Frederic C. (Frederic Chambers) Spurr.

Five years under the Southern Cross; experiences and impressions online

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The laughing sun and trees and flowers, and the
song-filled air, made men forget their failure. Mel-
bourne has recovered from its stroke. Some of the
most optimistic and exhilarating men I have encoun-
tered in this city are men who lost their all in the

As a city Melbourne is a wonderfully attractive
place. Its great and unmistakable feature is airiness.
Many of the streets are of a width that would prepare
for some English landowners a fit of apoplexy were
they compelled to build streets on their property upon
such an ample scale. Everything is light, bright,
airy, ample. Few people live in the city itself.
Collins Street is the home of doctors, who congregate
together as do members of the same fraternity in
Harley Street, London. In the suburbs, near and
distant and residentially Melbourne is " going out "
E 49

Five Years under the Southern Cross

farther and farther all the houses are ample. The
"villa" is evidently the favourite type of house, and
is affected by rich and poor. A villa is the Melbourne
name for a bungalow. All the rooms are on one
floor. Housework is reduced to the minimum. A
villa of the largest size is little less than a mansion,
while the smallest villas present an air of smartness
and comfort which a basement house entirely lacks.
In fact, the "basement" house is unknown in Aus-
tralia. It would not be tolerated. The villa is ideal
for a hot country, where people are not inclined to
waste energy on summer days in climbing flights of
unnecessary stairs. Nearly every house has its bit
of sub-tropical shrubbery, if nothing else. The
nearer suburbs have none too much garden attach-
ing to the houses. This, for a new country, is a
great mistake. With ample land to spare, the State
might have planned nearer Melbourne on the garden
city principle. Adelaide is a better city from this
point of view. In fact, Adelaide is the finest city,
from the garden point of view, I have ever seen. But
in the farther suburbs Melbourne is more rural. Kew,
Armadale, Canterbury, and Surrey Hills are delight-
ful residential places. The spaces allotted to gardens
are there more ample, and the general effect is more

The new-comer from the Old Land is struck by
the way in which familiar names reappear in the
various localities. English names are duplicated in
a delightfully confusing manner. Thus, on one short
railway run to the suburbs we pass through Rich-


The Romance of Melbourne

mond, Windsor, Camberwell, Brighton, Canterbury,
Surrey Hills, Sandringham, Hampton, Kensington,
and Newmarket. It sounds so familiar, yet it is so
odd that the names appear in anything but their
original order. It is not too much to say that the
suburbs of Melbourne are more attractive than
the suburbs of any English city of corresponding
size. The absence of smoke, the absolute clearness
of the atmosphere, the ranges of mountains, the sea
in the distance, and the vast distances carpeted with
green combine to form a landscape second to none in
the world. Melbourne seems to be central for every
kind of life. A threepenny ticket from the centre
brings one to the shore of St. Kilda. A shilling is
the price of a return ticket to Black Rock, a romantic
seaside resort on the verge of the bush, where
laughing jackasses gather in threes and fours and
guffaw their loudest. All around is a vast dairying
district, while at Healesville and in the Buffalo Moun-
tains there are pleasure centres unapproachable for
beauty and romance.

The city proper is a "chessboard city," built on
strict mathematical lines. The streets intersect each
other at right angles. There is no place easier to
traverse. Built as it is, however, many of the streets
have no shade whatever in the summer-time. That
is their one disadvantage. There are numerous mag-
nificent buildings. The Houses of Parliament, the
General Post Office, the Exhibition Building and the
Town Hall are worthy of the best city in any country.
Situated in such a latitude, Melbourne lends itself

Five Years under the Southern Cross

admirably to boulevard life. A touch of Paris would
make of Melbourne the most attractive city in this
hemisphere. The streets and pavements are wide
enough to allow of the open-air cafe 1 . But in its life
Melbourne follows America rather than Paris. The
American hustling spirit is manifest in everything,
religion included. Already, in this new country,
the trend of the people is towards the city. Victoria
has an area of 87,884 square miles ; that is, its terri-
tory is half as big again as England and Wales.
Its population is only 1,399,325 about one thirty-
fifth that of Britain. Yet of that population 600,000
people live in Melbourne and its suburbs.

