Rickety Dick, c1846
Charles Meryon (1821-1868)
Charcoal and pastel
ML 488, Mitchell Library
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Papou de l’Australie orientale, dit l’Anthropophage, 1846
[‘Papuan of Eastern Australia, called the Cannibal’]
Charles Meryon (1821-1868)
Charcoal and pastel
Bibliothèque National de France, Paris

Warra, Warrah Warrah or William Warrell
(c1794-11 June 1863)

Keith Vincent Smith

Images and objects made by European artists – and many eyewitness accounts – guide us through the twists and turns in the life of an Aboriginal man well know in nineteenth century Sydney.

Very few people knew his real name. They called him ‘Ricketty Dick’ (sometimes with one ‘r’), a reference to the fact that both his legs were paralysed. After Bungaree, he is the most sketched or painted Aboriginal personality of early Sydney.

For many years Ricketty Dick camped in his gunyah (gonye) or bark hut by the paling fence of a grand house by the swampy shores at Rose Bay on the South Head Road, asking passers-by to pay a ‘toll’ of sixpence, one shilling or some tobacco. The house called ‘The Cottage’, was owned by Daniel Cooper, the richest man in Sydney.

Before it had the meaning of shaky or unstable – like a rickety bridge or staircase – ‘rickety’ meant ‘affected with rickets’ or ‘feeble in the joints’. ‘Ricketty Dick’ was also English rhyming slang for a stick or walking stick, like the staff he holds in this portrait.

The image is credited to Charles Meryon, a French artist who twice visited Sydney between 1842 and 1846 as a junior officer on the 22-gun man-of-war Le Rhin, sent to guard the French settlement at Akaroa in New Zealand. Meryon, who was colour blind, later became famous as an engraver of black and white architectural scenes of Paris, particularly around Notre Dame.

When Meyron’s portrait was shown in Eora: Mapping Aboriginal Sydney, an exhibition curated by Anthony Bourke and myself at the State Library of New South Wales in 2006, Sydney historian Shirley Fitzgerald in Phanfare (No 219, 2006) noted ‘the haunted eyes of Rickety Dick’.

The crude figure of  the ‘Papuan’ by Meryon, who described his subject as a ‘cannibal’, is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and is obviously the original sketch for the finished portrait.

‘This Aboriginal, who was once a Chief of the Rose Bay tribe’, wrote the amateur anthropologist Bernard Hornshaw in Mankind (vol 1 no 7, 1933) ‘liked to be called ‘King’. As he grew old he became paralysed; the boys then named him ‘Ricketty Dick;’ which name he bore until his death in 1863’.

Ricketty Dick, Broken Bay tribe, c1844
Charles Rodius (1802-1860)
Pencil portrait PXA 1005
Mitchell Library, Sydney
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

The artist Charles Rodius, born in Cologne (now Koln in Germany), stole a lady’s reticule (handbag) at the opera in London and was sentenced to seven years transportation to New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney in December 1829 and in 1831 began to issue lithographic portraits of Aboriginal ‘chiefs’ and their ‘queens’, based on his pencil or pastel sketches.

Rodius drew an original crayon portrait of ‘Riggedidick, Broken bay Tribe’, now in the National Library of Australia (nla.pic-an6428975) in 1834 and about 1844 a full profile pencil portrait of ‘Ricketty Dick’ (PXA 1005, Mitchell Library, Sydney).

Ricketty Dick was described as ‘King of the Wooloomooloo tribe’ on a plaster bust now in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Hornshaw said he was known as ‘King Dick of the Rose Bay tribe’, while Charles Rodius believed Ricketty Dick came from Broken Bay. He was often in company with Bowen Bungaree and Cora Gooseberry, widow of Bowen’s father, the Broken Bay leader Bungaree, who died in 1830. It’s possible that Ricketty Dick was related to Cora Gooseberry, the daughter of Moorooboora, clan leader at Long Bay and Maroubra, through his mother from Botany Bay, whose name is not known.

Hutte d’aborigènes près de Sydney, femme surnommée Queen gooseberry 1845
Eugène Delessert
From Eugène Delessert, Voyage dans les Deux Océans Atlantique et Pacifique 1844 a 1847, A. Franck, Paris 1848, p. 130.

The man sitting outside the gunyah, pictured by Eugène Delessert with Cora Gooseberry Bungaree, is probably ‘Ricketty Dick’. The French artist spent eight months in Sydney in 1845 and reported that he had questioned ‘an elderly native … an extremely gentle man who had nothing ferocious about him’ who said ‘he had eaten human flesh when a child’. This might explain why Delessert’s countryman Charles Meyron thought Ricketty Dick was a cannibal.

The Austrian scientist Dr. Karl Scherzer saw Ricketty Dick on 15 November 1858 and wrote in his journal that he was:

… huddled by the road, wrapped in a wretched woollen blanket, the last of his tribe, the one time lord of the soil … He is dressed entirely in European fashion, in a black top hat, threadbare old clothes etc. Sir Daniel provides him with all the necessities and looks after him well.

Ricketty Dick,
an Australian native
at Rose Bay
Walter G. Mason
Illustrated Sydney News
8 February 1854

A grimacing Ricketty Dick sits in front of the paling fence at Rose Bay. The woodcut was so badly printed in the Illustrated Sydney News in February 1854 that it cannot be copied. This version is from The Australasian Picture Book published by J.G. Clarke, Sydney, 1857. The 1854 text reads:
Poor old Dick! The last of his tribe, will be recognised by the accompanying sketch. For many years past Dick has been a denizen of Sydney, and of late he has had his ‘Gunyah’ at Rose Bay, where the old man may be daily seen by the visitors to South Head. He is quite a cripple from paralysis, and many a sixpence falls to his lot from the pleasure seekers and wayfarers on the road.

The missionary and linguist Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld , always sympathetic to Indigenous Australians and a collector of their languages, wrote to Sir George Grey on 10 April 1857 with a despairing description of Ricketty Dick, including the common assertion that he was the ‘last of his tribe’.

The Aborigines of this colony are fast passing away from this stage of existence. It is not many months since I wrote to the Ethnological Society London, and forwarded me a diploma appointing me a corresponding member of the Institution, and stated to them an instance of me seeing the last Aborigine of the last tribe of the Blacks in this District Sydney, sitting by the road side at the very gate of the Honourable the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, where the Paralytic sits, a living picture of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I do not wish it to be understood in a reflective sense on the Honourable Daniel Cooper in any possible way, because the Black chooses his station, and prefers his bark-hut to the Benevolent Asylum where he would be received and cared for if he wished. But, every passer by on the South-head road throws him a sixpence or so from from their carriages and thus he is bountifully provided for in his native and beloved state of freedom.

