The Alternate National Day – Up Spirits!

unknownHere in Australia we have a national civic holiday on the 26th of January called Australia Day. Original aren’t we? It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in New South Wales in 1788. Some aborigines now say they are upset about it and some local politicians who want to benefit from this distress want to use their position to promote an alternate holiday two days later. It is all very sad, silly, and cynical…and ultimately just an exercise in publicity. The national holiday will go ahead as it has always done.

But another intriguing prospect has been suggested by a Facebook post: the use of the 26th of January to remember a military coup in New South Wales in 1808 by members of a British Army colonial regiment against the Governor of the colony. It was memorable for two reasons; the Governor was ” Mutiny On The Bounty ” William Bligh, and the whole affair turned to some extent upon rum.

The spirit was being used as currency in the colony and Bligh forbade it…as well as angering the moneyed classes by other rulings. Eventually, it all became too much and several officers led the New South Wales Corps to Government House  – with colours flying and band playing – to arrest Bligh. He was confined, shipped elsewhere, came back, went elsewhere again, and eventually was replaced. The mutineers were tried and very lightly punished and the whole embarrassing incident got over.

But what a fine way to give an alternative reading to the national day! I intend to buy a very good bottle of Barbados rum for the occasion and toast all parties involved.


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