Sydney News: Celebrating the departure of an unpopular Governor

21st October 1831

While Allan Cunningham was on his way to England on the “Forth”, in October 1831,  Mr William Charles Wentworth ((Read more about William Charles Wentworth at Australian Dictionary of Biography)) celebrated the departure of Governor Darling by organising a “splendid Fete” at his home on the shores of Sydney Harbour, inviting many colonists to enjoy his hospitality. Over 4000 people attended.

The Fete was given in full view of the Governor and his family, who may have been on the deck of the Hooghley waiting in the harbour waiting to sail for the UK the next day. It was Mr Wentworth’s mean spirited attempt to humiliate the departing Governor, helpless to intervene.

Whether or not Governor Darling deserved such an insult can be left to the historians to suggest.

Governor Darling, with his wife and children, sailed from Sydney for the UK, the next day, in the “Hooghley” on 22 October. ((Learn more about Governor Darling at Australian Dictionary of Biography))

The editor of The Allan Cunningham Project believes, if Allan Cunningham had been residing in the colony, he would not have attended Wentworth’s Fete, because he was very much alined with the “Elite’s” of the colony, Luckily for Mr Cunningham, he was at sea when Wentworth’s “Fete” took place, saving him the pain of witnessing the display,

It is assumed Mr Cunningham would have been supportive of Governor Darling, and it is possible that he and Ralph Darling would have met up in London when they both had returned to the UK.

The newspaper article, describing the Fete, reads as follows: ((Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas: 1828-1867), Wednesday 23 November 1831, page 3))

Sydney Extracts (From the Australian)
Rejoicing for General Darlings departure from New South Wales;
Splendid Fete at Vaucluse;
Brilliant Illuminations and other Joyous Festivities

On Wednesday last, upwards of 4,000 persons of both sexes and of all grades, assembled at Vaucluse to partake of Mr Wentworth’s hospitality and to evince their joy at the approaching departure. Almost from day-break till dark, the South Head road was crowded by numerous parties in every sort of vehicle and on foot.  Sydney might be said to have been almost deserted; as in various directions not a soul was to be met with during the whole of the afternoon. The scene of the fete was on the lawn in front of Mr Wentworth’s Villa, which was thrown open for the reception of all respectable visitants, while a marquee filled with piles of loaves, and casks of Cooper’s gin, and Wright’s strong beer, was pitched a short way off, for the refreshment of all who preferred to bend their steps that way. On an immense spit, in another direction, a bullock was roasted entire.  Twelve sheep were also roasted in succession; and 4,000 loaves completed the enormous banquet. On Tuesday, a fatted ox was led in triumph through the streets of sydney, decorated with ribbons, amidst the cheers of the surrounding spectators. Nothing could be more orderly than Wednesday’s proceedings; not a single accident occurred of any moment that we are aware of – all was festivity and good fellowship. Here hundreds helped to dispatch the fatted bull –

A band of children, round a snow white ram,
There wreath his venerable horns with flowers;
While peaceful as if an unweaned lamb.
The patriarch of the flock all gently cowers
His sober head, majestically tame,
Or eats from out the palm, or playful lowers
His brow, as if an act to butt, and then
Yielding to their small bans, draws back again.

Lord Byron

About 2pm one universal shout that might be heard on board the Hooghley, announced the presence of their worthy boat, Mr William Charles Wentworth, who was instantly elevated on the shoulders of the foremost of the throng, and amid loud acclamations was chaired round the lawn; after which Mr W addressed the joyous assemblage in a brief but appropriate speech.

Messrs. Mackaness, Hall, Cooper, Keith, Stephen and Hayes, were successively chaired, each in turn addressing the multitude. By four in the afternoon, after passing a most convivial time of it, the company began to retire homewards; many hundreds stopping to pass a few more bewitching hours, and the night being exceedingly fine, and the full orbed moon in all her majesty, an indescribable air of fascination was spread over the whole scene.

By 7pm two immense bonfires were lighted on the highest hill.  The Blaze might be seen from Sydney, and the illuminations had a most brilliant and imposing effect.  Surmounted by a Crown, and flanked by two stars of the first magnitude, there appeared the words, “God save the King” and “Down with the t*r*nt.” beneath.  The last lamp was lighted up amid deafening cheers – several rustic sports of various sorts, speeches, &c.&c. whiled away the night, and morning dawned before the hospitable mansion was quitted by all its guests.

Last night, Sydney was illuminated in various directions; the following were among the most conspicuous:-
The Colchester Warehouse exhibited on blaze of light.

The office of “The Australian” displayed a transparency painting the trump of the press, with the fall of the oppressor.In his efforts to secure himself by enchaining the Press, a late great military figure appears in the attitude of falling, a printer’s devil pulling him down by the coat skirts – the chain broken, and the Press at freedom – while a dumpy Scotchman in the endeavour to waddle an escape, still catches at the loaves and fishes – the various reserves, grants, leases and promises of land which have escaped from his bait.

A ship the Hooghley, is making all sail to pick up the fallen hero; while a son of Neptune, standing on the Press, flourishes in one hand, Sudd’s collar and spikes, while the other brandishes a corn-stalk sustaining a Crown, with these words, “GOD SAVE THE KING! MAGNA CHARTA!” – On the right side on the summit of a temple of the useful arts, under the portico and about it are scattered bales of wool, casks of oil, and in it stand the genius of Australia. One arm displays a parchment sheet, on which are these words, “THE BILL OF RIGHTS.” The other sustains a spear crowned with the cap of liberty and over the whole floats a banner-roll, inscribed – “The spell is broken.”  Beneath appears John Bull – the padlock dropping from his mouth, and he shouting out “Huzza boys – Australian and Freedom forever.” Above the transparency appeared a Royal Crown in variegated lamps; on one side lower down, W., and the IV. Under the lamps was a scroll, containing these words:-

DARLING’S Reign has passed!
And HOPE, once more re-animates our land !

A brilliant cross illuminated the gateway leading to the Chapel or Printing Office.
Hot punch and cigars kept the visitors merry within doors – while fire-works diverted those without.

After a couple of beers merry display, an unexpected squall suddenly extinguished our lamps; and to-night we purpose re-illuminating; consequently a new light is likely to be struck, to attend which we beg to invite eery friend of rational government.

On “a sail” being signalised last Thursday, which proved to be the Stirling Castle, such was the trepidation of certain folks who may be nameless, in a certain great house, that the Hooghley was under [?] orders [?], and she dropped down from her anchorage; but the alarm proving groundless she brought up below Pinchgut.

It is said that His Excellency embarked on the Houghley On Wednesday night in cog. If so, he had no doubt a fine opportunity for watching the brilliant bonfires which blazed on Vaucluse hills, and of hearing the shouts of joy and merriment vibrating from the vales around that sequester seat; but we did not imagine Governor Darling would have left his faithful people thus ingloriously; we anticipated, at the least, a salute from Dawes, under a farcical deputations of the flattering few to the water’s edge – Alas! how are the might fallen! We still think some farce of the kind will be enacted to-day or to-morrow.

It is estimated that between 1826, the first year of Governor Darling’s reign in the Colony, and 1830, the expenditure by the Government in salaries, pensions, &c., has increased 30,000 pounds – one third among the General’s immediate relations and dependents! So much for General Darling’s love of economy! ((Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas: 1828-1867), Wednesday 23 November 1831, page 3))

((Learn more about Ralph Darling: BUY Brian Fletcher’s book: Ralph Darling – a Governor Maligned from ABE BOOKS))