The Newcastle Tribe (1820)

Corrobborree or Dance of the Natives of New South Wales New Holland (1821) - Courtesy of UONCC University of Newcastle (Australia)

Corrobborree or Dance of the Natives of New South Wales New Holland (1821) – Courtesy of UONCC University of Newcastle (Australia)

Corrobborree or Dance of the Natives of New South Wales New Holland is Plate VI (6) from Captain James Wallis’ An historical account of the colony of New South Wales and its dependent settlements : in illustration of twelve views, engraved by W. Preston from drawings taken on the spot by Captain Wallis. To which is subjoined An accurate map of Port Macquarie and the newly discovered River Hastings by J. Oxley
London : Printed for R. Ackermann by J. Moyes, 1821.

View on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/16858646342/

Hi Res (39MB): https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/16858646342/sizes/o/

This scan is the highest resolution we have been able to obtain from copy donated by the family of Molly Steere in 1994. See https://uoncc.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/a-moment-in-time-arrival-of-wallis-book-to-university-1994/

An explanation of this plate, as well as the rest of the original work is available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/4036204718/in/set-72157622518218701

It reads:

No. VI.

Is a View of a corrobboree, or Dance, of the natives of New South Wales. The representation of this extraordinary assemblage of savage festivity, as well as the scenery, is taken from nature. The preparation for their dance is striking and curious. They assemble in groups, and commence marking their arms, legs, and bodies, in various directions, with pipe-clay and a kind of red ochre; some of them displaying great taste at their toilet, as in the representation. Their musician, who is generally an elderly man, sings a monotonous tune, in which they all join, striking in regular time the shield with a club or waddy. each dancer carries a green bough in his hand. The beauty of the scenery, the pleasing reflection of light from the fire round which they dance, the grotesque and singular appearance of the savages, and their wild notes of festivity, all form a strange and interesting contrast to any thing ever witnessed in civilised society. The women never dance; and, where several tribes meet together, each tribe dances separately. All the principal figures in the fore-ground are from original portraits; the tall figure laughing, on the left, is the chieftain or king of the Newcastle tribe, called Buriejou, – a brave, expert fellow, who has lately presented Governor Macquarie with his eldest son, to be placed in the native institution, as a proof of his confidence in British humanity.

 

This is a new, higher resolution scan of this important engraving, depicting the Newcastle Tribe around 1820. It’s leader was Burigon (also known as Long Jack) can be seen smiling at the lower left of the image.

He was murdered by two convicts on the 27th October 1820. Burigon’s murderer, John Kirkby was tried and hanged on the 18th December 1820, the first man ever convicted and exectuted for murdering an Aboriginal under British Law.

You are welcome to use the image for study and personal research purposes. Please acknowledge as “Courtesy of Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle (Australia)”

If you have any further information relating to this image, please leave it in a comment.

These images are provided free of charge to the global community thanks to the generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

If you wish to donate to the Vera Deacon Fund please download a form here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/21528529/veradeaconform.jpg

Sir Thomas Mitchell’s First Expedition (1831-1832)

Sir Thomas Mitchell's First Expedition 1831-1832 showing course drawn by Mr John Read (2011) Photographed by Emeritus Professor John Fryer.

The course of Sir Thomas Mitchell’s First Expedition 1831-1832 drawn by Mr John Read (2011) Photographed by Emeritus Professor John Fryer.

Mr John Read and Mr Barry Spratt are both retired surveyors in New South Wales. John Read has field researched all of Sir Thomas Mitchell’s expeditions and has given his permission for the University of Newcastle (Australia) Cultural Collections to provide some of this work to the wider research community through the Coal River Working Party.

He has coursed the route taken of Sir Thomas Mitchell’s first expedition in search of the inland sea. It was documented by Mitchell in his work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia in the chapter “Journey in Search of the Kindur, in 1831 and 1832.”

You can read the account in full here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12928/12928-h/12928-h.htm

Along with the images of the maps showing the day by day course that Mitchell’s party travelled, John Read has also provided some notes describing how he worked with Mitchell’s original field-notes and journal.

View:  John Read’s “Criteria for Determining the Route of Major Mitchell’s Expeditions” (1.9MB PDF File)

Emeritus Professor John Fryer and Gionni Di Gravio
February 2015

The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961) by K.D. Charlton

Front Cover of 2015 Digital Edition of The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961) by K.D. Charlton

Front Cover of 2015 Digital Edition of The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961) by K.D. Charlton

We are very pleased to be able to provide public online access to Kenneth D. Charlton’s The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961). It is a  history of the architecture and architects of High Street, Maitland, New South Wales (Australia) completed in 1961 as an Architectural Science and Research Thesis for the Architecture Diploma Course Newcastle College, University of N.S.W.

This is the 2015 Digital Edition prepared by the author, who has provided the University of Newcastle (Australia) with permission to release it across the web. The names of some architects, not known by the author in 1961, have been included in the Digital Edition.

You can download the thesis either at the link below, or by clicking the image above.

We thank Mr K. D. Charlton for his generosity in making this work available for architectural historians and researchers.

DOWNLOAD HERE:

The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961) by K.D. Charlton (2015 Digital Edition) (6.9MB PDF File)

OR

[High Res Version] The Architecture of High Street Maitland (1961) by K.D. Charlton (2015 Digital Edition) (34.1MB PDF File)

The Eather Manuscript – The History of Bulga 1820 – 1921 by A.N. Eather (1921)

A5410(x) - "Bulga - 1820-1921 The Eather Manuscript. (Description of last combined Bora Ceremony on family property in 1852)

A5410(x) – “Bulga – 1820-1921 The Eather Manuscript. (Description of last combined Bora Ceremony on family property in 1852)

Within the Percy Haslam Archives held at the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections is located A5410(x) Xerox copy of The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S.W. from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather.

According to the folder’s caption, in Percy Haslam’s hand is written:

“Bulga – 1820-1921 The Eather Manuscript. (Description of last combined Bora Ceremony on family property in 1852)x”

The description states that the last combined Bora ceremony was held on the family property in 1852, but according to Ian Eather, nephew and adopted son of the manuscript’s author, Alexander Nicholas Eather, the Bora site was not located on the Meerea property but at another location nearby. Meerea was a land grant to Thomas Eather in 1826.

I interviewed Mr Ian Eather back on the 1 May 2008, after his son, Garth contacted us about the manuscript, offering some corrections to its description and contents.

The late Ian Eather from a screenhot in the view interview conducted on the 1st May 2008

The late Ian Eather from a screenhot in the interview conducted on the 1st May 2008

We were very excited to learn that his father not only knew the author, but had grown up on the Bulga property. So we hastily arranged a time for him to bring in his father in for a chat about growing up with A.N. Eather at Bulga.

Ian Eather’s father was Reginald Victor Eather, the eldest of 10 children. Ian’s uncle, A.N. (Alexander Nicholas) Eather was the fourth child of 10. Ian was born on his family’s property [Henriendi] a corruption of the Aboriginal word [‘Enginendi’], in north western NSW, near Bogabri on the 24th May 1921. After the death of his mother when he was just three years old, he went to live with his uncle, A.N. Eather, and his wife, who didn’t have any children, and was raised at Meerea, Bulga.

In Ian’s words, A.N Eather was a self taught academic, polymath and, an extraordinary man who associated with other academics such as Percy Haslam. He also had a collection of Aboriginal artefacts, and knowledge of their uses.  These artefacts are now with the Singleton Historical Society.

At night A. N. Eather would read to him, Shakespeare and poetry, ‘he loved poetry’ often reciting it from memory. He was very interested in religion, studying ‘every known religion’. He had contacts with the then Director of the Australian Museum in Sydney, Charles Anderson (Director 1921-1940). 

With regards to the Bora Ground, A.N. Eather had assisted an expedition from the Australian Museum organised by  Charles Anderson and possibly W.W. Thorpe. The party stayed on the property and operated from there, and were taken to the Bora ground by his uncle where they took photographs of the marked circle of trees. Ian believes the photographs and reports should still be with the Australian Musuem.

Ian Eather passed away on the 1st November 2012. We greatly appreciate his help, and that of his son, Garth, in assisting with background information and knowledge on the Eather family, the Aboriginal people and customs of the district, and the nature of the Bulga manuscript’s author.

Click to view PDF scan of A5410(x) Bulga Manuscript.

Click below to view the full PDF scan of A5410(x) Bulga Manuscript.

The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S. Wales from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather (15.4MB PDF)

Scanned from A5410(x) Xerox copy of The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S.W. from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather. Folder title: “Bulga – 1820-1921 The Eather Manuscript. (Description of last combined Bora Ceremony on family property in 1852)x”. Cultural Collections, Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Australia).

Click here for Percy Haslam’s Typescript Transcription of The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S.W. from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather held at A6724. (7.4MB PDF)

A section of the Eather manuscript was also used in the Cenetenary celebrations booklet for Bulga Public School published as:

Bulga Public School Centenary Celebrations, Saturday, 19th October, 1968. (1.7MB PDf)



__________________________________________________

The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S.W. from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather
Transcribed from A5410(x) Xerox copy of The History of Bulga near Singleton N.S.W. from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather
by Gionni Di Gravio, with corrections by Ian Eather and Garth Eather.



__________________________________________________

The Eather Manuscript entitled “The History of Bulga bear Singleton N S Wales from 1820 to 1921 by A.N. Eather” records the last great gathering of the tribes in 1852 including a description of the Bora.

Bulga is an ancient aboriginal name signifying mountain or mountainous, given to it long ago, long before the white man wandered over the range. It was thus the peaceful prosperous little village lying under the shelter of the Bulga mountains derived its name. Its original discovery dates with the discovery of Patrick’s Plains in March 1819, Bulga being the first place reached by Howe, Singleton, Thorley and others in leaving the ranges. The explorers descended from a spur in Welsh’s Inlet in the Milbrodale Estate, near the property owned by Mr L. Dodds.

After its original discovery its first pioneers, of whom there is authentic record were Mr and Mrs Thomas Eather Snr and Mr William McAlpin Snr, Mr McAlpin being then a boy of 16. The journey was made from Richmond, through Colo, Putty and Howes Valley, being undertaken on foot, a bullock being used in lieu of a pack horse. In the same year 1826 Mr Eather returned with his wife and eldest child – the late Mr Thomas Eather, who was a babe in arms. For a number of years the original settler (Mr Thomas Eather Snr) resided at Bulga having acquired a grant of land from the Crown.

Mr McAlpin also returned in the year 1842 with his wife and eldest child – Mr William McAlpin – to take up his residence at Bulga where he remained until his death in 1902.

