Monday, March 06, 2006
On the first Monday of each month, at 7 a.m. a small group of us gather together at "the landing" at Kingston for a short time to pray for Norfolk Island and its people. By coincidence,this morning was Foundation Day, but there was no sign of the busy activity that would take place later in the morning with the re-enactment of the original landing in the earliest days of the penal settlement.
On March 6, 1788, less than 6 weeks after the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson, a small party of trusted convicts and officers, under Philip Gidley King, made a landing on the southern shore of Norfolk Island. Historians debate the real reasons for needing to raise the British flag on this remote little island so urgently after the First Settlement at Sydney Cove. Was it for strategic reasons, with the French making their presence felt in the Pacific at this time? Was it the flax growing on the cliffs which would provide linen for sails, and the tall pines for masts? Was the need to claim Norfolk Island, which had been discovered by Captain Cook in 1774, indeed the real reason for the British establishing any sort of presence in this part of the world? In any case, Norfolk Island was to be a very valuable asset to that early colony, and when food was short in Port Jackson, then it was Norfolk Island, with its fertile volcanic soil, that became a "breadbasket" for the mother colony for a time. Later, it became a place of last resort for the more desperate and dangerous convicts, but not in the earliest days.
The celebration of Foundation Day is an important Public Holiday in the island's calendar. It is not actually a part of the history of the Norfolk people of today, who first came here, at Queen Victoria's invitation, in 1856, after the penal settlement had been abandoned. It is more a part of Australia's colonial history. Nevertheless, we recognise the significance of the remnants and ruins of the penal era, and take great pleasure in the ambience and integrity of the Kingston area, where there is almost no evidence of any modern development to be seen. There is also a strong feeling for the buildings in the area, because many of the early Pitcairners were to occupy these buildings as their homes for 50 years, until they were evicted in 1906.(Something I shall write about another time.)
These pictures from my album, taken at the very important 1988 Bi-centenary re-enactment of the first landing, show how unspoilt and natural the area is still.