From The Home (1939)

In ‘The Palm Beach Myth’, David McNicoll looks at the beach on the northern edge of Sydney as it becomes increasingly accessible, and fashionable:

The discerning amongst us are agreed that the summer season at Palm Beach, N.S.W., reaches an all-time high in the offensiveness of its habitués.

I was ruminating about it at length the other night, as I lay half-asleep on the verandah of a secluded hide-out, well up on the Hawkesbury reaches, where we have been driven by the advancing horde of the tripper and the pseudo-socialite. There, while the vigorous mosquitoes passed the haunted hours in doing power dives down towards my face (pancaking with considerable force on the netting) I thought of the grim tragedy of it all.

Do you remember, not so many years ago, when that over-rated, but at least protected, sand-spit was a comparative paradise? It was not frightfully well known, and there were about twenty houses tucked about in its wooded hills. On the beach foreshore were the store and one or two houses. The sand was clean, and, I am convinced, not as viscous as to-day, when it is permeated with the treacly sweetmeats of the unwashed.

You would wander down to the surf about ten, and maybe make a merry morning crack at the local cop, who had pedalled all the way from Narrabean [sic] to see that all was well with the residents and to drink a bottle of beer at various cottages. On the beach would be about fifty people, most of whom you knew, the majority of whom you liked. There would be a dozen gay umbrellas, and lots of laughter and talk, and lots of swimming, and a terrific amount of just lying in the sun.

And in the evenings there would be cool verandahs and cocktails, and visits to other cottages. And maybe launch trips on Pittwater, or walks up Barrenjoey. A fortnight at the place was the best tonic to be found anywhere within fifty miles of Sydney.

Frank Hurley, Palm Beach, showing Barranjoey [i.e. Barrenjoey] Lighthouse, Barranjoey Head, Lion Island, Pittwater, ca. 1940 [National Library of Australia]

But to-day people are prepared to pay up to 30 guineas a week just to spend the summer days in the centre of an odour. Do you see the subtlety of those words, “pay up to 30 guineas”? It means that the owners of the houses are well away from the place, thanking their stars that such people exist as will hire their homes while they themselves are enjoying a holiday somewhere among reasonable people. I know a couple of house-owners in Palm Beach—and they vow that they would no sooner think of spending Christmas or New Year within 40 miles of the joint than they would fly to the moon.

Any normal morning at Palm Beach to-day the beach is littered with cars by 11 a.m. By 12 noon it is packed, and the wafts of air which rise from the hot car bodies and bonnets almost obscure the foreshore houses. At 12.30, when the heat is really on, the insidious smells from the acres of consolidated campers begin to creep around the corner and on to the beach: smells of cans which once contained camp pie, smells of prawn shells, of potato peelings, of primus stoves, of baby food, of humanity, of all the things which, en masse, are offensive.

And in the afternoon, as the parking attendant is walking along the cars extracting sixpence from each driver (shades of Bondi!), the beach is so crammed that one can hardly turn over. The campers have descended on the place, and sprawl around in dirty shorts or long pants. Mothers chase their errant children about the beach, and, having caught them, start to dry and dress them in the public view.

Inside cars men and women attempt to undress themselves and to struggle into bathing costumes. Under hastily erected canopies they open their lunches, one long line of picnic lunches, and with the sand lowing in the raspberry jam, they eat. And eat. And eat. Then they systematically dispose of paper by crumpling it into little balls and throwing it on to the beach. Here it lands, unfolds, and blows about during the afternoon.

On the hot, steamy asphalt road, leading along the foreshore, humanity parades all the day, clad in every sort of attire. There are people in their Sunday best, blue serge suits, stiff collars. There are the best collection of hideous blazers ever gathered in any Christian country. There are screaming, yelling children, and gawky girls whose backs have nearly been burnt off them by the sun, so that now they present red, raw spaces, steaming with coconut oil.

People everywhere are eating ice creams, chewing sandwiches, or munching sweets. In the grassy plots between the foreshore houses they are even doing a bit of peaceful summer noonday necking, locked in one another’s arms.

