In 1792 Henry Dundas succeeded Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, as Secretary of State for Home Affairs. He is currently being criticised in Britain for delaying moves to abolish the slave trade in the British Parliament. On 2 April 1792 Dundas had urged the ‘gradual’ abolition of slavery.
While in London during 1793 the Aboriginal leader Woollarawarree Bennelong and his young Wangal kinsman Yemmerrawanne were hospitably received at the home of Lord and Lady Dundas, probably at their ‘country’ house at Wimbeldon.
Henry Dundas, (1742-1811), a Scot, became 1st Viscount Melville. His statue stands atop a tall column in Edinburgh. Dundas was 1st Lord of the Admiralty May 1804-May 1805. It was Dundas who presented Governor Arthur Phillip (but not Bennelong & Yemmerrawanne) to King George III on 24 May 1793 after his return to England.
Dundas and his second wife, born Lady Jane Hope, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Hopetoun, who married that year, hobnobbed with the prominent anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.
In June 1793, Wilberforce dined with Dundas and afterwards wrote in his journal ‘the conversation on natives of New South Wales, duels, etc.’
Bennelong admired the beautiful Lady Dundas, who he remembered with affection after his return to New South Wales in 1795. He often asked to drink her health when he visited the French voyager Pierre Bernard Milius at Sydney Cove in early 1802. Milius wrote that ‘Benadou’ [Bennelong] ‘drank the health of Lady Dundas and would have drunk to the health of all English ladies’.
Writing in 1805, John Turnbull, author of A Voyage Round the World, who met Bennelong in Port Jackson (Sydney), observed: ‘The names of Lady Sydney, and Lady Jane Dundas, are often in his mouth, and he appears justly grateful for the favours received from these his fair patronesses.’
LORD SYDNEY’S SLAVE
Perhaps we should change the name of the City of Sydney to Bennelong?
It was the fashion in high society in Georgian London to have a little ‘black boy’ as a servant. Lord Sydney was sent such a boy as a present from the West Indies. His name was Thomas West, recorded in the Chislehurst, Kent, Baptismal Records on 20 January 1788 – about the same time the ‘First Fleet’ ships arrived with their convict cargo at Botany Bay.
The boy was described as ‘a negro of about 6 years of age, who had been sent over as a present to Lord Sydney from Governor Orde of Dominica’. Sir John Orde (1751-1824) was the British Governor of Dominica 1783-1793.
Nothing further is known about Thomas West’s life in England.
Lord Sydney’s country estate was at Frognal House, Chislehurst, a few miles from the village of Eltham, where Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne were taken to live in 1794 and where Yemmerrawanne sadly died and was buried in 1794.
Based on the evidence of surviving First Fleet journals and vocabularies, the Indigenous people of Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour), the Pacific coast and the Parramatta River, whatever their clan, referred to themselves in whole or in part as Eora (yura).
This word clearly meant ‘people’ in some sense, but whether it was the name for the whole of the inhabitants of the Sydney district is uncertain.
The curious British officers might have asked, but not one of them recorded a collective name for these people or for the language. I am always careful therefore to state that the language of coastal Sydney was that spoken by the Aboriginal people who called each other by that name.
In his published vocabulary (1798) Judge Advocate David Collins listed ‘Eo-ora – The name common for the natives’ and, questioning Bennelong, Collins remarked in the Appendix of his Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: ‘I then asked him where the black men (or Eora) came from?’
The clever linguist William Dawes recorded ‘Eoora – – – Men, or people’ and coined his own version: ‘eoras’, noting ‘Yenmaou mullnaoul naabaou eéora’, which means, he wrote, ‘In plain English: I will go tomorrow morning to see the people (before spoken of).’ He quotes a young Aboriginal girl called Wåriwear: ‘Nabaouwi ngalia naba eora widadwara’ – – – ‘The eoras shall see us drink [sulphur].’
In two further entries Dawes credits his principal informant, a fifteen year old girl named Patyegarang, saying ‘He gave pork (and) bread to the eoras’ and ‘The eoras gave fish to him.’
In his journal Philip Gidley King gives ‘Eo-ra — Men, or People’, while ‘Eo-ra (or) E-o-rah’ is the translation for ‘People’ in the vocabulary kept by Governor Phillip and his aides. ‘Yo-ra. A number of people’ occurs in the vocabulary enlarged by Captain John Hunter (1793).
Daniel Southwell recorded ‘People — E-o-rah’. Similarly, about 1805 Musquito and Bulldog, the two Aboriginal convicts sent to Norfolk Island by Governor Philip Gidley King, told the Reverend Henry Fulton that ‘Yea-warrah’ meant ‘black men’.
In a letter to Dr. William Farr, physician at the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth in 1791, Captain of Marines James Campbell described the Indigenous people as ‘Ioras / Natives’.
The anonymous compiler of a list of ‘Aboriginal names and meanings’ in the journal Science of Man (Sydney, 1908) stated: ‘Ea-ora—Name of tribe inhabiting the Sydney District’.
In the 1930s, Eora was adopted by Dr Frederick David McCarthy, curator of anthropology at the Australian Museum, Sydney, who drew on wordlists published in the journal Science of Man. In New South Wales Aboriginal Place Names and Euphonious Words, with their Meanings (3rd edition 1943), McCarthy gave ‘EORA: Black fellows of Sydney District’.
Quoting McCarthy as his authority, Norman B. Tindale (1974) wrote in Aboriginal Tribes of Australia that ‘The name Eora is accepted for the tribal group around Port Jackson.’ Tindale adopted Eora to replace the ‘hordal term Kamaraigal used in my post 1940 work’.
SO BEGINS MR. BENNELONG, THE UNPUBLISHED SEQUEL TO MY BOOK BENNELONG:THE COMING-IN OF THE EORA (2001)
I WILL ADD SNIPPETS FROM THIS MANUSCRIPT FROM TIME-TO-TIME.
