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SYDNEY WITH A WHY OR AN EYE?

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
 

When Lady Frances Sidney ran foul of Queen Elizabeth I, she adopted a family motto which the much-maligned organisers of Sydney's 2000 Olympics might well have copied: God preserve me from calumny!

Lady Sidney was born in 1531, the daughter of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst, Kent and the aunt of the poet Sir Philip Sidney. In 1555 she became the second wife of Thomas Radcliffe, who in 1557 succeeded his father as Earl of Sussex. Like her husband, Lady Frances was a trusted courtier, serving as one of Queen Elizabeth's Ladies of the Bedchamber. After the Earl's death in 1583, Lady Frances incurred the Queen's displeasure, as a result of slanders about her treatment of her late husband, so she adopted the motto Dieu me garde de calomnie.

The Earl and Countess of Sussex were childless, and in her widowhood Lady Frances planned various charitable works. In her will, made shortly before her death in 1589, she left 5000 for the foundation of "some good and godlie moniment for the mainteynance of good learninge ... to be called the Ladie Fraunces Sidney Sussex Colledge."

In 1596 Lady Frances Sidney Sussex College was formally founded in Cambridge, with James Montagu, a great-nephew of the foundress, as its first master. Ever since, Sidney Sussex College has been an important part of Cambridge University. One of its earliest students was Oliver Cromwell.

This fascinating story came to light during a survey of the many places around the world named Sydney or Sidney which may share some of the excitement when the eyes of the world focus on Australia's Sydney in September. Sidney Sussex College seems to be the only place in Britain bearing the name.

Australia's largest city, which now boasts a population of four million, was named in honour of Lord Sydney (born Thomas Townshend) who was Britain's Home Secretary when Captain (later Governor) Arthur Phillip sailed his First Fleet into the Harbour in 1788.

In the Sydney Morning Herald on June 30, 2000 (the 200th anniversary of Lord Sydney's death) Andrew Tink, a member of the New South Wales Parliament, wrote: "Townshend became a very significant political figure during the 1780s, playing a key role in the emergence of the United States and the beginnings of Australia and Canada. In recognition of his pivotal role in helping formalise the peace treaty with America following the Revolution, Townshend was made Baron Sydney in 1783. The name Sydney derives from Normandy and in Old English meant 'dweller of the wide well-watered land' - not a bad description of the city today.

"As Home Secretary in the Pitt Government, he was responsible for devising a plan to settle convicts at Botany Bay. Townshend's choice of Arthur Phillip as Governor was inspired, as his leadership ensured the colony survived the early years of struggle. Phillip named Sydney Cove in honour of Townshend on January 22, 1788."

Lord Sydney, like Lady Frances Sidney, was a true-blue Royalist: a grandson of Viscount Townshend, he became Baron Sydney of Chiselhurst in 1783. One of his daughters married the Earl of Chatham.

In sharp contrast, in 1776 - 12 years before the Australian Sydney was named - the former British colony of Virginia (now one of the United States of America) named a college in one of its early settlements Hampden-Sydney, in memory of two English politicians many Americans regarded as republican martyrs:

John Hampden (1594-1643) who had attempted to arrest King Charles I, an action which helped to precipitate the English Civil War. He was a cousin of Oliver Cromwell ("Old Noll,") the general and politician who had defeated the Royalists at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, to become Lord Protector of England from 1653 to 1658.

Algernon Sydney or Sidney (1622-1683) who spelt his name both ways. He had supported Parliament against Charles I; Charles II had later pardoned him. He was beheaded in the Tower of London for participation in the Rye House Plot.

The Hampden-Sydney College website on the Internet (www.hsc.edu/www) says that American patriots who founded the college named it after the two Englishmen "because they represented a devotion to the principles of representative government and full civil and religious freedom."

It adds: "Our original students eagerly committed themselves to the founding philosophy of the College, and thus to America's revolutionary effort, by organizing a militia-company which drilled regularly and went off to the defences of Williamsburg and of Petersburg, in 1777 and 1778 respectively.