The mendicant blackfellow of Rose Bay, Sydney
John W. Hardwick
PXA 6925
Mitchell Library Sydney
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

This pathetic illustration shows Ricketty Dick rugged up for winter. He wears a blanket and a knitted cap and sits beside his plate and bowl. You can see his gunyah behind Cooper’s paling fence.

Captain W.A.B. Greaves, a government surveyor, wrote his ‘Recollections of Old Sydney in 1852 and since’ in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (vol. 8, 1916). He wrote:

One Sydney native, known as “Ricketty Dick,” was a familiar figure on the New South Head-road, which he found to be a profitable stand for his noble profession of begging.

A curious incident occurred at Ricketty Dick’s camp in 1852. Under the heading ‘A Slight Mistake’, the Colonial Times, Hobart (17 August 1852) reported in a despatch from Sydney dated 7 August that William Charles Wentworth had sent a note to the coroner Mr. Brenan saying a man was lying dead on the South Head Road. The Coroner called in Mr. Hill, an undertaker, who sent a van with a coffin. The Sydney correspondent continued his story:

… on arriving at the spot, they saw an old black-fellow, known as “Ricketty Dick,” sitting by the roadside swaddled in blankets. They asked Dick to inform them whereabout the dead body was lying. Dick replied, “The man no dead now. Him berry drunk dead little while ago, but him jump up by and by and gone away.”

The van returned to town with an empty coffin.

Rose Bay Cottage, 1855

This was Daniel Cooper’s ‘Rose Bay Cottage’, also called ‘Rose Bay Lodge’, designed by the architect John Verge,  where Ricketty Dick sat at the side of what is now New South Head Road, photographed in 1855. In 1857, the year he was knighted, Cooper moved to Woollahra House at Point Piper, built for £50,000 but later returned to England to live.

Arthur Dowling described Rose Bay in the 1850s in his ‘Some Recollections of the New South Head Road and Woollahra’ (JRAHS vol. 10 1924).

From the centre of Rose Bay … The land from there, to the east end of the bay was a vacant swamp, or marsh, covered with bush extending past where “Ricketty Dick” had his camp … A notably crippled and irritable old aboriginal, “Ricketty Dick” — a terror to the children in the neighbourhood and others — had his permanent camp on a dry patch of land at the northern end of this morass, close to the main road, and opposite the Georgian dwelling-house, overlooking the bay, owned by a Mr. Prevost [near Lyne Park, west side].

‘Ricketty Dick’
Julius Hogarth (1821- 1879)
Silver and gold statuette
Shown at Paris Exposition Universelle, 1855
Reproduced with permission from the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

In the first paragraph of this article I mentioned that ‘objects’ as well as art works represented Ricketty Dick. These artefacts are usually called ‘realia’ in museum and library collections.

Ricketty Dick was aged about sixty and still living in his gunyah at Rose Bay when a silver and gold statuette modelled on his image as a much younger man was exhibited at the Paris Universelle Exposition in 1855. The statuette was created and cast by Julius Hogarth, a silversmith and jeweller born in Denmark in 1821, whose premises were in Hunter Street, Sydney. It is now one of the treasures at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

The Sydney Morning Herald (18 April 1856) noted:

In the collection of specimens for the Paris exhibition of the works of all nations, Mr. Hogarth had two small statuettes in gold, illustrative of the pursuits and habits of the gold diggers in New South Wales; and also a statuette, in oxidised silver, of an aboriginal native of the colony.

In Paris, Hogarth was awarded a bronze medal in the section titled ‘Goldsmiths’ work, jewellery, and bronzes’ for his entries.  It is unlikely that Ricketty Dick was aware of his international fame.

On the morning of 11 June 1863, Ricketty Dick’s body was found outside his gunyah by George Rawlinson or Rawlingson, a Ranger who was employed by William Charles Wentworth of Vaucluse House to supply him with food. He was about 68 years old. The City Coroner concluded that his death was caused by paralysis, accelerated by  exposure to the cold.  Rawlinson said Ricketty Dick had been ill since Easter that year after being given a quantity of rum. He found him afterwards lying nearly naked in the rain and since then he had complained of pains in his insides. George Hill, whose daughter married Daniel Cooper, supplied Ricketty Dick with blankets.

Ricketty Dick’s real name was revealed in newspaper reports as William Warrah, Warral, Warrell, Worrall or Wurrah and Bill or Billy Warrell. The colonial press agreed that ‘his mother was a native of Botany and his father a native of the Five Islands’ – the Illawarra or Wollongong area of the south coast of New South Wales.

Bill Worrall, Five Islands Tribe c1836
W.H. Fernyhough (1809-1849)
J.G. Austin &​ Co, No.12, Bridge Street, Sydney
Mitchell Library
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

William Henry Fernyhough, an artist, architect and assistant to Surveyor General Sir Thomas Mitchell, identified the man with the walking stick in this silhouette portrait as Bill Worrall and his ‘tribe’ as the Five Islands, the Illawarra area whose Indigenous people spoke the Dharawal language. Fernyhough, who arrived in Australia in 1836, had obviously asked ‘Ricketty Dick’ his real name and where he came from.

Death of Old Ricketty Dick
Freeman’s Journal, Sydney
Wednesday 17 June 1863

Sydneysiders knew Ricketty Dick by his nickname through the years. In December 1840, under the English name he had first chosen,  Billy Warrell (or Worrall), he appeared drunk at the Police Court Office in Sydney and was discharged. He said he had been given drink by people at Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour-Barangaroo). ‘This unfortunate being is a cripple from paralysis and day after day is a victim of drunkenness’, said a report in The Colonist (22 December 1840).

In May 1850 three members of the ‘Sydney Tribe: Gooseberry, Bowen and Billy Warrell’ were present when the annual blanket distribution was made (SMH 27 May 1850). None of the three were originally from the ‘Sydney Tribe’. In 1858 George Thornton wrote to the Colonial Secretary: ‘I can assure you that the number of blacks now belonging to the Sydney district are reduced to two – vis “Wingle” and “Bill Worrell.” Wingle, from Port Stephens, died at Botany in 1868.

Silver-topped cane
with head of
Ricketty Dick
‘JH’ (Julius Hogarth)
Indian Exhibition, London, 1886
Passed in at Mossgreen auction, Sydney, 2015

Three years after the death of William Warrell / Ricketty Dick, an ebony gentleman’s cane or walking stick (the proverbial ‘Ricketty Dick’) with the silver and gold head of Ricketty Dick as its handle was exhibited at the Indian Exhibition in London. This bust, stamped ‘J.HOGARTH’,  resembled Billy Warrell in his last years.

