Today is the birthday of William Lawson (1774), an explorer of New South Wales who co-discovered a passage inland through the Blue Mountains from Sydney. He was later a land owner, grazier, and elected official. Lawson was born in Finchley in Middlesex in England, son of Scottish parents who had lived at Kirkpatrick. He trained as a surveyor in London but later bought a commission in the New South Wales Corps and migrated to Sydney, arriving in November 1800. Shortly after his arrival he was posted to work at the military station at Norfolk Island. It was here that he met Sarah Leadbeater with whom he married and had eleven children. By 1813, when Lawson received the invitation of Gregory Blaxland to cross the Blue Mountains, he had become an established colonial officer and pastoralist in New South Wales with lands in Concord and Prospect.
Lawson commenced his exploration of the Blue Mountains alongside Gregory Blaxland and William Charles Wentworth on 11 May 1813. He kept a journal of the expedition titled, ‘W Lawsons Narrative. Across Blue Mountains .’ In his first entry he writes:
Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and myself with four men and four Horses- Laden with Provisions etc- took our Departure on Tuesday the 11th May 1813. Crossed the Nepean River at Mr. Chapman’s Farm Emma Island at four oclock and proceeded SW. Two miles. Encamped at 5 oclock at the foot of the first [Nioji] of Hills.
You can find the full text here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lawson_%28explorer%29. It’s pretty terse and to the point, mostly documenting longitude and latitude, which aided others later in retracing their steps.
The expedition party included four servants, four pack horses and five dogs. Two of the four men who assisted the party have been identified as James Burne (or Burnes), a guide and kangaroo hunter, and Samuel Fairs, a convict who arrived in Australia in 1809. The two others, also thought to be convicts, remain unidentified.
The party left from Blaxland’s South Creek farm near the modern suburb of St Marys in western Sydney, on 11 May 1813 and crossed the Nepean River later that day. They made their way over the mountains, following the ridges, and completed the crossing in 21 days. The explorers’ success has been attributed to the their methodical approach and decision to travel on the ridges instead of through the valleys. The three explorers and two of their servants would set out each day, leaving the other two men at their campsite, and mark out a trail, before turning back later in the day to cut a path for the horses and allow the rest of the party to progress.
Friday Morning 14th May at Half past Nine oclock- left our Camp and Horses with Two men to guard them and Mr. Blaxland Wentworth and Self proceeded to cut away the brush for our Horses to pass and to Examine the Course of the Mountains- kept on what we judged the main Ridge between the Groce and western River. Cut a Road about five miles through a thick brush this is a very poor Rocky and Sandy Country I ever saw with great quantitys of Honey Suckle growing and the gullys extremely deep. Returned to our Camp at five oclock
On 31 May 1813, the party reached the most westerly point of their expedition, now known as Mount Blaxland. On this day,
At nine oclock proceeded S W 3 miles west 2 miles. We are now traveling in a fine grazing Country Crossed two fine streams of water One of them running from the west to other from the NE There is no doubt but these two Streams run into the Western River- Traveled on NW ¼ NNE ¼ SSW ½ Encamped on the side of a fine stream of water it running very fast here is a great Extent of fine Forest land and the best watered Country of any I have seen in the Colony went five miles to the westward- our shoes worn out and provisions nearly Expended Obliged us to Return home the same Course we came. this Country will I have no doubt be a great acquisition to this Colony and no difficulty in making a good Road to it, and take it in a Political point of View if in case of our Invasion it will be a safe Retreat for the Inhabitance with their Familys and that for this part of the Country is so formed by Nature that a few men would be able to defend the passes against a large body- and I have every reason to think that the same Ridge of Mountains we traveled on will lead some distance into the Interior of the Country and also that a Communication can be Easily found from this to the Head of the Coal River where to my knowledge is a Large extent of fine grazing Country and it having water carriage from thence to Portjackson which will be a great consideration
After the crossing, Lawson like Blaxland and Wentworth, was rewarded with a grant of 1,000 acres (4 km²) of land by Governor Macquarie. He selected this land to be along the Campbells River, part of the Bathurst settlement for which he was appointed Commandant until his retirement in 1824. Whilst Commandant he continued to make expeditions, and in 1821 with Constable Blackman discovered the Cudgegong River and further explored Mudgee and its outlying regions.
Once Lawson had retired from the army he entered politics and became a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council for County of Cumberland from 1843 to 1848. He died at his estate Veteran Hall in Prospect on 16 June 1850. The town of Lawson in the Blue Mountains is named for him.
Persistent readers will know that I struggle with Australian recipes. There’s a purportedly Aussie restaurant here in Kunming called The Great Australian Bite (in joke) which a friend from Sydney mentioned to me a few weeks ago. He suggested going with him, but after looking it up online I declined. It was expensive – you could buy 5 Chinese dishes here for the cost of a burger – and all it had were steaks, lamb chops, and burgers. The expense is normal here for tourists who don’t want to try Chinese food (and there’s a lot of them), but, more to the point, it was standard “Western” fare you can get anywhere in the world. Thanks, but I’ll stick with quail eggs and lotus root.
There does, however, seem to be a growing interest in Australia of bush tucker gone upscale. This site gives the idea: http://tasteaustralia.biz/bushfood/. What you are essentially dealing with is native foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) used to supplement Western-style cooking and ingredients. So it’s a bit of a mix. This recipe, modified from the site, is perhaps a little closer to traditional bush tucker. It’s crocodile tail cooked with a wattle seed coating. You could probably modify it any number of ways. You’re going to struggle to get the ingredients outside of Oz, but there are mail order sites online for the wattle seed and paperbark including the one above. Crocodile meat is reasonably easy to find too, or you could probably substitute alligator which is common in a broad swathe of the U.S. South. Not sure about the microwave bit. I’d have thought a wood grill or the like would have been better and a bit closer to a traditional cooking method.
Wattle Seed Crocodile with Wild Fruit
1 kg crocodile tail, deboned
60g ground wattle seed
salt to taste
1 piece damp paperbark
string or cooking twine
80g wild fruit In syrup
Scatter the wattle seed in a baking sheet with salt to taste, and roll the meat around in it until it is evenly coated all over.
Roll the meat into a log and set it in the middle of the paperbark sheet. Wrap it well and tie securely.
Place in a microwave dish and cook on high (750W) for 5 minutes; rest for 5 minutes, invert the roll and cook a further 5 minutes on high.
Chill overnight then remove the bark from the required amount of crocodile (re-wrap and chill the remainder)
Slice crocodile very thinly (approx 2mm)
Fan the crocodile slices around the plate and serve with the wild fruit In syrup for a garnish.
Other wattle seed recipes can be found here.