This work is conducted in memory and respectfully honours the First Australian People,
the Aboriginal People of this land.
The Lives and Works of
Rev. Lancelot Edward Threlkeld and We-pohng Birabān (John M’Gill)
Compiled as reference materials for the forthcoming 2022 Documentary Film on Birabān & Threlkeld through the Stories of Our Town Series.
Rev Lancelot Edward Threlkeld.
Biographical Essay by Marjorie Raven, Great Great Grand Daughter.
19 August 1992.
Lancelot Threlkeld was born at Southwark, London in 28 October 1788.
Apprenticed to a trade, then became an actor and later a businessman. He was unsuccessful in these ventures and became an itinerant preacher.
We-pohng (i.e., Birabān, John M’Gill) is born. If the young boy seen by Barrallier (1802:83) in July 1801 collecting the roots of a fern was in fact a young Birabān (or We-pohng), then Birabān would have perhaps been born in the 1790s. Threlkeld’s Return of the 13th May 1836 (Gunson, 1974 p.366) records Birabān’s age as 40, so 1796 is the possible year of his birth.
A young We-pohng (Later M’Gill, Birabān) taken to Sydney and raised at the military barracks and acted as personal servant to one of the officers. (Gunson, 1974, p.6.) According to Jen Willets he acquired his English name John McGill (M’Gill) from Captain Gill (John Maunder Gill senior). According to Geoff Ford (2010), it was Captain John Mander Gill:
“Threlkeld’s Aboriginal language informant, Johnny (boy of [M‘] military Captain John Mander Gill) who was reared in the Sydney barracks, was one of Bungaree’s mob who had moved to Port Jackson.” Ref: Geoff Ford’s Thesis p.12
Aged 20 Lancelot Threlkeld marries Martha Goss.
LANCELOT THRELKELD ORDAINED
8 NOVEMBER 1815
The London Christian Instructor, July 1822 (printed), signed and annotated by L. E. Threlkeld with his date of ordination:
“I was ordained November 8th, 1815 London. Lancelot Edward Threlkeld now in Sydney New South Wales, April 1846.”
Lancelot Threlkeld ordained by the London Missionary Society. A breakaway group of protestants under a new religion known as Congregationalism which sort to not impose a Church order over Pagan inhabitants they wished to convert to Christianity.
1815, 8 November.
Lancelot Threlkeld sailed for Tahiti.
THRELKELD’S MEMORANDUMS 1815-1817
Threlkeld’s Memorandums 1815-1817 (kindly provided in xerox copy by Mrs Marjorie Raven) provides some diary notes and accounts documenting Threlkeld’s voyages from 8 November 1815 up until 7 October 1817.
January 1816. His wife lost their first child and became so ill that Threlkeld was detained for a year at Rio de Janeiro, where he ministered to the Protestant community.
In January 1817 Threlkeld joined another company of missionaries in the Harriet and went to Sydney, from where they sailed to the Society Islands in the Active, arriving at Moorea (French Polynesia) in November 1817.
November 1817. Arrives at Moorea. Threlkeld’s independence brought him into conflict with the older missionaries, though he worked amicably with John Williams at Raiatea.
MAGILL IN CORROBOREE DANCE,
BY ARTIST RICHARD BROWNE
THE NEWCASTLE TRIBE
Newcastle Tribe in 1820 Burigon was Chief, M’Gill would have been there as one of the tribal dancers.
CAPTAIN ALLMAN EMPLOYS
M’GILL (WEPOHNG), JEMMY JACKASS (WERAHKAHTAH) AND BOB BARRET
OF THE NEWCASTLE TRIBE AS BUSH CONSTABLES
TO PORT MACQUARIE, MARCH 1821
(GUNSON, 1974, 6) When Captain Francis Allman received instructions to establish a penal settlement at Port Macquarie in March 1821 he took with him M’Gill and two other members of the Newcastle tribe, Jemmy Jackass and Bob Barret. There, as Surgeon Cunningham records, ‘they proved of eminent service to him as bush-constables in tracing and apprehending runaways:
“Certainly three more powerful intelligent men he could not have selected, and such good marksmen were they, that every living thing would drop before the muzzles of their pieces, nothing chagrining them more than missing their aim. Bob Barret pathetically laments to this day the snapping of his fusee at a desperate bush-ranger, at Port Macquarie, long a pest to the settlement, who through that mishap escaped for a time. Their names having been given to these three men by the whites, they, like all our blacks, are proud to be known thereby, – the first request they make of a white, being to name them. A brass or tin plate, with an inscription, is also a great desideratum in their eyes, to hang round their necks, giving them much additional consequence in the estimation of their tribes; but, as I have already said, no one possesses authority farther than what his own arm or greater intelligence can command.” – Peter Cunningham, Two Years in New South Wales. London, 1828, Vol. II, 27.
THRELKELD PAPERS & CORRESPONDENCE
Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld papers, 1822-1862 A 382: Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld papers, 1822-1862 (Courtesy of State Library of NSW) Digital Content
M’GILL AND PATTY’S SON
FRANCIS (YE-ROW-WA) IS BORN
According to Threlkeld’s ‘Return of the Black Natives belonging to Lake Macquarie and Newcastle’, 21 May 1828. C.S.I.L. (4/2045) Reg. No. 28/4304, (in Gunson, 1974, 360) M’Gill (We-pohng) and his wife Patty (Ti-pah-ma-ah) have a son, Francis (Ye-row-wa) age 5 years, therefore he must have been born sometime in 1823.
1824, 18 March.
Martha Threlkeld dies.
1824, 19 August.
Rev. Daniel Tyerman and a wealthy layman, George Bennet, were visiting the society’s mission fields. Threlkeld accompanied them to Australia, intending to return to England. Threlkeld arrives as part of the Mission party in Sydney, New South Wales on 19 August 1824. (Ref: Gunson, 1974: 21)
1824, 16 October.
In Sydney, Rev. Daniel Tyerman, George Bennet and Threlkeld proposed the establishment of a mission to the Aboriginals. Governor Brisbane was agreeable.
1824, 20 October.
Threlkeld at age 36 married Sarah Arndell.
THRELKELD’S 1824 JOURNAL
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). [Journal] Mission to the Aborigines New South Wales. Established by the Deputation from the London Missionary Society. 16 October 1824 – 20 June 1825. [8MB PDF File]
1825, 14-15 January.
Threlkeld visits Hunter’s River or Newcastle, in company of Deputation to find the most suitable location, waited at G.A. Middleton. Middleton provides advice on the Aborigines of Reid’s Mistake.
1825, 17 January.
Threlkeld returns to Sydney.
1825, 24 February.
Received clearance from Deputation to proceed with Mission at Reid’s Mistake.
1825, 4 March.
Sailed to Newcastle with Mr Arndell, Mrs Threlkeld.
1825, 10 – 14 March.
They walk to Red head, and survey the area of Macquarie Lake, checking out suitable location for a future mission. They are escorted by a party including natives and Rev G.A. Middleton. The Natives were singing, and asking him when he will come to live there, he replied saying he was waiting for his girls to arrive from the Islands, so needed to return to Sydney, in two moons time.
1825, 15 March.
Government Farm provided by Captain Allman until a place is built at the Mission.
1825, 19 March.
Back to Sydney. His three children are not on the ship, and makes arrangements for them with friends to get them to Sydney. He decides to go to Newcastle to begin his Missionary work.
1825, 7-8 May.
Arrival in Newcastle. Threlkeld sailed from Sydney aboard the Eclipse with his family on the 7th May 1825 and arrived in Newcastle the following day on the 8th May 1825.
1825, 9 May.
On Monday 9th May Threlkeld made a journal entry that the Commandant had informed him that his cottage was ready. He moved into his cottage which was located “in a very lonely situation a mile and a half from the town” on the Tuesday evening. We believe this was adjacent to Cottage Creek.
During the period, besides his preparations for his new abode at Bahtahbah, he recorded a number of occurrences at Newcastle in the vicinity of his cottage.
1825, 11 May.
Firstly, on his arrival he said that his greatest fear was from robbers (Newcastle having just emerged from being a penal settlement) that had burgled him on three occasions since being in the Colony, and that he was in fear of being burgled every night. Two of these occasions was in Sydney, one was while the ship was in dock in Newcastle Harbour.
1825, 11 May.
A Native Welcome Dance
On the Wednesday evening, 11 May 1825, Thelkeld records that natives had assembled around his house cooking a kangaroo. After they had eaten, they came to invite him and his family to see their dance “which was on account of our arrival among them.” He noted that they were naked and that when “they had concluded they thanked us for our visit and wished us good night.”
1825, 15 May.
Jemmy tells Threlkeld a creation story.
Threlkeld on Sunday 15th May 1825 [Gunson p.88] recorded a local creation story in his public journal that he:
“Had some conversation with 4 or 5 Natives who could speak a little broken English, questioned them concerning who made the Sun, moon, stars &c. One of them replied that long while ago one Black fellow threw the vermin from his head into the fire and they jumped up (for became) these things. When they were informed God made them, Me don’t see was the reply for I do not know. Endeavoured to make them understand the object of my mission. They appeared pleased and asked where we should reside in the interiour.”
In a retelling of this story in an installment of his Reminiscences published in the Christian Herald 8th July 1854 pp. 174 – 175 [Gunson p.46] Threlkeld reveals the name of the Aboriginal who related the story:
“Conversing with an interesting Black, named Jemmy, I endeavoured to ascertain their ideas respecting the creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars. The answer was that a black fellow, a long time ago, made them by throwing vermin from his head into the fire which became a black fellow who made them!”
1825, 22 May.
On the 22nd May 1825 he witnessed a healing ritual performed upon a young girl.
1825, 29 May.
Natives Camped Nearby
On the 29th May 1825 he said that the natives had encamped around their dwelling in Newcastle and had moved around three times previously due to the infestation of fleas that had been attracted to them on account of their dogs.
1825, 1 June.
THRELKELD’S EARLIEST MENTION OF M’GILL (LATER BIRABĀN)
“For the last week I have with the assistance of a native and another man been marking a road through the woods in order to convey ourselves to the place where we intend to reside by. land. It is only by chipping the bark of the trees we can at all find our way. One of the natives who speaks very fair english is with me and renders me essential service in obtaining the language. I have collected several hundred words already, the idiom appears precisely the same as the Taheitian but I would only mention this with diffidence considering the little experience I have yet in the Aboriginal tongue.” – Threlkeld (writing from Newcastle) to W.A. Hankey 1 June 1825. [M.M.S. Australia Letters, Received 21 December 1825.] (Gunson, 1974, 183)
1825, 3 June.
A Native Burial
On the 3rd June 1825 [Gunson, pp. 89-90] Threlkeld was invited to witness the burial of a young girl. The location was at a spot in the bushes on a barren sand hill covered with bushy scrub.
“After the ceremony of interment was over one came to me and in broken english begged I would not disclose where the body was laid. On enquiring for the reason of this injunction they told me that they were afraid the “white fellow come and take her head away.”
