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2-035 (Raw)

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author,male,Robinson, George Augustus,41 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Private Written
Plomley, 1966
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30 March 1829 [Monday]
9 am left town in a large whaleboat with six hands, fair weather. 12 1/2 pm reached Rats Bay on North Brune. Had an interview with the natives. Crossed over to Birches Bay, a government establishment for sawyers; hospitably entertained.
31 March
10 am got under way. Fair weather. Steered our course for Isthmus Bay. Crossed the Neck to Adventure Bay, then recrossed and traversed the land on the south of Isthmus Bay. Contrary wind and heavy sea and the boat unable to pass the point.' Took up our quarters on the beach at Isthmus Bay.
1 April
6 am got under way; fair weather, adverse winds. Traversed the shore. Saw remains of the natives' fires. Reached Little Cove; remained here this night. Saw footmarks of natives on the shore.
2 April
At 5 am prepared for breakfast. Strong southerly wind, heavy sea. Left Little Cove and pulled along shore to Great Cove or Taylors Bay. At 3 pm proceeded for the head of the bay, travelling through an extensive swamp covered with lofty shrubs. Passages about two feet wide are formed in a serpentine direction and at short distances are open clear spaces, supposed to have been burnt out by the natives so that they might be the better able to pursue the kangaroo with the dogs. 
3 April
The men being out of provision I sent the boat out to fish. Took two men and went in search of land. Traversed a vast extent of clear country interspersed with clumps or copses intended as a cover for kangaroo, the whole range for miles forming a beautiful picturesque scenery. This has been done by the natives: when burning the underwood they have beat out the fire in order to form these clumps. Saw some native huts. Ascended a high mountain called Tasmans Head and saw Adventure Bay and the Neck, and had a fine view of the country. [55] Returned by a different route. Reached the boat much fatigued about 2 pm. The men in the boat had been alarmed for our safety. Proceeded to Partridge Island, took refreshment and proceeded to Birches Bay through a heavy sea, arriving at 8 pm. Very unwell.
4 April
Sent for some intelligent natives. Conversed with them and with a female aged seventeen years named TRUGERNANNA. 
5 April [Sunday]
Preached to the sawyers at the establishment: sixty present, very attentive. Self very unwell.
6 April
Bless the Lord, much improved in health. Went over to the north side of Isthmus Bay. Returned to Birches Bay and took dinner, and then went over to Kinghorne Bay and round to Barnes Bay. Slept at Barnes Bay.
7 April
Fair weather with strong southerly winds. Proceeded to the head, of Barnes Bay and round to Rats Bay. Landed TRUGERNANNA, the rest of the aborigines being much delighted to see her return. Proceeded to Kelly's farm and cautioned his men as to their improper conduct towards the natives; said if I could ascertain the fact I would certainly make an example. Proceeded to W Gellibrand esq, South Arm. Very hospitably entertained.
8 April
Fair weather with strong winds. Proceeded to town, arriving at 1 pm. In good health. [56]

Feeling the importance of the situation to which your Excellency has been pleased to appoint me, and fully persuaded that the plan which your Excellency has devised to be the only one whereby the aborigines of this territory can be ameliorated, I have endeavoured to arrange what I conceive to be your Excellency's views and submit the same accordingly.
General Plan
I. The object to be obtained - the amelioration of the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land.
II. The means by which it is proposed the foregoing object should be carried into effect:
1. Civilisation;
2. Instruction in the principles of Christianity.
Civilisation - to form a general establishment or native village. . . . The site should include fertility of soil, proximity to fresh water, contiguous to the shore and remote from settlers. . . - The establishment to form three sides of a quadrangle opening to the beach, the mission house to be situated at the upper end so as to command a view of the whole establishment, the married persons to occupy one side, the single persons the other side. . . . Each family to have a log hut covered with bark, the aborigines to assist in the erection of the same. . . . Each allotment to be fenced. . . . A school to be erected with logs and covered with bark, this building to answer (in the first instance) as a church for the performance of divine worship. . . . A garden to be laid out for the general purposes of the institution.
