Does anyone know what became of the papers of Henry O’Sullivan White? He was the son of George Boyle White, surveyor.
We are trying to track down a record that Henry made of local Aboriginal star names and stories back in the 1840s. His informant was an Aboriginal man named Paddy Tighe, and in all probability the knowledge was recorded between the years 1848-1850.
Henry O’Sullivan White delivered his recollections from the years 1848-1849-1850 to the Maitland Scientific Society on Monday, 19th August 1895 at the Maitland Technological Museum. The building is now where the Maitland Art Gallery is situated today. It was printed in the Maitland Daily Mercury Tuesday 20 August 1895 p. 4 (1) We have transcribed the full article below:
Maitland Scientific Society.
A meeting of the Maitland Scientific Society was held last evening in the Technological Museum, West Maitland. The President (Mr. T. J. Enright, B.A.) occupied the chair, and there were also present :— Messrs. J. W. Pender, W. S. Pender, H. O’S White, G. B. White, J. Enright, E. Patten, J. J. Maher, W. Tipper, H. H. Capper, S. Beattie, F. D. Anderson, D. Cotter, W. A. Hughes, E. Tipper, jun., H. Sealey, E. Carter, J. Miller, Mrs. H. H. Capper, Misses Kline and Turner. Apologies were received from Messrs. E. P. Capper, W. A. Squire, J. B. Macartney, A. J. Prentice, and W Butterworth. The President called upon Mr. H. O’S. White to read a paper which he had prepared on “Recollections of the Aborigines of New South Wales in the years 1848-49-50”
Before commencing my recollections, I may as well inform you that I am a native of the Hunter, and was born within two miles of this side of Singleton in November, 1831 ; so that I am close on 64 years of age. I make this preliminary statement because it was in my boyhood and youth I obtained what knowledge I have of the aborigines. What I write will be in a chronological and narrative form, without any pretensions to being scientific. I well remember them, as a boy, being very numerous about Singleton, then known as Patricks Plains. They often visited my father’s place, Greenwood, now owned by John Moore. (2) Their principal place of encampment was on the property of the late John Howe, adjoining Greenwood on the one side, and Singleton on the other. It seemed to be a belief amongst the blacks of the Hunter that after death their future state would be that of white men ; but I have since thought this may have been put into their beads by the whites who mixed with them, by way of a joke. I have a distinct remembrance of a large corroboree taking place on the bank of the Hunter, in one of Mr. Howe’s paddocks, somewhere near where the bridge now stands on the Westbrook road. There must have been close upon 400, if not more, present. They were not all Hunter blacks : the Macleay and Manning tribe helped to make up the number. It was a common occurrence in those days for adjoining tribes to meet, and make these demonstrations, some or them having the appearance of warlike exercises, while others partook more of the character of a comedy. What was their object? I have never learnt ; but they have always seemed to me more like social gatherings than anything else. However, as I go along, I have more corroborees to speak of; and as I was then older and better able to observe, I took more notice, and will give such their characteristics.
In the early part of the year 1848 my father received instructions from the then Surveyor-General (Sir T. S. Mitchell) to proceed over the Liverpool Range, or rather the Dividing Range, between the Eastern and Western waters to start the future survey of that part of the colony, that is, to traverse the watercourses and ranges so that they might be charted, for up to that time they were unknown to all but the squatter, his stockmen, and shepherds. I accompanied my father on that occasion in the capacity of an assistant ; there were five others, making seven in all, counting my father. It was while thus employed I saw a good deal of the blacks and their habits. We had one with us, a man about five and twenty; his name, he informed us, was Paddy Tighe, (3) but who christened him he never said. I fancy he got his name from his humour, for he was full of it, and decidedly Irish in its character. We had him for nearly three years, and regretted his loss ; he was seduced from us by a squatter. Paddy was a very intelligent black; he knew all the fixed stars of any magnitude as well as the planets in our hemisphere, and when to look for them at particular seasons, each having its name, but unfortunately I cannot find the record. I have it somewhere; when it turns up I will with pleasure give the names to the Society. I remember only two — that of Venus and Antaius; (4) the former called Tyndeema, (5) the latter Quoinbelong. They have names also for every inequality of the surface of the land ; each water hole and bend, in the streams have also their distinctive name, and of course each variety of timber is also named; peculiar formed trees are also noted. To such an extent did they carry out this talent that I have known them to direct a strange black a route to him otherwise unknown, and the stranger to find it by the directions given from this knowledge.
