Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two First Fleet Monuments

"Bonds of Friendship" Sculptures

Sydney, Australia (at left)
Portsmouth, U.K. (at right)

On a visit to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom in 2004, I came across a "Bonds of Friendship" sculpture at the gates of Sally Port in Portsmouth Harbour. This commemorated the departure of the First Fleet, from Portsmouth, bound for Sydney Cove on 13 May 1787.

I had seen a twin monument outside the Customs House at Circular Quay in Sydney prior to my UK visit but could not subsequently locate it. The question was where it it now?

On a visit to the City last week, I came upon Sydney "Bonds of Friendship" sculpture in the Jessie Gardens in Reiby Place off Loftus Street. [Apparently the sculpture was removed from Circular Quay in 1997 prior to the upgrading of Alfred Street, and after much deliberations was replaced in this location circa 2008].

The plinth of the Portsmouth monument was unveiled on 13 May 1976 by Sir Davis Hughes, the Agent General for New South Wales. The granite block was quarried in New South Wales and donated by the Citizens of Sydney.

In Sydney, the plinth of the monument was donated by the Fellowship pf First Fleeters. The granite block was quarried in Dartmoor, England and was donated to the City of Sydney by the City of Portsmouth as a return gift. It was set in place at Circular Quay by the Lord Mayor of Sydney on 2 July 1980.

The actual sculpture, "Bonds of Friendship" (1979) was the work of the sculptor, John Robinson. It is a chain with only two links, locked tightly together, representing the gift of trust between friends.

It was thus adopted by the Britain Australia Society as an addition to the original monuments to celebrate the journey of the First Fleet from Portsmouth to Sydney. The rings of the Portsmouth sculpture were made dull in appearance, while the ones in Sydney were shiny, signifying a new beginning.

The Portsmouth Sculpture was unveiled by the Queen on 11 July 1980. The Sydney Sculpture was dedicated by the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowan on 17 September 1980 and was donated by the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac).

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Convict Constables

Yesterday we visited the Justice and Police Museum at Circular Quay in Sydney.

Two items of interest were a "Convict Constable's Rattle" (above left) and a "Convict Constable's Lamp" (above right) from the early 1800's.

What then was a "Convict Constable"?

Although the Colony of New South Wales was established as a penal settlement under military guard, little was planning was made for its civil policing. A Provost Marshal was appointed and the Governor was empowered to create constables.

In 1789, due to the lack of any available free men, Governor Phillip appointed twelve of the best behaved convicts to serve on the Night Watch which was the colony's first civilian police unit.

History Services NSW has 1190 records of convicts who subsequently became constables at some time in the Colony of New South Wales. One of the more celebrated being William (Billy) Blue, ferryman, of Blues Point.

"Billy Blue" arrived in Sydney on 14 December 1801 in the convict ship Minorca. Our records show that on 17 August 1811 he was appointed a water bailiff - "Watchman of the Heaving Down Place in Sydney Cove".

In 1814, he is recorded as being a "Constable of Sydney, on government stores".

On 17 November 1818, he was "dismissed as constable and Watchman of the Heaving Down Place in Sydney for improper conduct" on suspicion of smuggling.

"Billy Blue" continued to run his ferry services on Port Jackson and wasone of the colourful characters in the early days of the Colony.

If you are researching a convict ancestor, you should go to our website at: