Governor and Mrs. Macquarie

If you spend even a little time in Sydney, you can’t help but notice that a lot of places are named for Somebody Macquarie. You will find Macquarie Place, Macquarie Fields, Macquarie Lighthouse, Macquarie River, and of course, Macquarie Street, just to name a few. All of these places are named after “The Father of Australia,” Lachlan Macquarie, and there are also at least a dozen places named after his wife, Elizabeth Campbell Macquarie. Many of the places were named in his honor while he was the fifth governor of New South Wales (NSW), many were named later, and it seems that Governor Macquarie was not in the least bit shy about naming places after himself and his wife.

Major General Macquarie took office January 1, 1810 and left Australia in 1821. He was the first person to actually use the name “Australia” for the country. Remember that originally Australia was nothing more than a penal colony, a dumping ground for Great Britain to offload convicts after around 1783 when they could no longer dump their problems in the New World, AKA America. Macquarie wanted to make the colony a modern settlement, so he went to work laying out Sydney’s streets and parks and even started doing the same over in Hobart on the island of Tasmania. Macquarie also did street layouts for many settlements in Western Sydney. He ordered the construction of public buildings along Macquarie Street in Sydney and developed the first city park which he named Hyde Park. Macquarie sent explorers out into the Blue Mountains and established a British settlement there. Macquarie is credited with establishing the first currency and worked with a convicted forger to cut the center out of and counter stamp 40,000 Spanish coins to use as Australian currency. If anyone tried to forge those coins, they did so knowing that they faced seven years of hard labor in the coal mines of Newcastle, Australia if convicted. The governor also encouraged the establishment of the first bank in Australia.

 

During Governor Macquarie’s time in NSW, he was also in charge of Tasmania so the name pops up all over Hobart. Our bayside hotel there was called MACq 01 because it stands where Macquarie Wharf 01 once was. Beside it is Macquarie Wharf 02.

 

Macquarie believed convicts had the right to return to full status as free citizens after serving their time. It was his belief that they could be moral, law-abiding citizens and could contribute greatly to building modern Australia. For example, convicted forger and British architect Francis Greenway became the colonial architect. Greenway was one of the first people to float the idea of a bridge across the Sydney Harbor. Governor Macquarie was also in favor of treating the Aboriginal people with kindness. Many of the large landowners didn’t agree with his progressive policies. They held the belief that the convicts (emancipists, as they were known) and Aborigines should be treated as nothing more than cheap labor. They believed that NSW should be viewed as a place for punishment and that redemption was not an option because convicts could never be trusted again. According to them, full rights as citizens should never be returned to emancipists. There can little doubt that it was probably a case of the large landowning colonists looking for cheap labor on their sheep farms. The big shots in London concurred with this stance because they wanted NSW to be regarded as a place of misery to be dreaded by convicts. Also, if the large landowning sheep farmers had convict labor, the British wool industry would flourish. Macquarie’s forward-thinking ideas naturally ran afoul with those whose goals were a bit more self-centered.

Elizabeth Macquarie agreed with her husband’s stance on modernizing Australia and played a large part in the shaping of the changing society there. She frequently accompanied him on his official visits. Elizabeth loved irises and gave corms (basically, corms are bulbs) to the settlers; she often planted the iris corms along the roadways. There is a monument to her in the town of Campbelltown depicting her with a watering can and wearing a bonnet to recognize her efforts to beautify the towns and roadways. The Royal Botanic Garden was established during Macquarie’s tenure. The 74 acre park in downtown Sydney is a jewel in the city’s crown. Below is a picture of one of the many grand ficus trees in the garden.

Mrs. Macquarie loved to go down to the water’s edge on a peninsula in Sydney Harbor and watch for ships coming from and leaving for Great Britain. She sat many hours on a rock taking in the harbor views. Governor Macquarie had convicts carve a seat for her from the sandstone rock and it became known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair or Lady Macquarie’s Chair. It was at the end of Mrs. Macquarie’s Road. The inscription gives the date the carving was completed as 13 June 1816.

The Macquaries returned to Scotland in 1821 and Major General Macquarie spent the remainder of his life fighting charges that he squandered money and mismanaged New South Wales. Although there is some controversy surrounding a massacre of some Aboriginal people in 1816, history has generally looked kindly upon Macquarie’s time in Australia. He is buried on the Isle of Mull and his grave is maintained by the National Trust of Australia. The headstone bears the inscription “Father of Australia.” That’s a pretty heady honor when you look at the beautiful continent and country that is Australia today.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Judy on January 8, 2024 at 5:38 pm

    Love the history! Who knew?

  2. Pam Morgan on January 9, 2024 at 12:11 pm

    I had no idea that a Ficus tree could grow that large! Great story of the family.

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