If we could just dance together we would be friends

Remembering Margaret Walker, OAM (1920 – 1996)

for International Womens’ Day

(All photos from Margaret’s book, ‘Opening the Door to Dance’)

This International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to honour one of my teachers, Margaret Walker.  Margaret was ahead of her time.  She had a vision for peace and spent her life and any money she made on connecting peoples from all cultural backgrounds through dance.  For her dance was ‘the dance of the peoples’.

I must have first come into contact with her in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.  I can no longer remember how I heard of her.  I do remember Saturday afternoon drives to the other side of Sydney to learn dances from many cultures, followed by improvisation with ‘Uncle Barry’ on the piano.

Even before moving to Sydney Margaret’s particular vision was strong.  Although she had trained as a chemist it was not to last long.  In Melbourne, after seven years of training in Classical Ballet, she realised that the specialised form was “not accessible to all”;[1]  Instead she focussed on the Character dances that were part of ballet training and formed Unity Dance Group which took these dances to workplaces and factories as well as taught and established groups for other organisations. 

In 1951 she was an Australian delegate to the World Festival of Youth and Students for Peace and later a delegate to the USSR, extending this opportunity to include several other European countries.[2]  The contacts and links she made through the USSR and Europe opened up many opportunities for Ethnologists, Folk Dance specialists and companies to visit Australia in the following years.  During her visits she also collected dances and resources from which she developed her programs.

On moving to Sydney in 1952 she wasted no time setting up the Association of Australian Dances with branches in each state, and spreading her love of cultural dance through her school, Roseville Dance Centre as well as through invitations that came her way, such as being invited to establish a Childrens’ Arts Club (dance, theatre, art, film) for the Waterside Workers’ Federation.

Her philosophy spread to her family which consisted of four children from four cultural backgrounds whom she had adopted.  As I do not know how to find them to request permission I will not include any details here.

Dance Concert, of which I became a member, was established in 1967/68 and I can’t remember whether I was already doing classes with Margaret before then.  Looking back at what she was able to accomplish, it was pretty amazing, especially on very limited funding.  We had teachers from all over the world.  I remember classes with Csaba Palfi from Budapest, workshops with the Moiseyev Dance Company (Russia) when they were on tour here, an Israeli dance specialist, traditional Philippine dance from Lucy Jumuwan and there must have been many others I no longer remember.

From one of Dance Concert’s newsletters[3]

“Dance Concert is building a unique repertoire of dances and ballets many arranged by choreographers of the world’s leading folk dance ensembles.  These include:

Yuri Mironov – Osipov Ensemble

Witold Zapala – Polish Mazowse Ensemble

Igor Moiseyev – & teachers Nelli Samsonova & Anatole Fedorov

Libertad Fajardo – Filipino Bayaniban Company

Csaba Palfi – from Budapest”

Margaret would also co-work with dancers from local cultural groups and invite them to perform with Dance Concert and we’d perform in traditional costume anywhere we were asked.  At the same time Margaret was running and teaching folk dance in schools and I taught with her and for her on many occasions.  She developed a program for schools called ‘Folk Dance is Fun’.

Eventually Dance Concert began to receive funding from the Australia Council to support her work.  That was when trouble began.  As I understand it, because it was compulsory to have a company with a Board of Directors to receive funding, and the Board, who now owned the name ‘Dance Concert’, and Margaret were not agreeing, they dismissed her in 1977.  I could not believe they would do that – take her life work and vision – so easily and supplant her with another.

At the end of that same year Margaret set up the ‘Margaret Walker Folk Dance Centre’ and continued teaching under her own name in schools and in the community, as well as organising performances for festivals and other events.  During this period, although I had my own work, I was still in contact and teaching for her in schools, some of which was festival preparation for events like the Blacktown City Games which involved 500 children from fourteen local schools.  As well we would meet up at events run by NSW branch of the Australian Association for Dance Education. 