Keith Vincent Smith
Two Australian Aboriginal men are leaving their country. They are the first to cross 10,000 miles of ocean to the other side of the world in a sailing ship. It will be an epic journey, taking six months to reach England, evading ‘ice islands’ in the pre-Antarctic, rounding Cape Horn, stopping for three weeks at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and confronting Neptune, God of the Sea, at the Equator.
On 10 December 1792, Woollarawarre Bennelong and his young kinsman Yemmerrawanne board the 422-ton capacity convict transport Atlantic, moored at the Governor’s Wharf on the eastern side of Warrane (Sydney Cove).
Atlantic, a Third Fleet timber vessel, built in Wales in 1784, is ‘ship-rigged’, with three masts and square sails, apart from the mizzen or third mast. Her master is Archibald Armstrong, naval agent Lieutenant Richard Bowen and surgeon James Thompson.
The two Aboriginal men, who are said to be ‘much attached’ to Governor Arthur Phillip, embark ‘voluntarily and cheerfully’, says Lieutenant David Collins, withstanding ‘the united distress of their wives, and the dismal lamentations of their friends, to accompany him to England, a place they well knew was at a great distance from them’.
They soon pass the brick house the governor had built for Bennelong on the eastern point at Dubuwagulye (now Bennelong Point) and leave Warrane.
Arthur Phillip, returning home from five years of solitary leadership as the first Governor of New South Wales, takes with him a portfolio of watercolour drawings of nondescript plants and animals and portraits of the Indigenous ‘savages’.
Aboriginal spears, shields and fishing tackle, specimens of timber, plants, animals and birds, four live and nervous kanguroo and some howling dingos have been loaded on board. A week earlier, Lieutenant John Poulden had marched the returning marine detachment on board as fires swept through the heights of The Rocks on the western side of the cove.
Officers and oarsmen in small boats shout ‘Huzza’ as the ship slips her ropes from the jetty. They give three farewell cheers for Governor Phillip, but the Reverend Mr. Johnson’s boat is staved in when it rams the side of the ship.
By English reckoning, Atlantic clears the Port Jackson Heads at 9 o’clock on the morning of 11 December 1792.
Wind fills the sails. From the Look Out Post high on South Head, the Indigenous burial ground of Wollara, keen eyes still sight the sails at midday. The Eora detect a white speck on the horizon well into the afternoon.
Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne have sailed out of the Eora world into a new Dreaming.
In this extract from his journal, John Easty, a private of marines, who sailed to New South Wales on board the First Fleet transport Scarborough, records his own punishment for ‘bringing a feameale Convict into Camp’, for which, on 12 March 1788, he received ‘150 Lachess’ of the cat o’ nine tails.
Two weeks out from Sydney the ship’s passengers celebrate the festive season.
‘Tuesday Decbr 25 this being Christmas day, His Excellency the Govr gave Evry mess in the Ship a joint of fresh pork and some punkin [pumpkin] and ½ pint of Rum to Each man,’ writes Marine Private John Easty. Neither handwriting nor spelling come easily to Easty, who torturously pens his ‘memarandom’ throughout the voyage.
For the first time in their lives Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne catch sight of rocky snow-covered peaks as they approach the cold southern ocean. Battered by gales, squalls and strong winds, Atlantic sails by shimmering blue-streaked icebergs on New Year’s Day, 1 January 1793. Easty writes:
… this Morning att 4 oclock a very Heavy Squall att ½ past 5 Saw ae large Rock of Ice to the Southerd very high very Cold Heavey weather all day Shiped Several very heavey Seas duren the day att Night at ½ past 9 Saw a very Large Iland of Ice’ …
While forced to avoid ‘a great many Ilands of Ice’ in the days that follow, the ship makes rapid progress, running 4500 miles in one month to 8 January 1793.
Nine days later Private Easty sights the ‘west part of the Iland of Terry dele fugo [Tierra del Fuego], very high mountainous Rockey barren place although in the Midts of Summer yet the land was Covred with Snow’.
On 17 January the ship rounds the menacing Cape Horn at the extremity of South America and enters its namesake, the Atlantic Ocean. Next day Phillip allows every man on board half a pint of spirits and issues a joint of fresh pork to each mess to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.
The Atlantic passes the mountainous ‘States’ or Staten Island (Isla de los Estados). Here be penguins, seals and seagulls.
‘Very pleasant this Iland’ writes Easty on Sunday 20 January 1793. Sailing in clear weather, crew and passengers see the hillocks and green patches of the ‘faulkland Iland’.
On Sunday 3 February 1793, John Easty (and, no doubt, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne), sailing with Governor Arthur Phillip on the Atlantic, spot a ship which, writes Easty, proves to be the whaler ‘favouret of Nanticket in amearicca’, that is the Favourite of Nantucket, Massachusetts, North America.
Favourite gives them an account of British ships from Port Jackson ‘being all well on the Cost of Parru [Peru] in August Last’[ 1792]. The vesselsare Salamander, William and Ann and Mary Ann, which in July and August 1791 left Port Jackson after delivering their convict cargo to become whalers and sealers in New Zealand waters.
Two week’s earlier Favourite spoke Captain William Raven on the Enderby & Co whaler Britannia near the River Plate who told them he had ‘Landed 12 men with the 2nd mate to Secure Seales Skins and furs against the time of the Return of the Ship to New South Wailes’ [sic].
The River Plate, or ‘River of Silver’, is in the South Atlantic, between Argentina and Uruguay.
DANCING IN RIO ‘They were of a sweet nature, obliging to those who asked of them their dances and other strange gestures; and they had great facility in pronouncing Portuguese.’
6 FEBRUARY 1793 (RIO TIME)
Until recently it was not known that Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne went ashore when Atlantic reached the port of Rio de Janiero. Their activities there were recorded months later in the Gazeta de Lisboa, published in Lisbon, Portugal,on ’27 Julho de 1793’.