"Their uniform of grey trousers and hunting shirts, dyed purple with the juice of pokeberries, are said to be the source of the College's traditional colors, garnet and grey, adopted officially in 1892.

"There are pokeweed plants throughout the campus. In addition to dying cloth with the juice of the berry, one can also make wine. The top leaves of the plant can be steamed in butter and eaten like spinach. Therefore one can dye, drink, eat or die from the pokeweed plant!"

Today, the village of Hampden-Sydney consists of the all-male liberal arts college and a few houses, mostly occupied by school employees. "There's nothing else here - no shops or businesses," student Andrew Walshe (class of '02), says in a helpful e-mail message. An enthusiastic member of the College Bicycle Club, he adds: "The Sydney Olympics probably won't affect us terribly much, but myself and the other guys here will definitely tune in for the bike coverage."

Canada's Sydney Nova Scotia (population 26,000), on rugged, freezing Cape Breton Island, was also named after Lord Sydney. It shares many familiar names with the city Down Under: it boasts a Sydney Harbour, with a ferry from Sydney to North Sydney (just as the Oz city had before the Harbour Bridge was built), while both cities have important streets named Pitt and George.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Sydney's daily newspaper, the Cape Breton Post ran a story headed "Cape Breton Journalist Quit Job to See the World."

It began on a sour note:

"The toilets drain clockwise and sun-soaked beaches are a popular escape from the holiday madness. Australia may sound as backward as a left-handed brown snake, but a former Howie Center resident who quit his job to go on a global soul search says being Down Under has him feeling on top of the world...."

Canada has two other places called Sidney: a town on Vancouver Island, British Colombia, home of the Victoria International Airport and BC Ferries, "the largest ferry fleet in the world," and a small settlement in Manitoba,

Sidney BC (pop. 10,000), an attractive beach resort, takes its name from nearby Sidney Island. Originally known as Sallas Island, it was renamed in 1859 by Captain Richards of the survey ship Plumper, apparently to honour a friend, Frederick William Sidney, who had been a fellow surveyor in the Royal Navy.

Sidney, Manitoba was named by the Marquis of Lorne in 1881 after Sidney Austin, a representative of the London Graphic. The town is 89 miles west of Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway. It has a population of 128, and is a farming community.

Sydney-on-Vaal, in the Orange Free State, South Africa, is the site of a mine producing diamonds. A game lodge offers "game drives, clay-pigeon shooting, wingshooting and hunting." It's not far from a place called Gong Gong (not to be confused with Australia's Grong Grong or China's Hong Kong).

A tiny dot on the map in the Pacific, a member of the Phoenix group, used to be called Sydney Island. Renamed Manra, it now seems to derive most of its revenue as an Internet domain names supplier.

Apart from Hampden-Sydney, Virginia (already mentioned), the U.S. has three places named Sydney and more than 20 Sidneys. In alphabetical order of States, these include:

ALABAMA: Replying to an inquiry about Sidney AL, Clifton E. Clements, publisher of the Sand Mountain Reporter, said: "I talked with Sam Harvey, owner of the Advertiser Gleam in Guntersville, about Sidney. Sam has lived in Guntersville all of his life. He told me that the best he knew, Sidney had died away. "Looking at a recent map of Northern Alabama (about two years old), it's still there. But based on the size, it has fewer that 200 people. Many areas in Northern Alabama have names on the map, but consist of a store and a church."

ARKANSAS: Sidney Arkansas is a small community (pop. 271) in Sharp County in North central Arkansas, in the Black Hills, a rocky, rolling area that forms the foothills of the Ozark Mountain range. The area is renowned for its natural beauty, springs, caverns, and white water rapids. Blanchard Springs Caverns, America's largest living cave system, is in the general vicinity, as is Buffalo National River.

FLORIDA: Sidney FL is a small community just outside Brandon, which is 10 miles east of Tampa. The area used to be farmed for winter crops such as strawberries, corn and tomatoes. A long time ago it produced citrus fruits, mostly oranges, until several successive harsh winters killed the trees.

