The Legacy of Our Ancestors [2020]

Nov 30, 2020

Jay Hutchison

Judges’ comments:  This submission inspires a great image of Australia’s past and reflects on the energy that birthed the nations great identity. Jay Hutchison encourages a feeling of bond with our families and to remember our responsibility to the past and future. Both broad and personal, this year’s essay was announced as the winner and the prize was personally awarded by the President of the BAC due to complications with the COVID-19 virus postponing the regular Britfest presentation.


The Legacy of our Ancestors, by Jay Hutchison (Victoria)

From humble beginnings as a mere penal colony to one of the greatest nations on Earth in under 200 years, Australia owes its success almost exclusively to the British heritage and culture that has shaped it into the remarkable society it is today. The spirit, heritage, and traditions passed onto us from our ancestors is what has truly made us extraordinary.

The British people arguably have one of the world’s greatest legacies as explorers, conquerors, and pioneers. As seafaring people, this enduring and persevering nature took them by wind and sail to the ends of the Earth. Thanks to this legacy, the British Empire, unmatched like no other in history, was able to boast of the sun never setting on its lands. The explorer’s spirit saw great men such as James Cook set out on numerous daring expeditions across the world and back, and Matthew Flinders who tirelessly charted much of our extensive coastline. The cultural legacy of the adventurous and enduring British spirit has continued to this day within young Australians, including the likes of Jesse Martin and Jessica Watson who both became the youngest people to sail solo around the globe unassisted. These near impossible feats prove that the steadfast spirit that drove our forebears to achieve greatness is still thriving in our people today.

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of our heritage is the legacy of architecture that was left to us by our British ancestors. Whilst Australian cities are plagued with the continuous erection of soulless eyesores that accompany any rapidly evolving modern skyline, glimpses of a once aesthetically pleasing European-styled city can thankfully still be seen. We have stunning places of worship such as St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was designed by English born architect William Butterfield in the late 19th century, is perhaps one of Melbourne’s most beautiful landmarks. From its impressively intricate spires to the wonderfully crafted stained glass windows, the building stands proudly in the heart of the city as a testament to our abilities as craftsmen and our creative vision.

Regional towns such as Ballarat, home of Australia’s largest gold rush, are filled with stunning buildings that showcase Australia’s rich history that ties together a once new, exciting frontier of a young nation to the roots of its people’s ancestral homelands. Lydiard Street in Ballarat has many brilliant examples of British neoclassical architecture on display such as the magnificent Mining Exchange designed by Charles Douglas Figgis that began construction in 1887. It still stands today surrounded by many other masterful structures of the time period. Our story as a people is inherently intertwined with these marvelous works of history gifted to us by our predecessors.

Although there are probably many more positive and perhaps more noteworthy influences that British heritage and culture has had on Australia, the one nearest and dearest to my heart has to be the quintessentially British Sunday roast. When I think of this time-honoured tradition, images come to life of being a young boy at my beloved grandmother’s house asking for a second helping of Yorkshire puddings. A table filled with roast beef, chicken, or pork with crispy crackling, accompanying sides of potatoes, pumpkins, parsnips, carrots, and string beans all to be smothered in a generous helping of delicious gravy as soon as it’s served to the plate. The family sitting around the dining room table enjoying stories of old about loved ones across the seas or that have long since passed. Not only is it just a wholesome family event, but the gathering serves as an intergenerational bonding activity tying the young and the old together through commonality and the sharing of lived experiences.

The generations above myself in the family tree, almost all of which were born in Great Britain, feel a strong connection to their homelands. Through them I feel a natural affinity and almost spiritual connection to Great Britain too. The feeling of belonging to a greater collective of people through blood, history, and a strong cultural tradition kept alive by these bonds. Although my grandma’s famous roast recipes were lost with her sudden passing, one day I hope to be able to continue the multigenerational British tradition of the Sunday roast with my family and, in time, my own children too.

The culture, heritage, and traditions of Great Britain can only be said to have had a positive influence on Australia and its people. The enduring spirit of our ancestors still burns bright to this day, pushing us ever forward in life to explore the unknown, to strive for greatness, and to fight for the continuation of our legacy. I hold my head high and am proud to be from such a brilliant race who left a profound impact on Australia and the world.

© Jay Hutchison, 2020