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29-September-2011 (Sandra Brown)
29-September-2011 (Sandra Brown)

Photographs supplied by Sandra Brown / Stephen Warren

The plaque on the Old Gum Tree commemorates the Colony`s 21st anniversary.  It was affixed 26 February 1858 as rain had prevented it from being affixed on 28 December 1857.

In December 1836 the old gum tree was the site where Governor Hindmarsh proclaimed South Australia. There were approximately 200 settlers and colonial secretary Robert Gouger present at the proclamation. Today the proclamation is read on the exact date each year and anyone can attend this event.

Probably not five per cent, of the great multitude who will visit Glenelg on Monday can claim to have ever seen the historical old gum tree, under which the proclamation of South Australia as a province is supposed to have been read. The reason is that it is situated somewhat remotely from the beach. It faces McFarlane Street in the township originally designated St. Leonards- on-Sea about three quarters of a mile in a straight line north-easterly from the local town hall.

When the 1836 pioneers were still alive controversies used to arise periodically over the point whether the McFarlane Street tree really was the one that sheltered the little band of colonists on the sweltering day of the proclamation.  Unfortunately, the contention did not begin until the face of the landscape had been so changed that even the most authoritative and reliable survivors of the Buffalo's company could not with certainty locate the actual spot of the historical ceremony. Mrs. Robert Thomas, wife of the founder of the South Australian press, wrote in her letters and diary (edited by her grandson, Mr. E. Kyffin Thomas) that any one of the gum trees which used to grace Hindley street, Adelaide, might as well have been selected for traditional distinction, as the dried-up old trunk now enclosed at St. Leonards. Other pioneers of 1836 were just as emphatic in the opposite direction.  Certain it is that the vexed question will never be settled definitely after this lapse of time, and no good purpose would be served by examining in detail the evidence for and against. At least the old gum serves as a valuable symbol of a great historical occasion, and is worthy of a pilgrimage on the part of any visitor to Glenelg. The plot of ground on which 'The Tree' rests was the property of John Hector, first manager of the Savings Bank, and was by him on December 28, 1857, conveyed to the '''Mayor, aldermen, councillors, and burgesses of the town of Glenelg,"  in order that the tree might be preserved and protected to commemorate the proclamation of the province, "in consideration of the sum of ten shillings of lawful British money."

When South Australia attained its majority, on December 28. 1857, arrangements had. been made for Governor MacDonnell to affix a brass plate to the tree bearing an inscription descriptive of its historical import. The day, however, was wet and stormy, and Governor MacDonnell did not appear. A crowd of people waited on the spot for two hours, but their patience became exhausted. The more boisterous spirits among them hoisted a flag, broke a bottle of wine against the tree, and sang the National Anthem. The brass plate was placed in position later, and its inscription declares without equivocation that here was the actual location of the proclamation proceedings.
The Mail (Adelaide), 27th December 1924.



Address:43 McFarlane Street, Old Gum Tree Reserve, Glenelg North, 5045
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -34.970511
Long: 138.520504
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Landscape


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Friday 26th February, 1858
Front Inscription

On this spot on the 28th Decr. 1836 the Colony of South Australia was proclaimed & established as a Province by Captn. John Hindmarsh R.N.

The Governor thereof acting in the name & on behalf of His Majesty King William IV in the presence of the Chief Officers of  the Government and other colonists on the 28th Decr. 1857

The record of the above fact was here publicly affixed by Sir R. G. MacDonnell, Knt C.B. Governor in Chief of the Province in  the presence of the assembled colonists to commemorate the event of the Colony attaining its 21st year and to testify their  feelings by a day of public rejoicing

God save the Queen


Source: SAM, MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au