The Crossing of the Blue Mountains

Over the last three weeks there has been an historic re-enactment of the Crossing of the Blue Mountains for the bicentenary that was discovered by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813.

I don’t think many Australians and particularly new Australians are aware of what a precarious position the colony was in around two hundred years ago.  With more and more boatloads of British convicts arriving and free settlers also taking the voyage, the colony was expanding at levels beyond its ability to cope.  If a way across the Blue Mountains wasn’t discovered, the colony would simply starve to death or a decision would have been made to pack up and head back to the mother country.

The 1913 Centenary monument on Mount York

The 1913 Centenary monument on Mount York

There had been many unsuccessful attempts to find a way across this patch of mountains with its sheer cliffs and deep valleys and all previous attempts had tried to find a way through by following the valleys.  In 1813 Blaxland led a small party made up of himself, Lawson and Wentworth, some convicts, horses, and a few dogs.  Some have reported that their party also had Aboriginal guides however that is not the case as Blaxland, who had taken Aborigines with him in previous attempts, had declared them ‘of little use’.  Ahhh, not very politically correct but he was referring to the fact that there were around 750 different Aboriginal tribes, each with its own language and these tribes rarely moved outside of a 30km radius.  For this reason they were unable to assist with the Crossing.

A must-have purchase for city slickers - a stock-whip

A must-have purchase for city slickers – a stock-whip

As my husband is a direct descendant of Gregory Blaxland he has been a tad busy with this re-enactment that first saw him attending events in the Mountains back in December.  Since then we’ve been to a fundraising dinner at Penrith Panthers, he’s spoken at an event at Lilianfels, he took Alfie to the Blue Mountains last weekend for more events and this week, Alfie was over-joyed to have some time off school to walk the final 14kms of the pass on the final day of the re-enactment.

Re-enacting the steps

Re-enacting the steps

I was reading on Seana’s blog of her best-laid plans to head to the Mountains for a one-night getaway going awry and it was no different in our family.  It started with Alfie climbing trees on his way home from school and ended with a deeply buried splinter (more like chunk of wood) just above his left knee.

Absolutely essential to get right in close to inspect this cow's skull

Absolutely essential to get right in close to inspect this cow’s skull

We were unable to remove it so the first stop on the way to the Blue Mountains was to the Medical Centre.  The doctor couldn’t remove the splinter without sticking a very deep probe into the wound and so local anesthetic had to be injected by a needle that was poked into his leg in a multitude of different directions and angles.  Alfie was very brave.  When his leg had been ‘put to sleep’ the doctor had a good dig around and removed the massive splinter.

I phoned Alfie later to ask how he was and he said, ‘Really good. I’ve never had a numb leg before’.  And he hasn’t mentioned his knee since.

Sorted.

Carl with is Miss Universe sash that sadly he wasn't able to keep

Carl with is Miss Universe sash that sadly he wasn’t able to keep

Very early the next morning they began the walk.  They had to dress in period costume and it is probably no surprise but we don’t actually have anything in our wardrobe dating back to 1813.  So Carl cut a collar off one of his shirts and he wore leather boots rather than hiking shoes and I found a waistcoat for Alfie that was 10 sizes too small but I didn’t tell him.

The weather was kind and warmer than it usually is in the mountains at this time of year.  They walked the last stage of the historic journey that back then took three weeks and the highlight for Alfie was finding a snake’s skin.  Another ‘must-have’ for that shelf in his bedroom of ‘treasures’.

A snake skin!  So exciting.

A snake skin! So exciting.

At around noon they reached the base of Mount Blaxland which was the historic end to the journey.  Carl’s great-great-great grandfather climbed to the top of the Mount, looked west and saw ‘enough grass to support the stock of the colony for thirty years’.

And so the colony survived.

 

Comments

  1. What a fascinating piece of history this is, and how special to have that personal connection with it. The enactment must have been a big adventure for all, especially Alfie.

  2. Great story with a family connection Charlie! Although I do have to say that new Australians seem to have a rather good grasp of our history and knowledge. I don’t think many of us would be able to pass the citizenship test :P

    • I’ve heard there are a few challenging questions on that citizenship test but in this situation I was referring to the fact that this part of Australia’s history has been removed from the school’s syllabus so anyone young or new to the country is unlikely to learn of this part of history.

  3. I’ve always wondered about the origins of Australia, I knew they were convicts but I thought it was everyone! Thanks for the little history lesson. It’s very cool that Carl is a direct descendant of one of the founding fathers. Your men look quite dashing in their period costumes.
    Oh dear, Alfie does get himself into situations, glad it all worked out. I would like to know how you spent your time off!

  4. Great little history lesson and also fun enactment. This looks also looks like a movie set for an old wild west John Wayne film. Complete with the dust. Have a great weekend.

  5. A possibly grim future turned into a successful colony filled with amazing people. Congratulations to you, their descendants, and have a great holiday.

  6. LOL, I love how Alfie recovered so quickly. Great father-son activity! He probably learned more than he would have at school :)

  7. I DO know about Blaxland. Are you impressed? I watched a big doco about this last year with John in the background filling in all the details. (I love how he does that and then we have to rewind to hear the show)

    I should have shared my newfound enthusiasm for this guy at our dinner!

    I love the whip and the hat :)

  8. Fascinating part of Australia’s history–really interesting. And Alfie and Carl in their outfits–wonderful. Re-enactments always fascinate me as I love history of all sorts–and if I got to wear some fun costume? Well, all the better!

