Tonight Napoleon Bonaparte (the lawyer) will face the Duke of Wellington (the bank manager) at the Hero of Waterloo pub in The Rocks.
It is not so much a rematch, more of a commemoration to mark today’s 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815.
It was a conflict that gave Sydney the suburb of Waterloo, NSW the town of Orange (named after the Prince of Orange given temporary command of the Allied forces) and, of course, the name for the pub itself. There’s even a memorial plaque at Waterloo Library that was unveiled, albeit belatedly, in 1990 by the 8th Duke of Wellington.
You would be entitled to think: What has this got to do with us?
Wasn’t the defeat of Napoleon by the duke’s allied army comprising British, Dutch and Prussian soldiers amongst other nations rather a European affair a long way from the fledgling colony?
But in fact Australia is entitled to mark the occasion. The nation had one soldier on the battlefield, Andrew Douglas White, the bastard son of a convict mother.
It was all down to the paltry theft of a muslin apron, some other bits of fabric and a pair of metal butter boats (like a gravy boat) worth little more than $4.
Servant Rachel Turner, charged with the crime of grand larceny, was accused of taking the items from her employer and told London’s Old Bailey criminal court that her master said he would forgive her if she confessed. But on December 12, 1787, she was sentenced to seven years transportation. Aged about 28, she arrived in 1790 on the Lady Juliana, the first ship of the Second Fleet carrying 245 female convicts and served as housekeeper to ship’s surgeon Dr John White and gave birth in Parramatta to his son, Andrew.
According to the Napoleon Series, an online forum for Napoleonic history, at 15 months his father took him to England where he was educated and later joined the Royal Engineers as a second lieutenant. He survived the Battle of Waterloo unscathed and returned to Sydney late in 1822 as Australia’s first returned serviceman where he was reunited with his mother.
Tonight’s event at the Hero of Waterloo promises to be a colourful affair and will be attended by NSW Governor David Hurley, who as former Chief of Defence Force is himself no stranger to military strategy. The pub’s resident ghost, Anne Kirkman, wife of a former womanising landlord who kicked her down the stone stairs, will be there in spirit in the form of amateur actress Sarah Simson.
Commercial litigation lawyer Arthur Carney, who assumes the role of Bonaparte, asked if he was expecting a barracking, said: “I hope so. Napoleon was such a legend, good or bad, people are interested in him.”
St George bank manager Edwin Jan said his character, the Duke of Wellington, had a serious look about him. “As a bank manager that comes quite easily to me,” he said.
As Sydney’s oldest existing pub, The Hero of Waterloo boasts a secret tunnel which, although now sealed, once provided an underground link to a nearby wharf. It had two uses. One as an inbound supply route for smuggled rum and secondly as an exit route for press-ganged new recruits for undermanned clippers waiting on the harbour.
Men drinking in the bar would be slipped a Mickey Finn, a drink laced with spirits, to get them quickly intoxicated. They would be taken through the tunnel at night and the following morning, presumably a rude awakening, find themselves shackled on board a ship preparing to raise anchor.
Author: Tim Barlass