1790 – Manly Beach,3 September: ‘A native [Wileemarin] 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’,

Starvation, kidnap, disease, death, dispossession and dispersal. Wileemarin, from Broken Bay, had every reason to fear the advancing Governor. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s in a Name

When leaving Bay [24 January 1788] Phillip noticed two [2] French ships in the offing…there would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six [6] days”. Edward Jenks, History of the Australian Colonies, cited H.E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methueun, London 1928 See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

The spearing of Governor Phillip must be seen in the context of the race to invade and occupy the island continent of New Holland known now as Australia. Marine Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

‘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’.Tench. op.cit.

There would be some justification for the saying England won Australia by six [6] days’. Edward Jenks, cited Hugh E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Police, Methuen, London, 1928

1788 – Sydney Cove, 26 January: All eleven (11) ships of a large amphibious invasion force, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed nine (9) miles north from Botany Bay to Sydney Cove where their commander Captain Arthur Phillip RN raised the Union Jack signifying England’s victory over France.

‘The landing of a part of the marines and [male] convicts took place the next day [27] and the following [28]the remainder [men] embarked’. Tench. ibid. Aside from seagulls how many white birds were on the ground at Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788? None


‘Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form until the 7th of February. Tench. op.cit

Sydney Cove – February 6: The women and children were rowed ashore between 6 am and 6 pm. They numbered two hundred and thirty-one (231) adults together with upwards of forty (40) free children of both soldiers and convicts. Twenty-two (22) were said to have been born during the voyage.

Sydney – 7 February: ‘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 plenitude of power’. Tench. ibid.


 The French were without doubt Governor Phillip’s most ‘pressing business’. Two (2) weeks sailing time away, James Cook on his second voyage had named and uninhabited island – Norfolk.

Phillip realised Comte La Perouse, commander of La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, now at anchor in Botany Bay would, after rest and repair,  attempt to occupy the island it on his return voyage to France.

Phillip was determined ‘to do his utmost’ to prevent that happening. He ordered  Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, his must trusted friend, to sail to Norfolk Island for the purpose of seeding a white population.

1788 – Norfolk Island, 14 February: On board HMS Supply six (6) female convicts to serve the male population – around twenty-five in total – departed Sydney at 6 pm.

The anguish of the newly arrived English men, women and children as Supply disappeared from view can only be imagined.


Governor Phillip had been told logistical support would ‘follow shortly’ but none came. See: On The Rocks

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

1789 – Sydney, May 8: After an absence of six (6) months, voyaging to and from Africa, at the beginning of May 1789, Sirius sailed back through towering Sydney Heads with supplies, mainly flour for the king’s ships.

As Sirius sailed up the harbour Captain John Hunter RN was astonished to see bodies  lying along the rocky shoreline.

First Officer Lieutenant William Bradley RN wrote in his journal; ‘we did not see a canoe or a native the whole way coming up the harbour …except [those] laying dead’. Smallpox: Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

The dead were all Aborigine. As was Arabanoo the young warrior Governor Phillip had kidnapped from Manly Beach at the end of December 1788.

Still a captive within British lines in May 1789, Arabanoo died of smallpox; ‘by his death, the scheme which had invited his capture was utterly defeated’. Tench. ibid.  

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

1789 – November:  ‘Famine was approaching with gigantic strides’ so Phillip decided to replace the dead Arabanoo . He ordered the capture of more Aboriginal men.

Lieutenant Bradley, so recently returned from Africa, was given the task. He set off  from Sydney in Sirius with a number of crewmen.

Offering sweet-talk and fish, two (2) Aboriginal men – Bennalong and Colbee – were seized; ‘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 with Bennalong’s help, minus the rope, Colbee made a break for it. After that surveillance was stepped up; ‘it was thought proper to keep a watch over him [Bennalong]’.

Bennalong like Arabanoo often dined 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. When offered wine Arabanoo refused it. But Bennalong took a liking to the Governor’s fine French reds. It seems he was also plied with whisky and rum.

He ‘would’ Tench said 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.

1790 – Manly, 7 September: Bennelong and Phillip did not see each other again until early in September ‘a tremendous monster’ whale stranded on the beach at Manly .

Phillip and Bennalong met on the sand. They ‘discoursed for some time…Baneelon expressing pleasure to see his old acquaintance’. Tench. ibid.

Then a strange tableau unfolded. In the light of future outcomes it 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.


Governor Phillip then moved off to view the whale. ‘A native, [Wileemarin] 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, [Wileemarin] 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 deep into Phillip’s body at the right shoulder. The head exited Phillip’s back but its shaft was lodged tight.

Naval Lieutenant Waterhouse’s attempt to remove the lance was unsuccessful, He did however manage to break and shorten the shaft.

Phillip lost a good deal of blood. He 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. They recommended a diluted eucalyptus solution to be used freely.

This successfully kept infection at bay. However Phillip’s recovery was slow due to an excessive loss of blood.


‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries….These raid had begun by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen & Unwin 1995  

Tench tells of the circumstances that played out after the whale stranding ‘was fated to be’ the cause of more trouble.This writer believes it was the exciting cause that led to Governor Phillip’s ‘instil universal terror’ orders of the 13th of December 1790 that led to the near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: Kidnapped – Manly – What’s In A Name


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