Settlement quickly followed as the route taken by the pioneers was used as the main thoroughfare for travelling stock from the Northern districts of N. S. Wales to Sydney. The first settlement was in the fertile land adjoining the Cockfighter Creek. The principal landholders were now Mr Hill who founded the Milbrodale Estate, Mr Williams, Mr Parnell, Mr Eaton, Mr McAlpin, Mr Joseph Onus and his two sons, William and Joseph.

The description given of Bulga by the early settlers is of open well-grassed forest lands to the feet of the mountains. The timber was mostly large with almost an entire absence of scrub and undergrowth. This was accounted for by the bush fires which regularly swept the country side during the dry seasons.

The Cockfighter Creek presented a very different appearance to the early settlers to its present state, being then deep and narrow with alternate stretches of deep water and sand. At that time as at present the banks of the creek were fringed with big shady oak trees. This creek was the main water supply of the residents.



In its vicinity wandering tribes of blacks (aboriginals) were to be seen in the sites of their old camps. The stone implements of this strange race are found today; the mute evidence of a bygone age when the savage roamed at will, hunted and fought, and lived his life untrammelled by white man. The impress of the savage is still to be seen in the names of certain geographical landmarks thus “Meerea” is the original aboriginal name of one of the Bulga mountains. “Doolirwing” is the name of a big water-hole near the present residence of Messrs Alexander Brothers in the Mount Leonard Estate. “By-yong” is the name of a lagoon in the vicinity of “Doolirwing”, also in the Mount Leonard Estate, where the savages hunted wild fowl, and known today as “The Horse Shoe”. “Girale” is the name of a gully flowing into the Cockfighter near the residence of Mr Samuel Partridge.

From an ethnological stand point Bulga is an intensely interesting locality, in many beautifully made stone implements are found today, throwing considerable light in the life of the early savage.

Here also is to be seen the remains of an ancient “Bora” ground with its sacred circle still defined by small mounds of earth, and a ring of carved trees, still bearing the curious emblematical devices which marked this strange and mystical ceremony of initiation to tribal rights. This “Bora” ceremony was held in the year 1852. The reliable authority of residents of the locality it was attended by between 500 and 600 blacks from the various tribes as far away as Mudgee and Goulburn. It is also interesting to note that during the months this Bora was being held no record is in existence that can be traced, of a single crime or outrage being perpetrated on any of the white settlers, through they must have been completely at their mercy had the blacks turned hostile. The white settlers were rigidly excluded from the Bora, nor would a single aboriginal divulge what transpired. In later years however considerable scientific light has been thrown on the matter, and it is thought to have been the last muster of the various tribes who attended this particular ceremony before the advance of the white man. It is strange also how strong was the power of this Bora in the aboriginals, all feuds being laid aside in the time being. It is definitely known that some time before in a tribal fight two blacks were killed near the present residence of Mr W. Woods.

The early life of the settlement of white people at Bulga was indeed strenuous, all the courage, enterprise and resourcefulness of a strong dominant character were necessary to make life a success, so far removed from the centres of civilisation. Some idea of the hardships experienced can be gathered from the fact that all the necessaries of life required from the outside world had at that time to be conveyed a distance of about 100 miles. The greater part of this distance was over rough broken mountain ranges, the only means of transport being a pack horse or bullock, with only a track to mark the way. In later years however supplies were obtained from the settlement in the lower Hunter. Then the real progress of Bulga commenced.

The stock brought to Bulga did remarkably well, and were driven back to Richmond and Windsor as occasion demanded. Intercourse was thus kept up and new settlers arrived and acquired land. Maize and wheat were grown for food. These were ground in small mills and in stones by two settlers themselves. Meat was fairly plentiful, except in times of drought. Pigs were also raised for pork and bacon. Considerable trouble was experienced in raising them, however, the country swarming with dingoes from which they had to be carefully guarded.

The most terrible drought in the history of Bulga was experienced between the years 1848 and 1851. On authentic authority the whole of the Cockfighter Creek at Bulga and even long stretches of the Hunter River were dry. Wells were sunk in the bed of the Cockfighter to water stock; in places the water being ten feet beneath the surface. Round these wells at night wild famished cattle roared for water. The settlers for the most part obtained their diminishing water from the hole previously mentioned as “Doolirwing”. This is a spring which has never been known to fail. People came to this water from near Wambo miles away on the one side and Parsons Creek distant miles in the other. Those who were fortunate enough to have working bullocks alive drew their water casks in slides; those less fortunate rolled them to their houses.

Most of the stock were removed to “Darkey” in the Howes Valley district and turned loose where rough feed was procurable. A considerable number however died. What cattle could be found of the survivors were mustered and brought back to Bulga when the drought broke in 1851. Bushes and kangaroo grass cut on the mountain shelves were used to keep alive the stock retained by the settlers. Sheaves of this kangaroo grass were also sold at Singleton for fodder for strong stock. During 1851 very little rain fell, the whole country side being little more than a desolate waste. The wheat crops so urgently needed for human food in fortunate cases grew about a foot high. This was carefully gathered, threshed with a flail, ground for flour, mixed with what little maize meal was procurable and baked for bread.

The education of the children was a problem which earnestly engaged the attention of the settlers. With their usual enterprise, and resourcefulness however this was overcome to allow the children a limited education. The services of Mr John Wagstaff, an old English gentleman employed as tutor in the family of Mr John Eaton were engaged. His schoolroom was a hut standing in the bank of the lagoon previously mentioned as “By-yong” and now known as “The Horse Shoe”. Besides the members of the Eaton’s family some of the neighbours children were also taught. This was about the year 1850. As the children of the settlement increased, the school was removed a few years later to an old building situated where some acacia trees are still growing on the eastern bank of the Cockfighter, just below where the Bulga bridge now stands. This was the first village school at Bulga. A movement was set [in foot] amongst the progressive members of the community to erect a church and school soon. The acre of land was donated by Mr John Eaton for church and school land and a cemetery. Previous to this the dead were buried where fancy dictated, a number near “The Horse Shoe”. Mr William McAlpin Snr – known in his honoured old age as the grandfather of Bulga – and an old man in his employ named Woodbury cut and split the timber for the building which was of slab walls and shingle roof. The timber was drawn to the ground by Mr William Clark Snr. The erection of the building was paid for by public subscription, all other labour in construction with it being voluntary. It was erected near the site of St Marks Church of England, Bulga, about the year 1856 and served the combined purpose of church and school. In the year 1879 the present public school was erected and St Marks Church in 1887. The old building was then demolished. School was held by Mr Wagstaff in the old building for a number of years. On his death he was succeeded by Mr Alaton who was in turn followed by Miss Clark – The first teacher under the Public Service Act. In rotation followed Miss Maxwell, Mr Fawcett, Mr Mitchell, Mr Deane, Mr Moore, Mr Reader, Mr Watts, Mr Campbell, Mr Barrett and Mr Graham.

The Patrick Plains Shire was established in 1904 Bulga being included in “C” Riding. Humble and brave as was the beginning of Bulga is a, settlement, advancing slowly and painfully through privation and hardship to a prosperous progressive village, enjoying the blessings of civilisation. It seems hard to realise that such complete changes could be wrought on the face of the land in the space of a century. Proud is indeed the record of the pioneers who dared all and suffered patiently to form the new settlement so far removed there from their old homes. Proud is indeed Bulga of the Memorial Gates of its Recreation Ground paid for by public subscription and erected voluntarily by Mr George Partridge – a resident of the district in 1920 – as a monument to the memory of so many of its brave men who fought and died in the Great War. For the most part they were the descendants of its settlers, men who made good, who were not one whit inferior in courage, enterprise, resourcefulness and nobility of character to the brave undaunted men who turned their backs on their old homes to wrestle with the wilderness.

The Bora



In Australia, boys and girls reach maturity at a somewhat earlier age than in the colder latitudes of Europe and America. But to a black lad maturity is a period of much anticipation; for then he lays aside his state of pupillage as his mothers boy, and enters the tribe, but only through certain ceremonies of initiation which “make a man” of him, and thereby give him the qualification and the right to act as a member of the tribe. These ceremonies are, in this part of Australia called the Bora; and, as that name has been used in English books ever since the earliest settlements in this land, it has established a prescriptive right to recognition, and is understood everywhere. It seems, therefore unnecessary to use any other name for it, merely nothing that in various places it has various other names. But, with some minor differences in the mode of administration, the Bora exists everywhere throughout Australia; it can therefore be concluded that it belongs to the whole race, and is an essential attribute of its existence.

When a boy approaches the age of puberty, a feeling of restless anticipation spreads in his mind, for he knows that his opening manhood has brought him to the threshold of ceremonies of mysterious import, through which he has to be formally received into the tribe, and thereby to acquire the dignity of a man. The rites of initiation are important, numerous, and prolonged; and, as his admission does not concern himself in his family merely but the whole tribe, these observances call together large assemblages, and are the occasion of general rejoicing.

This assembly – the most solemn and unique in the tribal life – is called the Bora. The whole proceedings are essentially the same everywhere in their general features and teachings, but the details vary among the different tribes. Therefore instead of a separate narrative for each tribe it will be endeavoured to present a full view of the Bora, taking the tribal mode as the basis of the description, but introducing from the other tribes such features as appear to be needed to complete the significance of the ceremonies.

The chiefs of a tribule know that some boys are of an age to be initiated; they accordingly summon to them the public messenger or herald, and bid him inform the other sections of the tribe that a Bora will be held at a certain time and place, the time being near the full moon, and the place being usually a well known Bora ground. They also send him away to invite the neighbouring tribes to attend. This initiation is readily accepted; for, although the tribes may be ay variance with each other, universal brotherhood prevails among the blacks at such a time as that. The day appointed for the gathering is, perhaps, a month or two distant, and the intervening time is filled with busy preparations by the leading men of the novices’ tribule. They select a suitable piece of ground, near water if possible, and level for convenience in sitting and lying on. Two circular enclosures are then formed and cleared of all timber, even of every blade of grass – a larger and a smaller, with a straight track connecting them. The smaller a sacred circle is about a quarter of a mile up the ridge, and well out of sight of the other, and in those that have since been examined, the path a track between the two circles is due east and west, or nearly so. The trees that grow around the smaller circle they carve, perhaps up to twenty feet from the ground with curious emblematic devices and figures. The circuit of each ring is defined by a slight mound of earth laid around, and, in the centre of the larger one, they fix a short pole with a bunch of emu features on the top of it. When these arrangements are completed the ceremonies should begin, but there is often considerable delay. The cause of such delay will appear from the words of a friend of mine: –

We had some young blacks in my house, fifty years ago, and the older blacks would come to us, and ask us to allow these lads off for a time to be made “boombat”. Sometimes the boys would be away for the best part of a year. Sometimes the old men would bring back the boys in short time, saying that things were not ready for the Bora, that the other blacks were slow in coming up, and so forth, and that the ceremonies could not go on then; but usually all the men, the lads, and the “jins” went off together to the appointed place of meeting. At night time wherever they camped, several of the men would go off in different directions and make frightsome noises all around, scaring the “jins” almost out of their wits, and awing the boys. Thus matters would go on until they reached the big camp of assembly.