One thing strangely fascinates a new-comer, and
that is the question of lung disease. It was to Aus-
tralia that consumptive patients were formerly sent;
it is to Davos they now repair. Once it was thought
that a warm climate was better for the patients ; now
it is thought that cold, dry air is the best for them.
The last official figures are significant. In the year
1906 the home death-rate from tuberculosis of the
respiratory system was 135.68 per 100,000 of the
population. In 1907 the death-rate for the whole
Commonwealth of Australia was 86.29 per 100,000
little more than half. "The Commonwealth occupies,
therefore, a very enviable position in regard to
tubercular diseases, when compared with European
countries." Yet even this proportion is too high.
Consumptive parents who went out years ago are
now living at a good old age, but some of their
children have been carried off by the dread disease.


The Romance of Melbourne

One man, in a good position, buried his seventh and
last child a short time ago. He himself came out
weak-lunged forty years ago. Good luck to the
physicians who are fighting the white scourge ! One
day it ought to disappear entirely from a country so
broad and healthy as this.




ROBERT Louis STEVENSON, who knew and loved the
Southern Pacific, declared that he loved Sydney "for
its bits of old London and Paris." That sentence
raises the veil, and reveals to the stranger one of
the chief characteristics of Sydney. "It is so Eng-
lish 1 " is the exclamation of all Britons who see it
for the first time. Its English-like character is at
once its charm and its drawback. Its charm, for it
transports the visitor immediately to the Old Country ;
its drawback, for it is not at all Australian, as are
the other capitals of the Commonwealth. After Perth,
Adelaide, and Melbourne, with their abnormally
spacious thoroughfares, Sydney streets appear too
narrow for the climate. Day after day I have stood
in George Street and imagined myself to be in Man-
chester or Liverpool or some other English city. In
the heart of Sydney it is difficult to realise that one
is really in Australia. To me they appear to be
disadvantageous these narrow streets ; to others they
appear to be a great boon, especially in the summer-
time, when they afford some little shadow from the
great heat of the sun.

The architectural mistakes of the early builders

The Beauty of Sydney

of Sydney are now being repaired in truth, the city
is in process of rebuilding. Entire districts of
inferior buildings have been sponged out. In their
place new and noble erections are rising. More than
five millions of pounds sterling have been spent in
city buildings since the year 1907. One day Sydney
will wear a new aspect, and become as Australian in
appearance as it is now in spirit. Perhaps the most
remarkable thing about Sydney to-day is the boom
in building that has been in progress during the
last few years. According to official statements, the
amount spent in building in Sydney and suburbs
during the last four years exceeds sixteen millions
of pounds sterling. This includes city buildings,
suburban buildings, State Government buildings,
schools, etc. It is a prodigious sum of money. Prac-
tically a new suburb is being added to the city every
year. The State is greatly prospering commercially ;
indeed, it has never been more prosperous. Every-
body seems to have plenty of money to spend. The
rapid building of houses is not due to speculation,
but to genuine investment on the part of people who
desire to purchase their own houses. The splendid
municipal electric car system has linked up all the
suburbs, and has thus contributed largely towards
the general prosperity of the city. With the memory
of the great land boom in Melbourne, one is at
first disposed to ask whether this prosperity is as
genuine as it appears to be upon the surface. It is
assuring to learn from the Government Commissioner
that "this prosperity is not ephemeral, and that even


Five Years under the Southern Cross

should the State be visited by serious drought condi-
tions there would be no marked effect in the building
trade for some years to come."

There exists, without doubt, a certain degree of
jealousy between the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
Sydney is the older city, and it is perhaps natural
that her children should claim for her the superiority
due to age. For my part, I do not interfere in these
quarrels and jealousies. I smile at both parties, and
point out the excellent qualities possessed by each
city Melbourne, every time, for ample thorough-
fares, push, and American hustling; Sydney, for
narrower streets and a more English type of life,
and, above all, for unexcelled natural beauty. Mel-
bourne has been deliberately made upon a definite
plan. Sydney has grown as a tree grows; hence
some of its branches are long and some are short.
There is an immense difference between the two cities,
but both are places of great importance. A century
hence (unless, through sheer wicked indolence, a
white population of British settlers not having been
encouraged, the country is in the hands of one of
the yellow races) Sydney and Melbourne may be a
twin London.

