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Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797-1840

Document 83

Original Document 83

[557] Recollections of the Aborigines  [1]

by Berry

The first Native in whom I took an interest was old Bungaree in the year 1819. He was a particular favourite with Governor Macquarie, who created him a chief, gave him a farm, and Government men victualled from the store to cultivate it. Bungaree was a man decidedly of considerable natural talents, very faithful & trustworthy, but had all the defects of his Race, in consequence of which all the trouble & expense bestowed by the humane Macquarie to ameliorate his constitution proved abortive, as in every other instance.

About Christmas in that year, poor Bungaree was severely beaten in a drunken brawl by his countrymen. He was brought to my house with a severe wound in the head and a fracture of the fore-arm. I dressed his wound, bound up his arm, & gave instructions that he might be [558] taken care of in the kitchen. There he remained several days until he recovered from the bruises. The moment however he was able to move he escaped from the house as from a jail, and disconnected the arm from the bandage. Some weeks after he came back. On examining his arm I found that the ends of the fractured bones had healed without uniting, giving the appearance of a joint, and it remained for the rest of his life.

About the same time I had a great deal of conversation with another intelligent native at the country house of Mr Oxley, the late Surveyor General. I asked him if they could not erect houses for themselves like the means huts which would afford them better protection from the weather than a sheet of bark. He replied that they no doubt could do so, and that such huts would afford them better shelter, but that it [559] would not suit their mode of life. That it was necessary for them constantly to change their place of residence in search of the means of subsistence, and that their means of subsistence had become more scanty since the country had been occupied by white men. That the sheep and cattle cut all the grass in consequence of which Kangaroos had become very scarce, and that they now lived chiefly on squirrels and opossums & such small animals. [560] I went to Shoal Haven in June 1822 in order to form an establishment. At that time the Natives at that place bore a very bad character and were considered very hostile to the whites. Some years previously the Shoal Haven River was frequented by cedar cutters from Sydney . In the end the natives either killed all the sawyers or forced them away. One day my friend James Norton thus addressed me "I hear you are going to take a farm near Jervis Bay . Is it true?" I replied in the affirmative. "Are you mad," he retorted. "The natives will eat you."

I however entertained no fears, and had no doubt would be able to conciliate them. I was even so chimerical as to be sanguine that I would be able to civilize them.

I went down in a small cutter (15 tons) and [561] took along with me two natives - one named Broughton, born at Shoal Haven & who had accompanied the late Mr Throsby on several journeys into the bush; the other a tame native named Charcoal who was a good boatman. On the evening previous to my departure I observed this fellow moving on stilts with great rapidity past my door as if he had some important business to perform. I considered his earnestness as a mark of intelligence and beckoned to him. He was informed that I was to sail to Shoal Haven in the morning. I asked him to accompany me. He instantly forgot his own business, informed me that he was a good sailor & would be very glad to accompany me. He stopped in the kitchen all night. Next morning he was rugged out in sailors cloathes and appointed pro forma Mate of the cutter Blanch.

When we arrived near the Shoal Haven Heads it fell calm, and we got the [562] boats ahead of the vessel. The River empties itself into the sea through a low sandy beach and there is a bar at the entrance, but I had heard that vessels of 70 or 80 tons had entered, and therefore I imagined there would be water enough for a sloop of 15 tons. When the boats however got to the back of the surf they returned, observing that it would be unsafe as they saw every surf heaving up the sand. On entering the vessel Davidson the Master, a young man whose life I had saved years before at New Zealand , urged me very much to proceed. I directed him however to take the vessel into Crook Haven, a small place 3 miles to the southward, where we would examine the bar at our leisure. He persisted however in saying that the surf was nothing, that it was not near so bad as Dublin bar, and that we were deceived by the glitter of the sun upon the waves. During the dispute the vessel gradually approached the surf, & Turner, one of the men, observed, "Davidson is right, the nearer we [563] get, the less the surf appears." I tacked again and there appeared a small channel abreast of the vessel.   "Well Davidson," I observed, "since you are so urgent you may take the boat if you can get volunteers, and sound the channel - but take care to keep out of the breakers."