The cane was passed in at auction in Sydney in 2015. A plaster cast of this head in the Mitchell Library, Sydney is captioned:

‘Head of Ricketty Dick, King of the Woolloomooloo tribe made from a plaster cast of the original which was carved out of a solid piece of Broken Hill silver by a man named Quist.’

Quist, or rather Christian Ludwig Qwist, was a jeweller employed by Evan Jones jewellers in Hunter Street, Sydney.  The original is said to have been presented to Prince George, later the British King George V, when he was in Australia as a midshipman on H.M.S. Bacchante in 1881.

Ricketty Dick, 1873
Struck at the Exhibition Mint
Julius Hogarth
Bronze Medal
DN/M 20
Dixson Library, Sydney
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

The third, and best known, object, which reveals the face of Ricketty Dick / William Warrell in right profile, is the brass medal, shaped like a coin, struck at the Mint of the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition in Prince Alfred Park, Surry Hills, Sydney, in 1873 – 10 years after his death. The medal was first cut by Julius Hogarth for Stokes and Martin in Melbourne.

This is one of two examples of the medal displayed in the Eora: Mapping Aboriginal Sydney 1770-1850 exhibition at the Mitchell Galleries of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney in 2006. It is often seen as a tribute to Ricketty Dick, but the identical image was first used on coins as ‘Billi’ in the Victorian Exhibition of 1872 and later as ‘Sandy’ in Queensland in 1879.

Prince Alfred Park, facing Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, then called the Cleveland or Government Paddocks, had been an Aboriginal camping ground before it was acquired by the Agricultural Society of New South Wales and drained of its creek about 1863. The Royal Easter Show was held there until 1881.

Searching for possible origins, I soon found the Aboriginal guides Myles or Miles and Warrell who accompanied the explorer John Howe from the Cowpastures (Camden) to Bathurst in 1819. They also gave evidence in the trial of Samuel Gardiner and others for stealing maize from John Dight at Richmond.

Then, in the ‘Return of Aboriginal Natives’ blanket lists at State Records New South Wales, I found an Aboriginal man named variously as Bill Wary, Warrie or Bilwarri, aged from 40 to 47 years, living at Jineroo from 1833 to 1841. His birth date would fit that of Bill Warrell or Ricketty Dick.

These records are a kind of census of Indigenous people, stating their English name, ‘Native’ or Aboriginal name, age, ‘Tribe’, district of resort, the place where they obtained blankets and the year. This Bill Wary picked up blankets every year at Mt. Elrington, a property of 2560 acres owned by Major William Sandys Elrington, a settler who gave his name to Majors Creek, a tributary of the Shoalhaven River near Araluen and about 16 kilometres from Braidwood, NSW. There was a gold rush with 200 miners at Majors Creek in 1851.

In 1839, when ‘Bill Wary’ is recorded at Jinero, a man simply named Wary, with no given age or ‘English name’, whose ‘district’ is given as Bega on the NSW south coast, received blankets atTwofold Bay

Warra, c 1820
Edward Charles Close (1790-1866)
From album ‘The Drawings of Edward Charles Close Esqre H.M. 48th Reg.t’
PXE 868, Mitchell Library
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Could Warra, Wary or Warrah-Warrah be the same person as Bill Warry and the later William Warrell or ‘Ricketty Dick’? There is no absolute proof, but If not, this portrait represents a young Aboriginal man with a similar name and background.  The handwritten caption reads:

Done for a Five Island black – Warra
who had just lost his tooth – and wore
different skins on his arms – indicative
of being in a marriageable state.—

Lieutenant Edward Charles Close, born in Bengal, India in 1790, arrived in Sydney on the barque Matilda in 1817 with 200 troops of the 48th Regiment of Foot. Close painted watercolours including the figures of Aboriginal people in scenes of the ‘Five Islands’, which previously were attributed to Sophia Campbell. He later settled at Morpeth, New South Wales.

Lieutenant Close’s young ‘Five Island black’ might be Warrah Warrah or William Warrell – well before he was so incapacitated that he needed to walk with a stick. ‘Warra’ here wears the outward symbols of initiation: head and arm bands, cicatrices (ceremonial cuts) on the arms and chest and a missing upper right tooth that has been knocked out. Now he can marry and kill dingoes and kangaroos.

I wondered what possible explanation there could be for Warra or Warrah or William Warrell to lose the use of his legs and gain the nickname Ricketty Dick. Searching my memory I recalled an incident that seemed to fit. On 29 February 1824 the Broken Bay leader Bungaree, well established in Sydney, invited the French voyager Jules Dumont d’Urville to a ritual revenge combat, which he described in Two voyages to the South Seas, published in Paris in 1826.

This battle at the Sydney Race Ground (Hyde Park) was to punish a young Aboriginal man from the Five Islands (Wollongong area) who was blamed for the death of Bennelong’s son one year earlier.  Dumont d’Urville wrote:

Spears were flying in almost equal numbers from all sides … I noticed a young man from the Five Islands against whom all the shafts from the opposing side seemed to be concentrated … Bidgi-Bidgi [Bidgee Bidgee], the chief from Kissing Point seemed particularly set against him and urged his warriors to vengeance.
I came nearer and saw that turning aside to avoid a shaft had caused him to be struck in the lumbar region where the spear had penetrated quite deeply.
One of his friends was supporting him in his arms; the spear had been withdrawn and the blood had been sucked from the wound, after which it had been bandaged. The poor fellow, however, although pale and weak from loss of blood made no sound and even attempted to walk by leaning on his spear.

The Reverend William Walker, who had converted Bennelong’s son and baptised him Thomas Walker Coke, also witnessed this ‘terrible conflict’. Walker wrote about the Five Islands youth in the Methodist Magazine in 1825:

A spear penetrated his body a little above the hip, but it was extracted without having greatly endangered the life of the youth.

Another missionary who saw the battle was the Reverend Samuel Leigh, who wrote in his journal, published in Remarkable Incidents in the Life of the Rev. Samuel Leigh by the Rev. Alexander Strachan (London, 1855, page 223):

In the case of Coke’s death, his aunt dreamed, twelve months after the event, that he was speared by his companion, who was ordered to stand punishment …

In 1816 Bidgee Bidgee succeeded Bennelong as the headman of the Kissing Point (Putney) Aboriginal people. He was the brother of Boorong, Bennelong’s last wife, and uncle of the dead boy Coke.

Portraits and artefacts – a statuette, a walking stick and a medal with his image – ensure the story of Ricketty Dick lives for us today. He adapted to his severe disabilities to become a survivor and a Sydney identity of his age.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020


Balkabra Chief of Botany, c1834
Charles Rodius (1802-1860)
Detail from Natives of New South Wales
PXA 615/6 Mitchell Library
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Keith Vincent Smith

Whaling began in Australia in 1791 when ships of the ‘Third Fleet’ landed their stores and convict cargo in Sydney and set out for the ‘fisheries’. They were seeking toothed sperm whales for spermaceti and whale oil, used to fuel the world’s lamps and make candles and soap, and toothless baleen whales for whalebone.