A large concourse is there. The men stand with their bodies painted in stripes of colour, chiefly red and white. The women, who are permitted to be present at the opening ceremony only, are lying prone on the ground all around the larger ring, and are covered all over with rags and cloaks.

The boy, painted red all over – I say boy, but several boys may be initiated at once – the boy is brought forward, and made to lie down in the middle of the ring, and covered with an opossum rug. Such of the old men as have been appointed masters of the ceremonies now begin to throw him in a state of fear and awe by sounding an instrument called “tirrikoty” similar to what an English boy calls a “bull-roarer”. In Central Africa, a whistle is used similarly as a sacred instrument, and something similar seems also to have been used in the mysteries of ancient Greece. In Australia the men use “tirrikoty” in all occasions when they wish to frighten the women and the boys, who cower with fear whenever they hear it. “On one occasion” said a friend to me, “a number of blacks were working in a cornfield, near the Barrington [River], a little boy began to sound his toy “bullroarer”. The blacks all took to their heels. A few, however rushed up to him, and said “Bail (no) you do that; that’s one of our Gods”. It is not lawful for any one to handle it except those who have been initiated in the Bora. It is made of a piece of thin wood, or bark of a tree. It is nine to twelve inches long, and it is sometimes shaped and marked so as to make it look like a fish. The roaring sound is supposed to be the voice of a dreaded evil spirit, who prowls about the camp of the blacks at night and carries off and devours those he can seize. When the performers think that the “boombat” (so they called the novice) has been sufficiently impressed “tirrikoty” ceases to speak. They then raise the boy from the ground and set him in the middle of the ring in such a manner that his face is turned towards the cleared track which leads to the circle of imagery. The an old man comes forward, breathes chalk, for the kangaroo stuff like glass, and so on. Meanwhile the boy has been sitting in the smaller circle with downcast eyes. He is told to rise, and is led in succession to each of the carved trees around it, and is told to look up for a moment at the carvings in them, and, while he does so, the old men raise a shout. When he has come to know all the carvings sufficiently, the men give him a new name, which must not be revealed to the uninitiated, and they hand him a little bag containing one or more stones of crystal quartz. This bag he will always carry about his person and the stones must not be shown to the uninitiated on pain of death. This concludes the first part of the performance.

A fire is kept constantly in the centre of this upper ring. The boy is made to lay within the ring prone on the ground for strongly in his face, and makes him cast his eyes upon the ground; for in this humble attitude he must continue for some days.

Two other old men next take the boy by the arms and lead him along the track, and set him in the middle of the other inclosure. As soon as this is done the women rise from their prostrate position and begin to dance and sing. The Murringgari tribe, on our south-east coast, place along this track or path some figures, moulded in earth, of various animals (totems), and one of the Dharamulan, a spirit God whom they reverence. Before each of these figures the devotees have a dance; and a karaji, medicine man or doctor, brings up, through his mouth, apparently from his stomach, the “Joca” or magic of the totem before which they then stand. For the porcupine, he shows stuff like weeks, it may be getting only a very little food and water now and then. When he wishes to go outside, the old men carry him over to the raised border of the ring. One black boy told me that, when he was initiated, he joined the assembled crowd in the month of August, and did not get away till about Xmas. When the men in charge of the sacred circle at last bade him rise from his recumbent position, he said he was so weak that he staggered and fell. He says he was kept two or three weeks among the women at the lower circle, because the other young men from the tribe were not ready, and had not come up; that the women there lie flat, covered up with opossum cloaks, sheets of bark, and the like, and dare not look up; that the “boombat” is among them, painted all over with ruddle; that a black man keeps running around the circle sounding “tirrikoty”; that the “boombat” is then taken from the women into the centre of the circle and kept there a short time – perhaps a greater of an hour – and is there led away to the upper circle, where the old men are. All this while the “boombat” keeps his eyes cast upon the ground, and must not look up. On approaching the sacred circle, he was told now to look up at each of the marked trees, and then look down again. My informant said:-

“When I was put within the ring I was made to lie down, covered over and kept lying there on the ground for three months; several times I tried to peep out, but nearly lost my life for it, for they threatened to kill me with spears; other boys were not kept so long as three months; the old men regulate the time according to the strength of the boy.”

All this is additional evidence corroborating the information I got from other quarters; for a considerable portion of what I now tell about the Bora is new, and comes from my own investigations.

The “boombat” is next conveyed to a large camp, at a distance of several miles, no women being near, and food is given to him, which he eats, still with his eyes cast down, here they keep him for eight or ten days, and teach him their tribal law by showing him their dances and their songs; these he learns, especially one song, of which I can tell nothing further than that it is important for the boy to know it. These songs, they say, were given to them by “Bayimai”, the great creator. At night, during this period, the “boombat” is set alone in secluded and darksome places, and all around him the men make hideous noises, at which he must not betray the least sign of fear. At some part of the ceremony a sacred wand is shown to him. Of this Ridley  says:-



“This old man, Billy, told me, as a favour, what other blacks had withheld as a mystery too sacred to be disclosed to a white man, that “Dhurumbulum”, a stick or wand, is exhibited at the Bora, and that the sight of it inspires the initiated with manhood. This sacred wand was the gift of “Baiamai”. The ground on which the Bora is celebrated is Baiamai’s ground. Billy believes the Bora will be kept up always all over the country; such was the command of Baiamai.

 Another conspicuous part of the inner Bora customs is the knocking out of one or more of the upper front teeth of the “boombat”. This is effected by a smart blow on a wooden punch applied to the teeth. But the older and more correct way seems to have been for one of the old men to apply his lower teeth to the upper front teeth of the young man; if that failed, the mallet and punch were used.”

On one occasion says my friend,

“a black boy in our service came back to us from the Bora; I observed that his tooth was not out, and I asked him why? “Oh”, said he “Old Boney no good; he tried three times and nearly broke his own teeth; and so he gave it up.”



As to the tooth itself, one account says that it is given to the lad’s mother, and she afterwards burns it; another says that it is conveyed from one sub-tribe to another until it has made the circuit of the whole tribe; on its return, it is given to the owner or kept by the head man. This tooth-breaking, however, is not practiced by some of the larger tribes; but, instead of it, there is circumcision or the cutting of the hair.

All these formalities being now completed, the “boombats” probation is at an end. They now proceed, all of them together, to some large waterhole, and, jumping in, men and boys, they wash off the colouring matter from their bodies, amid much glee and noise and merriment, and when they have come out of the water they paint themselves white.

Meanwhile, the women who have been called to resume their attendance, have kindled a large fire not far off, and are lying around it, with their faces on the ground and their bodies covered as at first; the two old men who were the original initiators bring the boy at a run towards the fire, followed by all the others, with voices indeed silent, but making a noise by beating their “boomerangs” together; the men join hands and form a ring round the fire, and one old man runs round the inside of the ring beating a shield. A woman, usually the boy’s own mother, then steps within the ring, and, catching him under the arms, lifts him from the ground once, sets him down, and then retires; every man present, the boy included, now jumps upon the decaying embers until the fire is extinguished.

In corroboration of all this, I give the following statement made to me by a friend who, from his boyhood was familiar with the Kurringgai tribe and its habits:-

“After the ceremonies at the upper circle are completed the men remove to a flat piece of ground along way off. Here a fire has been kindled at a distance of perhaps 100 yards, from a deep watercourse, in which a considerable number of blacks can hide. The “boombat”, that is, the newly initiated lad, is carried to this spot blindfolded, and he is persuaded that he gets there by flying  through the air; “ but said one to me, “I looked out from under my bandage and saw I was not flying.”

The fire in the flat is a large one; it has been kindled early in the morning and the “jins” seat themselves on an elevated slope near by as spectators of what is to follow. A [favoured] few of their white friends, may also sit among them. After a while, a party of men, painted white, red and yellow, emerge from their concealment in the ravine, and run into view from one quarter, and advance towards the fire; all the while each man beats together two weapons in rhythm, two “boomerangs” or a spear and a bumerang; or a spear and a club, and so on. They come in a single file to the sound of this music, and when near the fire, they move in an in till they form a complete circle around it; they then face inwards, making a loud crashing noise simultaneously – and disperse. Upon this, another band, from another quarter, similarly come in and do likewise. When all the bands have thus encompassed the fire in succession, the “jins” arise, descend from the heights, and lay themselves prone in a circle round the fire, and are carefully covered up with cloaks, blankets and the like; they dare not look up, for several blacks with spears in their hands are running round outside the circle of prostrate women, ready to kill them if they dare to look. A white woman, who, on one occasion, had come with her black servant to see the sights was compelled to go and lie down also. When the women are all properly placed, a band of blacks, perhaps a hundred in number, with the “boombats” among them, suddenly come out of the ravine. The “boombats” have had their hair cut short, and can be thus recognised. All the men in this band have weapons in their two hands, and strike them together as before, but their weapons, their bodies, and their hair are all painted white. They too approach the fire shouting, “boom”, “boom”, “boom”, and moving their bodies to and fro, as in a “karabari” dance. When they have formed themselves into a compete circle, they join hands, and move around the fire two or three times. The women are still lying on the ground between the circle and the fire. They now rise up at command, and with head bent, they pass outwards under the outstretched arms. Then the men in white – “white as cockatoos” – take hold of the “boombats”, rush in, all leap upon the fire, which, by this time, has died down considerably, raising a column of smoke and dust, until the fire is wholly stamped out. The men in white now take the “boombats” back to the ravine, and leave them there in charge of two or three relatives. The men in white return to their post, and the previous performers, with the party – coloured bodies, rush in upon the white men, a general conflict ensues – apparently a real fight, for “boomerangs” and other weapons are thrown about – but this does not last long.

After all this is over, the two men – the father and the [male] perhaps – to whom the “boombats” were committed take them away into the thick forest, and keep them there for many weeks, training them, and testing their fitness for tribal occupations. When the young man is at last allowed to join his kindred, he is address as “Boombat”, and does not get his tribal name till some time after.

