McCubbin - The Pioneers

Ode to the Pioneer Women

O braiding thought move out, move on!
Twine, Memory, your golden thread!
Marble, be monument to them!
Our homage here their diadem,
Lest, as with nations long since gone,
We lose the names should be our bread.

Call them, Australia! Call them once again!
For they are those who on these silent shores
first stood.....
Mary Gilmore

Salute to the Pioneers

They came of bold and roving stock that would not fixed abide;
They were the sons of field and flock since e'er they learnt to ride,
We may not hope to see such men in these degenerate years
As those Early Australian Explorers of the bush—the brave old pioneers.

'Twas they who rode the trackless bush in heat and storm and drought; '
Twas they who heard the master-word that called them farther out;
'Twas they who followed up the trail the mountain cattle made,
And pressed across the mighty range where now their bones are laid.

But now the times are dull and slow, the brave old days are dead
When hardy bushmen started out, and forced their way ahead
By tangled scrub and forests grim towards the unknown west,
And spied at last the promised land from off the range's crest.

O ye that sleep in lonely graves by distant ridge and plain,
We drink to you in silence now as Christmas comes again,
To you who fought the wilderness through rough unsettled years
The founders of our nation's life, the brave old pioneers.

A.B. Paterson

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Christmas Day - Salute to the Pioneers

God bless the master of this house,
And bless the mistress true:
And all the little children around the table, too.
Your pockets full of money and your cellars full of beer,
And we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Australia's history might have been very different if a gale had sprung up on Christmas Day, 1768. On that day the Endeavour was sailing down toward Tierra del Fuego and Mr Banks entered in his diary: 'Christmas Day all good Christians, that is to say all good hands, got abominably drunk so that all through the night there was scarce a sober man in the ship. Weather, thank God, very moderate, or Lord knows what would have become of us.'

Christmas of 1788 found the First Fleet lumbering eastward across the Southern Ocean towards Van Diemen's Land. David Collins, the historian of the earliest days say "We complied, as far was in our power, with the good old English custom and partook of a better dinner this day than usual; but the weather was too rough to permit of much social enjoyment.

In December, 1791, supplies were so low that the rations had to be cut. The best Govenor Phillip could do was to allow a pound of flour to each woman in the settlement. But, if the men had to tighten their belts that Christmas Day, they made certain cheer of another sort. The stores at Paramatta were broken into, and some twenty-two gallons of liquor spirited away.

The Christmas of 1803 saw an odd little community of marines, convicts, and free settlers - Victoria's first white settlement - sitting down to Christmas dinner in the bushland of Sullivan's Bay

1844 - 45
December 25 "We returned to Brown's Lagoons and entered our camp just as our companions were sitting down to their Christmas diner of suet pudding and stewed cockotoos. The day was cloudy and sultry; we had had a heavy thunderstorm on Christmas Eve."
Dr Ludwig Leichhardt - Overland Expedition in Australia

The year 1851 saw Victoria's 'gold Christmas.' New discoveries had caused a sensation in the colony and elsewhere, even over-seas. Men gave friends nuggets of gold instead of Christmas cards in token of good will. One digger gave his horse a Christmas present of gold shoes. Another had a Christmas dinner of five-pound-note sandwiches.

Few of the miners would be likely to forget the Christmas of 1857 - their first at Ararat. Bushfires were all around them. The Pyrenees and the ranges between Ararat and Pleasant Creek were in flames. Armstrongs was devastated.

The ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition found an oasis to enjoy a Christmas rest. Robert O'Hara Burke's records in his journal. "We took a day of rest on Gray's Creek to celebrate Christmas. This was doubly pleasant as we had never in our most sanguine moments anticipated finding such a pleasant oasis in the desert. Our camp was really an agreeable place, for we had all the advantages of food and water attending a position on a large creek or river, and were at the same time free of the annoyance of the numberless ants, flies, and mosquitoes that are invariably met with amongst timber or heavy scrub."

Christmas Day was frightfully hot, and there was thunder about which made it oppressive; otherwise we do not care much for mere heat now, but a cool breeze sprang up in the evening as usual, and we sat on the verandah and were rather merry... I thought very much of you on Christmas Day, and of my last Christmas at home. Do you remember how bright and cold it was? And how we went out on Christmas Eve and bought a great branch of holly and dressed the drawing room? Here we hung up over the pictures some Australian mistletoe, a pretty parasite, with bright- yellow drooping branches - like willow in the autumn - which grows in the gum-trees here.
from The Letters of Rachel Henning.

What a different Christmas yours is from ours. I fancy snow on the ground and a hard frost, yet withal a bright sun as there ought to be on Christmas Day. The children wrapped up very warm going to church with you and having their attention sorely distracted by the holly-berries and the evergreens with which it is dressed, and saying Christmas hymns and being regaled with figs by the fire when it is getting dusk.

On this side of the world it is rather a hot day, though there is not too much sun. Thunderstorms are rolling about the hills and very beautiful the mountains look appearing and disappearing among the misty clouds...The gum-trees are in flower, and the passion vine over the verandah is in fruit and the seeds are trying to come up in the garden but are nipped off by the fowls as soon as they show above the ground...
from The Letters of Rachel Henning.

Peter Egerton Warburton who went on the expedition from Adelaide to the north of Western Australia in 1872-3 did not enjoy Christmas Day. In his journal he writes. "We cannot but draw a mental picture of our friends in Adelaide sitting down to their Christmas dinner, whilst we lie sweltering on the ground starving, and should be thankful to have the pickings out of the pig's trough. This is no exaggeration but the literal truth. We cut out three bee-holes today, but found no honey in any of them. No sign of Lewis. If he is not here by the close of Sunday next, I shall be obliged to suppose he has gone to Roebourne, in which case there can be no hope o fhis return for the next three weeks, and except God grant us His help, we cannot live so long on our present supply... We fancied we should find many opossums in the gum trees, but have not yet seen one. We have fish close to us, but though we deprive ourselves of the entrails of a bird as bait, they will not take it."

Associated Links
Christmas Day 2003 - Greetings from around the world.
Ghosts of Many Christmases by H. Lawson
Bush Christmas C.J. Dennis
Christmas card to the South Australian "Advertiser" chapel of the Printing & Kindred Industries Union from Horace Yelland, 1911.