I will now proceed to give some information about a habit they had, which in some way must have applied to their religious belief. One of a tribe, always a leading member and generally well up in years, visited alone some inaccessible place in the mountains, there forming a circle of stones of considerable size, the circle being about 7ft in diameter, in this he was to stand and interview the wandah or spirit. Why, whether good or evil, I never could make out, but they, held in great dread the vigil lasting three days and three nights, the interview with the spirit only occurring in the night. The black who underwent this ordeal became the caragey, that is chief director of his tribe. I have met with numbers of these stone circles, always on high points of the ranges, and the country very broken, particularly amongst the Warambungle Ranges on the Castlereagh River. I have met with them also on the Nandewar Ranges, between the Namoi and Gwydir. I do not put up for a scientist, so must leave it to them to elucidate ; I but give what I have seen, but to me, untutored as I am, it seems a strange coincidence that these savages should make use of this mystic sign. They had tribal laws amongst themselves which were strictly enforced. I was present at a council where one of the tribe was cried for some offence. His judges were the old men of the tribe, who sat on their heels in a circle, the culprit standing in the centre. Each one of the old men made a speech, speaking with great dignity, and making use of their bands at turns to impress their hearers with what they said, and the audience uttering exclamations of assent or dissent as it struck them. Throughout the meeting the utmost quietness and gravity prevailed, and no meeting of civilised individuals could have been held with greater decorum. The culprit, who replied to the accusation, was acquitted on this occasion. Shortly after this event, while we were encamped at one of Rouse’s stations on the Castlereagh, I saw a dozen or more young blacks, who had at a recent borah been made young men of, that is, they could take unto themselves wives, and have a voice in council. The wounds by the operation of tattooing were quite fresh and unhealed. Upon their arms, thighs, back, and breasts were open wounds that could not have been more than three or four days old. I have never witnessed a Borah, nor I fancy has any other white man been permitted to do so. I have heard from the blacks portions of the ceremonies, but as I cannot vouch for them, I do not give them. I have seen numbers of the Borah grounds. The place chosen for these ceremonials is generally the top of a flat ridge, and the trees around the spot fixed upon. About an acre or two are carved for about twelve feet from the ground. There seems to be two patterns, one curved, the other angular. Many of these places can still be traced. Within late years I have seen one of them near the head of the Williams River. On one occasion I witnessed the death and burial of an old blackfellow. We were encamped at the time— early in 1849 — on the bank of the Macquarie River, where the town of Dubbo now stands, and close to us a tribe of aboriginals had their camp. Death was the result of old age. I well remember seeing the old man when he was dying stretched out on a possum rug in a rude bark gunyah. As soon as life had departed a great commotion took place in the camp, the gin yelling and tearing their hair, several of the men preparing the body for burial. This was done by doubling up the corpse, bringing the chin between the knees, wrapping opossum rugs around it, and binding it in this position with the belts taken from their loins. These were widely netted sashes some 6 feet in length. All the men at that time wore them — to which in front find behind were appended bunches consisting of strips of kangaroo skin tied together, and which was the only covering they ever wore. No sooner was the body thus tied up than one of them took him upon his shoulders, others relieving him when they got tired, and moved off with it to the sand ridges back from the river, the whole lot stringing after the body, the gins apparently lamenting as they went along, and in fifteen minutes after the death not a black remained in the camp. They buried him on a sand ridge about a mile from the river. They took considerable pains in doing this. After making a hole some three or four feet deep (it was very soft), they placed the body in it just as it was bound, that is, in a sitting posture, and covered it up. They then described a circle around the grave, taking the grave for the centre, about 10 feet in diameter, and then with small wooden spades made from the Myall wood— used by them for grub hunting, to dig along the roots of the gum trees, exposing the hole of the grub, and then hooked them out with twigs, huge white ones being considered by them a great delicacy— carefully removing the earth from within the circle, and formed with it a dome-shaped mound over the grave, its outer edge being about two feet from the rim of the circle. It could not well be better done. They then carved the trees around it in the same way that their Borah grounds were done. Part of Dubbo must now stand where this tomb was so carefully raised by the poor blacks. Little did they foresee when engaged in their task that the town of the white man would stand o’er his grave. I will now endeavour to give you some idea of the skill of the aborigines in tracking or trailing, as they have it in America. We were at the time of the occurrence I am about to relate encamped at the confluence of Cox’s Creek with the Namoi at the present site of Boggabri. A hut-keeper in the employment of a Mr. Dennison was lost in the scrub at the back of the rock known as Coopabiendi. This was in the winter of 1850. I went out with two blacks, the before-mentioned Paddy being one of them, to try and find him. He was a wooden legged man, an old servant of the late Helenus Scott, of Glendon, who had found his way up the country. We had no difficulty in getting on to his track on account of the wooden leg. We followed it over rocks and stones, sometimes losing it from the nature of the country. Whenever this took place a mark was made where the last track was found ; then the blacks would start from the mark, and moving in opposite directions upon their hands and knees each leaf, stick, and stone was carefully examined, and moving in a circular direction so as to meet further on at some distance from the mark. By this means they invariably recovered the track. We found five of the poor man’s camps formed of boughs. He must have wandered round and round, but we never found him. A violent storm of rain came on, obliterating the tracks, and although we, knowing he must have been close to us, cooeyed, fired guns off, and searched the scrub around, we could get no trace of him, and had to abandon him to his fate. I saw an account in the Maitland Mercury 17 years afterwards of the finding of his skeleton, wooden leg, and all close to where we lost the track.