Thus ends the ceremonies of the Bora. The youth becomes a man; for his initiation and his instruction are over. But, although these formalities observed in admitting a youth into the tribe, yet, in the Bora, as in freemasonry, the novice does not become a full member all at once, but must pass through several grades, and these are obtained by attending a certain number of Boras.

Now when I cast my eye over the Bora and its regulated forms, I feel myself constrained  to ask, “What does all this mean?” For one cannot believe that the Bora, with all its solemnities – for the rites were sacred, and the initiated were bound not to divulge what they had seen and done – is a meaningless, self developed thing.

I prefer to see it a symbolism covering ancestral beliefs, a symbolism intelligible enough to the white race at first, but now little understood and yet superstitiously observed by their Australian descendants.

_______________End Transcription______________

Gionni Di Gravio
30th January 2015

Myrtle Villa Rediscovered

Myrtle Villa Polka

We’ve recently been working with Helen English Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Arts, who’s been researching the history of music making in the Newcastle of the 1870s.

She came across a piece of music written by Franz Becker around 1876 for a “Myrtle Villa” that sat somewhere on Newcastle’s Hill. Have a listen to a snippet of piece recorded by Helen at last October’s meeting of the Coal River Working Party: http://youtu.be/pzUfcRzSr1Y?t=24m28s The video should begin playing at the beginning of the discussion of Myrtle Villa.

We think we’ve located the site of Myrtle Villa on the Hill. Built by W. K. Lochhead Esq. in the mid 1800s(?) it sat of the corner of Bingle St. and Terrace Rd on the Hill, and an overlay on Google Earth with an old 1886 survey has shown it up. There have been addons to the property over the years, but the original footprint of the house still stands where it did.

Property of W.K. Lochhead at corner of Bingle Street and Terrace Road, 1886 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio (2014)

Property of W.K. Lochhead at corner of Bingle Street and Terrace Road, 1886 overlay by Gionni Di Gravio (2015)

Footprint of original home on the 1886 survey matches current layout, minus possible more recent extensions (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio 2015)

Footprint of original home on the 1886 survey matches current layout, minus possible more recent extensions (Overlay by Gionni Di Gravio 2015)

At present the property is listed on the NSW Heritage Register (thanks Ann Hardy) as “Corlette’s Cottage” http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/…/ViewHeritageItemDetails… but we believe its original name was “Myrtle Villa”, and for some reason its original name has been lost until now.

Here is some info from the Newcastle Chronicle on the “Myrtle Villa Polka” from 1876:

— “We have received a very charming polka, bearing the above euphonious title, dedicated to our esteemed townsman W. K. Lochhead, Esq., and composed by the popular Maestro, Herr Franz Becker. Our fair readers will find the composition remarkably pleasing, being in an easy key, and without any of those sudden transitions which at times render polka music rather difficult of rendition. We heartily commend Myrtle Villa polka to the notice of our music-loving friends. Mater and Co. of Pitt-street, Sydney, are the publishers.” – (Newcastle Chronicle, 22 Jan 1876, 4)

Site of Myrtle Villa (a.k.a. Corlette's Cottage) today (Google Earth)

Site of the beautiful Myrtle Villa (a.k.a. Corlette’s Cottage) today (Google Earth)

It might be a wonderful thing if the house could once again hear the “Myrtle Villa Polka” created in its honour,  performed once again. Stay tuned.

Music Making in the Newcastle Mining Townships 1870-1880

Helen English from the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Arts presented a lecture on Music Making in the Mining Townships of Newcastle (Australia), 1870-1880, at the October meeting of the Coal River Working Party.

The Presentation was held on the 13th October 2014 in the Council Room of the IDC Building, UoN.

The Drawings of Edward Charles Close – 1844

The Drawings of Edward Charles Close Esqre H.M. 48th Reg.t (Courtesy of State Library of NSW)

The Drawings of Edward Charles Close Esqre H.M. 48th Reg.t (Courtesy of State Library of NSW)

In the State Library of New South Wales is held an album of 37 watercolour and pencil drawings by Edward Charles Close that was a gift to his daughter Marrianne Collison Close on the 17th February 1844. Four of the watercolours are scenes taken in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. The link containing a full description of the album and its contents is here: http://acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=414069

Newcastle - watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

Newcastle – watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

Lake Macquarie - watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

Lake Macquarie – watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

Lake Macquarie - watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

Lake Macquarie – watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

[Untitled] Lake Macquarie? - watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

[Untitled] Lake Macquarie? – watercolour by Edward Charles Close (1844) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW

3D Virtual Hunter Project: The Scott’s Homestead on Ash Island

Residence of A.W. Scott circa 1858-1861 from the font cover of Volume 2 of the Australian Lepidoptera published 1890.

Detail showing Residence of A.W. Scott circa 1858-1861 from the front cover of the Australian Lepidoptera published 1890 by The Australian Museum. (Click image for high res)

There has been an ongoing and growing interest in the life and work of the Scott Sisters of Ash Island. Harriet (1830-1907) and Helena (1832-1910) Scott were the talented daughters of Alexander Walker Scott (1800-1883) and his wife Harriet (c.1802/3 – 1866). I have assembled everything to date (i.e. September 2014) that I can find on the property and its location on Ash Island. We hope to be able to sponsor a return of our 3D Artist Charles Martin to recreate the Islands of the Hunter River estuary and the homestead of A.W. Scott in the coming months.

Why so inspiring? Well, these two young girls were deprived of a University education, but, under the tutelage of their scientist father, they were educated as young scientists on Ash Island and became scientific observers and illustrators of the natural life of insects par excellence on a world class level. They collected specimens that were donated to the Australian Museum, and assisted in the mapping of species of flora and fauna across the country.

The site where all this work was undertaken now lies abandoned and has been reclaimed by the mangroves and the reeds. Their lives now haunt the rustling of the wind among the reeds that now engulfs the location of their homestead and cultivated lands of orange trees that were once famous as “Ash Island Oranges”. Such a place should be regarded as an intellectual sacred site, and should be remembered and regarded with respect, not neglected. The homestead was demolished sometime in the 1970s-80s, and one must wonder why.

The Scott Sisters recorded the Lepidoptera (the insect family including moths and butterflies) in their caterpillar, chrysalis and perfect state (aka butterfly). It was experiencing the work of artist Shan Turner-Carroll’s beautiful chrysalis dress made me think of the Ancient Egyptians and what they were doing in the mummification process, cocooning their dead for their transformations into a new perfect state, like a butterfly. If we are part of nature, then those drawings and illustrations also can tell us something about our shape of life on earth. Do we undergo a similar transformation? This butterfly symbolism really hit me following the recent Ash Island and Its Transformations exhibition at the Lockup Cultural Centre.

The information that follows comes from the late Ross Deamer’s 1971 Master of Architecture thesis entitled Houses Erected on original Land Grants in The Lower Hunter, Paterson and Williams River Valleys Between 1800-1850 pp. 103-106 (UoNCC Archives Location A9003) which he completed for the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Architecture:

Ash Island”, or “Scotts Island”, was the name, given to the largest island at the western end of the Hunter River delta. The name, Ash Island, was its first title (and is so today) [Ed:- In the original 1801 survey today’s Ash Island that Paterson is referring was at the location of Moscheto Island.  The current Ash Island was named Greville Island by the original survey mission. Around 1823-4 its name changed from Greville to Ash, and has remained Ash Island since then. See the 1801 Barrallier Plan] and was given because of the trees that grew there that so resembled the English Ash. (20) The island received its alternate name because it was the location of the grant, of 2560 acres, to A.W. Scott (21) following his arrival in the Colony.

As with most other houses in the Valley erected in the early period, little information exists concerning the house Scott erected on his island.

The house has long been demolished but the remains of its cellars are discernable on the extreme north western tip of the island, adjacent to a large Moreton Bay Fig tree and a fallen pine laying in the mud of the bank. The foundation walls, some paths and the foundations of some of the out buildings still exist. Their excavation would allow a comparison of the house plan with some of those prepared by Robert Scott (22) of “Glendon” so as to determine whether he was the designer of the building.

Alexander Walker Scott was the brother of Robert and Helenus Scott of “Glendon”. He arrived in the Colony, in 1827, in the ship “Australia”, after taking a M.A. Degree at Cambridge. (23)

It is not known when A.W. Scott began building his house on the island but, on 4th January, 1832, Robert informed Helenus that he was in residence, although the house was incomplete.(24)

In support of this, Charles Boydell stated that, on 28th January, 1832, he had “visited Walter Scott at his island located 7 miles from Newcastle and named by the Governor “Ash Island” (25)

Robert Scott wrote to his mother on 9th August, 1837, to advise that “Reid’s house will suit you very well for a time and you are wise not to wait for the completion of Walkers (A.W. Scott) for under the present scarcity of labour it is impossible to say when it can be finished. I ••••• could not think why he had not sent for the plasterer we promised to send him ••• “ (26)

A.W. Scott informed Helenus on 22nd November, 1845 that he was living at that time in Newcastle in poor circumstances, not having sufficient bedding for any guests. (27)

His residence at this time must have been “Newcastle House” which he had erected near the site of the present Customs House. Due to his financial difficulties he was forced to give up this house in Newcastle and return again to his island in the year 1846, which was the year “Newcastle House” became the temporary Customs House. (28)

“Newcastle House” was advertised for sale by auction (29) in July, 1848 and the advertisement described it as being constructed of brick and containing eight rooms, stewards closet, kitchen, storerooms , and servants quarters. Outhouses were provided for stables, coachhouse and men’s quarters, the whole surrounded by a garden which was enclosed by a parapet brick fence.

Bank of New South Wales in 1853 (former rsidence of Alexander Walker Scott). The residence was leased to John Bingle. The Bank occupied the residence until it was demolished in 1870. (Image is in A5094(i) located in University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. Courtesy of the Bank of N.S.W. Archives Sydney)

Bank of New South Wales in 1853 (former residence of Alexander Walker Scott). The residence was leased to John Bingle. The Bank occupied the residence until it was demolished in 1870. (Image is in A5094(i) located in University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. Courtesy of the Bank of N.S.W. Archives Sydney)

The footings of this house were rediscovered in 2014 see:https://coalriver.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/9wattst-tattersalls/

 

No further reference, in contemporary records or journals, seems to have been made to the house on Ash Island. (Ed- See material below)

That Scott was prepared to erect a house on the island is almost unbelievable, as the site he chose is but 2′ 6″ above high water mark and is subject to inundation by a good fresh combined with a spring tide.

The writer has contacted persons who resided in the house and the descendants of other residents of Ash Island to ascertain if any photographs existed of the old house, but was informed that all the photographs the various persons had had were lost in one or other of the floods that plague the island.

