest Men and Bonnie Lasses,’ a harp with the words ‘Cead Millee Faltha’ (‘a hundred thousand welcomes’) and ‘Erin go Bragh.’ St. John’s Tavern had simply a large ‘B’ (which presumably stood for ‘Bourke’ rather than ‘Burton’s Ale’). The Waterloo Warehouse had a transparency ‘representing Asia, Africa, and America, in the act of presenting their tributary offering to Europe.’

Both newspapers reported that people were peaceful and well behaved. The Sydney Gazette commented: ‘Thus passed off this auspicious night, in honour of an occasion, which seems to be hailed by all ranks and degrees of society as the commencement of a bright and happy era in the annals of Australia.’

St. Andrew’s Day: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 3/12/1831, p. 2. Illumination: Sydney Herald 12/12/1831, p. 4; Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 8/12/1831, p. 2.