This extract appeared in The London Journal of Botany Volume I 1842
Transcribed from the original text
and edited by Diane Challenor
March 1831 to his memorial in 1839
This extract begins at page 263 of
The London Journal of Botany Volume I 1842
CONTENTS of PART 6
- Homeward Bound aboard the “Forth” from Sydney to Portsmouth 25th February 1831
- Cape Horn 14th April 1831
- A sail in sight 20th May 1831
- 26 degrees west 27th May 1831
- The “Royal Admiral” outward bound from Port Jackson 9th June 1831
- A brig, “Three Sisters”, outward bound from Bahia 1831
- A French brig is seen in the distance 1831
- The fellow passengers aboard the “Forth” had known each other for years
- London Mid July 1831
- Strand-on-the-Green near Kew July 1831 to October 1836
- Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist at Port Jackson, dies December 1831
- Richard Cunningham’s death, April 1835, is confirmed in London May 1836
- Allan accepts the position of Colonial Botanist at Port Jackson
- Departed England on the “Norfolk”, never to return 30th October 1836
- Disappointment ahead, in Port Jackson 1837
- Arrival in Port Jackson 12th February 1837
- Commencement of duties as Colonial Botanist 1 March 1837
- Resignation from position of Colonial Botanist December 1837
- A request for a report of the state of the Botanic Garden
- Governor Gipps arrives 23rd February 1838
- Allan departs for New Zealand aboard the French corvette “L’Héroine” 15th April 1838
- Mr Cunningham returns to Sydney in a most deplorable state of health 13th October 1838
- Staying with a friend in Elizabeth Street Sydney 1838
- Cunningham has a specimen of the rarest of all birds the Kiwi
- Too ill to sail with Captain Wickham on the “Beagle” 10th November 1838
- The termination of the life of this truly estimable man 27th June 1839
Homeward Bound aboard the “Forth” from Sydney to Portsmouth
25th February 1831
Of the homeward bound passage Mr. Cunningham thus writes to a friend in Sydney:-
“After a voyage of twenty weeks from Port Jackson, we last night (July 9th) made the Scilly Isles, off the Land’s End and this morning (10th) when off the Lizard Point, running up the coast, were boarded by an Isle of Wight pilot, who among other local news, told us that a convict ship was daily expected at Portsmouth to receive her prisoners for the colony. I therefore, sit down, while we are running up channel before the breeze, to give you a few brief lines, although really I have as yet not much to say to you, [p264] but I wish to show you an example, having the prospect before me of an opportunity (and it may be an early one, too) to transmit it to you.
“You may recollect, I joined my fellow passengers aboard the “Forth”, on the 17th Feb. and although we dropped down to the Heads, it was not until Sunday, the 20th that the wind allowed us to put to sea.
“By sunset we hand made a considerable stretch out to the eastward, the wind having continued from the northward in moderate breezes; at night it became exceedingly light, and the lower stratum of clouds or scud, being observed to pass over us from the southward and westward a change of wind appeared indicated. On the morning of Monday, the 21st, we encountered a smart squall from the S.W. accompanied, by hail and heavy rain, which obliged us to shorten sail.
“During the day, we made some progress to the eastward, under reefed topsails, the wind having veered more to the south against us. After encountering a variety of weather, occasionally fair, but more frequently squally with dense fogs, we passed the South Cape of New Zealand, on our eighteenth day at sea, in about mid-channel between the headland and the Auckland group, and therefore in sight of neither. On the 13th March we passed the meridian, and I once more entered the western hemisphere : and in order to accommodate our reckoning (having gained a day), we put ourselves back one.
Cape Horn 14th April 1831
“The winds now hung much to the northward, and our passage easterly, towards the “Horn”, was protracted to our fifty-third day at sea, April 14th when we passed that celebrated and somewhat notorious Cape. The sea was calm, and the sky beautiful, with Staten Land in sight, twelve leagues to the north, looking even green. It was to all of us a long and tedious run, and, moreover, unusually monotonous, for we saw but few birds, and the sea had a uniformly heavy swell. As we approached the Cape, we had frequent squalls of snow, hail, and sleet; and at these periods, and particularly when a southerly wind blew, which it did sometimes so hard as to amount to a violent gale, we [p265] all felt the cold exceedingly keen and penetrating. It appeared as if it had come directly upon us from the very bosom of some stupendous iceberg in the vicinity, for I could not, without serious inconvenience, show my face to it accustomed as I have been for years past to the temperature of a mild Australian winter, and the fervour of a north wester, furnace-breathing blast, in its opposite or summer season.
“The thermometer, on such occasions, fell below the freezing point. Most of us had chilblains in the incipient stage, either on our hands or feet; which, however, soon disappeared, causing no further inconvenience, so soon as we had doubled the great southern promontory, and had pushed our way to a more mild and genial clime.
A sail in sight 20th May 1831
“On the 20th of May after looking for eighty-nine days upon the surface of a circle of ocean, (the rim of which we used daily to trace, to catch any object that might exist within the range of vision), with only here and there an albatross, or a few of the procellaria-kind of sea fowls, to skim along before the gale, to relieve the monotony of the aqueous scenes, it may readily be conceived with what interest the report on deck of ‘a sail in sight’ was received by us; one and all ran out of the cabin, to witness the novel scene. The stranger, who was to windward of us, was a brig, with her head to the southward; and as we could not approach her as the wind then was, and she showing no disposition to bear down towards us, we did not communicate.
26 degrees west 27th May 1831
“On the 27th our ninety-sixth day out, we crossed the line in long. 26 degrees W. without being detained by those calms to which ships either outward or homeward bound, are often times subjected at that stage of their voyage.
The “Royal Admiral” outward bound from Port Jackson 9th June 1831
“On the 9th of June we were on the northern tropic, when a large vessel was seen ahead, from the topsail yard. Being immediately under the sun (one’s shadow was dumpy, equal on all sides), we had, in consequence of the rarefaction of the atmosphere during the day, light airs, so that two days elapsed before we were able to come up with her, (we being evidently the better [p266] sailor), when we were most agreeably surprised to find her the “Royal Admiral”, who had left Port Jackson four days after we had sailed.
“The weather was very favourable for our communication, and Captain Fotheringham, the commander came on board, with a budget of rare English news, to the 31st of March last, which he had received from an outward-bound Indiaman, met with on the south side of the equator.
“The “Royal Admiral” had made better weather of it than we had, easterly to Cape Horn, which she doubled in something more than six weeks; her passage having been not a little diversified by seeing Campbell’s Island, the land of Cape Horn, and by having fallen in with many icebergs, in lat. 59 degrees S. the summits of some of which were estimated at six hundred feet above the sea; afterwards, however, she was much becalmed, and thus it was we were enabled to come up with her.