ILLINOIS: Sidney Township (pop. 1521) and Village (pop. 1027). Australians have always regarded cattle dogs as rural work animals, so they are astonished when they visit Katherine Buetow's "Australian Cattle Dogs" Katwala Kennels website. "Our puppies are raised in the home where traffic is the heaviest (the living room) and are exposed to other dogs, children and cats early on in their development," says Kathy.

"We will ship puppies anywhere in the world...only after careful screening. Katwala puppies currently live across the United States from California to New Hampshire. One of the puppies from our first litter lives and works on a cattle ranch in Puerto Rico, and we are proud to have sold the first American Champion to reside and be shown in Holland."

INDIANA: Sidney IN is a small village in Kosciusko County (which, like Australia's highest mountain, was named after the Polish and American military hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko). Local historian Marjorie Priser says: "In the late 1960s and early 70s many of our schools were consolidated and small towns like Sidney have faded like ghost towns. I think fewer than 300 people live there now. They have a volunteer fire department that hosts great ice cream socials every summer as fund raisers, and a wonderful little country fruit market."

IOWA: The City of Sidney IA (population 1287) occupies an area which was once the richly-forested hunting ground of the Shawnee and Miami Indian nations. White settlement began in the late 1840s with the Mormons, many of whom later moved west. Farming is the main industry.

The town shares at least one common interest with Australia's Sydney: it has become a graveyard for many newspapers over the years.. at least seven publications in the State's archives have gone out of business.

KENTUCKY: Sidney Kentucky is in Pike County, where the world's most famous feud, between the Hatfields and McCoys (they were reckless mountain boys) began in the mid 1800s along the Tug River. There have been many speculations as to the cause of the feud. According to author Otis K. Rice, it developed from an accumulation of honest grievances and imagined wrongs.

No one knows for sure how many died as a result of the feud but the most accurate accounts estimate the toll to be around 12. The feud continued until the late 1800s. Feud-related sites that may be visited in the city of Pikeville include the newly renovated Pike County Court House, Dils Cemetery, hanging site of Elision Mounts, last home of Randolph and Sara McCoy and the Augusta Dils York mansion (home of famed feud attorney James M. York). The Pikeville Community Players perform plays both on the road and in Booth Auditorium at Pikeville College. They have recently designed a theatre-in-the-round and have developed a series of vignettes depicting feud events.

MAINE: Sidney ME (pop. 3346), four miles north of Augusta, is the home of the New England Music Camp, Bowl-in-the-Pines, reputed to be one of the largest open-air concert stages in the U.S. It's the site of weekend concerts. The interior of the Bowl houses rehearsal rooms, ensemble practice areas and studios. The organisers say they blend high-quality and intensive musical education with popular sports and recreational activities, adding "Thousands of campers have attended from all across the U.S. and all corners of the world. The NEMC goal is to help young people find joy in making music, appreciate the splendor of Maine's woodlands and lakes, find contentment, and make friends."

MICHIGAN: Bob Campbell, an instructor at Montcalm Community College, says "Sidney MI is just a crossroads. One corner has a bank, another has a general store with a very small U.S. Post Office next door. The other two corners have houses. The only other business in Sidney is a bar/restaurant. The bank was one of the few that remained open during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Montcalm Community College is three miles east of the crossroads. It's built in the middle of an old farm. We are a small rural community college with about 1900 students."

Another staff member, Marilyn Thomsen, says "I have lived in Sidney for 27 years. My husband's family have lived in Sidney for over 75 years. This is what I have found out: Phineas Swift, a New Yorker, became the first regular settler in1854. The area was named after the township which was settled in 1857 and named for the village of Sidney, Ohio, from where some of the early settlers had come. Most of the early settlers were Danish. You can find to this day many Petersens, Thomsens, Jensens and Noahs."

MONTANA: Sidney MT (pop. 5200) is an agricultural community in the fertile valley of the lower Yellowstone River, eastern Montana. Its attractions are hunting and fishing, and the area is world-renowned for its agates.