1825, Thursday 9 June
Natives Anxious to Move Out of Newcastle
“Our workman accompanied with the natives Mac’gill, Dismal and another one went to fall the trees to make room for the erection of our house and prepare for planting some Indian corn. The natives appear anxious for our settling out there.” – From Threlkeld’s Public Journal (Gunson, 1974, 90)
1825, 2 July
M’gill and Dismal Continue Work Preparing Biddobar
“Yesterday went out to Biddobar. The two natives M’gill and Dismal continue with our man falling trees. There are several more there who remain with them but the whole are there who frequent the settlement at Newcastle.” – From Threlkeld’s Public Journal (Gunson, 1974, 90)
THRELKELD’S FIRST ATTEMPTS AT A SPELLING SYSTEM FOR THE NEWCASTLE MULUBINBA LAKE MACQUARIE AWABA LANGUAGE DIALECT
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelor Edward. (1788-1859). [Manuscript] The Orthography and Orthoepy of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales. Part 1. By L.E. Threlkeld Misionary from the London Missionary Society. Newcastle, September 1825. [6.9 MB PDF File] Located in The Brisbane Documents, 1825, Vol. III, National Library of Australia.
The item is a manuscript of Aboriginal words, recorded by Rev L. E. Threlkeld in Newcastle in September 1825. It is referenced in Niel Gunson’s book (see “1974” below) page 74, footnote 31, which reads:
“For Threlkeld’s earliest attempts in an English type orthography see The Orthography and Orthoepy of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales, unpublished, Newcastle, September 1825, in The Brisbane Documents, 1825, Vol. III, National Library of Australia.”
There is a copy on a microfilm here: https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ADLIB110362011&context=L&vid=SLNSW&search_scope=MOH&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US
1825, 5 December.
Threlkeld reports the atrocities of Whites against Blacks
On 5th Decemeber 1825 he writes to the Attorney General that he had
“heard at night the shrieks of Girls, about 8 or 9 years of age, taken by force by the vile men of Newcastle.”
He had also seen a man with his head beaten with the butt-end of a musket for not handing over his wife. And also that there are now
“two government stockmen, that are every night annoying the Blacks, by taking their little Girls, and I am now waiting to be informed, when they are in the native camp to get them apprehended, but then, as was the case once before, the evidence of the Black cannot be admitted, and indeed they are really terrified to speak. My wonder is, that more Whites are not speared than there are considering the gross provocation given. At this time we resided at the Government Farm Cottage about a mile, or so, from Newcastle.”
1825, 12 December.
On the 12th December 1825 Threlkeld reports that he witnessed an Englishman beating the blacks. Upon inquiring, the Englishman said that they had insulted him, but that he learned that a girl of 10 years old was hiding in the bushes away from the Englishman’s “violence”, and that the person being beaten was the father of the girl who refused to allow her to be taken away by him.
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1825
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). Mission Reports 1825-1841 (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
1826, 28 April
1826, 24 July
M’gill Informs Threlkeld of Offences of the Mounted Police at Mr Bowman’s Farm
“M’gill (the Black) informs me that the Soldiers up the river have taken the man who was supposed to have murdered the white [Taylor, Dr Bowman’s stock-keeper], and that after bringing him down from Wallises plains to the new barracks have there shot him – Also that the mountain Blacks say, that: “If the Black man who is now in jail (at Newcastle) be liberated, that they will not kill any more of the whites. On my informing him that murderers would be hung in chains, he replied that he once saw a Black man who was shot by a settler’s man whilst stealing com,. and who was afterwards hung up in a tree with a cob of com in his mouth until he dropped to pieces! I wrote these facts to the Attorney General and as follows: ‘
To Saxe Bannister Esquire
Newcastle, July 25, 1826.
I have just received the following statement which was given by an eye-witness to our man whom I sent to ascertain the truth of the report.
The Black who is supposed to have committed the murder was taken at or near Mr Bowman’s farm and brought down at night to the new jail at Wallis’s plains a distance of upwards of 40 miles. The next morning he was brought out, tied to two saplings and the Officer commanded the Soldiers to shoot him – One fired at him, the ball hit him on the back of the neck, the black turned round his head and looked at him, the next fired, and the bullet cut along the jaw, and broke the bone; the black turned his head round again[,] another soldier stepped up and blew his head to pieces. – They then buried him by the privy belonging to Government house. The Officer mounted his horse and went in pursuit of two other Blacks.
Such a lawless proceeding committed in such a brutal manner fills me with feelings two strong for utterance.
I am Dear Sir,
L. E. Threlkeld.’
Copy to the Attorney General.
August 8, 1826. Newcastle
A Black came to me yesterday saying that a great many blacks were coming from the mountains to burn all the houses of the Whites and that I must tell about it to the Commandant. I did not perfectly understand him until my Tutor, M’ gill, came, and from him I ascertained that such is the conversation of the Blacks in the mountains in consequence of the Black-man being confined in jail at Newcastle. I do not know whether it may be construed into a piece of intrusion my interference in the matter by Government; But, if hostilities take place and lives are lost on either side, I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that nothing on my part was wanting to prevent such an occurrence taking place through the Government being kept ignorant of their feelings on the subject. – I beg to say that Government is now placing itself in a dilemma by keeping that (Black) man in jail until retaliation takes place on the part of the natives; When should such an event occur his liberation would be construed into fear. If he is innocent why keep him in jail rotting with filth, (the Itch) and only irritate his fellow countrymen: If Guilty let there be some regular form of proceeding to ascertain that fact and then punish. The blacks suppose he is to be shot as the other one was. One Black begged of me to write to the Governor about him. But I am as much at a loss to answer them on the subject as they are respecting the result of his confinement. I have written to you because you can avail yourself of my information if you think proper, and perhaps meet the case better than by mentioning it in my report, or any other public channel, or even by a direct communication to the Governor. In all these things whilst I act firmly for the Blacks, I wish to act, if possible, without giving needless offence, and with prudence a hint from you on this subject will always meet with ready attention.
I am dear Sir yours very truly
L. E. Threlkeld'” – From Threlkeld’s Public Journal (Gunson, 1974, 92-93)
1826, 21 September.
Once the mission house was built (at a site called by the natives “Biddobar“, on the eastern side of Lake Macquarie) he moved into it on 21st September 1826.
1826, 26 October.
THRELKELD’S FALLING OUT WITH THE
LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY
SONGS OF THE NATIVES OF NEW SOUTH WALES TO THE NORTH OF SYDNEY [MANUSCRIPT] [N.D.]
SPECIMENS OF THE LANGUAGE OF THE ABORIGINES
OF NEW SOUTH WALES
TO THE NORTHWARD OF SYDNEY [MANUSCRIPT] [N.D.]
Specimens of the Language of the Aborigines of New South Wales to the northward of Sydney with Native Language, Port Essington, Native Language, Port Raffles (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW) c.1826 [8.6MB PDF]
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1826
THRELKELD’S FIRST PUBLISHED WORK ON THE
NEWCASTLE MULUBINBA/LAKE MACQUARIE AWABA DIALECT
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859. Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales; Being the first attempt to form their speech into a written language. Sydney: Printed at the Monitor Office, 1827.(1.29 MB PDF) [Archives Shelf Number A 6704 Percy Haslam Collection]
or Specimens of a dialect, of the Aborigines of New South Wales : being the first attempt to form their speech into a written language printed at the ‘Monitor Office,’ by Arthur Hill, Sydney, New South Wales NLA copy
THRELKELD & BUNGAREE AS COURT INTERPRETERS
R. v. Tommy. Supreme Court of New South Wales. Forbes C.J., 24 November 1827. Source: Monitor, 26 November 1827. An aboriginal Native by the name of “Tommy, alias Jackey, Jackey,” was tried for the wilful murder of Jeoffrey Connell, near George’s Plains, on the 20th of June 1827. The Rev. Mr. Threlkeld and Bungaree, the Chief of the Sydney Blacks, attended as interpreters for him. [Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899. Published by the Division of Law Macquarie University]
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1827
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). London Missionary Society Lake Macquarie Aboriginal Mission Report 1827 (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
REVEREND C.P.N. WILTON’S REVIEW OF THRELKELD SPECIMENS (1827)
Wilton, Charles Pleydell N. (1828). Review of New Publications Art II. Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales, being the first attempt to form their speech into a Written Language. By L. E. Threlkeld. Sydney 1827 in The Australian quarterly journal of theology, literature & science (See page 39 onwards) (Courtesy of the National Library of Australia) http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-607595980
M’GILL’S (LATER BIRABĀN) FAMILY AS AT 21 MAY 1828
Full Particulars from Returns Available for Lake Macquarie and Newcastle I828-1840 [From Threlkeld’s ‘Return of the Black Natives belonging to Lake Macquarie and Newcastle’, 21 May 1828. C.S.I.L. (4/2045) Reg. No. 28/4304.] (REF: Gunson, 1974, 360)
English Name: M M’Gill
Aboriginal Proper Name: We-pohng
English Name: F Patty
Aboriginal Proper Name: Ti-pah-ma-ah
English Name: M Francis
Aboriginal Proper Name: Ye-row-wa
THRELKELD UNDER ATTACK
EARLIEST PRINTED BIBLE TRANSLATION INTO
AN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE
London Missionary Society. Mission to the Aborigines, New South Wales. (Circular) Lake Macquarie, October 8th, 1828. [FORTHCOMING]
Single page circular published by Threlkeld from Lake Macquarie dated 8 October 1828 and containing his first steps to render a selection of verses from the Gospel of Luke into the Lake Macquarie language (now known as Awabakal) with the help of Birabān. This document contains the earliest ever printed Bible translation into an Australian Indigenous language, and so is very significant to the Australian nation. Not located at any institution; nor the State Library, NSW State Archives or National Library of Australia.
This original manuscript Journal of the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld covers the period from December 1828 to circa February 1846 and is now lost. As it begins on page 63, it presumably formed part of a series of Journal diaries. It originally was in the possession of an owner in Cattai. Prior to his death, the manuscript was lent to Mrs Marjorie Raven, (the great great grand daughter of Lancelot Edward Threlkeld) who then lent it to the Mitchell Library for digitisation. The Journal was then returned to the owner. After the owners death the manuscript disappeared and every avenue of locating it pursued by Mrs Raven has come to no avail causing great concern for the fate of such an important historical document to Hunter Region and Australian history.
We sincerely thank the late Mrs Marjorie Raven, great great grand daughter of the late Reverend Threlkeld for her permission to publish this important Journal. In September 2008 Mrs Raven located a number of missing leaves from the manuscript which she copied and sent to us to incorporate into into the online manuscript. The missing pages are 154-161 and 267-268. There are an additional two pages placed at the end of the manuscript.
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1828
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). London Missionary Society Mission to the Aborigines Report 1828 (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
According to Keith H. Clouten (Reid’s Mistake p.28) the Governor had granted Threlkeld 1280 acres at the end of 1829. The land upon which ‘Ebenezer’ was built on the western side of the Lake was originally called by the Aborigines ‘Derahbambah’, ‘Punte’ or ‘Puntei’. Threlkeld was still addressing his letters from ‘Lake Macquarie’ up to the 17th March 1831 and Clouten says that he was no longer on the site of the old Mission by the end of March 1831 as the Director of Public Works on the 29th March 1831 had given instructions that the mission building had to be sold to avoid it being used by ‘improper characters’ (Clouten p.29).
THRELKELD’S PROGRESS ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, 13 JULY 1829
THRELKELD To ALEXANDER M’LEAY 13 July 1829
[Archives, C.S.l.L., re Land, Box 195, Reg. No. 29/631] (Gunson, 1974, 247)
I take the liberty of explaining in a private note the necessity of my applying to the Governor for a grant of land, it is on account of my large family now unprovided for. – I have five daughters and two sons, the eldest of which is now in his thirteenth year – I have found an eligible piece to which attention can be paid during my residence on the Lake, the principle part of the property came into my hands by marriage – It is incumbent on me “to provide for my own household” whilst I would not wish it to injure my missionary employment – At present I have no land and depasture on this place – Should the mission be declined, we have no home, and a family cannot with propriety be taken into the interior – The spot I wish to obtain has the advantage of my being able to avail myself of the natives to pursue the translation of the scriptures &c – at present I have reached to tlte 7th Chapter of Luke which Gospel I hope to complete this year, if M’gill the Black would but remain more constantly with me – Your favour on my behalf will oblige …”
1829, 29 August.