“Light winds kept us together several days, and visits were occasionally paid to and from both, vessels; at length, however, a breeze sprung up, to which we set every stitch of canvas that would draw and soon taking the lead, we left our consort far behind, and have not seen her since.
A brig, “Three Sisters”, outward bound from Bahia 1831
“Some two or three days afterwards, we fell in with a brig, the “Three Sisters”, from Bahia to Guernsey, laden with sugar. From her captain and one of her passengers, whom we invited on board, we received a long account of the revolution that had taken place in Brazil, and of the abdication of Don Pedro.
A French brig is seen in the distance 1831
“Nothing worthy of mention occupied our attention after we lost sight of the “Three Sisters”, until two days ago, when we passed a French brig, very heavily laden and as we gave her the go-by, we simply exchanged each other’s longitude, by chalking it on boards; ours by chronometer, was 12 degrees W, and the Frenchman’s by dead reckonings 11 degrees W.
“I have now told you all about our voyage. [Now, in] two or three words . . . about ourselves. I have been so much on shipboard, and long since seen the necessity of studying to be on good terms with all persons one might be doubled up with in a voyage, that in this I laid myself [p267] out more particularly, in account of its length, to please and be pleased, as far as in me lay.*
“*A scrap of advice well worthy the attention of “those who go down to the sea in ships,” for an inattention to that golden rule has caused many a voyage to be a term of misery and annoyance, that otherwise might have been one of pleasure and happiness.
The fellow passengers aboard the “Forth” had known each other for years
“It was fortunate that we were all more or less acquainted with each other before we joined mess; as, in consequence, we the sooner settled ourselves down, each in his or her particular seat, and, almost immediately grouped together at table, as a family whose members had known and associated together for years. Each not only met, but oftentimes anticipated the wishes of the other.
“These feelings, these excellent dispositions, which I found manifested among us at the very commencement of our voyage were cherished by all during its tardy progress and at this moment that I am writing, just at its close, are as alive as ever; so that many a dull, depressed period, in the higher freezing: latitudes, when we were sadly bandied about by the angry elements, before we got round the Horn, and when by reason of the violent motion of our bark, and the great chill, one felt no disposition to write, was passed away in discussions on varied subjects, or recitals from favourite authors.”
London Mid July 1831
Mr. Cunningham reached London about the middle of the month (July), after an absence of nearly seventeen years from his native country. His state of health, at the period of his landing, was far from good; he suffered exceedingly from indigestion, the result, doubtless, of the very indifferent food he had been compelled to subsist on for some years previously, when on his various exploratory expeditions; and he was also much afflicted with rheumatism, in a very severe form, occasionally suffering much from acute pain, and at all times a serious inconvenience to his active habits.
Strand-on-the-Green near Kew July 1831 to October 1836
He took up his residence at Strand-on-the-Green, on the north bank of the Thames, at a short distance from the Royal Botanic Garden, at Kew, for which he had catered with so much industry and zeal, since 1815. There are many who will [p268] long remember the pretty cottage he inhabited, equally with the hospitable host, who on all occasions was so ready to, diffuse around him the rich store of information he possessed, as well as to distribute among the naturalists and botanists who visited him a portion of the valuable collections he had brought home.
His time was much employed in arranging his large herbarium, the results of seventeen years’ labour, and in giving to the world, through the medium of the botanical periodicals of the day, a portion of his observations on the botany of the countries he had visited. Geographical details of those parts of New South Wales that he had investigated in his various expeditions, were also published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, as also were some geological remarks, in the Proceedings of the Geological Society.
Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist at Port Jackson, dies December 1831
In 1832 in consequence of the death of the indefatigable Mr. Charles Fraser, the situation of Colonial Botanist, in New South Wales, became vacant, and an offer of the situation was made to Mr. Cunningham, which he declined in favour of his brother Richard; who, bearing a strong recommendation from Mr. Brown, received the appointment from the Colonial Office.
He reached Sydney in February, 1833, and as has been previously mentioned, in April, 1835, fell a sacrifice to science. His disastrous and painfully circumstanced death, was a source of intense grief to his brother Allan, who now had lost all his near relatives; and the consequence was an entire change in his future destination.
Richard Cunningham’s death, April 1835, is confirmed in London May 1836
Although for some months in possession of the report of his brother’s death, he still clung to the hope that he was alive, and probably detained among the natives, and that he would be restored if a party were sent in search of him. However, on the 17th of May, 1836, the writer of this sketch received the affecting letter below, confirmatory of his worst fears.*
*”My very dear friend Heward,
“I have the painful task to inform you, in common with others of my poor lamented brother’s best, very best friends, that Richard Cunningham is no more. Up to the hour of my having written to you, this morning [p269] at breakfast, I had secretly cherished in my bosom a hope that still he lived, and that it only required a diligent search in the Bogan country for the tribe that detained him, to rescue him from their grasp and restore him to civilised society, and to the duties of his appointment. All hope, however is now lost – the slender thread by which the little cherished hope was attached to the best feelings of my nature, has just been severed by a friendly communication I have received from Downing Street, from a gentleman in the New South Wales division of the Colonial Department, informing me that despatches had been received from Sir R. Bourke confirmatory of my poor brother’s death. His Excellency’s report has been given to me in these words, dated 30th Nov. 1835.
“I have now to inform your Lordship (Lord Glenelg), with great regret, that I have ascertained, by means of a party sent out to search for Mr. Cunningham, that he was murdered by the blacks (natives), soon after his separation from his companions. The circumstances of the case have not been yet officially reported to me, but shall be communicated as soon as received.
(Signed) Richard Bourke.”
“My brother, it seems therefore, was deprived of life about the third week of April, 1835 ; proving clearly to me that those natives had been previously greatly irritated by white men, convict stockmen, most probably. I have again the wide world before me, but of my final movements I shall let you know in a few days.
Believe me, my dear Heward,
Ever very sincerely yours,
12 o’clock, 17th May, 1836.
When Mr. Cunningham returned to New South Wales, he took with him a monumental tablet (which was subsequently erected at the Scotch Church at Sydney) to his brother’s memory, with the following inscription:
Government botanist in this Colony,
attached to an exploration expedition into the interior,
under the command of Major Mitchell Surveyor-General,
wandered, in his enthusiasm for botanical investigation,
from his companions, and losing himself in the
desert country on the Bogan River
fell into the hands of one of the native tribes,
by whom he was unfortunately killed, about the
25th of April 1835, in the 42nd year of his age.
This tablet is erected as a lasting and
affectionate tribute to his memory,
by Allan, his only brother.”
Allan accepts the position of Colonial Botanist at Port Jackson
[p269] The vacant situation was again offered to Mr. Cunningham, and he now accepted it, and made immediate preparations for quitting England, to whose shores he was unhappily never destined to return.
