Corrangie, called ‘Harry’ by the English settlers, was taught to read as a child by the Reverend Samuel Marsden at Parramatta, west of Sydney. He spoke English well and was known for his good manners.
Harry became the husband of Bennelong’s sister Carangarang and leader of the Burramattagal or Parramatta clan. The French surgeon and pharmacist René-Primavère Lesson, who visited Sydney in 1824, named ‘Hari’ (Harry) ‘chef de la peuplade de Paramatta’, that is, leader of the Parramatta people or clan.
In August 1817 Harry surprised the cantankerous John Macarthur with an erudite welcome speech when he returned to Parramatta after seven years of exile in England. Macarthur’s youngest son, William, considered Harry ‘the poet of his tribe’ while Judge Barron Field praised him as ‘the most courteous savage that ever bade good-morrow’.
Harry was not only literate, he was the first Indigenous Australian known to write a letter in English in his own words and in his own hand.
Written in 1807, it predates the handwritten petition sent by Maria Lock to Governor Ralph Darling in March 1831. Unfortunately, the original of Harry’s letter has not been traced.
In a report to Archdeacon Thomas Hobbes Scott in 1826 Samuel Marsden wrote that
The Native Harry … lived in my family, 30 years ago , for a considerable time. He learned to speak our language, and while he was with me behaved well.
Marsden and his wife Elizabeth arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney) on the storeship William in March 1794 as assistant chaplain to the Reverend Richard Johnson. Marsden said he had hoped Harry might ‘improve in civilization’, but he left to join the ‘Natives in the Woods’ and ‘never seems to think that he lost anything by living in the woods’.
Harry attended the Orphan School at Parramatta run by Anna Josepha King, wife of the third Governor of New South Wales, Philip Gidley King. In a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald (3 May 1890), George F. Macarthur wrote
Sir,—There was an old letter extant in 1848, which was written by an aboriginal named Harry, who was a very remarkable man, and one of the cleverest mimics to be imagined. Harry was taught to read and write in the school at Paramatta (not Parramatta as now spelled), and the letter to which I refer was addressed to my mother, who had, at its date, returned with her parents to England. It commenced ‘My dear Maria.’ Subsequently Miss King returned to the Colony as Mrs. Hannibal McArthur, of ‘the Vineyard,’ now known as ‘Subiaco.’ Many years ago my mother showed me this letter, and incidentally expressed her regret at the cruel corruption of the euphonious native name “Walamula” into “Woolloomooloo.” Her object, however, in showing me the letter was to impress me with the folly of saying “What’s the good of trying to teach these black-fellows? They cannot learn anything.” This letter, which I carefully read and examined, was expressed in far better language than many English people use. It spoke of the writer’s thanks for kindness which “Maria” had shown to him when she used to go with her mother, “Missus Gobernor,” to the school, and it told her that he had been down to “Wallamula to see the big ships.” GEO. F. MACARTHUR
Replying to a correspondent (SMH 6 May 1890), George Macarthur said ‘The letter itself was written in the year after Governor King had left the colony; that was in 1807.’ He added: ‘I knew “Harry” and his contemporary “Bidgee Bidgee” personally and intimately, for as boys we were allowed to go out with them on excursion to hunt opossums and bandicoots.’
The Reverend George Fairfowl Macarthur, born at the Vineyard, Parramatta, was the third son of Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur and Anna Maria, daughter of Governor PG King. Anna Josepha King spent much of her time supervising the Orphan School, which became known as ‘Mrs King’s Orphanage’. The ivory miniature portrait of her was exhibited in the exhibition Flesh + Blood: Family connections in Sydney 1788-1998, curated by Anthony Bourke, at the Museum of Sydney from 28 November to 14 February 1999.
Under the pseudonym ‘M’, George Macarthur quoted Barron Field’s estimate of Harry’s character (See ‘HARRY’S CHANT’ below) in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (17 July 1880), headed ‘HARRY, the KING of Kissing Point’. He continued:
There must be many residents in and around Parramatta [sic] who remember him. The present writer in 1828 and the year following, being then a very small boy, knew Harry well, and often conversed with him. In those days Parramatta was the resort of many of the “blacks,” not only at their annual “feast” in the market square opposite the church, but at other times. Amongst them, there never was one like Harry. He was undoubtedly a natural gentleman. Those who had the good fortune to be acquainted with the late James Macarthur, of Camden, will recollect his mild and courteous demeanour, and the gentle tone of his voice in ordinary conversation. Of like courtesy and no less grace, was this aboriginal. He was an old man of more than seventy when I knew him …
[I previously wrote about Harry in my MA thesis (2004) and in Wallumedegal: An Aboriginal history of Ryde, for City of Ryde (2005).]
