34 Allotments of land at Yaranabee or Darling Point, for sale by Bowden and Threlkeld 14th Augt. 1856 
 Edward Knapp, surveyor
 Historical Replicas, Lithographs
 Vol 2, ref BC 5961 survey 
 NSW Department of Lands and Property, Sydney 
Advertisement, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 December 1858, page 7

Yaranabe or Yarranabee is the Indigenous name of Darling Point in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
In 1897 George Thornton identified an Aboriginal ‘chief’ named Yaranabie or Euranabie who lived in the Woollahra area.

Keith Vincent Smith

In 1856 Yarranabee was cited as the Aboriginal name for the Sydney harbourside suburb of Darling Point (at first called Mrs Darling’s Point’). ‘Yaranabee’ (with one ‘r’), was the name of the property previously owned by surveyor Sir Thomas Mitchell, who had died the previous year.

On 21 September 1878 in an article headed ‘Aboriginal names of places in Australia, a writer using the nom de plume ‘Sydney Cove’ in the Australian Town and Country Journal listed ‘Darling Point – Yaranabe’.

The Aboriginal man behind the placename was Yaranabe or Yarranabee, whose name has been variously written as Yeranibe, Yerinibe, Yaranabi, Yaranibi, Yeranabie, Erroniba and Euranabie. Yarranabee Park and Yarranabee Road near Rushcutters Bay in Darling Point commemorate his personal name.

In 1897 George Thornton, born in Sydney in 1819, a resident of “Longford”, Darling Point and first Chairman (Mayor) of Woollahra Council (1860), suggested ‘Euranabie’ or ‘Yaranabie’ as the name of the Woollahra district. James Jervis quoted Thornton in his History of Woollahra (1965):

The only name I can recognise as being entirely to be regarded as the name by which the district [of Woollahra] should be called is “Euranabie” (now spelled “Yaranabie”) being the name of the old chief of the tribe of aborigines living here when the colony was first taken charge of by Governor Phillip.

It is unlikely that Yaranabee was the ‘chief’ of the ‘tribe’ living at Darling Point in 1788, because at that time he and his family belonged to the Burramattagal or Baramadagal clan located at present day Parramatta.

First Fleet linguist Lieutenant William Dawes quotes ‘Yirinibi’ (Yaranabee) on the fourth page of his first language notebook, begun in November 1790. This was just one month after the ‘coming in’ of Woollarawarre Bennelong and other friendly Eora who began to frequent Warrane (Sydney Cove). Dawes recorded:

Naabángoon Booroon    We will see, or shall we see Boorong? These words were spoken to me by Yiriníbi, Boorong’s Brother and he was evidently anxious in enquiring after Booroong.

See ‘my articles ‘On fact and fiction’ in The Australian, 1 November 2008 and ‘A few words from William Dawes and George Bass’ in National Library of Australia News for June 2008, online at <http://www.nla.gov.au/pub/nlanews/2008/jun08/story-2.pdf>

Yaranabee’s family was first linked to the convict settlement at Sydney Cove through his sister Boorong (‘Star’), at first wrongly called Abaroo and about 13 years of age, who was brought into Sydney suffering from smallpox in April 1789. She recovered after treatment by Surgeon John White and was afterwards looked after by Chaplain Richard Johnson and his wife Mary in their hut made of cabbage tree trunks near the Tank Stream.

Boorong’s parents were Maugoran (from maugro ‘fish’), an elder of the Baramada  or Burramattagal clan, and his wife Gooroobera (Firestick). Her brothers were Ballooderry (Leatherjacket fish) and ‘Yeranibe’, while Bèdia Bèdia (afterwards Bidgee Bidgee) was her half-brother and a girl the English called Wauriwéeal the less or Warreweer Wogul-mi (One-eye), her half sister.    I will add biographies of this family at a later date.

On 14 September 1790, one week after Willemering, an Aboriginal garadji (clever man) from Broken Bay, speared and wounded Governor Arthur Phillip, Maugoran and another man met Boorong, William Dawes and Chaplain Johnson in a boat at Gayamay (Manly Cove). ‘They said that they were inhabitants of Rose Hill [Parramatta], and expressed great dissatisfaction at the number of white men who had settled in their former territories’, wrote Captain Watkin Tench.

In his despatches, Phillip gave Maugoran’s words a stronger emphasis: ‘If this man’s information could be depended on, the natives were very angry at so many people being sent to Rose-hill,’ he wrote, adding ‘certain it is that wherever our colonists fix themselves, the natives are obliged to leave that part of the country’. Phillip’s reinforced the detachment at Rose Hill the next day.

In 1816 Governor Lachlan Macquarie created Bidgee Bidgee ‘chief’ of the Kissing Point ‘tribe’, located at present day Putney in the City of Ryde. He continued as clan leader for 20 years. 

Oui-Re-Kine [Worogan] 1802
Nicolas-Martin Petit (1777-1804)
Pastel, charcoal, ink and pencil
Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Le Havre, France
Replica of the Brig Lady Nelson, moored at Hobart, Tasmania
PHOTO: Keith Vincent Smith
Worogan, the wife of Euranabie
James Grant, 1801

Yaranabee’s wife Wúrrgan or Worogan (Crow) was a sister of Woollarawarre Bennelong, a Wangal from the south shore of the Parramatta River near The Flats (now Homebush Bay). Wúrrgan follows the names of Bennelong’s well-known sisters Wariwéar or Warreweer and Karangarang (Carangarang) in an entry by William Dawes in his second language notebook (1791).