The means: to assist the aborigine to erect his hut; . . . to assist them in preparing a few rods of land as a potato ground; . . . to prevail on them to cook their food after the manner of Europeans, to catch fish to eat with their potatoes; the children if practicable to eat at one table; as opportunity may occur to teach the children trades. To instruct them in the principles of Christianity - 1st by public worship, 2nd by public schools. . . . The school to open and to conclude with prayer. Dr Bell's system to be adopted, as far as practicable. The children to be taught the English language. . . .
The formation of the establishment would appear of primary importance. The aborigines would be acquiring habits of industry. The establishment would be able to produce its own potatoes. [57] The natives would be satisfied. Strangers visiting the settlement would see more to interest them and be induced to settle. [...]
I would likewise submit to your Excellency whether a little tea, sugar and tobacco should not be kept in the store in the case of sickness and at certain times when the aboriginal females would require a little tea, of which they are very fond; the tobacco might be given as rewards to the men. A medicine chest with directions for use would be an acquisition to the mission. Sulphur and lard would be of great use to clean the scorbutic affection of the natives. At present if they feel any inward affliction or pain they cut themselves with sharp stones or shells, supposing the affliction is caused by RAGEAWRAPPER. or evil spirit and by making an incision imagine a speedy cure. [...]
A fine youth about seventeen years old named WÉANÉE whom I had seen on my first visit I was informed had died and that the natives had burnt the body. I saw the place where he was burnt. There was a heap of ashes and some grass and sticks put on top of them. An aborigine named Joe had returned from the Isthmus after performing the last sad office of burning the body of his deceased wife. She was ill when I was here before. The tribe had gone to the Isthmus and there she became worse. In such cases they put water into a piece of kelp and a few shellfish alongside the afflicted persons and leave them to their fate. This man had two wives, one of whom is still living. Polygamy is not at all frequent amongst them. The circumstances of this man's having two wives was this, that his first wife became dangerously ill and he expected she would die. He therefore took unto himself another wife. The invalid contrary to his expectations recovering, he continued them both. Asked him what his former wife said on his leaving her he replied, RAEGEAWRAPPER LOGGERNER. The natives paint their bodies with charred wood and mark their faces with red chalk. 
28 April
Yesterday found two of the convicts with the natives about half a mile from the hut. Ordered them away and gave orders to the convicts not to interfere or converse with the natives. One man behaved impertinent this morning and refused to work. Sent the man up to Hobart Town in charge of the overseer. At 3 pm took two convicts and two natives and travelled through the bush to the Neck to select a suitable spot for the settlement. [58] Got benighted. Natives unwilling to proceed. Slept in the open air. Rain at times.
29 April
Continued our journey. After travelling about two hours came to the head of Isthmus Bay. Took my grant of 500 acres. Set out the village on a gentle declivity leading down to the bay, the site delightfully pleasant and close to water. At 2 pm left two men to erect a hut and returned with the natives to the Woodcutters. The natives I took with me as guides had a piece of string tied tight round the calf of their legs. Informed me it was to make them walk. Have a similar one round the arm to give force in throwing the spear and waddy. They have regular beaten paths, and a mutton fish shell at their watering places to drink out of.
30 April
Remained with the natives, obtaining words for a vocabulary. Cooked some perch and rock cod for breakfast. With great difficulty persuaded the natives to partake of some. 
1 May
Started for town with two men. Strong head wind and with considerable labour reached Hobart at 7 pm. Took with me some waddies and native baskets. The native basket is made of rushes or a species of grass called iris. In preparing them for use they place the same on a slow fire which gives them a tenacity that enables the manufacturer to twist them into threads. These are plaited together and then formed into a basket which in shape is somewhat semiglobular. The waddy is an offensive weapon used by the natives. It is about eighteen inches long and an inch and a half in diameter, of a straight spiral form and made of a species of hardwood called she-oak. They are remarkably dextrous in using this missile and seldom fail to hit their object. The natives are also very expert in throwing stones.
