Keith Vincent Smith
On 23 October 1798 an Aboriginal youth, called variously ‘Musketer’, ‘Musquetoo’ or ‘Musquito’, met Dr. Benjamin Bowen Carter, aged 26, surgeon aboard the American trading ship Ann and Hope from Providence, Rhode Island, bound for China. Carter was returning from Port Jackson (Sydney) to Botany Bay, where his ship was forced to put in two days earlier to shelter from constant squalls and thunderstorms.
Carter set out with a party that included Thomas Laycock, Quartermaster of the New South Wales Corps, one of Laycock’s sons, Dr. John Harris, Provost Marshal Thomas Smyth and surveyor Charles Grimes. He wrote in his journal:
Several of the natives of Botany accompanied us, also a native of Owhyhe one of the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii] … At length we arrived at the Beach about 5 miles from the Ship – we travelled along the Beach till we came to the watering place where our people were watering, with about 20 savages round whom they kept in awe by a single small arm. Here a Boy about 15 years of age who called himself Musketer offering voluntarily to conduct me to our party at Frenchmans Garden I accepted his service and rewarded him for his good behaviour with a present of a red waistcoat and some biscuit with which he was highly pleased.
The ‘watering place’ where they met was probably Long Bay, about three miles north of ‘Frenchman’s Gardens’ , as La Perouse on Botany Bay was then called. Long Bay on the coast, called Boora by the Aboriginal people, is marked (lower right) as ‘Good water’ by William Bradley on his chart No. 9 in 1788. Click to enlarge the map.
THE OTHER MUSQUITO
The youthful ‘Musquito’ or ‘Musquetoo’ who met Dr. Carter might have been a Kameygal from the north shore of Botany Bay or an ally or relative of Moorooboora, whose name can be interpreted as muru-boora, meaning ‘pathway to Boora (Long Bay)’. His Aboriginal name is not known, though a ‘mosquito’ was called tewra or teura in First Fleet vocabularies.
He is not the older ‘Musquito’ from Broken Bay north of Sydney, also called ‘Bush Muschetta’ or ‘Mousqueda’, who in 1805 was sent by Governor Philip Gidley King to Norfolk Island as an ‘Aboriginal convict’ with his young relative Toulgra, called Bulldog. These two men were later transported to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania), where the Broken Bay Musquito was hanged for murder in February 1825. See Chapter 5 ‘Mosquito and Bulldog’ in my book MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys (2010).
An Aboriginal man was killed in a ritual punishment combat in Sydney in September 1803 ‘in consequence of two wounds in the body from jagged spears … Ten spears were thrown at him, five at a time, one of which at each flight pierced his body’, said the Gazette (2 October 1803, page 2). ‘Mr. Jamieson [sic] rendered every surgical assistance the poor creature was capable of receiving, but he expired shortly after they were extracted.’ The surgeon who tried to help the unknown dying man was Thomas Jamison.
There is no known image of the young ‘Musquetoo’, now aged 20, who was involved in a brutal ritual revenge battle in Pitt’s Row (now Pitt Street, Sydney) when, according to the Sydney Gazette (16 October 1803, page 2a), he fended off 64 spears thrown at him ‘with rancour and malignancy’, of which 17 pierced his shield. ‘The 65th and last thrown at him entered the calf of his right hip and penetrated six inches through’, but the shaft was cut off and extracted.
Young Mosquito took part also in the clash at Wogganmagully (Farm Cove) in which the Broken Bay leader ‘Bungary’ (Bungaree) was the first Aboriginal man seen throwing a returning boomerang in the Sydney area. At midnight an enemy (‘a villain of the darkest hue’) crept up and discharged a spear among the sleeping combatants, wounding Mosquito in the arm (Sydney Gazette, 23 December 1804, page 3a). The assailant was identified by his spear and ran off. He was chased to the Brick Fields and was ‘at length severely wounded in his turn’. From later evidence, he was probably Blewit or Blueit, also, called Ploge.
The younger Musquito from the south can be separately recognised by the reports of a series of ritual revenge battles and his eventual death in 1806, reported by The Sydney Gazette (SG). As earlier stated, the older Broken Bay Musquito and his relative Toulgra Bulldog were sent to Norfolk Island on HMS Buffalo, which sailed from Sydney Cove on 22 August 1805.
In a ‘fit of intoxication’ (SG 12 January 1806, page 1), Musquito badly wounded young Pigeon (Warroba), a ‘boy’ from the Shoalhaven, in a face-to-face combat with clubs outside the Military Barracks in George Street (now Wynyard Station). Musquito knocked down Boatswain Maroot and split his head open with a crushing blow from a tomahawk. That night an ally of Pigeon ambushed Musquito outside the General Hospital at The Rocks and speared him in the chest. Surgeon Thomas Jamison gave orders for him to be taken into the hospital for treatment.
