Willemering

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Willemering

Willemering was an Aboriginal doctor or 'clever man' from the Garagal (Caregal or Karegal) at Broken Bay, north of Sydney. Willemering was a protagonist in a crucial cross-cultural event in Australia's early colonial history when Governor Arthur Phillip was speared meeting Bennelong at Kayeemy (Manly Cove), for the first time after Bennelong's escape from captivity four months earlier.

The spearing of Governor Phillip

[media]Judge Advocate David Collins, who accompanied the governor on that day, 7 September 1790, later wrote: 'The cove was full of natives allured by the attractions of a whale feast'. After greeting and talking with Bennelong and Colebee, the English party saw that 20 or 30 armed Aboriginal men had encircled them. As the English edged back towards their boat, Bennelong introduced an older 'stout corpulent native' to Phillip, who, continued Collins:

…lifted a spear from the grass with his foot, and fixing it on his throwing-stick, in an instant darted it at the governor. The spear entered a little above the collar bone, and had been discharged with such force that the barb of it came through on the other side.

Collins named the spearman as 'the car-rah-dy Wil-le-me-ring'. [1]

He had picked up the long wooden spear 'barbed and pointed with hardwood' that Bennelong had placed on the ground after refusing to give it to Phillip. [2]

Willemering the carradigan

'Wil-le-me-ring - - - the man who threw ye spear' appears in a vocabulary of the Sydney Language kept by Governor Arthur Phillip and his aides. Car-rah-dy, and the plural Car-rah-di-gan, were defined in the same manuscript as 'a person skilled in treating wounds'. [3] In his second language notebook Lieutenant William Dawes recorded 'Karádigán - - - Doctor. They call our Surgeons by this name.' [4]

But the carradigan (called karadji or koradgee in neighbouring Aboriginal languages), were not simply healers or 'medicine men', as Collins realised. 'I think I may term the car-rah-dy their high priest of superstition', he wrote, pointing to their ceremonial role in removing teeth during initiation ceremonies. [5]

In later years, from wider fieldwork and study, the Australian anthropologist AP Elkin classed karajdis as 'men of high degree'— sorcerers with secret-sacred knowledge, who had the power to cure wounds and illness, make rain, kill by chanting, conduct inquests and take part in revenge expeditions. [6]

Identifying the culprit

There was at first some confusion about the identity of the man who wounded the governor. The following day, according to Watkin Tench, 'three Indians' standing on a rock at Manly Cove said he 'belonged to a tribe residing at Broken Bay'. [7] Nanbarry, acting as an interpreter, gave the name of 'a man, or a tribe' called Caregal, at, or near Broken Bay. [8] On 14 September Chaplain Johnson and Lieutenant Dawes learned from 'two Indians' at Manly through Boorong (Abaroo) that the culprit was 'Wil-ee-ma-rin'. [9]

The next morning several officers, including Surgeon John White and Commissary John Palmer, with Nanbarry and Boorong, met Bennelong and his wife Barangaroo on the north shore. Bennelong asked if Governor Phillip was dead and, when told that he was not, promised to come to see him at Sydney Cove. Bennelong, said Collins, 'made many attempts to fix a belief that he had beaten him [Willemering] severely for the aggression'. [10]

Boorong's brother Ballooderry (Leatherjacket Fish), outlawed for spearing a convict, was brought into Sydney Town suffering from a fever. On the morning of 15 December 1790, a carradhy (probably Willemering) 'came express from the north shore'. He put his mouth to Ballooderry's body, writhed and seemed to be in great pain and finally spat out a bone about four centimetres long. Despite this treatment Ballooderry's fever increased. He soon died and was buried in the governor's garden near Tubowgulle (Bennelong Point). [11]

Bennelong returns

On 29 December 1790 Bennelong returned to the governor's house from the north shore with his wife Barangaroo after an absence of ten days. 'He said he had been with a great number of the Cammeragals, and they had drawn the front tooth from several young men'. He proudly showed Phillip a womera (throwing stick) cut solely to remove teeth. It seemed, wrote Phillip, that Bennelong was:

…now on good terms with the Cameragals, as he said they were all good men; and being asked if he had seen the man who threw the spear at Governor Phillip, he said yes, and had slept with him; nor was there any reason to suppose he had ever beat, or even quarreled with him on that account. [12]

When Barangaroo died in late 1791, Bennelong had 'a severe contest with Wil-le-mer-ring, whom he wounded in the thigh' with the spear he had used to rake up her ashes after her cremation. Bennelong said that Willemering had not come quickly enough to treat her when she was ill and he had sent for him. [13] Nothing further is known about Willemering after this incident.

The spearing and wounding of Governor Phillip cleared the way for the peaceful 'coming in' one month afterwards, on 8 October 1790, of Bennelong and other 'friendly' Eora from coastal Sydney.

References

David Collins. An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country. Volume 1. London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798.

Notes

[1] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country, vol 1 (London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798): 139

[2] Arthur Phillip and John Hunter, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island … (London: John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1793): 462-463

[3] Anon, Vocabulary of the language of NS Wales in the neighbourhood of Sydney…, Marsden Collection, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, Notebook C, MS 41645 (c), c1791, 5, 57

[4] William Dawes, Vocabulary of the language of NS Wales in the neighbourhood of Sydney…, Marsden Collection, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, Notebook B, MS 41655 (b), c1791, 11

[5] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country, vol 1 (London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798), Appendix V11: 594

[6] AP Elkin, Aboriginal Men of High Degree, second edition (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1977)

[7] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, in New South Wales, Including an Accurate Description of the Colony; of the Natives; and of Its Natural Productions (London: G Nicol and J Sewell, 1793): 60

[8] John Hunter, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island … (London: John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1793): 465

[9] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, in New South Wales, Including an Accurate Description of the Colony; of the Natives; and of Its Natural Productions (London: G Nicol and J Sewell, 1793): 61

[10] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country, vol 1 (London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798), Appendix XI: 140

[11] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country, vol 1 (London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798), Appendix XI: 602

[12] John Hunter, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island … (London: John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1793): 499-500. Bennelong had slept by Willemering's campfire

[13] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c of the Native Inhabitants of That Country, vol 1 (London: T Cadell and W Davies, 1798), Appendix XI: 589

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