ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON in addressing the chiefs of Samoa at the opening of the “Road of Gratitude,” which the chiefs had built for him, told them that one way to defend Samoa was to build roads, and in concluding he said, “Chiefs, our road is not built to last a thousand years, yet in a sense it is. When a road is once built it is a strange thing how it collects traffic; how every year as it goes on, more and more people are found to walk thereon, and others are raised up to repair and perpetuate it and keep it alive.”
One wonders if there was among the officers and men of the First Fleet, a man who could
‘dip into the future Far as human eye can see,
and see the track, which they hewed out of the bush on the shores of Circular Quay in the year 1788, grow into a road, each year collecting to itself traffic with more and more people walking thereon until it became the main artery of a great city?
I have endeavoured in the chapters which follow to trace the growth of this, the oldest road in Australasia, to speak of the men who walked thereon and of the buildings they erected along its course.
THE FIRST PICTURE OF SYDNEY IN 1788.
This is a reproduction of what was probably the first sketch ever made of Circular Quay and the beginning of the city of Sydney. It was drawn by Captain John Hunter on August 20, 1788, seven months after the first landing here. The path on the right is the George street North of to-day. The building close to the fence behind the trees on the right is the first hospital. The path ended about what is now the intersection of George and Essex streets. The flagstaff on the left stood where Loftus street now joins Circular Quay. On the left of the flagstaff is the canvas
hut of Governor Philip, the first Government House.
Before we proceed on our way along George street, let us briefly glance at an interesting question—the site of the first landing on that fateful morning of January 26th, 1788.
Governor Phillip on the “Supply” arrived in Sydney Cove with a portion of the First Fleet on the evening of the 25th. The next morning the landing was made, and in the evening a flag was hoisted where they landed and a simple ceremony held. Where that landing-place was is a question that has brought out two sets of advocates —those for the east and those for the west side of the Cove.
For the west side we have the evidence recently discovered by the Mitchell Librarian, Mr. Hugh Wright, which sets out that the landing took place on the north side of the dockyard, and corroboration of this is to be found in an old number of the “Sydney Mail.”
In the issue of January 16th, 1888, an old gentleman’s reminiscences may be found. He states that he arrived in Sydney in 1821, and a large she-oak tree stood about two feet from the north wall of the dockyard, “Where it was said the first flag was hoisted when the country was taken possession of.” In Hunter’s sketch (above) on the right-hand side entering the Cove two trees are seen near the water’s edge. One of these was probably the she-oak referred to. A point is to be seen jutting out opposite the trees, and it would be upon this that the landing was made.
Later on we shall attempt to locate this point; meantime I shall ask my readers to remember the two little bays on the right hand side of the point with the little protuberance between them. For those who believe the original landing place to have been on the east side we have the evidence of the flagstaff to be seen in the picture. This stood in the vicinity of the junction of Loftus street and the Quay—i.e., between the Custom House and the hotel opposite. The Governor’s canvas house was probably one of the two buildings just to the left of the flagstaff. If the landing took place on this side the projecting tongue of land near the flagstaff would provide the means. A committee of the Royal Australian Historical Society is now weighing the pros and cons of this question, and we must wait to see if the result of its research and deliberation inclines the scales to east or west.