The few months which elapsed previous to his embarkation, were principally employed [p270] in preparing for the press his Observations on the Botany of New Zealand, published in the Companion to the Botanical Magazine and the Annals of Natural History, entitled, Flora Insularum Novae Zelandiae Precursor; and in distributing, among the botanists of this country and the continent, the duplicate specimens of his extensive and valuable herbarium.
Departed England on the “Norfolk”, never to return, 30th October 1836
He engaged his passage to Sydney on board the (male) convict ship, “Norfolk”, Captain Gatenby, and joined that vessel at Spithead, the latter end of October, anticipating a quick passage, and as full of enthusiasm as when he left the same port, two-and-twenty years before.
In a letter [to Robert Heward], dated Spithead, the 28th of October, he says:-
“Here we are, still, and likely to continue at anchor another day; for although the captain reached us from town last night, he brought down with him no orders for sailing from the Transport department, which it appears are necessary to be received, ere we dare, so to speak, to lift the anchor. Moreover, the wind has been, hitherto, more or less adverse for getting down channel; but, as saith the adage, “Tis indeed an ill wind that blows nobody good !”
“This prolonged stay has afforded me time to overhaul my cabin baggage, which is so considerable, as you yourself saw; to stow all properly, and cleat and lash all my boxes, trunks, and packages sufficiently for sea, all which being now absolutely effected, I find I have as much room as I want to turn about in, and lift the leaf of my very convenient table, at which I hope to write and read much during the passage, which, Capt. Gatenby declares in positive terms, shall not exceed a hundred days !
“Regarding my messmates, I may, I think, say with great truth that I have, since Monday last, seen enough of them all to justify the anticipation of a very agreeable cabin passaged out to that land [p271] of blue sky and sunshine, where I hope to employ a second series of years in the advance of botanical and other science, and from which you shall hear often from me.
“Should we touch at any port in our voyage, I will contrive to say something to you. It is, however, not at all likely that we shall visit any place so desirable and so devoutly wished for by the officers (Captain Bowler and Lieut. Raitt, 80th Reg. commanding the convict guard) and their ladies, but shall expedite our passage as quickly as possible, as we shall absolutely be in want of nothing; having on board an abundant stock of fowls, ducks, geese, sheep, pigs, an Alderney cow, that gives a good supply of milk daily, and the Tank-vessel is now alongside, ready to pump in as much fresh water as we can carry.
“I hope to be not above a month in Port Jackson ere I shall have the gratification of hearing from you. I am in real good health at this present writing, and do not calculate on any seasickness, whatever weather we may encounter, before we reach a warmer, more rational climate than the present. It is said here that a severe winter is to be apprehended, because of the presence of certain northern birds in this neighbourhood. If it should prove so, I shall escape its severe chills, for by Christmas day, I expect to be to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope; and although, perhaps, occasionally in a trough of the sea, with a stiff “Sou’wester”, to urge us through it, nevertheless not affected by any rigorously low temperature.
“My plants look exceedingly well in the Wardian cabins, which appear as if they had been measured for the only snug spot I know of in the ship, out of harm’s way, namely on the poop, under the spanker-boom and abaft the binnacle. Several daisies, primroses, &c. are now gaily in flower, and all are very verdant and vigorous.
“To yourself I say, with great truth, I earnestly wish every good fortune may attend you. Adieu, and may God Almighty prosper you, is the hope of your sincere friend, Allan Cunningham”.
Disappointment ahead, in Port Jackson 1837
Notwithstanding the excellent spirits with which Mr. Cunningham embarked for a second time to Australia, [p272] his accepting the post of Colonial Botanist was far from meeting the wishes of his more intimate and anxious friends, who, with a better (as it unhappily ultimately proved) knowledge of his somewhat debilitated constitution, were most apprehensive for the results of his again exposing himself to the labours of exploratory expeditions, either in the dry, heated atmosphere of New South Wales, or the more humid, frequently varying climate of New Zealand; from both of which he even after a residence in England of towards of four years, at , times suffered severely. However, the desire to carry out further the botanical discoveries of his unfortunate brother in New Zealand, and his enthusiasm for scientific research, rendered him deaf to the wishes and apprehensions of his friends, and he resolutely set forward for another sojourn in the Southern Hemisphere.
Arrival in Port Jackson 12th February 1837
The “Norfolk” sailed from Spithead on Sunday morning, the 30th of October, and reached Port Jackson, on Sunday, the 12th of February, 1837.
The following extract from Mr. Cunningham’s first letter gives a most interesting detail of his voyage.
“I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba and say all is barren.” Sterne
“Our 104th day at sea,
on the eastern side of Bass Straits,
Cape Horn bearing N.N.E. 70 miles.
“Convict Transport, Norfolk, 10th Feb. 1837
“My dear Heward,
“As we have, at length, got a fine steady wind at W.S.W., after having been four days little other than becalmed at, and to the south-west of, our present position, and as we have now every chance of entering the Port, to which all of us, honest and otherwise, are destined, I commence this, my first communication to you in the Southern Hemisphere with no ordinary pleasure, to tell you something of [p273] our voyage, although really the incidents are in themselves few and meagre; for in a run out, as ours has been, without touching at any port to look at the complexion of the natives, eat their fruits, and take a peep into their back country one has not wherewithal to talk of; since, having been already at sea a little bit in my life, I can’t write of whales, grampus, sharks, porpoises, bonitos, or flying-fish, nor of the dying dolphin, whose beauteous tints of skin a matter of a dozed or more poets have brilliantly sung. However, agreeing as I really do, with Yorick, in the above-cited expression of pity, I must say a few words to you of the vasty deep, of the things it doth inherit, and of ourselves – messmates, all of whom you saw on board, at Spithead.
“We went to sea on Sunday, the 30th of October last, and during the first ten days, encountered much bad weather in crossing the Bay, with heavy seas and adverse (south westerly) winds. Moderating, however, we sighted Madeira, on Sunday, Nov. 13th which beautiful, very elevated islands, we passed on its western side. After a run of 1080 miles to the S.S.W., we made San Antonio, one of the Cape de Verd islands, on the following Sunday, Nov. 20th, and a most agreeable day we had of it; for the bland climate, with lots of sunshine and blue sky, and the pleasant look the island afforded us at eight miles off shore, did indeed remind me of some of the happiest days of my life, in other countries and latitudes of this Southern Hemisphere, in which you know I have had a seventeen years’ wandering; and to all this was superadded the pleasure we derived from a visit made to us by the surgeon and chief officer of the Columbo, an Indiaman, bound to the Cape and Singapore, with which fine ship we came up on that sunny Sunday.
“The fourth Sunday found us within three and half degrees off the equator, which we crossed on the 29th, in 2 degrees 6′ west long. During the four following weeks we averaged 1,000 miles between Sunday and Sunday, although we ran so far to the westward, by winds from the opposite point, as to be close on the Brazil coast before we crossed the southern tropic. Reaching the parallel of 35 degrees S. [p274] we doubled the Cape on the 1st of January, 1837, (Sunday again), and were favoured with more steady winds to enable us to run down 132 degrees of eastern longitude, we now fell in with the common, or white albatross (Diomedea exulans), several Procellariae (cape-pigeons among them), of the Southern Seas, and two Terns (Sterna alba, and another).