If there exists in any part of the world a finer train
than the express between Melbourne and Sydney, I
have yet to hear of it. With observation car, dining
and sleeping saloons, it represents the last word in
luxury. There is only one drawback attached to it
the journey is not continuous in the one train. On
the border of New South Wales passengers change


The Beauty of Sydney

trains, owing to the difference in the gauges of the
two railway lines. This inconvenience is the heritage
which early stupidity has bequeathed to the present
generation. Years ago, before the Federation, the
States were opposed to each other, even to the extent
of constructing railway lines of a different gauge.
To remedy this folly will be a costly piece of work.
Just one little town on the route awakens my interest
and recalls a famous episode. It is the town of
.Wagga Wagga. When the name is called out,
instantly the Tichborne trial comes to mind. For
it is in this remote, scarcely known town that Arthur
Orton, the claimant, traded as a butcher. Here came
to him the newspaper containing the advertisement
for the heir to the Tichborne estates. And here was
hatched in the butcher's brain the little plot which
ultimately sent him to penal servitude. Who could
have imagined that from this hidden spot in the
Australian bush there would issue an influence
sufficiently strong to agitate the entire British nation ?

The approach to Sydney by rail is unpromising.
It is only when the city is traversed, and the visitor
is out upon the water, that the unparalleled beauty of
the situation of Sydney is realised. It is easy, then,
to understand why Sydney folk are proud of their
harbour. There is nothing exactly like it in the whole
world. I had always conceived the harbour as an
immense circle, or semi-circle, of water, flanked by
hills and houses. Instead of that, I found it to be


Five Years under the Southern Cross

a series of a hundred little harbours, formed in the
most surprising manner, and consisting altogether of
a frontage of two hundred miles. A natural harbour,
it has the commercial advantages of an artificial one,
for the water is deep, often fathoms deep, to the very
edge. Thus the great liners of the Orient, P. and O.,
North German Lloyd, and othe,r lines are berthed at
the quays. One first rapid glance at the harbour
near the quays gives the impression of a great mari-
time centre where boats flying all flags find refuge.
There is a forest of funnels, a vast array of floating
iron and steel.

The shipping out of sight, the remainder of the
harbour is a panorama of natural beauty, of which
thousands have taken advantage. All the slopes and
all the heights are crowded with residences, large or
small. In the more modest quarters the houses are
small, but always picturesque. In the wealthier parts
we are confronted with a series of small palaces.
Picture Clovelly, Ilfracombe, Lynton, and Lynmouth
all placed together, and united by a number of har-
bour inlets, and there you have an image of Sydney
Harbour. To this add a sentimental touch of Italian
life the balcony and the picture is complete, when
the area of the whole is extended to embrace the
frontage of 200 miles. The balconies ! If I were to
select the chief charm of these houses built upon the
edge of the water, it would be, without the least hesi-
tation, the balconies. Their variety is astonishing.
No two are alike. Every house is a fresh sur-
prise. It would seem as if architects and builders


The Beauty of Sydney

had exhausted all possible combinations of wood
and stone for the production of the last word in
picturesque effects. The gardens of these houses
slope right down to the water's edge. And what
gardens ! Is there any spot upon earth where so
many roses are gathered together as at Sydney?
Roses everywhere, whole bowers of them. Gardens
ablaze with roses of every colour ! We step into one
garden belonging to a pastor of the city and find our-
selves in a perfect paradise of flowers. Walls covered
with trailing roses. Garden path lined with roses.
Flower beds one mass of roses. Thousands of them !
It is a unique spectacle. Sydney might add to its
industries, if it has not already done so, that of pre-
paring the attar of roses.

Nobody ever wearies of the harbour. In the early
morning, or at noon, or late at night the charm, ever
varying, never fails to hold the visitor. The craft
upon the water in the daytime, the million twinkling
lights at night, conquer the beholder. Every excur-
sion discloses some new beauty. On the north side
of the harbour a great and important town has sprung
up. At every other bend in the road a vision of the
water appears. Built upon a hill, or a series of hills,
the whole northern suburb gathers to the harbour.
Magnificent residences are rising every week. All
is quiet, retired, attractive, and yet a brief ferry ride
brings one to the Circular Quay, the heart of a
throbbing business life. Retirement and bustle are
but a stone's throw from each other. On one side of
the harbour are yachts, terraced houses, splashes of


