Two centuries of Chinese migration

John Shying on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Image: ANMM.

John Shying on the Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Image: ANMM.

It’s coming up to Lunar New Year and the so-called world’s largest annual human migration, as hundreds of millions of people (particularly China’s urban-based migrant workers) head home to spend the holiday with their families. It’s also coming up to a special milestone in Australia’s immigration history as it is 200 years since one of the first documented Chinese-born free settlers arrived in New South Wales.

Mak Sai Ying (later anglicised to John Pong Shying) arrived in Sydney on 27 February 1818, just 30 years after the First Fleet and several decades before the 1850s gold rushes, which would bring thousands of Chinese fortune seekers to Australia. John Shying has the distinction of being the first Chinese landowner and publican in Sydney, and also the grandfather of the first Chinese-Australian serviceman.

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Around the world in the 1800s : The voyage of the SUNBEAM

On Monday 4 July 1887, an elegant steam yacht glided into the waters of Sydney Harbour, having left England the year before. The harbour was alive. Its breezes filled the sails of hundreds of yachts that had turned out in welcome and rustled along the shoreline where a lively atmosphere sprang from the large crowds who had been anticipating the yacht’s arrival for days.

Onboard was Lord Thomas Brassey, future governor of Victoria and founder of the volunteer naval reserves. Despite Lord Brassey’s stature, however, the adoration of the Sydney crowd belonged to his wife, the celebrated travel writer Lady Annie Brassey, and to the vessel itself.

The yacht was the Sunbeam and it had already carried the Brasseys over many sea miles, having completed, a decade earlier, the first circumnavigation of the world by a private steam yacht. Australians and international audiences alike had followed this historic journey through Lady Brassey’s best-selling book, A Voyage in the Sunbeam (1878), which was published in nine editions and seventeen languages. The success of the book had taken its author by surprise and encouraged her to publish three more accounts of the family’s adventures onboard the much-loved Sunbeam.

Steam yacht SUNBEAM on Sydney Harbour, 1887. ANMM Collection 00013812

Steam yacht SUNBEAM on Sydney Harbour, 1887. ANMM Collection 00013812

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The Prince of Pickpockets who stole our imagination with a swagger

Portrait of George Barrington

Detail from a portrait of George Barrington (1803)
ANMM Collection

Everyone loves a good convict story, and George Barrington’s chequered life of misdeeds, ‘dissipation and licentiousness’ fails to disappoint. A real life ‘Artful Dodger’, Barrington remains one of the most notorious convicts in history. He also played a role in one of the greatest literary frauds, a myth that perpetuates to this day.

George Barrington was born around 1755 near Dublin, Ireland. It seems that his troubled past began quite early when, at the age of just 16, he fled his school after stabbing another boy with a penknife and stealing money and a gold watch from the headmaster. Continue reading