I must now give you some further accounts of corroborees. One that I saw on the Mehi was very remarkable from the way the blacks were rigged out. The blacks informed me it came from Queensland. They evidently used to transmit these ceremonies from one tribe to the other, thus resembling more civilized communities with their plays, each performer was got up in a curious way. Besides being painted white and red in a hideous way, each man had three lances attached to him, some eight feet in length, with tufts on the upper ends, one lance on each side, the other in the centre of the back secured at the loins and shoulders, their hair being spread as much as possible, having a singular effect in the light given by the moon and fires as they went through their evolutions in time to the chant of the gins, and when they lined up, as it were, in front of an enemy, made them look very imposing.
I will give one more account of a corroboree of a different character that I witnessed in New England in November, 1850, two miles this side of Armidale, some 600 in all including the Macleay and Clarence River blacks, as well as those of New England. The plot, for so I must call it, was a singular one, and very laughable in its denouement. Picture to yourself this number of blacks massed in a body, all elaborately painted white and red, before the large fires lighted for the occasion, forming a square, within which you could not see. All at once in time to their rude chant opening out to the right and left into line with as much precision as soldiers on parade, and an object coming into view which puzzled you to say what it was. At last you discover it to be a blackfellow, all smeared over with honey, to which adhered the white down of birds, giving him a most grotesque appearance. According to them he represents the Debil Debil by hopping before them while they execute a war dance, their spears pointed towards him as if for throwing and their feet com ing to the ground together in time to the beat of the gins. They are excellent time keepers ; they never make a mistake when going through their performances, which they generally leave off about 12 o’clock.
The morning after this corroboree I was a spectator I can imagine to what few whites have witnessed, that is, the carrying out of a sentence passed upon an aborigine by his tribe for the stealing of a gin belonging to another tribe. The sentence was that he should have twelve spears thrown at him from a distance of twelve paces ; the only protection allowed him to guard against the spears was a small shield, called by them a heeliman, (made of hard wood, about four inches wide where the hand hold was, about fifteen inches long, pointed at both ends, the face he would expose to the spears shaped like the bottom of a boat — a poor defence one would think, yet he found it ample; every spear was thrown by a different black, and with all the force of the thrower, and true to its mark. Every one he met with his heeliman, and they glanced off, leaving him unharmed. His position while receiving them was sitting on his hams. I was close to him, and he never shrank ; his nerve must have been great. After the punishment was over there was a general scrimmage, from what cause I did not learn. The coast blacks, that is those of the Macleay and Clarence Rivers, separated from the New England blacks ; then one from each body stepped out in front, armed only with a boomerang. Then they commenced running up and down, talking away, evidently abusing one another, and getting the steam up till it came to a bursting point, when they each let a boomerang go along the ground in a vicious manner. This was the signal of battle, and the fight became general. They used nothing but boomerangs and waddies. It was soon over, neither tide as far as I could see getting the better of it. There were none killed ; a few cut about the legs from boomerangs and some with bruised hands from the waddies were all the casualties. After it was over they seemed as friendly as ever. This was the only blacks’ fight I ever witnessed, and a very harmless one it was.