Whaling ships battled stormy seas, howling winds and extremes of temperature. Their crews endured long periods away from their families. The work was hard and dirty.

In the 1820s two adventurous Aboriginal brothers (babana) from a group living at Gunamatta Bay in Port Hacking (Deeban or Jiboon) south of Sydney enlisted in English ships sailing from Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) searching for whales, the largest sea mammals.

The older brother, variously named as Balkabra, Bulgabra or Bolgobrough, was recognised as the ‘chief’ or headman of Botany Bay. His name might be derived from Bulgo or Bulga, a large hill near Otford, south of Wattamolla, New South Wales. George Thornton (Sydney Mail, 4 April 1896) said Bulga  was the Aboriginal word for ‘mountain’.

Colonial Secretary, Ships Musters, 4/4773, COD/419 No. 688, p. 356, State Records NSW, Sydney

‘Bulgabraa’ first went to sea with Boatswain (Boatswain Maroot), Jem and Tommy on the brig Mercury which sailed on 1 March 1822 to ‘the sperm whale fishery’. The four Aboriginal crewmen were described as ‘Black Natives inserted in Ship at an [1/120] share’.

Bolgobrough’s young brother, Bugerygoory, adopted the name of the whaling ship, William and Ann. Over time his name was corrupted to Willamannan, Willhamannan, William and finally William Menan or Munnan.

The 156-ton capacity Mercury, built at Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and registered in London, sailed again for the whaling grounds off New Zealand in late October 1822. The Aboriginal men in the crew were Boatswain Maroot, Tommy, Bulgabra and his younger brother ‘William’ .  

This is the first record of Aboriginal brothers as shipmates.
The Sydney Gazette of 11 October 1822 reported:

On Friday last arrived, the brig Mercury, Captain John Edwards. She left this port on 22nd of February, and has procured 30 tons of oil. In a heavy gale, on the Sunday previous, her main-tops mast was carried away.

On 6 August 1823 ‘Bulgabra’ and Boatswain, described as ‘Aborigines’, were again mustered for a whaling voyage aboard the Mercury.

John Connell to Capt. Dumaresq
Sydney, 30 April [no year]
MS Aa 84, Part 1, CY Reel 3583, ff. 146-151
Mitchell Library, Sydney
Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Bolgobrough was noted as ‘Chief of Botany Bay’ in Colonial Secretary Return of Aboriginal Natives blanket lists held in State Archives and Records New South Wales. Bugerygoory or Willamannan, told  George Augustus Robinson that Bolgobrough had been chief of the Koonamatta (Gunamatta) tribe at Port Hacking in 1827.

John Connell, a Sydney merchant, farmed the site at Kurnell on the south shore of Botany Bay near where James Cook landed from HM Bark Endeavour in 1770. From 1821 his town house was located on the corner of what is now Pitt Street and Martin Place, Sydney. Connell’s 520-acre grant included an extensive shoreline to Gunamatta and Burraneer Bays at Port Hacking.

Connell sent a request to Captain William Dumaresq, brother-in-law of Captain Sir Ralph Darling, Governor of New South Wales from December 1825 until October 1831. The text read:

To Cap.t Dumaresq

The Bearer Bolgobrough is Chief of Botany Bay. Williamanann is his Brother and Generally Reside at the South Side of Botany bay, They & their tribe are Come to Sydney for his Excellency General Darlings Benevolent Donation of Blankets &c. for the Ensuing Winter——
I know them for Many Years

John Connell
Pitt Street

Connell wrote the date on his letter as 30 April, but omitted the year. It might have been 1829, when the following Colonial Secretary Return of Aboriginal Natives (Blanket lists) document was recorded in the name of Bolgobrough. 

Note re the issue of blankets to Aborigines at Illawarra and Botany Bay
8 April [1829]
The undermentioned Blacks are now here [Sydney] and say they do not belong to the Sydney Tribe. The number of Blankets which they appear to have had last year is noted.

Thomas Tamara                                               4 men    3 women   1 child
Bolgobrough     Chief of Botany Bay   3 men     2 women  1 child
Charcoal Will    Chief of Bulli                    3 men   2 women    1 child

On 21 April 1829 Bolgobrough ‘Chief of Botany Bay’ (and his family) received blankets at Illawarra (Wollongong).

Bolgobrough probably camped in the Government Domain when in  Sydney, where he received blankets from 1833 to 1836. The artist Charles Rodius placed ‘Balkabra Chief of Botany’ in his composite watercolour with ‘Biddy Salamander of the Broken Bay Tribe’ and ‘Gooseberry Queen of Bungaree’, painted about 1834.

A portrait of ‘Bulkabra Chief of Botane’ [sic] in the British Museum, London is dated 1834. That year the members of Bolgobrough’s ‘tribe’, then in Sydney, were listed as Maria (his wife), ‘Nanga (old), Mary, Johnny and Bobby’. In 1835 Bolgobrough’s age was estimated at 40.

Mrs. Bulkabra, Sydney 1834
Charles Rodius (1802-1860)
Pencil sketch
DL Pd.42, Dixson Library, Sydney
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Charles Rodius sketched Bulkabra’s wife Maria or ‘Mrs. Bulkabra’ in 1834, probably at the Sydney Domain. She received blankets at Botany Bay in 1833 and in Sydney from 1833-36 and is called ‘Queen Maria’ in the 1836 blanket issue. An Aboriginal woman named Maria died in Sydney on 1 August 1852 from natural causes.

On Thursday 16 April 1835, the Sydney Herald reported the death of ‘Bulgabru’.

An Aboriginal chief named Bulgabru, well known amongst the old hands in all parts of the colony, paid the debt of nature on the banks of the Hunter a few days ago.

There is a disturbing sequel to Bolgobrough’s life in an article titled ‘Relics of Aboriginals’, printed in the Sydney Morning Herald of Wednesday 10 February 1904 when a workman at Gunamatta Bay ‘unearthed a large quantity of human bones’.

Upon proceeding to the locality the Senior constable found jaw bones, skulls, etc, and is of opinion that the spot is an old aboriginal camp, as there are carvings on the rock, and other indications of an early settlement of blacks.


Bolgobrough or Balkabra’s brother, the adventurous Willamannan, later called William and William Minam, Menan or Munnan, went to sea on several sealing and whaling voyages on English ships.

