When It’s Time… It’s Time!

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I ‘VE NEVER BEEN ONE TO BEGRUDGE ANYONE A DRINK (AN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE, THAT IS) WHEN THEIR TASTE BUDS TELL THEM “IT’S TIME”.

I mean its pub opening time somewhere in the world at just about any time, isn’t it? And as far as a celebratory drink goes, there’s always a reason to celebrate something isn’t there??? ….even if it’s only another excuse for yet another public holiday!

I blame Paddy (who I never knew), my maternal grandfather, Henry Nixon (who migrated from Ireland in the 1890s) and my paternal greatgrandfather, Capt. Matthew Walker (renowned for his love of a pint or two) for my drinking habits….. family DNA, you could say. (Mind you, my old drinking habits and prowess (?) are as good as ancient history now……a case of “the process of ageing” and battered taste buds, maybe?). And who (or was) “Paddy”?

I was visiting an old cemetery in Toowong (Brisbane) when I came across a headstone which read “Here lies Paddy, he’s gone down the track; have a drink for our Paddy, he’s not coming back”. Now, being part Irish (and part English) by ancestry ….a typical hybrid Aussie, you might say that touched me! I thought of Grandfather Henry (who I never met) and had a drink, to honour Paddy and my Grandfather Henry.

Family folklore has it that Henry left Ireland in a hurry in the 1880/early ’90s…. possibly due to his suggested feisty disposition, robust clashes with authorities (and, it was rumoured) his close association with the I.R.A. “the Irish troubles” at that time. We never did find out.

Great grandfather Matthew Walker’s nature, and his liking for “a pint or two” (and a few rums) was much easier to track down and verify. Family history (not just folklore) tells us that he managed to get himself jailed, in Melbourne, for unruly behaviour, disturbing the peace and then later (in Queensland, where he finally settled) he managed to lose an interest in a gold mine, at Gympie( which later became a gold rush “cracker”) following drink-fuelled disputes with his partners. (Later still, he owned a pub in the Burrum district).

So it shouldn’t come as any great surprise to anyone that – in my younger days – I had a reputation for “enjoying a cold drink on a hot day”….or was it “a hot drink on a cold day”?

So what’s this all about…? Strangely enough, it’s about celebrating birthdays – and our national “birthday”, Australia Day, specifically.

Unlike people in other countries who DO observe their “national day” on the date of their nations actual birth DATE, we don’t! Our January 26 observance (or celebration) of Australia Day falls on the date on which our country(then an officially unnamed continent known only as “The Great Southern Continent”) was annexed by Capt. James Cook in the name of Britain(and it’s King George 3rd) as a colonial dumping ground for Britain’s excess criminals, rotting in its over-crowded prisons. (That was on January 26, 1770.)

The actual DATE of “birth” (DOB) of our Australian nation, when Britain’s collection of colonies merged, by the federation, to become the “Commonwealth of Australia”, was January 1, 1901…..just 119 years ago. That’s the historical fact – not just a personal view (or “spin”) on when we SHOULD be celebrating Australia’s actual “birthday”.

As indicated earlier, I’m up for celebrations (with a good feed and a drink or three) about just about anything… just about any time.

But I am also a firm believer that history is history … and facts are facts … and that neither should be ignored ( or tampered with), just for the sake of a good celebratory drink or convenience – or another public holiday even – whatever the occasion.

I believe that we are not giving due respect to either verified Australian history or facts associated with it, by observing our Australia Day on January 26 instead of the day we actually WERE born, as a nation….and that is/was January 1, 1901.

AND there are other dates and events associated with the birth of our nation and its systems of parliamentary democracy which are eminently more appropriate (than January 26) to mark and celebrate our “national day”, also

FOR EXAMPLE…..

  • Federation Day (when we actually became “Australia”)….. which I have already covered. Our first Australian elections, on March 29 and 30 that year (1901).
  • The opening of our first national Parliament (in Melbourne, on May 9, 1901). • Sittings of our national Parliament in Melbourne until May 1927.
  • The opening of the first Parliament House in Canberra(opened on May 9 that year by King George 6th), and
  • The opening of our new (current) Federal Parliament in Canberra on May 9, 1988. If there is a day OTHER than January

1(Federation Day) or January 26 (the day we were annexed as a British colony in 1770) warranting a good celebration to mark our emergence as a nation, then May 9 would have to stand a good chance of “getting the nod”….justifiably. My advice (and desire) would be to see our Government put the issue to “the people”…..and let us decide the issue, once and for all.