What the Explorers Saw

(1822 map by John Oxley – accessed through NLA Trove)

The Goulburn district, with its patchwork of paddocks, dams, roads and grids of towns and villages, is so familiar that it is hard to visualise what it was like before European settlement – what it was like 200 years ago.

History Goulburn member Jennifer Lamb has been researching the journals of the first European explorers to view the Mulwaree/Goulburn Plains. “The explorers’ journals give fascinating descriptions of the landscape, flora and fauna of our region over 200 years ago.  What struck the explorers,” she says “were the treeless plains spreading around and beyond the Mulwaree River.”

At 2pm, Sunday 8 September, Lamb will give a talk What the Explorers Saw based on her research.  Presented by History Goulburn Events, it will be at the Goulburn Soldiers Club.

The first European sighting of the district was in 1798.  Former convict John Wilson saw the Mulwaree plains and the Wollondilly River from the top of Mount Towrang.  The river, he said, was “the size of the Nepean River with a great run of water”.

That was not enough, however, to encourage further exploration, and it was twenty years before Europeans came back – at least officially.

In 1818 Charles Throsby and James Meehan reached Moorooaulin (Marulan) describing it as “a beautiful piece of fine forest . . . picturesque and (as) good forest as can be wished for.”

Meehan continued on to Lake Bathurst and followed the Mulwaree to near where the airport now is, before veering back to Moorooaulin.  His greatest praise was for the land along the Mulwaree: “a very extensive plain . . . without trees . . .the landscape is beautiful surrounded by a chain of grassy forest hills. To a person in the habit seeing nothing but forest or brush land such an extent of clear land must be very novel and delightful.”

Charles Throsby was a significant colonial explorer of the Goulburn region and is notable for his respect for the local Aboriginal people and his constant use of original place names, such as  Cookbundoon, Wallandilli (Arthursleigh), Eeleelongh (Greenwich Park), Mulwaree or Mulwarra and Weereewaa..

In October 1820, Governor Macquarie crossed the Goulburn Plains – the future site of Goulburn CBD was again bypassed – on his way to Bundong and Weereewaa (Lakes Bathurst and George), the latter “discovered” by Joseph Wild in August 1820.

On his return to Sydney, Macquarie decreed that the land beyond the Cookbundoon Range was open for the depasturing of cattle and sheep – European settlement.  The landscape was to be reshaped again.

Starting at 2pm, Sunday 8 September at the Soldiers Club, What the Explorers saw will offer a new way to see our local landscape.  Bookings for the talk can be made at historygoulburn.events@gmail.com (subject line ‘Explorers’).

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