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5 corrections, most recently by andygrace - Show corrections

BENNILONG POINT AND

FORT MACQUARIE.

The following is a paper read before the Australian

Historical society in Sydney, on the 19th instant, by

M?. J.P. McGuanne :-

The demolition of Fort Macquarie, as proposed, in order to provide accommodation for a tramway terminus, is an event which induces one to give pub- licity to what little information one has gathered re- lative to the history of Bennilong Point and its pic- turesque old fort. Inbughalee is the aboriginal name for this finger of land. Farm Cove is Yoo- ?, and Sydney Cove Warrane in the aboriginal. When Governor Phillip found the blacks holding aloof? from his followers, he determined to capture a few and treat them with the utmost consideration, hoping by their favourable reports to induce others

of the tribe to billet themselves in the white man's camp. Bennilong, one of the first captured, was brought to the settlement on November 25, 1789. He learnt a few words of English, and evinced a ready facility to understand his white-skinned  

friends. After a few weeks of marked attention he effected his escape, but was so favourably impressed with all he had seen and ex- perienced that when Phillip received a spear wound on the September 7, 1790, at Manly, Benni- long gave the spearsman, Willemering, a hiding for his treachery. Being concerned about Phillip's re- covery he visited headquaters to apologise for and explain the cause of the unhappy occurrence. He offered to live among the white people if a hut were built for him and his gin, Barangaroo. Her ashes were buried near the present Government House. for Bennilong and three more blacks huts were built on the point of land now bearing his name.   Biscuits steepedin molasses, a plentiful supply of   fish, and Phillip's protection, were inducements which soon tempted other blacks, to dwell in the

vicinity.

Much might be written about Bennilong. He called Phillip "Beauga," or father, while Phillip   called him "Dorroow," or son. He went to England     with Phillip, was introduced to George 111., was lionised, taught to box, to smoke, and drink, and swagger. On his return to Sydney with Governor Hunter he became an intemperate hero, jealous and quarrelsome, eventually ending his days in a brawl among blacks.

Bennilong had an hotel named after him, a North Shore punt, and the famous racehorse of the early thirties, owned by Sir John Jameson, for which he refused 400 guiness in 1831.*  

Bennilong Point has its historic associations. In 1791 a white woman is detected in one of the huts dressed in man's clothes, ready to escape in an outgoing vessel, the Gorgon. It was here refractory women made acquaintance with the dipping or duck- ing stool. From February 17 to May 6, 1789, Sydney harbour was without a ship for the only time since its foundation. It was on this point the latitude and longitude of Sydney were first computed with ipproximate correctness, in the year 1793, when the Spanish ships Diacovierta and Atriveda visited Sydney, under the command of Melaspina and

Guerra? Their astronomical observations were com- pleted in April, the latitude and longitude being computed from 42 sets of observations.

In Phillip's "Voyage to the New South Wales." p. 126, he tells us that Lieutenant Dawes had ascer- tained in July, 1788, that the longitude of Dawes Point was 159deg. 19min. 30sec. east of Greenwich, the latitude being 32 deg. 52min. 30sec. south. Melaspina gave them as 151deg. 18min. 18sec. and 33deg. 31 min. 28sec. respectively by Greenwhich measure- ments. More reliable computations have since given 151deg. 11min. 30sec. and 33deg. 51min. 41 sec. as the correct longitude and latitude for Sydney.

At Bennilong Point the white men first witnessed a corroboree. Near the point, in 1806, white men were first struck by lightning within the harbour. It saw Macquarie and his guests rush from table toassist in   putting out a big fire on March 3, 1810, when H.M.S. Hindostan was ablaze. On August 3, 1811, a black   whale was harpooned near Bennilong Point - an account of which is given in Wall's pamphlet, 1851.

The first attempt at fortification works for Sydney was made near Bennilong Point. Collins tells us that in July, 1788, Lieutenant Dawes, of the Marines, was directed to construct a small redoubt on the east side of Sydney Cove. In November, 1788, we learn   that this small redoubt was finished, a flagstaff was erected, and two pieces of ordinance were placed in position. The colours were hoisted on this fort on New Year's Day, 1789, and on June 4, 1789, the two brass 6-pounders were discharged, the occasion being the anniversary of the King's birthday. In 1791 this redoubt was demolished, the guns and flagstaff were removed to the west side of the cove, the earth form- ing the breastwork and platform was utilised for the   Governor's garden, and on the site of the redoubt a storehouse was built. This was the largest building of the day; it was 80 x 24 feet, and had a loft.    

