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Week 45 - Journey's end and new beginnings

[ 25th of December 1836 to 31st of December 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 45: Proclamation and Celebration ]

Christmas Day dawns fine and hot in the settlements, with the colonists in pensive mood.  Inevitably their thoughts turn to friends and family in England as they reflect on the very different circumstances of this first Christmas in South Australia. As usual Mary Thomas is the optimist.  She attends a makeshift church service in the morning, and manages to contrive a plum pudding for dinner, along with a less conventional ham and parrot pie! Some lucky settlers are able to roast a joint of beef, but the Thomas family is not amongst them. Mary’s account of the church service is interesting, since apparently only some 25 of the several hundred at Holdfast Bay attend. Whether this reflects doctrinal differences or simple indifference we cannot tell, but it might prompt us to question the assumed piety of these early South Australians. Most historical sources reflect the views of the privileged few, and leave us to guess what the rest think and feel.

In Rapid Bay Dr Woodforde is depressed. He finds the heat very wearing and to make it worse he is ‘nearly blind’ with An infectious inflammation of the eye. Also called Trachoma or Egyptian Ophthalmia. opthalmia. Like the settlers in Holdfast Bay he is also tormented by the flies, ants and mosquitoes that he cannot keep out of his hut, and is particularly repelled by the blowflies, which actually deposit live maggots on his plate as he is eating.  Not a nice Christmas present! All in all it is a gloomy Dr Woodforde who concludes: ‘and all I have to say is that I sincerely hope my dear friends at home are spending a Merrier Christmas than we are here.  If not I pity them.’

The Buffalo meanwhile is between Wedge and Thistle Islands on Christmas Day. Captain Lipson and family come on board to dine with the Governor, but George Stevenson is once again disgusted by Hindmarsh’s behaviour. ‘Such violence and ruffianism are without parallel, & his profane and abominable oaths have driven all but his own and Mr Howard’s family from the deck to seek refuge from the outrageous profanity in their own cabins.’ We are left wondering what on earth has happened. Over the dinner table that evening Stevenson and Hindmarsh hear more of Samuel Stephens’ doings, and what they hear is not good. He is ‘said to drink to excess’ and his marriage to the sister of ‘a servant under his control’ is also judged ‘injudicious’. ‘[I]f he turns out a drunkard’, Stevenson comments, ‘all is over with him’.  Stevenson decides that he should withhold Stephens’ name from the ‘Commission of Peace …till the truth is known.’ This is a very small community and there is no room for indiscretions!

Early on 28 December the Buffalo finally arrives in Holdfast Bay. Arrangements are swiftly made to administer the necessary oaths of office and the first meeting of the Council is held in Robert Gouger’s tent ‘for the purpose of agreeing upon a Proclamation requiring all to obey the laws and declaring the Aborigines to have equal rights & an equal claim upon the protection of the Government with the white Colonists’. Shortly afterwards, before the assembled settlers, (the ‘largest company we had yet seen in the colony’ Mary Thomas writes,) George Stevenson reads out the commissions and then the Proclamation ‘under a huge gum tree’. The Proclamation is duly printed by Robert Thomas on the The Stanhope Press, held in History SA's collection press brought out on the Africaine. After the raising of the British flag, the marines from the Buffalo fire a ceremonial A rifle salute. In French means “fire of joy”. ‘feu-de-joie’ , followed by ‘loud hurrahs’ and the assembled ladies and gentlemen partake of a ‘cold collation’ in the open air. There are enthusiastic toasts all round and these loyal subjects of King William sing the national anthem, followed by Rule Britannia with great fervour. It is all very satisfactory, although as usual Stevenson adds a tart note. ‘[A]ll might have gone off very well’, he records, ‘had not our Treasurer got brutishly drunk and conducted himself in his usual disgraceful fashion towards every lady & gentleman with whom he came in contact.’ He is not the only one.  The party goes on long after the Governor retires to the Buffalo, with singing and shouting echoing throughout the still night. All in all, it is a night to remember. In a moment of rare good humour, though tinged with irony given what is to come, Governor Hindmarsh leaves the party proclaiming: ‘May the present unanimity continue as long as South Australia exists’.  Mary Thomas records that this  ‘made the plain ring with acclamations’.  We can imagine George Stevenson smirking in disbelief.