In a moment the boat was manned. I looked at Davidson as he passed over the side - there was a livid flush upon his face. I thought it resembled the purple hue of death and immediately repented the consent I had given. I ran up to the mast head and again saw the surf breaking across what a few minutes ago was a smooth channel. I called out for all hands to shout for the return of the boat, & waved my hat from the mast head for their return. They heard & saw us, and absolutely turned round the boat, but after disputing some time among themselves again turned round the head of the boat toward the surf. [564] I again went up the mast in breathless anxiety. The passage was again smooth & I saw the boat passing along it with a wall of breakers on the right hand side & on the left. I observed to a person near me they had got into a smooth place & hope it may not prove a deceitful calm. I had ceased speaking when a mighty roller rose up behind the boat. As it moved along the boat was hid from my view, but in a few seconds I saw it on top of the wave. A second wave rolled along and the boat was again invisible. In a few seconds the oars appeared in the air, and as the wave passed the boat appeared upset & the men clinging to her sides. My first impulse was to leap into the little Dingo and get to their assistance. A moments reflection convinced me it was madness. We then got out our sweeps [565] & pull for Crook Haven and endeavour to assist them by land. I forgot to mention that a third roller again rendered the boat invisible and when it passed we only saw two men out of five clinging to the boat.

On our way to Crook Haven we saw a lame & naked Blackman supported by a stick moving along the beach. He reached Crook Haven at the same time as the cutter - it was Charcoal. We sent the Dingo for him & he came on board. "It is a bad job," he said. "They are all drowned."

Charcoal informed us that when I called them they were all desirous to come back except Davidson, who strongly urged the men to proceed. Charcoal told them that if they did not go back they would be drowned. At length Turner, the man who spoke before, said: "Davidson is now our master & is the best judge. Let us obey him." They then put round the boat, when Charcoal stripped of all his clothes and [566] recommended them all to do the same as they would have to swim for their lives; that he was not afraid being a good swimmer; that none of them would take his advice, & that he was sure they were all drowned, particularly Davidson who had on two pairs of Trowsers.

Assistance was immediately sent along the beach, and after some time they brought back two living men, one of whom was Turner, but the bodies of Davidson & the other man were never found.

They confirmed Charcoal's account of the matter - that when the boat was upset Davidson & the other man both left & took to swimming, but they being unable to swim stuck to the boat. That when the 3rd wave struck her it turned her over on her bottom. They then contrived to get inside, & although full of water she still floated & was driven ashore by the surf. [567] These two men were much bruised by the surf but neither of them were permanently injured, & Turner had since become a very noted character in the Bay of Islands New Zealand .

This tragical adventure upset all my arrangements, & therefore I immediately put spades into the hands of my men and their first operation was to cut a canal between Crook Haven & Shoal Haven River .

The Natives all this while kept aloof. We went one morning to the banks of the Shoal Haven River & observed some Natives on the opposite side. Charcoal immediately stripped himself and held up his hands, when they launched their Canoes & came over to us, & from this time forward the other natives gradually began to show themselves. Charcoal was my regular boatman, but Broughton on the other hand was my Landman & I must speak of him [568] next. My intention was originally to have fixed myself upon a high bank to the north side of the River about six miles from the entrance. I therefore determined to explore the country while my men were cutting the canal. Having launched the Dingo into the River I therefore proceeded to the spot with Broughton & another Black whom he called his mate, accompanied by Mr Hamilton Hume. On reaching the place, I found only a narrow border of dry land with an interminable swamp behind. After this unpleasant discovery I came back to the boat & set down at the fire. In the course of the evening I observed to Mr Hume that the place would not do for an establishment. Hume replied if I were in your place I would never give up this piece of land. Broughton who was listening to the conversation smiled & said - "I wonder to hear you Mr Hume." I replied what do you mean Broughton, do you think this place will not do for a farm? "No," he replied. "Besides being all swamp, there is no water unless in very deep holes, and when the [569] cattle went to drink they would fall in and drown themselves." "This is all very singular. You told [me] Broughton, in Sydney , there was plenty of fine land at Shoal Haven." He replied "& so there is, but this is not the place." "Why then did you bring me here." "I did not bring you here, you said you wanted to go to Balang (the name of the place) and I only accompanied." "Very well Broughton, tomorrow you must take me to the right place," and next day I pit myself under his guidance, & he showed me a different description of country, but the place he recommended was the spot where he was born at the head of a long creek now called Broughton Creek. He told us that at this place the creek became fresh & divided into two branches. That there was an elevated forest range that divides the two branches. That I ought to build my house & stock yard on the range, & that there was a clear[570] meadow in front where I could cultivate maize. As this was at some distance we returned to our encampment in order to refit ourselves for the expedition. Our plan was to walk with Broughton to the head of the creek in order to examine the whole extent of the country, & I sent up our provisions in the Dingo. The Dingo was put in charge of Billy - a boy of sixteen, Broughton's mate - and he got another Boy of the Natives about the same age to assist. This last had never before seen a white man & I mention the circumstance to show that I began by placing complete confidence in the natives, for I could see that they were proud of the confidence. It was late in the evening when we reached the head of the creek. We were all very hungry & expected to find the Dingo, but behold no Dingo was there. My foolish confidence was now finely ridiculed for putting so much provisions in charge of two boys, one of whom was a mere savage & [571] quite a stranger. Broughton expressed his hopes that his mate would behave properly, but another Blackman who was along with us gave it as his opinion that the boys after becoming hungry had eaten their bellyfulls & gone to sleep. We sat down on the bank & made a fire, and I even began to think that we must go supperless to bed. About sun set we observed the Dingo coming round a point. The poor boys were quite tired with their long pull and had touched nothing and gave us a most amusing account of the voyage. They said that the creek was very long and very crooked, and at one place there was a long narrow peninsula, and that they wasted a good deal of time in disputing whether they should haul the boat across instead of pulling round.