But what, you say, what about the occupiers of the houses? Are they willing to take all this? Are they in the middle of it, moving and having their being? Are they not in retreat, in the hills, hiding from the fury of Suburbia? Of course not. They love it. They are no better than the trippers, no more to be commended or condemned. They are at home among them. They are Suburbia just as much as the trippers, the difference being that the tripper can afford a day or a week-end, bus transport, and a tent, while the Palm Beach holidayer can afford a car and the price of a cottage.

Picture from ‘The Home’, February 1939 [Trove]

That is the dreadful part of it, perhaps even more distressing than the trippers and the campers and the smells. It is the pseudo-socialites, lying on the beach in their gay wraps, imagining themselves the be-all and end-all of exclusiveness.

Who are they, and from whence did they come? Who knows? It is obvious why they come. They, in the first place, were attracted by the Palm Beach myth; they imagined people of great wealth and power, lying on the beach picking at caviar and getting stuck into magnums of champagne. They came, they saw, they were disappointed. But they stayed, because they had the wealth to turn on the luxuries which the real people did not trouble to turn on. They came in greater droves, formed their own society, their little cliques, their unpleasant groups. And the more they came the more the real people fled, content to let their houses to the nouveaux-pseudoes. And so the new people found they had the beach to themselves. It became their domain; and they ruined it. Now they can keep it.

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From Letters and Journal of W. Stanley Jevons (1886)

Economist and logician William Stanley Jevons was nineteen when he arrived in Sydney in 1854 to take up the position of assayer at the new Sydney Mint. During his five years in Sydney, his work left him time to pioneer meteorology, geology, photography and political economy in Australia. His letters to his family give an insight into daily life in the young colony:

Petersham, N.S.W., 18th January 1856.

I know that at any time you will be glad to have a letter from me, and so, without any particular prospect of a mail, I am going to write you a few pages. I have been much occupied the last twenty-four hours with an incident that occurred to me last night, and which I shall not easily forget. On going upstairs to bed about 10.30 p.m., with a candle, I had got but a short distance into the room when I saw a long irregular black thing lying on the floor. I was puzzled at first to think what it was, but a very few moments of examination were required to decide the question, for it was without doubt a black snake, and still further to convince me, the thing began to move and to hiss! To tell the truth, I then went out of the room quite as fast as I came in (as people say), and, to have him in safe keeping, shut the door. On returning with Mr. O’Connell, provided with sticks, etc., for his destruction, we could see nothing of him, but ultimately discovered him hidden in a corner under the bed, from which being displaced, Mr. O’Connell soon killed him with a few good knocks, but not before he had made a great display of his wide-opened mouth and forked tongue. The fellow was then found to be over a yard long, but though he be no wonder himself, everybody acknowledges it to be the most singular fact they remember of a snake getting into a house, for besides crossing the yard, he had to go up several stone steps into the lobby, and then up long, steep, and rather awkward stairs into the room. Everybody says, too, that he is a regularly poisonous rascal. It is well, however, that it was as it was, for if he had simply moved under the bed before I came in, I should have probably gone to bed with him under me—a very disagreeable thought. I have thus been giving you an account of the affair as lengthily as if I had been talking to you, and I do not know what for, unless for my own satisfaction and amusement, but I hope not to your alarm. It is singular that this is the first snake of any size that any of us have met this summer, and in all probability I may go to bed every day of my life and not meet a second.

The drawing room at the house where Jevons lived in Double Bay [John Rylands University Library, the University of Manchester]

…Though often rather tired with assaying in the midst of hot winds and the present awfully close weather, I am very jolly and well. Last Monday I went a long walk through the bush and swamps to the shores of Botany Bay, but it is rather an uninteresting place, except for its associations, and I got back without anything worth relating. …

Portrait of Jevons holding cupels and tongs – some of the assayer’s tools, 1857 [John Rylands University Library, the University of Manchester]

Sunday, 27th January.

