Macquarie – more than just a bank

Have you heard the old one?

Q: What’s the difference between Australia and yogurt?

A: There’s more culture in yogurt

Well if there’s something an enquiring traveller will learn in Australia is that the continent has a fascinating, if at times gruesome, history and is full of unexpected cultural surprises.

Travels with Bertha is full of those historical and personal stories – although many unfortunately ended up on the cutting room floor. Two of those cutting room victims relate to Macquarie (told in this blog) and the fate of hundreds of single women coming to colony in the post-famine period (to follow…)

Lachlan Macquarie, Australian governor 1810-1821

Like in Italy, where almost every second piazza is named after Garibali, it’s hard to travel far in Australia without coming across a street, town, university, port, harbour or river named after Australia’s fourth, and arguably greatest, colonial Governor, Lachlan Macquarie. (Macquarie Bank, established only in 1985, took its name from the Governor in recognition of his achievement in setting up Australia’s first bank and introducing Australia’s first domestic coinage in 1813 and 1817 respectively).

Macquarie succeeded William Bligh (of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame) as Governor of New South Wales in 1810 after Bligh was embroilled in controversy for his role in inciting an early colonial revolt known as the “rum rebellion”.  But in telling contrast to Bligh and his two other predecessors, Macquarie, a tenacious Scottish military man, had grand designs for Sydney. Whereas the first three Governors saw the growing town solely as a penal colony and not the supplier of goods or strategic base it was later to become, Macquarie viewed Sydney Cove as the capital of one of His Majesty’s colonies and the buildings and civilization created should reflect that regardless of its dubious genesis.

In this spirit, Macquarie established the grid street system (still in place in Sydney’s city centre), decreed that vehicles should drive on the left as in England and using convict labour built a road over the Blue Mountains thereby opening up the farmlands of the interior.

Macquarie had brought a book of architectural designs to the new colony but he knew he needed more to achieve his plans. So on arrival he began looking out for an architect to help him design the new town. He found his man in the cantankerous, though gifted, Francis Greenway whom in 1815 was convicted of forgery in Bristol and sentenced to transportation. Over the course of the next twenty years Greenway designed many buildings in the growing town but perhaps his best known creation is Hyde Park Barracks, which along with some of the oldest buildings in Australia, lies on the most elevated street of the city grid, on Macquarie St – a fitting testiment to the enormous imprint the Governor made in his short 11 year tenure.

Next Out-Take……the touching tales of the many Irish women who came to pass through Macquarie’s Hyde Park Barracks in the mid 19th century…….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s