Tag Archives: Thomas Makdougall Brisbane

St. Patrick’s Day, 1827

On Saturday 17 March 1810, early in the first year of Lachlan Macquarie’s tenure of office as Governor of New South Wales, the Sydney Gazette reported:

His Excellency was this day pleased to give an entertainment to a number of the Government artificers and labourers, in honor of the day, being Saint Patrick’s; on which occasion true British hospitality displayed itself; and every heart was filled with sentiments of respect and gratitude.

This commemoration of St. Patrick’s Day is presented as a gesture on the part of Governor Macquarie rather than a celebration that arose from within the Irish community.

In 1827 St. Patrick’s Day again fell on a Saturday. According to a report in the Australian newspaper, the day had not been celebrated in Sydney with a public dinner before that time. ‘Saint George and Andrew … have each had their day, and their respective votaries for years back, but in Sydney Poor Pat had no one to give him a dinner in public before Saturday last.’ In that year, a committee of gentlemen arranged for ‘Dinner on table at half-past five,’ and a memorable occasion resulted.

In a lengthy report, the newspaper article describes in detail the dinner and the customs that attended it. Mr. D. Wentworth was President, with Dr. Douglass on his right. St. Patrick is mentioned a number of times. There were ‘such dishes as might have tempted Saint Patrick himself with all his respect for Lent or ordinances of “Mother Church” to the contrary, to break his fast over.’ Mr. Wentworth, with a full glass of Irish whiskey, spoke in memory ‘of one whose fame can never die’, and at the toast the 57th’s band ‘struck up the saint’s favourite air—Patrick’s day in the morning.’ The calls for an encore, and the bursts of applause, ‘would scarce have failed to gratify the Saint, could he but have been present.’ Rev. Mr. Power proposed a toast to ‘Thomas Moore—the bard of the Isles,’ and in response to a request from his countrymen and distinguished visitors he gave them a song ‘in the original erse, with the tone, rich brogue, and humourous spirit, that would go hard towards puzzling Saint Patrick himself to equal or excel.’

Other toasts were drunk to the King, the Duke of York and the rest of the Royal Family, the Army and the Navy, Governor Darling, Mrs. Darling, the ladies of the Colony, Governor Macquarie (‘drank in solemn silence’), Chief Justice Forbes, the Chairman, the former Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, Major Goulburn, Mr. M‘Leay, and others.

It was after midnight before the last of the company dispersed. ‘A feeling for political discussion’ prevailed towards the end of the evening, but it was partial and evanescent, and ‘it may be truly said, that harmony, cordiality, and general good feeling reigned paramount.’

The author of the newspaper article, most probably the editor (Robert Howe, son of the first proprietor George Howe), whose stature would presumably have earned him an invitation to the event, noted that he himself was not Irish: ‘It is rather unfortunate, that we have but a very slight and impartial acquaintance with the “life and adventures” of the “rite merry and facetious” Saint Patrick.’

The Chairman, D’Arcy Wentworth, born in Ireland, was much respected in the colony. He died a few months later (7 July). The reputation of Dr. Douglass with the authorities was variable; he was obviously in sufficient standing at the time to play a prominent part on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) had by this time become a novelist; his novel The Epicurean was published in 1827.

St. Patrick’s Day was observed by the Bank of New South Wales as a holiday in 1827 (cf. Holidays in Sydney in 1827).

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 17/3/1810, p. 2. ‘Anniversary of Saint Patrick’, Australian 20/3/1827, p. 3. J.J. Auchmuty, ‘Wentworth, D’Arcy (1762-1827)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 579-582, and online. K.B. Noad, ‘Douglass, Henry Grattan (1790-1865)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 314-316, and online.

Showers have revived our hopes

Sir Thomas Brisbane was Governor of New South Wales from 1 December 1821 until 1 December 1825. Three years after his departure from office, the Sydney Gazette referred to a long-range weather forecast attributed to the Governor:

The Australian says, that “Sir Thomas Brisbane, before he left the Colony, predicted that we should have a drought of three years’ duration in New South Wales!” For the first six months after Sir Thomas left, it did nothing but rain, and that as violently as ever rain descended from the heavens. But, should this prediction come true, there are about two years yet to the good: and, if there be no rain in that time, we will undertake to predict that the world will then be at an end.

This suggests that in March 1828 the writer was of the view that the colony had been subject to drought for about a year, that is since about March 1827. We read of drought in 1826 but there was evidently sufficient rain by the beginning of 1827 to mark off that period of drought from the more prolonged period which succeeded. Thus we read concerning the Thursday market in Sydney on 4 January:

The fruit is beginning to shew itself, though the long drought has been a great drawback upon the orchard; but the late occasional showers have revived our hopes in this respect.