In many of your letters, some months since, you noticed my having been to a déjeûner at Dawes Battery last year, and seemed to take pleasure in it. The same thing came off yesterday again, being a general holiday for the anniversary of the foundation of the colony; but as Captain Ward, of course, knows ten times as many people as he did then, it was on a much more extensive scale. It was most excessively formal; but I found it easy to get on without being noticed for any peculiarity among the number of people, and I was somewhat pleased to have an opportunity of observing the Australian aristocracy. That you may understand the occasion of the whole affair, you must know that the Sydney people, liking holidays, make the anniversary day a good excuse for one, and the whole town turns out in a way unknown in England, unless it be a Good Friday or a Fast-Day. The chief attraction is the regatta, the principal one of the year, and the points at Fort Macquarie and Dawes Battery are crowded with people, as well as all other places within sight. Captain Ward’s house, on the top of the point, has the best view of the whole; and from the pictures you have of the harbour you can imagine what a really beautiful scene it is to see it covered with different yachts and sailing boats, innumerable row boats, many of the large coasting steamers strolling about with bands, and full of visitors, and all the shipping and flag-poles fully decorated with flags. Any one arriving from sea on a regatta day must indeed think Sydney a fine place.

View from Dawes Pt, Sydney 1859, looking east, Captain Edward Wolstenholme Ward, Deputy Master of the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint [Historic Houses Trust of NSW]

William Stanley Jevons, English, 1835–1882

 

From The Evidence to the Bigge Reports – The Written Evidence (1971)

Surgeon William Redfern went further in a letter to Commissoner John Thomas Bigge after their unhappy interview:

5 February 1821

At length, Sir, when you had examined all the underlings of the Hospital, & acquired the information you deemed necessary from sources whose purity & respectability I shall shortly delineate, without once intimating either to Mr. Wentworth or Myself the course of procedure you had adopted, I was by your desire introduced at 9 O’Clock at night – on the 26th June – the depth of winter – into your presence.

The appearance of the Room, – the Piles of Books, the dress of yourself & Secretary, the gravity of your countenance, the awful Solemnity with which you made your opening speech – the threatenings you denounced, the dreadful charges you had to exhibit against me, not forgetting the stale trick in imitation of Banquo’s Ghost, forcibly impressed on my mind the introduction of some unhappy victim, Clothed
in his Santo Venito, with his own picture pourtrayed [sic] thereon, surrounded with the figures of flames & Devils, to the inquisitorial Hall at Madrid, preparatory to the Auto Da Fe.

That memorable speech, conversation, & questions, so artfully calculated to wound & insult my feelings, have made too deep an impression on My Mind ever to be forgotten. The quiver of your lip, the curl of your nose, the expression of your eye – in short, your tout-ensemble, revealed to me your very thoughts & intentions, as a Mirror exhibits the person of him who stands before it. I clearly perceived your intention was to alarm and intimidate and in the event of a failure in that object, to irritate me to a breach of good manners. How far you succeeded in either the one or the other, I must leave you, Sir, to Judge. On calmly considering, at this distant period, the scene, the language you made use of, the manner in which you uttered it, I feel amazed that I could have remained one moment in your house, or that I could ever have been induced again to enter it. Nothing, Sir, but the high respect I entertain for His Majesty’s Commission, which you have the honor of holding, could possibly have induced me to listen for a Moment to such insulting language.

You were aware, Sir, that I had expressed my opinion on the arrest of Govr. Bligh in strong terms of reprobation & condemnation of that measure. You questioned me on it, by way of conversation; Nor did your sarcastic sneer on that occasion escape my observation…

We conversed, & you questioned me, on My appointment – My Commission – my remission of Sentence – by whom granted – whether it had passed the Great Seal – the Hospital, the Contract – the Specification – its mode of finishing – My Medical education. But how you noted down my remarks on these subjects, I shall have an opportunity of noticing in the emendation of My evidence in examination before
you – and which you caused to be transmitted to me on the 3d instant.