THRELKELD TO THOMAS MITCHELL 29 AUGUST 1829
THRELKELD to THOMAS MITCHELL 29 August 1829
[Archives, C.S.I.L., re Land, Box 195, Reg. No. 29/7759 with chart enclosed] (Gunson, 1974, 247)
Having received a notification to apply to you for a written authority to select land (Twelve hundred and eighty acres) for which a friend will call and pay the fee today or tomorrow, I enclose a description of the spot selected for your report &c. &c.
The point of land is called Punte (narrow) by the blacks, as marked on the annexed sketch. It lies West of the Mission house at Lake Macquarie – The dotted lines at A shew the only run of water, a fresh water creek, into a salt water creek sand locked at B. The which could form a North boundary, and the water holes at C. running into a Salt water creek at about the part marked D. form a natural South boundary (sec p. iv this volume]. Barren puddingstone hills form the western, and the lake surrounding the whole of the point to the Eastward encloses the land selected- The supposed western boundary would be somewhere about the red dotted lines which encloses the whole grant.”
THRELKELD TO MARSDEN 15 DECEMBER 1829 WITH INTENTION TO CONTINUE THE MISSION
THRELKELD TO ORME AND HANKEY
16 DECEMBER 1829 WITH INTENTION TO CONTINUE THE MISSION
Letter (duplicate) written by Threlkeld to Rev. W. Orme and W. A. Hankey, 16 Dec. 1829, concerning his relations with the London Missionary Society, and the affairs of G. Bennet and Rev. D. Tyerman; and stating his intention to carry on the mission to the aborigines, and plan to ask the Society’s agent, Rev. S. Marsden for the amount of his passage money (Courtesy State Library of NSW)
14th October. In the Journal of Sir Edward Parry (reproduced in Gunson p.112) that says that:
“Mr. Threlkeld is shortly about to quit the Missionary House (which will probably be sold) and to remove to his own Grant, his Society (the London Missy.) having protested his Bills, & refused to continue the Mission under his Superintendence.” – Sydney Gazette, 12 January 1830.
GOVERNOR DARLING REWARDS BIRABĀN WITH A BRASS PLATE
FOR SERVICES IN RENDERING HIS NATIVE TONGUE INTO A WRITTEN LANGUAGE
(Gunson, 1974, 6) The assistance given to Threlkeld in his linguistic studies by M’Gill was early rewarded by public honour. At the Annual Conference with the Aboriginals at Parramatta in 1830 Governor Sir Ralph Darling presented Birabān with a brass plate inscribed:
“Barabahn, or MacGil, Chief of the Tribe at Bartabah, on Lake Macquarie; a Reward for his assistance in reducing his Native Tongue to a written Language.” – Sydney Gazette, 12 January 1830.
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelor Edward. (1788-1859) Unni Ta Totóng pitulmalikannei Jesou kin Kristoara kin Upatoara Louka úmba. [English translation by Dr James Wafer: this [is] indeed news joyful Jesus of written Christ of Luke by] [Gospel of Luke], 1831. [30.6 Mb PDF File] Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.
1831. 29 December.
Move to Ebenezer Mission.
Between the 17 and 29, he moved to Ebenezer. After his falling out with the L.M.S. Threlkeld’s first mention that he had moved to his new property “Ebenezer” on the western side of the Lake appears on the 29th December 1831 (Gunson p.115) where he states that :
“We left the original station of the London Missionarie Society on the East Side of the Lake and removed to my Land on the west Side of the Lake.”
Therefore we could assume that he moved to Ebenezer sometime between the 17th and the 29th March 1831.
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1831
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1832
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1833
“AN AUSTRALIAN GRAMMAR” (1834) IS PUBLISHED
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859. An Australian grammar : comprehending the principles and natural rules of the language, as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales / by L.E. Threlkeld. Sydney : Printed by Stephens and Stokes, 1834. [Alternate Download]
or Threlkeld, L. E & White, Henry L & Cowper, Charles & Dunlop, James & Ellis, William. (1834). An Australian grammar : comprehending the principles and natural rules of the language, as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales
“A SELECTION OF PRAYERS” (1834) IS PUBLISHED
A Selection of Prayers For the morning and Evening From The Service of the Church of England Intended For the introduction of publick workship amongst The Aborigines of Australia by The Venerable W. G. Broughton M.A. Arch Deacon of New South Wales and its Dependencies. Translated Into the Northumberland Dialect by L.E. Threlkeld 1834. (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW) [A 1446: Selection of prayers for Aborigines, 1834; translated into Northumberland dialect, by L. E. Threlkeld]
W. G. Broughton and L.E. Threlkeld. A Selection of Prayers for the Morning and Evening From The Service of the Church of England Intended for the introduction of publick worship Amongst The Aborigines of Australia, 1834. The Venerable W.G. Broughton M.A. Arch Deacon of New South Wales and its Dependencies. Translated Into the Northumberland Dialect by L.E. Threlkeld, 1834. [3.75MB PDF] Courtesy of the Mitchell Library. We sincerely thank Mrs Marjorie Raven, great grand daughter of the late Reverend Threlkeld for her permission to publish this manuscript online.
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1834
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). Fourth Annual Report of the Aboriginal Mission at Lake Macquarie New South Wales 1834 (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1835
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). Mission to the Aborigines. Annual Report of the Aboriginal Mission, Lake Macquarie New South Wales 1835. (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
JAMES BACKHOUSE & G.W. WALKER
27 April 1836
We lodged last night [at Newcastle) at a decent inn kept by a couple of the name of Kemp, enjoyed a quiet night on shore, & a good breakfast this morning [J.B.] We then proceeded to the house of Dr Brooks, where we met with our Black Guide, McGill, who was accompanied by a Country man, of mild countenance named “Boatman”; with these as our guides, we set off for Lake Macquarie, distant by the route we took, 26 miles. The road laid for some miles along the Hunter; it then turned into the forest from which we hardly emerged until our arrival at “Ebenezer”, the site of the Missionary Establishment, that is of L.E. Threlkeld’s dwelling – the house and land being his own property. [G.W.W.]
McGill was dressed in a red striped cottonshirt not very clean; a pair of ragged trowsers and an old hat: he had a brass plate, half moon shaped suspended round his neck with a brass chain, and engraven with his english and native name and a declaration of his kingly dignity: (54) he readily offered to carry our parcels for us, in addition to a young puppy of his own, which he bore on his shoulder till we were a mile out of town; and as we passed one of their huts he pulled off his shirt which he left that he might be less encumbered in his journey of 26 miles. Boatman carried one of our parcels and a handkerchief containing a loaf and some other provisions: he was an interesting looking young man to appearance about 18 years of age and wore a ragged blue jacket and pair of trousers. The wives of both parties we learned were deceased: these men had few marks on their bodies from ornamental cutting, but had a few from wounds received in fighting. McGill had his nose and part of his cheeks painted or rather besmeared with ruddle: he is a very intelligent man, and has been useful to L.E. Threlkeld in assisting him in the attainment of the aboriginal tongue. [J.B.]
Our black Companions amused themselves by looking out for honey, which they obtain from the Nests of two stingless Bees, of different species, which build in the cavities of trees. [G.W.W] … the honey of one McGill said was much clearer than that of the other. [J.B.] From our guides we learned that the Blacks of this district had ceased to use, or as McGill expressed it had thrown away fern root as an article of diet, but that they roasted and eat the flower stems of the Gigantic-lily when they were but about 1 1/2 ft. high, these when supporting the head of Lily-like blossoms are often 10ft to 20 ft high. The roots of this plant, which form a sort of large bulb, he informed us were also eaten by them; being first roasted, and then pounded into a sort of cake. This is the process which the seeds of Tamia spiralis undergo; but here the cakes are soaked for two or three weeks in water to take out the bitter principle; which is not necessary in those of Daryanthis excelsa. [J.B.]
The Blacks find that bread, maize, potatoes, and other articles of European culture, are preferable to most of their native articles of diet, and that by keeping in the vicinity of the whites and doing little jobs for them they can more eastly obtam a subststence then by reaching for wild roots: they therefore keep near to the usurpers of their country notwithstandmg the abuse and indignity they often meet with and their liability to be fired upon if seen helping themselves among the growing Indian corn. [J.B.]
We had a good deal of conversation with McGill respecting the habits of his countrymen, and we found him both intelligent and able to communicate his information with facility, being tolerably conversant with the English language. Amongst other subjects of enquiry, with reference to the health of the blacks of these parts, we found that they are afflicted with the same disease [venereal] (55) as that to which I have alluded as such a scourge to the Moreton Bay Aborigines. McGill says, he thinks his people had it before they became acquainted with White men, and this view is somewhat supported by the fact, according to the same informant, of their having a native remedy, which they apply externally, in a hot and fluid state; it conststs of the red-gum that exudes from the Blood-tree, a species of Eucalyptus that abounds in the forests we passed through today. [G.W.W.]
We were regaled [at the home of William Clark ten miles from Newcastle] with bread and cheese and milk; and after we resumed our journey, distributed some bread and meat that we had brought with us to our guides, to whom such things are generally acceptable. Both McGill and Boatman are great smokers, and having but one pipe between them, they did not give it much rest by the way. I am sorry to say that McGill has also learned to like strong drink, and ts too apt to become inebriated when he has the opportunity of indulging this baneful propensity. [G.W.W.] Like most of the other Blacks in the vicinity of Newcastle, he is fond of rum, which through mistaken kindness is often given to them by the military and other persons to their great injury. [J.B.]
I observed when the sun went down McGill collected some bark from the trees, with which he soon made a torch, and carried it lighted the remainder of the journey, – which I have reason to suppose originated in their superstitious dread of travelling, or being alone, in the dark. The presence of fire seems to relieve them from some measure of tllls apprehension. It was the more striking in this case, because he must have known that at the period the sunset we had but two or three miles further to go, arriving there in fact, before the daylight had quite disappeared. [G.W.W.]
We met with a hearty welcome from L.E. Threlkeld and his family: his wife, Sarah Threlkeld, and the wife of Jas. Gordon and of Wm. Gunn, of V.D.L. are sisters. After tea had been provided for our refreshment, the family assembled, while we read a portion of Scripture, and my Companion had to express something in testimony and afterwards in supplication.
We were informed by L.E. Threlkeld of the issue of the trial between him and the Editor of the “Colonist” newspaper of which we had heard more indirectly when at Newcastle. The Jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff of one farthing damages; the defendant to pay costs on both sides, by the decision of the Court. Judge Burton who presided on the occasion, expressed his satisfaction to L.E. Threlkeld, as soon as the trial was over, that the charges which had been preferred against him through the medium of the “Colonist” should have been so completely rebutted, and his character as a Minister of the Gospel cleared from imputations derogatory to the sacred office. I believe the conviction of his integrity of character has been general among impartial christians; and had the Jury been composed of men who could enter into the peculiar position of a Missionary circumstanced as L.E. Threlkeld has been, and who could estimate the injury that he has suffered in being publicly calumniated, I am inclined to think a different amount of damages would have been given, more expressive of the extent of the injury. Perhaps the remark of his counsel to the Jury, that it was a part of his instructions not to press for a heavy amount of damages, but rather for a verdict that should exonerate his client from the imputations cast upon him, by recognizing his innocence might have some influence in inducing the Jury to award such a trivial amount. [G.W.W.] – Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 27 April 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 124-125)
28 April 1836
The forenoon was occupied in looking over the labours of L.E. Threlkeld in attaining the language of the Aborigines …. [J.B.]