Sidney is the home of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory. Its website reveals a glimpse of past White House politics. It says: "Drought conditions [in 1961] helped Senator Mansfield's argument to President Kennedy and Secretary Freemen that the need for a strong agricultural research effort was greater than ever. Of the 46 research facilities that were initially proposed by the USDA study, the Sidney station was ranked last in priority.

"A local story recounted how Senator Mansfield recruited the chairmen of both House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the budget director for a meeting with President Kennedy. After 15 minutes, Sidney's ranking moved from last to first priority."

NEBRASKA: Sidney NE was the scene of a newspaper war between the Telegraph and the Sun which ended with a merger early in 2000. (By a strange coincidence, Sydney Australia supported daily newspapers with those very same names 50 years ago. The Telegraph has survived, but the Sun has set forever).

Writing before the merger, Tricia Eller described the battle in an amusing article in the American Journalism Review: "Pull out your guns and run for cover - there's a good, old-fashioned this-town-aint-big-enough-for-the-both-of-us showdown going on in the Wild West - western Nebraska, that is. Sidney, a ranching and farming community of 6,000, is home to the 'smallest newspaper war in America,' according to Vincent Bodiford, publisher of the community's newest paper. Others might just say it's the nicest.

"Sidney claims the boasting rights to being the only two-paper town in Nebraska, and that means colossal competition for the slight city--not to mention crowding. The Sidney Telegraph, the town's 126-year-old premier paper, is beginning to feel the pressure from the newcomer Sidney Daily Sun, barely out of infancy at two years old...

A tentative dig here, a raised voice there. In Sidney, you're likely to run into your competition at the corner grocery, so most of the fire is friendly. But it's not all sugar and spice... Sooner or later it's likely that there will be a casualty in the Battle of Sidney, because... 'Sidney is not big enough for two papers.'"

Shortly before the inevitable merger, the Sidney Telegraph published this report of the town's weekend activities: "The Oktoberfest had ordered 500 commemorative mugs for the 25th event and Mug No. 1 was awarded the winner of a raffle and went to Roger Holsinger. There are still some commemorative mugs left and collectors may purchase them at the offices of the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce. The regular mugs sold out, say Oktoberfest officials, and beer consumption was within two kegs of the 1998 Oktoberfest."

By a strange coincidence, the Australian Sydney also held an Oktoberfest that weekend, after which the Sydney Morning Herald carried a front-page story headlined "Nein to stein blows some of the froth from Oktoberfest," beginning: "Sydney's largest Oktoberfest is at risk of losing the oomp from its oomp-pa-pa next year after authorities banned the use of traditional glass steins."

NEW JERSEY: Sidney NJ was first shown on a map in 1769 (that's 19 years before our Sydney was named), as a village built on Judge Samuel Johnson's Sidney plantation. In 1881 it comprised five houses, a store, and a mill. "Today Sidney is not much bigger -- maybe a dozen houses and no store," says Jay Langley, executive editor of the local newspaper, the Hunterdon County Democrat. Incredibly, although the village is only 55 miles from New York City, it has no town water or sewerage system, so residents have to rely on wells and septic tanks.

NEW YORK: Asked to describe his hometown, Noel Goodspeed, a member of Sidney New York Chamber of Commerce, wrote: "Our village is tiny compared to Sydney, Australia, having only about 5000 people. We have two major employers, Amphenol Corporation (manufactures electronic connectors) and AT-A-GLANCE (manufactures calendars)."

NORTH CAROLINA: Les High (Hi Les!), managing editor of the Whiteville News Reporter, says "Sidney, NC is only a crossroads, with one store and a car junk yard. No one there really knows how it got its name. It was named Haddock before the turn of the century, but there is no one there now with a last name of Sidney. Our area is rural, near the Atlantic Ocean - lots of trees and tobacco farms. Whiteville, where we are, has about 5,000 people.