During this period Margaret had made contact with members in the Aboriginal community in Australia and I suspect was the first person to bring a Traditional Knowledge holder and dancer from the Northern Territory to Sydney to share his culture and dance in schools.  The dances Magungun taught were performed by children as part of the program for the Blacktown City Games.  It was a brilliant experience.  She also at some stage worked with the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre in Sydney/Warrane.

In 1982 Margaret was invited to choreograph a folkloric sequence as part of the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and later was officially recognised for her lifetime of work in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list with a Medal of the Order of Australia.  She continued to work almost to the end of her life and in 1992 published ‘a method for teaching International folk dance’, Opening the Door to Dance

On page viii she writes –

“Folk dance provides a bridge, an enjoyable introduction to other cultures and customs.  It can become part of a thematic approach to studying other countries.  Participants need to be made aware of the meaning or purpose of a dance and a teacher should try to teach it in a way that is respectful to that culture.  An introduction to folk dance can open doors in a person’s life leading to appreciation and tolerance for the ways of others.”

In the copy I have Margaret has written,

Her legacy for me, I think, fostered a lifelong love of the broadness of dance and yet the uniqueness of each culture’s expression, and the thought that ‘if we could just dance together we would be friends.’  Perhaps many have had similar thoughts.  I was also very fond of her and I hope she also considered we were friends.

[1] Walker, M. (in collaboration with Nicki Lo Bianco), Opening the Door to Dance, v.

[2] Some of the following information comes from Margaret’s entry in the National Library of Australia website.

[3] Dec. 16 – 69 to Mar 21 – 70.  A few characters have disappeared due to the age of this document. Apologies for any misspelling.


The Ides of May*

Recently a member of one of the family networks I am part of posted an image of a plaque which marked the departure of the First Fleet from Portsmouth on 13th May 1787.

The plaque’s heading states “THE BIRTH OF AUSTRALIA”, which of course is historically incorrect and I commented as such on the post.  As the plaque had been unveiled by the Queen in 1987, it illustrated to me that the message that Australia was NOT ‘terra nullius’ had, at that stage, still not been recognized by the British establishment. 

It reminded me of reading of a similar instance where one of my ancestors, Elizabeth Pulley, is described as one “who had helped found Australia” in the museum at Wymondham Bridewell.[1]  Again this is misleading and historically incorrect.

What the plaque above does commemorate is my convict ancestors’ departure from Britain, an event which I do celebrate as, at least in Elizabeth’s case, she was not “hung by the neck till she be dead”.

Since writing my comments on the post I’ve reflected on timing; how the month of May has special relevance for me, not the least of which is that RECONCILIATION WEEK also occurs during this month, and how that has influenced the way I react to the ignorance of ‘official’ versions of what occurred in and around 1788 and since. 

As with Australia Day, the month of May can be a conflicted time for some of us whose ancestors arrived on the First Fleet:  one of wanting to honour and celebrate life events of those ancestors and at the same time one of wanting to remember and acknowledge the devastation and havoc it caused, and in some cases is still causing, for the First Nations peoples of this country and their descendants.[2]  Some of these events include,

13th May 1787 – the departure of the First Fleet from Portsmouth

19th May 1788 (one year later) – my ancestors Anthony’s and Elizabeth’s marriage

April/May 1789 (one year later) – reports begin coming in of many local First Nation people dying of smallpox, which is thought to be brought in by the First Fleet.  According to Governor Phillip “judging from the information of the native now living with us…one-half of those who inhabit this part of the country died” and those who left the area carried it further. [3]

Fast forward to 20th century

27th May 1967 – Referendum that saw more than 90 per cent of Australian voters chose ‘Yes’ to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census and give the Australian Government the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  It is unimaginable to think that before this referendum Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not officially exist, let alone in many instances did their original names and Countries/Nations of origin, and that the rest of Australia had to agree to this to make it happen??? [4]

3 June 1992 – Mabo decision by the High Court which recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land that existed before British arrival and still exist today; the date now marking the end of Reconciliation Week.

