The last time Robert Barnes addressed our meeting he described the preparations for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Collins settlement at Sorrento. Today he did an appraisal of the events which occurred in October 2003.
Overall Robert feels that the aims of the committee were achieved and most importantly he hopes that more people are now aware that the Collins settlement existed. Not all events planned eventuated. Some events, like the street parade could have been better organised but on balance he regards the commemoration as a success.
Sufficient funds were raised which meant that attractive prizes were available for events like the statewide Air Race, the Bowling Carnival at Sorrento, and the Golf Tournament at Cape Schank. The Bicentenary Yacht Race from Queenscliff to Blairgowrie and return was successful and will continue as an annual event.
The Cocktail Party for the descendants of the Collins settlers and the Bicentenary Dinner at the Blairgowrie Yacht Club were well attended. More than 800 people participated in the Ecumenical service held in the Catholic church in Sorrento. The Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Baptist Church and the Salvation Army joined together for the occasion and the five ministers looked very smart wearing matching stoles with the logo of the bicentenary ( sailing ships superimposed on the map of Victoria ) on one corner.
The tall ships were a disappointment. It had been hoped that several tall ships would be involved in the re-enactment of the Collins' landing but some owners requested as much as $40,000 financial assistance. The "Enterprize" had been struggling financially due to high insurance fees, and as the committee thought this ship should be present, it was decided to cover those costs. The "Lady Nelson"(1) was also considered to be important but its costs were covered by the sale of berths for trips from Hobart to Launceston and across Bass Strait to Melbourne and return. So there were only two tall ships, but whilst in Sorrento they were very popular, providing tours every day from the pier.
Beautiful weather brought out a good crowd of people for the final day's events. They gathered along Sorrento's main shopping strip and on the foreshore where there was some musical entertainment. The timing of the street parade was not well organised thus creating a hiatus between its end and the re-enactment of the landing. Never-the-less the re-enactment was fun with people in appropriate costumes and the firing of a cannon. There were several speeches including one given by a representative from the local indigenous community.
As a permanent reminder of Collin's settlement a monument was erected. Made of granite, it is decorated with an anchor, outlines the story of the settlement, and lists the names of the people who made up the party.
Although the Nepean Historical Society proof read what was to be engraved, when the monument was unveiled it was found to have ten serious errors. "Bass Strait" was even spelt "Bass Straight". Fortunately the plaque maker was able to correct the errors. Parks Victoria on behalf of the local indigenous community wrote a letter to the committee requesting that the story on the monument be changed. However following a reply stating changes could be made if they paid the $5,000 - $7,000 cost, nothing has been heard.
Winding down the Corporation has proved to be very difficult. It has been necessary to spend its $25,000 surplus. Some of this money has been spent on supplying electricity to illuminate the Historical Monument at night-time, and the remainder has been given to the Nepean Historical Society in trust to build a kiosk / visitor centre at the actual site of the settlement.
So what did Robert learn from this experience? Aim high, plan years ahead and seek funding early.
(1) "Lady Nelson" under Captain Grant was the first ship to sail through Bass Strait from west to east, 3rd December 1800.
Contributed by Jan Hanslow ( PPPG Member No. 1057 )
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