Scene: Proclamation of South Australia

The Proclamation of South Australia 1836, c. 1856-1876. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia, 0.893

Not all of our protagonists are present for the festivities.  None of the local Aboriginal people seem to have been invited to attend.  Whether they felt their exclusion we cannot know, but later that night they apparently fired the bush all around.  It ‘burnt grandly’ according to Young Bingham Hutchinson.

Strangely Colonel Light also stays away, recording only: ‘I heard of the Governor’s arrival, but having much to do, had not time to go to Holdfast Bay to meet him.’ It is a curious note and leaves us wondering whether there was more behind it.  But perhaps that thought comes with the benefit of hindsight. For now there seems to be general agreement with the choice of settlement. ‘We were all delighted with the aspect of the country & the rich soil of Holdfast Plains’, George Stevenson records and we are reminded that Light and Hindmarsh are long-time friends.

Harriet Gouger is also absent.  At the very moment that the Council meets in one section of her tent, she lies in the other in the early stages of labour.  Her son is born at 6 am the following morning.  At first everything seems to go well, but two days later Robert Gouger notes in alarm that his wife has been ‘taken seriously ill with symptoms of fever.’ This is an ominous development and we take leave of this little family at a moment of great crisis. How sad if she has travelled to the other side of the world only to die in childbed within two months of arrival.

But there we must leave these little settlements.  Our weekly ‘journey’ is at an end and all nine ships are now safely in Australian waters. As to our correspondents – we have come to know them intimately during their voyages and it will be hard to say goodbye. We know that some will prosper while others will fall by the wayside. We know also that the unanimity and good cheer of the 28 December will soon degenerate into unseemly wrangling and discord. The good intentions of the Proclamation will be forgotten. But for now let us leave them in a moment of optimism and rare idealism as they begin the next phase of their ‘journey of a lifetime’.


Journals from settlers in South Australia:

Sunday 25 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This being Christmas Day and Sunday, Divine Service was held for the first time in the rush hut of the principal surveyor, a short distance from our tents. We attended, taking our seats with us, the signal for assembling being the firing of a gun. The congregation numbered twenty-five persons, including the two gentlemen who conducted the service. The thermometer stood at 100 degrees, and most of those assembled were in the open air.

In the afternoon we took a walk round the lagoon, and saw a large iguana basking in the sun. It was about three feet long, in form like a lizard, with a long pointed tail and of a beautiful light brown, in some parts approaching to gold colour. It observed us, but made no attempt to escape, and seemed perfectly harmless. This was the first reptile of any kind we had seen since our landing, but an iguana and some other smaller animals of the kind were brought on board the Africaine. A man told me that he had killed a black snake four feet in length. I also heard of another having been seen, but they did not appear to be numerous.