This version is from the compilation Noticias de Portugal e Brazil, 1751-1800:
Written from Rio Janeiro on February 6th that Atlantic, Captain Bowen, arrived with the happiest voyage from the port of Jackson in the new South Wales, having made his way across the Pacific Sea, rounding Cape Horne, and then arrived at Rio de Janeiro, all in the brief 58 days. The ship carried Arthur Filippe [sic], the first Governor of that remote colony; this celebrated officer, (well known for having served in the Portuguese Navy) among the many curiosities of animals and collections of the products of Nature, also brought two men from that new country, well proportioned, and in colour similar to the blacks, but with less curly hair. They were of a sweet nature, obliging to those who asked of them their dances and other strange gestures; and they had great facility in pronouncing Portuguese. The ship sails on March 3.
The Atlantic anchors on Thursday 7 February 1793 (Ship’s time) in the vast harbour of Rio de Janeiro. Easty writes: ‘… att 4 Saw the Land the Easterd of Riojanaro att 10 made the mouth of that harbour att 2 oclock Came to anchor Near this town.’
Arthur Phillip is no stranger to Rio de Janeiro. As the despatch mentions, he was commissioned as a Captain in the Portuguese Navy, a British ally, from mid 1775 to mid 1778. Phillip visited Rio again as commander of the eleven ships of the so-called ‘First Fleet’, bringing convicts to Australia in 1787.
Looking around them Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne see the magnificent harbour they must have compared to their own, the overshadowing Sugar Loaf, the Viceroy’s Palace and the Carmelite Convent bordering the grand square, hear the church bells, see the carriages of the colonists, black African slaves from the sugar plantations and freed and runaway slaves dancing their own fandangos.
On 24 February Captain James Colnett, commander of the 374-ton merchant sloop Rattler, owned by the whaling firm Enderby & Sons, finds ‘Captain Phillips’ aboard the Atlantic anchored in Rio and comes on board with a letter for Sir Phillip Stephens at the Admiralty in London.
Colnett, who sailed as a midshipman on Captain James Cook’s second voyage on HMS Resolution in 1772, has been released from the Royal Navy on a mission to survey whaling grounds in the South Pacific. He writes, in A Voyage to the South Atlantic and round Cape Horn (London, 1798):
Perhaps, if invited, the two Aboriginal voyagers taste that rare delicacy, turtle soup. Hearing from Colnett of renewed trouble between France and England, Phillip purchases guns to strengthen the ship’s defences.
The passengers are back on board on 4 March and the Atlantic puts out from Rio three days later.
7 March 1793. Third Mate Samuel Brown, aged 40, dies of ‘dropsy’. Surgeon James Thompson reads his burial ceremony. Easty remarks ‘… this day Saw Some dolphin and flying fish’.
1 April 1793. New and unfamiliar stars appear in the sky as the ship sails north. Unfamiliar to Easty, but surely more so for the two Wangal voyagers.
… this Night the Evining Star and the 7 Stars whare intermixed a circumstance as I Never saw in my Life in any Part of the world before’ writes Easty on ‘Munday … April the 1st 1793’
CROSSING THE LINE
Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne are startled witnesses at the Crossing of the Line ritual at the Equator on Wednesday 3 April, a cloudy day. In this grotesque ritual, green young sailors are ducked in the ocean or shaved with rusty irons by drunken old tars decked out as mermaids in seaweed petticoats. Officers and gentlemen avoid the ordeal by paying a ransom in cash or liquor.
In Easty’s opinion, ‘the 2 Natives Thoucht [thought]’ the figure of Neptune really was ‘a man who Lived in the Sea’.
On the evening of 5 April 1793, Marine private Robert Thompson, aged 38, from Belfast in Northern Ireland, is missed. Easty records his fate: ‘att 9 some people on bord heard Something fall into the water … it was Concluded that he Uenfortuneatly derounded unperceived …’
The following Monday Thompson’s belongings, estimated to be worth £ 10.10, are allotted to Lieutenant Poulden ‘to be taken to the division the articels Consisted of 1 Coat 2 Jackets 2 Wascoats 2 Breaches 1 Hat Hee had 3 Sutes of Cloaths …’
On Friday 12 April Atlantic meets a Portuguese ship bound for Brazil. ‘She gave an account of war between Great Britain and france’, writes Easty, ‘and that the King of france was beheaded the 21 of Janry that war was declared the 22nd’.
HARD GALES AND RAIN
Atlantic sails north, through ‘Gales of wind’ lasting four days, from Tuesday 16 April until Friday 19, when heavy seas prevail. On 20 April the ship crosses the Tropic of Cancer and on ‘Munday 22 Cleare with Light Breases … this day the Govr Gave Evry Marines 2 lb of fresh pork …’
They suffer ‘Hard Gales and Rain again on Sunday April 28 and ‘Hard Rain all day and hard Gales of wind’ the next day.
As the ship approaches the Scilly Islands off the Cornish coast on the morning of 18 May a French ship fires ‘three Guns att us’. The sails are quickly raised and the English colours are hoisted. Another shot is fired by the pursuing French vessel that afternoon, but the Atlantic outruns the pirate.
BERIWAL / ENGLAND
Patyegarang and other Aboriginal informants of Lieutenant William Dawes in Sydney had coined their own name for the foreign country that Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne were at last about to visit.
Captain Watkin Tench [1793, page 292] recorded its meaning:
“But the appellation by which they generally distinguished us was that of Béreewolgal, meaning men come from afar”, while the Governor’s Vocabulary [Book C 1791:9.8] gives it as “Berewal A great distance off.”
After a voyage of almost six months, Atlantic makes landfall at six o’clock on Sunday evening, 19 May 1793. They have reached the safe haven of Falmouth Harbour, protected by the massive Pendennis Castle, built high on a cliff in 1544 by Henry VIII to face an earlier French threat.