At length, Sir, when you went so far as to tell me that I had appropriated large quantities of Medicines Tin ware, & Spices to my own use & emolument; that I had written an insulting letter to your very redoubtable & Manly Protegé, Mr. Bowman, expressing My Sentiments of his ungentlemanlike conduct in visiting the Hospital whilst in my charge, unattended by Mr. Wentworth or Myself; and in questioning My Apprentice relative to the treatment of My Patients; and desiring him not to repeat his intrusion. Writing this letter was heresy & treason not to be forgiven. When you went so far Sir, as to question me respecting my chastising my apprentice & one of my servants; and when you told me that if there were an Attorney General in the Colony, you would proceed against me in a different way; It became high time to resist – and I then determined no longer to submit to such a course of proceeding.

The only regret I now feel on the subject, a regret I shall feel to the last Moment of my existence, is, that, when you, Sir, in my estimation, descended from the dignity becoming His Majesty’s Commissioner of Enquiry, to a mode of examination by Menaces of heavy charges to be preferred against me, in order to confuse, perplex, & intimidate me, in a Manner More becoming a Spanish Inquisitor, I did submit to it for a Single Moment; – that I did not make you a low bow, and instantly retire from your presence.

William Redfern, English, 1774-1833

From The Evidence to the Bigge Reports – The Oral Evidence (1971)

Royal Commissioner John Thomas Bigge arrived in Australia in 1819, sent by Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Bathurst to investigate ‘all the laws regulations and usages of the settlements.’ Surgeon William Redfern had been a surgeon’s mate on HMS Standard  when he was sentenced to death for his role in the 1797 Nore mutiny, commuted to transportation. Bigge’s interview with Redfern on the state of hospitals and health in the infant colony did not go well, according to Redfern’s notes on the minutes of his evidence:

26 June 1820

  1. When & by whom were you appointed assist. Surgeon?
    I was appointed by Lt. Col. Foveaux in May 1802, to fill the situation of surgeon at Norfolk Island.
  1. How long did you remain there?
    Until September 1804. I was then relieved by Mr. Wentworth at Norfolk Island & I continued to assist him & Mr. Conellan until 17 May 1808. I then came to this place in the Month of June of that year through the persuasion of Col. Foveaux & Mr. Wentworth I accepted of the situation of assist. Surgeon of this place where I have remained ever since I received a local commission from Lt. Govr. Foveaux dated “1st Augt. 1808”.
  1. You were I believe recommended by Col Foveaux to His Majesty’s Government; & received a commission from His Royal Highness the P. Regent? 
    I did, & my recommendation from Col Foveaux was supported by Govr. Macquarie.
    I now produce Col. Foveaux recommendation in the hand writing of his Secretary Mr. Finncane (No. 3) Certificate of qualification (No. 2), Notification of Confirmation (No. 4) & Commission (No. 5).
  1. Are you a member of any Medical Society in England Scotland or Ireland?
    I passed an examination in London before the examiners of the Company of Surgeons but I am not a member of any Medical Society.

I must beg leave here to remind you Sir; of the great astonishment which you affected at my having said I had passed the usual examination before the Court of Examiners of the Company of Surgeons in London, observing “Mr. Redfern you must mistake, I think they are called “The Royal College of Surgeons”. I then explained that “at the time I had undergone examination (Jany. 1797) the[y] were then the Company of Surgeons”.

…Now, Sir, with regard to my not belonging to any Medical Society in England, Scotland or Ireland, I beg leave to say that it can make nothing against me. Few, very Few Medical Men in those days entered into the Navy other than I did – that is without Diplomas from any Medical or Surgical Society, as you are pleased to denominate them. And indeed if the[y] had had those Diplomas, which rarely happened they were still obliged to undergo the same examination before the “Court of Examiners of the Surgeons Company”. In those days it was not quite so fashionable to ‘be dubbed an M.D. from St. Andrew, where I might for the customary fee have procured one for My Horse; nor to throw away the fees for a Surgeons Diploma, when certain length of Service in the Army or Navy entitled them to all or nearly all the priviledges external to the College or Company. How Many Medical Men are there in the Colony who have any other claims than to “Chalk & Grinding” – and some of them not even that – merely the Fee for St. Andrews Degree of M.D.

