Making roads for Macquarie

Staying in New South Wales for this post, I’ll be looking at Nicholas Delaney’s road building for Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

There are no records to show exactly when Nicholas began working on the roads of the new colony.  He had been an overseer on goverment projects since 1808 and was in charge of a group of convict labourers in 1812. In January 1813 Macquarie signed his free pardon.

It was a good time to be in the building trade. The new Governor made it his business to tidy up the higgledy-piggledy settlement he had found when he arrived in 1810. Sydney would be set out in rational grid lines, the Domain enclosed and roads driven west into the daunting Blue Mountains. Nicholas was to work on all these ventures.

Photo: Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

He and his men were busy with a project dear to the Governor – building  Mrs Macquarie’s Drive, a long road which encircled Sydney’s Government Domain land. Named for, and planned by, his wife, Elizabeth, the road encloses what are now the Botanic Gardens and takes in her favourite viewpoint, still known as Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

By luck or careful planning, Nicholas and his co-workers finished the entire drive on Elizabeth’s birthday.

Auspicious day

As Lachlan Macquarie wrote in his diary:

Thursday 13. June 1816

This day at 1. P.M. Nicholas Delaney the Overseer of the Working Gang employed for some time past in the Government Domain reported to me that Mrs Macquarie’s New Road – (measuring three miles and 377 yards -) round the inside of the Government [domain] – together with all the necessary Bridges on the same – were completely finished agreeably to the Plan laid down originally for constructing it by Mrs Macquarie.

As a reward for their exertion in having completed “Mrs Macquarie’s Road“, on this particular and auspicious Day, I have given Delaney and his gang of Ten Men, five gallons of Spirits among them – as Donation from Government from the King’s store.

Picture: Lachlan Macquarie's diary entry about Nicholas Delaney and his gang

Lachlan Macquarie’s diary (Original in State Library of NSW)

The Governor was obviously delighted at this extra birthday present for Elizabeth. Nicholas and the other men would have been extremely pleased with their reward, too. Five gallons of rum – that’s 40 pints, or nearly 23 litres. Enough for a good party, and plenty left over for use as currency.

There will be more about Nicholas’s road building in the next blog post.

Macquarie on TV

On Australia Day (26th January) 2011 BBC TV showed The Father of Australia, a drama-documentary about Macquarie. Unfortunately it’s no longer available to view, but there are some clips on the Beeb’s site and here’s a link to a clip provided by the programme-makers, Caledonia TV.

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About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia.
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13 Responses to Making roads for Macquarie

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  6. Chloe Okoli says:

    How amazing that they did actually finish it on her birthday? There is no need to make up things when the facts turn out so beautifully! It’s a great story and no doubt they appreciated the rum!

  7. Crissouli says:

    Page 164 … in Governor Macquarie by Derek Parker…mentions this … I’m up to p 149, but couldn’t resist, went skimming through! I collect the book tomorrow I hope … it’s set aside for me…:-)

  8. Pingback: National Family History Month – and some of my ancestors | A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798

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