"Sidney did gain some notoriety in the late 60s when a woman said that an alien monster was stalking her. I remember a great picture we had of her in her beehive hairdo and black-rimmed glasses. She was holding a flashlight on a half-eaten TV dinner that she 'fed' to him. The alien supposedly could jump over houses. It became a real media event."

Former resident Tom Soles recalls: "My stepfather had a country store/grits mill/gas station /juke joint / produce / fish market, all located in Sidney back in the 40's 50's 60's and 70's. He had a bunch of trucks that he would load up with salt-water fish (from Calabash, NC or Little River, SC), produce and little items from the store, and would send these out in the countryside on different routes ever day of the week to people who found it very handy to shop at home."

NORTH DAKOTA: One of the smallest (and saddest) of all the namesakes is Sydney Township, ND (pop. about 50). Township chairman Keith Klose doesn't know how it got its name. Years ago, he says, it was part of the town of Sydney, which sprang up as the railroad came through, but died when it pulled out in 1969, after floods had destroyed two sections of track.

Forty years or so ago, they had a blacksmith shop, elevator and post-office/store. Where the town once stood, only one house remains. The elevator is still there, but is no longer used.

This is strictly a farming township," says Keith. Will the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia have any impact on Sydney Township in North Dakota? Keith replies: "Absolutely none."

OHIO: The official website of Sidney OH (population 20,000) reveals that that city was named in honour of Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), a well-known poet and member of the British Parliament, and nephew of Lady Frances Sidney, founder of England's Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. In 1585 he tried to join Drake's expedition to Cadiz, but instead Queen Elizabeth I appointed him Governor of Flushing in the Netherlands. In 1586 he took part in a skirmish against the Spanish at Zutphen, and was wounded by a musket shot that shattered his thigh-bone. He died of the unhealed wound 22 days later, aged only 31. A historian wrote "His death occasioned much mourning in England as the Queen and her subjects grieved for the man who had come to exemplify the ideal courtier. It is said that Londoners, come out to see the funeral progression, cried out 'Farewell, the worthiest knight that lived.'"

OREGON: "Well, leave it to someone on the other side of the Earth to clue us in that there is a Sidney OR," says Tom Forstrom, columnist of the Salem OR Statesman Journal. " I had to go searching, though, since it's a little unincorporated town not found on most maps. it's only 15 or so miles from Salem." Sidney is in Marion County, where another town is called Sublimity.

PENNSYLVANIA: Sidney PA is in Indiana County (pop. 90,000) and its Tourist Bureau claims that "it is uniquely both the Christmas Tree Capital of the World and a major national center for energy production. More than 14,000 students are studying a variety of disciplines at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, while in Smicksburg the Amish continue their traditional lifestyle. The County remains a recreation Mecca with a major state park, five county parks and eight state gamelands abounding in wildlife."

SOUTH CAROLINA: Sidney SC is in Colleton County, whose official website says:

"We know the secret that Ted Turner shares with Forrest Gump: the fine opportunities for living and working in Colleton County... Our historic Southern charm has drawn everyone from media mogul Turner to the producers of 'Forrest Gump,' who chose the area for extensive filming. Like many other visitors, residents, and employers, they know that Colleton County enjoys unique advantages: hardworking people, prime industrial sites, excellent transportation, and a casual lifestyle amid the beauty and leisure activities of South Carolina's coastal Lowcountry."

TEXAS: Sidney, Texas, in western Comanche County, was settled as early as 1870. It was formerly called Jimmie's Creek, for a nearby stream, and Round Mountain. In 1883 the community was named for Sidney Stapp, son of John Stapp, who became the first postmaster when the post office opened in 1886. The first school was established in 1877. By 1883 Sidney had a store. In 1940 there were four stores, three churches, a consolidated school, and a population of 200. In 1990 the population was still only 196.

Chris Sidney, of Oxford (no, not Cambridge) is so intrigued by his family name that he has dedicated this Internet website to it: www.sidnet.co.uk

Copyright 2000

Eric Shackle

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