The Mission at Lake Macquarie was originally commenced under the auspices of the London Missionary Society. . .. A grant of ten thousand acres was held in trust, for the benefit of the Aborigines, the appropriation to take place through the medium of the Society, provided they continued to carry on the Mission, but tills grant of land was to revert to the Govt. if at any time the Mission was abandoned before the objects for which it was set on foot should be accomplished. In pursuance with the directions of the Deputation, a house for the residence of their Missionary; and suitable buildings for agricultural operations (in which it was hoped the Aborigines would be induced to take part, and thereby learn to practise the arts of civilized life) were erected on the aforesaid Grant. The distribution of clothes and food to Blacks as a reward for labour it was expected would attach them to the place, and to the persons who thus contributed to their comfort, until at length they might ultimately be stimulated to adopt a civilized life and follow those agricultural occupations for their immediate benefit, and on their own exclusive responsibility, in which they had been thus gradually initiated but these measures, it was soon found, involved considerable expense. Labour, Manufactured goods, – everything British, – as well as provisions, were at that time high in the Colony and it was some years before the farm could be expected to support the people who were employed on it- even with the principal article required for daily consumption, viz. bread: The expenditure exceeded, considerably, the anticipations of the Directors, and also of those engaged in the work, tho they did not know how to avoid them, under the then existing circumstances of the mission; nor did those expenses so speedily become reduced as was hoped would have been the case: so that at the end of a few years – I believe about 5 years – the Directors came to the resolution of abandoning the Mission: their resolution was made, indeed, long antecedent to this date, but it was not till the end of that period that the connection between them and L.E. Threlkeld ceased; – on which, the original Grant, with all the improvements upon it, which were now entirely lost to the Mission, reverted to the Govt.
Meanwhile, L.E. Threlkeld, seeing the turn that things were taking, and that the Mission was in danger of being given up by the society, had made application to the Colonial Govt. for a grant of land, on his own account to which he had an equal claim with other British Emigrants, and obtained a piece of ground in the vicinity of that which was granted to the Mission, only that it was on the opposite side of the Lake. Here he determined in his own mind, he would carry on the Mission, trusting to Divine Providence to afford him such adventitious aid as he might indispensably require. Should his own resources prove inadequate: For his heart being engaged in the Work he could not make up his mind readily to abandon it. When the final decision of the Directors obliged him, therefore, to leave the original Grant, he removed onto his own; which comprised 1280 acres, selected with reference to the interests of the Mission, being a place of resort with the aborigines; rather than as one favourable to the occupations of farming, the land being heavily cumbered with timber: Had the latter been his primary object he might have made a much more advantageous selection. On this spot he has now conducted the Mission for upwards of five years.
Soon after his connection with the London Missionary Society had ceased, he received spontaneous offers of assistance from Archdeacon Broughton and his friends, on the understanding that L.E. Threlkeld, should go on in his undertaking, viz: the evangelization of the Heathen, in such way as his own conscience most approved, and that the principles of the parties on neither side should in anyway be comprised by the coalition. This arrangement was acquiesced in, L.E. Threlkeld agreeing to furnish a Report at least once a year to the Archdeacon; and in return, he received the permanent aid, for five years, of £150 annually, and four assigned Servants and their rations, to enable him to prosecute the Mission more efficiently – this assistance being rendered by the Government through the recommendation and influence of the Archdeacon.
These remain to be the conditions on which the Govt. continues to assist L.E. Threlkeld, who now receives £36 per annum in place of the rations of the four men, whom he finds in food and clothing himself, thus making his annual income £186. Out of this, and the proceeds of the farm (which however has never yet maintained the Establishment, even with wheat) he has to support his family, consisting of a wife and nine children, the four assigned servants before mentioned, besides six others, whom he employs as labourers, and also, a number of Blacks who frequent the place, to whom he is in the habit of making presents of food &c. in order to conciliate their good-will, or services in matters connected with the progress of the Mission.
Since his removal to his own Grant, a weather board dwelling house, and outbuildings needful for the carrying on of farming operations, have been erected by him, and nearly 60 acres of ground have been cleared by cutting down the trees from the but, leaving the stumps in the ground. There is the prospect of a sufficient supply of wheat, should the next season be favourable, to maintain his Establishment; he has also reared a flock of about 400 sheep, which, with a herd of between 2 and 300 cattle, that are on a “government run” up the country, constitute his stock, and supply the Establishment with meat. The farming operations are chiefly carried on by L.E. Threlkeld’s eldest son, his own time being occupiedin acquiring the language, and in prosecuting the work, generally, of the Mission.
The time L.E. Threlkeld has been employed in this undertaking has not been lost: he has acquired a greater proficiency in the Aboriginal tongue than any other individual in the Colony: which has enabled him to publish: 1. Specimens of the Native Dialects, 2. A grammar of the Aboriginal Tongue; which must greatly facilitate the acquisition of the language by others who may hereafter engage in the work: he is now about to publish an elementary work, intended to aid the Aborigines in the acquisition of their own tongue, and that of the English, so as to read and write in them; He is teaching several Native Youths both to read and write, and their essays in writing are fairly executed; I have one of them by me, the second attempt upon paper, which is a very creditable performance. While these youths are learning he has to maintain them almost exclusively himself: L.E. Threlkeld has also translated the Gospel of Luke, as well as some minor portions of Scripture, &c. into the Aboriginal tongue, though he forbears printing them, that they may have the advantage of further corrections, as he becomes increasingly conversant with the native idioms. The mass of labour, if it were only the mere writing, which the works and attainments I have referred to have cost L.E. Threlkeld are a sufficient proof that he has been both persevering and industrious; and can perhaps hardly be conceived by those who know not what is requisite to enable a person to reduce a language to writing, that has hitherto been unknown, even orally, to Europeans. Those who have had the opportunity, and patience sufficient, to examine his voluminous collections of words and sentences, which he has had to note down as they were gained, in the bush, while fishing, or under other circumstances in which he could pick up information from his unsettled, even wandering instructors; will at least give him credit for much perseverance and assiduity in the attainment of his object.
While he is prosecuting his labours in the way I have described L.E. Threlkeld also occupies the station of Interpreter for the Government, in all communications between them, or the Judicial Authorities, and the Aborigines, for whom he acts as Mediator; and in various ways, through his influence with the Government, and knowledge of their language and customs, he has the means of assisting and befriending these poor people which he endeavours to exert for their benefit. This also gives him great weight and influence with the Blacks, which he does not fail to turn to good account, both as regards themselves and Europeans, whose mutual good understanding and peaceful intercourse, he anxiously seeks to promote.
It should be observed that that part of the plan which embraced the instruction of the Aborigines in the useful arts of husbandry &c. and on which the Mission set out, was necessarily abandoned by L.E. Threlkeld, when obliged to depend upon more limited resources, at the termination of his connection with the London Missionary Society. With so large a family, and with so many claims on him for subsistence, he could not any longer continue that part of his operations; but whenever he is enabled to resume the practice of employing the aborigines on some organized scheme, so as to initiate them into the arts of husbandry, and other useful occupations, he is desirous of doing so, as one important means of accelerating their advancement. And it is worthy of remark that much that was effected in this way, by the partial civilization of a number of Aborigines, was lost to the Mission when the undertaking ceased to have the London Missionary Society’s support in as much as those who had learned in any degree to maintain themselves, either wholly or in part by continuous labour among Europeans, or at European occupations; were dispersed over the Colony, and either returned to former habits, or wandered to other parts, seeking casual employment as their necessities urged them; and these, from losing the moral discipline and religious oversight and instruction which they had derived from L.E. Threlkeld when placed immediately under his eye, became exceedingly deteriorated.
Many of these very Blacks now loiter about the larger towns, earning a scanty and precarious subsistence, chiefly by begging, much of what they obtain spent in liquor, to the great increase of their own misery, and annoyance of the Community; who, had they remained under the fostering care of L.E. Threlkeld, might have become not only civilized in a great degree, but it is to be presumed, some of them evangelized, thro’ the same instrumentality; and under the Divine blessing. The frustration of this desirable work, or postponement of it to a later period, which has been one result of the Mission having been given up by the London Missionary Society, must ever excite the regret of the benevolent mind. [G.W.W.]
In the afternoon we walked with our host over his cultivated land, and along a woody point extending into the lake; where some Blacks were fishing, to to whom L.E.T. spoke a few words in reference to the Diety: it seems far from true that these people have no idea of a Supreme Being, tho’ their ideas are not very definite …. [J.B.] – Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 28 April 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 125-126)
29 April 1836
Accompanied by Lancelot E. Threlkeld and his son Lanceolet, we were rowed by three blacks to the old missionary station at the head of Lake Macquarie …. Nothing now remained to mark the spot but the ruins of a chimney and some old woodwork, and about 30 acres of cleared land. [J .B.]
It is about 4 miles from “Ebenezer” to the old Grant, which is contiguous to the sea-shore; L.E. Threlkeld’s location being at the head of another branch of the Lake, and on the side furthest from the sea. The Lake is about 7 miles long, in its greatest extent from the sea: but in width it is probably, at least, 20 miles, in the widest parts. The object for which its shores were chosen, as the site of a Missionary Establishment for the aborigines, was this, that fish being a principal means of subsistence to the Blacks, and the borders of the Lake being constantly resorted to by them for that purpose, it was presumed a considerable number would always be accessible to the Missionary in such a situation. In this conjecture the originators have not been mistaken. The place remains to be one of resort, and the selection therefore judicious.
The first Establishment was erected on the edge of the Lake little more than a mile in a direct line from the Sea, from which it was separated by a considerable space of swampy, low ground, though the immediate site of the Establishment was on a gentle elevation. The buildings are all fallen down, merely the ruins remain. About 40 acres, that had been cleared, now present a fine herbage, though the soil is chiefly sand. Little more than a gunshot from the ruins of the Mission House, the termination of a rich vein of coal is to be seen on the shore; the vein is said to be 9 feet thick, and consists of two kinds, one of which is like the “Kennel” Coal of England. The continuation of this stratum occurs on the opposite shore about 2 miles distant. We landed on this spot on our return; where there are two large upright rocks, bearing some resemblance to the human form, which are objects of superstitious tradition among the Aborigines, and are referred to in the Australian Grammar [A.L., 51].
Whilst we went on shore, two of the Blacks who were left in the boat procured some oysters, of which there are several kinds in the bay, at least three species; viz: the large flat, or mud oyster, the rock oyster, and a species called by the inhabitants the “drift-oyster,” intermediate in size between the other two, with an Irregular edge resembling the windings of a frill. They are all good eating …. [G.W.W.]
The blacks bring fish and oysters for which they receive flour, tobacco, &c. in return: in this manner we have been plentifully supplied. L.E.T. has ceased to grow Maize because it tempted the blacks to steal: he grows instead Caffre Corn or chicory … [J.B.] – Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 29 April 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 127)
30 April 1836
It was very wet; and we spent the greater portion of the day in looking over L.E. Threlkeld’s accounts, correspondence &c. at his. particular request, in order that we might be enabled to Judge how far he was deserving of the bitter things that have been reiterated agamst him in the Colonist Newspaper, and in consequence of which the Editor was subjected to a prosecution by L.E. Threlkeld; and tlut we might be possessed of the circumstances under which the Mission was begun, and continues to be carried on, should we be referred to for information on the subject, at any future period.
