Keith Vincent Smith

Many people have been complaining that there are more statues of Matthew Flinders’ cat Trim than of Bungaree, who circumnavigated Australia with Flinders (and Trim) in 1802-3.

On 21 February 1857 the  Sydney newspaper Bell’s Life alerted its readers under the heading Colonial Work of Art, to ‘a colossal figure carved from a massive block of wood’ that was ‘in a state of forwardness’ under the chisel of the sculptor Archibald Murray at his studio, No. 59 Hunter Street.

The figure is intended to represent the late King Bungaree and is accounted an admirable prototype of his departed Majesty. We understand that on the completion of the work, which is being executed by order of the Sydney Volunteer Corps, it is to be sent home [meaning to England] for presentation to her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. We recommend all lovers of the fine arts to pay a visit to the studio of the artist.

Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville pointed this article out to me a long ago, in fact during 2000.

Archibald Murray (1823-1885), born in Scotland, was reputed to be a skilled furniture wood carver, sculptor, gilder and picture frame maker during the 1850s. I have not been able to find any record of his Bungaree statue being sent to Queen Victoria.

On Wednesday 9 December that same year, 1857, the Sydney Morning Herald recorded the donation to The Australian Museum of the ‘skull of “King Bungaree” an Aboriginal of New South Wales. The Museum has no record of receiving the skull and it is not in its collection.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020