Keith Vincent Smith
The recent discovery in London of the coffin and remains of Captain Matthew Flinders among 40,000 graves buried beneath Euston Street Station sent a frisson of excitement through British and Australian nautical history buffs.
Flinders, born at Donington in Lincolnshire in 1774, died at the age of 40 on 19 July 1814 and was buried in the graveyard of St. James’s Church on 24 July.
But are the skeletal remains in the coffin those of Matthew Flinders?
Anthony J. Brown in Ill-starred Captains: Finders & Baudin, Fremantle Press, North Fremantle, 2000, page 478, wrote:
Matthew Flinders, neglected in death as in life by his countrymen, had his grave destroyed and the contents ‘carried away as rubbish’ within forty years of his burial.
‘No man knows exactly where his bones were laid’ wrote Ernest Scott in The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders R.N., Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1814. In 1912 the vicar of St. James’s stated that the entry in the burial register was written, by a clerical error, in the name of ‘Captain Matthew Flanders, aged 40′.
Anthony Brown’s assertion (above) is derived from remarks by Flinders’ daughter, Mrs. Petrie, quoted by Scott [pages 396-7]:
Many years afterwards my aunt Tyler went to look for his grave, but found the churchyard remodelled, and quantities of tombstones and graves with their contents had been carted away as rubbish, among them that of my unfortunate father, thus pursued by disaster after death as in life.
To me and many other students of Indigenous history the news about Flinders grave immediately evokes the memory of Bungaree, the Garigal leader from Broken Bay, north of Sydney, who sailed on HMS Investigator with Flinders, who described him as a ‘worthy and brave fellow’. On that voyage in 1802-3 Bungaree became the first Australian to circumnavigate our continent.
In the early nineteenth century Bungaree was one of Sydney’s most colourful characters. Intrigued by his adventurous early years as a voyager and mediator on English sailing ships, I wrote King Bungaree, published by Kangaroo Press in 1992. You will see various references to him on this website.
There is one statue of Bungaree in Sydney.
Bungaree was honoured with a bust outside the Mosman Town Hall in Sydney by Indigenous sculptor Laurie Nilson. He faces a similar bust of Archibald Mosman, for whom the area is named. See my speech at the unveiling of the bust in 1999 on the file titled Personal on this website.
In 1820 Phillip Parker King, captain of HMS Mermaid, named Bungaree Island, in Prince Frederick Harbour, off the north-west Kimberley coast in Western Australia.
Ships and ferries (as well as racehorses) were named after Bungaree. In 1890 the steam collier SS Bungaree completed the voyage from London to Sydney in 42 days and 11 hours.
A coastal cargo ship called the Bungaree, built in 1937, was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy in 1940 and converted to a mine loader, HMAS Bungaree.
After the war in 1946 the ship was decommissioned at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. Bungaree Shoals, in Torres Strait, was named after this wartime vessel. Renamed Eastern Mariner, she struck a mine and sank in the Saigon River in South Vietnam in 1966.
DANIEL MOOWATTIN AND FLINDERS
I believe that Daniel Moowattin, the young Burramattagal man who became the third Indigenous Australian to visit Britain, met Matthew Flinders on a visit to Sir Joseph Banks at his home in Soho. On Sunday 12 May 1811, Flinders, then lodging at No 7 Nassau Street, London, wrote in his journal:
Walked out in the evening. At 9, went to Sir Joseph Banks, where I met the two Daniels.
[Matthew Flinders, Private Journal, 1803-1814, 12 May 1811, MS S1/48, Mitchell Library, Sydney]
One Daniel was Banks’s colleague the botanist Daniel Solander, who collected so many new plant species at Botany Bay in April-May 1770. The other might have been Daniel Moowattin.
On Monday 27 May 1811, George Caley, Banks’s plant collector in New South Wales, who took Daniel Moowattin to England, called on Robert Brown, who took him to see Flinders. Flinders wrote in his journal that day:
Mr. Brown called in the evening, with Mr. Cayley [sic], in order to my consulting him about the parts at the back of Port Jackson …
The botanist and scientist Robert Brown had sailed on HMS Investigator with Flinders and Bungaree.
