VISION FOR A NATION
By 1815 Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s extensive building programme and his efforts to raise the moral standards of the colony of New South Wales were bearing fruit. Sydney, which had been little more than a squalid penal camp when he arrived, was becoming a stable, forward looking society.
There was also great joy in Macquarie’s personal life. The previous year, following the heartache of six miscarriages, his wife Elizabeth had given birth to a son. Before her pregnancy Elizabeth had often accompanied her husband on his tours of inspection around the colony. As Lachlan Jnr approached his first birthday she felt able to do so again. In 1815 it was decided that the baby could be safely left in the care of a nurse while his parents made a ‘Royal Progress’ across the newly conquered Blue Mountains.
It was a journey of enormous significance. Macquarie was a visionary, who dreamed of creating an egalitarian society in which free settlers and ex-convicts were given the opportunity to prosper. To achieve this it was necessary for the settlement to expand into the vast inland plains to the west.
The official party left Sydney on Tuesday, April 25th 1815; one hundred years to the day before Australian soldiers leapt ashore and scrambled up the cliffs at Anzac Cove.
Negotiating the Blue Mountains was nothing compared to the horrors of Gallipoli, but Lachlan and Elizabeth set out with a similar sense of commitment and spirit of adventure.
On May 7 Governor Macquarie proclaimed the settlement of Bathurst (after Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies). His campaign tent, pitched on the site of the future city, had been purchased from India, where Macquarie had served in the British army with distinction for many years.
Accompanying the expedition was artist and naturalist, John Lewin. Macquarie was a great supporter of Lewin. The artist was among the first to represent the Australian landscape in an honest, unsentimental manner. He created a pictorial record of the 1815 expedition in a series of watercolour paintings which have been described as marking the beginning of a national school of landscape painting. The harsh but heroic terrain Lewin depicted was typical of that which produced the generation of young men from the bush who would distinguish themselves so highly in WWI.
Following the turbulence of William Bligh’s regime, Macquarie’s stable governorship allowed the national character, typified by the Anzacs, to evolve. Significantly, he also played an important role in the official recognition of the name ‘Australia’. On December 21st 1817, in a letter to Under Secretary Goulburn, Macquarie referred to ‘…the continent of Australia, which I hope will be the name given to this country in future, instead of the very erroneous and misapplied name, hitherto given it of “New Holland”, which properly speaking only applies to a part of this immense continent’. In the same letter he referred to the Mermaid Cutter, which had left to survey the west coast of Australia. A great deal of exploration took place during Macquarie’s term, which is perhaps why he was one of the first to view the country as a single entity.
However, it was through the scarifying experience of the First World War that Macquarie’s vision for Australia was ultimately fulfilled. As war historian Charles Bean wrote; ‘Remote though the conflict was, so completely did it absorb the people’s energies, so completely concentrate and unify their efforts, that it is possible for those who lived among the events to say that in those days Australia became fully conscious of itself as a nation.’
By 1914 the town of Bathurst had a population of around 9,000, many of whom rushed to enlist. Two years later Lieut. Harold Pittendrigh led a section of the Boomerang enlistment march between Parkes and Blayney, which arrived in Bathurst on February 5th 1916 with 202 recruits. Pittendrigh was a descendant of Alexander Pittendrigh, one of the area’s early settlers. Many others who enlisted were descendants of the convicts Lachlan Macquarie had championed.
Coincidently, war historian Charles Bean was also born in Bathurst, and spent the first ten years of his life in the town before his family moved back to England. He returned to Australia in 1904, enlisted in 1914, and was at the Anzac Day landing. Such was his dedication in recording the actions of the Anzacs that when he was shot in the leg he refused to be evacuated. Explaining the tough, do-or-die nature of the Australian soldier Bean commented; ‘Fires, floods….or the long journeys in droving down the great stock routes across the “back country” offer many conditions similar to those of a military expedition. The Australian was half a soldier before the war.’
The cheerfulness of Australians soldiers and their determination to make the best of a bad situation was illustrated by their love of sport. They played football and cricket as they trained in Egypt prior to embarking for Gallipoli and swam in Anzac Cove as shell fire whistled overhead. Cricket skills even proved useful in the heat of battle; a bowling action being considered the best technique for lobbing hand-held bombs. As they prepared to evacuate Gallipoli in December 1915. the men played cricket on what became known as ‘Shell Green’; a ploy to divert the attention of the enemy. It is worth remembering that some of the colony’s first cricket matches were played at Hyde Park, enclosed by Governor Macquarie in October, 1810, ‘for the recreation and amusement of the inhabitants’ . One of the ANZAC’s who did not leave Gallipoli was 37 year old Trooper Allan Preece of the 8th Australian Light Horse, a direct descendant of Macquarie’s sister, Elizabeth Farquar. Trooper Preece died during the Battle of Lone Pine.
Having served as governor for eleven years, Lachlan Macquarie returned home in 1822. He died in London on July 1st, 1824. His body was transported to his estate on the Isle Mull, where the inscription on his tomb reads;
THE WELFARE OF ALL CLASSES OF THE COMMUNITY, THE RAPID IMPROVEMENT OF THE COLONY UNDER HIS AUSPICES, AND THE HIGH ESTIMATION IN WHICH BOTH HIS CHARACTER AND GOVERNMENT WERE HELD RENDERED HIM TRULY DESERVING OF THE APPELLATION BY WHICH HE HAS BEEN DISTINGUISHED. FATHER OF AUSTRALIA. This was the first time the name Australia had appeared on a monument.
All Lachlan Macquarie’s hopes had centred on his son and heir, but unfortunately Lachlan Junior was a spendthrift alcoholic who died prematurely, without issue. It was the old Governor’s ‘Australian sons’ who would honour his memory by developing the country to which he himself had contributed so much, and by their courage and sacrifice at Gallipoli. It is therefore curious but somehow fitting that the dawn landing at Anzac Cove should have occurred on the centenary of Macquarie’s 1815 Blue Mountains expedition.
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