NOSTALGIA:  How did Portsmouth/Australia plaque end up in Bognor Regis antiques shop?

Fifty years ago and the plaque celebrating the first settlers' arrival in Australia is unveiled.
Fifty years ago and the plaque celebrating the first settlers' arrival in Australia is unveiled.
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David Quinton has always had an interest in local history and was a previous secretary of the Fort Cumberland Guard. He saw a plaque in an antiques shop in Bognor Regis which he recognised so bought it for the princely sum of £60.

The plaque was large but he got it home and researched its origin. The plaque was presented to the National Museum in Canberra, Australia, by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Dennis Connors. on January 26, 1968. It marks the sailing of the First Fleet to Australia in 1787-88.

This plaque was unveiled in Canberra, Australia, in 1988. How did it find its way to Bognor Regis. Is it a replica?

This plaque was unveiled in Canberra, Australia, in 1988. How did it find its way to Bognor Regis. Is it a replica?

David found a reference in the city’s records which reported that the lord mayor was accompanied by a member of the Fort Cumberland Guard.

David contacted Syd Rapson, himself a former lord mayor and vice-president of the Britain Australia Society (Portsmouth Branch) and the Portsmouth-Sydney Sister City Link, who then reported it to chairman Brian Hall who organised Portsmouth’s re-enactment of the First Fleet sailing in 1989 when he was the council’s director of leisure. They met and decided to investigate how the plaque was taken from Canberra and ended up in Bognor.

Jane Mee, the head of Portsmouth museum services, is now contacting her counterpart in Canberra to see if they want it back or whether it should be displayed in Portsmouth. 

David Quinton wants it displayed here as it is part of our history and marked the voyage of convicts and settlers who created modern day Australia. I wonder if the plaque is a replica as I cannot see Australia getting rid of something like this. If not and anyone knows how it got back to England, we’d all like to know. Thanks to Syd Rapson for the photographs.

Robert Habens dressed as Old Joe the windmill man,  2d each for the Gosport carnival in 1952.

Robert Habens dressed as Old Joe the windmill man, 2d each for the Gosport carnival in 1952.

• A fortnight ago I used a photo of HMA Ships Australia and Canberra alongside South Railway Jetty in the dockyard.

Before the ships sailed a dance was held in the Guildhall and a woman living in Croydon received an invitation. Rod Guyatt’s aunt, Olive, then about 21, was the lucky lady and he has kept the card. He has no idea why she was invited. There was to be non-stop dancing from 8pm to 2am.

• All dressed up for the 1952 Gosport carnival is Robert Habens. His father, Ted , dressed him and the tricycle as Old Joe the Windmill Man who sold hand-held windmills for 2d. It was taken outside 40, Avery Lane, Gosport.  

Twenty years later Robert had a girlfriend called Linda Day. He was looking here to see if she was in recent Portsmouth carnival photos. Linda came from Liverpool and worked as a croupier at Club Tiberius, Southsea. She dared not tell her mum she worked in a casino so when she wrote home she said she worked in a telephone exchange.

The invitation to Olive Guyatt for the farewell dance on July 17, 1928.

The invitation to Olive Guyatt for the farewell dance on July 17, 1928.