Portsmouth should make more of its historic links with Australia
Today is Australia Day and here BRIAN HALL, the chairman of the Portsmouth/Sydney sister city committee, makes a plea for those ties to be more formally recognised
Portsmouth has been associated with many significant historical events and often this has involved the Royal Navy.
Such was the case when the First Fleet, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip, departed Portsmouth on May 13, 1787, and arrived in Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) on January 26, 1788, with its cargo of 732 convicts.
Conditions were unfavourable yet through great hardship governor Capt Phillip began the process of creating the colony of New South Wales and laying the foundations for modern Australia.
Following his governorship, the next three governors were all Royal Navy officers.
Capt Phillip was promoted to Admiral of the Blue and his critically important Australian role was recognised recently when a memorial stone to him was laid in Westminster Abbey involving the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh.
On May 13, 1987, Portsmouth led the British-Australia Bicentennial Programme, involving the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who opened a new First Fleet exhibition in the Square Tower, Old Portsmouth, and unveiled a plaque at Sally Port commemorating the First Fleet.
As part of the celebrations the city hosted a re-enactment fleet led by Dr Jonathan King, arranged a Guildhall Square programme of military bands plus the Sydney Bicentennial band, a performance by aboriginal dancers, and the parade of the city’s gift to Sydney – a replica gig of the type used by Capt Phillip to land at Port Jackson.
The coming of the bicentennial had given rise to the formation of a Portsmouth-Sydney Sister City relationship which involved lord mayors John Marshall and Doug Sutherland signing a proclamation in December 1984.
Since then Sister City Committees in Portsmouth and Sydney have operated to foster links between the two cities and promote Britain-Australia relationships.
I am chairman of the Portsmouth committee and am anxious to attract interest from local people. Details of the committee can be found at britain-australia-portsmouth.org/.
In terms of future challenges, I would like to see:
• The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is based here in Portsmouth, contain a significant reference to The First Fleet and Admiral Arthur Phillip
• A memorial plaque installed in Portsmouth to its son Sir Henry Ayres who was elected premier of South Australia seven times
• Portsmouth develop its Australian heritage to attract a greater numbers of Australian tourists, and
• A programme for occasional exchanges of the lord mayors of each city.