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by Gordon Forth
In December 1840, George Winter, a gentleman squatter, visited the recently founded settlement of Port Phillip. It was on this occasion that Winter clashed bitterly with a fellow Ascendancy colonist, Augustine Barton, in the presence of the diarist and leading member of the 'Irish Cousinage' Charles Griffith.
In the course of an 'unpleasant altercation', Winter denounced Barton's conduct as 'very colonial' , a statement which Griffith considered 'expresses what we call at home going very close to the wind'.' Some months later, Griffith and no doubt other Port Phillip gentlemen were struck by the appearance of George Winter's younger brother Samuel as he rode through the settlement.
A confident and experienced bushman of twenty-five, full-bearded, tall and strikingly handsome, the younger,Winter reminded Griffith of 'one of the knights errant in the days of chivalry'.' On such occasions it was apparently Winter's custom to have an Aboriginal page in livery mounted up behind him and to be escorted by several retainers on foot.
In attempting to play the eighteenth century style grand seigneur, Winter may well have been influenced by romantic images from his Ascendancy background. In a modified colonial fashion, he was possibly striving to emulate the likes of John Fitzmaurice, later Earl of Shelburne, who a century earlier had received official guests resplendent in brilliant feudal regalia attended by mounted retainers.
Such unusual as well as less remarkable behaviour on the part of Australia's Ascendancy colonists can often be linked to their Old World Irish background. As representative of a separate national subgroup, these Anglo-Irish brought with them to Australia distinctive and commonly held attitudes and customs.
Both consciously and unconsciously, this Anglo-Irish tradition influenced the responses of these Ascendancy to their new and changing circumstances in the Australian colonies."
This article looks at how Anglo-Irish colonists brought distinctive and commonly held attitudes and customs to Colonial Australia.