Friday 21st March 2014:
We have been on the road for eleven days now, poking our noses into the North West and New England regions of New South Wales, and now we are faced south with the smell of home in our nostrils. First though, we are looking forward to an overnight stop with friends at Lake Macquarie. It is a 280 klm drive (175 miles), which should take around three and half hours non-stop, but we are not expected until the late afternoon, so we dawdle.
We’d picked them up a small souvenir of Tamworth, and I had looked at some dining table place mats which featured a map of NSW and its major towns. My heart sank when I looked at them. Even though this is our fourth road trip, and we have covered thousands of kilometres, we have barely scratched the surface, much less get even close to outback areas such as Bourke, Lightning Ridge, and Broken Hill. So much to see . . .
Well, we concentrate on what we can do, which means we take time to stop at Wallabadah, a village of around 700 people about an hour south of Tamworth. It turns out to be a little town with a big vision. A stone mason named Ray Collins had the inspiration to build a memorial to the First Fleet, and over twenty years, as he wandered from Bourke to the Hunter Valley, he approached local councils to support his idea. They all turned him down, until here, with the result that he carved 1520 names of of all those who came out to Australia on the eleven ships in 1788 on tablets along the garden pathways, and that is how this little village now boasts the First Fleet Garden. Rain was falling lightly as we wandered around, so that the photos are not as vibrant as usual, but I guess that is a fitting representation of how life would have been during the 250 days at sea. (The First Fleet is the 11 ships which left Great Britain on 13 May 1787 to found a penal colony that would become the first European settlement in Australia).
Spending more than “six months in a leaky boat” such as this, is not my idea of cruising.
I used to say I would never do Bill’s family history – Wilsons marrying Thompsons, and before that Thompsons marrying Thompsons – what a nightmare! But it turned out to be much easier than expected, as it quickly led to a trail of five convicts and one French prisoner of war, and given that they were ‘government property’, there were plenty of records, and plenty of descendants who had done prior research and posted it to the Internet.
The jury is still out on whether he is related to a lieutenant in the marines of the First Fleet, but Bill is definitely related to a woman on the Second Fleet, and there is an additional memorial to them as well.
Technically the Lady Julian(a) (despatched 1789) was not part of the second fleet, but she took so long getting here, (almost a year) that when she berthed on 6 June 1790, the later ships were only days away. She is often referred to as the “Floating Brothel“, as her cargo was 222 female convicts, and if one reads the account of John Nicol, a steward serving on board, it is apparent why the ship stayed so long in various ports, and how the women were able to supplement their conditions. Many of them were London street girls when they were sentenced to transportation.
Bill’s ancestor came from the west country, and at the ripe old age of 15 Ann Davis was arrested in the parish of St George’s in Gloucester for pawning goods that did not belong to her – a gown, skirt, five caps and other items of clothing. She risked being sentenced to death for burglary but the jury convicted her only of theft and sentenced her to seven years transportation. From Lent in 1788 until mid March of the next year Ann languished in Gloucester Castle Gaol before being transported. She eventually “made good” in the colony and died in 1854, aged 80 years. By that time, she was the widow of Simon Moulds. He died before her, so gets most of the glory on this headstone, but she is mentioned right at the very bottom, just above the grass.
And since this post has drifted quite off the topic of sight-seeing, I may as well reminisce about a talk on headstones I once attended. Amongst slides of angels, and heart-felt inscriptions, was this one from a grieving husband sending his wife into eternity:
Gone To Do God’s Housework