  1. Where did you perform your Medical Studies?
    In London.
John Thomas Bigge, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

John Thomas Bigge, n.d. (State Library of Queensland)

  1. You were Assist. Surgeon in the Navy?
    I was surgeon’s first Mate of His Majesty’s Ship Standard.

…When in my reply to your question “You were Assistant Surgeon in the Navy” I answered I was Surgeons Mate of His Majesty’s Ship Standard, the smile of exultation gleamed on your countenance in a manner which, tho I cannot describe, I shall never forget – I perceived at the moment, that you mentally said, “better & better”.

  1. How long did you remain in that situation?
    I served for a few Months.
  1. Was your sentence that of Transportation for Life?
    I suppose it was, for it was never communicated to me, I was sentenced to Death, but was strongly recommended on account of my youth. I was then about nineteen years of age.
  1. From whom did you receive your remission of sentence & when, was it absolute or conditional?
    I recd. an absolute Pardon from Govr. King. By the hand of Col. Foveaux. It bears date 4th June 1802.

I do further contend, Sir, that your questions but more particularly your conversation, connected with the Queries 7, 8 & 9, on the subject of the Secretaryship to the Mutineers & to Parker; on My Sentence & Pardon, whether it had passed the Great Seal, was most artfully & cruelly calculated to harrow up, wound & insult my feelings & that the question you put, but did not note down “Whether My Pardon had passed the Great Seal”, was asked in a manner to convey this impression “Take Care, Sir, Mind what you are about, otherwise I shall [take] such steps as shall prevent its ever passing it.” You will please to recollect this was about the time the question of the validity & effect of the Governor’s pardons was agitated & called into Public notice by the Judges.

William Redfern (State Library pf NSW)

William Redfern (State Library of NSW)

I beg leave to add, Sir, that in consequence of not seeing these examinations till Monday the fifth instant; of being up Country on the 3rd & 4th, & occupied in writing by letter under date the 5 inst when I returned, and attending to other pursuits, I have had no opportunity of correcting & animadverting upon more than the 9th Query, and that I beg you clearly understand that I do not sign these examinations as corrected any further than the 9 query, but that  I shall now send these examinations to you on this express condition, that I shall consider Myself at full liberty to correct, explain and animadvert on such parts of it as I may think proper. And I do further say that there are numerous & important omissions of My explanations given on examination, the insertion of which I consider essential to my reputation & character in a moral & professional point of view, & that those corrections I shall feel it My duty to send you ere Your departure if you happen to remain long enough, otherwise to deliver them to you in London on my arrival there…

William Redfern, English, 1774-1833

John Thomas Bigge, English, 1780-1843

 

From A Complete Dagg (1989)

New Zealand-born comedian John Clarke’s character ‘Fred Dagg’ was a ‘Freelance Expert in matters of a general character’ on Sydney radio and television in the 1970s and 80s. Clarke wrote a series of satirical pieces on Australian politics for the Sydney Sun-Herald under the title ‘Damon’s Beat’, in the style of Guys and Dolls creator Damon Runyon. Here he meets newly-elected New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner, but interstate and Federal politics in both major parties intrudes:

EXCITABLE GREINER

I am sitting near the window of Mindy’s the other night watching a great deal of rain crashing down into the street and a number of citizens rushing about the place with their collars turned up and their shoes slapping the deck like penguins.

Many guys come through the door and shake themselves and bang their hats on their knees and complain bitterly about the depressing character of the conditions. Several very eye-catching dolls blow in too, although the weather is by no means likely to be the main problem for a doll who walks into Mindy’s.

I am shooting the breeze with a somewhat microscopic dude named Excitable Greiner, who recently replaces Personality Unsworth as the head of certain very extensive local operations. Excitable Greiner has a huge smile on his kisser and is fighting the urge to thank people for their support although the idea of supporting Excitable Greiner never occurs to anyone except perhaps as the down-side of removing Personality Unsworth.