In 1832 ‘William’, whose Aboriginal name was Bugerygoory, gave some details of his life story to the ‘Aboriginal Protector’ George Augustus Robinson. This is a remarkable document and a rare example of a first person statement from the lips of an Aboriginal man or woman.

I am a Native of New Holland near to Botany Bay (called Port Egan) Native Name Bugerygoory alias William – Name of the Tribe “Koonametta Chiefs Name “Boolgobra” in 1827 – I was young when I left my Tribe, I am now about 25 years old. I had been employed in a Whaling Ship, on my return I joined the blacks, after some time I joined a Sealing vessel out of Sydney and remained sealing about 5 Years, during which time I could not get any money, but was supplied occasionally with Spirits in lieu thereof – At the expiration of the first twelvemonth I wished to return but had not the means, the vessel never having returned – The greater part of the time we lived on Kangaroo – In March 1832 we were taken off Saddle Island near to Kangaroo Island by a vessel from Launceston belonging to Mr. [Jonathan] Griffiths we were quite destitute of Clothing – There were three White Men & one  New Zealander beside myself – the latter named Thomas – the Whitemen named – Bill Dutton, Tom Stack, a native of Sydney – and Hugh Scott also a native of Sydney.

George Augustus Robinson Papers, 22 June 1832
Vol. 35, MS A7056/CY Reel 1470, p. 205,
Mitchell Library, Sydney
Courtesy State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

You can hear some of the words spoken by ‘William’ in the State Library of New South Wales video recorded for the MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys exhibition in 2010, online at

The convict transport William and Ann, a ship chartered for the Third Fleet and owned by Samuel Enderby & Sons, put into Port Jackson on Sunday 28 August 1791, bringing 180 male convicts, some soldiers and provisions. The ship’s master was Eber Bunker, an American from Plymouth, Massachussets, who later settled at The Rocks in Sydney.

After unloading her unwilling cargo, William and Ann left Sydney in December 1791, becoming the first English ship to hunt for whales in New Zealand waters. Bunker returned to Sydney after capturing one whale. The Aboriginal youth adopted the name Willimannan from the ship. Governor John Hunter (in David Collins vol. 11 1802: 41) said the name had been ‘corrupted by their pronunciation’.

Matthew Dubourg after John Heaviside Clark
Hand coloured aquatint
From Field Sports of the Native Inhabitants of New South Wales, London 1813

Willamannan was involved in an extraordinary round of ritual revenge battles, often standing against volleys of spears armed only with a narrow parrying shield. These battles were recorded by Judge Advocate David Collins in his Account of the Convict Colony in NSW, published in London in 1798 and later items in the official government journal The Sydney Gazette.

In 1797 Willamannan was treated by a surgeon after a fight outside the Military Barracks in George Street (Wynyard Station) in which he was speared in the back. His brother Bolgobrough stood to defend him and was wounded. 

As he lay upon the ground, several of his opponents treacherously rushed in upon him, and stabbed him repeatedly with a pointed stick, which they call a Doo-ul. In this situation he endeavoured to cover himself with his shield, on which, having risen from the ground, and being again attacked, he received their spears for some time with great dexterity, until some one, less brave and more treacherous than the rest, took a station unobserved on one side, and launched a spear, which went into his back and there remained. Seeing this, they were proceeding a second time to rush in upon him, when he had just strength enough left to make his escape into an adjoining house, where he received shelter, and from the severity of his wounds immediately fainted.
The spear was withdrawn, and his wounds dressed, by one of the surgeons who happened to be present; and in a few days he was able to walk about again. His brother, who had accompanied him to the field of battle, stood up in his defence, and was wounded in the leg and thigh.
The principal sufferer in this affair was well known in the settlement by the name of William and Ann (corrupted by their pronunciation to Wil-lam-an-nan) which he had adopted from a ship of the same name that arrived here in the year 1791.
Several of their women attended upon this occasion, and, as is common with them, howled and cried alternately during the most of the time; but when they were enraged, which often happened, they danced, and beat their sides with their arms; a certain proof of their passions being wrought up to the highest pitch.
[John Hunter in David Collins vol.II, 1802]

In October 1804 ‘the lady of the celebrated Wilhamanan’ (his wife) was abducted and hidden. His reaction when he found her was to thrust a spear though her body. The false report of her death triggered a fierce payback combat which began on the new stone bridge over the Tank Stream (now Bridge Street) and progressed to the shores of Warrane (Sydney Cove) at Dubuwagulye (Bennelong Point), where it continued for several hours.
[Sydney Gazette 21 October 1804]

In another payback in late December 1804 Aboriginal men ‘assembled at Farm Cove for the purpose of inflicting punishment on the heroic Wilhamannnan; who after avoiding an immense number of spears, received one at length in the hand, through his shield…’
[Sydney Gazette 23 December 1804]

 ‘… the ship was very little,
and the sea grew so very big’
Willamannan 1805

The Raven, a 14 ton sloop, usually carried grain from the Hawkesbury River and cedar and coal from Newcastle to Sydney, but put to sea seeking seals for fur and oil in September 1805. One crew member, ‘the well known Wilhamanan offered himself a Native Volunteer’ and signed an indenture, but ‘found means to get on shore, and was with extreme difficulty persuaded to re-embark’.
[Sydney Gazette 15 September 1805]

Taking his name from the whaling ship William and Ann had not made Willamannan a good sailor. A few weeks later, on 4 October 1805, he paid an unexpected visit to the Sydney owners of the Raven, Captain Thomas Reibey and Edward Wills. When asked ‘Is the vessel lost?’ he replied ‘Yes! And every body gone!’ After a while, Willamannan confessed that he had deserted the vessel at Jervis Bay, because ‘the ship was very little, and the sea grew so very big’.
[Sydney Gazette 6 October 1805]

Back in Sydney, a ‘desperate conflict’ took place near the Military Barracks between warriors from Broken Bay and those ‘living between Sydney and Botany Bay’, in other words the Gameygal. Spears flew and a New South Wales Corpsman in the crowd of European spectators was speared in the foot ‘which penetrated to some depth’.  The Sydney Gazette reported in its inimitable style:

The conflict which was truly spirited while it lasted, was provoked by the conduct of Wilhamanan, no less remarkable to his countrymen for his manly courage and prowess than for his perfidious manners; who attempted to force away the wife of a native from Broken Bay; in which attempt he eventually succeeded …
[Sydney Gazette 2 February 1806]

Due to a lack of interest in these Aboriginal battles, which they dubbed ‘Native Amusements’, plus a severe shortage of paper, the Sydney Gazette was reduced to two or three pages per issue and the ritual combats in the streets of Sydney were not reported for some years after 1806.

