Tag Archives: John Dunmore Lang

Taking a stick to the environment

John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), Presbyterian minister, member of Parliament and author of An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, relates in that work an incident which occurred as he was travelling alone on horse-back from the Hunter River to Sydney in March 1830. He writes (pp. 205-206):

I was trotting along the side of a hill, when a black snake, of upwards of four feet in length, which had been basking in the sun on the bare foot-path—for such was the only road at the time for a considerable distance among the mountains—sprang out from among my horse’s feet, and tried to escape. As it is considered a matter of duty in the colony to kill an animal of this kind, when it can be done without danger or inconvenience, I immediately dismounted, and, breaking off a twig from a bush, pursued and wounded the venomous reptile.

He had struck it a few inches from the head. The snake turned and glared, and the part of its body between the head and wound swelled up, but it could not attack and tried again to escape, whereupon the traveller killed it with a few more strokes.

It is usual in such cases to leave the animal extended, as a sort of trophy, across the footpath, to inform the next traveller that the country has been cleared of another nuisance, and to remind him, perhaps, of his own duty to do all that in him lies to clear it of every remaining nuisance; that it may become a goodly and a pleasant land, in which there shall be nothing left to hurt or to destroy.

The last allusion recalls Isaiah 11:9 and 65:25. The snake-destroying cleric, thinking himself to have the best interests of humanity at heart, concludes his narrative with an elegant quotation from Vergil’s Aeneid, which gives (he says) a ‘beautiful and most accurate description of the appearance the snake exhibited when half-dead’ (p. 206 n. 2).

John Dunmore Lang, An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, from the Founding of the Colony in 1788 to the Present Day, 4th ed., vol. I, London, Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1875, pp. 205-206 [previous editions, 1834, 1837, 1852]; for the date of the incident see p. 203. ‘Pleasant land’ occurs in a number of Old Testament passages; ‘goodly and pleasant land’ perhaps combines ‘good and pleasant’ as found in Psalm 133:1 with ‘green & pleasant Land’ in the last line of William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ (which like the passages in Isaiah makes reference to Jerusalem). The OED (s.v.) records ‘twig’ as dialectal for a stout stick. Lang’s text of Vergil, Aeneid 5.273-279 corresponds to that in the Bibliotheca Augustana (which uses Mynors, 1969) except for nodos in line 279 (the BA has nodis) and punctuation differences. The passage describes a snake, wounded on the highway by a wheel or rock, glaring, hissing and twisting as it tries in vain to escape. D.W.A. Baker, ‘Lang, John Dunmore (1799-1878)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 76-83, and online.

Sydney in 1841: a directory [instalment 4]

The ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’ published in the Sydney Herald on 5 July 1841 (see the entries of 17/11/2010, 18/11/2010 and 19/11/2010 for further details) includes (9) Religious, scientific and charitable institutions.

(9) Among religious organisations the first mentioned are the Societies for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Propagating the Gospel. These societies have an Australian Auxiliary, and the Diocesan Committee of this Auxiliary has offices under St. James’s Church. They also have a ‘depository’ there for selling their publications.

There are also depositories in King Street (near Castlereagh Street) for the Bible Society and the Religious Tract Society.

A number of religious organisations are listed which do not have particular offices but meet in locations, whether places of worship or school houses, associated with their respective denominations. These are the Church Missionary Society, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the German Mission to the Aborigines, and the Roman Catholic Institute.

Several organisations are listed which can be classed under the heading of charitable institutions: the Temperance Society, the Total Abstinence Society, the Scottish Society, the Union Benefit Society, and the Floral Society.

Under the heading of scientific organisations comes the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts in Pitt Street (near Park Street).

Also mentioned is a library, the Australian Subscription and Reading Rooms, in Macquarie Place (next to St. James’s Parsonage).

A note on the religious organisations mentioned:

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was a major publisher of religious materials. The organisation was already old by the nineteenth century, having been founded in 1698. It had a significant role in education and missionary work. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was also long established, having been founded in 1701. It sent out missionaries to America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, and had a particular interest in indigenous peoples. Both of these societies began in England. They had their origins within the Church of England but came to have ecumenical connections as well. The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in 1804. It was non-denominational and willing (controversially) to cater for a variety of theologies and to include in Bibles books regarded by many as apocryphal. The Religious Tract Society, founded in 1799, published tracts and books for evangelistic purposes. The Evangelical Revival in England and elsewhere was a significant energising force in the formation and development of these and other societies.

Three of the missionary societies mentioned were founded in London. The first-mentioned in the Directory is the Church Missionary Society, a Protestant organisation founded in 1799. In February 1825 the Sydney Gazette reported the recent formation of an Auxiliary Church Missionary Society for Australasia, in union with the Church Missionary Society in London. The first quarterly meeting of the committee of the Church Missionary Society for Australasia was held at the residence of its Secretary in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, on 8/4/1825. The Wesleyan Missionary Society was founded in 1786 and began work in Australia in 1815. In 1818 the British Methodist Conference formed the General Wesleyan Missionary Society. The London Missionary Society, Evangelical and non-denominational, was founded as the Missionary Society in 1795 and renamed the London Missionary Society in 1818.

The German Mission to the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area (the ‘Zion Hill Mission’) began in 1837 on the initiative of John Dunmore Lang. In the year in which this Directory was published, a sixteen-page statement concerning the mission, written by one of the missionaries and revised by Lang, was published in Sydney by James Reading, whose offices were in ‘King-street, East’.

