Australia’s High Commissioner, His Excellency the Hon Alexander Downer AC, was in the Bath area this week ( Monday, October 12th), for an annual service and civic luncheon to mark the birthday of an old city resident who had been the first Governor of New South Wales.
Admiral Arthur Phillip was a Royal Navy officer brought out of retirement to command what became known as the ‘First Fleet’ – eleven ships carrying convicts, Marines, officials and a few wives on an eight-month voyage to Australia where he established a settlement in a sheltered location he named Sydney Harbour.
It was named after Viscount Sydney, the Home Secretary who had sent him there in January,1788.
He founded and then governed New South Wales. Successful modern Australia owes its establishment – against huge obstacles, and with remarkable leadership, vision, humanitarianism and inspiration – to this man.
In 1805, aged 67, Admiral Phillip retired from the Navy with the rank of Admiral of the Blue, and spent most of the rest of his life in Bennett Street, Bath. He continued to correspond with friends in New South Wales and to promote the colony’s interests with government officials. He died in Bath in 1814.
Phillip was buried in St Nicholas’s Church, Bathampton. Forgotten for many years, the grave was discovered in 1897 and the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, had it restored. The church has an Australian Chapel.
Tomorrow, members of the Britain-Australia Society will join the High Commissioner in a mid-day service at St Nicholas Church – during which children from Bathampton Primary School will perform for the congregation.
This will be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the ledger stone of Admiral Philip – followed by the British and Australian national anthems.
There will then be a civic luncheon at Bailbrook House at which the Mayor of Bath, Cllr William Sandry, will give a short speech and propose a toast to Admiral Phillip and Australia.