While Samuel Marsden attempted to educate an aboriginal boy named Tristan Maamby, it’s likely that William Granger was referring to Harry when he wrote in the second volume of The New Wonderful Museum and Extraordinary Magazine (London 1804):
While in Sydney in 1833, the Austrian scientist Baron Charles von Hügel, was shown a letter he thought was written by Bennelong, ‘such as a child might write, in which he reminisced about the wife of Governor King’. Judging by its content, this was not the letter dictated by Bennelong and sent to Lord Sydney, but more likely Harry’s letter to ‘Maria’. (See Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Bennelong’s letter expresses authentic Aboriginal voice’, The Australian, 29 December 2012.)
In 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie gave Harry, Bidgee Bidgee, Tindall and others each a suit of slop clothing, a blanket, four days provision, a half pint of spirits and a half pound of tobacco for their services as ‘Native Guides’ in tracking ‘hostile’ Aborigines in the Appin area. Macquarie ordered a ‘Reward of Merit’ gorget to be engraved for Harry and another for Tindall.
In his handwritten manuscript, ‘A few Memoranda Respecting the Aboriginal Natives’, now in Sydney’s Mitchell Library (MSA4360), William Macarthur spoke of Harry’s ‘gentle disposition’ compared with that of Tjedboro or Tedbury, son of the rebel leader Pemulwuy. He described at length Harry’s demeanour when he again saw his father, who had left New South Wales in 1809. William writes at length about this event.
Harry hearing of our return, came to welcome us. He arrived whilst we were sitting at table after dinner. He was immediately brought in with a companion and placed at table. A glass of wine was poured out for each. The other native bowing to my father, drank his off. But Harry seemed to have his heart full, he hesitated a moment, then putting his hand on his glass, turned towards my father, and made a short but most beautiful speech. I regret much I cannot remember the words. But I remember thinking I had never seen manner more graceful or heard expressions better turned than his. He said that they had all mourned his absence, as for a father, and that he had not words to say, how much he rejoiced in his return – that there were many gone who would have rejoiced in that day as much as he did himself for that they always found a home and food and shelter with my father, when they needed it.—He then slightly alluded to the political troubles, which had occasioned my fathers long absence, – trusted that those things would never come again and that now he was once more amongst them, he would never again depart, but dwell in peace and at length lay his bones amongst them. I remember that some strangers who were present were much astonished at Harrys eloquence, to which I have done very ill justice – they did not know he was the poet of his tribe –
Dr Joseph Paul Gaimard of the French expedition commanded by Louis De Freycinet visited Governor Macquarie at Parramatta in November 1819, where he examined ‘Aré’ (Harry), aged 32, whose pulse rate was 87 beats per minute. Gaimard also recorded the physical measurements of Harry’s wife ‘Karangaran’ (Carangarang).
A writer in Foreign Field Sports (London 1819) said Aboriginal Australians had not forgotten that the colonists in New South Wales were settled on land that belonged to them, citing the threat by ‘a chief, of the name of Harry’ to set corn stacks alight.
A respectable settler, in the neighbourhood of Parramatta, early one morning observed a chief, of the name of Harry, and several of his tribe, passing with their fire, rather too near his stacks of corn; the settler went to them, and remonstrated on the impropriety, saying, the fire might easily be communicated to the loose straw, thence to the stacks; and, however unintentionally, cause the destruction of his property. The chief calmly replied: ‘You know we must have fire; the country is ours, you must take care of your corn.’
When he found a pit saw at Marraymah or Charity Point (Ryde), near Meadowbank, the brewer James Squire, of Kissing Point (now Putney), placed a classified advertisement for Harry’s benefit in the Sydney Gazette (22 May 1819).
