The First Fleet set sail from England to New South Wales-
A total of eleven ships, carrying 1500 men, women & children, set off on May 13th, 1787 from Portsmouth, England headed for New South Wales. A journey that took them half way around the world and lasted a total of 252 days!
The Fleet was led by Captain Arthur Phillip and on board were officers, crew, marines and convicts, all leaving their own familiar surroundings and security of their British life to travel far off waters to a distant and unknown land, on the other side of the globe. Captain Phillip’s fleet sailed the treacherous seas never losing a ship in its journey.
The convoy of ships consisted of a pair of Royal Navy escort ships, the HMS Sirius & HMS Supply, both accompanied the other ships carting the convicts.
The Alexander, Charlotte, Friendship, Lady Penrhyn, Prince of Wales & the Scarborough, including three store ships, the Fishburn, Borrow dale & the Golden Grove.
On January 18th, the Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, and despite the glowing reports from Captain James Cook, it soon proved to be unsuitable for permanent settlement.
This led to a redirection of plan setting sail for another destination, arriving at Port Jackson on January 26th, 1788. They found Port Jackson had everything the new settlers would require with deep water close to shore, shelter and fresh drinking water.
Captain Arthur Phillip called this new site, Sydney Cove, naming it after the then British Home Secretary, Lord Sydney.
Today, Australia celebrates this event which we know as, Australia Day, which marks the beginning of our first European settlement. It is also known as Foundation Day for it signified the day, Captain Arthur Phillip found Australia!
Take a trip back in time, click the link, & watch each leg of the Fleet’s amazing journey!
One Hundred Years later.….
It was 1988, Australia was celebrating it’s Bicentennial and our family was very much a part of it!
At the time, we were living in the heart of one of the major convict settlements, Parramatta. A city to itself, Parramatta, apparently named after the Aboriginal meaning; Where the eels lie, rich in cultural history & heritage. Before the Europeans settled, it was home to several clans of the Dharug people; the Barramatagal people in central Parramatta& some neighbouring suburbs. They are the traditional custodians of the area, sharing with us Parramatta’s rich Indigenous heritage which the City Council symbolised in their Official crest. Throughout the city of Parramatta and some surrounding suburbs, the designs of the people are widely incorporated in public art.
From as early as the First Fleet, Parramatta was of huge interest to the European settlers.
During 1789, the colony’s very first wheat crop was grown by James Ruse in the town of Rose Hill, which would late become known as Rosehill. Here you will find the oldest surviving public and private buildings in Australia. Both Old Government House and Elizabeth Farm Cottage are locate within the grounds of Parramatta’s Park.
It was here in the park, back in November,1988 that my children’s local Primary school, along with hundreds of children from other surrounding schools, attended Foundation Day in the park. Every child and teacher involved did their very best in keeping with tradition of days gone by many donning historical outfits worn by our descendants! Parramatta Park was literally transformed back in time, with the theme of the first settlers brought to life in every way possible. I will never forget the day as we struggled to keep our cool as temperatures rose steadily on the trek from the school through the streets of Parramatta. By mid-morning, it was announced over the PA system the mercury had hit the fourty-two degree celsius mark! As hundreds of hot and thirsty children, parents and teachers clambered their way up the park’s peak of the hill. The costumes a stark reminder of how difficult it must have been for the first settlers during their first experience of summer in New South Wales! A head count of over 1500 students, amazingly the same number of people who fist set foot in Sydney Cove, stood on the hill, impatiently waiting for word of a cold drink! When the truck arrived carrying the many cans of soft drink, the organisers of the day’s event were not at all prepared for what was to follow. Make-shift tents were set up down below the ridge, paramedics on hand as numerous people began fainting in the extreme temperatures. It wasn’t long before a change of plan saw everyone, our group included, making their way down in search of much needed shade! Across the river we spotted a lovely retreat with tall shady gum trees. As celebrations of song & dance went ahead, many were forced to leave-For those brave souls who endured the heat & remained to see the re-enactment of one Captain Arthur Phillip’s arrival in Parramatta, were in for a real treat!
The young man arrived in full-suit of the era:

The Infantryman of the era wore a red wool jacket with collar, cuffs and shoulder straps in the regimental facing colour, for the 33rd, the facing colour was red

But no one could blame his sudden urge to take off the jacket and shirt, then taking a plunging leap overboard!! I remember many of the onlookers laughing, some desperately wanting to join him. I wonder what dear old Arthur would have thought of such behaviour???? It certainly was a day to remember! Full honours going to the upstanding duties performed by our then, Deputy Prinicipal of Parramatta East Public School;Mr.Stokes- His committment as MC for the event, where he held his post, dressed in his full suit in temperatures while his fellow students entertained us!

About Arthur Phillip-
Arthur Phillip (1738 – 1814) was a British naval officer and colonial administrator. He was appointed as the first Governor of New South Wales, which was the first European colony in Australia.
It is unsure why Phillip was chosen to take this position but it is a possibility that it was because of his knowledge of farming. Arthur Phillip married Margaret Charlotte in 1763 but she stayed in England while Phillip was in Australia. She died in 1792 two years before Phillip was succeeded as Governor. Phillip arrived and settled in the area in 1788. In 1790 he built the first Government House and stayed their until he was succeeded in 1794. Phillip returned to England and remarried a few years later. He retired in 1805 but his rank in the naval hierarchy continued to grow, unfortunately Phillip died three months after his last promotion to Admiral of the Blue in 1814.

When Arthur landed in Sydney Cove he quickly established his role as ‘farmer’, by planting a crop of wheat and corn which sadly, failed due to the summer temperatures and the sandy soil of the cove. He hopped into his boat, and was said to have rowed from Sydney cove, all the way down the Parramatta River, where he chose the site to farm his crops and to build his Government House. The soil was much better, a rich dirt that saw many sturdy Eucalyptus trees already growing strongly along the banks of the river and far and wide across the land .Those very trees was where we sought our shade that day in 1988, and looking back it all makes the picture of his landing so much more vivid!

Images of Parramatta River and Old Government House courtsey:http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Australia_and_Oceania/Australia/State_of_New_South_Wales/Parramatta-1871399/TravelGuide-Parramatta.html