Australia Day

The First Fleet

Captain Arthur Phillip 1786 portrait by Francis Wheatley (Wikipedia)

Under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip the First Fleet set sail from England on 13 May1787.  It comprised HMS Sirius, HMS Supply, six transports and three supply ships. Captain Phillip, in HMS Supply arrived first at the original destination, Botany Bay on 18 January 1788.  The rest of the fleet arrived over the next two days.

By the time the other vessels of the fleet arrived, Phillip had decided that Botany Bay was unsuitable.  He set off with a party to investigate Port Jackson nine miles to the North. Some four miles up the harbour, on the south shore, a cove was found with good run of fresh water and excellent anchorage.

Phillip ordered the whole fleet to transfer to the next site, which he named Sydney after the Home Secretary.

The Birth of Our Nation 26 January 1788, AUSTRALIA DAY
On the morning of 26th January a site was cleared and a Flagstaff erected.  Phillip and his Officers came ashore in the afternoon and to the accompaniment of toasts, the customary volleys of musket fire and three rousing cheers from the whole company, the Union Jack was hoisted. 

The Founding of Australia

The Promise
I do not doubt that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.  We have come today to take possession of this fifth great continental division of the earth on behalf of the British people and have founded here a state which we hope will not only occupy and rule this great country, but will become the beneficial patron of all the nations of the Southern Hemisphere.  How grand is the prospect which lies before this youthful nation.
Governor Arthur Phillip 1788

History of Australia Day

Australia colonised 1788 : Flag flown today

Australia Day, January 26th, was observed in New South Wales as far back as 1791.  From 1838, January 26th was proclaimed a Public Holiday.  In 1888 Centenary Celebrations were held, and the Governors of every colony in Australia attended.  Various States, however, were celebrating their own days in different ways.  In 1934 an agreement was reached between the Commonwealth and States that the following Monday be proclaimed a public holiday.  Today, January 26th is Australia Day in every part of this vast Continent.

Printed from the Australian Day Council (Victoria) brochure

Australia First Day Cover – Australia Day 1979 (C Timbury collection)

Saturday 26 January 1788
Comments from three different people that were there, but none of them mention in these extracts from their diaries what the weather was like.  Was it hot and humid?  Was it over 100°F as Melbourne weather has been on numerous occasions, and will be again in the future?

‘A flagstaff as erected in Sydney Cove and possession as taken for His Majesty.  In the evening the whole of the party that came round in the Supply were assembled at the point where they had landed and a Union Jack displayed.  I and my officers drank the health of His Majesty and success to the new colony.’
Captain Arthur Phillip

‘The two Ship that Wee Seen of this
Bay on Thursday 24th JanY, Came
In this Day which proved to be
French Ships on Discovereys.

At, AM The fleet Got on their
Way.  Came to an Ankor at half past 6o’clock
In Port Jackson Close to the New town
Which Was Crisned this Day & Volies
Of Small Arms. Fired.’

James SCOTT, Sergeant of Marines

‘Our passage to Port Jackson took up but few hours and those were spent far from unpleasantly.  The evening was bright and the prospect before us such as might justify sanguine expectation.  Having passed between the capes which form it’s entrance, we found ourselves a port superior in extent and excellency to all we had seen before.  We continued to run up the harbour about four miles in a westerly direction, enjoying the luxuriant prospect of its shores covered with trees to the waters edge, among which many of the Indians were frequently seen, until we arrived at a small snug cover on the southern side, on whose banks the plant of our operations was destined to commence.’
Watkin TENCH, Captain Lieutenant of Marines

Comments from three different people that were there, but none of them mention in these extracts from their diaries what the weather was like.  Was it hot and humid?  Was it over 100°F as Melbourne weather has been on numerous occasions, and will be again in the future?

How Fellowship members celebrate Australia Day
 Our presence in the Melbourne Australia Day functions drew numerous crowds.  Some returned each year, particularly those born on 26th January, Australia Day.

Australia Day Tent, Kings Domain Gardens, 2008 Uniform belongs to Phillip Lock (Daniel Stanfield, Alice Harmsworth, Edward Kimberley)

On 25 May 1984 a meeting was held at the offices of The Royal Historical Society 459 Collins Street Melbourne.  The meeting was convened by Jonathan King with the purpose of initiating the formation of an Association of First Fleeters in Victoria.

Jonathan introduced himself, Elizabeth Larking, who had placed notices of the meeting in the press, and Hal Warren who had made his offices available for the meeting.  The names and addresses of those present, together with their First Fleet ancestors, were recorded in a register.