14 May
Removed to the new establishment at Isthmus Bay. Travelled across from Barnes Bay over rocks and through thick brushwood. Found the brig unloading the bricks; also Joe an aborigine and his family. The two men that I had placed here a fortnight before had been employed in erecting a hut. Richardson left here today in the Cyprus. This morning read to the prisoners of the crown regulations for their observance. Also transmitted to the whalers, Messrs Kelly and Lucas and Messrs Young and Walford, at Trumpeter Bay and Bull Bay letters requesting them not to allow their men to interfere with the natives. [59]
15 May
Men employed in erecting a hut, burning scrub. Hitherto my time has been occupied in superintending the prisoners and in conversation with the natives. Have obtained upwards of sixty words as a groundwork for the vocabulary. Morley the wife of the aborigine Joe much afflicted. Her lamentations arc most melancholy.
16 May
Men employed in erecting the hut. Morley no better. Gave her a blanket. Anointed the children with sulphur ointment.
17 May [Sunday]
Read the scriptures; felt much comfort in the Acts of the Apostles. Joe went in pursuit of game and in about an hour returned with two wallabies. They skin their animals with shell or a piece of glass bottle. They are very fond of the entrails which they eat half raw.
18 May
At 8 am visited the aboriginal family, Joe and Morley and two children. Morley evidently much worse; appeared in a dying state and looked wishfully at me as if anxious for me to afford her relief. Alas, I knew not how to relieve her. Enquired of her husband the cause of her being sick: said MERYDY BYDAY LIDINY LOOMERDAY (sick head, breast and belly). On each of those parts incisions had been made with a piece of glass bottle. The forehead was much lacerated, the blood streaming down her face. Her whole frame was wasted; she had a ghastly appearance, appeared in dreadful agony. Her husband was much affected, frequently shed tears. Indeed this man's affection, both to his wife and children, was very striking: in civilised society he would be termed a good husband and kind parent. Made her some tea. Could not bear the afflicting scene; retired to my quarters. The husband soon followed me, his cheeks wet with tears. Said LEUBERER LOWGERNER UNNEE (his wife asleep by the fire). Stopped about half an hour. Made some tea for his children. Asked him if he would take his LEUBERER any. Said 'tea kangaroo PARMATTER LINENER NO OILLY', meaning that his wife could not take any food. In about half an hour I met him coming to my quarters with his children, blankets, kangaroo skins etc. At about 100 yards distant I saw a large fire and it immediately occurred to me that his wife was dead and that the fire was the funeral pile of his deceased wife. I asked him where his LEUBERER was and he said LEUBERER LOGERNER UNNEE (dead in the fire). Walked to the spot. The wind had driven the fire from the legs, which were quite exposed. The stench was intolerable. On again visiting the spot the fire had burnt out but the body remained, unconsumed. It had been placed in a sitting posture. Whilst ruminating on the mortality which had taken place amongst this tribe within the short space of one month - three had died, two of whom were the wives of the aborigine Joe - I was interrupted in my reverie by the husband of the deceased who requested I would assist him in getting WEE (wood) for the purpose of consuming the body. My feelings were particularly excited by this mandate, an office of all others I never could have conceived I should have been called upon to assist in. [60] Fearful lest my refusal should give offence and being anxious for the termination of this melancholy business ere the circumstance became known to the prisoners belonging to the establishment, I afforded an unwilling assistance.
26 May 
Busily engaged in carrying on improvements, conversing with the natives, writing letters &c. Joe very ill. How ridiculous we make ourselves appear when we are only partially acquainted with a language. An instance of this occurred today. Joe called to me to come to his assistance. I found him very weak. He said, 'Mr Robinson TAGGERER WEE Joe TY'. I supposed him to mean that I was to collect WEE (wood) to consume his body when dead and I began to encourage him and said, 'Joe, TIME ME die' (no die). Part of his meaning was made apparent by his little girl coming with a stick to assist him to walk. In the course of the day one of the children evacuated. I immediately asked, 'What name?'; said name TY. The request of this poor man occurred to me, namely, that I was to get him a stick to assist him to walk out for the purpose of evacuation. I certainly was glad of the information as it enabled me to know in case of sickness the state of their body. On another occasion hearing the children repeatedly crying LY or E.LY, and seeing the parents give them water, I concluded that ERY or E.LY meant drink; and used the word in that sense. I soon found they knew not my meaning.
