By Anne Gibson.
Watkin Tench, First Fleet Marine, in his Account of the Settlement of Port Jackson, does not mention how the new settlers celebrated their first Christmas in the young colony. It is probably more correct to say the manner in which Christmas was observed rather than how Christmas was celebrated.
Captain David Collins stated, Christmas-day (1788) was observed with proper ceremony. Mr Johnson preached a sermon adapted to the occasion, and the major part of the officers of the settlement were afterward entertained at dinner by the Governor. Mr Johnson also officiated at the baptism of Sarah, daughter of convicts William and Mary Eggleton and at the marriage of Susan Gibbs to John Forrester in the presence of William and Mary Worsdell.
Christmas Day 1790 was again an opportunity for the chaplain to officiate. William Richards, son of Private Lawrence and Mrs Mary Richards, was christened and there were two weddings, John Anderson was married to Elizabeth Roster, in the presence of William Snaleham and George Clayton. William Francis and Mary Jones were married, with Elizabeth Snaleham and George Clayton as witnesses.
John Cobley in Sydney Cove 1789-1790 does not mention if the temperatures were recorded for Christmas Day 1790 but lists the recorded temperatures for Monday 27 December.
At 9 A.M. 85º
At noon 104
Half past 12 107½
From one P.M. until
20 minutes past two 108½
At 20 minutes past two 109
At sunset 89
At 11 P.M. 78½
In 1791 Collins records. From the state of the provision stores, the Governor, on Christmas-day, could only give one pound of flour to each women in the settlement. On that day divine service was performed here and at Parramatta, Mr Blayne, the chaplain of the new corps, assisting Mr Johnson in the religious duties of the morning. There were some among us, however, by whom even the sanctity of this day was not regarded: for at night the marine store was robbed of two-and-twenty gallons of spirits. Palmer recorded that 2661 pounds of flour were issued.
Tuesday 25 December 1792
There were two baptisms at Parramatta. The son of James and Sarah Bradley was named James, the son of Robert Robinson, mariner and Mary Cassity, was named Robert Robinson. The Reverend Richard Johnson conducted two marriage ceremonies at Parramatta. Edward Smith and Ann Griffiths were married by special permission, in the presence of John Hughes and Luke Jones. William Redhout and Mary Parsons were married by banns, in the presence of Richard John Robinson and Luke Jones.
William Edwards, a convict, was buried.
Article featured in the First Fleet Folio. Issue 133, December 2007. Editor Anne Gibson