I have no knowledge of the native dialects. The Woragun was spoken upon the Macquarie and Castlereagh rivers, and the Camillaroy on the Namoi and Bundarra.
Some of the finest physical specimens of the race were blacks I saw upon the Barwon — fellows standing over 6 feet, and built in proportion. They are in a primitive, state as active as a cat, and the way they could climb a large gum-tree was a caution. To see one tackle a gum-tree 5 feet through, straight, without a limb for 60 feet, with no assistance from anything but a small tomahawk, would astonish you, the mode cf procedure being — cutting two notches, the first one about the level of his hip, the other one above his head ; ascending these, he again repeats the operation, and continues so till he reaches the top, never faltering on his way. I never heard of or saw one fall.
Mr. WHITE, in conclusion, explained that he would have finished his paper, but he had no time, and had, therefore, to break off abruptly. He was loudly applauded on resuming his seat.
Mr. PATTEN, who had been partially admitted into the confidence of the blacks in the Warren district, and being called upon by the President, said he candidly admitted his surroundings had been most uncongenial, and asked leave to withdraw. He was only permitted to do so on giving his solemn promise that up to a certain point he would not reveal what he knew, not that there was anything to withhold, but he considered the word of a white man to a black man as binding to that of a white man to a white man. But he could concur in everything Mr. White had said as to the peculiar form in which this ceremony was conducted. What kept him out was that the blacks demanded that one of his front teeth should be broken out. (Laughter.) This was done by placing a stone in front and another at the rear of the tooth, and giving the intended member a crack, breaking it in two. One half was given to the “candidate,” but he did not know where the other went. This caused him to have no desire to enter into this state. Speaking of the different races which he had seen, Mr. Patten said the finest men and women were those that came from the Palmer in Queensland. The pure bloods among them were the whitest he had seen, and the blackest were those on the Darling River. These latter had the finest beards of any persons in the world, reaching almost to below their waists. The blacks on the Murray River were the most treacherous. The Rockhampton blacks had a kind of coppery – light coloured beards, and their features were fairly regular, with large noses. Mr. Patten then went on to give a few of his experiences with the aborigines, in the course of which he described a fight which he witnessed between a couple of blacks, and afterwards between the “gins” of the combatants.
The PRESIDENT said it was quite refreshing to find an old colonist like Mr. White making notes and reminiscences on the habits and customs of the blacks, thus enabling them to obtain a little more knowledge than they now possessed as to those individuals. The early history of New South Wales was generally interwoven with the leg-iron or lash, while the history of the blacks was neglected. The speaker then went on to refer to his attempts, with a minimum of success, to extract from blacks something about the proceedings at the Bora ceremony.
Mr. J. MILLER said no one could find out what takes place at the Bora, or admittance of young men to the state of manhood. He had been told by a black that one of the aboriginals was sacrificed, and his informant had told him that he would have been murdered if the other blacks dis covered that he had disclosed this secret. The Bora ground, he explained, was guarded by a circle of sentinels, and a European would be murdered if he attempted to pass the lines. The speaker then went on to describe a couple of battles between blacks which he had witnessed.
The discussion then took a conversational turn, when some interesting particulars were given as to the male blacks’ treatment of gins, and the reason, the religious or secret ceremonials, the superstitions, and the mode of inflicting punishment on themselves to show their remorse for some act which they had committed. One of the speakers referred to the fact that he had seen a blackfellow compel his “better-half” to carry a dead picaninny for some months, because he believed she had killed it by poking a straw up the nostrils so that she would not have the trouble of carrying it.
Mr. W. S. PENDER moved a vote of thanks to Mr. White for his paper, which the speaker said was an interesting one and had called forth some valuable reminscences. (sic)
Mr. E. TIPPER seconded the motion, and included Messrs. Patten and Miller for their valuable verbal information. The Society, he said, had done its duty that night ; the race was fast dying out, and this paper would enable them to preserve some valuable information.
Mr. J. W. PENDER supported the motion, and suggested that Mr. White should conclude his paper and give a copy to the Society to place on the records.
The vote was carried by acclamation.
Mr. White responded, and promised to comply with the suggestion of Mr. Pender.
Mr. Tipper asked the President if they were to lose sight of the excursions of the Society. About twelve months ago they arranged to visit East Greta colliery, but it had fallen through.