We kept up the old custom of Christmas as far as having a plum pudding for dinner, likewise a ham and a parrot pie, but one of our neighbours, as we afterwards found, had a large piece of roast beef, though we were not aware at the time that any fresh meat was to be had in the colony, and that, I believe, was partly salted. The fact was, when we landed at Glenelg, one of the passengers of the Africaine took charge of Captain Duff’s cow and calf, and the former, which had been tied to a tree near the lagoon, got over the bank and fell in, being so much injured that it was found expedient to kill her. Thus some of the colonists were supplied with their Christmas beef.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 25 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Light winds & fine. S.E. Working to windwd
between Wedge isle & Thistle isle. Performed Di-
-vine Service on deck. P.M. Do Wr. Wind South. At 2
Captn Lipson & family came to dine with the Governor.
Light winds & fine. Working to the N.E. end of Wedge island.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 25 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Christmas Day, clear, cloudless & beautiful; with the
thermometer at 68 Thoroughly disgusted with the conduct of the Governor
to-day. Such violence & ruffianism are without parallel, & his profane &
abominable oaths have driven all but his own & Mr Howard’s family
from the deck to seek refuge from the outrageous profanity in their own cabins.
Waiting for the Cygnet to come alongside with Capt Lipson’s family to
dinner. This is pushing on with a vengeance! The jaw of a remarkably
large shark brought on board It measured when extended six feet four
inches in circumference. The length of the animal was 19 feet. Its
liver alone yielded 25 gallons of oil & the weight altogether was estimated
at little less than five tons: it was taken in Nepean Bay.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Sunday 25 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Christmas Day. Reminds us of Old England and our friends warming their knees by a rousing fire, with all other Christmas comforts. Here we are broiling under a sun nearly vertical and half of us nearly blind with An infectious inflammation of the eye. Also called Trachoma or Egyptian Ophthalmia. Opthalmia which I hear from the Sealers who visit this Coast always prevails during the Summer months. It is very distressing and of the purulent kind. The small flies, which when living in the tents were maddening, are, I am happy to say, much less troublesome in the huts, but the large disgusting blow-fly is very active, actually depositing living maggots on the plate you are eating off and making no distinction between fresh meat and the salt ship provisions. One of our sheep, the first, was killed last night after sunset and my ration which was served out at 6 this morning altho’ carefully wrapped in a towel was actually crawling by 10 and it has taken me nearly an hour to wash it. Nothing worthy of mention has occurred this last week with the exception of the days when I brave the heat and sally forth with my gun. My time is passed principally within my hut reading etc. The whale-boat left here by Captain Light which was to have been such a source of comfort, has, on the contrary, created disappointment, as we have had no success whatever among the finny tribe. Our dinner today (that is Jacob’s and mine) will consist of the above named piece of mutton, some parrots and pigeons, killed, plucked and cleaned by me and a plum pudding made by Jacob, and all I have to say is that I sincerely hope my dear friends at home are spending a Merrier Christmas than we are here. If not, I pity them.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 26 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This day was extremely hot. The thermometer rose to 120 degrees, the highest point we had yet seen it attain, and that in the shade, at least, in the tent, where it was generally hot, but I afterwards saw it at 150 degrees, exposed to the sun.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 26 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Mr Lipson has made a very unfavorable report of
the conduct of Mr Stephens who is said to drink to excess. He has it seems
married at sea the sister of a Carpenter in the Company’s employ! This
was a most injudicious step inasmuch as it must necessarily connect him too
closely with a servant under his control & therefore injure his status in
society as Manager; but if he turns out a drunkard all is over with
him. How our good friend Mr Angas has been deceived in his estimate
of this young man! He prepared me to expect some peculiarities, but was
convinced of his steadiness & good intentions. That there have been many
quarrels between him & his men is too true. It is said he has established a
public house, & cannot get the man to whom he gave the direction out
of it since he has displeased him. I had suggested that Mr Stephens
name should be in the Commission of Peace, which was intended. It
is now to be withheld till the truth of all this is known.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 27 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

We have been beating between Althorp & Kangaroo
Islands for the last two days without making much progress; but the
wind this morning became fair & we are now proceeding. There was a great
fire made on the shores of Kangaroo Island yesterday evening, & it
occurred to me that if the poor fellows reported lost from the Africaine had
really made the coast, this might be a signal from them. I mentioned this
to the Captain whose humane answer was “Oh they are dead long ago!”
Mr Lipson however, seems to have coincided with me, for during the
night he put off from the Cygnet to endeavour to ascertain what it
was; but unfortunately he could not land owing to it having fallen
calm. His opinion is that as there are no natives on the island it may
have been the unfortunate persons alluded to; & that it would be
desirable to take the first opportunity to explore the spot. Why this was
not done at once, I leave the Captain to explain. The chance of saving
the lives of two human beings was surely as well worth losing time for,
as the delay to pick up a cur overboard, or getting a lathe finished
or a dressing table made.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 27 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Sunday last was Christmas Day! What a temperature to regale on plum-pudding! nevertheless we did so! In the morning we attended prayers read by Mr Kingston, with a sermon on “The Birth of Christ”, but the congregation did not exceed 30 persons! Yesterday was oppressively hot: in the hut the thermometer stood at 86E – in the tent, under the inner covering 104E & under the outer covering 116E.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 27 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This Morng our large black Sow, was
found dead near the Tents, She had been shot in the
left shoulder apparently with a Ball, by some Person
unknown, this Sow was heavy in young, there being 8 fine
Pigs nearly full grown, found inside of the poor Animal, —
Likewise One of our white Sows has recd a severe wound
behind the left shoulder during the Forenoon, which has been
done by a Spear or other Weapon of that Sort  _______
All the Swine were housed last Night, except the black Sow,
which we could not find.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

