“There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion.”
– Lord Byron
Though he may not have lived through the age of the renaissance, Lord Byron was a man of its culture. A multi-talented romantic and passionate pursuer of the substance of life, George Gordon Byron was born on 22 January 1788 – exactly 220 years ago.
Certainly, his was a lineage connected to Australia’s exploration by Europeans. Cape Byron – and by extension Byron Bay – was given its name by then-Lieutenant James Cook, who elected to label the safe anchorage after Lord Byron’s grandfather, acclaimed sailor John Byron. Vice-Admiral John Byron circumnavigated the globe and was involved in a number of naval battles during the 1700s. His rugged, bold, pioneering spirit forms part of Byron Bay’s cultural foundation, but its creative heart arguably holds more in common with John Byron’s grandson.
Lord Byron remains one of the greatest of romantic writers and is fondly remembered alongside peers such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. But his wasn’t a life of solitude and routine. Like many from our part of the world, he was an avid traveler; exploring much of Europe during an age in which travel was both prohibitively difficult and dangerous. He funded and fought in the Greek War of Independence, he explored a varied range of loving relationships and he spent his noble wealth extravagantly – both on political causes and for the enjoyment of those around him. He ultimately died in the Greek War of Independence and it was rumoured that his body was preserved in a barrel of rum when his remains were returned to England for burial.
A lover of fine food and liquor, a hero in both England and Greece, an acclaimed creative and father to the world’s first computer programmer (Ada Lovelace), Lord Byron’s life was tragically cut short at only 36 years of age. His was a star that burned twice as brightly, for half as long as most, and it’s this intensity of experience and expression that connects his legacy to the place that is home to his grandfather’s Cape and to the present-day Lord Byron Distillery, which we named in honour of the great man.
Happy Birthday and cheers to you on this, your 220nd anniversary, The Right Honorable Lord Byron.