The President answered that all arrangements had been made with Mr. Thomas, Manager, to visit the colliery ; a bus was hired, but only four members attended, although the excursion had been arranged by a motion of the Society. Perhaps, at some future time, a trip might be arranged.
This concluded the business.
[End of Transcription]
What became of Henry O’Sullivan White’s ‘record’? We know that it once existed, and was probably created in 1848, perhaps on their property Greenwood, in Singleton. Their acquaintance with Paddy lasted for only a couple of years, so it is possible that the “record” probably took the form of a notebook that Henry could have taken with him on his father’s expedition, of which Paddy and he were participants.
According to Henry’s article above, his father received instructions “in the early part of 1848 from the then Surveyor-General (Sir T. S. Mitchell) to proceed over the Liverpool Range, or rather the Dividing Range, between the Eastern and Western waters to start the future survey of that part of the colony, that is, to traverse the watercourses and ranges so that they might be charted, for up to that time they were unknown to all but the squatter, his stockmen, and shepherds. I accompanied my father on that occasion in the capacity of an assistant ; there were five others, making seven in all, counting my father. It was while thus employed I saw a good deal of the blacks and their habits. We had one with us, a man about five and twenty; his name, he informed us, was Paddy Tighe”
From the Diaries of George Boyle White, (transcribed by the late Les Dalton, Jenny McCarthy and Susan Tracey):
The wind had abated – breakfasted and started for Bringal, Paddy our guide with me. He is an intelligent amusing ‘blackfellow’ in fact those that I have met in this district have raised them considerably in my estimation. When Henry was lagging behind, when climbing the hill he said to him ‘What you young man walk so fast for and tire your poor old father’. Reached the highest point about 9 – the weather beautifully calm and clear but very cold.
On our route – outwards – Paddy shot a bush wallaroo to the great glorification of Henry – who thinks of little else. It was an hour after dark when we made our fires – fairly knocked up with the days work.
Just as the sun was sinking I finished and we had some trouble in the descent – for Paddy fancied a short cut and nearly broke our necks. Indeed it was more by luck than good management that we got the horses down safe – an hour after dark brought us to the Nombi hut where we were hospitably entertained until the moon arose – when we made for the encampment and reached it about 11 pm.
Henry went away Kangarooing with his friends, the black fellows. and returned about dusk with one dog missing and another all but killed. It appears that they fell in with an old gentleman who beat off the dogs and frightened the hunters. This is all they got for their trouble – with some jibes to boot from the quiet or the lazy disposed of the party.
Henry having nothing to do and nothing to learn – bent upon revenge for his yesterdays bad luck – went out with his friend Paddy and the gun to seek something to reek it upon – or as he said by way of excuse to search for ‘send’ the missing dingo of yesterday.
At Nilalie there is a station and a well – seven miles further down there is an unoccupied station & well and seven miles further brings you to another station and wells. The two latter belong to a Mr Dennison. The name of the last station is ‘Poopemerra’ – here the tents were pitched for the night. Master Paddy has picked up a’gin’ during the last day or two – what an appropriate name for ‘wife’ at least for many who have and are desirous of taking that office upon themselves in this Colony – where home management is the least considered branch of female education.