1993 – Inaugural Week of Prayer for Reconciliation involving Australia’s major faith communities.

27 May 1996 – Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched Australia’s first National Reconciliation Week to be held each year from 27 May to 3 June, recognised by the Parliament of Australia; the dates chosen to include the Referendum and Mabo decision.

26 May 1997 – Bringing them Home report of the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families tabled in Federal Parliament; a practice that has not ceased.

26 May 1998 – National Sorry Day inaugurated to commemorate the anniversary of the Bringing them Home report and the grief and longterm effects forced separation has on their families and their descendants.

28 May 2000 – Reconciliation Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of meaningful reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Australia.

26 May 2017 – Uluru Statement from the Heart released to the Australian people at Uluru, Central Australia after a two year consultation period with over 1,200 representatives of different Indigenous Nations around Australia.  The document summary is an appeal from the hearts of First Nations people to the hearts of all Australians, requesting Voice, Treaty, and Truth(telling).[5]

The juxtaposition of our ancestors’ life events and the call for recognition and acknowledgement of important life events in the history of Aboriginal Australia, which is really the history of us all, has not been lost on me.  So how to hold the two together?  I think the answer is held in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  I think we need to take this document seriously, listen to what it is saying and requesting, and act on it. [6]

To begin with, our country needs to recognise the First Nations peoples of this country as First Nations in our Constitution. How could we not and why would the rest of us need to be asked?  It is self-evident.

Then, the rest of us need to support the call for a constitutionally recognised Indigenous Voice on all matters relating to Indigenous communities.  This is not going to affect the rest of us in any way, shape or form.  The programs that have been directed from the top-down over the last 230+ years with an Eurocentric mindframe have not worked and seem to be continually making the situation worse.  There are differences in cultural behaviour and understandings that keep being ignored.[7]  Those who have developed and run successful programs in communities from and on the ground are telling authorities there are workable alternatives.  It is time the rest of us listened, supported what is being developed and hand back control and responsibility.  The rest of us do not know better. There are increasing numbers of First Nations descendants making successful inroads in so many areas.  It is in good hands.

And we need to ensure that all schools and educational institutions teach the truth of Australia’s history.  We also personally need to know the full history of the area in which we live, and learn the traditional names and stories if still known.[8]  We need to respect that the names and stories predate the rest of our arrival by tens of thousands of years.

I believe that if the Australian people can do this as a start, the rest will follow.

One of the core requests of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a call for Makarrata, a Yolungu word which encapsulates something like ‘two parties coming together after a struggle to heal the divisions of the past to make peace…acknowledging that something was done wrong and working on making it right‘ (my interpretation).

As Jolleen Hicks[9] writes in a recent post,

“Australia is on a Reconciliation journey. Reconciliation is an aspiration. For us to reach Reconciliation, individual Australians need to personally decide to join the journey. Making that decision involves a commitment to the two steps that precede us reaching Reconciliation, Truth, and Healing. We must understand what it is we are Reconciling. We are not Responsible for the broken relationship that needs to be reconciled. But we do have the Responsibility to recognise that broken relationship, understand it, and take the action required to reconcile it. We accept this responsibility because we know better than those responsible, it’s the right thing to do, and we want better for our kids. Yours and mine.”

How could we as a country and as individuals do otherwise?

*I am using ‘ides’ here metaphorically to designate days around which the rest of the month turns; a sense of the day(s) being ‘central’ or ‘key’…and I like how it sounds.

[1] Annegret Hall’s In For the Long Haul.

[2] I can’t begin to imagine how First Nations descendants feel about these events. Journalist and leader Stan Grant (Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi), often addresses these conflicts in his writing and orations.

[3] The Indigenous Australians called it ‘devil devil’. The question ‘where did it come from?’ remains unanswered. Smallpox has a 10-14 day incubation period so it is unlikely to have come directly from the fleet’s human cargo.  Test tubes of scabs were apparently brought in for inoculation purposes and probably stored in the hospital laboratory, although there are questions about whether it would have remained active for the length of, and weather changes during, the journey. So either someone accidentally or purposefully let it loose or it came from somewhere unknown.  I doubt, from reading his letters home in the Historical Records and other journals at that time, it would have been on Governor Phillip’s orders. However, he had enemies and those officers, let alone the rest of the rabble, were out to cause trouble and did target the First Peoples.

