A kind friend let me know about the existence of this plaque so while I was in Plymouth I made sure to find it. It is in the historic Barbican area, opposite the marina and next door to a pub called The Admiral.
It’s a wonderful plaque – if only it were true!
According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography Lieutenant Henry Waterhouse and Lieutenant William Kent bought twenty-six merino sheep (in fact early proto-types of the breed) at the Cape (now called Capetown, in modern South Africa). The return voyage was very stormy and slow, but more than half of Waterhouse’s stock survived to reach Sydney in June 1797. These were the first merino sheep imported into the colony, and Waterhouse supplied lambs to many of the settlers including John Macarthur and Samuel Marsden; but most of the flock was sold to William Cox when Waterhouse left the colony.
Perhaps John Macarthur can be said to have brought prosperity but I do wish his wife was given some credit, given that John spent more than 16 years in England while Elizabeth actively managed their farms in New South Wales. And the household and farm staff. And several of her own pre-school aged children!
It’s OK, I’m laughing while I’m ranting! It would be even funnier if the plaque were to note that Captain Macarthur (by this stage a private citizen rather than an army officer) was instrumental in the military coup/mutiny that overthrew Bligh as Governor of NSW in 1808… I can only imagine that Bligh must have thought – as did the whale in the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – “Oh no, not again!”
John Macarthur grew up in and above his father’s shop in Fore Street, Devonport (now part of Plymouth but then a separate town). The shop sold coarse fabric to the navy, for sailors to make up into their own clothes. This fabric was called slops and Fore Street was the main thoroughfare leading to the navy wharves.
I drove down Fore Street (after lots of navigating by simply driving around) but it is lined with modern homes. It’s still not a particularly genteel area.
A couple of other plaques near the one above also referred to Australia. One about the convict transports Friendship and Charlotte as well as one about the Cornish immigrants to South Australia – click on the thumbnails below. The third has no Australian connection at all – I just liked it. It must have been all the fish….