Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Michael Massey Robinson-The Only Aussie Poet Laureate

Many believe Australia has never appointed its own official Poet Laureate but this is incorrect.
We've had a whole ONE Poet Laureate in our history.

Michael Massey Robinson was shipped over to good old Botany Bay like countless thousands of other convicts, even though he was a well educated and practicing attorney in London.
Michael was actually sentenced to death but, like so many before and after him, this was commuted to transportation for life. His crime was trying to screw money out of a bloke by threatening to publish a poem accusing him of murder. Nasty.

Anyways, from the very start, before the ship even popped into port at Sydney Robinson was treated differently; he was given free run of the ship, mixed with the passengers and was allowed a bottle of wine every day with his lunch. Niiice.

Robinson was rubbing shoulders with a chappie named Richard Dore who was on his way over to the colony to become judge-advocate. Dore and Robinson became such great mates that Dore had Robinson assigned to him as secretary and chief clerk, with a conditional pardon being bestowed upon Robinson by the Governor a mere 2 weeks after landing in Sydney.

Robinson managed to keep his nose clean for 4 years but then he was convicted to seven years of the best on Norfolk Island by Governor King for "wilful and corrupt perjury". A petition from leading citizens saved Robinson's neck but the silly bugger was up to mischief soon after, forging permits, and this time he was sent to Norfolk Island.

Robinson graced the penal island for 18 miserable months and was allowed to return to Sydney where he got hitched at the ripe old age of 63. Governor Macquarie felt some sympathy for the reprobate so he gave Robinson a free pardon and his old job back as principal clerk.

Macquarie encouraged his writing and soon Michael Massey Robinson's pen was gushing forth in florid prose. The Governor commissioned him to compose odes for the celebrations of King George III and Queen Charlotte, inviting him to official receptions to recite his writings.
The Sydney Gazette even published them for the colony to cast their baby blues across them.

By 1818 Robinson was referred to as Poet Laureate by Macquarie and other officials; he was given the gift of 2 cows per year as payment and 600 acres with 3 convict servants.

Alas, with the going of Governor Macquarie and the coming of Governor Brisbane the title was retired along with Robinson's odes, although he retained his job as principal clerk till he dropped off the perch aged 82.

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