Saturday, 9 April 2016

Back with Yemmerrawanne from Australia who was buried in Eltham in May 1794

His grave stone, 2011
Yesterday I was in the parish graveyard reflecting on the life of the young Yemmerrawanne from Australia who died here in the May of I794.

His was a short life and one that few people will know much about so I was pleased that Dr Keith Vincent Smith was kind enough to add more to the story.

Dr Smith is a historian and curator specialising in the ethnology and history of the Indigenous people of Sydney. His book on the Aboriginal Australian Bennelong published in 2001.*

Bennelong was a senior member man of the Eora who lived in the Port Jackson area close to the first British settlement in Australia and served as an interlocutor between the Eora and the British.

“Yemmerrawanne and Bennelong belonged to a clan called the Wangal on Sydney's Parramatta River, until they ''came in' peacefully to the British convict settlement at Sydney Cove in November 1790. Yemmerrawanne was initiated in early February 1791 on Sydney's north shore (possibly at Manly), home of the Gamaragal (gal=clan). Bennelong officiated at this ceremony in which boys were made men by knocking out the upper front right tooth and 'raising scars' on the bodies of the initiates.

Then in December 1792 the two Aboriginal Australians boarded the transport ship Atlantic with Governor Arthur Phillip for the six month voyage of 10,000 miles to England.

They passed 'ice islands' (icebergs) in the southern Pacific Ocean, rounded Cape Horn and visited Rio de Janeiro, arriving at Falmouth in Cornwall on 19 May 1793.

They reached London by coach on 21 May 1793 and were outfitted that day with clothing suitable to wear in London society at the London tailors Knox & Wilson, including long frock-coats with plated buttons, striped waistbands, breeches, underwear and spotted 'pepper-and-salt' waistcoats and buckled shoes. They later received gloves, hats from Busbys and canes.


Yemmerrawanne, date and artist unknown
They stayed at the home of William Waterhouse, a music page to the Duke of Cumberland, in Mount Street, Mayfair, where they had servants to attend them, wash and mend their clothes and repair their shoes. Coaches were provided for them to go sight-seeing to the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral and they often went to the theatre.

Both Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne became ill at different times and were treated by navy surgeon Dr. Gilbert Blane. Bennelong recovered, but Yemmerrawanne suffered from the lingering lung infection that eventually killed him.

On 15 October 1793 they were taken by coach to Eltham after Yemmerrawanne injured his leg."

We know that he and Bennelong stayed in the house of Edward Kent who may have lived at South End and it was here that he was nursed by a John Briggs at Kent's house for no payment.

The parish church just sixty or so years after his burial in the graveyard
Sadly Yemmerrawanne died and was buried in the parish churchyard.


All of which has added a little bit more to the story of a young man from Australia who until now has only been a footnote in the guide books along with a name on a gravestone and an entry in the parish records.

The story of Yemmerrawanne was researched by Dr Keith Vincent Smith who gave permission to reproduce his work

**Bennelong: The Coming in of the Eora, Syndney Cove 1788-1792, Keith Vincent Smith
Kangaroo Press, 2001 - Aboriginal Australians - 182 pages

Pictures; Yemmerrawanne, Silhouette on paper, Artist unknown, no date, B10 f.14, Dixson Galleries, State Library of NSW, gravestone of Yemmerrawanne,  Irene Smith May 2011, and the parish church from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/

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