In a statement of public works for 1798 it is men- tioned that a half-moon battery on the extreme end of the point was completed in December, and a few guns from tho Supply were mounted by the ship's company. This is the battery M. Peron refers to when he describes Sydney as he saw it 1802.-"The     «jil battery on tho northern point of Sydney Cove, Omi i rock of difficult access, uarrying six aea of cannon, protected by a trench of turf, orossu I fire by anothor battery, and thua de-fund in a ut ofhcacioua inannertho approach to the town and ¿peculiar port " And again. " At the eastern point ¿tlie town is a second battery, the fire of whicb, as n have before observed, crosses that of the sign.il lattery." At the foot of the cannon were large flat itcnes on which the blacks baked their fish whole Ii »as tbe custom when u convict escaped or vheu persons were reported to be loBt in tho bush to diicharge the ordnance, to alarm the garrison in onu I tue and to guids tbe wnndorer lu tho other.

Between Bennilong Point and the head of the tore »ero saltpans, whore the Government, and sub Kqueully in 17BS two Americans, procured salt by eraporation Small vcseels were careened on the milly beach near the saltpans.

In No. 39of the "à) dney Gazette," 1803,wo find the declaration of war uguinst the Trench Itopublic fully inserted, its length i.ecossitating the first supple- ment that paper issued. No. 40 invited enlistment "for proper triimng in management of the guns." No. 41 has a proclamation requesting all free mon to lend in their names for a militia. Tbus we find in tbo earliest day. IIDW NOW faonth Wales vibrated »ben Uin-Unil's military strings »oro touched, even

«it respondí to-day« Captain Bel lacis wai tbo ofhcer who gave ¿Sydney it« first lessons in gunnery

Ou December 17» 1817, Governor Macquarie laid thefounil-tion-itono of tho fort now beariug his narau Prior to thin ho had built for his private use a small landing-place, now known us the Man-'o'- War Pier. Its little beach became temporarily knorvn _8 Port Lachlan. Ihe fort waa completed towards the end of theyearlSlO It waa deemed to be of iraproii nublo strength. Koro ronce to u> plan of Sydney, ao.v in the archives of the Legislative Couu cil ehons that the point nu which it stood vus «paratea from the mainland by a narrow paasage of salt water. The tort waa officially described as a tiuuuri, euch base being 13011, the base of the rampart being washed by the leaat hißh-water, the summit of terreplein bein.: 22ft above hi^h-water It mounted lo pieces of crdnanco, vi/ , 10 24-poundera and ilvo 6-pouuders. Uno of the former w us placed at euch angle eu bar- bette, the small circular bastion at each angle affording apace for one tntversmg gun. Turee faces of tbe square aro open to the sea, one of which is pierced fur three guns Ino two-storied tower in tile ceutru of the land face is 00ft. in circumference, ind \\a% used us u store and guard room, through which the fort was entered from the land by a draw - budge, .ubbequoittly roplaced by the permanent bridge now in existence The channel beneath the

. The name in »pelled variously. Collins baa " Bennil loop, » Tench * B*n_elou," Bonniclc say» " Iknnelonff " or 'Uanalung" Jue racehorse was *' Bmnelong ' and M Bcanilon^ " Tho boat is " Benelon "

bridge waa partially filled with debris ; it became a dry ditch. Later on when an outward eeawall waa built and aoma land reclaimed the moat waa filled up aa a roadway. In the basemont of the tower ia a magazine calculated to hold 350 barrels of powder. The tower was intended to cover a email detach- ment with stores for tho battery. Ono commissioned officer and 12 men were generally quartered in there, not moro than six additional men could be put under coyer. The guna would take in roverao any work on Pinchgut, distant 10G2 yarda. 'J he fort is equi- distant from Port Phillip. Dawes Battery is, or waa, 728 yards distant

It may be asked who was the oogineer and drafts- man of tho work Until anpcnodcd by Major Druitt, Captain Gill was military and road engineer at this time, hut as Macquarie had a valuable as- sistant in Lieutenant Watts, of the 4ßth Regiment, stationed at Parramatta, in preparing plans of public buildings, it ia probable that Watts was the draf ta- man under Macquarie and Druitt.

The stone was obtained from tbe Governor's domain by priaDn labour There were good elono masons among the free men Edward Curetou, who orectod the Macquarie Obelisk for a trifte Isss than £45, waa considered the best workman. What were known as altar tombs, Buch as we have in the old Dovonshire-street Cemetery, were instanced in the " Gazette " aa proof of the high* class work Sydney stonemasons could produce wheu occasion re- quired. The outselling on the old fort tower is typical of tho best work in Macquarie's time.