The Roman Catholic Institute was formed in Sydney in 1840. The Colonist newspaper reported a meeting held on 10/9/1840 ‘for the purpose of forming a Roman Catholic Institute, for the purpose of procuring money to enable them to spread the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, and defend themselves from the attacks of other religious persuasions.’ The Colonist was not a sympathetic observer, nor was the Sydney Herald, which reported the formation, at a ‘numerously attended’ meeting, of a branch of the Roman Catholic Institute of London and also ‘an association for propagating the Roman Catholic Faith.’ The report added: ‘We shall not regret the formation of these societies if they have the effect, which they ought to have, of shewing the Protestants how necessary it is to unite and be strenuous in their exertions, to promote the Protestant religion, and thus neutralize the exertions of the Romanists. If the Protestants are firm to their duty they have so much of the wealth and intelligence of the Colony, and such a large numerical majority that they need be under no fear of the result of any trial of strength.’

The very next column of the Sydney Herald provides an example of the dual role of church and missionary organisations in Sydney in that era. On the day before the Sydney branch of the Catholic Institute was formed, the Bishop of Australia laid the foundation stone of a new Church of England at Ashfield, on land given to the church by Mrs. Underwood, who placed an inscribed brazen plate in the cavity before laying of the stone. The church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, whose feast day it was. The service was taken by Rev. J.K. Walpole, a missionary sent to the colony by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; he had been working in the district for some time. The Bishop gave an address ‘in which he enforced the duty incumbent on all to support the practice of protestantism.’

A snapshot of the activities of missionary organisations in Australia and New Zealand in the 1830s is provided by the Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. 15, London, Knight, 1839, under an entry for ‘Missions’ (pp. 266-277), at p. 276. The article cites as some of its sources the Missionary Map of the World; Wyld, Map of Missions; the Missionary Register; The Missionary Vine; and Rev. C. Williams, Missionary Gazetteer.

There is a ‘List of Protestant missionary societies (1691–1900)’ in Wikipedia. A list of missionary societies with their dates of foundation was published in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/8/1822, p. 3. Church Missionary Society: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 3/2/1825, p. 3; The Australian 7/4/1825, p. 1. German Mission: J.D. Lang, Appeal to the Friends of Missions, on Behalf of the German Mission to the Aborigines of New South Wales, London, 1839; Rev. Christopher Eipper, Statement of the Origin, Conditions, and Prospects of the German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, conducted under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales, Sydney, James Reading, 1841 (revised for the press by John Dunmore Lang, who added a Postscript, p. 16); accessible on the University of Queensland website (pdf). Cf. Catherine Langbridge, Robert Sloan and Regina Ganter, ‘Zion Hill Mission (1838-1848)’, in ‘German Missionaries in Queensland: a web-directory of intercultural encounters’, on the Griffith University website. Roman Catholic Institute: The Colonist 12/9/1840, p. 2; Sydney Herald 14/9/1840, p. 3.

Sydney in 1841: a directory [instalment 2]

The ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’ published in the Sydney Herald on 5 July 1841 (see yesterday’s entry for further details) includes (3) educational establishments, (4) places of resort and (5) public wharfs (so spelled) and markets.

(3) The directory lists nine educational establishments located in public buildings (or two or three more if primary and infant schools are counted separately): the Australian College, in Jamison Street beside the Scotch Church; the Sydney College, on the east side of Hyde Park; the Female School of Industry, at the lower end of Macquarie Street; the Kent-street Primary and Infant Schools, between King and Market Streets; St. Philip’s Primary and Infant School, next to St. Philip’s Church; St. James’ Grammar School, nearly completed, at the southern end of Phillip Street, with classes temporarily held in the Old Court House (next to St. James’ Church); St. James’ Primary Male and Female Schools, in the Old Court House; the Roman Catholic School, also in the Old Court House; and the New Roman Catholic School-house, at the northern end of Kent Street. There are also ‘upwards of sixty private seminaries.’

(4) The term ‘places of resort’ evidently means places for serious and civilised recreation and amusement. Four places are listed: the Royal Exchange and Subscription Rooms, temporarily in the nearest house to Sydney Cove, on the east side of Macquarie Place; the Australian Club-house, on the corner of O’Connell and Bent Streets (not far from Macquarie Place); the Australian Museum, but this is closed at the moment and temporary premises are being used next to St. James’s Parsonage at the southern end of Macquarie Street; and the Sydney Botanical [sic] Gardens (part of the Government Domain).

(5) Three wharves are listed: the Queen’s Wharf, near the northern end of George Street, i.e. at Sydney Cove, and two at Darling Harbour: the Market Wharf in Sussex Street, between Market and King, and the Commercial Wharf at the end of King Street.

Of the markets, the Sydney Market Sheds are where the Queen Victoria Building stands now, surrounded by George, York, Market and Druitt Streets. The other three markets are side by side at the southern end of the town, on the southern side of Campbell Street: the Corn Market (at the end of George Street) and on the eastern side of that the Hay Market and then the Cattle Market, which includes the Sydney Pound.

A note on two of the institutions mentioned: The Australian College (1831-1854) was founded by Sydney’s first Presbyterian minister, John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), minister of the Scotch Church and principal of the College. The College lasted longer than his short-lived Caledonian Academy, announced in 1826, the year the Scotch (or Scots) Church was completed (cf. the announcement in The Monitor 2/6/1826, p. 8, which states that any funds which Dr. Lang may derive from his connection with the Academy will be used to pay off the church debt). The State Library of NSW holds a number of images of the three-storey building with verandahs on the corner of O’Connell and Bent Streets used by the Australian Club until 1892.

[To be continued.]

Photographs of the Australian Club House: e.g. Australian Club [ca. 1863-65], Dalton’s, Royal Photographic Gallery, 320, George Street, Sydney, Dalton’s Royal Photographic Establishment (Sydney, N.S.W.) (Ref. SPF/101), Aggregated Collection, State Library of NSW.