27 May
One of the prisoners scalded his foot. Much perplexed with the behaviour of the convicts. Said they ought to be attended to as well as the natives and whether their company was not as good as the natives, thought themselves better than the natives, all I cared for was the natives, &c. Joe extremely ill: these people appear very impatient of pain. This man had made several deep incisions in his body with a view to afford relief. It is universally believed amongst the aborigines that their afflictions are caused by RAEGEOWRAPPER (devil or evil spirit), and they imagine by inflicting wounds on the parts affected that a mitigation of pain will follow. Have obtained one hundred and fifteen words towards the vocabulary. Can make myself tolerably well understood in their vernacular tongue. [61]
30 May
The prisoners of the establishment allowed this day to themselves as an encouragement to labour. In a conversation with the aborigines respecting the workmanship of their baskets, I observed that they were inferior to the manufacture of the up-country natives. The natives caught several opossums. They can track opossums through the bush and tell the tree it ascends, the opossum in ascending leaving a small scratch on the bark. One of the aborigines performed an operation upon the sick man's throat by cutting it with a glass bottle. The aptness of these people to descry objects at a distance is astonishing: on one occasion they observed a boat and told me whose it was, when my sight required the assistance of a glass. They are also remarkable for their aptitude in tracking persons or animals through the bush, and are excellent guides. I observed them knock off the fungus from the gum tree, which they eat. It has the appearance of wood and has a sweet flavour not unlike mushroom. The natives call it NINGHL There is another sort of fungus belonging to the same tree but which they do not eat, called TUVARA. There is also another sort of fungus which belongs to the she-oak, resembling sponge, of which they also eat. At 5 pm Andrew Ryan with a party of constables arrived at the establishment. Said they were in pursuit of runaways.
31 May [Sunday]
At 11 am performed divine service in the natives' hut. Four of the prisoners attended. Preached to the aborigines in their own tongue. Part of the sermon - MOTTI (one) NYRAE (good) PARLERDI (God) MOTTI (one) NOVILLY (bad) RAEGEWROPPER (devil). PARLERDI (God) NYRAE (good). PARLERDI (God) MAGGERER (stop) WARRANGELLY (sky), RAEGEWROPPER (devil) MAGGERER (stop) TOOGENNER (below) UENEE (fire). NYRAE (good) PARLERWAR (native) LOGERNER (dead) TAGGERER (go) TEENNY (road) LAWWAY (up) WARRANGELLY (sky) PARLERDI (God) NYRAE (good) RAEGE (whiteman) etc, etc. NOVILLY (bad) PARLERWAR (native) LOGERNER (dead) TAGGERER (go) TEENNY (road) TOOGUNNER (below) RAEGEWROPPER (devil) UENEE (fire) MAGGERER (stop) UENEE (fire).
The sick aborigine Joe requested a fire outside the hut, to which he was anxious to be carried. He did not survive long. I was busy in my hut when the groans of this man ceased, and with them the noise of the other natives. A solemn stillness prevailed. My apprehensions became excited. I went out. He had just expired. The natives were seated around their fire and some were employed in twisting grass. They then bent the legs back against the thighs and bound them tight round with the twisted grass. Each arm was bent together and bound round above the elbow. A funeral pile was then made by placing a quantity of dry wood at the bottom, upon which they laid some dry bark. They then placed more wood raising it to about two feet six inches above the ground. A quantity of dry bark was then laid upon the top upon which they placed the corpse, arching the whole over with dry wood. The men and women assisted in kindling the fire, after which they left the fire and did not approach the spot any more that day. Next morning I went with them to see the remains and found one of the dogs eating a part unconsumed. The remains were then collected and burnt. I wished them to have burnt his body on the same spot where his wife's had been consumed, but whether it was on account of the trouble or from superstitious motive I know not, they did not seem at all willing. [62] I did not therefore urge it. After the body was burnt the ashes were scraped together and a quantity of grass and sticks laid over them. They seemed to have a presentiment of the approach of death: his wife requested to have a fire made in a fresh place and in a few hours afterwards she expired; this man made the same request, two hours after which he expired.