Arose at dawn. The comfort of a whin stone bed is not enticing enough to make one lazy – walked down the gully and got a wash – a necessary refresher after a sleepless night. Breakfasted and moved on. In a couple of miles crossed some wheel tracks making for a gap in the range nearly two miles north of us. Kept our direction nearly NNW and came on to a fencing road going that way – the main range close on the right. Kept the road for half a mile and then descended the summit from which Mr F.T. Rusdens station was visible East 40 n – say 4 miles. Continued along the main range for two miles through heavy timber, high grass and plenty of fallen trees – sufficient to make the navigation tedious and difficult. At the foot of a rough rocky ascent unloaded the pack horses and went ahead with the theodilite to reconnoitre – came to an extraordinary rough rocky protrusion of igneous origin – a sort of clink stone on trachyte strongly aluminous. It took me an hour aided by Paddy to find an ascent and then the summit was attained at considerable risk both to the Instrument and person – for its altitude in most parts is more than 100 feet perpendicular. Once on top it presents a most extraordinary appearance – a second Stonehenge on an improved scale. The main rock is level and in area about ten acres – upon this are groups of stones varying from four to eight feet high all capped and having sufficient room to pass between them – reminding one of a well filled church yard more than any other thing I can compare it with. These small columns are basaltic and my factotum Paddy tells me that is where the first black fellows were manufactured a long time ago – and that these excressences are such as were spoilt in the moulding – the idea struck me as novel coming from such a source. I adjusted the theodolite upon the Eastern and highest part and to angles sufficient to fix its position. This delayed me until after dusk and at the peril of our necks we reached the bivouac – thanks to Paddy
Mild fine morning. Arose from the ‘cold flinty rock’ as soon as we could see – having turned over in mind the difficulty of getting to the alpine points. I determined upon finishing what I have to do amongst these Castles of nature before I again descend. I arranged therefore for the movement of our bivouac some three miles on and sent Paddy to the tents with the horse to procure another weeks provision. To get upon the next commanding point in advance it was necessary to descend into the Warie valley and to reascend the range by a spur from there. This we accomplished and made our fires under a rocky platform about a mile East of Mount Lindesay or Mooendooya Trinabalah – the highest point of the Nandaron Chain. Here we found abundance of water and grass but the temperature was somewhat colder than that beneath us. The native name of the platform is Nemow – it is a fire born rock bare of timber and seems to scale off in large flakes from exposure to air, fire, water, frost &c. Took angles sufficient to fix this point, which resembles the crater of an extinct volcano more than any other spot I have visited in the Colony. In the evening ascended to the Summit of Mount Lindesay and got some important angles – such as Blays Peak, Moran Rock – Beingal &c all above eighty miles distance. I should say that this point is some 3000 feet above sea level and is the most conspicuous commanding height in this portion of the Colony. The aboriginal nomenclature Moorudoo ya Timabulah means a large black ant hill. This one is large enough in all conscience – and the name quite long enough. At sun set returned to the fires in hopes that fatigue would insure me a nights rest.
A clear mild day. Arose early – breakfasted and moved on to get into the neighbourhood of Cooliahmah – or the Nipple and Ningadoon – accomplished this by noon journeying over some rough ridges. Killed a Kangaroo and snake on our way. Beneath some broken rock two of three hundred feet high we formed our encampment and after getting some tea and damper I wended my way to the Nipple. A sharp ascent brought me on the range under Berriworri – a remarkable cliff some 200 feet high and before me stood out in bold relief the point Coliahmah – a bare igneous rock of curious structure and apparently inaccessible until you get to it. Its formation however renders the ascent easy – to a climber – for the rock resembles a honeycomb and gives plenty of hand and foot hold. The ridge is quite razor back and near the point there is a well that scarcely looks like the work of nature. Paddy named it the boiling down cauldron and sure enough it has some resemblance to one. There was abundance of water in it. Set up the theodolite and managed to get all the angles I required – to fix this point. As I finished the sun set and we had enough to do to get back to the fires by day light. My native chickens are a little sulky because I do not feel inclined to allow them to have their own way in every respect.
Spent a sleepless night. Peter in making our beds had given us a slope sideways of about 20 degrees ad we were progressing towards the gully all night. For myself I gladly hailed day light – washed, breakfasted, packed and moved on towards the base of Ningadoon. While the black fellows were moving on with the pack animals Henry and I searched the gully for agates – of which there were some good specimens to be found. We were not however sufficiently fortunate to find any but such as would answer for flints. At 11 am kindled our fires beneath Ningadoon – had some refreshment and then a heaven ascending climb to the base of the rock. But not a whit further for there is no getting on the ill favoured stone. It is 100 feet or more. Probably if Paddy had been in his usual temper he would have tried but he is as sulky as a pig – as the weather is. The ascent is not of much moment for all the country is under one cloud of smoke. Sat myself down a little crabbed at the foot of the column and got such sextant angles as will assist me in placing the Gentleman and then made for the fires. In my descent perceived some rock glistening white – examined it and found it to be a coating of lime left there by water which seems hereabouts to hold lime in solution as I have picked up several concretionary nodules of that substance where water has been evaporated.
