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’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961

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

‘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. ibid.

The spearing of Governor Phillip however must be seen in the context of the race between France and England to invade and occupy the island continent of New Holland now Australia.


1788 – Botany Bay, January 18/20: After a voyage of eight (8) months  a large amphibious invasion force of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ arrived at Botany Bay.

Captain Phillip the commander assessed d the wide open bay difficult to defend so unsuitable for permanent settlement.

The following day (21 January) he set out with two (2) other ships’ long boats to find an alternate site named ‘Port Jackson’  by Captain James Cook of HMS Endeavour in April 1770.

Late that afternoon from Cook’s charts the towering headlands guarding a magnificent harbour were recognised; ‘here’ Phillip wrote ‘a thousand ships of the line may lie in the most security’.

The following two (2) days were spent examining the harbour’s myriad bays and inlets.

Sydney Cove: Phillip finally fixed on a ‘snug’  deep-water cove where ‘ships can anchor so close to the shore that at very small expense, quays may be be made at which the largest ships may unload’ Frank Murcott Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales 

He named it for the then Home Secretary Lord Sydney. By late afternoon on the 23rd January with a storm brewing the party were safely back at Botany Bay with the news the ‘First Fleet’ had found a home.

Orders were given to sail the following day-  24th – for the raising of ‘English Colours’.

Consternation’ at dawn through  dense sea-mist ‘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 close race between France and England to invade and occupy the island continent of New Holland,now Australia.

When leaving Botany Bay Phillip noticed two [2] French ships in the offing’.  These ships  Phillip knew well.

In August 1785 while a spy in the pay of  the Secret service he had watched La Boussole and La Astrolabe under command of Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse make a difficult exist from Brest naval base.

The French voyage  he knew was to include the claiming of New Holland. The Sirius refused them entry and drove them back out to sea.

‘Phillip ordered a party to be sent to Port Sutherland to hoist ‘English Colours’ he also stipulated  the move to Port Jackson be kept secret , and no one was to board the French ships’. John Moore,  The First Fleet Marines 1788-1792, Queensland University Press 1987

Arthur Phillip in HMS Supply was the only English ship to leave Botany Bay on the 25th of January 1788. Held up by foul weather it was late in the day before he entered Port Jackson.

1788 – Sydney Cove, 26 January: Next morning at first light Phillip, sailors and marines disembarked. A flagstaff was hastily erected and the Union Jack hoisted. In the name of King George III Captain-General, now Governor Arthur Phillip RN, claimed Sovereignty over New Holland. 

By 7 p.m. that evening the remaining English ships were riding alongside Supply.


At Portsmouth  on May 11, 1787 ‘The Articles of War’ were placed aboard HMS Sirius (Phillip to Evan Nepean) from that moment England was at war with New Holland’s First Peoples.

‘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.

Meanwhile the landing of a part of the marines and [male] convicts took place the next day [27]January  and the following [28] the remainder [men] embarked’. Tench. ibid.

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. See: Aside from seagulls how many white birds were on the ground at Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788? None


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.

Under English law Governor Phillip held absolute authority over all inhabitants of New Holland, now Australia.

An Officer  of the Royal Navy Phillip was bound on pain of death ‘to do his utmost for King and Country’.

See: ‘failure to do his utmost’  -execution of Admiral John Byng RN -14 March 1757 (pending) 

Admiral John Byng RN was the son of Admiral George Byng RN (Lord Torrington) credited with the taking of Gibraltar from the Spanish. It remains in British hands to this day.


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 an 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 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 trusted friend, to sail to Norfolk Island for the purpose of seeding a white population.

1788 – Norfolk Island, 14 February: HMS Supply departed Sydney at at 6 pm with six (6) female convicts to serve a male population of  approximately twenty-five. (25).

The anguish of the newly arrived white 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 an ‘unflattering’ amount of flour for the king’s ships.

As Sirius sailed up the harbour Captain John Hunter RN was astonished to see black 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’.

One-half (50%) of Sydney’s Eora Peoples had died of smallpox.  Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

Among the dead was Arabanoo the young warrior Governor Phillip had kidnapped from Manly Beach at the end of December 1788.See: Kidnapped Manly What’s in a Name

But his body was not to be found among those strewn among the rocks. He was still a captive within British lines when,in May 1789, he 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 and customs.

Land-locked ‘perched precariously on the edge of an impenetrable continent’ (Dr. Bryan Gandevia) Phillip was desperate to know what food resources might lay beyond the tight confines of Sydney Cove.


1789 – November:  ‘Famine was approaching with gigantic strides’. Phillip, who had named him Manly, decided to replace the much admired Arabanoo. He ordered more Aboriginal men be captured.

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) Eora – 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. They were to be ‘treated well’ but ‘guarded strictly’.

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

Like Arabanoo Bennalong often dined at the Governor’s table. Tench says ‘great care’ was taken to ‘keep him in ignorance’ of how little food the English had.


The two (2) warriors 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 B ennalong 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: Phillip and Bennalong did not see each other again until early in September when ‘a tremendous monster’ whale stranded at Manly.

They met on the sand and ‘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 with its shaft 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 mixture made from the sap of local eucalyptus trees to be used freely.

This successfully kept infection at bay. 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.

Was it the probable cause that motivated Governor Phillip’s orders of the 13th of December 1790‘instil universal terror’ that led to the near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: Kidnapped – Manly – What’s In A Name


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