Of Colony and Convicts

Monday 26th March 2018

‘Lachlan Maquarie, a Scotsman who was governor of the colony in the first part of the nineteenth century, and whose principal achievements were the building of the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains, the popularising of Australia as a name (before him the whole country was indifferently referred to as either New South Wales or Botany Bay) and the world’s first nearly successful attempt to name every object on a continent after himself.’

Is how Bill Bryson sums up Major General Lachlan Macquarie CB; who was the last of the autocratic governors of New South Wales (1810 to 1822). It also is a good summation of the walking tour we had of the early colonial parts of Sydney. We visited Macquarie Culvert, Macquarie Street, and Macquarie Place. Further afield there are Macquarie Lighthouse, Fort Macquarie and Macquarie Fields, not forgetting Elizabeth Street and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair named after his wife (thoughtful chap!). Outside Sydney you can also stumble across rivers, rivulets, lakes, passes, harbours, hills, mountains, marshes and piers, amongst other things, that bear his name.


Lachlan himself (not his finest statue!)

It made you realise how ‘young’ this country is (the European part of it anyway) when buildings that were only about 200 years old lauded as historic. The original hospital (built by, you guessed it, Mr and Mrs Macquarie and still being used) bore a striking resemblance to the now demolished Derby Royal Hospital. The Rocks area of the city is also one of the few places where you find any commemoration of the convicts and the beginnings of NSW as a penal colony. Transportation and the later time of the ‘White Australia’ policy are not often mentioned.

The real stars of our tour were the Australian White Ibis we saw around the greener spaces in the city. These are the first really exotic birds we had seen so far on this trip, their long sickle shaped beaks and leathery heads give them a sinister look. One bigger than average specimen was using this to his advantage by jumping up on to café tables, scaring off the customers and then helping himself to their meal. It seems I am in the minority as an ibis fan as they are considered, by everyone I spoke to, as a real pest around many cities in Australia due to their scavenging and are known as tip turkeys or bin chickens.


The ‘Bin Chicken’ in its natural habitat. (The scared tourist is off to the left!)

It had to be done and so we joined the throng walking along the Harbour Bridge. We were unusual in that we didn’t turn around after the first viewing point or ‘look out’ (as the Australians call them) and carried on in relative solitude to Kirribilli, a charming and elegant suburb with sweeping views of the whole of central Sydney, the Opera House and the Bridge. We took the fast ferry back to give us time to get to Darling Harbour for dinner.


Where in the world are we?

As we were sitting at a quayside restaurant, watching the sun set and the lights of the skyscrapers of the CBD takeover, it was just like being back in Singapore. Which led Wendy and I into a debate about which of the two cities we preferred. Despite the big impression Singapore had carved on us, Sydney was the clear winner.


Yet another selfie 

It would have been easy to have spent the evening soaking up the Darling Harbour ambience, possibly with ice and through a straw, but we’ve got an early start tomorrow and a train to catch.



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