Having arranged to make the tents to day if possible arose at dawn – found Billy the black fellow so lame that he could not walk – made up my mind to leave him at Munroes sheep station some three miles from here. Our rations are gone and we must get home. It was noon before we reached the sheep station. Ningadoon bearing from it 122 NE – about 3. miles. Kept down the Bullaway Ck for 4 miles – something to the Northward of West and then struck across S.W. 3 miles to the Selah Creek. Here we found another station of Munroe’s with a well of good water, which tempted me to remain here for an hour and refresh ourselves and horses. We then moved on and trudged away SW along a cattle track until nearly 8 pm – when I directed the party to encamp. While we were lighting the fires I found the Namoi River was close upon our right hand and that we were between Terraroo and the Broadwater. We still had some bread and some sugarless tea so we made ourselves quite comfortable – thunder rumbling in the distance. Paddy has still not recovered from his sulky fit.
A very slight sprinkling of rain in the early dawn aroused me. It was just enough to moisten one, but little more. Turned the hands out to get on the move as soon as possible. Sent my aid Paddy to bring the horses up while I went to the river and washed. On my return found the good tempered vagabond not 100 yards from the fires pretending to be busily engaged in tracking and I saw at once that he was humbugging. Sent Peter over the river – Henry on this side – and went myself back the way we came last night and about 2 miles away found our cavallo’s – so that instead of getting away early it was 9 am before we got clear off. This and Mr Paddy’s dawdling vexed me not a little. Four hours and a half sharp walking – principally over plains and crossing on creek, midway – brought us to the tents somewhat tired and hungry and speaking for myself excessively crabbed for had I not listened to the black guide I might have saved half the distance – and a day. This is one of my numbered mile stones towards the grave – a day unfortunate to me in two instances – one of them, that it introduced me into a world of toil, trouble, care and vexation – the other, the meeting of what has since constituted my great grief in life and me a houseless, homeless man – for a home is valuable only for its domestic affections and mine affords none. Two & twenty years to day have passed away since this last calamity happened and more than half that period has been spent in turmoil and bickering – caused principally by interested and unprincipled relatives who studied little but their own gratification – and made me and my children their victims. Some of them have had their reward others are reaping it. A few years more and half a century will have rolled over my head – it is almost time for me to give up the recollection of the heart burnings alluded to, and their cause. Another revolution or two of the sun in its orbit and the wicked cease from troubling.
Cold morning – the day sultry with the wind strong from the NW. Busily engaged inking in my field work – this occupied the whole of the day. Paddy has not shewn since his return, but is away at the black camp. I shall desire him to remain there unless he contrives to make himself a little more useful than he has done for the last three or four days – dined off of Kangaroo tail soup, that of the animal killed on Wednesday last and excellent it was too. I wish the Domino had been here to partake of it – he knows how to appreciate good things, it would almost have turned him into a bushman.
Fine day throughout. Soon after breakfast Mr Paddy indicated his desire to leave. Mountain work does not agree with the gentleman – as long as he had little or nothing to do he was satisfied – paid him his wages £1-8-9 – gave him a discharge and bade him find his own way. He told me that he was going home to the Castlereagh but I afterwards learnt that he had accompanied some of the tribe here abouts to collect opossum skins. He was an intelligent active useful fellow when he pleased but that was not at all times. In the evening Billy returned still a little lame. His chum Patrick had crammered some of his things – so Billy asked to go and look for his friend – permission was accorded and away he went. Busily engaged all day calculating and plotting angles – about 9.30 some of the Dunningdaddy blacks were reconnoitring the encampment in quest of Paddy. They owe him a mortal grudge about the gin formerly noted and he has been good for nothing since that affair. I forgot yesterday to note that Henry having told me of a curious patch of prickly grass some mile and a half from this. I went with him to look at it. There is perhaps a hundred acres where the granite shews itself on the surface – the conglomerate that at one time was superimposed has been carried away by denudation – and the above described grass marks the spot. At one time it must have been full of small fissures or cracks varying in width from 6 inches to half an inch. These fissures are now filled with white carbonate of lime which stands somewhat higher than the other soil and forms a net work on the surface – the principal veins run NWly. Some of these walls or dykes bear the impress of the sides of the fissure from which it is taken and the lime has crystals resembling fluor spar which I at first thought it was – but on the application of the blowpipe I could get no phosphorescent light. This is the only granite I have met with on the lower Namoi.”
From August 1850 Paddy disappears from their lives, and we are left with only two tantalising morsels of Aboriginal astronomical names from his presumed vast knowledge; Venus = Tyndeema (or Tyndrema) and Antaius (Or Arcturus) = Quoinbelong.
