Good Reading : August 2010
16 goodreading ı AUGUST 2010 EXTRACT On 15 February 1822, the ship Sur rey sailed out of Sydney Heads. On board were the ex-Governor, his wife and child; an accompanying suite of fifteen personal staff and servants; Macquarie's horse Sultan; his wife's favourite milk cow Fortune; and a long list of live 'pets' and gifts for friends and patrons, including '7 Kangaroos, 6 Emus, 7 Black Swans, 4 Cape Bar ren Geese, 2 Native Companions, 1 Narang Emu, 2 White Cockatoos, 2 Bronze- Wing Pigeons, 4 Wanga-Wanga Pigeons and also several Parrots and Lowries belonging to Lachlan [junior] ...' Then there were two large tubs each containing two Norfolk pine trees, two tubs of gigantic lilies, two plant cabins with various Australian plants and flowers, eight parcels of seeds and so on. The travelling cases made at the lumber yard in January 1822 would have been essential for the transport of this menagerie and garden.There were also quantities of livestock on board: sheep, ducks, turkeys, geese and 106 fowls, along with furniture and other possessions, and all this despite an auction dispersal sale of the Gover nor's unwanted chattels held before the vice- regal departure from Sydney. It was not uncommon for ships sailing to Britain from the Australian colonies and the southern hemisphere to carry large cargoes of live native animals and birds. The self- proclaimed 'swindler and pickpocket' James Hardy Vaux wrote of his return voyage in 1819, via Cape Hor n, on a ship that was so crowded with 'every natural production of New South Wales' that 'it resembled a Noah's Ark.There were kangaroos, black swans, a noble emu, and cockatoos, parrots, and smaller birds without number; all of which except one cockatoo ... and half a dozen swans, fell victims to the severity of the weather'. These shipments of fauna and flora pale into insignificance when compared with the epic collections from some of the early nineteenth-century French by Elizabeth Ellis rare & curious BOOKBITE 1 INTRODUCTION Lachlan Macquarie is arguably New South Wales’s best known governor. But little is known about an item of furniture called Governor Macquarie’s Collectors’ Chest. Filled with secret compartments and hidden drawers, this object is a treasure chest for those intrigued by natural history or the more eccentric sides of life during Australian settlement. When closed, the chest is quite unassuming; its varnished wooden exterior gives the appearance of an old piece of furniture. But once opened, the chest features delicately painted images of Australian flora and fauna that capture the imagination immediately. Hidden within the secret compartments are countless specimens of Australian wildlife, preserved for hundreds of years within the chest. The fact that these specimens (and the chest itself) have been preserved for so long is an amazing feat. Gazing upon the hidden bounty of the chest, you are instantly transported to a vastly different time. The collection of insects, birds, shells and other specimens are evidence of the appreciation of Australian wildlife during the early years of Australian settlement. Historians believe the chest was designed not for scientific purposes but to entertain guests with carefully layered specimens that would be slowly revealed for all to see. Previously known as the Strathallan Chest, it was discovered in Strathallan Castle, Scotland where it had resided for over a century before being auctioned to a Sydney antiques collector in the 1970s. In 2004 it was acquired by the State Library of NSW, where it is now on display. A second, almost identical version of Governor Macquarie’s chest, also resides in the State Library of NSW, though it no longer contains as many eye-catching natural history specimens as its brother. In 1937 Sir William Dixson, the benefactor of Mitchell Library, purchased this chest in London for 100 pounds. While its contents aren’t as enticing as Macquarie’s chest, historians believe that the Dixson chest was the first one to be created. What is so intriguing about these chests is that there are no others that are similar or even a previous model that has been adapted. In the following extract from Rare and Curious by Elizabeth Ellis, we find out about the journey from Australia back to England that the chests almost certainly sailed on.