  9. How cool that Carl is a direct descendant of such a prominent figure in Australia’s history. What a great story! Glad Alfie’s knee is okay and that he was still able to make the walk. It looks like he found some great treasures! :)

  10. From the photos it looked like a splendid day for the re-enactment. Alfie looked like he was having a ball.

  11. I have never heard of this piece of Australian history, and how exciting to have a personal connection to such a history! To think the whole matter of colony’s survival depended on it.

    Australia has done pretty well for itself, in fact better than most, considering so much of its society was originally made up of criminal discards of the British Empire. Maybe it is a great idea to drop a bunch of convicts on a remote piece of land and leave them there. Who knows, the world will be a much better place then.

  12. I love the history associated with your family my friend, this is so cool :D
    I never paid much attention in Australian history class but my teachers did not teach it like you!
    What a wonderful day :)

    Cheers
    CCU

  13. What a wonderful way of spending a weekend and celebrating your families heritage.

  14. I realize there’s a half-century difference in our ages but I would have enjoyed that weekend every bit as much as Alfie — save for the splinter. When I visited Sydney, I went out to a park in the Blue Mountains and rode a cable car. It’s been 17 years and my memory is a bit foggy. I do remember, though, that someone in our group gave us a brief history lesson of what it meant to find a pass through the mountains. I was completely fascinated. I love this stuff. :)

  15. Charlie, Pete is a direct descendent of William Cox, so his ancestor was busy building the mountain road a year after Gregory Blaxland blazed the trail. Oh, and Carl looks like Indiana Jones! Sounds like it was a wonderful adventure – such a different experience having Alfie in Emergency as opposed to Arabella.. ;-)

  16. What an honour to be involved. That last 14 km would have been very exciting indeed. Love the way you told this story and glad Alfie’s knee mended so well.

    The crossing sure did help to establish this nation as one of the best on the planet, but It did spell the end of indigenous civilization as they knew it though. European settlement has clearly decimated their culture. You definitely can’t halt the progress of civilization, but that is something which I acknowledge as a tragedy for the first Australians. But something from which all of us new Australians have benefited massively.. I often look to the heavens and thank my ancestors for settling in this wonderful country.

    If only everyone here benefited from European settlement in Australia as much as we have.
    Carolyn

    • Yes, the Aborigines sure could have been treated a lot better. But the lovely thing about this re-enactment was that an Aboriginal Elder from one of the tribes that lived in the Mountains came and walked with the party. He is quite elderly and he walked every day of the three-week re-enactment. It was wonderful to see him so involved and so good for reconciliation too.

  17. Thanks for improving my history – I didn’t know quite how crucial crossing the mountains was. How great to be involved in the celebrations now, especially for Algiers, although that knee story makes me feel a little ill!

  18. Thank goodness for such brave men who faced the unknown and helped this country find it’s feet! What a great experience for Alfie. although I learnt Australian history at school, my daughters history class focuses on ancient civilizations and multi culturaism – all very well, but what about our own historical heroes? X

  19. What a great piece of history and your family has personal connection to!
    Australia has come a very long way but think more history in schools needs to be taught to future generations too!

  20. That’s such a wonderful story Charlie and how exciting that it’s Carls great-great-great grandfather! I looks like Alfie had a ball!

  21. How cool that you have a direct connection to that piece of history.

  22. Hello lovely story and am glad the splinter was removed. I didn’t know how important that crossing was. Must (try!) to get back up there.

  23. What a great post! Reading this, I’ve come to realise I really do need to scrub up on my Australian History lessons, there’s so much I’ve forgotten and still need to learn up on.

  24. You won’t be surprised but I didn’t know about Blaxland, but I know how Australian colony was formed in time. It must have been exciting at the time but for sure dangerous, but then the aborigines weren’t that dangerous. I understand your little man, a cow head and a snake skin is very exciting. =)

  25. Love the history lesson! And great pictures – thanks so much.

  26. Um, cutie much?

  27. That last pic of Alfie w/ the grass in his mouth and snakeskin in hand is just precious. Reminds me of the time my boy brought a coyote (or was it fox) tail home from a re-enactment.

  28. Very interesting, Charlie… Alfie and Carl look very happy :)

  29. I’ve been making more regular trips to the Blue Mountains lately. The Boy and I have discovered just how beautiful the place is and we try to often make the trip to go for a morning hike!

    • I love to go there too. It’s always so relaxing and there’s always so much to see and the restaurants and cafes are wonderful. They have a lot of Farmers’ Markets too.

  30. I am so interested in history from your wonderful country, Charlie. I am woefully ignorant, so learning about this crossing, and with a wonderful reenactment, is very nice. Wonderful photos and very interesting family connection! I love Alfie’s sweet expressions. What a joy-filled little boy he is, Mama. ox

  31. Alfie is adorable.Thanks for the history lesson.People don’t realize how hard life was for so many people in so many places.Australia has one of the harshest of histories.

  32. Great shot with the snake skin!

  33. I’m Aussie but didn’t know the importance of crossing of the blue mountains :) Gosh Alfie is a brave boy i would be scared looking at the cow skull!

  34. This was so interesting and I love the outfits!!

  35. My how wonderful to have such famous ancestors. Must say they really did look the part.

  36. Fabulous read Charlie.
    have a beautiful day.
    :-) Mandy xo

  37. Loved the history lesson. Really interesting. And glad that the weather was kind for the guys!

  38. I know next to nothing at all about Australian history Charlie – pretty much just that we shamefully used the continent as a dumping ground for all our murderers and rapists, but it’s fascinating to find out such things. I had no idea! I suppose going “around” the mountains instead of “over” wasn’t an option?! :p

Speak Your Mind

*