[4] In Chapter 2 of Everything You Need to Know About the Uluru Statement From the Heart, Megan Davis & George Williams discuss what the 1967 referendum did and did not achieve.

[5] This is simplified.  If you wish to know more about this document and its history read Everything You Need to Know About the Uluru Statement from the Heart by Megan Davis and George Williams.

[6] As Professor Megan Davis said at the end of her Henry Parkes Oration in 2018, “it is an invitation to the Australian people. It’s an important statement that will kickstart a reform so that perhaps finally after decades and decades and decades my people, our people, will find their rightful place in our own country”. Or, as Pat Anderson is reported as saying in her 2021 Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration in Adelaide recently, it seeks to “change the narrative about who we are as a nation”. 

[7] Victoria Grieves (Warraimaay), Aboriginal Spirituality: Aboriginal Philosophy, The Basis of Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Nola Turner-Jensen (Wiradjuri) on Cultural Mindsets.

[8] a number of local councils run special events led by elders and Indigenous representatives during Reconciliation Week.  Reconciliation Australia and NSW lists numerous events during this time as well as during the rest of the year.  For 2022 Reconciliation events visit, Reconciliation

[9] Jolleen Hicks is a “Cultural Education Provider – Indigenous Engagement, Director, Author, Advocate for Aboriginal People, Teacher, Mother, Living and Walking in Two Worlds, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Australian”.

Remembering Rusty’s time as WWII prisoner-of-war

I have previously uploaded two stories of my father’s time as a POW (links below).

To mark 75 years since liberation this account fills in the gaps.  It is a mix of sections from his writing – life story, emails to the Goldcoaster network and my additions;  the latter two are in italics.  As I have said elsewhere, I have not edited my father’s vocabulary or spelling to make it more ‘politically correct’.  I have added sub-headings.

I don’t think he held any grudges about that time.  Growing up in Indonesia he had developed a more Eastern view of the circularity and ups and downs of life.  In my view it is always an horrendous time for all involved in war and conquest and I hope we are not forced to go that way again.

This is Peck’s story:

Beginnings in Holland

In 1917 my parents got married and in September 1918 on the 24th I was born. My father (Marius) was employed by a chemical manufacturing company in Naarden (mother, Antoinette, ‘Etty’) was a nurse.  This town is to the east of Amsterdam.

The first war (WWI) had ended and there was great demand for many products. A number of large corporations had sugar producing estates in Indonesia on the island of Java. There was a great demand for employees and the wages were very good and on top of that the staff received large bonuses at the end of the years. Due to the war there was a large demand for many goods one of them was sugar.

The move to Java

My Father applied for a job as chemist and was taken on by one of these corporations, he had to sign a contract for six years and at the end of that period he was given a 6 months holiday, the company paid all travel expenses. These sugar estates were always in the country and usually 40 or more KM from any town.  Once a month we use to go to town to purchase supplies for a month. It was always a great occasion and we children use to get a special treat of lemonade and Ice cream.

(They arrive in Java in 1920.  Frank is 1½ years old. While Marius works for the Dutch Indes sugar industry Etty uses her nursing and midwifery training to run a polyclinic on the Estate for the local Indonesians, which is always busy.   The Rups children hang around and watch, so learning about the treatments.  The children are schooled in Indonesia.)

Conscription into the army

In 1933 I passed the intermediate and it was decided that that was enough. Every boy of 18 had to serve in the army (Royal Indonesian-Netherland army) for a period of six or twelve months, depending on which branch they were put in.

I asked for the transport section and after a few months I asked to be transferred to the mechanic section. That was granted and that was a much better job. We had no parade and were not disturbed in our work. The regulars showed us how thing were done and it was very useful when I came to Australia. I was able to do most repairs myself.