Five Years under the Southern Cross

red-roofed houses nestling amongst masses of green
shrub and tree and garden ; on the other side, within
coo-ee of the yachts, mammoth ocean liners lie, await-
ing the moment of departure for East and West.
This combination of suburbia and shipping very rarely
exists in the world. Shipping generally means long
lines of quays and docks removed from the residential
quarters of the city. Here in Sydney, suburbia, on
both sides of the harbour, looks down at the ever-
expanding mass of shipping on the quays and in the
coves. Even the largest steamers are moored near
the Circular Quay, within a few minutes' walk of the
heart of the city.

Many of the larger houses have their own enclosed
sea baths, built of stone, and admitting the water
through a netted grill. It is impossible to bathe in
the open harbour on account of the sharks which
abound. The grill admits the water into the private
bath, but excludes the sharks. The wretched crea-
tures, however, often haunt the vicinity of these
baths, in the hope of surprising a dainty human
morsel. A novice experiences strange and uncanny
sensations when, taking his modest dip, he sees the
snout of a hungry shark thrust against the grill. If
that grill gave way ! ! ! The harbour is dotted with
numerous suburbs, most of which are pleasure resorts.
Of these Manly beach is said to b the best ; it is the
home of surf bathers. There is a magnificent service
of ferry boats and electric trams running to every
nook and corner in the harbour. And the fares are
surprisingly low. It is not difficult to understand


The Beauty of Sydney

how, on a sultry summer evening, when the city is
stifling, Sydney abandons itself to an aquatic life.
And the harbour explains the pleasure spirit which
dominates Sydney. A journalist who visited Aus-
tralia a few years ago, declared that Adelaide was the
city of culture, Melbourne the city of business, and
Sydney the city of pleasure. It is altogether too
sweeping a summary. There is culture and business
in Sydney, as elsewhere. But to a visitor the
pleasure element seems to be dominant. It certainly
is so at night time, on holidays, and especially on
Sundays. The harbour is alive with craft on Sun-
days. Far, far more people are out bent on pleasure
than are ever found in the churches. Religious work
is not easy in Sydney. The churches have to com-
pete with the harbour. There are no old Church
traditions to bind the young people as "at home."
Young people, for the most part, do as they like.
From the spectacular point of view it is striking and
attractive, this wooing of the harbour. From the
moral point of view it is disquieting, for it means that
a generation is arising which knows neither the form
nor the force of religion. And this for a young
nation is a serious menace.

Under the gleam of the midday sun in spring,
when the blinding light of the sun is softened by the
kiss of the green leaves of thousands of trees, Sydney
Harbour is a paradise of beauty. When night falls
and the city is illuminated with artificial light, the


Five Years under the Southern Cross

harbour is a dream of romance. We had the happi-
ness of seeing the harbour under the light of the full
moon. This, together with the half-million lights
from city and steamer and home which danced upon
the waters, transported us into fairyland. Darting
from one side to the other were the ferry-boats, ablaze
with electric light. Lying at the quays were the
great liners, studded with stars. And all the lights
of harbour, of city and suburbs were multiplied a
hundredfold in these waters already made silvern by
the beams of the moon. It was a sight never to be

For those who love the country, with its broad
spaces and its incomparable perfume, the environs of
Sydney offer endless attractions. First of all there
are the Blue Mountains, with their awesome preci-
pices, cascades, and gum-tree-covered slopes, and the
famous Jenolan Caves, an enchanted world of
stalactite, fashioned into every kind of fantastic shape.
Within an hour of the capital is the vast area of the
National Park, covering over 30,000 acres; and,
beautiful as any of them, the Hawkesbury river. The
railway route to the Hawkesbury passes through
lovely scenery. Within an hour of Sydney this
"Rhine of Australia" is reached. There is also a
touch of Norway just a touch in the waterways
which run inland like miniature fiords. On the banks
of the Hawkesbury, cottages and bungalows are being
multiplied, to be occupied by the business men of the
capital, who find here a retreat from the bustle of the


The Beauty of Sydney

Sydney is nearer, by 500 miles, to the tropics than
Melbourne. Life lived on the verge of the tropical
region is not marked by the same strenuousness as
that of a more rigorous climate. And Melbourne is a
little more rigorous than Sydney, especially in the
winter-time. In Sydney there is only a difference
of 17 degrees between the average temperatures of
winter and summer. The climate is wonderful,
Sicilian in its softness. In Melbourne they pass in
an hour from midsummer to midwinter. Perhaps
this is why Melbourne is more strenuous than Sydney.
But, chacun a son gout. Sydney people believe their
city to be the best in the world, and nothing will ever
convince them to the contrary. There is no need to
quarrel about it.