Next morning we found the place to agree exactly with Broughton's description. [572] I now made up my mind about the plan of the establishment, but as the district was almost completely barricaded with almost impassable brush it became necessary to find some road to bring cattle, and here again I had recourse to Broughton. He collected 2 or 3 of his tribe and his brother Broger & went accompanied with Mr Hume to cut a road up a range with which he was acquainted. Being furnished with Tomahawks they wrought very hard & in the course of 4 or 5 days cut a road up the mountain. Before the road was finished Brogher began to tire and threatened to leave. Mr Hume shot a pheasant & gave it to Brogher to his supper to induce him to stop. He appeared to assent, roasted & eat the pheasant. Bye & Bye he looked at the moon which was near the full, observed that it was a fine night and therefore he would take advantage of the moon light and go home to his wife. Broughton was very indignant at him, & told him that he would rather cut all the road himself than have his assistance. [573] The natives continued very shy and few showed themselves. I gave no concern about it, only treated such as came to us with kindness. One day a large party well armed arrived from Jervis Bay, and sat down in the neighbourhood of our encampment, but did not come near us according to the native custom untill they received an invitation. I went to them, asked for their Chief - an old gentleman of the name of Yager - & we became immediately great friends. He had the organ of devotion highly developed in his head and from his own account had much intercourse with the visionary world.

About this time the Chief of the place where I was cutting the canal - name Wajin - came in. He was a stout elderly gentleman of a mild, sedate appearance & hairy as Esan himself. He informed me that a piece of clear meadow ground on the west of the canal was called Numba. I asked him who cleared it. He replied that all[574] he knew about it was that it was in the same state in the days of his grandfather. Of course I made him my friend and promised to give him a Brass Plate when he came to Sydney .

In about a month I completed the canal so far that a moderate sized boat could pass through into the Shoal Haven River at half tide, cleared a small spot on the ridge on the north shore of the River, and transferred with the assistance of the natives who had now become familiar, my stores to a small log building at that place. The natives called the range Gilipigong, but as it is at the foot of a hill 930 feet high called Coolangatta, I called the place after the mountain as the more prominent object. It now became necessary for me to go to Sydney to make ulterior arrangements. My only 2 sailors as before [575] mentioned had been drowned in attempting to enter the Shoal Haven River, and the young man whom I had brought down as an overseer was much alarmed at the idea of being left with a few white men, all prisoners in a corner 50 miles from any other establishment (Wollongong), and surrounded by wild natives. I therefore determined to take the cutter back to Sydney with a crew of the aborigines, fortunately however, Mr Throsby of Bongbong sent down a white man who was a good bush ranger, accompanied by a friendly native in order to find me out. I therefore engaged this man to go along with me. My crew consisted of this man,   Wajin Chief of Shoal Haven, and my religious friend Yager the Chief of Jervis Bay. Charcoal the tame native also returned with me. [576] Broughton however being a bush native disliked the sea and determined to go back by Land to meet me in Sydney in order to assist in bringing down some cattle. My friend Mr Hume accompanied him to Appin.

Broughton had brought down with him a young man of about 18 named Billy, a relation of his own whom he called his "mate-, and he left him in charge of the place during his absence, explaining to his tribe that the establishment was formed under his particular protection. That they must all behave in a friendly manner to the white people and obey his lieutenant Mr Billy during his absence.

I got safe to Sydney with my singular crew after a tedious passage occasioned by fowl winds. During the voyage we saw a large ship beating up and making the same tracks as ourselves. My white assistant wished me very much to go along side to beg that they would lend [577] us a sailor to assist us, but the weather being fine I declined doing so, as I had a particular aversion to go along side of a large ship in such a plight. Thereafter always when we neared the vessel I put about and stood in there. I had been several days without cleaning myself, and went below to do so. At this time we were standing on different tacks. My mate the white man immediately quietly wore the boat. The large ship did the same and stood towards us. I took up a book and began to read. Time passed without observation. The white man called down that the ship was close to us, and on enquiry I found that we were standing on the same tack. I said "Immediately put about." "Oh," he says, "they have lowered a boat and it is nearly alongside." Much mortified -unwashed and unshaven - I packed my head up thru the skuttle, and at the same moment a boat with the Captain came along side.