The following was published in The Observer, January 2, 1858, on the occasion of the colony having attained its majority. A festival was held at Glenelg on December 18, 1857, to commemorate the event:-

From the diary of Mrs. Robert Thomas, written the day after the Proclamation, December 28, 1836 :-

This was a proud and, I hope, will be a happy day for South Australia. Early in the morning it was announced that the Buffalo had arrived from Port Lincoln, accompanied by the Cygnet, which had gone thither to escort the Governor, Captain Hindmarsh, to Holdfast Bay. This made us all alive, and soon after Mr. Thomas received notice to attend at the tent of Mr. Gouger, the Colonial Secretary, where His Excellency the Governor was expected to be at 3 o’clock to read his Commission and Note: Mary is not correct in this. The colony was created in England by the Letters Patent and the South Australian Act. proclaim the colony. Mr. Thomas then went to the Company’s store and soon returned with a request that he would procure a ham, as Mr. Gilbert was not provided with one, which was done, and a fine Hampshire ham was dressed for the occasion. It was also requested that we would prepare ourselves to meet the procession, as all who could were expected to attend. We went accordingly, and found assembled the largest company we had yet seen in the colony, probably two hundred persons.

The Governor’s Private Secretary read the Proclamation under a huge gumtree, a flag was hoisted, a party of marines from the Buffalo fired a A rifle salute. In French means “fire of joy”. feu-de-joie, and loud hurrahs succeeded. A cold collation, of which we partook, followed in the open air.

The Governor was very affable, shaking hands with the colonists and congratulating them on having such a fine country. After the repast he mounted on a chair and gave the first toast, “The King,” which was received with three times three, and followed by the National Anthem, led by Mr. Gilles. The old royal appellation of “George ” was so natural to Englishmen, after four successive reigns of Kings of that name, that it was forgotten at the moment that a “William” was now on the throne, and the first line was sung as formerly, “God save great George, our King,” which excited a smile. Yet I believe that William the Fourth has not more loyal subjects throughout his wide dominions than those who were there assembled to welcome the arrival of the first Governor of South Australia. The health of His Excellency was then proposed and drunk with loud and universal cheering, followed by “Rule, Britannia.” Then “Mrs. Hindmarsh and the Ladies ” was proposed by Mr. Gilbert, and also received great applause, as did several other toasts.

The Governor then gave the following:- “May the present unanimity continue as long as South Australia exists,” which made the plain ring with acclamations. At about 5 o’clock His Excellency and lady departed to the ship, and some officers and others followed in another boat. They all seemed highly delighted with our village, as I may call it, consisting now of about forty tents and huts, though scattered about without any regularity. Everyone fixed his present abode wherever he wished, knowing it would not be of long duration. We took coffee in Mr. Kingston’s hut, and returned home about 7 o’clock.

The evening, as well as the day and the preceding one, was very hot, and the night continued so, insomuch that it was impossible to sleep, the thermometer having been sometimes upwards of 100 degrees in the tent. It seemed as if some of the colonists did not even go to bed, for we heard singing and shouting from different parties at intervals till long after daylight. Here I may remark that from the exceeding stillness of the night, except when the wind disturbed the trees near us, we could distinctly hear almost every sound that occurred, though at a considerable distance.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Mode & fine. 7. Sent a boat on shore
to the settlement in Holdfast bay. 10. Anchor’d
in Holdfast bay in 7 A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fms . Noon. Light winds & fine.
P.M. Do Wr. At 2 His Excellency Governor Hindmarsh
accompanied by the Colonial & Naval Officers land-
-ed. The Ship was dressed in all her colours, & fired
a royal salute, & His Majesty’s commission to
the Governor having been read, a A rifle salute. In French means “fire of joy”. feu-de-joie was
fired by the Marine guard of Honour, when the
English Ensign of St George was hoisted. The
Governor’s Proclamation was then read, after which
His Majesty’s & His Excellency’s healths were drunk
with great enthusiasm. The sailors then began
to get pretty drunk, so that we had great dif-
-iculty to get on board, many staying behind.
The natives set fire to the woods, which burnt grandly.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