In fact if Excitable Greiner ever finds anything out about the operations for which he is now responsible he will be very annoyed about the overwhelming support he receives from a grateful public and he will wish to be many miles away and possibly on another planet.

As Excitable Greiner and I are sitting there, speaking of one thing and another, we observe a very lean-looking greyhound standing on the back of a truck. In fact it appears the truck’s engine breaks down as Thick Mick has parts of it all over the road and is tossing a coin.

The pooch seems somewhat familiar to me and once I see it move I realise that it is none other than Bannon’s Pride, the favourite for the Big Race which is being run at this time in another part of town and of course this is a most surprising realisation in every respect. Naturally I say nothing to Excitable Greiner about these matters as he is apt to be greatly alarmed if he hears the result of the contest while looking out the window at the winner standing on the back of a truck.

In fact it is a long time since anyone can recall such a short-priced favourite as Bannon’s Pride and for some time I personally suspect the result is somewhat fixed as Little Bob places a G with Burke the Bookie and it is a well known fact that Little Bob does not place Gs with people unless he hears something very convincing.

Of course Burke the Bookie has no trouble laying this bet as he is on the Hospitals Committee and the Schools Committee and is able to free up some of their potatoes if his buddies experience short-term difficulties such as being cleaned out in the crash or getting the result wrong at the races.

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in 'A Complete Dagg', 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

Cartoon by Jenny Coopes in ‘A Complete Dagg’, 1989 (Allen and Unwin)

The situation is becoming very complex and I consider taking a little night air of a type found some distance from here, but events commence to worsen with the arrival of John the Nose, who is somewhat prominent in the brewing line and who has a worried look on his pan. ‘Good evening, Excitable,’ he says. ‘I wonder if you can assist me. I have Landslide Howard in the car and he requires urgent medical attention.’

‘Thank you for your support,’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘I am distressed to hear of this occurrence as I have nothing but admiration for Landslide Howard.’

‘Landslide and I attend a conference together and I am afraid Landslide sustains a number of cuts and abrasions,’ says John the Nose.

‘I trust no-one else is hurt,’ says Excitable Greiner.

‘There is some limited structural damage to the venue,’ says John the Nose, ‘although happily no one else gets a number of slugs in the thigh while addressing the meeting on law and order.’

‘Goodness me!’ says Excitable Greiner. ‘How can I help poor Landslide?’

‘I do not recall asking you to help Landslide,’ says John the Nose. ‘I want you to help me. We must tie some rocks to Landslide’s very attractive suit and you must hide this Roscoe,’ and he pulls out his persuader and slides it across to Excitable Greiner as he speaks. ‘I also require another vehicle and a good alibi in case the authorities fail to see the merit of my involvement.’

It is at this point that Excitable Greiner reveals that he is by no means the sap he looks. ‘Thank you for your support,’ he says. Two hours later Thick Mick is apprehended carrying the body of Landslide Howard towards the docks and John the Nose is nabbed trying to drive through a police cordon with the winner of Race 5 on the back of a truck.

John Clarke, New Zealander-Australian, 1948-

From An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales (1834)

Controversy over public buildings in Sydney – and especially how they are financed – has a long history. The turbulent Scottish-born Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang wrote An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, both as a Penal Settlement and as a British Colony while on a voyage to Britain. The Westminster Review suggested that its title should read ‘The History of Doctor Lang, to which is added the History of New South Wales’. Here he charts the building of the ‘Rum Hospital‘:

