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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - August 21, 2016

Our Alcoholic History - Aussies and Drinking

1 What part played by Alcohol in our history is unique in world history?
  RUM was the OFFICIAL currency of NSW for 22 years!
2 What is the connection between alcohol and our seat of government in NSW?
  Parliament House was part of the 'Rum Hospital' built in exchange for the monopoly on rum imports.
3 Why didn't Aussies become big beer drinkers till the 1880s?
  There was no refrigeration.

The Australian character and history is inextricably linked to alcohol.
With a population consisting entirely of convicts, soldiers, sailors and children born out of wedlock in prison hulks, the First Fleet set a national trend for drunkenness and tolerance of alcohol that could never be entirely reversed. in 1788 there was an extraordinarily widespread acceptance of alcohol in British society. In the navy, 'grog' was part of the daily life.

Cut yer name across me backbone, Stretch me skin across a drum,
Iron me up on Pinchgut Island From to-day till Kingdom Come!
 I will eat yer Norfolk dumpling Like a juicy Spanish plum,
Even dance the Newgate Hornpipe If ye’ll only gimme RUM!

Early in 1793, just after Arthur Phillip had returned to Britain and left Major Francis Grose temporarily in charge of the fledgling colony, an American ship with the ironic name of the Hope sailed into Sydney with a cargo that included 7 500 gallons of rum. The captain, one Benjamin Page, refused to sell his cargo except in one lot, including the rum. This monopoly by the officers of what became known as the Rum Corps led eventually to the corruption that caused the so-called Rum Rebellion of 1808, when the Corps successfully rose up against the governor of the day, William Bligh.
In order to maintain a more usual style of authority, Bligh’s successor Lachlan Macquarie arrived with his own regiment in 1810 and the Rum Corps was disbanded.

A canny Scot, Macquarie cleverly established a currency by purchasing a cargo of 10,000 Spanish dollars in 1814 and having the centre cut out of every coin - known as the 'holey dollar' (the bit in the middle, of much less value, was known as the 'dump') this replaced rum as the official currency.
Macquarie gave the monopoly to import the spirit to a group of businessmen. In exchange they built Sydney’s first hospital, Parliament house is part of that building.


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