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STORY OF GARDEN ISLAND
From Vegetable Plot to Victualling Yard
Extract from the log-book of H.M.S. Sirius : "February 11, 1782 (16 days after the arrival of the first fleet). "Sent an officer and party of men to Garden Island to clear it for a garden for the ship's company."
As far back at October 2, 1788, Daniel Southwell, who was a mate on H.M.S. Sirius, writing up his diary, said : "When we left that place (Port Jackson) we left a man to look after a kind of kitchen garden situated on a small island in the harbor, and appropriated to the service of H.M.S. Sirius." Apparently gardening in those days
was not the peaceful occupation it now is, for Collins, in his Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, writing in February, 1788, says : "A party of the natives, consisting of 16 or 18 persons, landed on the island, where the people of the Sirius were pre- paring a garden, and, with much artifice, watching their opportunity, carried off a shovel, a spade, and a pickaxe. On being fired at and hit on the legs by one of the people with small shot, the pick axe was dropped, but they carried off the other tools." Evidently the cabbages, carrots, let tuces, and other garden truck raised on the island were in keen demand, for there was competition amongst the ships of the fleet to get this productive isle allotted to them. But on Sept. 7, 1811, that
wise and busy old administrator, Gover- nor Macquarie, who evidently saw in Garden Island an ideal pleasaunce for Government House, caused the following Government and general notice to be published : "It being deemed expendient that the island situated in the harbor of Port Jackson, and near to Farm Cove, called Garden Island, should be comprised in and considered in future as forming a part of the Government Domain, notice is hereby given that all the growth and produce of said island, whether timber or grass, is to be appropriated in future to the exclusive use of His Excellency's establishment..." By an extraordinary mistake, for one so astute as Governor Macquarie to make, His Excellency forgot to get this transaction legally registered, and so when in 1866 the Navy demanded the use of the island, it had to be handed back to them, although, as a matter of fact, they never made use of it as a dock yard until 1875. Ghosts of the Past. Garden Island was for many years the resting place (but not the last) of the mortal remains of Ellis Brent, the Judge Advocate in Macquarie's time, who died November 19, 1815. An altar tomb on the highland of the island con- tained them, and when his friend, Major
Ovens, 57th Regiment, private secretary to Governor Brisbane, died, December 7, 1826, at his desire, his body was placed within the tomb of his friend, and a pyramid shaped monument, on which was inscribed his military service, was erected on top of it. In 1866, when the island was trans- ferred to the Royal Navy, the tomb was removed to St. Thomas' Church burial ground, West-street, North Sydney. Here also on the island were interred the re- mains of Bungaree, an aboriginal chief who flourished in Macquarie's day. It is said his remains were taken to Ryde for burial when the naval authorities took over the island. There is a rock still on the site of the two chums' common grave, with almost indecipherable initials and dates carved on it, but the spot where His Majesty Chief Bungaree was gathered to his fathers is right in the centre of the is- land tram lines, and close to where ferry steamers now call at the wharf. On warm, balmy nights, they say, two mysterious lights, close together, glow under the shady trees that overhang the inscribed mass of rock referred to pre- viously. The watchman up at the wire- less station has often seen them. They look like fireflies dancing there in the gloom. But they aren't— no, not by a long chalk. It's only Old Ellis Brent, and his crony, Major Ovens, over from North Sydney having a quiet pipe as they so often used to do years ago, and looking at the twinkling ferries scurry- ing about their lawful occasions, and the gtreat merchant ships feeling their way, !ike silent ghosts, to their berths, and other wonders. Below them, moodily, a dark, huddled, naked form, his head sunk on his knees, which he clasps with his long arms, broods Bungaree from Ryde. The Modern Island. Since 1866 great have been the changes. Houses, workshops, wharves, and wireless have come into being. A mammoth sheers, capable of lifting if need be 280 tons, straddles on three legs, a very Gulliver amidst the dwarfed craft at the quayside. Here is a great shed, in which score upon score of deadly shining torpedoes are stacked in racks, like great wine bottles in a cellar-bin. A torpedo store such as this could settle the fate of a world in arms if it got a chance. There are some dandy-looking 4in high-angle anti-aircraft guns in here. But we are on sacred ground. Tor- pedoes, guns, and wireless talk is more
or less taboo on Garden Island. Let us pass on. There is a quaint battery of guns of all sorts ranged in front of Commodore Edwards' office. No one minds a press- man looking, touching, and examining in any way he likes these quaint and mostly obsolete instruments of destruc- tion. Here, side by side, are two brass canon found on Carronade Island, in Napier Broome Bay, by Capt. Claude Cumberlege, R.N., of happy memory. They were sticking end up in the sand when that cheery and highly original officer discovered them and used for warping boats to. It is supposed they are of Spanish origin, but how they got there goodness knows ! Ranged alongside is a German field gun, captured in Rabaul, 1914. This is quite a serviceable piece of artillery yet. The Turkish gun next door is more picturesque than dangerous, with its Arabic engraving on the breach, whilst the stumpy little mortar next to it reminds one of the picture of Dignity and Impudence. Just in the doorway of the main office are a couple of extraordinary-looking five-barrelled machine guns, captured by the Nusa from the German ship Komet, whilst in the lobby is a relic to which every good Australian man and boy should make yearly pilgrimage, it is the ship's bell of the German cruiser Emden, destroyed at Cocos Island, November 9, 1914, by H.M.A.S. Sydney. The bell is badly damaged by shell-fire. On the day the Sydney put the Emden down— a twisted, smoking mass of scrapiron — Australian naval tradition was born. It must never be allowed to die. Another Emden relic is the ship's compass, also battle-scarred, set up in front of the men's quarters and mess building, near where M.H.A.S. Pen- guin is berthed. The island is a little world — all on its own. Post-office, hospital (Sick Bay), detention barracks (prison) all complete. They have a special police force, and no stranger is allowed on the island without a pass. The big, burly limb-of-the-law at the wharf, who intercepts all civilians, was once a rough-riding sergeant in the Inniskillen Dragoons. He owns up to being a good man in the saddle still. The chief telegraphist up at the wire- less station is T. L. Perry. He was on the Sydney when she sank the Emden, and helped to put out the first news of the naval victory. But to tell of all one may encounter at Garden Island would need more space than it here available. Let it suffice that at Sydney's door is almost unex- plored territory for the civilian. — A.C.C.S.