To coincide with the bicentenary of the death of Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales, there will be a First Fleet Descendants Reunion Picnic on Sunday 31 August in Wallabadah. The picnic will be held in the award-winning First and Second Fleet Memorial Gardens. The reunion will be a fantastic opportunity for descendants of the people on the First Fleet to meet each other and perhaps reunite with long-lost relatives, as well as for those who have just discovered their ancestry to find out more. Anyone in the community who’s interested in Australian history or researching their family tree is also welcome to attend, and there will be family history specialists on hand to share their expertise.
The picnic will kick off at 9am and entry is by gold coin donation. As well as the chance to socialise and share stories, it will also be a fun family day out – there’s guided tours through the gardens, a history-themed trivia challenge, fun photo props and a costume competition, and a treasure hunt for the kids. Hear stories from Australia’s convict and maritime past and listen to speeches from First Fleet descendants. Delicious picnic hampers and drinks will be on sale with all the proceeds going to local community groups.
The Memorial Gardens are a unique labour of love by stonemason Ray Collins. Ray is the descendent of convict John Cross, who arrived in Port Jackson on the First Fleet – the first group of eleven ships carrying convicts from England to Australia in 1788. Ray Collins began work on his memorial project in 2002, and after considering a number of different towns across New South Wales, the village of Wallabadah unveiled the product of his vision on Australia Day in 2005. Ray has carved the names of all those who travelled on the First and Second Fleets on to 78 hand-shaped sandstone and zeolite tablets. Interpretive signage with details of the ships, the lives of the convicts and their first encounters with the new country is posted through the gardens.
The Gardens are not to be missed if you’re visiting Wallabadah or passing through the area on the New England Highway. Wallabadah is located 55km south of Tamworth and a short 15min drive east of Quirindi. The First and Second Fleet Memorial Gardens are a quiet, green oasis on the banks of Quirindi Creek, a great place for a family picnic and an opportunity to read the stories of the lives of the First and Second Fleet crew and convicts. If you’re interested in organising a tour of the Gardens or would like more info on the Descendants Reunion Picnic, you can contact the Liverpool Plains Visitor Information Centre on 6747 1226 or check out the Memorial Gardens on Facebook.
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