Currency (lads and lasses)

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Born in Sydney of a convict father, Horatio Wills exalted native-born Australians in his newspaper The Currency Lad.

Currency is an obsolete term for native-born Australians of European descent. It dates back to early 19th century when New South Wales was still a British colony and penal settlement.[1]

In Two Years in New South Wales, published in 1827, Peter Miller Cunningham wrote: "Our colonial-born brethren are best known here by the name of Currency, in contradistinction to Sterling, or those born in the mother-country. The name was originally given by a facetious paymaster of the 73rd Regiment quartered here–the pound currency being at that time inferior to the pound sterling."[2] It seems that, at that time, coin as a medium of exchange was scarce, so a paper money currency for large and small amounts was issued by many merchants and traders. People who had been born in Britain took to referring to themselves as sterling, whilst, a little contemptuously, they dubbed the native-born currency.

Currency people were often referred to according to gender, as "Currency Lads" and "Currency Lasses." In 1849, J. P. Townsend wrote: "whites born in the colony...are...called 'the currency;' and thus the 'Currency Lass' is a favourite name for colonial vessels,"[3][4] and, according to Edward E Morris, also for hotels.[1]

In 1852, the term was still being used: "A singular disinclination to finish any work completely, is a striking characteristic of colonial craftsmen, at least of the 'currency' or native-born portion."[5] However, when Morris published his Austral English in 1898[1] he indicated that the term was obsolete.


  1. ^ a b c Austral English, A Dictionary of Australasian Words, Phrases And Usages, 1898, by Edward E Morris, accessed 2 March 2013
  2. ^ Two Years in New South Wales, Volume II, 1827, page 53, by Peter Miller Cunningham, accessed 2 March 2014
  3. ^ Rambles in New South Wales, p. 68, 1849, by J. P. Townsend
  4. ^ e.g. Currency Lass (1826 schooner)
  5. ^ My Home in Tasmania, vol. i. p. 6, 1852, by Mrs. Meredith

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