From this examination we have been led to conclude that the Directors of the London Missionary Society must have acted either from misapprehension, or misinformation, in the estimate they must have formed of L.E. Threkeld’s character to induce them to act as they did towards him, in first dishonouring bills (which however they subsequently paid with the addition of heavy costs) and then dismissing him and advertizing in the public Newspapers that they would not be accountable for any bills he might draw, when their connection with him had long before ceased and as if they regarded him as destitute of principle. There is nothing that has come under our observation, that would at all incline us to the opinion that he deserved such treatment, or that his character for uprightness or integrity was at all justly impeached, in any of the transactions in which he has been engaged on account of the Mission; nor does it appear to us, that he in any one point betrayed glaring defect of judgment as has been imputed to him. We account him as deserving the esteem and confidence of his religious friends; and are of the opinion, that, had they received their information from persons who were unprejudiced, who had visited the scene of his labours and entered minutely, and feelingly, and considerately into the whole of the circumstances attending the Mission in the conducting of which he has been so freely censured; they would have arrived at a different conclusion respecting his deserts, and would have also treated him differently – and in a way more becoming his station and character. [G.W.W.]
We are also convinced that the natural impediments to the civilisation of the Aborigines of N.S. Wales, and to the introduction of the Gospel among them, are not greater than those existing in most other barbarous countries; and that the chief impediments have been, and are the prejudices of europeans, attributing to them (Aborigines) defect of capacity, on account of their peculiarities of marmers, and their mode of life and thro’ not taking a comprehensive view of the effects likely to result from these things. Among the persons whose prejudices have operated upon the public mind most detrimentally in respect to the Australian Blacks are the benevolent Captn Cook and the pious Saml. Marsden. [J.B.] (see above, p. 8]
We think the charges brought against L.E. Threlkeld, under the head of “Missionary wool”, by the editor of the Sydney Colonist, since the trial with Dr Lang, in which the latter was found guilty of malicious libel in traducing the character of L.E. Threlkeld, are only attributable to misinformation and evil surmising as the livestock of L.E. Threlkeld are not more numerous than is necessary to supply his family and servants with fresh meat and to enable him to pay his just debts, and the wool sold by him was only the produce of his small flock and the young rams such (being of a valuable breed originally, with a few horned cattle, bequeathed to his wife) as being sold would enable him to purchase two weathers in the stead of each ram, and this increase his means of subsistence. L.E. Threlkeld’s stock is as follows. Grant. Two sections of land of 640 acres each = 1280 acres of hilly wood land on Coal measures, mcludmg 500 acres capable of cultivation when cleared at an expenditure of labour not less in value than £3 p. acre (which is more than land equally good, and naturally clear could be purchased for) 429 sheep 250 horned cattle, 14 horses. In the course of three years his sales of wool and hides have amounted in gross to nearly £160 and from the scantiness of herbage he has been obliged to send about 200 of his horned cattle to feed with those of his brother-in-law, on Liverpool Plains. [J.B.]
We took a short walk in the latter part of the day, to the grounds at the back of L.E. Threlkeld’s location, which are elevated; and the greater part of which will be very unproductive, from the character of the soil, being rocky, or stony, in some places, and gravelly in others, disqualifying them for either cultivation, or sheep or cattle rums – especially when thickly covered with timber which it would not pay to cut down.
Many of the Aborigines are encamped in the vicinity of the Establishment from whence they obtain occasional presents of flour or other articles of food. They show a nearer approach to civilization, in some respects, than the Blacks of Moreton Bay. Most of them wear some kind of clothing; and probably owing to this circumstance, they arc less disfigured with cuts and excoriations (designed by them for ornament when resorted to) as when clothing is used, it would obviously be unavailing to mark their persons, when the parts would not be visible to the observer. The women also act more modestly than those at Amity Is. and there is a general propriety of demeanour in their intercourse with Europeans which marks them, and their countrymen, as some grades higher in civilization than the tribes which are so much further northward and who have had no communication with a Missionary. The practice of knocking out the front tooth of the youth who is about to be admitted into the order of young men (when he is allowed to partake of different food, and is entitled to other privileges) is nearly done away now that they have become more intimately associated with Europeans. Many have learned to value various articles of European manufacture, or food, and to perform little services in order to obtain them. The difference is also very striking when allusion is made to a Supreme Being, or to the existence of a state beyond cite grave, to which all men must come; their countenances immediately assume an air of seriousness, they cast their eyes to the ground, and their whole behaviour evinces a consciousness of the importance and solemnity of these subjects.
The Government has adopted the humane practice of causing Blankets to be issued to cite Aborigines once a year. The quantity is regulated by cite number of applicants at the respective depots where they are issued, of which a return is made in due order according to a printed form, describing the District, number of Blacks, whether Adults or children, Male or Female &c. (see p. 360]. From these returns, which are made annually, it appears that this year the Govt. issued 2285 Blankets to the Aboriginal population; and that 910 of these are comprehended within the limits of Broken Bay, or Brisbane water (a short distance south from Lake Macquarie) and Port Macquarie about 100 miles north of it, making a range of coast of about 130 miles. By these returns it would appear that far the greater proportion of the Natives inhabit the coast, where they more easily meet with the means of subsistence; and though it is not supposed that all who inhabit the settled parts make application for Blankets, yet a large proportion, it is believed a majority, do; hence it is pretty evident that the estimate of their numbers, which have been computed to be a Million, are vastly wide of the truth. It is not probable from the criterion I have adverted to, which is tolerably authentic data to found a conjecture upon, that the whole of the Aborigines of New Holland amount to more than 50,000.
I have been much struck witlt the general resemblance the Natives of this Continent bear to those of Van Diemen’s Land; and though there are many local circumstances, and peculiarities of habit, that modify their features, and give them distinctive peculiarities of countenance and of form, respectively; and though every gradation may be remarked in the growth of their hair from that of lank and long, to the short curly hair peculiar to men of sable complexion; I have no hesitation in pronouncing the inhabitants of cite two countries as originally sprung from the same stock. [G.W.W.]
– Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 30 April 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 127-129)
1 May 1836
We were present during the family worship of L.E. Threlkeld, who is allowed four prisoner servants . . . he has also two or more other assigned servants, one of whom is a female. These servants, L.E. Threlkeld and Sarah his wife with eight of their children, a young woman of the name of Mary Dalziel and her niece a little girl named Euphemia Brooks, with G.W.W. and myself constituted the congregation in the forenoon. [J.B.]
L.E. Threlkeld went through several religious exercises of a vocal kind, at which we were present in the morning, though we took no part therein. They evinced more of spiritual mindedness both in regard to simplicity of manner and soundness of the matter expressed than is often to be observed on such occasions … [G.W.W.]
L.E. Threlkeld has generally left the devotional exercise of the evening to be conducted by us after our own manner, wlllch has been to read a portion of Scripture, and make a solemn pause, as Friends do in their own families, sometimes engaging in vocal expression and sometimes omitting it, as duty dictated at the time. In accordance with this arrangement which has been observed during our residence in the family, the evening was again awarded us on this day, being the first day of the week, to afford us the opportunity of expressing our feelings of religious concern for the individuals comprising the Establishment. All the servants who could be liberated were in attendance; besides Wm. Brooks and his youthful daughter; and Mary Dalziel, one of the inmates of L.E. Threlkeld’s dwelling, and who takes charge of the instruction of the younger children during her temporary sojourn with them; also L.E. Threlkeld and his wife and family – which formed a pretty numerous congregation, and completely filled the parlour … [G.W.W.]
In this family cltey regularly read a portion of Scripture and L.E.T. prays vocally: a sense of Divine influence is often to be felt on these occasions and I do not doubt that this would be the case in a greater degree if more of a waiting spirit were cultivated. It is but seldom that any of the Blacks are present on these occasions, the room being too small to admit them, and L.E.T. not having thought it best to press them on the subject till he was master of their language: He is now anxious to build a room sufficiently large, and a few huts for some of those who generally remain in the neighbourhood: he occasionally speaks to them on the subjects of eternal importance, which they listen to with gravity, though nothing like christian character is exhibited among them yet. (J.B.]
-Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 1 May 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 129)
2 May 1836
We were after an early breakfast and taking leave of the family, rowed across a part of the Lake … to the station (56) of a visiting magistrate named Jonn Warner of Brisbane on Brisbane Water. From hence L.E. Threlkeld returned with the boat; and we accompanied by our old guides McGill and Boatman proceeded to Newcastle. Our way laid chiefly along the road cleared by L.E. Threlkeld to the old missionary station, thro’ an open forest country of hills covered with Red Gum. At Newcastle we were again kindly received by Geo. Brooks and his wife, and we rewarded our sable companions, who had been joined by another of their tribe on the way named Macquarie, with bread, tea, sugar and tobacco: in coming along we saw several other wandering parties of Blacks, whom our companions (had] collected …. (J.B.] -Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker 2 May 1836 (Gunson, 1974, 129)
AN AUSTRALIAN SPELLING BOOK (1836) PUBLISHED
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859. An Australian spelling book in the language as spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales. Sydney : Printed by Stephens and Stokes George Street, 1836. (761 KB PDF) [Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Rex Nan Kivell Collection NK1136.] or here
IMAGES OF THE LAKE MACQUARIE – NEWCASTLE TRIBE
[Image] Mickie, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle Tribe from Sketches of Aborigines of New South Wales, ca. 1836 by W.H. Fernyhough. [Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales]
[Image] Boardman, Lake Macquarie Tribe from Sketches of Aborigines of New South Wales, ca. 1836 by W.H. Fernyhough. [Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales]
[Image] Mickie, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle Tribe from Collection of portraits, predominately of Aborigines of New South Wales and Tasmania, ca. 1817-1849. [Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales]
[Image] Jemmy, Newcastle tribe [ca. 1836] from Collection of portraits, predominately of Aborigines of New South Wales and Tasmania, ca. 1817-1849. [Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales]
[Image] Boardman, Lake Macquarie Tribe [ca. 1836] from Collection of portraits, predominately of Aborigines of New South Wales and Tasmania, ca. 1817-1849. [Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales]
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1836
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). Mission to the Aborigines. Annual Report of the Aboriginal Mission, Lake Macquarie New South Wales for MDCCCXXXVI (1836). (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
THRELKELD AND MCGILL AS INTERPRETERS
R. v. Wombarty. Supreme Court of New South Wales. Burton J., 14 August 1837. Source: Sydney Gazette, 19 August 1837. Threlkeld and McGill were present at this trial to assist the defendant Wombarty of the Port Macquarie Tribe. [Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899. Published by the Division of Law Macquarie University]
GOSPEL OF MARK TRANSLATED INTO THE LANGUAGE
OF THE LAKE MACQUARIE ABORIGINES (1837)
Reverend L. E. Threlkeld papers, 1817-1871 Series 02: The Gospel of St Mark, translated into the language of Lake Macquarie Aborigines, 1837 (Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales)
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1837
New South Wales. Aborigines: Reports of the mission to the Aborigines at Lake Macquarie, and at Wellington Valley / L. E. Threlkeld ; William Watson, James Gunther. [857KB PDF] Shelf Location: AUCH – RB/COLL Q305.89915 NEWS-3 [Digitised and Threlkeld Report transcribed by Gionni Di Gravio, March 2005]
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). Report of the Mission to Aborigines, Lake Macquarie New South Wales, 1837. (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
MR HALE OF THE UNITED STATES EXPORATION MISSION
MEETS THRELKELD AND M’GILL (BIRABĀN) DECEMBER 1838
“At Mr. Threlkeld’s, Mr. Hale saw M’Gill, who was reputed to be one of the most intelligent natives; and his portrait was taken by Mr. Agate. His physiognomy was much more agreeable than that of the other blacks. being less strongly marked with the peculiarities of his race. He was about the middle size, of a dark chocolate colour, with fine glossy black hair and whiskers, a good forehead, eyes not deeply set, a nose that might be described as aquiline, although depressed and broad at the base. It was very evident that M’Gill was accustomed to teach his native language, for when he was asked the name of any thing, he pronounced the word very distinctly, syllable by syllable, so that it was impossible to mistake it. Though acquainted with the doctrines of Christianity, and all the comforts and advantages of civilization, it was impossible for him to overcome his attachment to the customs of his people, and he is always a prominent leader in corroborees.” – From Wilkes, Charles. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, 1844. (Volume 2, Chapter VIII pp. 268-269.)