In the death of this man the establishment has sustained a severe loss. He was kind and humane and remarkably affectionate to his children. For probity and veracity he was unequalled. I could place the fullest confidence in him and never did he betray that confidence. But, alas, he is no more. Death has done his office upon him. Would to God he had died in the faith of Jesus Christ. I feel very sorrowful at this dispensation. These rude and uninstructed natives leave behind them a monument far superior to the stately mausoleum of the proud and arrogant. The convicts mourn on account of him: 'Sir, said one, I feel very sorry; I liked him because he was affectionate; I remember giving him bread and he gave it first to his children'. He has left two interesting children, a boy and a girl, to deplore his loss, one of whom, the boy, was sucking at the breast at the time of the mother's death; the girl was about four years of age. I took occasion to converse with the natives on the circumstance of this man's death and that of his wives, but they told me they did not like to speak on the subject. I asked them where they went to after death. One said to England. I scarcely credited what I heard. I asked the question again, when they all replied that they went to England, that there was plenty of PARLEVAR in England. I lament that so many years have been suffered to glide by without any attempt having been made to ameliorate their condition and instruct them in the true faith. [...] [63]
2 June .
Separated the orphan aboriginal children from the tribe by placing them in the prisoners' hut. In conversation with the natives. Overheard a discourse amongst the prisoners respecting the object of the establishment: thought it would be a bad job to civilise the natives as it would make work very scarce. Prisoners employed cutting firewood for the government sloop Opossum.
7 June [Sunday]
Conversed with the natives on religious subjects. Learnt that they had some idea of a good spirit whom they called PÁRLLERDÉ, and that he stopped in the sky (WARRANGGELLY).
9 June
Sailed the Opossum. Men putting up a hut for my store. Went out with the natives in the whaleboat to catch fish. The women dive for the mutton fish, an essential part of the native diet. They have a basket made of rushes which they sling over their shoulders, and a small stick sharpened at one end and hardened in the fire, which they hold in their hand. Thus equipped they dive and force the fish from off the rocks by means of the stick. They are excellent divers, keeping under water for a considerable time; they ascend to the surface for a second or so and then dive and continue down until they have filled their baskets.
10 June
Men employed in framing my house. Made some temporary repairs to the boat. The six days the Opossum was here the crew of the vessel caught from ninety to one hundred dozen of fish with hook and line.
11 June
Moving the stores to a temporary hut adjoining that of the prisoners. Natives out getting me oysters. The men catching young kangaroo and opossum for me to take to Hobart Town: brought me an opossum. [64]
7 July
Boat returned with the aborigines, four of whom were dangerously ill and unable to walk without assistance. Issued clothing to the aborigines. Shot some birds for the sick of which they are remarkably fond. Gave them some tea and sugar.
8 July
The aborigine Jack apparently much worse. Apprehensive that he would not survive his complaint, it seeming to bear a similarity to that of which others had died, and being anxious to be confirmed in my opinion I manned my boat and went on board the ship which was aground off the establishment to solicit the opinion of a medical gentleman named Fattorini belonging to the vessel, who was formerly page to Napoleon le Grand. On our return ashore this gentleman, after viewing the dying man, averred his complaint arose in an affection of the lungs and fully concurred with me as to the improbability of his recovery. He further stated that his complaint might have been checked in its early stage by bleeding and that his throat was filled with purulent matter which caused a difficulty of respiration. At 7 pm Jack breathed his last. The usual ceremony was performed and his body committed to the flames. The wife of the deceased, when life was extinct, sang a song of mournful lamentation which lasted about half an hour.
