We had a great day in Adelaide. It’s a beautiful, rather quiet, but elegant city.
There was the now familiar and warm welcome from countless volunteers and Immigration officials and we were met by sunshine. We had intended to find the train station and travel into the city by rail, but we were seduced by the free shuttle bus for which, once again, there was no queue and we were in the centre of the city by just after ten. The highlight of the morning was the purchase of an Opal ring for Jan, a process which although informed by a bit of previous research, and knowledge of Sydney prices from a visit before Christmas, took some time. But prices in Adelaide, particularly at a couple of places which produced their own jewellery, were much better than in Sydney and we had an entertaining time choosing the right stone (a white opal in the end).
We spent much of the rest of the day, meandering around the perimeter of the city. Adelaide is a planned city with a grid of streets ringed by four Terraces. We walked the length of the North and East Terraces, alongside beautiful parks, the University and some beautifully restored Victorian architecture. It was lovely. We had a rather poor sandwich lunch before finding the shuttle bus again (no queues once again) and returned to the ship for the last couple of hours of the afternoon on the deck and in the sunshine.
Later, as the sun disappeared we had drinks on the balcony and watched as we slipped out of the harbour, accompanied at a safe distance by a few sailing boats and being waved away by hundreds of locals, my favourite of whom shouted at us “Good Bye, Yer Pommy Bastards.”
We had just one sea day between Adelaide and Melbourne and, because the distance was just a few hundred miles, we crept along. So, as it was explained to me by the Entertainment Director, the ship which is built to power through high seas, wallowed a bit at just 14 knots.
After booking the cruise I had emailed Cunard to ask whether they’d be interested in my giving a couple of lectures. They responded positively and we agreed a fee – paid in onboard credit – and today I delivered the first of those talks, which was about the transportation of convicts to Australia in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. There was a competing lecture taking place at the same time in the Cinema, and there was the alternative attraction of a staff pancake race on deck (and inexplicably, such event always draw large passenger numbers). So I feared that there might be just a few people rattling around the very large, two storey, Royal Court Theatre. But there were lots of people there and the talk seemed to be well received. Quite a few passengers, including three different Australians, all of whom had traced their ancestry back to the First Fleet, spoke to me afterward and seemed pleased by my assertion that Australia should take greater pride in its convict roots. They really should, and the arrival of The First Fleet, deserves greater recognition than is afforded by a rather dismal monument on an old caravan site, a long way from Sydney Harbour:
The wretched people who arrived here in 1787, almost all convicted of petty crimes (contrary to legend, no murders, rapists or prostitutes) laid the foundations for a wonderful country.
I tried to draw a few parallels between the journey of the First Fleet and QM2’s journey, the most popular of which were that if passengers on the QM2 were as tightly packed as they were on any of the First Fleet ships, such as the Lady Penryhn below, we’d be carrying 55,000 passengers.
The second, which as far as I know was not celebrated at all, was that as the QM2 left Southampton on January 10, it was 150 years, to the exact date, since the last convict ship discharged its convicts in Australia (at Fremantle).