A.W. Scott was an enterprising gentleman who not only engaged in agricultural pursuits but also entered into industry.

Reporting on his interests, an article in the “Maitland Mercury” of 7th January, 1843, stated that he owned an extensive iron foundry which was then casting a six hundred gallon boiler for the Maitland Brewery. His salt works were extensive and producing an excellent salt and his cloth manufactory was mainly complete.

The ironworks was located on the Stockton Peninsular, or as it was then known, “Pirates Point”, and were ultimately sold to John Roberts of South Australia as reported in the “Maitland Mercury” of 2nd October, 1847.

The “Maitland Mercury” of 16th July, 1851 also reported that Scott’s cloth factory which was known as the Stockton Tweed Factory was destroyed by fire.

Although Scott’s industrial enterprises were to founder, his farm was reasonably productive, as can be gleaned from the advertisement in the “Maitland Mercury” of July, 1847 which informed the public that he had for sale on Ash Island 70 tons of salt, 100 tons of Lucerne Hay, 8000 dozen oranges and 10 tons of pumpkins. The island , that was once an obviously fertile area, is now mostly marsh and most of the many families who once won their living from its soil have abandoned it and left it to the mud crabs.

References:

20. Paterson, Lieut.Colonel, “Journal and Discoveries at Hunter River”, 17th June, 1801. p.449, Vol., 3, Historical Records of N.S.W.
21. Dangar, Henry • “A Guide to EmmiiD:”ants and Index and Directory of the Hunter River”, 1828. also Dixon Map 1834. Mitchell Library.
22. Scott, Robert. Plans of Farm Buildings, 1828 to 1835. Mitchell Library.
23. Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library. also MacArthur Papers, pp.358-360. Vol. 15, 18th July, 1826, John Jnr. to his father, John MacArthur. Mitchell Library.
24. Scott Robert, Correspondence of ••• ,Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
25. Boydell, Charles, Journal and Cash Book of ••• , 1830 to 1835. Mitchell Library.
26. Scott, Robert, Co~respondence of ••• ,Vol. IV, Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
27. Scott Family Papers, Mitchell Library.
28. Goold, W.J. “These Old Homes”, pp.l64-165, Part III. Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society Journal.
29. “Maitland Mercury”.

 

The known illustrations and visitor descriptions (to date) depicting the site.

The Colonist Thursday 27 August 1835 p.3

The Colonist Thursday 27 August 1835 p.3

 

Original Plate XXXIX (39) showing possible site of Scott's home on Ash Island in background (Courtesy of the Australian Museum)

Original Plate XXXIX (39) showing possible site of Scott’s home on Ash Island in background (Courtesy of the Australian Museum)

This background scene accompanying original plate XXXIX (39) appears to be Scott’s Ash Island homestead. Compare this view with Conrad Martens’ 1841 sketch completed on the 12th May 1841.

Detail from Original Plate XXXIX (39) showing possible site of Scott's Home in background (Courtesy of the Australian Museum)

Detail from Original Plate XXXIX (39) showing possible site of Scott’s Home in background (Courtesy of the Australian Museum)

 i. [flyleaf] Ash Island 12th May 1841 by Conrad Martens (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

i. [flyleaf] Ash Island 12th May 1841 by Conrad Martens (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

PROPOSED CONCEPTS FOR LAYOUT OF ENTRANCE TO HOME AND INTERIOR VIEW CIRCA 1840s
(COURTESY OF AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM)

Proposed Italianate entrance to home and view of residence c1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

Proposed Italianate entrance to home and view of residence c1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

 

Proposed Italianate entrance steps to river front circa 1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

Proposed Italianate entrance steps to river front circa 1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

 

Interior of the Scott's Home, circa 1840s. (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

Interior of the Scott’s Home, circa 1840s. (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

 

Drawing of building structure, circa 1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

Drawing of building structure, circa 1840s (Courtesy of The Australian Museum)

 

 

LUDWIG LEICHHARDT 1842

LUDWIG LEICHHARDT’S descriptions of Ash Island during his visit to Newcastle in 1842 from his letters published in  The letters of F.W. Ludwig Leichhardt collected and newly translated [from the German, French and Italian] by M. Aurousseau (London : Published for the Hakluyt Society by Cambridge University Press, 1968).

Letter 61 [Lt Robert Lynd, Military Barracks, Sydney] [Newcastle, N.S.W., 26 September 1842] (Aurousseau p.526)
Last Friday (i.e.,  23rd September 1842) we went to Ash island: it is a remarkably fine place, not only to enjoy the beauty of nature, a broad shining river, a luxuriant vegetation, a tasteful comfortable cottage with a plantation of orange trees, but to collect a great number of plants which I had never seen before. I saw at once that you must come to roam with me over the island, which is much larger than I thought, containing full 2000 acres of land. The vegetation seems very similar to that of Illawarra if I can judge by the descriptions I heard of the latter district. Climbing Polypodium, the Aerostichum growing on the trees, a great number of creepers, the nettle Tree, the Caper, the native Olive and many others which we will examine together. When you come here, and I hope you will not delay it long time, we will go together to Ash island and remain there for 3-4 days. Mr Scott has kindly offered us every accommodation we might require.-

Letter 62 [Lt Robert Lynd, Military Barracks, Sydney] [Newcastle, N.S.W., Oct. 2nd 1842] (Aurousseau  p.526)
Mr Scott has kindly offered us his place at Ash island, as I wrote you last time.

Letter 63 [W. Kirchner, Sydney, NSW] [Newcastle N.S.W.,] 12 October [1842] (Aurousseau p.532)

I’ve been to Ash Island twice. The first time was in company with ladies, who got badly in the way of my scientific activities. The second time I went with Mr Scott, in connection with his interests, which left us no time for studious pursuits. It’s a romantic place, which I like well enough to think that-perhaps-I’d be content to live and die there. I said perhaps, for who knows himself well enough to be sure? Which of us could stifle his perpetual longing for what merely seem to be better conditions?

Were I living on Ash Island, or even in a settler’s bark shanty, I could do more for entomology that I can in Newcastle. But even in Newcastle there will be a good deal for me to do, when I manage to satisfy some of my curiosity in other directions.

21 October 1842. Leichhardt visits Ash Island with Lynd, W. Scott and  – Bolton.

28 November 1842 Leichhardt studies the supply of artesian water at Ash Island

Letter 72 [To w. KIRCHNER, Consul for Hamburg, Sydney, N.S.W.] (Aurousseau p.608)
Newcastle, [N.S.W.,] December 1842
“Last week we went to Ash Island to do what we could to overcome the much discussed and over-publicised shortage of water on this other’ wise richly endowed island. The cows were in a bad way and the orchard was even worse. To our great astonishment we found that the artesian bore, c which had been sending up fresh water, was now running salt; and the well nearby was full of highly saline water. We tried to get the cows to drink from the well, and they did so; but we were told the next morning that it disagreed with them and purged them. As it seemed to me that Mr S[cott]’s men were not working in his interests and disliked having to do anything out of the ordinary, I doubt the truth of what they told us; for cattle often drink brackish water in the bush. I count little on the deepening of the artesian well-in fact, the geological considerations and the nature of the rocks around Newcastle give no promise of any success.”

 

1844 – G.B. WHITE

Plan of River Hunter from Port Hunter to falls at West Maitland by G.B. White Surveyor
(Courtesy State Library of NSW)

Possibly earliest rendering of Scott's Home on Plan of River Hunter from Port Hunter to falls at West Maitland by G.B. White Surveyor (Courtesy of the State Library NSW)

Possibly earliest rendering of Scott’s home on the 1844 Plan of River Hunter from Port Hunter to falls at West Maitland by G.B. White Surveyor (Courtesy of the State Library NSW)

 

 

W.H. HARVEY – MAY 1855
Letter to Sisiter with Description of Scott, His Home and Girls reared as “like Miranda”

“The track is through gumstree forest as usual not far from the river with views of the water, the marshy banks & the mud flats etc. – we were nearly 3 hours going the 10 miles & then we reached Hexham (an imaginary town) with 2 houses & 4 tents where on the drawing up of the coach I saw Mr. Scott of Ash island advancing to meet me and soon found myself seating in his boat & on the way to his island… He has a very pretty cottage and garden. In front of his door stand a pair of Norfolk Island pines & beside the house are date trees now bearing fruit. Behind the house is an orange garden with 1100 orange trees, the fruit of which last year sold for £700. Beides oranges, Hay (which is cut 4 times a year) seems t be his staple crop, and on the whole he manages to live very comfortably. He is a very agreeable and well informed educated gentleman with two daughters very clever and in many respects accomplished girls reared (like Miranda) on the Island.”  – Ref: S.C. Ducker, The Contented Botantist 1988 (M.U.P.) cited in Ord, 1988, 20

G. FRAUENFELD – NOVEMBER 1858

G. FRAUENFELD’S DESCRIPTIONS OF ASH ISLAND NOVEMBER 1858 (Thanks to Michael Organ, University of Wollongong REF: http://www.uow.edu.au/~morgan/frauenfeld.htm )
Notes, collected during my stay in New Holland, New Zealand and on Tahiti upon the voyage of His Majesty’s frigate Novara in their waters by G. Frauenfeld. (Delivered at the sitting of the Mathematical-Scientific Section of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Vienna, on 13 October 1859)

I decided to use the steamer to undertake an excursion to the north as well as the south. Mr. Alex. Walker Scott, 10 a keen entomologist, had kindly invited me to his property, Ash Island, in the Hunter River to which the Maitland steamer departed from Sydney on 9 November at 11 o’clock. 11 The next morning we steered into the mouth of this river at 6 o’clock. Within this entrance lies Newcastle, which as far as the important fossil fuel [coal] is concerned, appears to be the fortunate rival in the Antipodes of its namesake. From there after an hour’s trip upstream we reached Hexham, the first post station on the Hunter, where the railway constructed from Newcastle to Maitland also passes by. I left the steamer there and sailed by boat to the island opposite, the destination of my journey.
The landscape of the river is unattractive. On the cleared banks, whose woodland remnants of dead eucalypts stand scattered ghostlike on the flat fields planted with crops, one catches sight, here and there, of the poor wooden huts of the settlers, whose cattle graze all around in the fenced paddocks. Sterna melanorhyncha, as well as Pacific Gulls (Larus pacificus) skim up and down over the river fishing. The great New Holland Eagle (Aquila fucosa), moves along the banks high in the air, while countless Cormorants sit fearlessly on the bleached, white branches of the dead trees. Here and there on the sand banks a pair of the readily recognisable Long-beaked Oyster Catchers was busy. I was not able to distinguish the busy, cheeping Strand Plover running about between them.
The attractive island [Ash Island], on which Mr. W. Scott’s idyllic home is located, diffuses far and wide an exquisite fragrance from the abundance of perfumed flowers in the well-kept garden and extensive orange grove. Not only the kindness of the whole family of the owner, who made the stay there unforgettable for me, but also the scientific entomological studies of both daughters12 of the house undertaken with enthusiasm also afforded me great interest; likewise the excellent execution of illustrations of the same merited admiration. For a large number of species they have determined the Lepidopteran fauna of New South Wales completely through all states of metamorphosis, often from the egg onwards, and their experiences of a substantial part of the Australian macro- and micro-Lepidopterans are captured and documented in a series of more than 100 folio plates.
The strange genus, Oiketicos, which bores itself a dwelling in the branches of the New Holland Proteaceae and Myrtaceae, the opening of which is surrounded with a thick cocoon like a bag and from where they emerge at night to feed, as well as the case / cocoon-bearing Psychiden and Tineiden, of which New Holland has so many, are represented in great number. Apart from several brought by Sir Thomas Mitchell from the inland, up till now the Cystosoma Saundersii was only found on this island in the Hunter River, but there in great number. On warm, still evenings, a half an hour after sunset, males begin a loud purring song for a quarter of an hour, which sounds duller and deeper and not nearly as cuttingly shrill as for real Cicadas. The creature is far lazier and easy to fasten on to. The back half looks like an empty, wind-filled bubble, which appears to serve as the resonance for the singing organ.