The demoralizing influence indirectly resulting from the gratification of Governor Macquarie’s taste for public buildings, cannot be more fitly illustrated than in the plan he pursued for the erection of a general hospital in Sydney. Had the convicts been dispersed over the territory in the way I have suggested, an hospital of comparatively small dimensions would have been sufficient at head-quarters : at all events, a plain, substantial edifice was all that was wanted for such a purpose, till the expense of erecting ornamental buildings could be borne by the revenue of the colony. The colonial architect, however, having submitted to Governor Macquarie a plan of a spacious and costly edifice, consisting of a centre building and two detached wings, to be erected of cut stone, with a double verandah or covered portico completely surrounding each of the three piles of building, he determined that it should by all means be carried into effect. With this view, as there were comparatively few artificers among the convicts at the time when this measure was resolved on, he made an agreement, on the part of the colonial government, with Messrs. D’Arcy Wentworth, Blaxcell, and Riley, by which these gentlemen stipulated to erect a building agreeably to the plan proposed, on condition of receiving a certain quantity of rum from the King’s store, and of having the sole right to purchase, or to land free of duty, all the ardent spirits that should be imported into the colony for a term of years. The Rum Hospital, as it was called at the time, was accordingly erected on these conditions; and, standing, as it does, on the summit of one of the two ridges on which the town of Sydney is built, with a valley terminating in the beautiful inlet called Sydney Cove between, it is doubtless a highly interesting and striking feature in the general aspect of one of the most thriving and best situated commercial towns in the world.

View no.13. Looking east shewing: the Royal Mint, part of the Domain, Wolloomooloo Bay, Garden Island, Pott's Point, Darling Point, Clark's Island, Shark Island, Bradley's Head. In the distance Watson's Bay, the Gap, the Pacific Ocean and the North Head, 1873 (Alexander Brodie, Historic Houses Trust of NSW)

View no.13. Looking east shewing: the Royal Mint, part of the Domain, Wolloomooloo Bay, Garden Island, Pott’s Point, Darling Point, Clark’s Island, Shark Island, Bradley’s Head. In the distance Watson’s Bay, the Gap, the Pacific Ocean and the North Head, 1873 (Alexander Brodie, Historic Houses Trust of NSW)

I leave to the mere financier the task of reprobating the arrangement I have just mentioned, (which, it was universally believed at the time, was a highly gainful one to the parties concerned,) on the ground of its gross injustice to the community at large, as well as to those persons in particular who imported ardent spirits into the colony, and who were consequently obliged either to sell their commodity at whatever price the monopolists chose to offer them, or to keep it in bond for three or four years. My sole concern with the transaction is to calculate its true bearings on the professed object of General Macquarie’s administration— the reformation of the convict population of New South Wales : and this is by no means a work of difficulty. The wages of the artificers and labourers, and the prices of the materials employed in the erection of the hospital, were, agreeably to the usual practice of the colony at the time, paid half in money and half in property, i. e., in tea, sugar, ardent spirits, wine, clothing, or any other article, either of necessity or of luxury, which the employer happened to have in his store, and which was uniformly charged to the labourer at an enormous per-centage above its real value, or even above its market-price in the colony. Determined, however, that not a single shilling of the money-half of the wages should, if it could possibly be prevented, ultimately find its way into any other pockets than their own, the worthy contractors erected one or more public-houses in the immediate vicinity of the place, where their numerous convict and emancipated convict mechanics and labourers received that moiety of their wages; doubtless, to induce the miserable wretches, whose inability to withstand such temptation may well be conceived, to expend the last farthing of their earnings in the purchase of their exorbitantly priced and accursed liquor. In providing, therefore, for the physical health of the colony, Governor Macquarie was actually overspreading the whole surface of its body politic, in a moral and spiritual sense, with wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores, which have hitherto surpassed the skill of the ablest chirurgeon to bind up, or the efficacy of the most powerful ointment to mollify.