I must not omit to state that in the early part of the day I went on board the Prince Regent accompanied by two of the most intelligent females under my charge, who were received by their own sex with a degree of politeness which their unpolished natures could not comprehend. The pleasure, however, seemed to be mutual. The ladies at first exclaimed at the beauty of the boys, for so they considered them. But when an explanation ensued on my part and their true gender was made known, their feminine sensibility could not endure the striking contrast; and as if apprehensive that pollution might follow this development of unsophisticated nature or beauty unadorned, they flew to their wardrobe and equipped their visitors in a style not plain but gaudy, not as a country maid but in silk and satins, after the manner of a drawing-room belle at the west end of the metropolis. Of course my companions were highly pleased at this their metamorphosis, but holding no sense of value I thought it best to take the first opportunity of substituting some Maria Island manufacture, which is more durable and more suited to their habits, to which they offered no objection. [65]
9 July
Monsieur Fattorini paid me another visit accompanied by Mr Allan, who was formerly Commissary-General at Sydney, and two of his sons. Mr Allan expressed his opinion that the aborigines of this colony had been much misrepresented and that as far as his observation went he considered them a tractable and intelligent race, and that the system now adopted towards them would be attended with the greatest success.
The aborigines appeared greatly affected at the dire mortality which had taken place amongst their tribe and consequently showed a reluctance to remain in this abode which they had previously occupied. They therefore requested that the position of their habitation might be altered - for they were led to leave a place where sickness existed and always when there had been a death, supposing it was some evil spirit had caused the malady - to which I acceded and went through the necessary labour. I have not failed upon all occasions by endeavouring to persuade the aborigines of the existence of an Almighty Power to remove all superstitious prejudices, of which this appears to be one. In the course of my rounds this day I observed a sick aborigine busily engaged in folding up a small portion of the ashes of a deceased, which she tied round with grass and enclosed in a piece of kangaroo skin with the fur turned inwards, and then sewed it tightly together. She possessed herself of two of these relics, one of which she gave to her husband who was also in a sickly condition. I am of opinion that the aborigines hold these relics as a charm and not from any respect to the deceased, as I observed that the sick woman before alluded to girded them about the part which seemed most afflicted. I had observed upon a former occasion this extra appendage but never till now was I aware of the cause.
At 7 pm, it being then dark, I was dreadfully alarmed by a horrid yell which threw the whole of the establishment into a temporary consternation. I immediately repaired to the spot from whence the noise proceeded and was agreeably surprised to find an accession of nine aborigines, consisting of three women, three men and three children who had travelled overland from Port Davey to join their friends here. The joy exhibited on both sides was unbounded and fully indicative of the affection they felt towards each other. One of them was son to the afflicted persons abovementioned. Provided them with clothing and provision. Was informed that four aborigines, consisting of three women and a boy, had stopped at Port Esperance, and that there was a numerous tribe of aborigines now dwelling at Port Davey.
10 July
Thick hazy weather with rain and squally throughout the whole of the day, with occasional falls of snow. Men busily employed during the week in the erection of my cottage. The late aboriginal corners seem to be perfectly contented with their fresh abode. The raiment provided by government for the use of the females seems well adapted for the purpose: such as want lengthening, the wearers are provided with needles and thread to accomplish. [66] Doctor, one of the sick aborigines heretofore alluded to, I am happy to find is now convalescent.
11 July
The fresh aborigines started back for Port Davey. The craft of these people exceeds all belief. From the satisfied tone of their demeanour I had great reason to hope that they intended sojourning here some time, particularly as some of them came to meet their relatives. I must own I was somewhat disappointed at this occurrence as I had anticipated a strong enforcement to conduct me to Port Davey, as my premeditated object would be thereby greatly facilitated. Having, however, taken care to provide them both with food and raiment whilst they remained, I am led to hope that their report will pave the way to a favourable reception amongst their tribe. In this, however, I trust entirely to a just and omniscient providence.