The wind continued favorable during the night, &
this morning we came to an anchor in Holdfast Bay, lying due west of Mount
Lofty & now about thirteen miles to the southward of the intended harbour.
Mr Gouger came on board with a Mr Kingston one of the surveyors & gladdened
us with the intelligence of splendid land, plenty of fresh water, & the prospect
of an excellent location….
It was determined to go ashore to day & read
the Governor’s Commission &c, & preparations to land were made. At
½ past one we left the Buffalo – the Governor, Fisher, myself & our families
in one boat, the Treasurer, Chaplain & others in a second, & about 20 marines
in a third besides the officers of the ship. The Council met in Gouger’s tent,
where the orders in Council & Commission were read & the oaths to the
Governor & members of Council were administered. The Commission
was afterwards read by me to the settlers of whom about 200 were present.
A royal salute to the British Flag was fired & a A rifle salute. In French means “fire of joy”. feu-de-joie by the marines.
Afterwards the Buffalo saluted the Governor with 15 guns. A cold collation
was prepared in the open air of which the party partook; & all might have
gone off very well had not our Treasurer got brutishly drunk and
conducted himself in his usual disgraceful fashion towards every
lady & gentleman with whom he came in contact. We were all delighted
with the aspect of the country & the rich soil of Holdfast Plains: Mount
Lofty & the hills before us are wooded to the very summits 1500 feet at
least above the level of the sea. On the plains there are numerous splendid
trees of the eucalyptus species: the Banksia  rosa marinafolia was in
great beauty. We found the pea, butter cup, the camomile daisy, and
geranium, the flax plant, the kangaroo grass in great abundance.
The parrots & parroquets were very numerous. In a short walk we started
several covies of quail, & from a specimen shot there does not appear any
difference between it & the European variety. Nothing in fact can be
richer than the soil: I have seen the Pickaway plains of Ohio & traversed the
Prairies of Illinois & Indiana, but the best of them are not to be compared
to the richness of Holdfast Plains . . .

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

This morning, on going as usual to let out my goats, I saw 2 large Ships entering the Bay, which proved to be the “Buffalo” (bringing the Governor & other officers) & the “Cygnet” from Port Lincoln. Before 8 o’clk a messenger arrived at my tent requiring my attendance on board. I found His Excellency & the whole party in good health & spirits, & full of hope & ardour to commence their Colonial career. After some consultation it was decided that the Governor & emigrants should land here at once, & that in the course of the day, the necessary oaths should be taken & the Governor’s commission read. At 3 o’clk the Marines from the “Buffalo” were drawn up in a line, & the whole of the Colonists assembled in front of my tent. Before however reading the commission in public, I took the necessary oaths of office, & as senior Member of Council present, I administered to the Governor the oaths of office. We then held a Council in my tent for the purpose of agreeing upon a Proclamation requiring all to obey the laws & declaring the Aborigines to have equal rights & an equal claim upon the protection of the Government with the white Colonists. The Commission was then read in public, a A rifle salute. In French means “fire of joy”. “feu-de-joie” was fired by the Marines, the white ensign hoisted, & a salute fired by the ships. The Proclamation having been read, the meeting adjourned to Mr Kingston’s tent, where a cold dinner was provided for such as chose to partake of it, & the festivities were kept up unto a late hour. Rapidly as my heart beat on this occasion – an occasion to which, during the years I had devoted to the prosecution of the enterprise, I sometimes dared to anticipate and rejoice in; I was not suffered long to bestow even one thought upon it.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

