forecast: 1 January 1901
The day had been hot, the air hung ‘heavy and dead’; but as evening approached, ‘ominous-looking clouds’ swept over the city, and a thundery change seemed imminent. On this, the last day of the nineteenth century, as Australia prepared to celebrate its birth as a nation, the people of Sydney looked to the weather. ‘The keenest dread is that Proclamation Day will be wet’, the Age reported, ‘“Will it rain?” is the question in everybody’s mouth’.
The storm broke shortly after 7 o’clock. Fierce winds and heavy rains battered the city’s festive finery, toppling some flags and hoardings, and making ‘rather a sorry sight’ of the buntings. As drizzle continued on into the night, the Government Astronomer, H.C. Russell, offered calm reassurance: ‘Prospects are strongly in favor of fine weather for our natal day’.
Despite Russell’s confident prediction, 1 January 1901 dawned uncertain. ‘Overhanging clouds and portending thunder’ threatened to mar the procession that was assembling in the Domain. But just before the parade marched off on its triumphant journey towards the inauguration ceremony, the cloud cover began to break. Suddenly, the sun ‘burst forth’, flooding the scene with new colour and life: ‘His beams were never before half so welcome’, remarked the Age. Soon, an ‘invigorating southerly breeze’ arose, rustling the banners and the flags, freshening the air. The weather, it seemed, had succumbed to the sense of occasion. ‘The new nation was awakening’, the Age continued, ‘and with it inanimate nature was springing into renewed beauty and life’. Read MoreA climate for a nation