26 July 2015

Wellington 150: a capital anniversary

Wellington c.1865 (via National Library)
In honour of the 150th anniversary today of the opening of the first Parliamentary session held in Wellington following the formal transfer of capital city status from Auckland to Wellington, here's the local newspaper's account of the opening of the general assembly back in 1865 during a traditional Wellington winter howler:

OPENING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Yesterday afternoon, at two o'clock, the ceremony of opening Parliament took place for the first time in Wellington since the removal of the seat of Government. The weather, unfortunately, turned out very wet, although in the morning it had given promise of a fine day. The Wellington Rifle Volunteers were ordered to parade on the Reclaimed Land at a quarter to one o'clock, to form a guard of honor for his Excellency [Governor George Grey], and at that time they had mustered in pretty strong force, there being present Major Gorton, commandant of Militia and Volunteers, Captain Kirwan, Captain Pilmer, Lieutenant Mills, Ensign Holmes, and about sixty rank and file. At half-past one o'clock they marched up to the House of Assembly in Molesworth Street, and on arriving there, were opened out into two ranks facing inwards, and after the usual preliminaries of "eyes left," "dress," &c., were ordered to stand easy as if such a thing were possible in the very uncomfortable state of the weather. In fact, the belles of Wellington, who had sent their gallant defenders to take part in the grand demonstration on the day, must have been grievously disappointed at the appearance of their heroes, for however prim they might have left home, the soaking they got there would doubtless damp all esprit de Corps

However, after waiting patiently for some time in anxious expectation, an Albert Car was driven up smartly to the entrance, and necks were stretched to their utmost extension to catch a glimpse of His Excellency, but only to be disappointed, for the occupants turned out to be three ladies, who, although not expected were probably all the more admired. At a quarter to two o'clock some one in livery rushed out of the door in frantic haste and commenced ringing a large bell in a most energetic manner, the meaning of which ceremony was to warn all laggard members to take their places. This passed over, and a few minutes before two o'clock expectation was gratified by seeing a small body of dark figures leave Government House and take road to the House of Assembly. A bugler (or perhaps we ought rather to call him a Herald) sounded a call on his instrument and immediately the gallant Major gave the orders "shoulder arms", "present arms" the band of the company playing inspiriting music during the time of transit from the gates to the House. His Excellency, accompanied by Major Grey, A.D.C., Capt. Bulkley, A.D.C., the Rev Mr Thatcher, Private Secretary, a Native Assessor, and other members of his staff, all in full uniform, advanced uncovered between the two lines of volunteers, but the effect was much marred by the sparkling uniforms being hid under horse cloaks, worn in consequence of the rain. After divesting themselves of these outer garments, His Excellency and suite at once proceeded to the House of the Legislative Council.
- Wellington Independent, 27 July 1865

See also:
History: Anzac Day eve street parade, 24 April 2015
History: Wellington Anniversary Day 1850, 22 January 1850
History: Pencarrow Lighthouse 1859, 20 January 2014

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