Saturday 3 March 2012

Out of Their Trees: Mary and Sydney

Today Sydney is holding its annual Mardi Gras parade. It you’re there I hope you have a great time. Wish I could join you. Actually, my friend Mark probably did last year.

I have a family connection with Sydney. My uncle, Group Capt. J. I. Cromarty, OBE, was commanding officer at RAAF No.3 Command Support Hospital in Richmond near Sydney 40 years ago. My friend has even more significant family connections with Sydney through his ancestry. I am also related to the people mentioned below, but not as closely as Mark. As he was preparing to move to Australia in 2010 I put together a little file of genealogical connections he had with Sydney, and these included links to some of the first settlers and last colonial governor.

Let’s start with the city itself. Sydney is named after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney (1733-1800), who was Home Secretary of England during the early settlement of Australia. Lord Sydney’s ancestors already had colonial links, with his great-grandfather being Governor of Jamaica. Through this governor, Lord Sydney’s ancestry goes back to Leicestershire and Sir Robert de Moton of Peckleton. Sir Robert’s grand-daughter married into the Beresford family of Derbyshire, and her Beresford descendants were important among the First Fleet settlers.

John Beresford (1753-1821) and his wife sailed with the First Fleet bound for Botany Bay, arriving in January 1788 to found the first European colony there. John Beresford had 5 children and his descendants still live in Australia. John Beresford and my friend Mark both descend from Sir Robert de Moton’s grand-daughter. The family gave its name to the Beresford Hotel in Sydney. Until about 2008 it was a popular lgbt venue but was bought by a local “pub baron” and lost its lgbt appeal.

Australia became independent in 1901. The last colonial Governor of New South Wales and Sydney was another relative of Mark. He was the 7th Earl Beauchamp, yet another descendant of Sir Robert de Moton. Beauchamp had recognised his sexuality by his 20s but it conflicted with his strict Christian morals. He married and had 7 children, including a gay son, Hugh.

Beauchamp was just as surprised as anyone when he got the job of Governor of New South Wales in 1899 at the age of 25. He loved his time in Sydney, especially when recruiting handsome young footmen for Government House. When he got back to England his brother-in-law threatened to “out” him and bring scandal on the family and the government in which he served (Beauchamp was leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords).

Despite the highest of political connections Beauchamp was forced to leave his family and England and eventually made his way back to Sydney. One of his favourites places to visit was the Latin Café, well-known for its “toilet encounters”. But above all he loved the beaches and the half-naked life-savers, which he compared to Greek gods.

I felt very jealous of Mark when he left for Sydney. Like Lord Beauchamp I’m sure he found many pleasing sights on Bondi beach.

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