Peck as a young man in Indonesia

I worked with Kolf & Co, Library and Stationers (for whom Frank is branch manager at Solo and Djocja) until the war started in 1942. I was called up and detailed to a gun unit to do the maintenance of all the vehicles. One day we were told to move and face the enemy, we drove all night and finished up in a queue on the way to an airport. But the Japanese had occupied the airport and used it to send bombers to bomb us. All day long they came over and dropped the bombs and I did nothing else but run from one ditch to another and I got out of it ‘Scott free’. We were ordered to retreat to our base in a small town near Bandung.

Capture by the Japanese

The next day the end of this war was announced and the following day Japanese troops entered our barracks and took all the weapons away. We were now prisoners of war. One day we were all called on parade and the Japanese brought two of our men into the camp. They had been beaten and now in front of us they were shot, all because they had gone home to their wives that night. After a few months a call was made for four drivers. I came forward and was selected. The Japanese gave us each a truck and we had to drive to the West Coast of Java. The next day we had to drive to the beach and there was a large supply of all sorts of things the Japanese had unloaded from their supply ships that came with their landing force.

One of the family homes

Frank’s father (Marius) and brother (Hans) before the occupation, in front of the house his mother (Etty) was taken from by the Japanese.  All members of the family were interred.

The Japanese loaded the trucks and we had to drive to a township where everything was stored. We lived with the Japanese soldiers and ate from their kitchen. We were treated as equals. It was here that the survivors of the Perth and Houston were kept in a camp. We were not allowed to talk to them. They looked a sorry lot. After the job of moving all this supply we drove back to the camp we had come from. We were used to do all sorts of different jobs, such as cleaning buildings and parks etc.

Work as an orderly in the camp hospital

Then one day the Japanese asked for a number of people to work in the hospital. I volunteered and in the afternoon we marched out of our camp. When we entered the hospital there stood a group of English soldiers on parade. As we marched in they marched out under command of Dr. Dunlop (Weary Dunlop).  The Dutch doctor in charge of the hospital told us that all the hospital was divided in a Dutch section with the Dutch personnel and an English section with English personnel. The English medical staff was taken to the prison camp and we had to replace them. (‘The Japanese decided that the hospital should be one unit, they asked how many English staff there was and told our camp commander that they wanted so many people to go to the hospital to work’.  Goldcoasters email 28/12/1999). Well there were a few orderlies and doctors among us but the rest had no knowledge of medicine (and also did not know much English, you can imagine that first night).

We had presumed that we were wanted for maintenance duties. Anyway we were all detailed to various wards. That night there had to be staff on the wards. No one wanted to take the contagious disease ward. A regular army orderly (from the medical corps) said to me, ‘come on we take that ward, I shall teach you the ropes’. So I started my career as an orderly, this followed me right through to the end of the prison period of three and a half years.

Because of the haste we did not know where we were to stay. That first night I spend sleeping on a blanket next to a patient who was in a terrible state. He had been wounded and had lost so much weight that he was skin and bone. He had the worst bedsores I ever saw. He needed a lot of attention because he was crying all the time and had dysentery as well (…he needed constant cleaning…but he survived that part, we got him better). I had some idea of nursing because I had picked the knowledge up when my mother was looking after the sick people on the estates.

The next morning the doctors came to their appointed wards and started to straighten things out.  We were given lectures in physiology, pathology and how to nurse but in my case I had learned all I needed to know from my mother. 

This all took place in Cimahi a town near Bandung.  The hospital is still there and used.