YEARS ago the Christy Minstrels sang a droll song
about the adventures of a Chinaman in Botany Bay.
London audiences rocked with laughter at the men-
tion of the famous convict settlement. Had they
better understood all that was meant by Botany Bay
they might well have wept.

Fresh from reading the story of Capain Cook's
travels, and the subsequent story of the penal life in
New South Wales, I find myself in an excellent mood
to appreciate a visit to the famous spot which is
known as the birthplace of Australian history. We
go to Sydney upon a fine Inter-state steamer, the
Karoola, a boat that for sheer comfort, deck space,
saloon and table compares well with the mail liners.

The entry into Sydney Harbour in the early morn-
ing is an event to be remembered. There is no other
place on earth exactly like this famous harbour. Its
innumerable windings offer a fascinating panorama
to the visitor who has the advantage of a position
on the upper deck of a mail steamer. Sydney does
homage to its harbour. The city crowds to the
water's edge. The new suburbs on the northern side
are growing at a rapid rate, and soon there will be no


At Botany Bay

plot of land unoccupied. It is difficult to believe that
less than a century ago the "bush " came to the edge
of the harbour. Where now maritime life reigns,
there was formerly a desolation or a wildness which
well harmonised with a country still in the posses-
sion of the aborigines. The few pictures extant of
Sydney Harbour as it was form the best measure
of the progress that has since been made.

Botany Bay is eclipsed by Port Jackson. It is
the Plymouth Rock of Australia, yet it is not to Aus-
tralians what Plymouth Rock is to Americans. The
present generation "knows not Joseph" or, rather,
James. Captain Cook is, for the many, a mere name ;
he does not represent, nor evoke, an enthusiasm.
One day, when Australia has grown to the dimensions
of America, there will be a Cook cult, and Botany
Bay will become a shrine. To-day it is merely a
place for picnics; an easy lounge from Sydney for
persons who have neither historic nor national

A fourpenny tram ticket from Circular Quay takes
one to the village of Botany. Thence a steamer
crosses the bay, calls in at La Perouse, and deposits
its passengers at the famous spot where, on April 28,
1770, Captain Cook landed from his toy boat, the
Endeavour. There is little to see : a large rock, a
small jetty, and a monument. The latter an obelisk
is enclosed within chains. It was erected by the
Hon. Thomas Holt. Of Cook monuments and in-
scriptions there are many. Yet there is only one
statue of Cook himself, and that is in Hyde Park,

F 65

Five Years under the Southern Cross

Sydney. The intrepid explorer is depicted with right
hand extended, while in his left hand he carries the
chart of his voyage. Wherever Captain Cook's feet
trod there the memorialist has certified the fact in a
permanent manner. Upon the face of the cliffs at
Kurnell, Botany Bay, an inscription is found setting
forth the fact that :

"Under the auspices of British Science . . . .
these Shores were discovered by James Cook and
Joseph Banks, the Columbus and Maecenas of their

The final inscription appears on a tree in Hawaii,
and sets forth the tragic fact that "near this spot fell
Captain James Cook, the renowned circumnavigator."
But, of course, I have not seen that.

A final monument alone is needed, and that is the
Endeavour itself, or part of it. Alas ! this monument
must remain unerected. Englishmen appreciated the
Victory, and took care to preserve it for the nation,
but the discovery of so insignificant a place as Aus-
tralia passed without attracting the attention that it
deserved. The men of that time had no prophetic
gift of insight enabling them to see what the new
country might yet mean to the Motherland, hence
they allowed the Endeavour to become a whaler, to
fly the French flag, and eventually to sink in the
waters around Rhode Island. Thus America holds

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Online LibraryFrederic C. (Frederic Chambers) SpurrFive years under the Southern Cross; experiences and impressions → online text (page 4 of 18)