As we all learnt in grade bubs, Invasion day is the day the first batch of convicts arrived on our fair shores. The few members of the invasion party who were not chained up in the hold, ran up the nearest hill, stuck a Union Jack in the ground and proclaimed the entire island now belonged holus bolus, to the king of England.
I don’t think they realised just how big the island really was, and still is. Were the rightful owners of the place consulted in this serious matter? Were they even informed of their newfound status as chattels of King So and So? A rhetorical question, of course.
Some of us in our blissful ignorance however, may not be aware that fateful day of January 26th also commemorates the only coup de tat ever to take place in Australia. In 1808, exactly 20 years to the day after the arrival of the first fleet, a bunch of disgruntled officers from the New South Wales Corp overthrew the government of the fledgling colony. I do not mean to besmirch the good name of the gentlemen involved, but it has been reputed that they were drunk at the time. Not surprising considering that the legal tender of the colony was rum. Giving Australia the dubious distinction of being the only place in the world to employ such a form of currency.
Legend has it that when the said soldiers arrived, singing ribald sea shanties no doubt, Governor Bligh was found cowering under the bed. He was discovered there by one Captain Thomas Laycock no less, a distant relative of mine, I do believe.
Of course, that was not the infamous Captain Bligh’s only claim to fame was it now? This is the very same Captain Bligh that, some 20 years previously was set adrift, as depicted so dramatically in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty.’ The story goes that the lads were having a high old time in Tahiti with the local lasses, a welcome relief from their own sore bottoms, when Captain Bligh had the audacity to order the anchors reeled in and the sails set for a return to the land of fog and drizzle. The lads having by now grown quite fond of their native paramours, and finding their attraction reciprocated, made the very sensible decision to abandon their captain rather than their lovers. Poor captain Bligh was set adrift in a dinghy on the open seas, with only a Yam as sustenance.(though it was purportedly a more than average sized yam) After suffering unspeakable sunburn on an epic journey of over 1500 miles, he arrived at what is now Timor L’Este.
The lads, meanwhile found Pitcairn, an idyllic little island in the middle of nowhere, promptly burnt The Bounty, just in case anyone was having second thoughts, and their they lived (happily) ever after. I do believe their descendants are still living on the island to this very day, though they have become a little in bred over the years, allowing some rather unsavoury habits to develop, but that is another story.
Ben Laycock 2010