1788 First official banquet

Extract from Worgan's letter describing the King's Birthday banquet

The first official banquet in the new colony was held to celebrate the King’s birthday on 4 June. The occasion was reported in a letter written by George Worgan, the surgeon from the Sirius. He wrote that at two o’clock the officers joined Governor Phillip in a “very good Entertainment, considering how far we are from Leaden-Hall Market”. The meal included “Mutton, Pork, Ducks, Fowls, Fish, Kanguroo, Sallads, Pies & preserved Fruits”.

Worgan described the ceremonies that accompanied the luncheon, which included the display of British flags on the ships and on the shore, and 21-gun salutes at sunrise, at one o’clock and at sunset. There was also musket fire: “At 12 O´Clock the Battalion was drawn up before the Governor’s House, where, they fired three Vollies of Musketry, the First part of God Save the King being played by the Band between each Volley.”

In addition to the food, there was plenty to drink. “The Potables consisted of Port, Lisbon, Madeira, Teneriffe and good old English Porter, these went merrily round in Bumpers”, Worden wrote. Being an official occasion, numerous toasts were drunk – to the King, to various members of the royal family, to the new settlement and to the Governor himself.

Lesser mortals were not overlooked. Each convict was allowed a pint of grog, private soldiers were given a pint of porter and seamen had an extra allowance of grog.  All work was suspended for the day and in the evening celebratory bonfires were lit around the settlement. Sadly, some of the convicts took advantage of the general euphoria to break into the officers’ tents and huts, making off with, among other things, “12 Pair of Stockings”.

Another after-effect of the first official banquet had a catastrophic impact on the colony’s food supply. Two bulls and five cows that had arrived with the First Fleet escaped from their enclosure and disappeared into the bush. This left the colonists without milk, butter or cheese until the Second Fleet arrived in 1790. The cattle were rediscovered in 1795, by which time the herd had increased considerably.

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