George Town and District Historical Society Inc.
Promoting the History of the George Town District

Tamar Valley Tasmania

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Postal Address
310 Low Head Road
Low Head TAS 7253

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Lachlan Macquarie

An Overview

In December 1809 Colonel Lachlan Macquarie arrived in Sydney as the newly appointed Governor of New South Wales. His authority as Governor in Chief extended over all of Eastern Australia, from Cape York to South Cape in Van Diemen’s Land.

At the time there were two separate settlements in Van Diemen’s Land - the Derwent settlement in the south and the Port Dalrymple settlement in the north. Each was a dependency of New South Wales, under the control of a Lieutenant Governor. However, in 1809 Lieutenant Governor Paterson had left Port Dalrymple to take over command in Sydney following the rebellion against Governor Bligh, while at the Derwent, Lieutenant Governor David Collins died in March 1810.

Macquarie appointed officers from his 73rd Regiment, of which he was the commander, as Commandants to administer each of the settlements. This continued at the Derwent settlement until the arrival of Lieutenant Governor Davey in 1813. The two commandants, and later Davey, were closely supervised by Macquarie, who effectively made most of the decisions. Only with the appointment of Lieutenant Governor Sorell in 1817 did the Derwent settlement gain some degree of autonomy. Macquarie, however, continued to be the effective governor of Port Dalrymple until his departure in 1821.

In November 1811 Lachlan Macquarie, accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, sailed from Sydney in the brig Lady Nelson, to visit his southern dominion. His first landing was at Adventure Bay on the 18th November 1811. Northerly winds prevented the brig from entering the Derwent River, and eventually Macquarie was put ashore near Lauderdale. On the 23rd November his party crossed the neck to Ralph's Bay where the barge of the Commandant, Captain Murray, was waiting to take him across the Derwent River for a landing in Hobart Town.

The Governor spent about 10 days in Hobart Town, inspecting the town and surrounding farmlands, including the Derwent Valley. He then undertook a six day overland ride through the Midlands to Launceston. He stayed about a week in the Launceston area before exploring the Tamar Valley, finally departing from Low Head in the Lady Nelson on the 20th December.

During his stay in Van Diemen’s land Macquarie issued a number of Government Orders that were to set the pattern of development for many years and were to have a lasting impression on the island. Among the most notable were the location of the military barracks, hospital and signal station in Hobart, as well as planning the layout of the town's major streets. He also gave instructions for new towns to be built at Elizabeth Town (New Norfolk) and George Town, as well as deciding on the farmlands south west of Launceston as the site for the resettlement of the remaining Norfolk Island farmers.

It would be almost ten years before Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie returned to Van Diemen's Land. Nevertheless he continued to have a major influence on the island. His support for emancipists, public buildings and the development of the economy saw growth in both of the Van Diemen's Land settlements.  He has been called "The Father of Australia," and this term applies in Tasmania as well as New South Wales.

Macquarie 2011 Celebrations

During November and December 2011 a statewide committee under the leadership of Peter Cox organized a series of events to commemorate the visit of Lachlan Macquarie to Van Diemen’s Land.

December 18th - George Town Birthday

As a fitting finale to the Macquarie events over 200 people turned up to the George Town Memorial Hall to celebrate the town’s 200th birthday. In the presence of the Governor of Tasmania the local school children blew out 200 candles on the birthday cake while those present drank a toast to George Town just as Governor Macquarie and his wife had done 200 years ago.

December 19th - Low Head Pilot Station

The locals farewelled Governor Macquarie and the Lady Nelson at the Low Head Pilot Station to the sound of the Fog Horn and the pipes played by Robert Gunn.

Macquarie’s Journals

Full details of Macquarie’s Journals for both his 1811 and 1821 visits can be accessed at the following Macquarie University site “Journeys in Time”.


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