When the Russian voyagers under Captain Fabian Bellingshausen made their camp at Kirribilli on Sydney’s north shore in 1820, they met a ‘New Hollander’ who they though was called Burra Burra. He took them to see his shelter where his family was gathered around a fire. This was Willamannan, whose name they recorded as Burra burra vilam miny when sketched by the Russian artist Pavel Mikhailov. In Russian ‘v’ is pronounced as ‘w’, making the literal translation ‘William Miny’. Burra Burra complained that the sketch did not show him in his ‘full attire’. Picking up a small stick, he thrust it through the slit in his nose, so that it would be included in the portrait. After that, he asked the Russians for clothing.
[Keith Vincent Smith, King Bungaree, 1992, page 106]

In 1802 the French naturalist François Péron tested the strength of an Aboriginal man in Sydney on a device called a Dynamometer. Péron wrote his name as  Bourra-Bourra  and remarked:

Age 27-30. Observations. Short, stocky, many hairs on his body.
Ferocious man.

If Burra Burra was indeed another name for Willamannan, this is an indication that he was born about 1775. If so, he would have been about 16 years old in 1791 when the William and Ann berthed in Sydney Cove and might have taken the ship’s name at his initiation.

By 1828 Willamannan  was known as William Munnan or Munan and about 37 years old. That year he was named by the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld as the brutal killer of an Aboriginal woman from Broken Bay in the Government Domain. A copy of the evidence Threlkeld sent to the London Missionary Society is in the Bonwick Transcripts, BT Box 53, page 1789, in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Threlkeld wrote:

The Blacks have much and speedy communication one with another from different parts of the Colony, even when the dialects are supposed so much to differ as to prevent conversation, and their messengers, always armed, painted red adorned often with down in their hair, communicate with speed to the different tribes. Some whales having lately been cast on the beach induced our tribe to visit them, a day’s journey, and partake with others of the bountiful feast. Here they met a Black messenger from Sydney, to collect the Blacks to punish a Murderer; his tale was this. A black woman, the messenger’s own wife, was intoxicated, and close to the bathing house on the Government Domain, Sydney; a black named William Munnan, cut her mouth, from ear to ear, split her head with a tomahawk, and then, with other blacks, jumped upon her body, until they supposed she was dead; her husband took her, in the black’s boat, to Broken Bay, where she expired, and buried her at Pitt Water.
Boongaree, the chief of the Sydney Tribe, ordered him to collect all the Blacks he could, and come and punish the man. The dead woman’s daughter, a little girl, urged revenge, and some of every tribe will, at some favourable opportunity, have blood for blood. —

According to the Sydney Gazette (25 July 1828) ‘Williminan’, described as ‘an intelligent black’,  helped police to track down the bushranger John Haydon, alias Dublin Jack, at Port Hacking, in his own Country. The Gazette continued:

Yesterday at 4 o’clock, John Haydon, alias Big, or Dublin Jack, was conveyed prisoner into Sydney, by the overseer at Mr. Connell’s farm, at Botany, to whom he gave himself up on the same morning. He had been in the bush upwards of ten months. A few days since he had a serious contest with the native black, Williminan, who fell in alone with him in the bush, and inflicted some severe wounds in his head, in the attempt to capture him.

After this ‘Williminan’ continued as a tracker and an honorary police constable. The Sydney Gazette (6 August 1828) reported:

The native black, “Williminan,” whose intelligent and peculiar tact at tracking in the bush, has been found so serviceable to the constables in seeking out the haunts of bushrangers, has become a sort of honorary member of the police establishment. A suit of slops, of the best description have been served out to him, of his appearance in which he is not a little proud.


William or Willamannan, by his own account  – his testimony to George Augustus Robinson above – went to sea again, sailing to Launceston in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), where he worked as a whaler and then as a sealer for five years on Kangaroo Island for William Dutton, owner of the schooner Henry, which berthed at Launceston on 26 November 1833.

The painstaking historian and editor NJB (‘Noel’) Plomley wrote in Friendly Mission : the Tasmanian journals and papers of George Augustus Robinson, 1829-1834, (1966, page 472) that early in 1832 William was brought by [Jonathan] Griffiths’ schooner to Launceston, where he joined Batman’s ‘Sydney natives’. Two pages later Plomley states bluntly:  ‘William was dumped in Launceston in March 1832.’

While not employed by the government, William joined Robinson’s ‘roving parties’ in his ‘Friendly Mission’, aimed at rounding up the remaining Palawa (Tasmanian Aborigines) on the island. He was given food and clothes but no pay. Robinson left Launceston for Cape Grimm on 4 April 1832, accompanied by his son George and Owyhee or Black Joe, his Polynesian servant from Hawaii, with three of the so-called ‘Sydney natives’ employed by John Batman. By 22 April they were in the Hampshire Hills and went on with Robinson to Cape Grim.

We know that William or Willamannan’s feet were larger than average. He attached himself to Anthony Cotterell, a special constable, who wrote in an undated letter to Robinson from the ‘Depot for the Aborigines, West Hunter Island’:

I send two pairs of the largest shoes I have, which I am afraid will be too small for William.

William was ‘roving’ with Robinson, Truganini and her husband Woorraddy for nine months . He was apparently sent back to Sydney from Hobart about January 1833.  Robinson had written to Governor Charles Arthur on 1 December 1832, asking that ‘a Sydney native’ (William) be given £7. ‘This individual is far superior to any of the other New Hollanders and has on several occasions been very useful.’
[Plomley 1966, page 801, note 3]

Back in Sydney ‘William Manen’, said to be from Broken Bay, received blankets in 1836.

William Minam
Walamata Port Aitken.
Possibly by William Nicholas
Engraving, c1843
PXA74, Mitchell Library                                                           Courtesy State Library of New South Wales

The portrait of William Minam by an unknown artist shows a well-built Indigenous man wearing European ‘slop’ (government issue) clothing, who has lost his right arm. Surgeons Robertson, Neilson and Stuart amputated the arm of ‘William Annam’ at the Colonial Hospital in Sydney in June 1838.

In May 1838 William Roberts of Hunter Street, Sydney, ‘called a medical gentleman… to attend a poor aboriginal native labouring under extensive disease of the arm and fore-arm, which in all probability require to be amputated’. Roberts offered to pay for the operation, which was done by Mr. Surgeon James Stewart, a surgeon based on the ship Minerva at the Quarantine Station near Manly and John Neilson. Neilson was a surgeon and druggist in Lower George Street at The Rocks. Charles Smith, a butcher in George Street, Sydney, paid for the operation.

The weekly journal The Colonist (6 June 1838) noted that William had ‘so far recovered since his operation as to be able to call on Surgeon Neilson and thank him for his kind and assiduous attendance on him during his suffering and confinement’.  The Reverend Ralph Mansfield, previously a Wesleyan missionary and later editor, publisher and printer of the Sydney Gazette was at that time editor of The Colonist.