[578] The ship was the Convict ship Asia , Capt. Reid, with whom I was slightly acquainted. He insisted upon my coming on board, gave a hawser to the Blanch - in order to tow her, sending also some of his sailors on board. On stepping on board the Asia the first man I saw was Mr or Major Mudie, whom I had seen in London in the house of Sir Charles Forbes, and who was coming out with his family as a settler.

It appeared that being delayed by fowl winds they were naturally anxious to speak to the little vessel, in the expectation of getting some potatoes or other vegetables, but when they found that the boat always stood inshore when they neared it, their curiosity was excited. They thought we must be runaway convicts. Mudies daughters were quite surprized at my uncouth & wretched appearance and savage & naked crew. I explained that no disaster had happened, that I was a mere settler who had come back after establishing a farm, & that I had slept under a tree for the last month, and that if their papa [579] meant to become a settler he must do the same. They cried all night at the prospect before them. I made very light of it & wondered how they could expect to find homes ready made in the wild bush.

I returned to the place in about a month, and went overland with Broughton by way of Bong Bong. I found every thing well and many natives about and all of them quite friendly.

Mr Billy obeyed his chief and remained with the overseer during Broughton's absence, living in the same hut, and waiting upon the overseer as Cook & House Servant. This however was too much restraint to be long endured, although he was well clothed and well fed, and therefore he left the hut and he took himself to his usual mode of life on the return of Broughton.

Previous to my return Wagin and Yager had returned, with a suit of clothes and Brass plates - black badges of nobility - & with many wonderful stories of the new discovered country of Sydney . [580]

But among the crowd of admiring natives there appeared a testy, shrivelled, & irascible old Gentleman, who claimed the rank of Chief of Shoal Haven, alleging that he was the Feudal Chief of the very place where I had made my huts, and that he also must be invested with an order of nobility. The poor overseer was alarmed at his vehemence, and told him that Wajin being now King, it could not be helped, that it was his own fault in not putting in his claim sooner, and we could not make two Kings. Then he observed © I will not allow you to remain. Pack up your alls and be gone. The overseer offered to make him a Constable, & assured him that I would get him a Constable's Plate (this is square; a chief's plate is like a half moon). This he indignantly refused. The overseer then offered to make him a settler, observing that I was only a settler myself. He agreed to this on condition that he was made a "Free" Settler, but such was his impatience that it was necessary to give him a leaden [581]   plate until a better could be procured. When I came down I got the blacksmith to make an Iron Plate & to engrave upon it that he was the Free Settler of Shoal Haven, and this plate he wore for the rest of his days, and in future was always known by blacks & whites under the name of "Old Settler".

From this time by kind treatment we have been invariably good friends with the natives. It is true that they used to steal for the first years of the establishment, a good deal of any crops of maize and potatoes, and we were obliged to watch them, but the Cockatoos in a year or two discovered that we began to plant maize and proved even more destructive than the blacks, & at least as cunning, for they soon learned the effects of the gun and used to place Watchers on the trees to give notice to the others of the approach of any whiteman. They called out. Their friends [582] continued their depredations with more eagerness. When he came near they again called out, & it is curious that if he had a gun all the natives took flight, but if he was unarmed they continued in defiance.

The Blacks also used to spear our pigs in the bush. I have never heard however that they molested either the cattle or the calves, and for many years their depredations have been so slight as not to be noticed. The Cockatoos however have continued, and experience has rendered them still more expert thieves. There has therefore been a constant necessity to watch the maize when it attains a certain state of maturity, and this no doubt has also protected it indirectly from the depredations of the natives.

After gaining the confidence of the Blacks I tried hard to get them to adopt habits of industry by paying them for their labour, but generally one day's labour was enough to tire [583] them, however slight. I have seen however some of them live with and assist favourite free men for weeks together, and on one occasion Broughton acted as a Bricklayers labourer for some weeks. One day as he was leaving his work, I observed him replying in a very indignant manner to a Black woman. On enquiry he told me she was his cousin, and had been jeering him, & in the end told me with some reluctance that she reproached him with working every day like a prisoner, and that he despised her remarks. Next morning however he disappeared and never more acted in the capacity of a Bricklayers Labourer.

