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Bennelong
c. 1764 - 3 January 1813

 


Born Woollarawarre Bennelong was born around 1764. He was also known as "Baneelon"
His People

Bennelong was a member of the Wangal clan, connected with the south side of Parramatta River, having close ties with the Wallumedegal clan, on the north side of the river, and the Burramattagal clan near today's Parramatta.

He had several sisters, including Warreeweer and Carangarang, who married important men from nearby clans, thereby creating political links for their brother.

Bennelong had a daughter named Dilboong who died in infancy, and a son who was adopted by Rev. William Walker, who christened him Thomas Walker Coke. Thomas died after a short illness aged about 20.

He was a senior man of the Eora, an Aboriginal (Koori) people of the Port Jackson area, at the time of the first British settlement in Australia, in 1788.

Bennelong served as an interlocutor between the Eora and the British, both in Sydney and in the United Kingdom.

Second Wife

Benelong's second wife was Barangaroo.

She had two children prior to being Bennelong's wife, both of whom died. She had a baby girl Dilboong while she was Bennelong's wife.

The baby only survived for a few months.

Watkin Tench on Barangaroo

First Fleet marine Watkin Tench in his first-hand account called A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, describes several encounters with Barangaroo.

At the first meeting between the colonists and Barangaroo in October 1790 he describes how Bennelong presents her wearing a petticoat.

"But this was the prudery of the wilderness, which her husband, Bennelong, joined us to ridicule, and we soon laughed her out of it.

The petticoat was dropped with hesitation, and Barangaroo stood 'armed cap-a-pee in nakedness'." Tench said at the request of Bennelong "we combed and cut her hair, and she seemed pleased with the operation."

She would not taste any of the wine that she was offered, even though she was invited to do so by Bennelong.

Tench said that if he had only met her on this occasion he would say "that amidst a horde of roaming savages in the desert wastes of NSW, might be found as much feminine innocence, softness, and modesty (allowing for inevitable difference of education), as the most finished system could bestow".

He also describes an occasion where a convict was flogged in front of an audience of Aboriginal people, for stealing from them.

Barangaroo was angry, and menaced the man performing the flogging with a stick.

Barangaroo Death Barangaroo died in 1791 and was buried in Governor Phillip's garden, in the area of the present day Circular Quay.
England

Bennelong and also another Aborigine named Yemmerrawanie travelled with Phillip to England in 1792.

Many historians have claimed that they were presented to King George III, but there is no direct evidence that this occurred, although soon after their arrival in England they were hurriedly made clothes that would have been suitable for their presentation to the King.

Yemmerrawanie died while in Britain after a serious chest infection, and Bennelong's health deteriorated.

He returned to Sydney in February 1795 on HMS Reliance, the ship that took surgeon George Bass to the colony for the first time.

He taught Bass some of his language on the voyage.

Death

Bennelong's health was perhaps damaged by the consumption of alcohol, one of the most popular pastimes in the colony.

He died at Kissing Point (now known as Putney, in Sydney's North West) on 3 January 1813, and was buried in the orchard of the brewer James Squire, a great friend to Bennelong and his clan.

On 20 March 2011 Dr Peter Mitchell of Macquarie University announced that he had located the actual grave site in the garden of a private house in present day Putney.



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