 

The next day I intended to visit the Sugarloaf, the highest mountain in the area, 3,288 feet high. It was a good ride of almost 40 miles, which I put behind me in a day and for which I set out early from Ash Island, accompanied by two settlers. For half an hour we followed the Hunter River upstream; it then turned right NE, while we went left into the mountains. The forest, perhaps somewhat more cleared than it originally would have been, since extensive traces of fire indicated frequent bushfires, is so sparse that one can ride through almost without hindrance. Even formerly, it could not have been much more dense, since no remains of older, thicker woodlands existed, and in those places where fire and man had not been at work, the forest appeared just as thin and open. Here and there, we came upon huts and cultivated areas; the large landowners lease individuals such tracts or have livestock with their own overseers there. Even in winter the animals can be left to their own devices, where, in the Bush – as the settlers typically call this wooded district – they find the most luxuriant pastures. In summer, when the parching heat dries everything out, they are fed with hay in yards or barns.
The sunny forest consists of the slender-leaved Eucalyptus, of which the Blue Gum tree is the best known, Melaleucas and other Myrtaceae, the dainty-leaved Casuarinas, Grevillias and Banksias, the Native Pear (Xylomelum), the highly valued Waratah (Telopea speciosissima), the similarly shadeless phylloden Acacias, the Native Cherry (Exocarpus) and so on through the softer Sollya, the beautiful Papilionaceae, Oxylobium, Chlorozema, Daviesia, Dillwynia, Swainsonia, Physolobium, Kennedya and the completely odd Stylidien to the lowest scrub. To me they were all old friends, which, at the time of Baron Hügel’s journey,13 in decorating the greenhouses of Vienna with their splendour, marked the highpoint of garden cultivation and I greeted them joyfully here in their motherland. I could never get my fill of seeing them, so richly bedecked with flowers, luxuriantly wild and growing all around so abundantly that the horses’ hooves crushed that which I was used to regarding as a treasure, and which I myself bent back in order to get at another plant or insect underneath. The foreignness of perfect Cycas macrozamia, which stand in groups in cleared areas, in between the most dainty Grass-trees (Xantorrhoea arborea), with their dark brown-black, foot-thick trunks and often 9-10 feet height, with a similarly high sprays of flowers. Here and there one finds the splendid Gigantic Lily (Doryanthes excelsa), of which I only saw one more in flower.
Countless birds, especially parrots drifted around the crowns of the trees screaming, the crane-like Strepera graculina, the white and black Gymnorhina tibicea, the bald-headed Leatherhead, Tropidohynchus corniculatus, the Common Soldier Bird, which is highly valued by all settlers for consuming poisonous snakes, and the carefully protected Laughing Jackass, Dacelo gigantea, countless Finches, the fantailed Muscicapiden, the Climacteris, which climbs up and down trees like our creepers, the 4-5 feet long Monitore, which quickly fled, here and there, to the trees, a prickly lizard, and a beautiful slug guaranteed plenty of diversion.
After we reached the mountain crest, we rode along there three hours in a wide circle and, just as the sun was going down, we reached a steep rock wall, where we left the horses behind and climbed further on foot. After a further half an hour’s hike, we were at another rock pile of crude, crumbly sandstone, the actual Sugarloaf, which was very eroded and between the crevices of which we laboriously wound our way upwards and thereby reached the peak at 6 o’clock. A splendid view presented itself to us; at our feet the County of Northumberland stretched around us in the evening light decorated with green forest. Left, in the far distance lay the capital, Maitland, from where the navigable Hunter wound like a silver ribbon luxuriantly through the countryside right down to distant Newcastle, where it wed the sea, whose wild foam sparkled on the distant horizon and on whose waves the ships appeared as just dazzling, white dots on a trembling background. On the right, Lake Macquarie lay stretched out shorelessly, at high tide thickly shrouded all around with forest. My companions described the same as also very poorly accessible, however as a true paradise for hunters since it contained hundreds of black swans, the Australian Stork, Numenius, Sickle Bills, Cormorants and countless other swamp and water birds. The Blue Mountain chain completed the background. The area is fairly well populated and cultivated; numerous columns of smoke showed the spots where the huts of the settlers lay hidden in the woods. My companions were also delighted by this splendid panorama; they had never ascended the peak, although the older of the two, who had been here 15 years, had often come as far as the first wall in search of stray cattle.
We could only delay a short time and hurried down to our horses to set out on the return journey. We still did not have half the mountain crest behind us as night broke so clear, so calm and mild as ordinarily only arises in the tropics. The moon rose and poured its silver light down on the pale foliage of the eucalyptus and banksias so that their light-coloured, thin trunks appeared like ghostly figures in the magical illumination. The deep silence was only interrupted occasionally by the piercing cry of a Curlew from the nearby swamp or from the rustling of a Wallaby (Halmaturus walabatus), fleeing on our approach. The giant Kangaroo (Macropus major), together with the natives, has long since withdrawn from civilisation, hundreds of miles deep into the interior. Moved by overwhelming feelings, I was often pleased to let my horse go slowly on the grassy ground. It appeared to me almost like a dream, that I rode here on these plains, where just a short time ago the moonlight illuminated a savage with his spear, creeping up on a shy Kangaroo or an Emu. About midnight we arrived at Ash Island again, from where I returned by steamer next morning to Sydney.

 

 

Notes
10. Alexander Walker Scott (1800-83), entrepreneur and entomologist, was said to have published over 130 scientific papers during his lifetime. The Scott family moved to Ash Island on the Hunter River in 1846 and from there Scott, assisted by his two artist daughters, carried out various scientific researches, especially with regards to Australian Lepidoptera, or butterflies. Refer Gray (1976) and Ord (1987).
11. It is unclear which steamer Frauenfeld used in his journeys north to the Hunter River and south to Illawarra. He does state that the ‘Maitland steamer’ took him to Newcastle and up the Hunter to Hexham, near Ash Island. As there is no reference to a steaming vessel called Maitland in the Shipping Gazette of that time, he was probably referring to the steamer which accommodated people travelling to Maitland. The Sydney Morning Herald does note that the steamer Collaroy departed Sydney for the Hunter at 11pm on Tuesday 9 November, and this may have been the one used by Frauenfeld.
12. Refers to Alexander Walker Scott’s two daughters Harriett (1832-1910) and Helena (1830-1907). The sisters were extremely skilled natural history artists, and at the time of Frauenfeld’s visit were working with their father on the plates for his book Australian Lepidoptera with their Transformations (1864). Joseph Selleny, artist on board the Novara, also assisted with the cover artwork during his brief stay at Ash Island in November 1858. Refer Ord (1987).
13. Baron Charles von Hügel, Austrian diplomat and natural history collector, visited Western Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Norfolk Island between November 1833 and October 1834, observing the flora and collecting seeds and cuttings for his gardens back home in Austria. It was these specimens which Frauenfeld refers to having studied prior to his voyage to Australia. See Dymphna Clarke, Baron Charles von Hügel – New Holland Journal, November 1833 – October 1834, Melbourne University Press, 1994, 539p.

Gray, Nancy, ‘Alexander Walker Scott’, Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 6: 1851-1890. R-Z, Melbourne University Press, 1976, 93-4
Ord, Marion, ‘The Scott Sisters. Art treasures of the 19th century revealed’, Australian Natural History, 22(5), Winter 1987, 194-8.

The Bakehouse, Ash Island by Helena Scott (Published by Marion Ord, from original in Australian Museum). Was this located at rear of homestead, compare the pines with the 1858-1861 engraving at top of page.

[1859] The Bakehouse, Ash Island by Helena Scott (Published by Marion Ord, from original in Australian Museum). Was this located at rear of homestead, compare the pines with the 1858-1861 engraving at top of page.

These two illustrations were published in Marion Ord’s book and appear to have both been done around 1859. Compare the two pines in the illustration above in front of the bakehouse building at the rear of Scott’s homestead, with the  illustration on the cover of Volume two of the Australian Lepidoptera published in installments from 1890 but executed from 1858-1861. Also see the illustration below showing the palms at the side of the house.

Date Palm, Ash Island by Helena Scott (Published by Marion Ord from original drawing in Australian Museum)

Date Palm, Ash Island by Helena Scott (Published by Marion Ord from original drawing in Australian Museum)

THE BOTANY OF ASH ISLAND. (1862, January 27). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 5.
Retrieved September 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13223840

The plan below (held in the State Library of NSW) is dated 12th January 1864 and shows the footprint of the homestead as well as the pier. It appears to be in accord with the 1858-1861 illustration. I have overlayed the portion of the homestead, orchard and cultivation on current Google Earth landscape.

Ash Island 12th January 1864 (Courtesy of State Library of NSW) showing site of Scott's Homestead, orchard and cultivation.

Ash Island 12th January 1864 (Courtesy of State Library of NSW) showing site of Scott’s Homestead, orchard and cultivation.

1864 plan overlay 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio showing contextual position of where homestead and wharf once stood.

1864 plan overlay 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio showing contextual position of where homestead and wharf once stood.

Closeup of 1864 plan overlay 2014 in Google Earth by Gionni Di Gravio showing position of where homestead and wharf once stood.