It was stated that the purpose of the Association was to bring together those people with the common interest of early Australian descendancy.  The personal interchange of knowledge of family histories and availability of books on ancestry will facilitate member’s research in this respect.

The aim of the Association is to organise functions to celebrate dates of historical importance, such as bi-centennial anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet and the 150th birthday of Victoria as well as annual Australia Day celebrations.

The following article was published in the inaugural issue of the Folio.

It was also the time when out came the sewing machines and the swapping of patterns to make a costume for all these historical days and events, and how they have been worn of the years.  You might even be surprise to known that even today some of us can still fit it into our costume.

Subsequent Fellowship meetings were held at the Polly Woodside Maritime Museum until it was closed for re-development.  Seeking a new meeting venue the Committee looked no further than over the Yarra River to the Mission of Seafarers. 

In 1991 The First Fleet Fellowship became an incorporated society.  This was achieved through the hard work of the then committee. 

Australia Day March down Swanston Street Melbourne (H Timbury)

Australia Day March down Swanston Street Melbourne (H Timbury)

The Fellowship has celebrated Australia Day in a variety of ways: there have been dinners aboard the Alma Doepel, and the Polly Woodside, a re-enactment voyage performed in the Alexandra Gardens with the Display Tent open to the public, and being rowed up the Yarra for a re-enactment landing.  Who can forget the play we put on in the Star Gardens, what a fun day it was with the crowd cheering us on.  We have featured at the head of Australia Day parades; had huge photos of members up on the wall in Federation Square that also featured in the publication All of Us.  Then there was the never be forgotten trips to Sydney for the Bicentenary in 1988, Hobart the following year and to Norfolk Island for Founders Day in March.

Australia Media Launch Polly Woodside Maritime Museum 23 January 1991 (H Timbury)

Australia Media Launch Polly Woodside Maritime Museum 23 January 1991 (H Timbury)

How many years a member towed the trailer to Melbourne with display material to put on show to the public and for members to sell numerous charts and the hand-held Australian flag; even better, it was Australian made.  We have stood in Swanston Street in days of over 40 degrees, been blown up Lt Collins Street in the north wind.  Had numerous photos taken with overseas visitors, held visitors in the stocks and on the whipping frame for them to taste a piece of what our convict forebears had to endure as their corporal punishment.

In the latter years we were in the Kings Domain Gardens, situated in an events white tent along with other groups we come to know over the years.  Some of us were able to speak briefly over the radio hoping to get the message out to the wider community about Australia Day.  As a member once wrote, we are an eye-catching mob in convict garb and manacles, I often wonder what happened to that old hag with hair like Jex, bloodied and bruised from a recent fight.

From marching up and down Collins Street into Swanston Street, been present at flag raisings at Parliament House, outside the Arts Centre and the Town Hall, from standing in and around the display tent, selling flags and talking to the public about our special day, we are now celebrating Australia Day here at the Mission.

Australia Days have been a great success providing members with fun, fellowship and the chance to add colour by being in costume.

We are undoubtedly faring much better than our forebears were able to do on that day in Sydney Cove 225 years ago.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 29 January 1912
Commemorative Church Service:
On Sunday January 27, 1788 under the shade of a large tree growing  at a spot now known as Macquarie-place, near the Circular Quay, the first Christian service on Australian soil was conducted by the Reverend Richard Johnson, chaplain to the fleet.  Exact spot is supposed to be the corner of Bridge and Loftus streets, and a commemoration service was yesterday held as near as possible. There was a large gathering.

The British and Australian flags floated above the heads of the assembled congregation and close by was the pedestal upon which rested the anchor of the Sirius, the flag ship of the First Fleet.  The Bible from which Cannon Bellingham yesterday read the lesson was the same copy used by the Reverend Richard Johnson at the first service which he held as that spot the day after the official landing.

It is intended to mark the spot of the holding of the first service by the erection of a memorial cross.

Spoken by Cheryl Timbury during the Commemorative Service in the Mission of Seafarers Chapel on 26 January 2013 being the 225th anniversary of the First Fleet arrival.

Australia Day at the Mission to Seafarers, Anne Gibson with Ken and Jan Trott (C Timbury)

 Australia Day 26 January 2014 at the Mission

City Light Methodist Church in collaboration with First Fleet Fellowship of Victoria on the occasion of Australia Day 26 January 2014 (courtsey City Light Mission Church)

City Light Methodist Church in collaboration with First Fleet Fellowship of Victoria on the occasion of Australia Day 26 January 2014 (courtsey City Light Mission Church)

 © First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc 2014