On the 29th February 1896, a series of articles began appearing in the Maitland Mercury, “Ritual, Myth, and Customs of the Australian Aborigines” by W.A. Squire, with a large section on the Astronomy and Star Myths of the Aborigines. These articles were eventually brought together and published as a book, under the title Ritual, myth, and customs of the Australian Aborigines : a short study in comparative ethnology by W.A. Squire [DOWNLOAD].
It raised our hopes that perhaps White had eventually found his record, and provided it to Squire to scientifically write it up. Squire was also a member of the Maitland Scientific Society (listed as “absent” for White’s presentation in 1895).
However, an analysis of all the Aboriginal star names and myths that are within Squire’s work allow us to conclude that they have all come from other authors such as Dr W.E. Stanbridge, Rev. Lorimer Fison, Rev. William Ridley, Dr John Fraser (West Maitland), Mr. R.H. Mathews (Singleton).
Henry O’Sullivan White passed away in 1901, at his home at Lee Street, in (the then) West Maitland. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136086507 ) The report of his death mentions that he was survived by his widow, (i.e., Anastasia Ann, or Annie White) and five children; Mr George B. White (solicitor at Murrurundi), Mrs Ben Stanton (i.e., Alfreda White) (West Maitland), Mr Ernest White (of the Railway Dept), Mrs Captain Johnson (i.e., Katie White) (Boulder City, Western Australia), G.B. White (Alderman at Murrurundi). Only four children are named in the article, as we’re assuming the ‘solicitor’ and ‘Alderman’ are the name person.
Even though much of Squire’s book relates to the Hunter Region, it is very unfortunate that White/Tighe’s circa 1848 manuscript appears to have been lost to time.
If found, it could prove to be a very important find, and one of the earliest comprehensive records documenting the original star myths and Aboriginal names of the stars and planets as known in the Hunter Region. They would also provide the mythical key to understanding the images on the ancient engraving sites and cave paintings across our Region.
We ask everyone, everywhere to be on the lookout for this important document, and please let us know if it comes to light.
It leaves me wishing I had access to a time machine, so I could travel back to the meeting on Monday evening, in Maitland, back in 1895. Quietly listen to the speaker, make his acquaintance, and explain that I come from the future, and respectfully ask if I could help him find his lost ‘record’. Then, once located, ask him to place a copy in an envelop, marked “For the attention of Mr Gionni Di Gravio, (yet to be born), at the University of Newcastle (yet to be established) from Henry O’Sullivan White Esq. I could then return to my time, to find the manuscript, a little aged, sitting within the archives of the University of Newcastle (Australia). Better still, I could find Paddy Tighe, and interview him with a digital camera!
Gionni Di Gravio
25th January 2018
University of Newcastle (Australia)
- Maitland Scientific Society. (1895, August 20). The Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1939), p. 4. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121321499
- Greenwood homestead is located at 100 Greenwood Avenue, Singleton. Lot 1, DP 1110673. Ref: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/EPI/2013/524/historical2016-01-27/sch5
- Paddy Tighe is mentioned in this article from Morning Chronicle 1844 as a witness relating to a murder of a child:
“STATEMENT OF AN ABORIGINAL RESPECTING A MURDER COMMITTED THREE YEARS AGO. – On the 4th December an aboriginal of the Namoi tribe, named Monday, made the following statement before the Maitland bench : ” There were six blacks in the neighbourhood of Tighe’s house at the time, viz,, Natty, Bobby, Bungaree, Peter, Tooley, and Paddy Tighe. Bungaree, I think, told me of picaninny belonging to Tighe being killed in the bush by a black-fellow, believe that the child was put in an old tree. Bungaree told me they had killed the child with a nulla nulla, near Thurra Mullen; did not say where they put it after. Bungaree said they put the child in a hollow tree.” The communication with him was so imperfect, from there being no one present who knew his dialect well, that the inquiry was adjourned till the next day, until an interpreter could be got. Nothing further could be elicited clearly the next day, however. We are told that about two years ago a person named Tighe, living about Liverpool Plains, advertised for weeks together that he had lost a child, offering a reward for her recovery. This appears to corroborate the tale told by Monday. ” – Maitland News. (1844, December 18). Morning Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1843 – 1846), p. 3. Retrieved January 25, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31744245
- Arcturus. See White, Henry O’Sullivan. (1934) “Some Recollections of the Aborigines of New South Wales in the Years 1848, 1849 and 1850.” Mankind May 1934, 224.
- Tyndrema. Ibid
- Heileman. Ibid, 227