Closeup of 1864 plan overlay 2014 in Google Earth by Gionni Di Gravio showing position of where homestead and wharf once stood.

Compare the above locations and the ones that follow with the best illustration we have of the site, which comes from the cover of Volume 2 of the Australian Lepidoptera published from 1890.

Residence of A.W. Scott circa 1858-1861 from the font cover of Volume 2 of the Australian Lepidoptera published 1890.

Detail showing Residence of A.W. Scott circa 1858-1861 from the front cover of the Australian Lepidoptera published 1890 by The Australian Museum.

On the 20 January 1866, Alexander Scott’s wife Harriet, dropped dead unexpectedly on the sofa on the verandah. She was buried in Christ Church Cathedral cemetery. In that same year he became bankrupt and sold the estate at auction on the 27th March 1866.

27 March 1866 Sale of Scott's Home on Ash Island

27 March 1866 Sale of Scott’s Estate on Ash Island

Another map to cross check is this 1871 plan by J.T.Gowlland assisted by J.F. Loxton of the islands of the Hunter River Estuary (held in the National Library of Australia). Again I have overlayed the relevant sections in Google Earth to help pinpont the site of the original homestead and pier.

Australia East coast New South Wales 1871 Hunter River  surveyed by J.T.Gowlland assisted by J.F. Loxton (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia)

Australia East Coast New South Wales 1871 Hunter River surveyed by J.T.Gowlland assisted by J.F. Loxton (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia)

Detail from 1871 map overlayed in 2014  Google Earth showing relative position of wharf and homestead.

Detail from 1871 map overlayed in 2014 Google Earth showing relative position of wharf and homestead.

An article published in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate in 1939   The Story of Ash Island (By J.M.M.) Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 2 December 1939 p.7  appears to imply that the homestead was demolished at the time of sale in 1866, but this appears to be false, as the pier and spot still appear on the 1871 map, as well as an 1889 land sale poster.

18th May 1889 Ash Island Farms Hunter River Poster showing "home". (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

18th May 1889 Ash Island Farms Hunter River Poster showing “home”. (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

The 1946 aerial of Scott’s Point Ash Island below needs to be compared to the [1969] aerial.

1946 Aerial View of Scott's Point Ash Island (Thanks to Karina Keeton, Kooragang Wetlands Rehabilitation Project)

1946 Aerial View of Scott’s Point Ash Island (Thanks to Karina Keeton, Kooragang Wetlands Rehabilitation Project)

By 1953-1954, the fate of Ash Island was about to be sealed with the resumption of lands by the Department of Public Works for the Island Reclamation Scheme in order to allow the progress of industry. See: Ash Island Story Comes To A Close by Leo Butler. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 16 October 1954 p.4

The aerial below was taken around 1969 and shows  building structures on the site, but not in the locations traditionally associated with Scott’s homestead and pier. Were these the structures that were later demolished by 1971, as reported by Deamer?

[1969] Aerial photograph of Hexham showing extant buildings in vicinity of site. Run No. (6) Photo No. (5187) N.S.W. (1075) 4 Chain Enlargement, Hexham. (Courtesy of UoNCC)

[1969] Aerial photograph of Hexham showing extant buildings in vicinity of site. Run No. (6) Photo No. (5187) N.S.W. (1075) 4 Chain Enlargement, Hexham. (Courtesy of UoNCC)

The house has long been demolished but the remains of its cellars are discernable on the extreme north western tip of the island, adjacent to a large Moreton Bay Fig tree and a fallen pine laying in the mud of the bank. The foundation walls, some paths and the foundations of some of the out buildings still exist. Their excavation would allow a comparison of the house plan with some of those prepared by Robert Scott (22) of “Glendon” so as to determine whether he was the designer of the building. – Deamer (1971)

Marion Ord states in her forword to Butterflies &​ bushland : the illustrated guide to Ash Island butterflies by Rosie Heritage &​ Julia Brougham, that Charlie Smith (former Chief Librarian at Newcastle Public Library) took her to the remains of the homestead and garden in the 1980s that at the time were ” a pile of dirt heaped up beside the Moreton Bay fig which had also been obliterated”.

The following set of images

1970? - AW Scott Home - Cedar detail at Alexander Walker Scott's Home (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – Cedar detail at Alexander Walker Scott’s Home (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? - AW Scott Home - Wooden Pier Detail at Alexander Walker Scott's Home (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – Wooden Pier Detail at Alexander Walker Scott’s Home (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? - AW Scott Home - East from site of home. Cultivation area to right of Hunter River (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – East from site of home. Cultivation area to right of Hunter River (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? - AW Scott Home - Looking north from site of home. Hunter River in background (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – Looking north from site of home. Hunter River in background (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

 

1970? - AW Scott Home - Well and stone path from house (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – Well and stone path from house (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? - AW Scott Home - Wall of Well (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

1970? – AW Scott Home – Wall of Well (Courtesy of Hunter Photobank)

At low tide, the remains of what appear to be the first row of stones that made up the river wall and original pier can be seen to this day.

Remains of original river wall and possibly pier in distance. (Photographed September 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio)

Remains of original river wall and possibly pier in distance looking towards the east. (Photographed September 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio)

 

Remains of original stone wall, looking towards the west. ( Photographed 2014 by Ann Hardy)

Remains of original stone wall, looking towards the west. ( Photographed 2014 by Ann Hardy)

Closeup of original river wall of Scott's Home. (Photographed in September 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio)

Closeup of original river wall of Scott’s Home. (Photographed in September 2014 by Gionni Di Gravio)

Gionni Di Gravio
September 2014

TRUE CRIME: JACOB’S MOB

coalrivertruecrime

ENDNOTES AND COLD MERCY: CRIME STORIES FROM COLONIAL NEWCASTLE

CASE 4. JACOB’S MOB

BY DAVID MURRAY

 

David Murray is a university medalist with a Creative Arts Phd from Newcastle Uni. He has published two books of poetry: “Swinging from a broken clock” and “Blue bottle” (Sultana Press), and contributed to Overland, The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and the Mascara Poetry Journal.

Murray treats historical true crime creatively as a cultural marker of everyday life. It’s a process concentrating on ordinary lives while reflecting Luc Sante’s observation that ‘violence, misery, chicanery, and insanity exist in a continuum that spans history; they prove that there never was a golden age”.

By the 1820s Britannia replaced the ill-considered compassion of Macquarie’s emancipation project with a transportation regime of systematic oppression that would also supply the expanding colony with cheap/free labour. A by-product of this new regime was a rise in bushranging. In 1830 this resulted in the Bushranger Act – a set of reactive laws encouraging the citizen arrest of any person suspected of being either an escaped convict or carrying illegal firearms.

 

Prince George IV was fifty-seven years old when he inherited the throne from his father Mad King George in 1820. A foppish glutton addicted to laudanum, mistresses and personal debt, the ‘first gentleman of England’ knew enough to leave the running of empire to his sharper privy brothers and bankers; men skilled in exploiting the Empire’s nirvana of global business opportunities that included far off Australia and the Australian Agricultural Company. This potentially lucrative New South Wales agri-venture had been the talk of investor drawing rooms after publication of Views of Australia: a series of prints reframing the strange colonial wilderness into an Elysium of land grants and quit rents.

 
The company’s government issued holdings included fertile Hunter River Valley acres along with options for parts of the recently closed penal outstation of Newcastle, where an incorrigible and alcoholic forger-artist Joseph Lycett served time and sketched out many ‘Views Of Australia’ panoramas. The company’s formation by a Parliamentary act in 1824 coincided neatly with the end of two decades of strict martial law at the town. The transition from prison to free town saw the existing military garrison kept on to protect the township – ostensibly from foreign invasion – leaving a flimsy government police force of ex-cons and retired soldiers to enforce daily law in farm communities and settlements up river. A law and order vacuum occurred that convicts took advantage of by bolting from their employment and forming chaotically brief bushranging gangs such as the Patrick Riley led ‘Jacob’s Mob’.

 
In 1825 Riley was assigned as indentured labour to the Wallis Plains farm of Vicars Jacob, a retired soldier turned Sydney merchant. By August that same year he was charged with neglect of duty by a local magistrate when four sheep in his care went missing. After escaping custody during his overnight transfer to Newcastle for flogging, the capable Irishman stole farm horses and rode undetected back to Jacob’s farm where he convinced fellow bondsmen Lawrence Cleary, Aaron Price and Patrick Clinch (aka Lynch) to join him on the run.

 
The gang was soon raiding nearby farms for weapons, food and clothing, quickly gaining a reputation for mixing callous threats with theatrical high toby gestures such as sitting down to a meal and polite conversation when females were present. Stray farm convicts joined the gang for a quick nibble before giving themselves in, innocently claiming to have been enlisted at gunpoint. Local settlers organised an armed posse that tracked down a gang campsite, but a forewarned Jacob’s Mob – as they were now known – had already slipped deeper into the bush. Locals penned letters to Sydney newspapers pleading for help while deriding the almost non-existent local police and military response. The authors’ exasperation was punctuated by anger with certain unscrupulous settlers and convicts known to be trading in the stolen goods or providing the gang with information of police movements. For many living within Lycett’s acaridan wilderness, his smooth edges and rolling hills masked a more intractable, hidden reality.

 
Almost a month had passed before Sydney paid for a military posse supported by police constables and native trackers. After trooping heavy August storms for a week they closed in on an outlying Wallis Plains property. The gang had holed up in a disused hut there, but quickly found themselves trapped by floodwaters as persistent rain transformed the docile, surrounding creeks into raging, impassable torrents. Outnumbered, and with their pistol and musket works saturated and useless, they surrendered meekly and were escorted in chains to the barracks at Wallis Plains in the custody of five armed soldiers. The posse’s triumphal all night grog up turned into delirium tremors the following evening when a man belonging to Dr Moran’s farm succeeded in surprising the guarding soldiers, all of whom must have been sleeping instead of attending to their very important charge, and let the gang escape, taking with them the whole of the soldiers arms, ammunition, and provisions; they also broke into a house near the barracks, from whence they stole a musket; they likewise took several horses. (i)

 
Within a day or two of their farcical escape the gang obtained admittance into Mr Winder’s house about two in the morning by pretending that it was constables and a party of military who were at the door and who had secured some bushrangers. They compelled Mr Winder’s servants to make a fire and cook eggs and pork. They also regaled themselves with wine, and remained carousing very deliberately for three hours – they dressed themselves in Mr Winder’s clothes, took possession of some powder, a brace of pistols, two watches, and other articles. Before they left the premises they broke three muskets, but returned the watches because they belonged to the servants. They swore revenge against all concerned in apprehending them.(ii)

 
The escape from custody heightened the gang’s self-belief and inspired a more anarchic banditti approach that was mercilessly inflicted on James Reid, an agribusiness friend and neighbour of Vicars Jacob. After lying in wait for the work dispersal from Reid’s homestead, the gang methodically lit fires around the homestead and a nearby barn before scampering back to their viewing hideout. The smoke brought Reid, his family and their convict workers back to find the wheat filled barn completely incinerated. Frantic efforts managed to save some furniture, clothing and a few keepsakes before the homestead was reduced to smouldering, skeletal frames of charred uneven lines worthy of a drunken Lycett sketch. For some convicts in the area the fire was clearly payback against the part-time magistrate with a reputation for dealing out excessive punishments while pompously quoting the old testament, as James Reid had done when sentencing Patrick Riley to fifty lashes over four missing sheep.