I have been Out all this Day looking
for the Mare, accompd by 3 of our own Men, and 2 other
Persons who volunteer’d, we went in two different directions
towards the foot of the Mountains, but have not been success-
-ful  —  During last Night one of our white Sows
litterd 8 Pigs, and the So Down Ewe brought forth
a fine strong Ewe lamb, all of which are doing well —
About Noon of this Day the Ship Buffalo anchor’d
in Hold fast Bay. She has on board “Capt Hindmarsh”
Governor &c, &c, &c.   _____________

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

l left the ship and pitched my tent near Mr Kingston’s at the side of the river. I heard of the Governor’s arrival, but having much to do, had not time to go to Holdfast Bay and meet him.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Wednesday 28 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Our conjectures with regard to the ship yesterday were strengthened this morning by hearing distant guns, as of a salute given and returned in the direction of the settlement, and we have come to the conclusion that the Governor is safely arrived and that his salute was returned by the land battery brought by the “Tam O’ Shanter”. I have been shooting all day and have killed nearly five brace of quails which is considered as excellent sport, but in my opinion the best of the sport is in the eating. Our life here is exceedingly monotonous and uninteresting as we are completely debarred from news. We are all very anxious to remove to Holdfast Bay.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 29 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

The commission had hardly left my tent yesterday when the doctor was called in attendance upon my wife, who this morning at 6 o’clk gave the New Province a son! I say “gave the Province a son” for he is claimed by the Governor as his God-son, as being the first child born in the Colony, after the Establishment of the Government.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 29 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

I have been out twice after a flock of “Cape Barron” geese which have been in our neighbourhood this morning, but it appears they have learnt a wholesome fear of man as it was impossible to get within shot of them. We killed a sheep last night which turned out better than the first. We had the leg roasted today and a better dinner I have not made since I left England. Our garden produced us an excellent salad which with a dish of tolerable potatoes made us one of those feasts which come “few and far between”.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 30 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Wife & child both going on well. —  A meeting of the legislature was held in my tent, at which two acts were passed – one establishing Courts of general & petty sessions, & another fixing the qualification of Jurors. Some Magistrates were also appointed at the meeting.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 30 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

The Mare was searchd for Yestdy
again in vain, but this Forenoon I accompd by 2 of our
Men found her in an excellent pasture about 6 Miles
from this place, by the bottom of the Mountains, and
improved in her condition   ___   During this Eveng our
Colnl Manager, Sml Stephens Esqr, arrd here from
Kangaroo Island & acompd by a Mr Stewart  ____

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 31 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

Moderate. & fine. S.W. Morphett rode,
Strangways & I walked up to the intended city of
Adelaide. Walked back again: got on board at 9.30.P.M.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Saturday 31 December 1836

[, who arrived in South Australia on board the wrote.]

My wife taken seriously ill with symptoms of fever!

[ Read the full journal extract ]


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9 Responses to “Week 45 – Journey’s end and new beginnings”

  1. Hilary January 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    I have really enjoyed reading this blog week by week, sorry to see it go. I didn’t ever learn much SA history at school and I love to learn the local history. Look forward to any further updates there might be.

  2. Chester Schultz January 6, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Congratulations on an excellent resource. I hope it stays online for a long time. The less familiar journal extracts in particular have given me new information about the movements of characters like George Bates who feature in my own research.

    I gather that the phrase ‘one week to go’ in the title is wrong, & you have actually finished.
    What a pity, then, that you’ve missed an extraordinary incident at Holdfast Bay on New Year’s Day 1837, recorded in the journal kept jointly by George & Margaret Stevenson. I think of it as a thought-provoking companion to Hindmarsh’s proclamation four days earlier, & an appendix to the role play developed by DECS to give students some understanding of the Aboriginal side of this history.

    On 1st January 1837 the family of Emigration Agent John Brown introduced Stevenson to a 25-year-old Kaurna man named “Ootinai”. Stevenson dressed him in the colourful military castoffs brought for such purposes, took him on board the ‘Buffalo’, & served him lunch in the Governor’s cabin with some of the other passengers. Young & charismatic, he “created a great sensation among the people on board”, & showed no surprise at anything. Though he spoke no English, he managed it all with great aplomb, right down to knife & fork. After the meal, two of Hindmarsh’s daughters played the piano which had served for musical soirees throughout the voyage; but it was only when Mr Hutchinson played the flute that Ootinai for the first time broke his cool. With Stevenson’s permission, “seizing” the ship’s paymaster Eales & also the rather prim & class-conscious Margaret Stevenson, he “began kicking and dancing with all his might”.

