The French sketcher and traveller Eugène Delessert set out from Le Havre in 1844 on a grand voyage around the world. Delessert visited Manila, Hong Kong, Tahiti, Brazil and San Francisco and returned to Paris in 1847.
He arrived in Sydney on the ship Persian in 1845 and while staying at Millers Point in Sydney, went hunting kangaroos at Botany Bay with an Aboriginal guide named Mitiman. Delessert sketched a portrait of this man, showing his headband, elaborate hairstyle, ritual cicatrices or cuts in his chest and shoulders and the clay pipe stuck through a hole in his ear. He wrote later in Voyage dans les Deux Océans Atlantique et Pacifique (Paris 1848) that after walking along a bush track for three hours
Fatigued and disgusted, I sat down with my dogs and my faithful Mitiman, who was the most villainous black I have ever seen, although quite well made of his person. But handsome or ugly, little touched me; I did not want to lose sight of him, for I did not know how I would find my way.
He took a pipe he had thrust in his ear and when it was lit I asked him to tell me the usages of his tribe. His narration was hardly beginning when suddenly our dogs were alerted.
Mitiman cried: ‘Etu! etu! etu! (down there, down, down) and as I live I saw the tail of a kanguroo that was lost making jumps of fifteen to twenty feet. In one second they were next to them and for one who has never seen the tail of a kanguroo its tail is huge.
Mitiman is probably Mite, called Billy, then aged 21, who was recorded collecting blankets in 1833 at Jinero, Mount Elrington, near Majors Creek on the south coast of New South Wales. Bill Warry, alias Ricketty Dick, received blankets there the following year.
In turn Mitiman might have been the husband of Sally Mettymong (or Mittamong), sister of Kooman or Cooman, and also, perhaps, a grandson of the Gweagal elder Mety, father of Wangubile (Botany Bay Kolbi) and also Kurubarabula, who became Bennelong’s third wife.
Sally Mettymong, an elderly Aboriginal woman, claimed to remember the visit of James Cook and his crew at Botany Bay in 1770. Walking along the beach at Kurnell at the age of eighty, Sally would often tell Elias Laycock, then a boy aged six, ‘White man buried there’ — pointing to the spot where Forby Sutherland, a sailor on the Endeavour, was buried.
Laycock told Sally’s story as an adult in 1924 to members of the Royal Australian Historical Society seeking to find the site of Sutherland’s grave. He said Sally, who used to fish nearby, had vivid recollections when she was a girl of seeing Captain Cook’s ship come in, and a party land at Kurnell.
Copyright Keith Vincent Smith