“It was the intention of our excellent commander, Captain Gatenby, to touch at Tristan da Cunha in passing, to have seen Governor Glass, as the person there residing is called, and to have procured from him some fresh vegetables and fruit; which, report says, he furnishes to passing vessels with some degree of liberality. But the winds did not favour us; we therefore passed it full a degree to the northward. Onward we urged our voyage easterly, making capital runs weekly of 1100 to 1200 miles; so that on Sunday, the 29th of January, we passed the longitude of Cape Leuwin (115 degrees E.).
“On the 6th of February we passed Bass’ Strait under easy canvas and a steady westerly breeze, but we had scarcely cleared the islands and got a degree or so to the eastward, than we had to haul our wind and reduce our canvas to a reefed fore and main topsail; the wind after traversing the whole compass set dead foul against us at N.E. Thus were we for two days dodging between the continent and Van Diemen’s Land, or being becalmed, doing worse than nothing as regards wear and tear. But it’s all right now; we’ve open sea-room, fifty fathom of water under us, a steady eight-knot breeze, and right pleasant countenances, each of us in full expectation of seeing old friends with older faces on shore on Sunday. Thus much for our run out.
“At length after a fifteen weeks’ run, from Sunday, 30th October, to Sunday, 12th February, we dropped into our port in company with a large convict-ship, the “British Sovereign”, (a month longer at sea than us), and the “Fairlie” from Van Diemen’s Land, where she had landed Sir John Franklin and suite. We reached Sydney Cove at three, P.M., and a sunny roasting afternoon it was; (I think I never perspired more profusely in my life), when I landed and walked quietly to a friend’s house to deliver [p275] my letters, where I met a batch of old acquaintances, and learnt all the news of the shore.
“On Monday I announced myself at Government House, and had an audience of a quarter of an hour with Sir R. Bourke ‘ He was glad,’ he said, ‘ to see me; having read much, and heard more about me.’ He had been looking for me during the last two months, and hoped I should get on shore, and enter on my duties immediately.
“Regarding the state of the garden, I have to say that Anderson, the Assistant Superintendent, has been very active; and I have been working the Government about my cottage in the garden, which is in a sadly dilapidated state. I am in hoped His Excellency will allow me to rent a cottage for so long a time as may elapse between this period and the completion of such repairs and alterations as are necessary. I saw a house (a verandahed cottage) this day, which I have partly taken, the rent is extremely high, [ninety shillings] per annum, but it is just the thing I want for size, with a splendid aquatic view before me of the port and shipping, and about 150 feet above the lower part of the town.
“My two cabins of plants from Loddiges’ were landed in fine condition, and I am gradually adapting them to the high dry temperature of the colony at this season. The heat I find excessive, because I have not felt what l do now these six years, yet the thermometer has not a higher range than 85 degrees in the shade.”
Commencement of duties as Colonial Botanist 1 March 1837
Mr. Cunningham commenced the duties of his office with the same zeal and activity that had always distinguished his labours in the colony, and great improvements were projected by him for the benefit of the Botanic Garden in particular; but he very soon discovered that ‘various and onerous services were expected from him, that had but little to do with the presumed duties of “Colonial Botanist, and Superintendent of the Botanic Garden,” for so runs his style and title in the New South Wales Government Gazette of March 1st, 1837, which announces his appointment.
For besides the varied duties of attending to a botanic garden – corresponding with other colonial establishments of a similar nature, [p276] for the mutual benefit of both, by inducing an interchange of their various productions – undertaking journeys for the purpose of collecting botanical rarities indigenous to Australia, &c., the situation of landscape-gardener and layer-out of plantations and promenades for the benefit of the good people of Sydney, was also, among other equally anomalous duties, considered by the Colonial Government to be part and parcel of the office of Colonial Botanist; and in consequence thereof, no fewer than one hundred convict labourers were placed under the charge and supervision of the Colonial Botanist, and as an agreeable addition to the presumed quietude of a garden devoted solely to scientific pursuits and researches, a barrack for the permanent residence of forty of these incorrigibles was ordered to be immediately built in the Botanic Garden, and the Superintendent of it was to be held responsible for the well-doing of this new feature in a botanical establishment.
Mr. Cunningham was consequently soon made aware that, as a botanist, his services were likely to be but of little avail to his correspondents in Europe, or to science generally; added to this was the great indisposition on the part of the Colonial Government to meet his wishes, either in the providing a suitable habitation for him in the garden, or of affording him, in any way, an opportunity of carrying out the real duties of his situation, namely, that of Colonial Botanist, by acceding to his numerous applications for the assistance of additional horses and servants, for short tours for botanical investigation of different portions of the colony.
Another unpleasant affair was the circumstance of the produce of the garden (fruit and vegetables), being grown to a large extent for the benefit of certain official personages, which had become so notorious, that the Sydney press took notice of it in no very measured terms.
Resignation from position of Colonial Botanist December 1837
The result of all these annoyances was Mr. Cunningham’s determination to resign the appointment of (the miscalled) Colonial Botanist; and in the early part of December he sent in his resignation to the Governor Sir R. Bourke, which was accepted by His [p277] Excellency a short time before he took his departure from the colony.
A request for a report of the state of the Botanic Garden
Previous to the arrival of Sir George Gipps, the new Governor, application was made to Mr. Cunningham, by the Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel Snodgrass, that he would prepare and furnish a report of the state of the garden and of the convicts that were employed on it, to lay before the expected Governor on his arrival. This request Mr. Cunningham complied with; and with it closed his connexion with the Botanic Garden at Sydney.*
* The following extract from the Sydney Herald, Jan. 29, 1838, is one of many remarks made at the time on the state of the Garden:-
The Botanical, alias the Kitchen Garden. We have had frequently to call the attention of the Colonists to the fact, that a kitchen-garden, under the pretence of being a Botanic Garden, is supported in Sydney at an expense of from [£800 to £1000 a year . . .We scarcely ever walk through this garden without seeing some servant, with a basket, carrying off vegetables or fruit for Mrs. This, or Mrs. That – the wife of some official.
Can’t these people go to market and purchase their supplies as independent persons do, instead of poaching on what is really public property? . .
Seriously, we do say, that such an impudent job ought to be done away with. It is, in fact, so barefaced, that Mr. Cunningham would no longer consent to remain a mere cultivator of official cabbages and turnips, and accordingly he has resigned the management of the Botanic Garden in disgust.
