MANLY – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

1790 – September, Manly Beach: ‘A native with a spear in his hand came forward…His excellency held out hand…advancing towards him…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of the Indian.

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at his side…the other [Wileemarin] alarmed at the rattle of the dirk, and probably  misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance, aimed his lance with such force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder, just above the collar bone’.  Marine Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

The spearing of Governor Phillip must be seen in the context of kidnap, disease and death. Wileemarin had every reason to strike the advancing Governor. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s in a Name 

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: All eleven (11) ships of a large invasion force, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, anchored in Sydney Cove where their commander Captain Arthur Phillip RN raised the Union Jack.

‘The marine battalion was drawn up on parade…music playing…convicts assembled…His Majesty’s commission read…toasts were drunk to His Majesty George III, the royal family and success to the new colony…His Majesty’s commission read…Nor have Government been more backward in arming Mr. Phillip with plentiude of power’. Tench. ibid.

Governor Phillip was told logistical support would ‘follow shortly’ but none came.

1788 – 2 October, Africa: To save the Sydney settlement from annihilation Captain John Hunter RN sailed his ship HMS Sirius on a perilous voyage via Cape Horn to Cape Town to buy food and medicines from the Dutch.

1789 – 6 May, Sydney: After an absence of six (6) months, voyaging to and from Africa, Sirius sailed through towering Sydney Heads with as many supplies as she could carry.

Lieutenant William Bradley RN, Sirius First Officer, reported; ‘we did not see a canoe or a native the whole way coming up the harbour …except [those] laying dead’.

Among the dead was Arabanoo the Aboriginal warrior Phillip had kidnapped at the end of December 1788. Smallpox: Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

‘By his death, the scheme which had invited his capture was utterly defeated’. Tench. ibid

‘The scheme’; Governor Phillip’s purpose in keeping Arabanoo captive was to learn local language and customs and ascertain what resources lay beyond the confines of Sydney Cove.

1789 – November:  ‘famine was approaching with gigantic strides’ Phillip decided to replace Arabanoo and ordered his men capture more Aboriginal men. Lieutenant Bradley, recently returned from Africa, was given the task.

A number of Sirius crew set off and using enticement, offering fish, kidnapped two (2) Aboriginal men – Bennalong and Colbee – ‘an iron ring with a rope fast to it was made fast round one of each of their legs’. Midshipman Newton Fowell, The Sirius Letters, ed. Nancy Irvine,

‘They both evidently had the small-pox; indeed Colbee’s face was very thickly imprinted with the marks of it’. Tench. ibid.

As with Arabanoo Phillip wanted information from his prisoners. They were to be ‘treated well’ but ‘guarded strictly’.

Nevertheless Colbee, after a week or so minus the rope, made a break for it. Following Colbee’s escape surveillance was stepped up; ‘it was thought proper to keep a watch over him [Bennalong]’.

Bennalong like Arabanoo dined often at the Governor’s table, ‘great care’ was taken to ‘keep him in ignorance’ of the dire straits in which the English found themselves.

Arabanoo and Bennalong differed in one important respect. Arabanoo refused wine while Bennalong took a liking to the Governor’s fine French reds he ‘would drink the strongest liquors…with eager marks of delight and enjoyment’.  

1790 – May: Bennalong managed to escape in May 1790 and made for the bush. He was not seen again until ‘a tremendous monster’ whale beached at Manly in September 1790

1790 – 7 September, Manly: Phillip and Bennalong met again on Manly Beach they ‘discoursed for some time…Baneelon expressing pleasure to see his old acquaintance’. Tench. ibid.

Then a strange tableau unfolded that, in the light of future outcomes, had sinister undertones.

‘Baneelon’s love of wine has been mentioned; and the governor, to try whether it still subsisted, uncorked a bottle, and poured out a glass which the other drank off with his former marks of relish and good humour, giving for a toast, as he had been taught, “the King”. Tench. ibid.

Phillip then moved to centre-stage; ‘A native, with a spear in his hand came forward…His excellency held out his hand…advancing towards him…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of the Indian.

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at his side…the other, alarmed at the rattle of the dirk and probably misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance, aimed his lance with force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder, just above the collar bone’. Tench. ibid.

The spear penetrated Phillip’s body its head exited his back, the shaft lodged tight. Lieutenant Waterhouse’s attempt to remove the lance was unsuccessful but he did manage to break and shorten the shaft.

Phillip lost a good deal of blood and endured two (2) agonising hours as he was rowed across the harbour’s choppy waters to Sydney where William Balmain, the fleet’s senior surgeon removed it.

Physician Denis Considen consulted Aborigines as to how they treated similar wounds common in inter-tribal skirmishes. A diluted eucalyptus solution kept infection at bay however, due to an excessive loss of blood, Governor Phillip’s recovery was slow.

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