At 7 o’clock next morning, writes Easty, ‘His Excellency Arthur Phillip went on shore and the 2 Natives and Mr. Alley to Proceed on thare way to London.’ Richard Alley had served as surgeon on the convict transport ships Lady Juliana and Royal Admiral.
Sea-weary, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne briefly feel solid earth under their feet before mounting the horse-drawn carriage that will take them to London. Perhaps, as they set off, they glimpse the sails of the 64-gun warship HMS Agamemnon, commanded by the young Captain Horatio Nelson, who reports for orders in Falmouth that day.
After tossing and pitching on a ship for six months with flapping sails and creaking timbers on ridges and valleys of white-flecked waves, through roaring gales, howling winds and sudden silent calms, they are jolting through the Cornish countryside to the clatter of horses’ hooves on the cobbled road.
On the ocean the two men from the Antipodes watched swooping seabirds, flying fish and dolphins at play. Now they peer through misty rain at thatched cottages, grazing sheep and fat cows in green fields dotted with yellow gorse.
Packet ships bring despatches and letters from Europe to Falmouth, which are carried by rapid mail coach to London. The ‘Great Coach Road’ runs east through Launceston, Bodmin, Truro, Bath, Wells and Taunton. Perhaps, where the road passes close by, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne glimpse the ancient standing stone circles at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain near the River Avon.
Soaked by a hailstorm as he walks alone on the plain just two months later the poet William Wordsworth, takes shelter from a storm in the ruins at night and imagines:
A single Briton in wolf-skin vest, With shield and stone-axe, stride across the Wold; the voice of spears was heard, the rattling spear Shaken by arms of mighty bone …
Eventually, the tired Wangal men reach the outskirts of London, capital of the far-reaching British Empire, where fields give way to smoky chimneys. Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne are confronted with The City, a crowded metropolis with a population in 1793 of one million in an island with only nine million inhabitants.
Its narrow-fronted brown and red brick Georgian houses and terraces, straight streets and ordered squares have been laid out over the ruins of the devastating Great Fire of 1666. The poor still live in unhealthy hovels and lodgings in narrow courts and alleys and frequent ramshackle public houses. Churches and their spires crown the skyline, dominated by the huge dome of Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The heart of London, its great water highway, the serpentine River Thames, fringed by warehouses, wharves and shipyards, is crowded with small river boats carrying goods, passengers and horses.
Three bridges span the Thames: London Bridge, built in the twelfth century (repaired in the 1760s), the handsome Westminster Bridge, made of Portland stone (1730-50), and Blackfriars Bridge (1760-9), which has opened the way to South London. The Fleet Ditch, once a stinking sewer of sludge running into the Thames at Blackfriars, has been filled in to make space for the arcades of the Fleet Market.
[With thanks to Private John Easty, whose original journal is in Sydney’s Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney]
Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020
Arabanoo, captured on the orders of Governor Arthur Phillip on 30 December 1788, nursed the Aboriginal children Nanbarry and Boorong when they contracted smallpox, but caught the disease himself.
He died and was buried at Warrane (Sydney Cove) on 18 May 1789.
There are no known images of Arabanoo.
He was only 19. Bennelong’s young Wangal kinsman Yemmerrawanne, Yuremany or Yemmerrawanyea Kebbara, who accompanied him to England, died of a lung infection on 18 May 1794 and was buried in the parish cemetery at Eltham, Kent.
[Thanks to my friend Adam Joseph for reminding me of this sad anniversary]
This was the foggy Thursday, 250 years ago, that HM Bark Endeavour, commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, sighted the east coast of the the land the British called New Holland.
The ship left New Zealand on 1 April 1770 and sailed west until they glimpsed the southern point of land at first called Cape Hicks, renamed Point Everard by Commander John Lort Stokes of HMS Beagle in 1843, but today once again recognised as Point Hicks.
In his journal Cook wrote: “I have named it Point Hicks, because Lieutenant Hicks was the first who discovered this Land.”
Sydney Parkinson, the young Scots artist on board recorded ” … nothing worthy of note occurred till the 19th, in the morning, and then we discovered the land of New Holland.”
An inscription at the back of the bronze statue of Cook by Thomas Woolner in Sydney’s Hyde Park, unveiled in September 1879, reads “Discovered This Territory, 1770”.
That was 250 years ago, but Cook was 65,000 years too late to ‘discover’ Australia.
Parkinson recounted the first words spoken to the foreigners by the Indigenous people at Kamay (Botany Bay): “They threatened us … often crying to us, Warra warra wai”,meaning ‘begone’ or ‘go away’.
On board the ship were two influential figures: Joseph Banks, the rich amateur botanist and later, Sir Joseph, President of the Royal Society in London and Mario Matra, a British loyalist from North America, both of whom were influential in urging the British Parliament to establish a convict settlement in New South Wales.
The COVID 19 pandemic has closed galleries and libraries throughout the country and caused the postponement or cancellation of several major exhibitions dedicated to James Cook and the arrival of HMB Endeavour at Botany Bay in 1770.
It has shipwrecked the bizarre concept of the “Encounters 2020” celebration, costing $6.7 million, to celebrate the anniversary with the voyage of a replica Endeavour circumnavigating Australian, which James Cook did not make. It was Matthew Flinders (with Bungaree) who first circumnavigated our island continent.
There will be plenty of information about this following the anniversary of the Endeavour’s arrival at Botany Bay on 29 April 2020.
I will not be writing further about it. See my articles on the Electronic British Library Journal:
On this 250th anniversary of James Cook’s landing at Kamay (Botany Bay) Ray Ingrey, deputy chairperson of La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council, has clarified the Dharawal meaning of ‘Warra Warra’, the first words heard by the foreigners as they landed.
He told ABC Radio:
“Warra is a root word for either white or dead in our language … Over time, because of outsiders trying to tell our story for us, it’s just being translated into different parts as ‘go away’.