Sydney Herald January 29, 1838
It is much to be regretted that Mr. Cunningham, contrary to the wishes of many of his friends, ever accepted the situation of Colonial Botanist; for when he left England in October, 1836, he had not the most remote idea of many of the duties he was called upon to perform as, for instance, the superintendency of convicts, and the raising of vegetables and fruit, &c. , (a rather novel service for a practical botanist); consequently the harass annoyance he suffered at finding himself called upon to fulfil duties of a most disagreeable nature, preyed considerably on his mind; and, in addition to this, his constitution was too debilitated to withstand unscathed the dry scorching breezes of New South Wales, which, at the period of his resignation, swept over Sydney from the north-west a perfect furnace-blast, the thermometer at times being 95 degrees.
These, together, eventually produced indisposition, of which he writes –
“The result has been general debility, a [p278] very weak stomach, no appetite, bad digestion, and great lassitude. But I am now living in good spirits, and in most pleasurable anticipation of what I hope to do in New Zealand, and for my visit to those lovely islands of the Anthropophagi. I am in the midst of my preparations, hoping to get away early next month. Of the presents, and articles to pay my way, you can form an idea by the following list: Thirty pairs of blankets, half a hundred weight of tobacco, pipes for smoking, (long ones for the chiefs), lucifers, gunpowder, fishhooks, red woollen-shirts, red caps, linen-shirts, needles, pins, chisels, hatchets, and some other ironwork.
“Tell all that I have discharged the Government cabbage-garden in disgust, and am now about to enter with all my might, mental and corporeal, on a more legitimate occupation for a few months. – 15th January, 1838.”
Governor Gipps arrives 23rd February 1838
Mr. Cunningham delayed his departure until Sir George Gipps should arrive, which he did on the 23d of February. On the following day a levee was held at the Government House, which Mr. Cunningham attended, and on the following day he received a letter from the Governor’s Private Secretary, requesting him to wait on His Excellency at his earliest convenience. Mr. Cunningham called the next day, when he had a long interview with Sir G. Gipps, and an arrangement was made to meet the following morning at seven o’clock, in the Botanic Garden.
Mr. Cunningham goes on to say –
“I then took my leave, and next morning, at half-past six, was in attendance at Government House, and found His Excellency ready to walk with me to the Botanic Garden.
“He asked me many questions regarding it, and expressed himself desirous of improving, provided the cost would be sanctioned by the Council. I pointed out in what way a botanic garden could be established in the colony, to be the depository of every species of useful and ornamental tree or shrub of the numerous islands around us in these seas, that within it might be grown (or at least the attempt made at acclimatisation), the numerous fruits of India and South America, of the coasts of Africa, of Madagascar, &c., &c., but that the [p279] Director or Superintendent (call him what you like), should be a sound, practical, working botanist, who had industry to maintain a correspondence with all those places, and authority and discretionary liberty given to him to present individuals resident in those places such plants or seeds of his garden as would induce them to correspond with him, and send him of their particular riches, and thus, by such interchanges, a reciprocal advantage would be effected.
“I condemned the present garden, as being a mere shallow sand, resting on the shelving sandstone rock, which in some places (in the new or lower garden), pierced the surface, and in every part of the other divisions of the garden, was only from three to five feet beneath it; that, in consequence, it was utterly impossible for exotics, which rose to large shrubs or trees, to exist in the garden above a few years, for that as soon as the tap-roots reached the rock (one and all had shown it in their leaves), ill health followed, and death eventually – witness the few now alive that had been introduced by the late indefatigable Mr. Fraser from Brazil, India, Ceylon, Mauritius, the Cape, &c., and that were in great vigour in 1831, when I embarked for England. These few are now in a doubtful state, and the fine tree of Ficus elastica, which has shown decided symptoms of decay from the above cause, is now, since my return, dead to the ground.
“Moreover, I pointed out the badly watered condition of the whole, saving after great rains (a rare circumstance), and intimated that a good site for such an establishment might be selected two miles from the beach, among what has been called the ‘Botany Bay swamps’, where all our best vegetables for the Sydney market are grown. But, added I, if her Majesty’s Government care not for a scientific institution here, then the present spot may be maintained as a morning and evening public promenade, and as a vinery and vegetable-ground for the Governor’s table.”
A short time subsequent to this, Mr. Cunningham received an intimation that it was the wish of Sir G. Gipps that he should remain some few years longer in the colony, and a request that he would lay before the Garden [p280] Committee a proposition to the above effect. In consequence of this intimation, the following was submitted for His Excellency’s consideration :-
“I am willing to accept (for a period), an appointment of Government Botanist in this colony, having the command of every means that I myself may point out, as necessary to enable me and a small party to travel, either inland or to the coast districts, on tours of botanical research, at any period of the year best suited to the objects I may have in view. But I beg clearly and explicitly to that I trust my holding such a travelling appointment will never connect me again with the Botanic Garden, from all the various duties of which I have permanently retired, with the exception of that of being instrumental in introducing desirable exotics, and the scarce indigenous plants, to the care and culture of Mr. Anderson, the principal Superintendent; on whom has now devolved the duties of directing the labour of the garden and vicinity, the management of the forty felon labourers assigned to the establishment, and the conducting of every description of local correspondence – all foreign I shall have a happiness and willingness to be engaged in, as being immediately connected with that mutually desirable interchange of plants and seeds which I have already established with Dr. Wallich of Calcutta, and others, for reciprocal advantage.
“I should also be disposed, if I have health, to undertake further explorative excursions, especially on the west, and north-west, from the shores of Moreton Bay, with a view towards acquiring some knowledge of the physical character, the vegetation and general capabilities for pastoral purposes of that vast region of interior wholly untrodden by white men, absolutely at this day a terra incognita, stretching from the parallel of 28 degrees S., in which latitude I left off in 1827, towards the great inter-tropical interior. With regard to the amount of salary to which I may be entitled for any such services as proposed, I would briefly say, that I trust it will be considered what I have been in this colony, (holding a Treasury appointment), [p281] and that the notorious fact, well known to the Committee, may be also weighed, of my having received no reward or remuneration, in land or otherwise (thanks excepted), for the several long and fatiguing exploration journeys undertaken by me between the years 1822 to 1829, of all which the local Government was furnished with detailed reports.
“I urge, further, that with these circumstances in view, and added to the facts of the high rate at which house-rent has now attained, and also the increased price of every article of life in the colony, I trust that the Committee will be of opinion that a clear salary of 450 pounds per annum, exclusive of my expenses, or means of travelling, will not be deemed other than a fair and equitable pay, comparing it, and the appointment altogether, with the salaries and required duties of other Civil servants.
The above, with a letter from the Garden Committee, strongly recommendatory of Mr. Cunningham’s proposition, was laid before the Governor; to which his Excellency replied, in substance, as follows:-
“That he had taken into consideration the proposition, and given every attention to the letter that accompanied it; but he regretted, that, although the sum of £450 per annum as a salary was not to be objected to, viewing the present demand for house-rent, the price of every article of life, &c., yet the equipment increasing it in the first year to £900 he could not recommend the appointment to the legislature of the colony; but, added his Excellency, if any member of the Council will propose it and be supported by a majority, he would be happy to afford it his cordial approval.”