I have mentioned his relation Billy leaving his post of hut keeper to the overseer - after some weeks he came back naked & hungry. I observed "Well Billy, I expected you were to have become like a white man but am sorry to find that you have again become a wild bush native." "Oh no sir, I am no more wild than formerly, but I have become a "free man again." Poor Billy was killed some years after at Parramatta in a drunken fray by some of his [584] country men. I recollect observing a young native who was assisting some free men to clear a piece of ground. I told him that he wrought as well as any of the whites. "Yes," he replied, "Bye & Bye I mean to make a contract myself to clear a piece of ground, and then I shall go to Sydney & get my money out of the office like the others." In the present instance he lived with the white man, eat with them, and they gave him their old clothes to wear. He at length tired of such a regular life & never made his contract.

Their bodily frame is not fitted for labour and their inherent disposition is to wander, consequently they are very fond of going with messages and deliver them faithfully. They delight very much in pulling in boats as this indulges their locomotive propensities. When I last came to Sydney from Shoal Haven, the vessel was laying six miles from my house. The tide rendered it necessary for me to leave my house at one o'clock in the morning. My crew consisted of Black people, a great condescension on their [585] part, as they have a great aversion either to early rising or having their nights rest disturbed. They are naturally a kind heated and generous people. They will divide or even give away their last morsel to a stranger, and much as they value cloathing will do the same with their clothes.

One of my men some years ago lost himself in the bush and was nearly starved. He met a native on one of his own journeys. The poor native put him in the road and gave him all his provisions.

Last year I met the same native at Berrima on my way to Goulburn. I was surprized to see him, & the surprize was mutual. He told me that his wife was a Berrimian Lady and that he had brought her up to see her relations. I requested that he would take charge of a letter to Shoal Haven & deliver it on his return. After a few minutes he brought back the letter & requested I would wrap it up in a bit of waste paper [586] to keep it clean. I was afterwards informed that he immediately went to Shoal Haven with the letter & again returned for his wife, thus voluntarily taking a journey of at least 50 miles through a rugged mountainous country. I saw the same man lately at Shoal Haven. He spoke about the dry weather & great want of rain. Many of the natives were affected with the influenza. He observed they would not get entirely better untill we had plenty of rain. I told him that the Deity - pointing upwards - was so offended with the natives on account of their allowing the white men to cohabit with their women. He replied it is too bad of the Blacks, but that the white men were equally bad. He observed all the blacks now know that there is a God in Heaven, and that there is a future state of rewards and punishments. Some of the blacks told me that the Catholic priest had been baptising their children, but they did not seem to understand the nature of the Ordinance.

For many years I have reaped my harvest on the principle of free Labour. Many of the white men employed Blacks to assist, deriving some small advantage from their labour, but [587] now they have become more knowing and have for some years reaped on their own account, so as to receive the full benefit of their labour. They did not however work any last harvest, observing that they were more or less indisposed with the influenza.

My brother assisted 2 families to build comfortable huts for themselves, but when I was last down I found the huts deserted, and a piece of ground they had farmed in as a garden uncultivated. They were pleased at first with the novelty of the thing, but in the end a fixed residence did not suit their locomotive propensities.

There is certainly a considerable change in their ideas since I first knew them. The men & women used to walk about stark naked without any sense of shame. Now they all contrive to have some covering, and I think the females would have as much shame in appearing in a state of nudity as any white woman.

[588] At the time Colonel Arthur was hunting down the Aborigines in Van Diemans Land, he employed some New Holland Natives to assist - these belonged to the Shoal Haven Tribe. About six years ago a number of them landing in Sydney from vessel from Hobart Town . They were well dressed & appeared quite respectable and each of them had a trunk or Portmanteau. They immediately came to my house and requested I would give them store room for their luggage. One of them said that they had succeeded in getting in the natives & pacifying the Island, but that the natives of V.D. Land were such a stupid race that there was no hope of civilizing them.

There is great difficulty in the savage state of rearing children, therefore as a wise provision of nature the organ of Love of Offspring is highly developed in the women, who are generally very kind mothers and remarkably fond of their children.

[589] A number of years ago during a very dry season an old Man named Couray installed himself in the office of waterman, to bring good water from a spring at some distance, and was highly indignant when any other native interfered with his office, and his old wife to whom he was much attached also made herself free of the 
kitchen. About this time a convict woman was sent down as a servant, and this woman had a child in her arms. An immediate attachment sprung up betwixt the child and the old Mrs Couray. When its mother scolded or beat it, it always took refuge with the old Black woman, and if at any time the mother of the child gave it any ill usage the old woman used to cry bitterly.