There seems to have been a spirit of hopefulness abroad in March 1827. Experience suggested that substantial rains were likely in the latter part of the month, and on 10 March the Sydney Gazette was taking heart from recent conditions and expecting even better:

Upon looking into the Almanack we are glad to find, for once in a way, that our Colonial Compiler is tolerably correct. We see that we are to expect rain in torrents this month; of this we are right glad, as nothing is more universally needed than rain in abundance. Horticulture begins, even already, to wear a smiling aspect; and, as for the field, nature has proudly and joyously assumed her ever-green. We have had a long drought. The maize has somewhat suffered; but still nothing—no, not even the apparent frown of Providence, will operate as a drawback upon our prosperity, since all things will continue to work together for our Commercial, Agricultural, Political, and Moral Good.

Some readers may have wondered whether, in ascribing to Providence merely an ‘apparent frown’ that could hardly hinder human progress, the writer was tempting Fate.

Governor Brisbane’s prediction: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 21/3/1828, p. 2. Market report: ibid. 6/1/1827, p. 2. Almanack: ibid. 10/3/1827, p. 2.

A family travels from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822

In an Order of 11 April 1822, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, announced several appointments relating to the Commissariat. These included the appointment of Mr. Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins, Purser to the Royal Navy, to be Commissariat Storekeeper at Bathurst, ‘His Pay to commence on his Arrival at that Station.’

Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins (1781-1837), born in England, became a purser in the Royal Navy in 1800 and served in that position during the Napoleonic wars. At the end of his service he was lame from an injury and out of a job, and he turned to business but without success. He had married in 1802, and in 1821 he emigrated with his wife Elizabeth (1783-1875), mother-in-law and children, arriving in Sydney in January 1822. Some three months later he received the appointment as store-keeper and the family left Sydney for Bathurst six days before the date of the Order.

This entailed a journey of over two weeks, described in detail by Elizabeth in a letter of 7 May 1822 to her sister in England. A century later the letter was published in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society (1923). The letter was reproduced in two instalments in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1929. There are typescript copies in the State Library of New South Wales and the National Library of Australia.

At the beginning of her letter Elizabeth says, ‘We have accomplished it,’ a turn of phrase that might carry a hint of the modern ‘We’ve done it.’ It was no small feat, and she describes for her sister the difficulties that had to be overcome to reach their destination.

It was necessary first to arrange for a house in Bathurst and to be sure of the support of the Governor. They were ready to leave by Good Friday, 4 April [actually 5 April], and they departed the next day, sent off in an emotional farewell by many well-wishers.

Their luggage was fairly substantial: a table and twelve chairs, ‘earthenware, cooking utensils, bedding, a few agricultural implements, groceries, and other necessaries to last us a few months,’ together with their clothes. To carry themselves and their luggage they had a waggon drawn by six bullocks, a dray with five bullocks, a cart with two bullocks, and a ‘tilted cart’ drawn by two horses to carry Elizabeth, her mother and the seven children. ‘Hawkins and Tom rode on horseback.’

The weather was fine on leaving and the road to Parramatta good, ‘equal to any turn-pike road in England.’ Elizabeth remarks that there is a forest on each side but the sun gets through (contrary apparently to what one might expect in England) because the trees are high and branch at the top. Progress was slow. As they neared Parramatta, Thomas rode ahead to the Female Factory, procured a servant there and was back in time for dinner, which was had ‘at the foot of a tree.’ After a journey of 25 miles they arrived late that night at Rooty Hill and were received at Government House.

They rested the next day, tired out and forbidden to travel on Sunday by general orders. ‘I could have been contented to have remained there forever. The house was good, and the land all around like a fine wooded park in England.’

(To be continued.)

‘Government and General Orders’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 12/4/1822, p. 1. ‘Hawkins, Thomas Fitzherbert (1781-1837)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 524-525, and online. E. Hawkins, with introduction by H. Selkirk, ‘Journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society) 9(4), 1923, 177-197. Approximately the first third of the letter is reproduced in two instalments in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13 (‘Her correspondence as here presented is practically as in the original, little editing having been required’); ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, ibid. 7/9/1929, p. 13. Mrs. Elizabeth Hawkins, ‘Journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822’, in George Mackaness (coll. and ed.), Fourteen Journeys over the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, 1831-1841 (Australian Historical Monographs, New Series, 22-24), Part 2: 1819-1827, Sydney, Ford, 1950(1951?), pp. 102-117. Elizabeth Hawkins – Crossing the Blue Mountains. The diary of an early traveller across the Blue Mountains, on the website of the Ambermere Rose Inn (Little Hartley).

Weather conditions: 6 April 1822 (Easter Saturday): Sydney, morning fine and sunny. 7 (Easter Sunday): Rooty Hill (near Parramatta), fine. 8: Rooty Hill – Nepean area, fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13.

Dating: Elizabeth says in her letter that Good Friday was 4 April. However it was in fact 5 April.