George Augustus Robinson met Mansfield in Sydney and wrote in his journal for 31 October 1838 [Plomley, Weep in Silence, 1987, page 600]:

Whilst with Mr. Mansfield the black with one arm came to me and conversed in so rational and sensible a manner that Mr. Mansfield was astonished and said that he was in every respect an Englishman in his manner and language.

William Annam, Menan, Minam, Munnen or Manen, previously called Bugeerygrory or Willamannan (after adopting the name of the ship William and Ann), died from exposure at the racecourse at Hyde Park on Wednesday 29 May 1844. His death certificate V1844315 146/1844 records his given name simply as ‘William’ and his surname as ‘Unknown’.

Hearing of the death of an Indigenous man, a reporter from the The Australian newspaper (1 June 1844) asked a group of Aboriginal people outside the Market buildings in George Street for his name, ‘but although they willingly supplied every circumstance attending the melancholy event, they … evaded the decided question’. They would not say his name, in keeping with the Aboriginal tradition that the name of a recently dead person should not be spoken, adding that they were ‘afraid to mention the name of a dead black-fellow’.

The Sydney Morning Herald (3 June 1844) reported the inquest into his death.

Inquests—On Friday evening last, two inquests were held in Le Burns public-house, one on the body of an aborigine named William Menam, who had been found dead in Hyde Park on Wednesday Morning. It appeared from the medical testimony of Mr. Surgeon Russell that death had been the consequence of exposure to cold while in a state of intoxication. Verdict—Death from natural causes, accelerated by intemperance.

A writer in the Sydney  Dispatch newspaper blamed the death of ‘Menan’ on bad handling by the police.

We cannot make mention of this circumstance, without expressing a severe censure on the conduct of Inspector Higgins, and Constable McKone, who took Menan from the door of a public house in Elizabeth or Castlereagh Street, helplessly drunk, and contented themselves with putting him inside the palings of the Race Course, there to die from cold and intemperance.

In a life of about 53 years  Bugerygrory, who became Willamannan and William Menan, was a sailor, sealer, whaler, tracker, alleged murderer, ‘native constable’ and a rover in Van Diemen’s Land for the inaptly named ‘Conciliator’ George Augustus Robinson.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020


34 Allotments of land at Yaranabee or Darling Point, for sale by Bowden and Threlkeld 14th Augt. 1856 
 Edward Knapp, surveyor
 Historical Replicas, Lithographs
 Vol 2, ref BC 5961 survey 
 NSW Department of Lands and Property, Sydney 
Advertisement, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 1858, page 7

Yaranabe or Yarranabee is the Indigenous name of Darling Point in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
In 1897 George Thornton identified an Aboriginal ‘chief’ named Yaranabie or Euranabie who lived in the Woollahra area.

Keith Vincent Smith

In 1856 Yarranabee was cited as the Aboriginal name for the Sydney harbourside suburb of Darling Point (at first called Mrs Darling’s Point’). ‘Yaranabee’ (with one ‘r’), was the name of the property previously owned by surveyor Sir Thomas Mitchell, who had died the previous year.

On 21 September 1878 in an article headed ‘Aboriginal names of places in Australia, a writer using the nom de plume ‘Sydney Cove’ in the Australian Town and Country Journal listed ‘Darling Point – Yaranabe’.

The Aboriginal man behind the placename was Yaranabe or Yarranabee, whose name has been variously written as Yeranibe, Yerinibe, Yaranabi, Yaranibi, Yeranabie, Erroniba and Euranabie. Yarranabee Park and Yarranabee Road near Rushcutters Bay in Darling Point commemorate his personal name.

In 1897 George Thornton, born in Sydney in 1819, a resident of “Longford”, Darling Point and first Chairman (Mayor) of Woollahra Council (1860), suggested ‘Euranabie’ or ‘Yaranabie’ as the name of the Woollahra district. James Jervis quoted Thornton in his History of Woollahra (1965):

The only name I can recognise as being entirely to be regarded as the name by which the district [of Woollahra] should be called is “Euranabie” (now spelled “Yaranabie”) being the name of the old chief of the tribe of aborigines living here when the colony was first taken charge of by Governor Phillip.

It is unlikely that Yaranabee was the ‘chief’ of the ‘tribe’ living at Darling Point in 1788, because at that time he and his family belonged to the Burramattagal or Baramadagal clan located at present day Parramatta.

First Fleet linguist Lieutenant William Dawes quotes ‘Yirinibi’ (Yaranabee) on the fourth page of his first language notebook, begun in November 1790. This was just one month after the ‘coming in’ of Woollarawarre Bennelong and other friendly Eora who began to frequent Warrane (Sydney Cove). Dawes recorded:

Naabángoon Booroon    We will see, or shall we see Boorong? These words were spoken to me by Yiriníbi, Boorong’s Brother and he was evidently anxious in enquiring after Booroong.

See ‘my articles ‘On fact and fiction’ in The Australian, 1 November 2008 and ‘A few words from William Dawes and George Bass’ in National Library of Australia News for June 2008, online at <http://www.nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2008/jun08/story-2.pdf>

Yaranabee’s family was first linked to the convict settlement at Sydney Cove through his sister Boorong (‘Star’), at first wrongly called Abaroo and about 13 years of age, who was brought into Sydney suffering from smallpox in April 1789. She recovered after treatment by Surgeon John White and was afterwards looked after by Chaplain Richard Johnson and his wife Mary in their hut made of cabbage tree trunks near the Tank Stream.

Boorong’s parents were Maugoran (from maugro ‘fish’), an elder of the Baramada  or Burramattagal clan, and his wife Gooroobera (Firestick). Her brothers were Ballooderry (Leatherjacket fish) and ‘Yeranibe’, while Bèdia Bèdia (afterwards Bidgee Bidgee) was her half-brother and a girl the English called Wauriwéeal the less or Warreweer Wogul-mi (One-eye), her half sister.    I will add biographies of this family at a later date.

On 14 September 1790, one week after Willemering, an Aboriginal garadji (clever man) from Broken Bay, speared and wounded Governor Arthur Phillip, Maugoran and another man met Boorong, William Dawes and Chaplain Johnson in a boat at Gayamay (Manly Cove). ‘They said that they were inhabitants of Rose Hill [Parramatta], and expressed great dissatisfaction at the number of white men who had settled in their former territories’, wrote Captain Watkin Tench.

In his despatches, Phillip gave Maugoran’s words a stronger emphasis: ‘If this man’s information could be depended on, the natives were very angry at so many people being sent to Rose-hill,’ he wrote, adding ‘certain it is that wherever our colonists fix themselves, the natives are obliged to leave that part of the country’. Phillip’s reinforced the detachment at Rose Hill the next day.

