A behind the scenes peek

The Governor's table with 'actors' ready to begin.

The Governor's table, ready to begin the celebrations. Photo © Sydney Living Museums

Looking for all the world like the annual dinner of the ‘Byron Appreciation Society’, this week we filmed new video content for the upcoming Eat Your History exhibition. Here’s a behind the scenes peek.

If you’ve been to the Hyde Park Barracks lately you would remember video footage projected onto a table of convicts eating their (rather grim) rations.  The footage was shot from above, so what you see is the convicts’ arms and basic tableware as they eat. This week we filmed a far grander affair, evoking the King’s birthday dinner  held by Governor Philip in 1788. Joining us in the proverbial puffy-sleeved shirts as we huzzah-ed George III (visitors in the main galleries of the Museum of Sydney must have have wondered what on earth was going on in the AGL theater) were colleagues from our Web & Screen and Exhibitions teams.  The edited footage will go on display at the end of September at the Museum of Sydney. The food, courtesy of Jacqui was very real – and delicious!

Celebration meal.

Celebration meal © Sydney Living Museums

The original dinner was recorded by George Worgan, a surgeon with the Fleet and – most valuable to us – diarist. Worgan was a friend of the Macarthurs, and when he later left the colony he gave a wonderful parting gift to Elizabeth: his piano.

Wed. 4th [1788]

This being the Anniversary of His Majesty’s Birth Day, Governor Phillip had prepared, for the Celebration of it, with every Mark of Loyalty and Distinction, he could think of. At Sun-rise the British Flags were displayed on Board the Ships, and on the Shore. The Sirius, and Supply fired 21 Guns each; This Ceremony they repeated at 1 oClock, and at Sun-set. At 12 oClock the Battalion was drawn up before the Governor’s House, where, they fired three Vollies of Musketry, the First part of God Save the King being played by the Band between each Volley, after this Ceremony, the Officers of the Battalion, together with the Naval & Civil Departments, proceeded to the Governor’s House, to pay our Respects to the Governor, who received Us with great Politeness, and congratulated Us, on being the first of His Majesty’s Subjects, who celebrated this Day in New South Wales: He had previously given a general Invitation to the Officers to dine with Him; and about 2 o’Clock We sat down to a very good Entertainment, considering how far we are from Leaden-Hall Market, it consisted of Mutton. Pork Ducks, Fowls, Fish, Kanguroo, Sallads, Pies & preserved Fruits, The  Potables  consisted of Port, Lisbon, Madeira, Teneriffe and good old English Porter, these went merrily round in Bumpers.

… In the Course of the Afternoon the Governor had occasion to step into an adjacent Room, when; it was intimated by some one to pay Him a flattering Compliment, and every Gentleman standing up & filling his Glass, we all with one Voice gave, as the Toast, The Governor and the Settlement, We then gave three Huzza’s, as we had done indeed after every loyal Toast, The Band playing the whole Time.

George Worgan, Diary of  First Fleet Surgeon. Library Council of New South Wales; Library of Australian History Sydney 1978

A ‘bumper’ is a glass filled to the brim, so it sounds like it was a very merrie occasion. The harrowing days of food shortages and half rations were, however, just around the corner. If you missed Jacqui’s earlier post on just what was being eaten in the early days of the colony, you can read it here.

Setting up for filming.

Setting up for filming. Photo © Sydney Living Museums

Setting the Governor's table.

Setting the Governor’s table. Photo © Sydney Living Museums

The Governor's table.

The Governor’s table. Photo © Sydney Living Museums

The Governor's table.

The Governor’s table. Photo © Sydney Living Museums