Monday, September 3, 2012

City Names: Sydney


The City:
Sydney is the capital of the State of New South Wales.  The most populous city in Australia with a population of 4.6m as at June 2010, it is located around Sydney Harbour where the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are prominent landmarks.

The Founding:
In 1770 Captain James Cook landed in Botany Bay at Kurnell.  It is not true that it was named after his exclamation “Far Kurnell”, although it is true that a trivia team of which I was a member used the words as its team name.  Cook claimed the country for England and the King, notably King George 111 (1738-1820) (as in “The Madness of King George”).  Cook also shot one of the local indigenous inhabitants during the visit:

Eighteen years later King George sent Captain Arthur Phillip to Oz with 11 ships loaded with just over 1,000 soldiers and convicts (778 convicts - 192 women and 586 men) with the intention of turning the country into a penal dumping ground, the prisons and the rotting prison ship hulks in England having no room left. 

The Name:
Philip had been authorised to establish the intended penal colony by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord Sydney.  In reliance upon advice by botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who had accompanied Cook in 1770 (and after whom Botany Bay was named), Sydney had recommended that the colony be established at Botany Bay.  Phillip landed in Botany Bay on 18 January 1788 but found the soil poor and fresh water scarce.  He therefore went to the next inlet, Port Jackson, on 25 January 1788, the date now celebrated nationally as Australia Day and vilified by indigenous Australians as Invasion Day.  Phillip wrote to the Secretary of State: “I fixed on a cove that had the best spring of water and in which the ships can anchor… close to the shore… This cove I honoured with the name of Sydney.” Phillip originally named the colony New Albion, after the archaic and oldest name for Great Britain, but that was quickly abandoned when the names “Sydney” and “Sydney Cove” continued to be used to refer to the colony as well as the Cove.  Philip himself used those terms to head his official despatches to London.


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