 
The conflagration raised settler vigilance to paranoia and during a subsequent raid on Doctor Radford’s farm, where it seemed the Doctor had notice of their approach, the doctor fired, and wounded one man severely the moment he spotted the gang approaching. One of Dr Radford’s men also acted with great courage, and wounded another – this man deserves great credit for supporting his Master, as it seems not one prisoner in fifty in this district would have followed his example. The parties fired fourteen shots (iii) and a blood soaked, discarded waistcoat was later found in the surrounding bush.

 
The gang’s adamantine exploits saw The Australian newspaper send a reporter from Sydney to follow the story first-hand, though he preferred the safety of garrisoned Newcastle to treks into the renegade badlands. Drawing copy from official police reports and bridle-track gossip, he would quickly articulate a new narrative redefining the gang’s bravado into the nihilism of desperados living for whatever the next moment might bring. Rumour was now erring into legend and Jacob’s Mob was said to be scandalously abducting and misusing native girls, while talk of infighting and the fear of capture reduced them to gaunt, desperate and murderous shadows walking the bush in torn shoes.

 
The Australian’s reporter spent his spare time studying the decrepit state of the township after witnessing a storm-tossed, fully loaded schooner rip a massive mooring pole from the wharf like a rotten tooth. With a poetic nudge to the fashionable Byronic ruin he lamented the penal outstation’s closure which had left the Government buildings there in a ruinous state and it would seem that the persons whose duty it is to have them kept in repair hardly know which building first to begin upon. It is really melancholy to see the state to which that once pretty little town is reduced. (iv)

 
While the journalist indulged an imaginary Romanticist nostalgia for what never was, a determined town regiment commanded by Captain Allman was upriver investigating a whisper that the gang was heading to Newcastle to pirate a vessel. Guided by the local knowledge of native trackers Allman’s men were systematically scouting in and around Hexham, almost a day’s walk from the township. The men were split into search groups of three to five. After days of false alarms, shadows and startled kangaroos Sergeant Wilcox and Privates Wright and Coffee were searching in an area known as Black Creek when a smoke plume appeared above the tree line in the slow, still morning air. Expecting natives they nonetheless headed towards it. As the bush morphed into thicker scrub they began hearing fragments of exclamation and laughter cutting in and out of the air around them, seemingly without geography or origin, but definitely English. With their heartbeats tuned to their footsteps and muskets firm in their hands the three men moved warily in the direction of the noise’s likely source, which brought them to a cleared circle of land fronting an abandoned settler hut. The soldiers slinked carefully in the camouflaging perimeter wall of bush, until they could clearly determine two men standing side-by-side on the verandah with their cocks out, pissing in mock competition – more for height than distance it seemed. Wilcox silently gestured Wright and Coffee into a rudimentary crossfire phalanx before he yelled out fiercely for the two men to stand still and announce their names. In a mess of spraying urine and jerking arms the men turned and bolted inside the hut.

 
Wilcox called his two charges to hold fast and steady their barrel aim before repeating the order. The ensuing seconds stretched beyond a clock’s measure before Patrick Riley appeared at the door. Unlike the first Wallis Plains confrontation, his death wish and pistols were primed and ready. With erratic supporting fire from within the hut he stamped fearlessly off the verandah and fired in the direction of Wilcox’s voice before sheltering behind one of the ringbarked tree stumps still dotted in the clearing. British soldiers were trained to shoot four to five rounds a minute and Wilcox set up a sequential pattern to maintain a constant volley of shot covering the hut and the now isolated and vulnerable Riley. Having shakily reloaded behind his scant cover, Riley lifted a pistol and scanned the bush for tufts of residual musket smoke. Before he could fire the coolly accurate Coffee nailed a ball-shot through his left eye. Riley stood, dropped his pistol and squeezed his hands to his face before collapsing where he stood. Shooting stopped as both sides paused to listen in on the belligerent curses of the indestructible legend now fish-wriggling in smaller and slower gyrations until freezing and gargling to a deathly stop. In the clean sunlight blood leaked freely from Riley’s bullet wound before congealing on his face and through his thick brown hair; unlike the bright clear red of superficial wounds and cuts, death is purple-grey.

 
Riley’s final moments gave way to the fast approaching Allman and more troops. The Captain’s methodical planning ensured each search party remained in constant ear or gunshot to support each other. Cleary, Clinch and Thomas Moss made a final attempt to escape but were rounded up without incident, while Price slipped away to spend one more night on the run before being captured. Inside the hut was 200 weight of flour, 100 weight of pork, 12 pounds of tea, 40 pound of sugar, 11 pounds of tobacco, a blunderbuss, a powder-horn with a quantity of powder and shot, a silver watch, and sundry wearing apparel. (v) The final haul, stolen from the farm of Leslie Duguid Esquire, would have seen the gang through to Newcastle and see enough left over – if pirating was beyond them – to pull for the price of a stowaway passage.

 
The Sydney trial sentenced the four surviving bushrangers to death by hanging, but in the end Riley’s death would satisfy the state and the men found their sentences revised to long-term incarceration at the newly reopened Norfolk Island penal outstation. Aaron Price learned of his clemency hand tied on a gallows dropboard. Stunned and heart twisted by his melodramatic reprieve, he dropped speechlessly to his knees and sucked greedily on sweet, free air. Price would remain at Norfolk as a public works overseer when his sentence expired, and see the island fulfil its designers’ promise of a penal industrial hell built on humiliation, dehumanisation and abject terror.

 
When the hunt for Jacob’s mob seemed to be stalling, authorities sent for the services of a crack Hobart Town horse troop that had dealt with infamous renegades such as the cannibal Alexander Pearce and Michael Howe, the first Australian bushranger to be memorialised in print. Thanks to Allman and his men, the bushrangers were already on their way to Sydney when the Hobart patrol disembarked at Newcastle. Allman’s men could proudly claimed to be the patrol’s strutting equal as man-hunters, and know they had more generally regained locals’ respect for the military after the Wallis Plains fiasco.

 
In the months following, the burning of Reid’s farm would be used to question the powers of part-time gentleman-magistrates like Reid in regards their punishing of their neighbour’s – or their own – indentured convict labour. In just a few years after it was expediently enacted, the law was already being reconsidered as an anachronism in the contrary evolution from open prison to free colony.

 

 

Endnotes

(i) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 11 August 1825, page 3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(ii)  The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au),  8 September  1825, page 4, accessed 2 Feb. 2012
(iii) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 22 September 1825, page3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(iv) The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848) Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 22 September 1825, page3, accessed 2 Feb. 2012.
(v) The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Online (www.trove.nla.gov.au), 10 October 1825, page3, accessed 8 September, 2014.

Newcastle – First Among Seconds?

 

Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fishing Club Founders Trophy for the biggest marlin caught on 130lb breaking strain line (D’Ombrain and Silverthorn were the founders of the club)

Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fishing Club Founders Trophy for the biggest marlin caught on 130lb breaking strain line (D’Ombrain and Silverthorn were the founders of the club)

We recently received a call for help from Tourism Newcastle relating to an enquiry (presumably from a Tasmanian) questioning Newcastle’s claim of being Australia’s second oldest city:

“I was recently visiting your “visitnewcastle.com.au” website and was surprised to see that it is claiming Newcastle to be Australia’s second oldest city. I would like to point out to you that Hobart is in fact Australia’s second oldest city being founded in February 1804 which is prior to the founding of Newcastle in that same year. I would suggest you may want to update your website as to not mislead people. http://www.visitnewcastle.com.au/pages/newcastle-snapshot/

Here is some historical information to assist in answering this question. The links contain transcribed excerpts from the Historical Records of Australia and the Historical Records of New South Wales.

Newcastle has a number of birthdays. Its first European “discovery” was in September 1797.

Evidence exists that Newcastle’s earliest settlement was founded at Fresh Water Bay, (now Stockton) as early as April 1801 to May 1801:
See: https://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/stockton-is-newcastles-first-settlement/

Newcastle’s second European settlement was founded in July 1801 under the leadership of Corporal Wixstead, arriving on the 23rd July 1801.
See: https://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/corporal-wixtead-and-the-fate-of-newcastles-first-settlement-in-1801/

There was a mutiny, and the military guard appears to have been there until April/early May 1802.

After this episode it is unclear what became of the settlement, but it is generally assumed that it was abandoned, not to be re-established until March 1804.

However, there is evidence that coal continued to be discovered, mined and transported from there during the years 1802 and 1803. For example the Sydney Gazette reported on the 8th May 1803 that a new mine had been found there by John Platt, the convict miner who established the first Government mines, so we can assume he was still there working for private traders.

Newcastle’s third (and ongoing) settlement was founded in March 1804 under Commandant Menzies.

At this point it is also important not to forget Newcastle (Mulubinba) ‘s Aboriginal past, and its various names across at least 7000 years.

Here is some info:

The Many Names of Newcastle-Mulubinba
https://coalriver.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/the-many-names-of-newcastle-mulubinba/

With regards to Hobart’s claim, this comes from Historical Records of Australia (commentary – page 685):

“Hobart.

Hobart’s Town.
The name Hobart was applied to the settlement at Risdon Cove in the
Derwent River, and was used by Lieutenant Bowen in his second despatch
to Governor King, dated 27th September, 1803 (see volume I, series III),
written after the arrival of the first establishment. When the establishment
for Port Phillip was removed to the Derwent River, Lieutenant-Governor
Collins named the seat of his government at Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart Town.
The first use of the name by Collins in general orders was on the 15th of
June, 1804; the preceding order was dated at Sullivan Cove, River Derwent,
on the 9th of June, 1804. The modern city of Hobart is situated at and
around the latter site.”

So, it appears that Newcastle’s claim to be Australia’s second oldest settlement is justified. Let the new motto be:

Newcastle: First Among Seconds

Gionni Di Gravio
2nd September 2014