–John Dunmore Lang, Scottish-Australian, 1799-1878

From Australian Accent (1958)

John Douglas Pringle came to Australia in 1952 to edit The Sydney Morning Herald. He left in 1957 and returned as editor in 1965, staying until 1970:

Sydney is ruled by three winds, which command the city in turn like the chiefs of an invading army. The first is the north-easter, the prevailing wind of summer. It is a fair-weather wind, a lazy, languorous wind, which comes in from the long reaches of the South Pacific heavy with moisture and sticky with salt. This is the wind which drives the great Pacific rollers onto the open beaches before leaping over the narrow barrier of land, making the pines at Manly sing as it passes and ruffling the calmer waters of the Harbour on the other side. On Sundays the crews of the eighteen-foot yachts catch it as they round the buoy for the long run home, and push out their bellying spinnakers which lift the small hulls out of the water until they seem to be flying

The north-easter is a sea-breeze and out of its element on dry land…To the western suburbs it brings no relief from the heat, but to the more favoured eastern suburbs it is a source of pride and joy; and the wealthy citizens of Bellevue Hill and Point Piper set their houses to catch it like the yachts on the harbour set their sails…

18 footer vessel on Sydney Harbour (William Hall collection, Australian National Maritime Museum)

18 footer vessel on Sydney Harbour (William Hall collection, Australian National Maritime Museum)

The southerly comes with a rush of cold air and a splatter of rain. The Sydneysiders call it the ‘southerly buster’, because it arrives with a banging of doors and windows like a train coming into the station. It can be fierce for a few hours, bowling over the yachts in the harbour like ninepins and dexterously removing loose tiles from the house-roofs; but it is a much-loved wind in summer, bringing down the temperature with a bump, cooling the sultry streets and sending fretful babies to sleep. Generally it blows itself out in the night, and Sydney wakes up in the morning to blue skies and brilliant sun as the north-easter resumes its sway over the city. In winter, however, it may blow for days, bringing cold Melbourne weather and a hint of snow to pampered Sydney.

Southerly Buster at Turrimeta Beach, 26 December 1996. (John Grainger, Bureau of Meteorology)

Southerly Buster at Turrimeta Beach, 26 December 1996. (John Grainger, Bureau of Meteorology)

The third wind is the westerly, a gusty, dusty wind blowing from the heart of the continent. It is an unpredictable wind, following no rhythm and obeying no laws, but it is always unpleasant. In winter dry and bitterly cold, in summer dry and hot as the blast from an oven door, it pounces on the city and worries it. It is an uncomfortable, penetrating wind, which gets through clothes and windows, forcing dust into the eyes and nose. Like the sirocco of the Mediterranean, its extreme dryness seems to irritate people, making the easy-going Sydneysiders nervous and bad-tempered. In winter it may blow for weeks on end, but in summer, fortunately, it rarely lasts more than a day or two – fortunately because it is only when the westerly is blowing that Sydney gets truly hot. The temperature climbs into the hundreds, the tar melts on the roads, and those who go down to the beaches for relief find that they cannot run bare-foot across the burning sand to the water. Worse still, it is the bush-fire wind…

Smoke from bushfires fills the sky over the city in Sydney, October 17, 2013. (AAP: James Morgan)

Smoke from bushfires fills the sky over the city in Sydney, October 17, 2013. (AAP: James Morgan)

I have described these three winds which rule over Sydney not only because they set the rhythm of the city’s life but because each one seems to represent the conflicting elements which shape Sydney’s character…The north-easter is the Pacific wind, and while it blows it tries to make Sydney a South Pacific city. Under its warm and humid breath men slow down in their daily tasks and dream of the islands to the east…

The southerly, on the other hand, is the voice of conscience, the voice of home and England, even though it comes from the Antarctic. When it blows life resumes the brisker tempo of the northern hemisphere. A man can work hard without getting too tired or can sit indoors and read without longing to be out in the sun. It is a Puritan wind, which scourges the city for its laziness.

But the westerly is the voice of Australia. This is the true Aboriginal wind, hard and lean and dry as the bones of dead sheep. Like the continent itself, it seems hostile to the white man who has swarmed on the sea-board. It hurls itself down from the mountains of the Dividing Range as if it would blow the city into the sea or burn it down with its fierce bush-fires. It mocks the efforts of suburban gardeners, withering their dahlias and roses in a single morning and turning their trim lawns brown no matter how they try to assuage its thirst with hoses. It is a nagging reminder of the great dry continent which stretches away beyond the Blue Mountains so clearly outlined on the horizon.

John Douglas Pringle, Scottish 1912-1999