In July 1822, Captain John Piper sent a petition to Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane asking for clothes and blankets from the Commissariat Store on behalf of Harry, Krankie (1st), Krankie (2nd) and others, camped near his mansion at Point Piper, who were ‘almost in a state of nudity, suffering Cold and hunger in the extreme’. Piper wrote:
In order to supplicate your Excellency for relief They solicited a White Man to put their unfortunate situation in writing for your Excellencys humane consideration, and as your Excellency has extended your benevolence to several of their suffering brethren, they humbly hope your Excellency will allow them some sort of covering from His Majestys store.
Krankie (1st) was another name for Harry’s wife Carangarang, recorded as ‘One Old Woman named Cranky’, said to be 60 years of age, when she was included in the 1837 ‘Return of Aboriginal Natives’ issue of government blankets at Brisbane Water in Broken Bay. Krankie (2nd) was Carangaray, son of Carangarang and her first husband Yuwarry. See my entry on Carangarang at The Dictionary of Sydney : http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/carangarang
Corrangie or Harry was a mimic and songman. When Harry gave the words of a ‘corrobore’ to him, Judge Barron Field remarked: ‘I took down the following Australian national melody from Harry, who married Carangarang, the sister of the celebrated Bennilong.’
As I wrote in ‘1793: A Song of the Natives of New South Wales’, Electronic British Library Journal, 2011 http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2011articles/article14.html
Mr Justice Barron Field (1786-1846) arrived in Australia in February 1817 where he presided in the Supreme Court under the Scots career soldier Governor Lachlan Macquarie. A friend of Charles Lamb and Leigh Hunt and a drama critic for the London Times, Field was a minor poet whose poems were said to be ‘a barren field indeed’.
Field first published Harry’s Gumberry jah song with music in ‘Journal of an excursion across the Blue Mountains of New South Wales’ in The London Magazine in 1823 and later in the Appendix to Geographical Memoirs on New South Wales … (London: John Murray, 1825)
According to the French surgeon René-Primavère Lesson, ‘Hari’ (Harry) took part in the revenge combat he witnessed in Sydney in March 1824 against a young man from the Five Islands (see ‘Ricketty Dick’) blamed for the death of his two nephews, one of them Bennelong’s son, christened Thomas Walker Coke. In Voyage autour du monde … sur la corvette La Coquille, vol. 2, Paris 1839 page 231, Lesson writes: ‘… the wounded savage was accused by Hati [a misprint for Harry] chief of the Parramatta people, of being the cause of the death of his two nephews, children admitted to the Native School’.
Writing as editor of The Australian Quarterly Journal of Theology, Literature and Science (Sydney 1828), the Reverend Charles Pleydell Neale Wilton, referred to ‘Harry alias Corrangie, Chief of Parramatta’. Until that year Wilton was Master of the Female Orphan School at Parramatta, Minister of the Field of Mars, and chaplain at St. Anne’s Church, Ryde. Wilton said Harry had treated his wife roughly and claimed to have the waddie (wooden club) with which he struck her in his possession.
In January 1827 Harry, who was with two other Aboriginal people, Purcell and Margaret, saw two convicts from the Sydney Road work gang under the bridge in the Government Domain at Parramatta (now Parramatta Park) holding a ‘large bundle’ of clothing which they tried to give him. The Sydney Gazette reported (9 January 1827) : … they (the ‘natives’) said no, we must have you; the prisoners then ran away, and the natives after, and apprehended them. Purcell, a native, stated the same, and Margaret corroborated both their statements.’ The convicts ‘Michael Haze’ and ‘Wm. Ray’ were each sentenced to three years to ‘a penal settlement’.
Ten years later Harry and others members of Sydney’s dwindling Aboriginal population, including Bungaree’s widow Cora Gooseberry and ‘Bungarry’ (probably Toby Bungaree) and Maria (Toby’s wife), were charged in July 1837 with ‘creating an uproar in George-street’ while fighting under the influence of bull (watered down rum). The Sydney Gazette reported (6 July 1837):
Through the instrumentality of Mrs. Gooseberry, they all pleaded guilty to the charge of drunkenness, and were each ordered to take a turn in the stocks, and at the same time informed that if they continued such a course they would be sent to the Tread Mill.
‘Harry became quite an altered being long before his death’, wrote Sir William Macarthur, ‘utterly broken down in body and mind by dissipation and disease.’ His death is not recorded.
Copyright Keith Vincent Smith