    We can only guess what Ootinai thought they & he were doing –peace protocols with a strange & potentially dangerous people, maybe?

    On January 3rd he returned to his tribe in company with Brown’s servant James Cronk, “whom he desired to take his gun, promising that he should bring back a kangaroo”. Cronk eventually became one of the early official interpreters, replacing the frequently drunk Kangaroo Islander, Cooper.

    The shipboard dance was a distillation of this early ‘honeymoon’ period of contact with the Kaurna people. As we have seen on your site, Dr Woodforde had played a melody on his flute in response to a corroboree by the Rapid Bay Aborigines on October 14th, though he did not dance. William Williams had brought in a Kaurna man & boy to Glenelg on December 1st & given them food, as recorded by Mary Thomas & Gouger. Joint dancing happened at similar stages of early contact in the eastern states (see Inga Clendinnen’s book ‘Dancing With Strangers’).

    These reciprocal things could happen only until the locals became aware that the strangers had a non-negotiable intention to stay, bring more people, & take over the land.
    What might have happened if Stevenson & Brown had responded to Ootinai with serious protocols? What prevented them from either recognizing or responding?
    How can we today ‘dance’ actually or symbolically with local Aboriginal people in a way which has more of a future than Margaret’s dance with Ootinai?

    Ootinai’s name was probably Ngutinai (Kaurna words never begin with ‘oo’, but almost all the early colonists failed to catch ‘ng’ when it happened at the beginning of a word).

    The incident is now commemorated by a plaque on Ngutinilla Reserve at Glenelg. Ngutinilla means ‘place of Ngutinai’.
    It has sometimes been confused with a separate incident at Port Adelaide when Ityamaiitpinna (‘King Rodney’) was lured on board a ship & dressed up.

    It is also the central event & symbol of my short music-theatre ‘Dancing Ngutinai’, written with protocols from local Aboriginal Elders & premiered in 2002.

    Well done, all of you who researched & built the site.
    Chester Schultz.
    ………………

  3. Family Lawyers Melbourne December 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Great story.

  4. David Donaldson December 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    As Colonial Secretary, Gouger intended “a Proclamation requiring all to obey the laws & declaring the Aborigines to have equal rights & an equal claim upon the protection of the Government”, but even on that first day, Mary Thomas diarised that it was to “proclaim the colony”. She cannot have listened very carefully!

    For printing out the document on the day, the type setter had used a layout which could lead a hasty reader to see “Proclamation …of South Australia”. Evidently, it is that visual rendering of the heading, rather than the actual text of what Stevenson read out, that has become fixed in the public mind ever since. A case of the Medium becoming the Message, perhaps.

    On 18 December 2011, the Sunday Mail in Adelaide reproduced the painting by Charles Hill entitled, ‘The Proclamation of South Australia’, without noting that the painting was done many years after the day. The newspaper remarked, correctly enough, that Gouger’s document “became known as the Proclamation of South Australia” but did not go on to make explicit the error in that label and in the title of the painting.

    The (convenient) misunderstanding having been perpetuated for, it seems, 175 years, there may be little hope now of anyone actually reading the Proclamation itself and taking out its actual meaning. How very South Australian of us.

    • Allison December 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Thanks for pointing this out. If people are interested in reading the document, it is on the website: the Proclamation

  5. Pamela Jones December 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    What a wonderful series: a great accomplishment. Thanks so much.

    • Allison December 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

      Thank you! It has been a big undertaking to put the site together each week, but well worth the effort!

  6. Peter Williams December 26, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Congratulations to all those involved in presenting this online tour de force. What a wonderful way to present our history.

    • Allison December 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      Thanks, Peter.

      We’re delighted that people have enjoyed the blog – its an interesting way of discovering history, one week at a time!

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