“If you are outside our community and trying to look in, you will think it means ‘go away’ but for us it means ‘you’re all dead’,” he said.
See my entry WARRA WARRA WAI for 26 April 2019, which records that ‘Warra Warra’ was the warning to foreign outsiders at several first encounters throughout Australia: On the east coast at Botany Bay, and Warang (Sydney Cove) and as far away as the present Oyster Bay in Tasmania and Fremantle in Western Australia.
The inspired and inspiring language notebooks compiled by Marine Lieutenant William Dawes have returned to England a second time.
This precious cargo first sailed away with Dawes when he boarded HMS Gorgon,leaving Sydney Cove on 18 December 1791 and arriving at Portsmouth on 18 June 1792.
After a brief visit to Sydney for the Living Language exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney,the notebooks are back at the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
Dawes himself never returned to Australia. ‘The Aboriginal people’, wrote Indigenous linguist Jakelin Troy, ‘lost one of their most valuable allies and the colony a fine scientist who had hoped to settle there and continue his research’.
AN EARWITNESS ACCOUNT
Spoken words and sounds jotted down in English handwriting from his informants preserve Dawes’s earwitness account of their unwritten language through encounters, conversations, dialogues and exchanges of knowledge that remain, in the words of historian Paul Carter in The Calling to Come (Museum of Sydney, 1996) ‘a source of revelation’.
The trio of the two Dawes notebooks and a third wordlist kept by Governor Arthur Phillip and his aides, which I call the ‘Governor’s Vocabulary’ (Book C 1791), were soon in the hands of William Marsden (1754-1836), an associate of the influential Joseph Banks. Much later, they passed to the SOAS from Kings College, London.
The three SOAS notebooks were the basis of an accessible dictionary of cross-cultural communication in early Sydney by historian and linguist Jakelin Troy, first published in Canberra in 1993-4 in The Sydney Language.
Her work was the genesis of the revival of the classic language spoken by the Indigenous people who inhabited coastal Sydney.
Professor Troy writes:
The earliest and best records of the Sydney Language document the coastal dialect which was spoken in the immediate vicinity of the first British settlement at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson.
There are wordlists with phonetic translations for body parts, kin terms, language, mythology and ceremony, food, cooking and fire, weapons and artefacts (many illustrated in line drawings by Shirley Troy), water, elements, mammals, reptiles, birds, marine and aquatic life, plants and fruits and insects and spiders.
She points out that this wordlist
… is by no means a complete list of all the words in the Sydney language. It only contains the vocabulary which I was able to recover from the published and unpublished notes of known eighteenth and nineteenth century writers who recorded information about the Sydney Language. … In spite of the limitations of the wordlist it is a window onto the world of the Aboriginal people of Sydney.
Indeed, these words, sentences and placenames reveal traces of the past, a cultural memory and insight into the way Indigenous people viewed their spiritual and physical life before (and during) European settlement. This includes words they invented to describe the foreign technology, for example na-muru for a compass, from naa ‘to see’ and muru ‘the way, or a path’.
In September 1994 Dr. James Kohen, later my supervisor at Macquarie University, Sydney, gave me photocopies of these manuscripts taken from microfilm. I still have them, slightly out of focus and held together by rusty paperclips.
Dawes’s words opened up new research possibilities. They were the stimulus that would take me through BA, MA and PhD degrees in Indigenous Studies and Anthropology.
The next year I was fortunate to obtain a copy of the first edition of The Sydney Language, which was reissued in June 2019 by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra with the help of funds raised by the Australian band, The Preatures.
Referring to the decade of the 1840s in Notes on the Aborigines of New South Wales (Sydney 1892, page 7), George Thornton wrote:
An old Sydney aborigine named “Krooi” had his camp at the point known as “Lady Macquarie’s Point,” the N.E. end of the present Botanical Gardens. He used to fish from a small detached rock a few feet distant from the N.E. part of the point. It was known as ”Krooi’s Rock.”
Thornton, sometime mayor of Sydney, was the first chairman of the Aborigines Protection Board.
The Indigenous fishermen at ‘Krooi’s Rock’ wear cut-off trousers, but still prefer to use their pronged fishing spears. I selected the image for the EORA: Mapping Aboriginal Sydney 1770-1850 exhibition which I curated with Anthony (Ace) Bourke at the State Library of new South Wales in 2006.
German-born Charles Rodius worked as a draughtsman and engraver in Paris before being sent to New South Wales for theft. He was assigned, without salary, to the Department of Public Works. Rodius frequented the nearby Domain, where he sketched many Aboriginal people.
Cruwee (Crewey), probably a Kameygal man, claimed to be at Kundal (Kurnell) when HM Bark Endeavour entered Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. He told Obed West: ‘they thought the vessels were floating islands’.
I have often conversed with Cruwee, who was an intelligent fellow … It was very amusing to hear him describe the first impression the blacks had of the vessels, and although very fearful, they were curious and would, with fear and trembling, get behind some tree and peep out at the monsters which had invaded their shores.
West said Cruwee also pointed out the spot where the French priest Father le Receveur, from the ill-fated La Perouse expedition, had been buried.
[Edward West Marriot (ed.), Memoirs of Obed West, Sydney,  1988, pages 42-43]
Judge Advocate David Collins, who recorded ‘Boo-roo-wang — An island’ in his ‘New South Wales’ Vocabulary, added in a footnote: ‘This word they applied to our ships’.
They often Come on board our ship, which they call an Island … [David Blackburn to his sister Margaret Blackburn, 17 March 1791, Mitchell Library MS S 6937/1/1]
In late December 1808 ‘old Crewey’ threw the first spear in a revenge combat opposite the ‘new Military Barracks’ in George Street, Sydney. The shaft penetrated his opponents’s shield and his hand became ‘rivetted to it’ before ‘two gentlemen of the Faculty’ (probably doctors) relieved it.
