Goulburn, Centenary Celebrations

By Frank Walker, F.R.A.H.S.

The Sydney Morning Herald

5 October 1920

The genesis of Goulburn, like all other places, began in the humblest way. The splendid success of Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth in discovering a passage across the mountains in 1813 led other venturesome spirits to emulate their example in other directions.

Hamilton and John Kennedy Hume, two young native born Australians, were responsible for the discovery and opening up of vast tracts of hitherto unknown country in the south.

In 1820, John Oxley started from Bathurst, and In his journal, under date Wednesday, Oct. 23, he says:- ". . . stopped for the evening on what are called Murrewa Plains, now named by the Governor (Macquarie) Goulburn Plains.

Next day there is another entry, to the following effect. "The length of Goulburn Plains is 10 miles, and, being on an average five miles wide, and estimated to contain 35,000 acres of useful grazing land, a considerable portion being also suitable for agriculture. At 4 arrived at the Governor's tent, pleasantly situated on the banks of Bathurst Lake, the lake much increased in size since first visited in 1818 . . . ."

The Journal then goes on to describe the discovery of Lake George, which was named by the Governor on Oct. 28, after which a return was made to Lake Bathurst. Macquarie then determined upon the establishment of a town, which he named Goulburn, and ordered plans to be prepared for the laying out of the same.

It must be remembered that the present city of Goulburn is some distance from the site of the old township, of which no traces remain. It may also be news to some that the name of "Lorn" was at one time fixed upon for the new township, but this was long after Macquarie's day.

When Macquarie returned to Sydney he at once permitted the new country to be opened up, and as an instance of how quickly this permission was availed of, the stock and crop return for 1821 shows that in this locality 34 1/2 acres were under wheat, 2 acres under barley, 3 planted with potatoes, and 3 1/2 under garden. There were also in the neighbourhood at this time 28 horses, 4462 horned cattle, 605 sheep, and 22 hogs.

Honouring the Pioneers.

The centenary of the discovery of this rich and fertile district, and incidentally the founding of the first town of Goulburn, will be celebrated on October 25, and the festivities will extend over seven days. The pioneer element bulks largely in the story of the discovery and evolution of this district, and it is only right and proper that the men "who blazed the track" should be held in grateful remembrance by those who are to-day reaping the reward of the labours of these worthy Australian pioneers.

There is a true saying that "the past is the seed from which the present and the future springs," and not only is the truth of this epigram apparent, but it emphasises the importance of history, and makes the study of it all the more desirable, if we wish to obtain a clear perception of the events in the past history of all nations, so as the better to understand the times in which we live.

The story of Australia is, on the whole, curiously interesting. It provides us with the spectacle of the evolution and the upbuilding of a nation, as one writer puts it, "so close to us in point of time that the process can he studied with scientific minuteness." A little more than three generations separate us from the very earliest events of settlement, and everything is on a great scale.

The stage is an entire continent, with dramatic settings; and, moreover, we must remember that, as another writer has said, "Australia offers the only instance in history where a whole continent has flying above it the flag of a single nation."

Added to this, we are the fortunate possessors of an unrivalled climate, unbounded mineral resources, and the possibility of becoming the world's supplier of grain. And, as if these were not enough, our scenic attractions are second to none in the known world, and without doubt our individual and collective wealth is on the same generous scale.

The building up of our great inland cities is a story by itself. There is first the wonderful and courageous effort of our pioneers, explorers, surveyors, farmers, and settlers, whose heroic deeds in the early days of settlement have so often been described in song and story, over which the glamour of romance had been flung, not by any means to their detriment.

The far-seeing eyes of some of our early administrators have done much to produce the prosperity and progress which are ours to-day, and to which no limit could be set.

Industry and Beauty.

To the complete stranger Goulburn comes as an agreeable surprise, whether viewed from the approaching train or from that fine eminence a few miles away, known as "Governor's Hill.".

Thickly clustered houses, overtopped by many three and four story erections: a distant glimpse of long streets, pleasantly shaded by trees in vigorous growth; tall factory chimneys, proclaiming the existence of flourishing industries, and, beyond, a chain of blue-clad hills, are the first impressions the visitor receives.

When he has alighted from the train or motor car, and finds himself precipitated into the noise and bustle of a thriving city, his surprise gives place to satisfaction and pride that all the evidences of a complete civilisation are to le found so far from the metropolis. Goulburn ranks as the second most populous inland centre in the State, and is third in its contributions to the Treasury.

It is rapidly advancing into a premier position as a health resort, and as a tourist and manufacturing centre. During the past few years over 120.000 has been expended in buildings, and the demand for accommodation is still on the increase.

Land is cheap as far as city building sites are concerned, and houses are springing up everywhere. The introduction of a powerful electric light system is responsible for the coming into being of numerous industries, and that this was a wise move on the part of the city council is proved by the fact that the machinery has had to be duplicated within the past three years, and even now is being added to.

These, in brief, are a few of the facts which go to show the enterprising spirit of its inhabitants, but much more could be added indicating the civic and commercial spirit of the townsfolk, the pardonable pride they evince in the progress and prosperity of their city, and the plans they are making for its future welfare.

Wisely, they are endeavouring to make of their first centenary an object-lesson to the rising generation, knowing full well that these are to become in the course of years the rulers and administrators of the future Goulburn, and if the example and traditions of the early pioneers are kept in view, and the true note of courage and determination to succeed which characterised all their actions is not allowed to be forgotten, nor the paths they trod or the work they accomplished belittled or ignored, the second centenary of Goulburn, made glorious by the traditions of the two centuries behind it, will exceed even the most sanguine hopes of those who to-day are bent upon writing a new page in Australian history.