Each workday from my desk (courtesy of a recent fortuitous reshuffle) I now gaze at a reminder of the way my and the G.O.’s ancestors arrived in this country. By ship. Through Sydney Heads. For me it’s a reminder of how fortunate he and I are that they did.
Four of the G.O.’s ancestors came on convict ships of the Second and Fourth Fleet, and were part of the very early settling of Australia. For several generations there was an inclination for people to overlook or hide their convict heritage. Fortunately, no longer, as evidenced by an intrepid stonemason Ray Collins who with ancestors on both the First Fleet and Second, created the monuments and the First and Second Fleet Memorial Gardens at Wallabadah in country NSW.
“The First Fleet Memorial Gardens consist of eleven circular gardens, representing the ships of the First Fleet approaching a large garden in the shape of Australia. A winding cobblestone path connects the Gardens, each of which has a number of surrounding sandstone tablets inscribed with the names of the persons who sailed on that ship.
Within each garden is a stone tablet featuring the name and a pictorial sketch of that particular ship. The Second Fleet Gardens consist of two gardens with stone tablets arranged by ship. Both gardens have interpretative signage largely drawn from the logs and memoirs of the participants.
These gardens are dedicated to the sailors, marines, spouses, children, convicts and free men of the First & Second Fleets. The Gardens tell the story of both these voyages and the early settlement of Sydney largely in the words of those who participated.
The interpretative signs and the content were done by Neil McGarry & Associates.”
I encountered a link to information on these gardens late last year when dabbling in some Google based family history research, shared it with the G.O. and promptly forgot about it, until en route to Tamworth late in August to celebrate our anniversary. As part of our scenic route roadtrip along the New England Highway we were approaching the village of Wallabadah both of us reminiscing about other times we’d passed through. Bing! I remembered the gardens just as we were coming up to the turn off. The G.O. obviously having paid little attention earlier, had no idea of why I was asking him to turn off but accommodating adventurous as he is, he did.
Other of my and the G.O.’s ancestors came to Australia as free settlers and assisted migration via ships from the United Kingdom and Europe; precursors to what has become known as the Fifth Fleet fleeing post-war Europe and Asia, and ongoing immigration and seeking of asylum. All of which contributes to the legacy of our wonderful multicultural country, so with due and fair process we can share and share it again.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”
Martin Luther king, Jr