Crewey was ‘dreadfully wounded’ when the same opponent then struck him in the head with a sharp, heavy waddy. Another man named Cudgear was struck to the ground by Punmaima and fled, leaving his wife behind.
The Australian, Sydney, announced the death of ‘Crui’ on 16 February 1826, page 4.
One of the oldest of the Aboriginal Natives named Crui lately died. This man is well known by the early settlers.
The majority of figures are … probably drawn by eye, and exhibit a considerable amount of ability, being either true to nature, or to some adopted design of a deity or spirit. William Dugald Campbell, Government Surveyor, Aboriginal Carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay, 1899
Aboriginal culture and spiritual life is most often revealed through history, anthropology and archaeology. In this inspirational book we learn through art and artefacts that survive in the landscape, principally engravings in sandstone, cave paintings and carved and scarred trees.
It is a novel and rewarding approach.
In Cage of Ghosts Jon Rhodes, highly regarded as a photographer, captures, connects and interprets the timeless Indigenous presence through his own eyes, his camera lens and in stories about the pioneer surveyors, anthropologists and historians who obsessively recorded these sites.
It is meticulously researched and compiled, with relevant images, some that crop up in the explicit and sometimes lengthy footnotes, often as absorbing as the text. In one footnote, correspondence by the late Spike Milligan tells us about his efforts to save rock art near Woy Woy, New South Wales, now the Bulgandry figures in Brisbane Waters National Park.
Jon Rhodes probes the puzzle surrounding the red ochre and white pipeclay painting of Bunjil with his dogs (or dog!) in a granite shelter in the Black Range, near Stawell in central western Victoria, now protected from grafitti by a welded mesh cave. Has one dog been added or moved since the cave became known?
Bunjil, the Eaglehawk, a sky-hero of the Kulin, created mountains, rivers and people before he was swept into the sky with his sons in a whirlwind created when Bellin-bellin the Crow opened his sack. Now Bunjil is Altair, principal star in the constellation Aquila. The Wurunjeri gave the names of Bunjil’s sons to the fingers of the left hand.
I became familiar with Australian rock art and the better known rock engravings in the Sydney area through the works of Fred McCarthy in Australian Rock Art (Australian Museum, Sydney 1967) and Peter Stanbury and John Clegg, A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings, (Sydney University Press, 1990).
Jon Rhodes examines sites like Bantry Bay, first seen by First Fleet Surgeon John White in April 1788; Gumbooya Reserve, Allambie Heights, once called ‘Flat Rocks’; regrooved images at Bondi Golf Course, and the sad disappearance of more than 80 art works that once covered the rocks at Willara / Point Piper. He reveals that the last remaining carving – a whale or sunfish – from the Point Piper group is now permanently protected under the immovable floorboards of a garage. See ‘Designs made by the Natives’ – my post for May 16, 2018.
Cage of Ghosts was deservedly winner of the 2019 New South Wales Regional and Community History Prize. The judges remarked:
Cage of Ghosts … is a subtle exploration of the way that thousands of years of Indigenous history are both visible, and hidden, in Australian landscapes. It is a formidably documented study with the power to reshape how we see the places where we live. Jon Rhodes evokes a multilayered country whose meanings have been shaped by the ancient cultures of First Nations peoples, but also by the complex, tragic history of settler colonialism.
At 2 p.m on 8 October 1769 a 12-year-old cabin boy named Nicholas Young shouts ‘Land’ from the masthead of HM Bark Endeavour. James Cook names it ‘Young Nick’s Head’. The English ship has reached the north island of the country named New Zealand in 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who never attempted a landing.
Next morning the ship sails into an open bay and anchors off the mouth of a small river, the Turanganui, near present Gisborne. Cook goes ashore without Tupaia.
The coxswain fires twice over the heads of ‘natives’ who threaten four ship’s boys guarding a yawl. The third shot kills Te Maro, a Ngāti Oneone leader who is probably making a ceremonial challenge which the Europeans think is an attack.
Joseph Banks writes :
The native was shot through the heart. He was a middling-sized man, tattowed on one cheek only in spiral lines very regularly formed. He was covered with a fine cloth of a manufacture totally new to us … His hair was also tied in a knot on the top of his head, but with no feather stuck in it. His complexion was brown, but not very dark.
After his experience in the Polynesian islands Cook intends to barter iron goods for food and water. He takes Tupaia and a troop of red coated armed marines with him when he lands the next day.
A hostile group of Maori assemble on the far side of the river, heavily armed with lances, spears and pata (stone clubs). They perform a haka, poking out their tongues in defiance. Tupaia calls out in Tahitian and finds that he is able to understand them, as ship’s surgeon William Monkhouse recounts.
We found they understood his language. A long conversation ensued, which seemd to consist on their part of inquirys whence we came, of complaining that we had killed one of their people, and of many expressions of doubt of our friendship – their pronunciation was very guttural, however Tupia understood them …
One brave Maori swims across the river and greets Cook with a hongi (pressing noses). Soon a crowd around the strangers attempt to snatch their weapons and Joseph Banks wounds a man with small shot when he seizes a ‘hanger’ or short sword from astronomer Charles Green. Te Rakau, a powerful chief of the Rongowhakaata, is killed by a musket ball fired by Surgeon Monkhouse, while others are wounded.
Later that day Endeavour crewmen open fire on a waka (canoe), intending to capture the men on board to gain their friendship. Four Māori are killed during this incident and three youths are captured, taken on the ship, fed and given gifts, but later landed ashore.
In the six months it will take to chart the two islands of Aotearoa, Tupaia becomes a vital interpreter and negotiator between the English and the Maori, who revere him as a tohunga or high priest from their ancestral homeland Hawaiki.