Allan departs for New Zealand aboard the
French corvette “L’Héroine” 15th April 1838
On the receipt of this communication, Mr. Cunningham made immediate preparation for embarking for New Zealand, and, although writing at the time in excellent spirits, it is evident that the germ of that disorder which eventually proved fatal had taken firm hold of his system. He says,
“Meanwhile I stand in my original position to return to Old England [p282] in 1839, for I want rest, permanent rest, having been on my legs since 1814. Let others go and wander to advance botany four and twenty years, and endeavour to do and act under the assumed awe of Viceroys, Governors, underlings high in office, and Commandants in supreme command at penal stations. – I say, let the botanical adventurer set forth with all these in his teeth, and let him do and act far better, wiser, and altogether more effectually endeavour to advance botany than poor I have been able to do.”
It had been Mr. Cunningham’s intention to have taken advantage of the kindness of Capt. Bethune, of H.M.S. “Conway”, of 28 guns, who offered him a passage to New Zealand, via Van Diemen’s Land, whither he was going to convey the Bishop of Australia, who was then intending to visit that portion of his diocese; but, in consequence of some doubts arising as to the possibility of the Conway being able to touch at New Zealand, Mr. Cunningham transmitted his baggage from that vessel to the French corvette, of 32 guns, “L’Héroine”, whose commander, Capt. Cecille, had in a most friendly manner proffered him a passage to New Zealand direct.
They sailed from Port Jackson on the 15th of April, and on the 28th brought to off Paihia, Bay of Islands,
“After” Mr. Cunningham writes, “the most agreeable fourteen days’ voyage I ever made in my life. Capt. Cecille studied greatly my comfort, not simply in my mess with him, but on all other occasions. M. Cecille is an old officer; he entered the service in 1800 and served much in the wars under Napoleon, having been in several actions in ships of the line, when young, as enseigne de vaisseau. The other officers were gentlemanly fine fellows, who vied with each other in paying attention to their English compagnon de voyage.
“Now, with all the attention that was paid to me, I could not step on shore with my baggage without a deep impression of a weight of obligation in favour of Capt. Cecille; and therefore you may imagine that I was not a little rejoiced to find Capt. C. proposing an excursion up one of the rivers that run into the bay, to cut timber for specimens, which I begged to join, to render my services to him [p283] and his party by gathering branches of each tree, and having prepared them as specimens, to give their names, with numbers corresponding with those of the blocks of timber, for his government. This I did in duplicate, and very much to the satisfaction of Capt. Cecille.
“We were absent three days up the Wycaddie river, having three boats with us and twenty-six seamen, to fell trees under the direction of the ship’s carpenter. They were as follows:-
- 1. Knightia excelsa, R. Br. (in fruit)
- 2. Leiospermum racemosum, D. Don.
- 3. Myrtus bullata, Sol.
- 4. Cyathea dealbata, Sw.
- 5. Metrosideros robustsa, A. Cunn.
- 6. Hartighsia spectabilis, A. Juss
- 7. Dacrydium cupressinum, Sol.
- 8. Dracophyllum latifolium, A. Cunn
- 9. Vitex littoralis, A. Cunn *
- 10. Drimys axillaris, Forst. **
- 12. P. ferruginea, D. Don
- 13. Phyllocladus trichomanoides, D. Don.
- 14. Piper excelsum, Forst
- 15. Dacrydium excelsum, D. Don
- 16. Laurus Taraira, A. Cunn
- 17. Laurelia Novae Zelandiae, R. Cunn. MSS
- 18. Metrosideros tomentosa, A. Cunn.
“I am here in very comfortable quarters, having an ample room to myself in a new cottage, built of Kowdie (Dammara australis), on the premises of the principal of the mission, Mr. H. Williams, from which l can at once proceed to the woods, where the chief of my occupation has been since my arrival, when the weather at all permitted; but the winter rains here are tremendous; they are cold, heavy, penetrating, and when in showers, are of two hours duration, with little intermission: but I have done tolerably well.
“You would have been overjoyed to have been with me on some of my days’ excursions, for, although it is the winter with many trees, I have nevertheless had a good picking. Conceive of the tribe you delight in so much, the Filices, now rich in fructification; Cyathea dealbata, C. medullaris very fine; and I believe a third arborescent one (Dicksonia laevis, Hew.) Lygodium articulatum, Todea pellucida, Lomaria discolor, L. Fraseri, Asplenium lucidum, Caenopteris flaccida, Doodia Kunthiana ***
Pteris rotundifolia, Aspidia, several species; Trichomanes reniforme [p284], and other species; Hymenophyllum, several species.
* Icon. Plant, t. 419, 420.
** The wood with this Number is not Drimys, but an undescribed species of Myrsine (M. salicina, Hew.)
*** Doodia lunulata, R.Br. MSS.
“I have seen imperfect specimens of my Schizaea propinqua, and will look out well for it in the spring (August). Dendrobium Cunninghamii, Lindl. grows in bunches on the trunks of Trichilia (Hartighsia) spectabilis, within ten minutes’ walk of my house, and I am establishing it and other fine things in small pots for the two cabins (Ward’s) which it is my intention to fill and carry back to Sydney, to be shipped for those truly excellent men, the Messrs. Loddiges. I have already a fine Cyathea medullaris in a pot, of the trunks of which, as also of its congener, I have furnished myself with logs to give to you and other friends sections when I return.
“Whilst I am writing this, a young friend has brought me some most magnificent specimens in fruit of that remarkable plant that ropes itself spirally to the summits of the loftiest trees of these forests, Freycinetia Banksii, and these I have put into diluted pyroligneous acid, in a keg, and as it is precisely the season for them, I shall obtain abundance, so that I shall be able to furnish a few friends with this rare plant, of which I know of only one bottle of specimens in Europe, viz., at the British Museum, which specimens were gathered by Solander in 1769, on this same east coast of New Zealand.
“Of Orchideae, I have seen (Epiphytes) Earina mucronata* , Lindl., Dendrobium Cunninghamii, Lindl., and the little Bolbophyllum pygmaeum, Lindl.; and of terrestrial genera Thelymitra Forsteri, Sw. (young), Microtis Banksii, A. Cunn., and Pterostylis Banksii, R. Br. In the neighbouring forests Padocarpus ferrunginea D. Don, (Miro of the natives) forms a noble tree, and just now it is in fruit, which fruits are eaten by the native pigeon. I have specimens drying, as also a bottle of Drupae in acid, to give to my friends.