I used to hear formerly that women used to strangle white children as soon as they were born, but this not the case now, for they are equally fond of the piebald children as of the others, and what is curious the husband of the woman seems equally fond of them as of the black ones. The cross bred are distinctly an improved race.

[590] It is very seldom that any bushrangers appear at Shoal Haven and when they do they are generally brought in by the Natives.

Some months ago 2 men escaped from Mr Sparks place at the Kangaroo. His overseer gave notice of the escape at Shoal Haven and next day they were brought in by the Blacks. They informed me that they had heard of the escape, and suspected the 2 men to be runaways as they could not give a good account of themselves, & observing the men tried to deceive them with a plausible story, but that they ordered them to walk to Shoal Haven and that if they tried to escape they would spear them as they spear Kangaroos. The men confessed and congratulated themselves that they were captured before they had time to do any amount of harm & were much ashamed on being taken by the blacks - it is singular that they have behaved well since then.

The Blacks used to have their medical practitioners. They generally used certain spells [591] but some of their practice was highly judicious. Shoal Haven was much infested with snakes. One day a man was bitten by a very venemous one. Old Dr Greenwall was near. They applied for his assistance. He examined the sufferer & enquired about the kind of snake. He then replied that he could do nothing, and that the man must die. They requested him to try. Replied it could be of no use, and by making a useless attempt he would risk his medical reputation. There happened to be a young Doctor present who had still to make his medical reputation. He addressed the sufferer: "I fear you must die, but if you will allow me I will do my best to save your life." The sufferer gladly assented. The Doctor immediately bound a tight ligature above the wound, and then commenced sucking. He spit the first mouthful into his hand & examined it - the blood was black and he silently & mournfully shook his head. He then renewed his operations & sucked with all his might. After a considerable interval he started [592] to his feet, probably distinguishing a difference in the taste of the blood. He spit again into his hand. He smiled   & addressed his patient: "Bel you die". The cure was complete. The overseer who had been originally tied to the medical profession witnessed the whole and I respect the story as he told it.

Some years ago when I was at Shoal Haven an old man (a native) was found murdered near one of the mens huts. On enquiry I was informed that he had been living there for some days, and that when the men went to their work he remained. That found him dead on their return, and that his body had been taken for interment by his friends, and [I] sent a boat for the body & had it taken out of the coffin (some sheets of bark), that I might examine the wounds. From the appearance I concluded that he had been murdered by a black man. I told this to his friends & mentioned that I was at first afraid he had been murdered by the white people, but they all agreed that it was done by a blackman. We examined the spot. [593] Their acute optics discovered the stealthy foot of a native approaching the place where the old man was sitting, the marks of a struggle and then the marks of the foot of the bush native running away after the act was committed. The murderer was never discovered.

Some of the natives have great personal courage. When last at Shoal Haven I saw an old man whom, not having seen for years, I considered dead. I had often heard his story, but he again told it me. Nearly 20 years ago, before I went to Shoal Haven, some natives plundered some maize belonging to a convict settler in Illawarra. The settler armed himself with a newly ground cutlass and went in search of the natives. He discovered their camp when they were roasting the maize. They all took to flight. One man alone began to defend himself with a tomahawk, but the white man struck him [594] a blow upon the shoulder which nearly separated the arm from the shoulder blade when the tomahawk fell to the ground. The white savage (man) now aimed a blade at the head of the Black one. The black put up his other arm as a guard to his head and the blow of the cutlass - which must have been very sharp - cut of the forearm as clean as if it had been done by a Surgeon. The poor Black now ran away, but when at a little distance turned round, & shook his bloody stump in the face of the white savage. After some time he dropped from loss of blood, but his friends carried him off bound up and cured his wounds, but he has only a stump on the one side & the other arm hangs nearly powerless. I observed to him how happens it that your right arm was used as a guard while [595] you fought with the left   "Because," he replied, "I am `a left handed man'".

The poor fellow spoke without any apparent ill feeling towards his opponent who still lives & thrives - the natives used to call him Saucy William and some of them like him to this day. Both whites & blacks seem kind to the old man, but I believe he never goes to Sydney and seems to think although the greatest sufferer that his own conduct was not free from blame.

I shall now mention a few circumstances of the subsequent fate of my sable friends.

Old Yager continued my friend to the end of his days but for some years has dressed with   feathers, and I believe did not have any heir to inherit his honour.

[596] "Charcoal", whom I had appointed mate of the Blanch, after a few trips tired of being well cloathed and well fed, and after a few trips left the vessel, but he left it as a friend and used to occasionally to visit Shoal Haven. After some time he married a young woman of the place. There was a considerable disparity in years, but the match was otherwise very appropriate. Charcoal was lame, his leg having been broken to pieces by a cart wheel, and his wife had no toes. It appears that when she was an infant her Mother had gone to sleep one cold night too near the fire, and the toes of the infant were found next morning to have been burnt off.