Beneláng . Wariwéar . Karangarang . Wúrrgan. Munánguri

A young Aboriginal man also named Yerinibe was related to Moorooboora, clan head of the Mooroo-ora-dial at Long Bay and Maroubra. David Collins described Yaranabee as a ‘powerful man’ and Yerinibe as ‘a very fine boy’, who died in 1797 after he had been clubbed on the head by Colebee the Gadigal leader.

In March 1801 ‘Yeranabie’ (Yaranabee) and Worogan sailed with Lieutenant James Grant aboard the 60-ton sloop Lady Nelson. During an 11-week voyage they visited Jervis Bay, 170 kilometres south of Sydney, and Westernport and Churchill Island in Port Phillip Bay, now Victoria. This is the only known instance of Aboriginal voyagers who were husband and wife. A more detailed story is told in Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Worogan and Yeranabie on Lady Nelson’, Chapter 9 in MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys, Rosenberg, Dural, 2010.

Grant said Yaranabee ‘comprehended and spoke English tolerably well’ while Worogan … ‘spoke English. She had always lived in the neighbourhood of Sydney’. In his journal Grant spelt his name as Yeranabie, but in Grant’s Narrative of a Voyage in H.M. Lady Nelson, printed in London in 1803, it is given as Euranabie. During the voyage Yaranabee acted as a go-between and guide for Grant, who called him ‘my faithful Yeranabie’. Towards the end of the voyage, Grant wrote:

I have before remarked upon the gentle disposition which is so striking a feature in the character of the New Hollander. In the individual, of whom I am now speaking, it was remarkable; his attention and readiness to oblige upon all occasions were very great.

The Lady Nelson left Western Port on 29 April 1801 and reached Sydney on 24 May.

There is no surviving portrait of Yaranabee, but his family was well known in Sydney and Parramatta. The unidentified ‘Port Jackson Painter’ portrayed his brother Balloderree (Ballooderry), who died in 1791, and his sister Boorong (as Abbarroo) as a moobee or mourner at Ballooderry’s funeral.

In 1802 the artist Nicolas-Martin Petit from the French Baudin expedition painted portraits of Yarranabee’s wife Worogan and his brother Bidgee Bidgee (as Bedgi Bedgi), while the scientist François Péron tested the strength of their father ‘Mou-Guéan’ (Maugoran), aged 30 to 33, who was described as ‘Lean, hairy all over’.

Yaranabee took part in the relentless cycle of Aboriginal ritual revenge combats in the streets of Sydney. In these payback battles Bennelong twice speared ‘Yeranibe’ in the knee. In March 1795 ‘Yeranibe’ killed Bennelong’s ally Bingyiwanne in a fight over a woman called Mawberry or Mau-ber-ry (Flying Fish).

‘Yeranibe’ was identified as ‘a native of Parramatta’ (Sydney Gazette, 10 December 1804). As ‘Yaranibi’ he was said to have been wounded in the back in combat at Parramatta on Saturday 15 December 1804, a punishment for leaving his ‘unfortunate companion in the hour of sickness and affliction, to perish unassisted’. A correction in the Sydney Gazette (23 December 1804) stated that ‘Yaranibi (commonly called Palmer)’ was not wounded in the affray. It is likely that Yaranabee had exchanged names with Commissary John Palmer whose estate was at Woolloomooloo.

George Thornton, who fished and hunted with Aboriginal people at Botany Bay during the 1840s, was a former Mayor of Sydney, first Protector of Aborigines and co-author with Richard Hill of Notes on the Aborigines of New South Wales (1892).

When an Aboriginal man named Bob Buchanan died in November 1863, the Sydney Morning Herald (21 November 1863, p 13) said he had camped with others on land at Darling Point ‘where they have been in the habit of holding a corroboree’. Thornton complained to the city Coroner that publicans at Rushcutters Bay and Double Bay had supplied them with drinks.

Thornton’s is the sole account that places Yaranabee at Darling Point, but in 1903 Mrs. Elizabeth Phillip, then aged 96, recalled a large group of Aboriginal people there.

The blacks in that time were numerous, and I have often seen hundreds of them camped on what is now known as Darling Point; [they were] as kind people as ever lived. Whenever they speared fish they used to bring us some.

Mixed groups of Aboriginal families from differing clans continued to live in camps in the Sydney Domain, Elizabeth Bay, Rose Bay, Double Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Darling Point, Vaucluse, Camp Cove and Watson’s Bay until late in the nineteenth century. See Keith Vincent Smith, ‘Aboriginal life around Port Jackson after 1822’ (2011) online at the Dictionary of Sydney:

Sydney’s Evening News (22 February 1895) deplored the ‘adult blacks with their gins’ (dyin or women) seen building gunyahs (bark huts) in the yard at St. Mark’s Church at Darling Point. On the same day the police officer in charge at Paddington reported that ‘he had persuaded the whole of the aboriginal camp in two old cottages in Darling Point to return to their own districts’.

In his reminiscences of ‘Old and New Sydney’ in The Sydney Morning Herald (1882), Obed West of Barcom Glen (see map at top) recalled the Aboriginal camp at Rushcutters Bay where ‘In former days I have watched them in their canoes in the bay, the gins fishing with the line while their sable lords used their spears to get the fish that swam beneath them’. Sir Kelso King, aged 83 (Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1936) remembered a big aboriginal camp at Rushcutters Bay, ‘just above where the toll bar was’.

Tresco Rowe, son of architect Thomas Rowe, who reclaimed the Rushcutters Bay Park foreshore, said that Aboriginal people were removed from their camp ‘at or near’ the Mona Estate (38 Mona Road), overlooking Rushcutters Bay, and moved to La Perouse in the late 1890s.

Copyright Keith Vincent Smith 2020