HM Bark Endeavour sails out of the bay on Thursday 12 October. Cook names Tūranganui-a-Kiwa ‘Poverty Bay’ because ‘it afforded no one thing we wanted’.
In two days and 14 hours Cook’s crew have shot and killed six Maori warriors and wounded many more.
Living Language: Country, Culture, Community State Library of New South Wales, Macquarie Street, Sydney The Dawes notebooks are no longer on display The exhibition is open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. until Sunday 3 May 2020 Free admission
The bright shining stars of this exhibition for me were the two small notebooks in a glass case, dating to 1790-1791. They left Sydney in 1792 and returned briefly in the Living Language exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales.
When they first became widely known, after a lapse of 180 years, these handwritten records of the coastal Sydney Language by William Dawes caused great excitement.
In November 1790, one month after Woollarawarre Bennelong and the friendly Eorabegan to frequent the English convict settlement at Warang / Sydney Cove, Dawes, a young marine officer from Portsmouth, took a small notebook and began to write down Indigenous words andphrases given to him by his informants.
The first notebook, titled (in another hand) Grammatical forms of the language of N.S. Wales, in the neighbourhood of Sydney is catalogued as MS 4165 (a) in the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
From internal evidence, Dawes began his second notebook, MS 4165 (b), Vocabulary of the Language of N.S. Wales, in the neighbourhood of Sydney in 1791. It is the only source for what is known about his relationship with his principal informant, an Aboriginal girl named Patyegarang (Grey Kangaroo).
Dawes’s notebooks were located by Australian librarian, later Mitchell Librarian, Phyllis Mander-Jones and included in her publication Manuscripts in the British Isles relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, ANU Press, Canberra in 1972.
Living Language charts the strong revival of dozens of First Australian languages – among the 250 once spoken throughout Australia – which were previously suppressed by government policies of removal and assimilation.
This major exhibition is built on years and months of research and consultation with many Aboriginal communities by the library’s Indigenous Engagement (IE) Branch. I was privileged to collaborate with both Ronald Briggs (Gamilaroi), Curator, Research & Discovery and Melissa Jackson (Bundjalung) in two exhibitions at the State Library: EORA in 2006 and MARI NAWI in 2010.
Damien Webb (Palawa), Manager, Indigenous Engagement and Marika Duczynski (Gamilaroi), IE Project Officer, were also involved in the exhibition, which was backed by the State Library of NSW Foundation.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald (14 July 2019), Matt Bungard quoted Melissa Jackson:
Lieutenant Dawes was just really interested in not just the culture, but getting to know the people and their nuances. The notebooks are incredibly important to Aboriginal people because they retain the conversational context which is crucial for contemporary language revival work today.
WHO GAVE THE WORDS?
Dawes often acknowledged his Indigenous informants – in his first book principally Warreweer (who provided names of Indigenous plants), then Bennelong (her brother) and his second wife Barangaroo. In ‘Book B’ Patyegarang, who knew Dawes for just three months, is mentioned more than fifty times, but also Colebee, his wife Daringa, a girl named Gonangoolie, and others.
Dawes’s little language notebooks help to inform much of the ‘back story’ about this group, which fleshes out and confirms details about their lives not found in First Fleet journals. How much would we know about the Gweagal man Wárungin, Wángubile (‘Botany Bay Colebee’) in the profile that follows without Dawes’s records?
For more information about the Dawes notebooks see ‘The Language of Port Jackson’ under the heading Language in this blog.
Wárungin, Wángubile Kólbi was the son of Mety,headman of a family group of Gweagal (Fire Clan), based on the south shore of Kamay (Botany Bay).
He was known to the English colonists as ‘Botany Bay Kolbi’, having exchanged names with Colebee the Cadigal, who they called ‘Cadi Coleby’. David Collins explained: ‘The natives themselves, when distinguishing between this man and another of the same name at Botany Bay, always styled him Cad-i Cole-be; Cad-i being the name of his district’.
After a battle with his enemy Mety, the Wangal leader Woollarawarree Bennelong abducted Wárungin’s ngarángaliang or younger sister, Mety’s daughter Kurúbarabúla or Go-roo-bar-roo-bool-lo (‘Two Firesticks’), from Botany Bay in November 1790. She became Bennelong’s third wife and therefore Wárungin was his brother-in-law.
According to William Dawes, Wárungin Kolbi was aged about 28 in 1791 while his wife, with a string of names: Karangarang, Wadigabú Murianang Kurut Kurut, was about 25 years old. [Book B 1791:45.4-6]. It is likely that she had exchanged names with Bennelong’s sister Carangarang.
On 13 November 1791 Lieutenant William Dawes trekked from Sydney Cove to Botany Bay accompanied by his friend Captain Watkin Tench and three Aboriginal guides: Kolbi (probably the Gadigal, Cadi Colebee), Tarabílong (Terribilong), a Kameygal and Beriwáni (Bereewan), a Boorooberongal man Cadi Colebee had met in April that year on an expedition to the Hawkesbury River, who became his ally.
In his journal, Sergeant James Scott wrote:
Port Jackson – July – Sunday 17th  Lt. Daws. [sic] & party made an Excurtion to. Georges.River &.c.—
Dawes had previously, but reluctantly, gone to Botany Bay in December 1790. At first he refused to join the punitive expedition commanded by Captain Watkin Tench ordered by Governor Phillip to capture the Bijigal garadji (doctor or clever man) Pemulwuy, who had speared his game shooter John McEntire (McIntire).
McEntire, who admitted he had once fired at Aboriginal people, died suddenly on 20 January 1791.
After a talk with chaplain Reverend Richard Johnson, Dawes agreed to go, but then changed his mind. Threatened with a court-martial by the governor, he told Phillip he was ‘sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order’.
His refusal, wrote South Australian curator and historian Philip Jones in Ochre and Rust [Wakefield Press, 2007: 342] ‘may represent the first documented act of conscience in defence of Aboriginal interests’.