Charcoal was rather of an irascible temper. One day he found it necessary to give some correction to his wife, in consequence of which she died, and the father of the girl complained to his tribe. Charcoal was summoned to appear on a certain day to stand punishment. I was then at Shoal Haven but the trial took [597] place at some miles distant from my house, and under the circumstances Charcoal did not choose to visit me, but I was informed by the natives (his jury) of the result.

Every thing was prepared. The natives were assembled. Charcoal took his place & the father was there to demand justice. Before the trial commenced Mr Charcoal arose, and requested to say a few words. He acknowledged that he was justly summoned to stand punishment for that he had unfortunately killed his wife, but that in so doing he was more unfortunate than culpable, for that he dearly loved his deceased wife and deplored her loss, and merely intended to give her such gentle correction as a husband is entitled to give his help mate, but that in his passion in consequence of some provocation had got the better of his reason. That he had struck too hard & she died, for which he was now ready to take the consequences, & even [598] to die if it should so happen - a thing but too likely from his being lame and not possessing the activity of another man.

That however he severely felt for the father of his wife who from his want of temper had lost an affectionate daughter and therefore besides giving him all the satisfaction which their Laws and Customs demanded, he now desired to make him any other poor compensation which he had the power of doing. He had therefore brought down a fine new blanket from Sydney which he laid at the feet of his father in Law and requested him to accept.

This speech being ended there was a solemn. At length the father arose and addressed to assembly to the following purpose. My friends and countrymen. I am much obliged to you all for the readiness with which you have met my call and assembled here [599] this day to do me justice, but you have all heard what has been said by my son in law, and how he laments the loss of his wife, and I think that you must all agree with me that he has been more unfortunate than culpable. He took up the blanket and displayed it to the court. See what a fine blanket he has given me. He is really a fine generous fellow, and I really feel for his affliction on account of the loss of his wife. I am satisfied and I do not wish the affair to proceed any further, & as my poor son in law is so afflicted for the loss of his wife I desire him to be comforted. I have still another daughter and as soon as she is of age I will give him her for a wife. The assembled tribe moodily dispersed, and when they told the story at Shoal Haven they sinceringly observed that the father was a mercenary old fellow to sell his daughter for a blanket. I know not whether the second marriage [600] took place. I did not see much of Charcoal after this occurrence. He died a number of years ago.

Old Settler lived a good many years and always wore his Iron plate. He continued to the end of his days a waspish, irascible, but friendly old man. He had a wife & family of children to whom he was much attached. One morning he was camped with his tribe at the foot of my house. I heard a dreadful screaming and went out to see what was the matter. I saw Old Settler in a frantic rage, with a bark shield in the one hand & a spear in the other and his poor old wife standing trembling at a few paces distance. He was talking to her with great violence, and every now & then threatened to transfix her with his spear. I looked at the frantic old savage, and then at the other natives who were all sitting in groups with their different [601] families, with anxious countenances, but with averted eyes and preserving a profound silence. My presence seemed to disconcert Settler, but I did not appear to notice him. I quietly

enquired at one of his tribe what was the matter. The man replied "It is a family affair and not our business." I remained for some time & followed their example. If I had interfered most likely in his rage he would have thrown his spear in defence. After a time his rage expended itself and he sat down. Next day I saw him as friendly with his old wife as usual.

Some years after, his oldest son came to my house in Sydney and asked to speak with me. "You know me Mr Berry . I am Tommy Patalick, the oldest son of Old Settler. You know Old Settler was your friend and you gave him a plate. He is now dead. I am his heir and now the Chief of the Tribe and you must give me a plate."

[602] I told Patalick to come back in a few days for his plate, and begun to think what description I could put on it, & determined that he should be designated as the son and Heir of "Old Settler". As if he read my thoughts he called me back & said he had one more word to say. That I must not say any thing about his father on his plate. These people never mention the names of the Dead and it is an offence to do so in their presence. Of course I attended to his wishes. Tommy still lives to enjoy his Honours of chief, and as Wajin and Yager have both died without heirs he has rather an extensive authority and is a good deal respected amongst his countrymen.

Wajin lived a good many years happily with his wife, although there was no family. He however, although a quiet good tempered man, had also occasionally his family troubles. One day I looked into a hut and saw Wajin seated by the side [603] of his wife - or the Queen as they used to call her. The Lady looked very sulky, and on looking more closely I saw her face & head covered with blood, and she was cut to the bone. "What is this Wajin who has dared to touch the sacred face of the Queen?" He replied "I did it." "Shame Wajin. Why did you do it?" "Oh," he says, "it is nothing. I only given her a slight correction, a few gentle taps upon the head with a Waddy. She was very silly and made a great noise with her tongue. She would not erase from scalding untill I broke her head. But I was merciful in the correction I gave her."