The ‘parts’ Flinders referred to appear in the chart in his Atlas of A Voyage to Terra Australis, published shortly before his death in June 1814, which identifies Moowattin Creek (now the Cataract River) and the Cataract of Carrung-gurring (Appin Falls), seen by Daniel Moowattin in 1807 when he was sent by Caley to acquire a koala as a specimen for Banks.
There is a good case for the original name to be restored. Caley told Banks in a letter that he had named the river ‘to commemorate the memory of the native to whom I am indebted for the discovery of the cataract.’
[Caley to Banks, 25 September 1807, Banks Papers, A83, vol. 20, page 281, Mitchell Library, Sydney]
In London Daniel Moowattin first met Banks, the influential President of the Royal Society, on 4 January 1811 and Robert Brown on 9 January 1811, a snowy day. On 2 February, a Saturday, Daniel Moowattin was again at Soho Square, where, wrote Caley, Sir Joseph Banks ‘questioned Dan about the Cola [koala]’.
On Monday 16 January Daniel went to Lambeth with the gardener George Suttor to visit William Bligh, deposed as Governor of New South Wales in the famous ‘Rum Rebellion’ of 1808.
In his journal for 21 January George Caley wrote: ‘Dan went to Mr Suttor’s to Governor Bligh’s etc.’
In October 1811, Daniel and Suttor boarded the convict ship Mary at Portsmouth which arrived in Sydney on 12 May 1812. Suttor wrote in his memoirs:
I was accompanied by Dan the native (Moowattie,) who had been taken to England by my dear friend, Mr. George Caley.
Daniel ran off in two weeks from Suttor’s Chelsea House at Baulkham Hills and sold a fowling piece given to him by Robert Brown to shoot birds.
[Based on Chapter 11, ‘Daniel Moowattin in Regency London’, pp 118-134 in Keith Vincent Smith, MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, Rosenberg, Dural, 2010. See my Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) entry online at
A NATIVE’ AT JOHNSTON’S TRIAL
George Caley stood ready to give evidence in favour of William Bligh at the court martial at the Royal Hospital Chelsea of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps, who led the infamous 1808 ‘Rum Rebellion’ coup against Bligh.
Caley attended court every day for fourteen days, but was not called to give evidence.
I have just found a report that shows Daniel Moowattin was also in court on the third day of the hearing. He would face a more serious court in 1816, after his return to Sydney. The Globe, London, reported on 10 May 1811 (page 4):
The Court was much crowded. One of the witnesses in attendance is a native of New South Wales; he resembles a Malay, but of a darker hue, and undersized. He was brought to this country by the desire and expense of Government.
Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2021
I was privileged to give a talk about Bungaree’s voyages and his later flamboyant life to an audience of 100 interested people, including some of his descendants, at the Pearl Beach Hall on Friday night 23 November 2018.
The following day, Saturday 24 November, marked 188 years since Bungaree’s death at Garden Island and his burial at Rose Bay in Sydney in 1830.
My book King Bungaree is long out of print and difficult to obtain. However, I can recommend an excellent new publication, Bungaree’s Mob, a thoroughly researched and accurate 50-page illustrated small book.
The first section is a valuable and informative ‘deep history’ and archaeological survey of the New South Wales central coastal area around Pearl Beach and Patonga, with an explanation of many Indigenous concepts. This would be an excellent primer for schoolchildren, students and people like me, who were taught nothing about our First People at school.
The second part, ‘Bungaree c1775-1830 & the Garigal people’ starting at page 25, picks up the ‘epic story’ of this remarkable man, with an accurate chronological account of his voyages with Matthew Flinders and later with Phillip Parker King, Australia’s first Admiral. Highly recommended.
The Wannangine of the Woy Woy Peninsula & beyond
Justine O’Brien (ed.)
2nd edition revised 2018
Pearl Beach Aboriginal History Group
Price of the booklet is $15, with postage of $3 for one copy or $5 for two copies. Send orders to pbaboriginal email@example.com.
Keith Vincent Smith 2021