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1838
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). The Annual Report of the Mission to Aborigines, Lake Macquarie New South Wales, for MDCCCXXXVIII (1838). (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1839
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). The Annual Report of the Mission to Aborigines, Lake Macquarie New South Wales, for MDCCCXXXIX (1839). (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
THRELKELD’S MISSION REPORT 1840
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). The Annual Report of the Mission to Aborigines, Lake Macquarie Inlet, 1840. (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
Awaba or Lake Macquarie in 1841. This is a historical chart or map of Lake Macquarie with geological locations marked including Aboriginal place names. The database says that the outline was sketched by W. Procter from his examination in August 1841 and base printed by W. Baker Lithographer, King Street Sydney. Extensive notes were possibly made by the Reverend W. B. Clarke regarding rock outcrops and the location of fossils.
THRELKELD’S FINAL MISSION REPORT 1841
Threlkeld, Rev. Lancelot Edward. (1788-1859). The Final Report of the Mission to Aborigines, New South Wales, Lake Macquarie, 1841. (Transcribed by Jeremy Steele Aboriginal Languages of Australia Site)
THRELKELD AND FAMILY MOVES TO SYDNEY, 1841
“In 1841, with his wife and family, he moved to Sydney where they lived at No. 4 Prince’s Street, on the west side of Circular Quay, or, as it is now known George Street North. In 1842 he was offered and accepted the pastorate of the South Head Congregational Church at Watson’s Bay; this was known as the Old South Head Church, near the Signal Station.” – Majorie Raven, 1992.
EXPLORER LUDWIG LEICHHARDT MEETS JOHN M’GILL (BIRABĀN) AND GORMAN
SUNDAY 6TH NOVEMBER 1842
Monday 7th November 1842
Returns to Newcastle. continues letter (65) – with a report from day before, Sunday 6 November 1842 Shepherd’s Hill, Redhead, beyond Valley of the Palms, two natives enjoy oozings from honey comb. Two blacks identified as John M’Gill (king of Lake Macquarie tribe and Gorman, King of another clan, both enjoy damper and honey and have a sleep.
“The two blacks who had pitched their camp opposite the hut during the night were John M’Gill, king of the Lake Macquarie clan, and Gorman, king of another clan. They had neither their women nor any other blacks with them. M’Gill came into the hut and asked for some embers and a kettle. Calvert gave him what was left over from the honey, with which he was highly delighted, and some flour. The latter he knew quite well how to use to make doughboys, though it was hardly edifying to see him kneeding the dough and smoking his pipe at the same time. He used the kettle, which still contained the water in which Calvert had boiled two fowls, for cooking the doughboys. The two noble savages then went over to the small fire they had lit under a Eucalyptus tree, stretched themselves out lazily beside it until their meal was ready, ate without stopping until they swallowed the last scraps, and then slept until late the next morning, regardless of the somewhat showery night, but putting more wood in their little fire whenever they felt the cold.” – The Letters of F.W. Ludwig Leichhardt Collected and Newly Translated by M. Aurosseau. CUP, 1968. Volume 2 p.570.
Also sourced by Gunson 1974, 9 n.44 as “F. W. L. Leichhardt, MS draft letter to Wm. Nicholson 31 Oct.-8 Nov. 1842, Tagebuch 1 April – 27 Dec. 1842, original in M.L., translated by Marcel Aurousseau. Reference by courtesy of the General Editor, A.D.B. Gorman was ‘chief’ of the Pambalong ‘tribe’ who occupied the Swamps district and immediate environs of Newcastle.”
UNITED STATES EXPLORING EXPEDITION
(Published account of the December 1838 meeting
with Threlkeld and Birabān (M’Gill)
Wilkes, Charles. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1845.
Another version is available on the website of The United State Exploring Expedition, 1838 – 1842 (Smithsonian Institution Libraries Digital Collection) with a slightly different pagination:
Narrative of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, Volume 2 by Charles Wilkes. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, 1844.
Volume 2 Chapter VIII pp. 260 – 271. (823 KB PDF)
Click here for enlarged images of the Opossum Skin Cloak and Long Handled Narrow Club collected on the Expedition. Click here to search their database for more objects.
DEATH OF BIRABĀN 14 APRIL 1846
1846, 1 May. The Sydney Morning Herald Death of M’Gill (Birabān) in Newcastle on the 14th April 1846. (264 KB PDF)
BIRABĀN’S LAST RECORDED WORDS
From the Reverend C. P. N. Wilton, M.A., Minister of the Church of England, Newcastle, 1 May 1846 Christ Church. In answer to Question 3 from Select Committee on the Condition of Aborgines “Has the decrease been among the children or adults?” answered:
“The decrease has been among the adults. McGill, the Aboriginal Chief of this tribe, by whose assistance the Rev. L. E. Threlkeld compiled his grammar of its dialect, on my speaking to him lately, but a few days before his death, upon this subject, remarked that “they died off like sheep.”
N.S.W. Legislative Council Committee – Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines. 1846 New South Wales. Aborigines. Replies to a Circular Letter, addressed to the Clergy, of all Denominations, By Order of The Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines.Ordered, By the Council, To be Printed 31st October 1846. Sydney: Printed by W.W. Davies, At the Government Printing Office. [Archive shelf location B9841-B9842] The following replies relating to the local region transcribed by Margaret Fryer and Gionni di Gravio (HTML file): Reverends C.P.N. Wilton, (Newcastle); George K. Rusden, (East Maitland); George Augustus Middleton, (Morpeth); Robert Thorley Bolton, (Hexham); John Jennings Smith, (Paterson); Joseph Cooper, (Falbrook and Jerry’s Plains); William Ross, (Paterson); Robert Stewart, (Newcastle).
[FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF COMPLETE DOCUMENT] 1846 New South Wales. Aborigines. Replies to a Circular Letter, addressed to the Clergy, of all Denominations, By Order of The Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines.Ordered, By the Council, To be Printed 31st October 1846. Sydney: Printed by W.W. Davies, At the Government Printing Office. [Archive shelf location Two copies at B9841 and B9842].
Of these photographs Marjorie Raven said:
“I had the two photographs taken from glass negatives re-printed for you to-day; they were taken by Thomas Glaister, Photographer, George Street, Sydney, in 1858, not long before the death of LET – this information was given to me by Alan Davies, Mitchell Library. Would you believe that Alan could tell by the table cloth? One is Sarah, the unmarried daughter, and the other is, of course, LET with the Australian Grammar in his hand. I had a first edition of this book and sold it on the Internet about six years ago.” – Email communication 3 March 2008 Marjorie Raven to Gionni Di Gravio.
The problem with this dating information, is, according to one biography of Thomas Glaister, he was, from 1850, working in New York, so the photographs must have been taken either in that year or prior to that year.
THRELKELD’S PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO
BIRABĀN AND HIS WIFE PATTY, 1850
REMINISCENCES OF BIRABĀN
The Aborigine of this part of the colony, whose likeness is engraved from a woodcut in a work published in America, entitled “The United States Exploring Expedition,” by Charles Wilkes, U.S.N., vol. II., p. 254, was taken by Mr. Agate, one of the gentlemen attached to the expedition, at my residence, Lake Macquarie, 1839, and is an excellent likeness of the late Birabān, or as he was called in English, M’Gill.
Partiality might, perhaps, be attributed to any remarks that I might make respecting M’Gill, but the following extract, taken from the American publication already mentioned, is above suspicion. Vol. II. page 253, states thus :-
” At Mr. Threlkeld’s Mr. Hale saw M’Gill, who was reputed to be one of the most intelligent natives; and his portrait was taken by Mr. Agate. His physiognomy was more agreeable than that of the other blacks, being less strongly marked with the peculiarities of his race; he was about the middle size, of a dark chocolate colour, with fine glossy black hair and whiskers, a good forehead, eyes not deeply set, a nose that might be described as aquiline, although depressed and broad at the base. It was very evident that M’Gill was accustomed to teach his native language, for when he was asked the name of anything, he pronounced the word very distinctly, syllable by syllable, so that it was impossible to mistake it. Though acquainted with the doctrines of Christianity, and all the comforts and advantages of civilization, it was impossible for him to overcome his attachment to the customs of his people, and he is always a leader in the corrobories and other assemblies.” Birabān was his native name, meaning an eagle-hawk, the analysis of which is at the latter end of this work. He was my almost daily companion for many years, and to his intelligence I am principally indebted for much of my knowledge respecting the structure of the language. Both himself and Patty, his wife, were living evidences that there was no “innate deficiency of intellect” in either of them. He had been brought up from his childhood in the Military Barracks, Sydney, and he understood and spoke the English language well. He was much attached to us, and faithful to a chivalrous extreme. We never were under apprehensions of hostile attacks when M’Gill and his tribe encamped nigh our dwelling. A murderous black, named “Bumble-foot” from his infirmity, and “Devil Devil” from his propensities, had attempted to murder a European by chopping off the man’s head with a tomahawk, and which he nearly effected; the man recovered and I had to appear at a Court of Justice on the occasion; this displeased” Bumble-foot,” and he avowed openly, in their usual manner, that he would slay me at the first opportunity, in the bush; this came to the ears of M’Gill, who immediately applied to me for the loan of a fowling-piece “to go and shoot that fellow for his threat,” which was of course refused. M’Gill was once present with me at the Criminal Court, Sydney, assisting as interpreter, when he was closely examined by the Judges, Burton and Willis, in open court, on the trial of an Aborigine for murder, 1834, in order that M’Gill might be sworn as interpreter in the case; but though his answers were satisfactory to the general questions proposed to him by the Judges, yet, not understanding the nature of our oath in a Court of Justice, he could not be sworn.
Patty, his wife, was pleasing in her person, “black but comely,” and affectionate in her disposition, and evidenced as strong a faculty of shrewdness in the exercise of her intellectual powers over M’Gill as those of the fairer daughters of Eve, who, without appearing to trespass on the high prerogative of their acknowledged lords, manage their husbands according to their own sovereign will; this might perhaps have arisen from the circumstance of M’Gill, once, when intoxicated, having shot his wife, the which he deeply deplored when he became sober; the injury sustained was not much, and ever afterwards he treated her with that affection which appeared to be reciprocal. It was a romantic scene to behold the happy pair, together with many others, on a moonlight night, under the blue canopy of Heaven, preparing for the midnight ball, to be held on the green sward, with no other toilet than a growing bush, with none other blaze than that from the numerous fires kindled around the mystic ring in which to trip the light fantastic toe. Then each might be seen reciprocally rouging each others cheek with pigment of their own preparing, and imparting fairness to their sable skin on the neck and forehead with the purest pipe-clay, until each countenance beamed with rapturous delight at each others charms. The cumbrous garments of the day were laid aside, and in all the majesty of nature they would dance as Britons did in days of old.