The Lady evidently was not accustomed to this kind of discipline, for she looked very sulky, and it cost Wajin a great deal of trouble before he succeeded in making her forget the affair. Poor Wajin some years after got very drunk in Sydney . His tribe carried him to their camp at Woollomolloo, but he died in the course of the night.

[604] Broughton was first appointed a Constable & afterwards the chief of his own tribe, and supplied with slops and rations. He generally staid at Shoal Haven but sometimes he used to disappear without any warning, but his slops and rations were always forthcoming when he chose to claim them.

He had 2 wives Mary & Charlotte. The first was the elder & entitled to all the remains of his principal sustance, but the other was the best beloved. Both were back sliders.   He worked at the back sliding of Mary but was very jealous of Charlotte . One day I looked into his hut and he was sitting at his meal between his ladies. The head of Charlotte was broken and her face was   bloody. "Who has done this Broughton." "I did it," he replied. "She slept from home last night, but where I cannot find out." I replied, "this is too bad of Charlotte . I hope she will never do so again. You must not beat her any more." Broughton [605] looked displeased at my meddling in his family affairs & I did not interfer further. Next day he disappeared. Some years after some fresh cause of jealousy arrived & he beat her so unmercifully that she died, but he bitterly lamented his loss, and for a long time after when I spoke of the affair he used to cry.

Mary still lives and he has got another wife. He does not like to work but he renders himself useful in many ways and is considered as a kind of priviledged person on the place, and his slops and rations are always forthcoming.

He says that he feels that he is now getting old. That the bush does not suit him as formerly, and boasts he means to build a house. He has one daughter who is married and two other children whom he acknowledges, but they are white.

[606] All the Shoal Haven Blacks consider themselves as my people, but I find it necessary to let do as they please as they cannot be restrained. I might as well attempt teach the birds of the air not to fly as to restrain their wanderings.

Upon making careful enquiry lately at Shoal Haven both from themselves and from some intelligent white people who have been long on the place, their numbers I am sorry to say have greatly decreased since I came to Shoal Haven.

A good many have died in Sydney in consequence of drinking, a few in their native feuds of violence, and a good many from measles. The natives themselves told me that a good many also had left the Colony in ships. At present there are a good many young people & children amongst them and they seem fine & healthy people.

[607] I enclose a list of their numbers.

One candidate more - Tommy Patalick had a younger brother named Monkey - from his appearance. Upwards of 12 months ago he came to Sydney . One night he dreamt that Red, a Shoal Haven native then at Shoal Haven, bit his throat. On awaking in the morning he had a sore throat. He returned to Shoal Haven and lingered for many months, living under the impression that he would not recover, for that Red had bewitched him. Some weeks ago he died at Shoal Haven. Poor Red was the only native on the spot, and he performed the last offices to the deceased by wrapping up the body in bark, according to their custom, previous to the interment.

Patalick told me that he fully believed that Red had procured the death of his brother by bewitching him, and that he must stand punishment for the supposed offence.

                                                                                    A. Berry


[608] Census of the Natives of the Shoal Haven District

                                    Married     Married           Single    Single           Male       Female

                                    Men            Women          Men   Women               Children                     Total                                                                                                                                          

Gerongong Tribe           4                       5              6           1                    4            1                     21

Broughton Creek           8                       9              4           1                    -            4                     26

Uurro Tribe                   8                       9              2           1                    2            2                     24

Shoalhaven Tribe          10                     13             2           5                    6            3                     39

Numba Tribe                 5                       6              4           2                    3            5                     25

Wooragee Tribe            11                     11             9           3                   7            4                     45

Jervis Bay                      17                     18             8           1                  11           7                    62


                                      63                   71            35      14                    33         26                      242

Genl. Total

With the exception of 6 old men, the single men are from the age of 13 to 30. The male children are under 13 years of age. The single women are from the age of 12 or 13 to 25. The female children are under 12 years of age.


              25        at Burra

            267                                                                   abt May 1838

                                                                                                                        A. Berry


[1] This important transcription was provided by Michael Organ of the University of Wollongong. It first appeared in his book, A Documentary History of the Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines 1770 - 1850Aboriginal Education Unit, Wollongong University, 1990. We are most grateful for his permission to use his transcript.

Published by the Centre for Comparative Law History and Governance of Macquarie University, and State Records NSW