Had Fort Macquarie been built a fowyears earlier, it would baye witnessed the town of bydney under fire and threatened with destruction. On May 20, 1814, the good ebip Throe Bees, Captain Wallis, took fire at tho wharf. Sydney waa then nearer to the Covo than it is to-day. Soon tho inhabitants wore witnessing tbo conflagration, hut when rumour .Bid 130 cask, of powder were on board (there wero 30), and that tho guns were loaded with grape and shot, there was a stampede, and the gravest appre- hensions prevailed. The vessel was cut adrift, and allowol to float at freedom. She rau foul of one rossel, then of another, but always veering BO as to point her cannon at the town. One hy one tho guna discharged over the town, fortunately without IOB. of life-although oue small ball crushed through a window, leaving its mark on the floor, lu 1824 the editor of the " Sydney Gazotte "said, ** Our batteries penetrate étrangers with admiration "

We are indebted to It. H. F. Kemp for an accurate description of the eastern sido of the Cove during Bnsbano'a time. Passing about 300 feet m front of where the Custom. House now stands, a beach some 20 feet wide ran along its front a. far as Phillip-etroet, where rock, commenced-a 20ft. roadway ran at the water side nf Government House grounds, from Phillip

street locks extended into the water some 10 to 20 feet, until they carne to an enorm us rock standing perpendicularly from tho water about 30ft., with very dBop wat or alongside. Along the rocka at various places ringbolts were fixed and ships laid up were moored stern on to them About half-way to the fort was a small yellow watch tower, not then in use but formerly old Biddy Blue's Retreat Cottage. Bebind the high rock a way, some 10ft. wide, of steps and landings took you to high ground, along which ran a fence enclosing the Government House ground round to the gardens. The high ground was covered with ti-tree hush nearly to the fort, boyood which a reef ran out In 1833 Sytlnoy Cove was defined as tho waters within a line extending tram Dawes Point to the north-western bastion of Fort Macquarie, and tba shores southward of this line. Braim Buy. the fort wa. being demolished in IS43.

In 1851 the defence of Port Jackson was seriously taken up, the Home Government having expressed

ita wish to send out military labour for the pur

pose, the colony to defraj the cost ihelogisla tive Council refused the offer until local legislation waa invested with entire control of colonial revenue territorial aa woll a» f,(,noral The refu» ii waB carried by the casting voto of tho ¡speaker In IS1"! the Cri- mean Wnr clectriflfd the colon), and additional guns wore plocBd on the fort

On June 9, 1854, in the Sydney Legislative Coun- cil, Governor Fitzroy »in! that for the first time in our history we had contemplated tho possiblo on tingeucie» of warfare On the 27th he road the Queen'» despatch declaring «ar with Itussn Colonel liordoo, of tho «oyal Luuineor», had during the provious vr-ar recominondod a schema of defonco for Sydney Iiirbour, and tho Council on the Suprlo menlary I atiraatie for i8u paused a vote of £10 000 for the purposu Som« of this w is expended ou 1 ort Macquarie Wot tworth, who was in Logl mil at the tim«, in charge of the now Constitution Bill, ex preneed the (.eneral rogret at our defenceless Btute

Dr Lant, tell» u» that ever sinco the famous panic about a IYsnch invasion uudor the redoubtable Prince Du Coinville in 1847 tho colony had periodical fits about harbour defences lu vol 1, p 309, of hi» 1 Ilenitniscences," ni a letter to Sir Koderick Mur- chison, Denison sneerB at thin unnecessary under- taking and (to nhow how times have changed) in p 348, \ol 1, hu expressed the opinion that the colouy could not raise a properly organised militia Denison was an oflicer ot tue Boval Engineers ho planted tho fortifications on the lrmi »ide of old Fort Mac- quarie

In March, 137!, when the defence of bydnoy re- quired Borne thought, cun cqucnt upon the Franco ¿'russian nar live 12 poundcis were added, and the fort wa» manned, for tho last time by SO men At the suggestion of bir Willum Jervoi» lu July, 1884, the inner line of defeuco for Sydney u as abandoned In 1S90, whiri wharf improvements were uudeitaken, the western portion of tho old fort walla waa ro moved and their massive structure disclosed

Much mora information might be given about the Point and fete,, i hoy have witnessed tho upbuild- ing of Circular Quay, of our wool stores, and ship- ping trade Within the »hadon ot the fort as fur balk as 1830, our first water polico were eetabliahed, thia force consisting of une conductor and two boat- men, dressed in their ordinary clothea, but distin- guished by a red waistcoat In the Fifties female ira migrant» wero lauded at Muu-o'-War bteps aud marched through tho Uardeos and Domain to their barrack» In thole day a the urchway of the fort dis- played in tar paint the names of many a vessel at anchor m that part of the barbour Many boatracea started from Baamlong Point Watermon nave plied from there for half a century The Naval Brigade have exercised atfthe fort for years past All our Governors »luce Macquarie'» time and all our Admirals have used tho point as their private landing place 1 ho fort IB a conspicuous featuro in all the harbour pictures looking westward Its _uua were never fired to hurt or destroy they have echoed tho acclamation of byduey pujplo on great occasions, notably at the fall of Sebastopol they welcomed the accession of nur late Queen Victoria end the arrival of many colonial Uovoruors, ond now at u time of many changes, tho Point and tho fort ire experien- cing the common lot

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
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