On points of honour M’Gill was exceedingly sensitive, and was an honourable man. ” I must go,” says he, one day, “to stand my punishment as a man of honour, though I have done no wrong.” The hostile message had been duly sent, and faithfully delivered, by the seconds, one an elderly female, who made her verbal communication with all the becoming accustomed vituperation of daring challenge to. the offended party; it was duly accepted; the weapons named, the cudgel, shield, and spear; the time was appointed, on such a day when the Sun was one quarter high; the place, such a plain in a certain well known vicinity attached to our dwelling. Messengers were despatched to gather in the distant tribes, and on the mountain tops were seen the signal fires announcing their approach to witness the affair of honour. When the tribes had assembled a mutual explanation ensued betwixt the parties, and the evening dance and supper of game peacefully terminated the business of the day. The course usually pursued when matters take a hostile form, is this: the offending party is the first to stoop and offer his head for his antagonist to strike with his weapon, and if not disabled or killed by the blow, he rises from his bending posture, shaking the streaming blood from his bushy hair, and then his opponent fairly and honourably bends forward his head, and presents it in return to receive his blow, and so it is reciprocally continued until all the assembled parties and combatants themselves are satisfied. But should one strike dishonourably on the temple, thus showing an intention to kill, or in any other way than on the fair offered cranium of his antagonist, a shower of well-directed spears would instantly be sent against the cowardly assailant who would dare to be guilty of such a breach of the laws of honour. M’Gill informed me that formerly it was a custom amongst certain of the Northern Tribes, that when the first blow actually killed the person, if he were a young man in good condition, for the spectators to roast and eat the body of him who so nobly fell in the cause of honour; as a matter of taste, M’Gill expressed himself dissatisfied with the custom, and stated that he thought it had fallen into desuetude, as it tended to no good purpose but to check the spirit of duelling.
Picturesque or alarming, as in many instances these scenes were, all have for ever passed away, and the once numerous actors, who used to cause the woods to echo with their din, now lie mingled with the dust, save some few solitary beings who here and there still stalk abroad, soon, like their ancestors, to become as “a tale that is told.”
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859. A key to the structure of the Aboriginal language : being an analysis of the particles used as affixes, to form the various modifications of the verbs : shewing the essential powers, abstract roots, and other peculiarities of the language spoken by the Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter River, Lake Macquarie, etc., New South Wales : together with comparisons of Polynesian and other dialects. Sydney : Printed by Kemp and Fairfax, 1850. (4.60 MB PDF) [University of Newcastle Rare Books: 499.15 THRE-1]
SARAH THRELKELD (NEE ARNDELL) WIFE OF
LANCELOT THRELKELD DIES 20 DECEMBER 1853
“When the church was completed Threlkeld was in his 70th year and he wrote in his diary – [28th October 1858] “This is the 70th anniversary of my birthday and the wedding day of myself and my dear departed Sarah, now in Heaven, where days and years are swallowed up in one ‘eternal now’. Five years will have elapsed of her sleep of death on the 20th day of December next, and I am waiting for the moment for the summons to call me to that rest that remaineth for the people of God, but until that period arrives, my motto must be ‘Occupy till I come’.” – Majorie Raven, 1992.
THRELKELD’S REMINISCENCE OF BIRABĀN’S
TALENT FOR DRAWING, 25 JUNE 1856.
“Of a talent for drawing I have no doubt many of the Aborigines possess it in a high degree. On the high places of the Rocks there are yet remains of the engravings upon the Rocks of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, and Men rudely outlined on the flat surfaces of the Rocks which I have seen and described also in the “Reminiscences” already spoken of [see Gunson, 1974 p. 59]. When the first steamer to this colony came out, the Sophia Jane, I was anxious to have a description of the vessel, owing to my never having seen one, I having left London in December 1815, and I wished M’Gill to describe it to me he having been on board the vessel at Newcastle near to our residence then at Lake Macquarie. He requested a pencil and sheet of paper, on which he sketched a very good outline of the Steamer, I sent the sketch to the late Bishop of Sydney the Revd Dr Broughton who requested that another one should be done by M’Gill and which was done and then forwarded by the Bishop to the Society for the promotion of Christian Knowledge as a specimen of the ability of the Aborigines of New South Wales.” – Threlkeld to Richard Cull, 25 June 1856. [M.L. Al15(1) Item 1.] (In Gunson, 1974, pp. 299-300)
THE BONE & MYSTIC STONE “MURAMAI”
Another curious coincidence has lately caught my attention in a re-published review taken from the Leader, Novr 17th inserted in the Empire, Sydney, Feby 29th 1856, of a work called “Minnesota and the far West, by Laurance Oliphant, &c. Blackwood and Sons.” There are certain customs mentioned therein very similar to some in use amongst the Aborigines of this part of the world worthy of notice. The author says: – “In the centre of the Village stood the medicine pole … and near it a bower … in which are performed those singular rites which Free-Masons affirm connect the Winnebagoes to their
fraternity. It is certain that there is a society in the tribe, the secret of which is kept most sacred …the members of this society, or medicine-men are held in very high estimation by the tribes.” So likewise have the Aborigines here a sacred Bower in the Bush, which none but the initiated may enter, and for a woman to presume to satisfy female curiosity would be most surely punished with death. A common member of this Fraternity is discovered at once, not by the un-mentionable secret of Free-Masonery, but by an occular demonstration that he has been initiated when the front tooth was deliberately knocked out of his jaw by one of those, what-might-be-called, Medicine-men. In my “Reminiscences” forwarded to you, published in the “Christian Herald” of date Sydney, Saturday, August 19th, 1854, page 220
[see Gunson, 1974 p. 50] a description is given of the visit of one of the Bone-finding men and the exhibition of the bone in the mystic-ring, which bone was said to have come out of the Belly of the venerated person for the occasion, and when the ceremony was over in the Mystic-circle the bone, it was affirmed, would return to its local habitation in the abdomen of the sacred individual, as more particularly described in the number for Sept. 2 1854 [see Gunson, 1974 p. 52]. My Tutor, M’Gill the Black, informed me that he slept one night on the grave of a then recently buried Aborigine, in order to obtain the gift of the Bone which is supposed to enable the possessor to work wonders, especially in the art of the Physician. But, M’Gill was not
favored with the gift of the much coveted Holy-Bone. The Author in the work alluded to further states:- “they enjoy this distinction by virtue of possessing the medicine-stone, which they are supposed to carry in their stomachs. When new members are to be initiated this stone is vomited up and placed in the Medicine-bag, and the candidate for admission are struck with it upon the breast, and from all accounts are thrown into a sort of mesmeric-sleep, during which they are supposed to learn the mysteries of the Society, and on awakening from which they become Medicine-men, with the stone in its proper locality.” So likewise have our Aborigines the Medicine-stone, which they call “Mu-ra-mai”, the which they carry in a bag-net suspended from their opposum-yarn Girdle worn round their loins. The women are not allowed to see the internal part of the “Mu-ra-mai,” which is about the size of a Cricket-Ball, made of opposum-hair-yarn. The mystic-ball contains the medicine-stones, used as a talisman against sickness. A full description of the contents of the “Muramai” is given in my Australian Grammar published 1834 page 89 [see A.L., p. 48]. Some years since a European Shepherd was killed by an Aborigine Black by command of the tribe to which he belonged because the Shepherd had undone the ball and shewn the contents to the Aboriginal woman with whom he co-habited. The woman escaped by the meerest accident the avenger supposing that he had killed her. I acted as interpreter at the trial of the Aborigine for the murder, and attended him daily in jail, and to the place of execution at Dungog some two or three hundred miles to the northward of Sydney. I thus obtained a perfect understanding of these things and know the certainty thereof, which is too often described from hearsay, it struck me therefore immediately on the perusal of the review the similarity which existed betwixt the north American Indians and the Aborigines of Australia not only in the peculiarity of the Language as regards the peculiarity of the remarkable idiom not found in any other language throughout the whole World, but in the customs already described. The Aborigines of this part of the world, not only of Australia, but of all the Islands in Australasia also are becoming extinct without exception, whether Christianized or heathen. In the former state the females amalgamate with the Europeans, and the customs of the latter are so abominably cruel that they destroy themselves by their wicked practices, and in a generation or two more the pure aborigines of these parts will be numbered amongst the numerous extinct nations of which we read in sacred scripture, whose languages are lost there being no record preserved. – Threlkeld to Richard Cull, 25 June 1856. [M.L. Al15(1) Item 1.] (In Gunson, 1974, pp. 298-299)
Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward, 1788-1859; Layard, Annie; Birabān, c.1800-1846.
Evangelion unni ta Jesu-um-ba Christ-ko-ba Upatoara Louka-umba = Gospel according to Saint Luke.
Gospel according to St Luke translated into the language of the aborigines located in the vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, in the year 1831, and further revised by the translator, L E Threlkeld, Minister, 1857. Sydney 1857.
THE LAST WORK PUBLISHED IN THRELKELD’S LIFETIME
Threlkeld, L.E. “Language of the Australian Aborigines” in Waugh’s Australian Almanac for the Year 1858. Sydney: James Waugh, 1858 pp.60-80. (771 KB PDF)
THRELKELD TO GREY 12 APRIL 1859
DEATH OF THRELKELD
“He died on 10 October, 1859, just ten days before his 71st birthday. His daughter, Sarah, said he had been worried concerning matters relating to the Mariners’ Church. Having preached at both morning and afternoon Services he complained of a chest pain and a doctor was called but considered there was no problem. Sarah later heard him moan and he suddenly died. His death caused great sorrow and regret in Sydney; flags on ships in the harbour were flown at half mast out of respect for the sailors’ Chaplain. The funeral cortege moved from his NO.195 William Street residence by way of the Mariners’ Church to the Devonshire Street Cemetery and was one of the largest processions seen in Sydney for a long time.” – Marjorie Raven, 1992
“Lancelot Edward Threkeld actually passed away at 2 a.m. Monday, 11th October 1859.” – Marjorie Raven, 1992 (Postscript)
JOHN FRASER OF MAITLAND N.S.W. RE-EDITS AND
RE-PUBLISHES THE WORK
OF THRELKELD AND BIRABĀN (1892)
Threlkeld, L. E. (Lancelot Edward), 1788-1859. An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales) being an account of their language, traditions and customs/ by L.E. Threlkeld ; re-arranged, condensed and edited with an appendix by John Fraser. Sydney : Charles Potter, Govt. Printer, 1892. [23.7 MB PDF]
BIRABĀN AND THRELKELD IN THE
AUSTRALIAN DICTIONARY OF BIOGRAPHY
N. Gunson, ‘ Birabān‘ and `Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward‘ in D. Pike (ed), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, pp 102-04, and Volume 2, pp 528-30, Melbourne University Press. [With kind permission of Mr Niel Gunson and the editors of the Australian Dictionary of Biography]
NIEL GUNSON’S LANDMARK WORK ON THRELKELD AND BIRABAN
Threlkeld, L.E. Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld, Missionary to the Aborigines, 1824-1859. 2 vols, ed. Niel Gunson. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1974.