My plans are to visit, as I have opportunity, all the stations now open to me, at each of which to make a brief stay. I am now preparing for Waimate, fifteen miles off; thence across the island to Hokianga, on the west side. I propose going to the southern, as also to the northern little settlements along the [p285] coast, at which I can make any stay I may deem desirable.
* Icon. Plant. t. 431.
Finally, I hope to wind all up by the close of August, to be ready for embarkation back to Sydney.”
Mr Cunningham returns to Sydney in a most deplorable
state of health 13th October 1838
Whether Mr. Cunningham was enabled to accomplish all he anticipated, is uncertain, (and considering his state of health very improbable); for his other letters from New Zealand only mention his movements generally. He left the islands the 30th of September, and landed in Sydney on the 13th of October, in a most deplorable state of health, of which he writes as follows :-
“I returned from the Bay of Islands on the 13th of October, having had a fair and expeditious passage across of fourteen days, in a small schooner of ninety tons. I landed in very ill health, arising from the excessive chill I experienced in New Zealand and the consequent paralysed state of my poor limbs and general organic derangement, in consequence of the meagre food and poverty of my diet generally, during the period of my sojourn among my missionary friends since the 25th of May last.
Staying with a friend in Elizabeth Street Sydney 1838
“I am housed here (Elizabeth Street) in a friend’s cottage, and hope, by generous food and cheerful society, to get myself again on my legs, to do a little more before I embark for Old England. With this view I am lying by, and in a state of perfect quiet. I walk half a mile at noon, amidst a heated state of atmosphere (90 degrees Fahr.), and under a blazing sun; but the New Zealand chill still hanging about me, renders my present state of existence far from comfortable. The truth is (and it is a folly to disguise it), l am past further great exertions. I can neither undertake any more expeditions interiorly, or walk about in search of any more plants; but a man cannot ever during life be on his legs. I have now been twenty-four years leading a vagrant kind of life; and if I have done the least good in that long period, so much the better. I can, however, do no more, save joining Capt. Wickham in the Beagle, next March, for a short while: but more presently on this head.
“I have brought back with me a fine collection of cryptogamous [p286] plants from New Zealand, which will interest certain of you greatly.*”
* An Addenda to the Florae Insularum Novae Zelandiae Precursor, containing the plants found by Mr. Cunningham on his last visit to New Zealand, and not previously described, will be published in a subsequent volume of this work.
Cunningham has a specimen of the rarest of all birds the Kiwi
“I collected some specimens of timbers, which are all well marked and name; and I have also a specimen of that rarest of all the birds of New Zealand, the Kiwi (Apteryx australis),which I shall forward home to Mr. Yarrell, for the Zoological Society.”**
** Vide Annals of Natural History, vol. iv. p. 312.
Too ill to sail with Captain Wickham on the “Beagle” 10th November 1838
Notwithstanding his debilitated state of health, Mr. Cunningham’s enthusiasm never forsook him; and he was now anticipating a voyage to the northwest coast of New Holland with Capt. Wickham, who was expected to return to Port Jackson in February.
“The “Beagle” sails today (November 10th) for Bass’ Straits, to make its complete survey, and to return to Port Jackson in February next. I have seen Capt. Wickham, who has expressed to me his delight to receive me on board, and give me a cot and mess; but, as I am too weak to join him on this short trip, I have proposed to accompany him on his great and final completing survey of the north-west coast in March next, on which six months may be employed.
“I am undergoing at this time medical discipline, and trust to be hearty and well enough to accompany that excellent officer to the examination of a continent so full of interest, first seen by old Dampier on the 4th of January, 1688, and again by King, between the years 1818 and 1822.
“How fine Grevillea robusta (forty feet high) is at this time in the Botanic Garden, and at Mr. Macleay’s, at Elizabeth Bay! it is a mass of orange blossom: Agnostis is growing bravely, but without signs of flowering; and that rarest of rarities Nuystia of R. Br., is on the verge of a splendid flowering. It was brought to us by Baxter from Western Australia, and is the only specimen on our side of the continent. “
“Good bye. I am weak and very chilly, (thermometer of the room 76 degrees), and am tired, but must away to the port with this letter.
“All shall hear from me next time, when strong [p287] and hearty.
“Your sincere friend, ALLAN CUNNINGHAM, quite worn out.”
The intention of accompanying Capt. Wickham was, in consequence of his evidently increasing ill health, abandoned; for, in a letter, dated 12th April, 1839 he says,
“Capt. Wickham (“Beagle”) is on the point of sailing for our north-west coast; and, as he and I had proposed it, if I had strength in my limbs enough to join him, to accompany him round. However, as to that, I have failed in my best endeavours to patch myself up for long boatings from the vessel, on a heated coast, climbing hills, &c.; and as a consultation of four medical friends, each well knowing my case, has just taken place, the result being an unanimous opinion delivered to me, that I do not, on any consideration, go to a tropical coast, on which I could do nothing in the very enfeebled state of my limbs and almost constitutional dysentery, and where I should most probably make a die of it, since alone a cool climate would bring me about, with care also to diet, &c.
“In all this I acquiesced, and accordingly do not go with Capt. Wickham who has approved of the prudence I have displayed and the propriety of obtaining a sound medical opinion previous to giving any intimation to him regarding my joining his vessel. l shall now pass a quiet winter here with some up country friends.
“Our autumn has already brought its lower temperature, and by July the cold will, I trust, have the desired effect on me. Our late summer heats (thermometer 90 degrees to 120 degrees), and a repeated dysentery have pulled one-half the flesh off me that I had in October, 1836, at Strand-on-the-Green. But let’s hope for better days. My friends, one and all, must be content with the labours of a man on his legs since 1814, twenty-five years, for I can do no more.
“That I am alive and writing this to you, after my visit of five months to New Zealand is really a miracle. I look to my embarking for England in or before February next.”
This purpose was unhappily frustrated by the hand of death, for the writer of this sketch received but one more letter [p288] from his amiable friend, in which, though evidently in a more declining state, the cherished hope of again revisiting his native land was powerfully and energetically expressed.
His letter is dated 9th of June.
“I have, l think, my good friend, plied you with my long and prosy letters often enough this year, one at least, I believe, a month, so that I shall be right in entertaining some doubt as to the propriety of thus exercising your patience, were it not that I fancy you would wish to know something of a man who, years and years ago, took the field of science in which to pursue his explorations and Paul-Pryings, by which he got shook, not solely in the shoulders, but in his locomotives, almost to a positive foundering, as we say of a horse of such a man, I think, you would gladly wish to learn how he now stands on his limbs, and whether, after all that has been said or sung about his being thrown on his beam-ends by that last sad visit to New Zealand, he will even yet be able to walk his sober mile in the streets of London or not; I therefore give you this.
