Monday, August 13, 2012

Norfolk Island Celebrations, 2013

Today I'm forwarding an email to all my 'Forresters' about some forthcoming celebrations on Norfolk Island, because I believe the island is a must-see destination for anyone with an interest in the early history of NSW.

Since 1788, the island has had three waves of settlement. Most recently, the Pitcairn Islanders of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame were resettled there, in 1856.

Before that, evidence of the harsh penal settlement of 1825-1855 survives via the amazing complex of historic buildings which have warranted their recent inclusion as a World Heritage site.

Less well-known is Norfolk Island's short period of settlement from 1788 to 1814. Governor Phillip obeyed his instructions and sent settlers to plant the flag there within weeks of the First Fleet's arrival in Sydney Cove. The island soon became an agricultural haven, where many of Australia's earliest European settlers were sent to grow food and avoid starvation rations in Sydney. The island's isolation, distance from Sydney, small size and dangerous shoreline eventually led to a decision to close down the settlement, destroy its structures and more or less forcibly remove the inhabitants to Tasmania.

Little evidence survives for that settlement of 1788-1814, but when I visited in 2010 the tourism authorities were beginning to cater to visitors with an interest in this period of history. For example, there are archaeological remains close to Kingston wharf, the site of the wreck of the Sirius is marked and graves in the cemetery help to tell that early story.

In 2010 I tried hard to define the land which had been granted to Robert Forrester - 12 acres on Mt Pitt Path, Queensboro Town. Attempting to reconcile old maps of land grants with today's street maps, I decided in the end that Robert's grant fronted today's Grassy Road, on the left hand side leading up to Mt Pitt Road, close to the Mini-Golf site.

The search prompted my suggestion (made to the island's historians and a tourism organiser) that a historic 'grants walk' be created. This would take the form of a pathway alongside the island's various roads, marking the boundary lines for each of the old grants by a change in the type of pathway surface and a small sign. Many 'family history' tourists visit the island because one of their ancestors received a land grant there, and there's nothing better than treading in the footsteps of your forebears.
My travelling companion in 2010 was not a 'Forrester' but one of my old school friends. We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience of exploring the island, especially the historic tours, the walking trails and the progressive dinners. I was reminded of another aspect of the island's uniqueness yesterday on the ABC's Landline programme. It featured a story on the Norfolk Blue cattle breed and the Norfolk Blue Restaurant, which I can also recommend highly as a dining-out experience.

I encourage you to visit Norfolk Island and soak up the general beauty and ambience of a very special place. Contact Debbie at The Travel Centre for details of next year's celebrations - debbie@travelcentre.nlk.nf

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