Tag Archives: Toasts

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.

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.