The Gazette (SG, Sunday 19 January 1806, page 2) detailed the events surrounding young Musquito’s death:
The native Musquito, who was treacherously wounded on the night of yesterday se’nnight [two weeks earlier], lingered until Wednesday evening, and then expired. The humane attention shewn him by the Principal Surgeon he seemed to entertain a proper sense of, as did all his friends and relatives likewise. Their ceremonies, on this occasion are said by the oldest residents to be more singular and extravagant than ever before witnessed. The whole of Thursday was devoted to mourning, and the lamentation of the female friends and relatives of the deceased were at intervals very loud and general, and even tumultuous whenever it was necessary the body should be disturbed. Three natives of a tribe not at all interested in the event of Mosquito’s departure were attacked with repeated flights of spears for presuming to land near the scene of mourning: and in fact every thing denoted the general esteem in which the deceased was held.
At night the corpse, closed in bark, was conveyed by two into Mr. Jamieson’s yard, two others carrying a coffin that had been provided […] Early next morning the internment of the body took place, at which the collected friends assisted, exercrating the assassin, whom they threatened with persecuting vengeance […]
The coffin provided for Musquito’s body would have come from the Lumber Yard, a large open roofed trades ‘factory’ facing Bridge and George Streets, Sydney, reaching down to the Tank Stream, a workplace of convict blacksmiths, carpenters, sawyers, wheelwrights and shoe makers. It was also a warehouse for storing logs, sawed timber, shingles, barrels, bricks, tiles, coal, nails and bolts. There were sawpits, forges and a tannery for curing leather to make hats and shoes.
Towards the end of the January 1806, Blewitt and Pigeon faced punishment for the killing of Mosquito. Nanbarry, a Gadigal, speared their Gweagal kinsman Colinjong. Old White threw a spear that penetrated Blewit’s shield, struck him near the left eye and deeply gashed his nose, while Pigeon was speared through the leg. (SG 2 February 1806, 2b-2c).
Blewit died not long afterwards and was buried in a bay near Woolloomooloo, probably Rushcutters Bay.
Thomas Jamison (1753-1811) was surgeon’s first mate on the First Fleet flagship HMS Sirius. After a period on Norfolk Island he sailed back to England on leave in 1800 but returned to Sydney in June 1802 on the ship Hercules, where he became principal surgeon, naval officer and magistrate. He was granted 1000 acres (405 hectares) of land on the Nepean River near Penrith in 1805 and acquired farms at Georges River and South Creek. See the online Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) entry on Thomas Jamison by Vivienne Parsons, 1967.
Jamison left Sydney again in June 1809 on Admiral Gambier to appear as a witness at the trial in London of Major George Johnston who deposed Governor William Bligh in 1808. He died in London in 1811.
His son, John Jamison (1776-1844), was educated at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and became a doctor in 1808. He arrived in Sydney on the Broxbornebury in 1814. In time he became an influential landholder with a town house in Sydney and Regentsville, his country estate at Penrith.
Thomas Jamison received a land grant running from George Street uphill to the Military Barracks. He built a two storey stone mansion with a return verandah at the corner of George and Grosvenor Street. On his return to London he sold his colonial property to his son Sir John Jamison, who came to New South Wales in 1814 to take it up.
Sir John Jamison (1776-1844) was the son of Thomas Jamison (1745-1811). He had been ‘Physician to His Majesty’s Fleet’ on HMS Gorgon in the Baltic and helped to suppress an outbreak of scurvy, for which he received a Swedish knighthood. When Jamison arrived in Sydney in July 1814 it was eight years since Young Musquito had been buried on his father’s property, which covered the triangular block of land bounded by the present George, Jamison, Lang and Grosvenor Streets.
In 1821 John Jamison built a mansion, usually referred to as ‘Jamieson House’, at the corner of George and Jamison Streets. Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald (10 February 1940, page 14), Sydney author John O’Grady called the house, then in a bad state of disrepair and plastered with ‘For Sale’ signs, ‘one of the earlier examples of colonial architecture’. Jamison Street was created when Dr. Jamison subdivided his property in 1831. He built the mansion ‘Regentsville’ on his huge country estate fronting the Nepean River at Penrith in 1826. He died in 1844, aged 68 and the house was destroyed by fire in 1869.
In Elements of the anatomy of the human body in its sound state … published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1825 (page 23), the anatomist Alexander Monro noted:
My friend Sir JOHN JAMISON sent me some years ago the skeleton of a young man, a native of New South Wales.
It seems highly likely that these skeletal remains were those of the ‘other’ Musquito, whose body had been buried on the estate of his father Thomas Jamison.
Alexander Monro tertius (the third doctor in his family) continued his description of the Indigenous People of ‘New Holland’ (page 224) in what we would now consider a racist tract. Monro wrongly believed that ‘the aborigines of New Holland’ were ‘totally ignorant of agriculture’ and did not practice any of the arts of civil life’ and ‘not one of them has been induced to avail himself of his education’ and that they held ‘a much lower place in the scale of being’. All of which have been proved to be wrong in recent research.
Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020