“In regard to my health, it is sensibly improving, but only by a slow progression and under the most rigorous regimen. No fruits, no vegetables of any kind at dinner, no wines, either white or red; for I have even now given up old crusted Port (one glass of which per diem I had until lately drunk), on account of its acidity, and have now taken to toast and water, or water slightly brandied. But as I dress altogether with an under covering of fleecy hosiery, and above well-found in wool, and thus keeping a uniform temperature of warmth, take a little exercise in the sun at noon, I feel I have at this time of writing acquired a degree of strength to enable me to move about a little with cheerfulness and pleasure that a month ago I did not possess; sed patientia omnia vincit.
“Let me weather this winter, which I am now in the midst of, in a warm, quiet lodging-house, and I hope, with good grounds, to be in September restored to my wonted health; but care, great care, is to be exercised in the mean time. I am now complaining of no disease, but great prostration of strength; [p289] the dysenteric irritation I have overcome; tonics are now my only medicines, and these taken regularly at stated periods. Thus much of myself.”
The termination of the life of this truly estimable man 27th June 1839
The termination of the life of this truly estimable man, however, was fast approaching. On the 24th of June he was removed from his lodgings in Sydney to the cottage in the Botanic Gardens for change of scene and air. On the 26th, after the visit of an old acquaintance, a clergyman, he expressed himself in these words:
“If it be the will of God that I recover, I will go to England; but if not, I submit myself with patience and resignation to the divine will.”
On Thursday, the 27th he was undressed and placed in bed; and just as he had lain down, he took Anderson’s hand and clasped it firmly for some minutes, when suddenly the grasp relaxed, and his spirit had flown, without a struggle, to those realms where, I pray God, we may all meet when our time comes. You will thus be pleased to hear that our poor friend’s last hours were passed in quiet; nothing happened to disturb him, and his last breath was sighed away in the arms of his faithful friend James Anderson.*
*His successor in the superintendence of the Botanic Garden.
Ever since Cunningham’s return from New Zealand his health has declined, and his favourite pursuits of Botany and Geography have been rather neglected, except in the active movements of his mind; indeed almost his last rational words were connected with inquiries relative to the new colony of Port Essington, from which letters had been that morning received.
“Alas, poor Allan! He was a rare specimen-quite a genus of himself; an enthusiast in Australian geography; devoted to his own science, Botany; a warm friend, and an honest man; and, to crown all, when the time came, he resigned himself into the arms of his Saviour, without a murmur. “
Captain Phillip Parker King R.N
Extract of a letter from Mr. Cunningham’s old commander
and much attached friend, and finally executor.
Thus died Allan Cunningham, at an age far short of that allowed by the Psalmist as the period of human vigour, exhausted, doubtless, by the twenty-five years of unwearied [p290] exertion, laborious travel, and the excitement of an unbounded enthusiasm for the science to which he had devoted himself.
He pressed onwards in his pursuits with a singleness of heart and purpose which never chequered his success, and with an unobtrusiveness too often the companion of high talent, and which, to the regret of those who know the rich stores of his mind, disinclined him from giving to the world during his life, material of information and delight.
His remains were deposited, on the morning of the 2d of July, in the Scottish church at Sydney, where a monumental tablet, bearing an epitaph from the pen of his long-cherished companion, Captain King, marks the spot.
The following extracts from the Sydney newspapers will be perused with much interest.-
There have been few men in this Colony who were more generally esteemed than the late Allan Cunningham, and his death was, consequently, much lamented. A statuary marble tablet to his memory has been erected in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church, having the following inscription:
ALLAN CUNNINGHAM F.L.S. and M.R.G.S.
associated in the pursuit of Botanical Discoverywith Oxley in exploring the interior of New Holland: with King, in four times circumnavigating its coasts; and, by subsequent personal research, having more fully developed the Geography and Flora of the northern districts of this Colony and of Norfolk Island and New Zealand, he has left enduring monuments of devotion to the causeof science, and eminence in those brancheswhich he most assiduously cultivated.
Frank, unaffected, firm in principle, with warm feelingstempered by a most kind and benevolent heart, deservedlybeloved by his friends, some of them in the foremost rank of science, in England, France, and Germany; he died in unrepining submission to the will of God, and in a calm dependence on the merits of his adorable Redeemer, on the 27th of June, 1839, aged 48.”*
* Sydney Herald, Nov. 29th. 1839
A desire having been expressed by some of the friends of the late lamented [p291] Allan Cunningham, that some means should be taken with the view of testifying their respect for the memory of that gentleman, by the erection of a suitable memorial, in an appropriate situation, it is suggested by the undesigned, that all those disposed to concur in such a proposal should meet at the Botanical Gardens, on Wednesday the 30th of October, at 3 o’clock, for the purpose of adopting resolutions whereby the above intentions may be carried into effect.
Phillip P. King, Captn. R.N.
H. H. Mc Arthur, M.C.
R, Lethbridge, J.P.
C. Nicholson, M.D.
J. Dobie, R.N.*
* Sydney Gazette, Oct. 26th. 1839
It is the intention of the friends of the late Allan Cunningham to place a handsome sepulchral urn upon the small island in the lower Botanical Garden, which is surrounded by weeping willows. This is as it should be; it will have a very pretty effect, and will be an ornament to the Gardens; it will also show the high estimation and affection in which the deceased was held by a large number of admiring friends.**
** Sydney Gazette, Dec. 7th 1839.
An inscription on his father’s tombstone, in Kensington churchyard, also narrates the circumstances of his career.
But while sculptured marble may tell to the cold ear of posterity the science and the virtues of the departed botanist, Allan Cunningham has placed a warmer and more touching memorial of his worth in the hearts of his contemporaries which, till they too have performed their allotted tasks, will ever, bear an earnest and enthusiastic testimony to the urbanity of his manners, the generosity of his disposition, the warmth of his affections, and the unbounded sincerity of his friendships.
While a love of Botany exists [p292], his memory will be honoured as one of its most devoted followers; and while a greenhouse or conservatory remain, their gay and beauteous inhabitants will ever remind the spectator of his many and valued labours. With the Botanist his memory will be long cherished, and a due appreciation of his talents and industry must ever be awarded him for the indefatigable perseverance with which, to use his own favourite phrase, he continued his ” pursuit of Flora,” through the varied regions of Australia, as well as for the generosity with which he diffused the stores he had brought home with him, enriching the herbaria, not only of the English, but also of the continental botanist.
From the geographer, as he traces on the map of Australia the valuable discoveries made in that country during his lengthened sojourn, the due meed of praise will also be awarded. But the great debt of gratitude to the memory of Allan Cunningham is due from the agriculturist, who owes so much to the indefatigable perseverance and research of the explorer of the vast pastoral country to the north-west and north of the colony of New South Wales.*
*It will doubtless be gratifying to the botanist to know that the valuable and extensive herbarium of Allan Cunningham has reached this country in safety, and is (by the kind bequest of the talented and amiable collector) in the possession of the writer of the above sketch.