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A new biography of Governor Bourke.

Called Forgotten Hero by Max Waugh this is a new look at the important Richard Bourke who was the Governor of New South Wales from 1831 until 1837. I am particularly interested in Bourke because his term as Governor covers the period of John Lang's boyhood in Sydney from the age of fourteen to twenty one when he left for England. Also Governor Bourke was especially interested in education and this biography takes a special look into that subject. Richard Bourke was born in Ireland in 1777 into an Anglo-Irish family. He was distantly related to Edmund Burke and was greatly influenced by his famous relative. His early years were spent in military service in the wars against Napoleon often with Wellington in Spain. On one occasion he returned home because his wile was seriously ill but his family increased and he had a total of two sons and three daughters. He spent time on the family property in Ireland. Like many men at the time he was often in financial difficulty.

It is interesting to see that Richard Bourke dealt with the troublesome situation in Cape Province, South Africa as Acting Governor from 1825 to 1828. Here he had to deal with the large Dutch population and the discontented immigrant British settlers problems mainly with the legal organisation stemming from the Dutch legal system. Then there was in addition the question of slavery to cope with.

His appointment as Governor of New South Wales followed and he had conflicts with the establishment here--conflicts over his ideas and concern for education. His liberal attitude in government is covered in detail and the growing opposition to the continuation of transportation had to be attended to. Most Australians know something of the history of his Governorship but he is often forgotten by present day citizens. It is written in a straightforward graceful style. There is no literary jargon and no post colonial attack on British imperialism. It tells the story of a man who, as Judge Roger Therry said at the unveiling of his stature, 'he came to New South Wales to light the lamp of knowledge in the cottage of every peasant and on the stall of every mechanic, and proclaim to every emigrant who touched these shores, that [here is] freedom to worship God according to conscience.'

It was the freedom of religion, which of course meant that the Roman Catholics would be accepted as equal, that aroused so much opposition by the Church of England establishment. This together with Bourke's passion for the education of everyone from the poor and lowly to the wealthy and great that is his great legacy to Australia. His statue was erected by public subscription from many of the simple workers, descendant of the convicts, as well as the successful tradesman and mechanics and a few of the 'noble' families. The statue still stands outside the Mitchell Library near Macquarie Street in Sydney. A photograph of the statue adorns the cover of this biography.
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Author:Crittenden, Victor
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Words:500
Previous Article:Andrew Barton ("Banjo") Paterson, bush poet, lawyer and journalist.
Next Article:Editorial.
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