THRELKELD’S GREAT GREAT GRAND DAUGHTER’S
ACCOUNT OF HIS LIFE
Raven, Marjorie. Rev. Lancelot Edward Threlkeld. We sincerely thank Mrs Marjorie Raven, great great grand daughter of the late Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld for her permission to publish her biographical article prepared in August 1992.
WHERE WAS THE LOCATION OF THRELKELD’S
MISSION HOUSE AT BELMONT?
BIRABĀN AND THRELKELD
Carey, Hilary M. ‘Lancelot Threlkeld and Missionary Linguistics in Australia to 1850’, in Missionary Linguistics. Selected Papers from the First International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Oslo, 13–16 March 2003, ed. Otto Zwartjes and Even Hovdhaugen (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004), pp. 253–76.
Roberts, David Andrew. ‘language to save the innocent’: Reverend L. Threlkeld’s Evangelic mission. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Volume 94 Part 2 December 2008. pp. 107-125 (Courtesy of the author)
Keary, Anne. “Christianity, colonialism, and cross-cultural translation: Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal.” Aboriginal History 33 Australian National University. (2009)
Ford, Geoffrey Eric. Darkiñung Recognition An Analysis of the Historiography for the Aborigines from the Hawkesbury-Hunter Ranges to the Northwest of Sydney: [commonly written with English characters as ‘Darkinung’, Darkinyung or Darkinjung] University of Sydney. School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (Online Thesis) DOWNLOAD Darkiñung Recognition – Full Thesis Download [11.2 MB PDF] Chapters of particular interest to Hunter Region are the following: Darkiñung Recognition Chapter 8 – [492 KB PDF] and Darkiñung Recognition Chapter 9 – [819 KB PDF] These digital files are provided courtesy of the author Geoffrey Eric Ford. (2010)
Wafer, J. & Carey, Hilary M. “Waiting for Biraban: Lancelot Threlkeld and the ‘Chibcha Phenomenon’ in Australian missionary linguistics.” Language and History Vol. 54, Issue 2, p. 112-139 (2011)
Carey, Hilary M. ‘The secret of England’s greatness’: medievalism, ornithology, and anglican imperialism in the Aboriginal gospel book of Sir George Grey. Journal of Victorian Culture Vol. 16, Issue 3, p. 323-346 (2011)
Wafer, Jim & Kelly, R. [Public Lecture] On the Hunter River – Lake Macquarie Language Public Lecture delivered 21 June 2011 Dr Wafer in the Friends Reading Room, Cultural Collections, Auchmuty Library. A reply to Dr Wafer’s paper was delivered by Mr Raymond Kelly, Associate Lecturer at the Wollotuka Institute. (2011)
Anna Johnston. The Paper War: Morality, Print Culture and Power in Colonial New South Wales (Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2011)
Carey, Hilary M. [Public Lecture] Babylon, the Bible and the Australian Aborigines: missionary networks and theories of racial origin in the nineteenth century. A public lecture by Hilary Carey, Professor of Imperial & Religious History, University of Bristol; Conjoint Professor of History, University of Newcastle, NSW and 2018 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow. (2018)
TRACING ABORIGINAL PEOPLE
LAKE MACQUARIE NEWCASTLE TRIBE
Indigenous Names Research – Making Connections By Dana Silayi (Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placement (HUMA3003) for Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library) (2017)
“BIRABĀN” IN LITERATURE
The Golden Valley by Frank O’Grady (1955)
Frank O’Grady was the brother of John O’Grady the Australian writer famous for They’re A Wierd Mob (1957). “The story of Golden Valley is the story of the Wades and the Kanes and of Martin O’ Callaghan, a deported Irish rebel who had won his freedom and had built his own homestead between the rival settlers. All three were squatters in a wild land, peopled by aborigine natives who watched their encroachment with suspicious fear. O’Callaghan was the only one to win the confidence of the tribal chief and his tales of the customs and superstitions of the natives.” Based on the writings of Oxley and Mitchell in the vicinity of the Peel River, Tamworth. Localities such as Newcastle, Port Stephens and the character of Birabān, one of the sons of the Chief of the Aboriginal Tribe feature in the novel.
This work is an expression of our sincere gratitude to Birabān and Threlkeld.
We dedicate this work to the Aboriginal people of this land, the original speakers of the Hunter River Language, the Mulubinbakal and Pambalong clan people of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (now known as the Awabakal People), in the quest that their voices will again be heard through the voices of those that have come after them.
They were, are, and will ever be:
We-rah-kah-tah (Werahkahtah) King of the District;
Brown; (His name must not be mentioned a person being dead)
– From Threlkeld’s Return of the Black Natives Belonging to Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, 21 May 1828. C.S.I.L. (4/2045) Reg. No. 28/4304 (Published in Gunson, 1974 pp. 360-361 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017)
[English or Aboriginal names only recorded]
(Women Present) Old Mingen; Sally McGee; Cobung; Old Mary Nobody; Sally Curnning; Betsey; Warkin; Nanny Bullie; Old Mrs McCarty; Molly Morgan; Gin-Gin; Tirrell; Tirrell; Curangy; Old Mary (from the Swamps); Mungay; Young Kitty; Bowyere; Nanny Boyce (Boyes?); Mune; Mollbirrong; Dinging; Curnbaray; Maria; Birraway; Kitty Pucker; Cangallymoorbanda; Miler (from Newcastle); Burraware; Blue Water; Curry-Bare; Old Mammy (from Kurungbong);
(Girls Present) Bandicoote (from the Swamps); Sally; Pitty; Pullare; Kitty Warrow; Susan; Tirny; Betsy; Mary Ann; Louisa; Charlotte;
(Women Absent) Nelly (from Newcastle); Yellow Nelly; Black Kitty; Poky; Peggy (from the Swamps); Borockatare (from Kurungbong); Tanderearn;
(Men Present) McGill (Chief lake Macquarie); Tower 2nd; Old Bungaree 1st; Long Buttie; Old McCarty; Gorman (Chief Pambalong Swamps District & near Newcastle); Coleman; Long Jack; Old Wallabie Joe; Old Mick; Cockey; Wallabie Joe 2nd; Jack; Old Morang; Boatswain; Barbarry; Pussy; Old Barraway; Old Bungaree 2nd; Harry Moor 1st; Harry Moor 2nd; Pussell (Purcell?); Jimmy; Bruder (Binder?); Tom; Wallungu II (Chief Ash Island); Bungaebung; Big Blackboy; Macquarie; McKeebar; Little Blackboy; Mungaroo; Inniss; Long Boatman; Old Mr Cottoo; Kangaroo Bullie; Little Boatman; Nobody; Old Daddy (from Kurungbong); Old Constable; Jimmy; Charles Mirth; Jacky Boodawar; Tommy Kudchadnggy; Old Ned; Booloowoolloo (from the Swamps);
(Men Absent) Old Charley; Mr White; Young Moses; Tom Jones; Shingleman; Emu; Billy Blue; Brown; Blind Jackey; Old Bullie (From Kurungbong); Ben (Chief); Stockman; Darrabingare; Wallis; Fisher;
(Boys Present) Tom (from the Swamps); Young Billy; Buring (Beering?); Innisk (from Kurungbong); Quart Pot; Breeches;
(Boys Absent) Little Jimmy; Little Pinkin (From the Swamps); Young Tommy; Little Nobody; Little Mcgill.
– “From J. Warner’s Nominal Return of Natives present at the issue of Blankets and names of those absent in the District” 1833, C.S.I.L. (4/6666.3) Reg. No. 33/3623. (Published in Gunson, 1974 pp. 363-364 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017).
Kungkama; Wollungkaleen; Koroba; Muntaba; Pitakul; Koreung; Milkanoa; Ngorowaiyc; Kote; Mokonbi; Kurraba; Ngolti; Ngokorokone; Toronta; Kutteung; Nungkurra; Pauwallang; Wirrinti; Ninnoai; Botauwo; Warara; Mirritea; Ngurrauummi; Munkoro; Kungkara; Ngakang; Pinkun; Pullameir; Bumbikun; Topi; Murral; Weyawol; Nguringban.
– From Threlkeld’s Return of Aboriginal Natives, Taken at Lake Macquarie on June[ ]” 1835 C.S.I.L. (4/2285.3) Reg. No. 35/4726. (Published in Gunson, 1974 p.365 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017).
1836, May 13th
Koi-ti (Koiti); Ngo-roin-bān (Ngoroinbān); Kung-kā-ma (Kungkāma); Kut-ti-run (Kuttirun); Ki-ro-ung (Kiroung); Tul-lum-bin (Tullumbin); Kua-mun (Kuamun); Tun-kur-rir-ka (Tunkurrirka); Murrur-urmi (Murrururmi); Kurrabawari; Wuruwaie; Kotōngbing-a (Kotōngbinga); Kau-i-kul (Kauikul); Burrurburrur; Korōng; Bumborokān; Kurreawomy; Potuborōn; Tullumbi; Tulokun; Mūnkoro; Bikimun; Mūl-ba-ra (Mūlbara); Kote; Kin-ta-ti-a (Kintatia); Birabān; Bumborokan; Birōba; Mokōnbi; Mokōn; Muntorin; Yinik; Kūngkurra; Pauwalla; Wirrinti; Mirawara; Wulumil; Ninoai; Muntu; Tuntakara; Burakutti; Tillin; Kurrintai; Petti; Purruntia; Kibua; Murrung; Butung; Koraka; Wati; Bitti; Bilkumbea; Takkun; Toti; Betsy; Turoma; Tene; Kutteung; Kaoiwo; Wollungkul; Murramai; Mōk-kōn (Mōkkōn); Korōng; Purrul; Mirung; Taiamunte; Donnelly.
– From Threlkeld’s ‘Return of Aboriginal Natives, taken at Ebenezer, Lake Macquarie on May 13th 1836. C.S.I.L. (4/2302.1) Reg. No. 36/4548. (Published in Gunson, 1974 pp. 366-367 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017)
1836, July 29th
Ngūlumi; Yuroi; Kulliwarara; Teibīn; Tinkin; Pebung; Warai; Pōrōng; Mōrrong; Yinnatoroi; Ngabea; Kūrba; Merīn; Tittīn; Yiramma; Poiyir; Bauwon; Nguwin; Muntulkun; Poitte; Warara; Kuttirun.
– Supplementary list of distribution of Blankets to the Blacks at Lake Macquarie on July 29th 1836. C.S.I.L. (4/2302) Reg. No. 36/4548. (Published in Gunson, 1974 p. 368 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017)
Kung kāmaī; Birabān (Old); Birabān (Young); Ningnga; Buttān; Milliāma; Wollong bulleen; Warāra; Korumba; Koitti; Murring; Woiyē; Woima; Momoaba; Pāntara; Pitti.
– From Threlkeld’s ‘Return of Aboriginal Natives, taken at Lake Macquarie on 21st May 1838’. C.S.I.L. (4/1133-3) Reg. No. 38/5595. (Published in Gunson, 1974 p. 369 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017)
Kungkāmaī; Kullatāra; Ningnga; Pirritea; Birabān (Little M’gill); Wollungbulleen; Milleāma; Pitti; Woima; Worirr; Burriwa; Williga; Birabān (M’gill Senior); Mokun; Munta; Wararā.
– From Threlkeld’s ‘Return of Aboriginal Natives, taken at Lake Macquarie on 1st May 1840.’ C.S.I.L. (4/2479.1) Reg. No. 40/8533. (Published in Gunson, 1974 p. 370 and Transcribed by Dana Silayi, 2017)
Compiled by Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist, and Chair, Hunter Living Histories