In 1816 Governor Lachlan Macquarie created Bidgee Bidgee ‘chief’ of the Kissing Point ‘tribe’, located at present day Putney in the City of Ryde. He continued as clan leader for 20 years. 

Oui-Re-Kine [Worogan] 1802
Nicolas-Martin Petit (1777-1804)
Pastel, charcoal, ink and pencil
Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Le Havre, France
Replica of the Brig Lady Nelson, moored at Hobart, Tasmania
PHOTO: Keith Vincent Smith
Worogan, the wife of Euranabie
James Grant, 1801

Yaranabee’s wife Wúrrgan or Worogan (Crow) was a sister of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a Wangal from the south shore of the Parramatta River near The Flats (now Homebush Bay). Wúrrgan follows the names of Bennelong’s well-known sisters Wariwéar or Warreweer and Karangarang (Carangarang) in an entry by William Dawes in his second language notebook (1791).

Beneláng . Wariwéar . Karangarang . Wúrrgan. Munánguri

A young Aboriginal man also named Yerinibe was related to Moorooboora, clan head of the Mooroo-ora-dial at Long Bay and Maroubra. David Collins described Yaranabee as a ‘powerful man’ and Yerinibe as ‘a very fine boy’, who died in 1797 after he had been clubbed on the head by Colebee the Gadigal leader.

In March 1801 ‘Yeranabie’ (Yaranabee) and Worogan sailed with Lieutenant James Grant aboard the 60-ton sloop Lady Nelson. During an 11-week voyage they visited Jervis Bay, 170 kilometres south of Sydney, and Westernport and Churchill Island in Port Phillip Bay, now Victoria. This is the only known instance of Aboriginal voyagers who were husband and wife. A more detailed story is told in Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Worogan and Yeranabie on Lady Nelson’, Chapter 9 in MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, Rosenberg, Dural, 2010.

Grant said Yaranabee ‘comprehended and spoke English tolerably well’ while Worogan … ‘spoke English. She had always lived in the neighbourhood of Sydney’. In his journal Grant spelt his name as Yeranabie, but in Grant’s Narrative of a Voyage in H.M. Lady Nelson, printed in London in 1803, it is given as Euranabie. During the voyage Yaranabee acted as a go-between and guide for Grant, who called him ‘my faithful Yeranabie’. Towards the end of the voyage, Grant wrote:

I have before remarked upon the gentle disposition which is so striking a feature in the character of the New Hollander. In the individual, of whom I am now speaking, it was remarkable; his attention and readiness to oblige upon all occasions were very great.

The Lady Nelson left Western Port on 29 April 1801 and reached Sydney on 24 May.

There is no surviving portrait of Yaranabee, but his family was well known in Sydney and Parramatta. The unidentified ‘Port Jackson Painter’ portrayed his brother Balloderree (Ballooderry), who died in 1791, and his sister Boorong (as Abbarroo) as a moobee or mourner at Ballooderry’s funeral.

In 1802 the artist Nicolas-Martin Petit from the French Baudin expedition painted portraits of Yarranabee’s wife Worogan and his brother Bidgee Bidgee (as Bedgi Bedgi), while the scientist François Péron tested the strength of their father ‘Mou-Guéan’ (Maugoran), aged 30 to 33, who was described as ‘Lean, hairy all over’.

Yaranabee took part in the relentless cycle of Aboriginal ritual revenge combats in the streets of Sydney. In these payback battles Bennelong twice speared ‘Yeranibe’ in the knee. In March 1795 ‘Yeranibe’ killed Bennelong’s ally Bingyiwanne in a fight over a woman called Mawberry or Mau-ber-ry (Flying Fish).

‘Yeranibe’ was identified as ‘a native of Parramatta’ (Sydney Gazette, 10 December 1804). As ‘Yaranibi’ he was said to have been wounded in the back in combat at Parramatta on Saturday 15 December 1804, a punishment for leaving his ‘unfortunate companion in the hour of sickness and affliction, to perish unassisted’. A correction in the Sydney Gazette (23 December 1804) stated that ‘Yaranibi (commonly called Palmer)’ was not wounded in the affray. It is likely that Yaranabee had exchanged names with Commissary John Palmer whose estate was at Woolloomooloo.

George Thornton, who fished and hunted with Aboriginal people at Botany Bay during the 1840s, was a former Mayor of Sydney, first Protector of Aborigines and co-author with Richard Hill of Notes on the Aborigines of New South Wales (1892).

When an Aboriginal man named Bob Buchanan died in November 1863, the Sydney Morning Herald (21 November 1863, p 13) said he had camped with others on land at Darling Point ‘where they have been in the habit of holding a corroboree’. Thornton complained to the city Coroner that publicans at Rushcutters Bay and Double Bay had supplied them with drinks.

Thornton’s is the sole account that places Yaranabee at Darling Point, but in 1903 Mrs. Elizabeth Phillip, then aged 96, recalled a large group of Aboriginal people there.

The blacks in that time were numerous, and I have often seen hundreds of them camped on what is now known as Darling Point; [they were] as kind people as ever lived. Whenever they speared fish they used to bring us some.

Mixed groups of Aboriginal families from differing clans continued to live in camps in the Sydney Domain, Elizabeth Bay, Rose Bay, Double Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Darling Point, Vaucluse, Camp Cove and Watson’s Bay until late in the nineteenth century. See Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Aboriginal life around Port Jackson after 1822’ (2011) online at the Dictionary of Sydney:

Sydney’s Evening News (22 February 1895) deplored the ‘adult blacks with their gins’ (dyin or women) seen building gunyahs (bark huts) in the yard at St. Mark’s Church at Darling Point. On the same day the police officer in charge at Paddington reported that ‘he had persuaded the whole of the aboriginal camp in two old cottages in Darling Point to return to their own districts’.

In his reminiscences of ‘Old and New Sydney’ in The Sydney Morning Herald (1882), Obed West of Barcom Glen (see map at top) recalled the Aboriginal camp at Rushcutters Bay where ‘In former days I have watched them in their canoes in the bay, the gins fishing with the line while their sable lords used their spears to get the fish that swam beneath them’. Sir Kelso King, aged 83 (Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1936) remembered a big aboriginal camp at Rushcutters Bay, ‘just above where the toll bar was’.

Tresco Rowe, son of architect Thomas Rowe, who reclaimed the Rushcutters Bay Park foreshore, said that Aboriginal people were removed from their camp ‘at or near’ the Mona Estate (38 Mona Road), overlooking Rushcutters Bay, and moved to La Perouse in the late 1890s.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020