At Botany Bay the English troops met Cadi Colebee, who told them Pemulwuy had fled to the south and, said Tench, ‘eat, drank and slept with us, from ten o’clock until past noon’.
In his account Tench nowhere mentions using firearms. According to David Collins, however, the marines fired on Aboriginal people they saw ‘at the head of Botany Bay, but without doing them an injury’.
But the handwritten caption to the portrait by the unknown ‘Port Jackson Painter’, now in the Natural History Museum in London, refutes this view, stating ‘Native named Ben-nel.long As painted when angry after Botany Bay Colebee was wounded’ and points to another incident concerning Warugin Kolbi that was not recorded by the First Fleet authors.
Private John Easty provides some intriguing detail.
The Morning of the 24 [December] … we went Down the Beach for abought 3 miles whaare we Saw Several of the natives by thier fires.
This might refer to another art work by the ‘Port Jackson Painter’, which seems to provide a pictorial sequel to the wounding of Botany Bay Kolbi. The watercolour is captioned ‘Mr. White, Harris & Laing with a party of Soldiers visiting Botany Bay Colebee at that Place when wounded.’
It shows the three English surgeons standing in a group of Aboriginal men and women who recline around their campfire by the sea, with a detachment of armed redcoats in the background. At right, one Aboriginal man sits apart on a log, holding a spear. Written under the log in pencil is the word ‘Colebee’, probably denoting Cadi Colebee.
As Dr. Grace Karskens points out in The Colony [Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW, 2009, page 396] Surgeon White, the tall figure, is nudging an Aboriginal person with his musket . That person, a woman, is nursing a man lying on the ground, who might be the wounded Wángubile Kólbi. A child peeks out behind the couple.
There is a problem here, because Surgeon’s Mate Edward Laing arrived in Sydney long after this incident, on 14 February 1792 aboard the convict transport Pitt, bringing Major Francis Grose, commandant of the New South Wales Corps. It makes me suspect that the artist, whoever he was, might have painted this incident later, perhaps while returning to England by ship.
The ‘Port Jackson Painter’, or whoever wrote the caption to this image, possibly substituted Laing’s name for surgeon’s mate John Lowes, who certainly took part in the punitive expedition. Watkin Tench wrote on Tuesday 14 December 1790:
At four o’clock in the morning … we marched … the detachment consistedbesides myself, of captain Hill of the New South Wales corps, lieutenants Poulden and Dawes, of the marines, Mr Worgan and Mr Lowes, surgeons, three sergeants, three corporals, andforty private soldiers.
Lowes returned to England in 27 March 1791 on the chartered Dutch vessel Waaksamheid, bound for Batavia (Jakarta). Also on board were Arthur Phillip’s aide Henry Waterhouse, his game shooter Henry Hacking, Captain John Hunter, Lieutenant William Bradley, Surgeon George Worgan, the artist and midshipman George Raper, midshipman Daniel Southwell, Ship’s master James Keltie and crew members of the crew of HMS Sirius, which had been wrecked at Norfolk Island.
Henry (‘Harry’) Waterhouse was charged with Phillip’s gift of ‘a Squirrel [possum] and parrot’, sent to Lady Chatham, Mary Elizabeth Townshend, daughter of Lord Sydney and wife of John Pitt, second Earl of Chatham. The ship reached Portsmouth in April 1792.
A GWEAGAL FAMILY
Probably through the good offices of Cadi Kolbi, William Dawes identified and recorded his family of ‘Gwíagals’ [men] and ‘Gwíagaliangs’ [women] living on the south shore of Botany Bay
Dawes had been awaiting the departure of HMS Gorgon from Sydney Cove to England which was delayed until the arrival of Major Robert Ross from Norfolk Island. With Tench, Ross and other members of the First Fleet marine corps, Dawes boarded the ship, which sailed from Sydney more than a month later, on 18 December 1791, arriving at Portsmouth on 18 June 1792. [See Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Death of a Game Shooter’, Chapter 12 in Bennelong, Kangaroo Press / Simon & Schuster, East Roseville, 2001, pages 81-90]
Dawes had applied to stay another three years in New South Wales. ‘Left to himself, I wonder if he would every have left,’ asked Inga Clendinnen. ‘His departure cost us access to the local language as it was spoken at the time of contact. It possibly cost us a brilliant ethnography …’ [Dancing with Strangers, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2003, page 157]
His close friend Captain Watkin Tench wrote that Dawes had ‘advanced his researches beyond the reach of competition’.
‘Mr. Dawes knows something of the language of N.S. Wales’, wrote the anti-slavery philanthropist William Wilberforce to Henry Dundas in August 1794, when he recommended Dawes as the head of a school to educate both Aboriginal people and convicts in New South Wales. Dawes never returned.
THE LOST SOLDIER
In John Hunter’s An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson … (London, 1793, page 532), Governor Arthur Phillip tells the story of a soldier lost in the bush who was rescued by Wárungin, Wángubile Kólbi.
A soldier of the New South Wales corps, going from Parramatta with some of his comrades for the purpose of procuring sweet tea [Smilax glycyphylla], left them to go after a pattegorong [kangaroo], and lost himself in the woods. After roving about for some time, he saw a number of the natives, who fled on seeing his gun, except one that had frequently visited the settlement, and was known by the name of Botany-Bay Colebe. This man joined the soldier, and was followed by one of his companions. The soldier, to gain their good-will, and in hopes of inducing them to shew him the way to Parramatta, offered them some of his cloaths, which were not accepted. He made them understand where he wanted to go, but they were on the point of leaving him till he offered his gun, which the native, who was known at the settlement, took, and then conducted him to Sydney, making him understand that Parramatta was a great way off. When they drew near Sydney, Colebe returned the soldier his gun, and, bidding him tell Beanah(the governor) that he was Botany-Bay Colebe, he left him, without even taking what the soldier had first offered him as a present.