For eight months I worked in that hospital. The Japanese never came near us because of the T.B, dysentery and diphtheria we were nursing. In those early days it was still easy to buy various foods such as meat, vegetables, etc and I use to cook up something nice for Xmas. [1]

(‘The best chance of survival was to have a friendship bond of two or three people, who help one another under all circumstances.  I was lucky to be in that situation.  I visited my friend in England a number of times over the years.  He rose to a high position in one of the Banks.  The last time we met, we knew that that was the last time, when we said good bye he cried.  This was after we had made our separate journeys for some forty years.  Time does not mean anything in these matters’)

On the move

After the hospital we were sent back to the prison camp. Here they made us in three groups to be sent somewhere. After a month we were told to pack up and come on parade for our departure. All the possessions we had accumulated were too much to carry and we had to make a selection that could fit in a kitbag and a shoulderbag. We were put on a train with all the windows covered. We arrived in Jakarta and were marched to a prison camp.

We arrived at Jakarta (Batavia) and were billeted in the Bicycle camp, which was a notorious camp, because the Camp Commander had strange ideas, such as calling on parade at 2 o’clock in the morning and if you were not fast enough you got a belting.  He did many mean things. Luckily we were there for only a short time. (Goldcoasters email 3rd January 2000)

After a month we were rounded up and taken to the port (Tanjong Priok). When we were all counted and divided it was 1 o’clock midday and the sun was shining all day. There we had to get on board of a ship by climbing up a ladder. Arriving on the deck we were made to go down on a ladder into the hold of the ship. (At the bottom of the ladder were a number of Japanese soldiers with bamboo sticks beating everyone, making them crawl under.  

What the Japs had done was divided the space from the floor to the deck in three sections.  We had to occupy a three storied area…plus all the hundreds and hundreds of cockroaches)…and we had to crawl into the darkness underneath the platform. The later arrivals had to get on the platform. To make us hurry up we were beaten with sticks. It was nearly unbearable as the sun heated the steel of the ship and it was like being in an oven. I stripped to my underpants and the sweat was running of my body. Some men fainted. At last the ship started to move and we left the harbour.  I crawled in some distance and took up a position against a post.

After an hour or so we were told that if we wanted a drink, there was a large tub with hot tea in a corner (on deck) and we were allowed to come up and have a drink. There was a long tea queue.  I went back inside got my pannikin (dish) and eating utensils and went back. Once I was on deck I found myself a comfortable place where I intended to stay and sleep.  If we were torpedoed I could at least swim and perhaps save myself.  Many of the poor fellows were so disheartened that they just remained downstairs, got seasick. 

Arrival in Singapore

It took four days to arrive in Singapore in the driving rain. I climbed back into the hold to get my pack and went back on deck. As soon as we had docked we were taken off the ship and loaded onto lorries. They took us to Changie. We were taken to do various jobs in the garden they had started. The produce was for the Japanese troops not for us.

Dysentery and a return to nursing

After a few months in Changie camp we were taken back to the docks and put on a ship. There must have been a hitch because we did not move. Dysentery started to break out and one day all the people that had dysentery were taken off the ship. I was amongst them and we were returned to Changie camp. I was sent to the dysentery ward of the hospital. After a few days I recovered, but now there were no Dutch units left and I didn’t belong anywhere.

Because I had assisted with nursing, I was kept in the ward as an assistant. This was a bad time. The bacillary dysentery we could mostly cure but there were no medicines for the amoebic dysentery sufferers. As this disease is a slow and chronic complaint we had to give the patients enemas every day of Acraflavin, which is a disinfectant, in the hope that we could delay the progress of the disease.

Then one day troops started to return from the Burma railway. They were a sorry lot and many died. We had to work day and night to try to get them better.

Changi and Kranji

Then the big move came. The Japanese had used a lot of the prisoners to clear an area of land that was to become an airstrip and needed the buildings of our camps for their own troops. We were moved to Changie Jail. The civilians had been interned there, but we were a much larger group and many huts were built outside the jail.

Changi prison

Part of the hospital was moved to Kranji a camp not far from the naval base in the North of the island. I was not a patient and had to come to the jail. After a few months I was sick again and I was sent to Kranji. Here I met up again with the orderlies from the hospital.

Finding ‘mates’ and food

With two of them we formed a group and that became important because now the worst time started. Very little food and people started to get berry berry and other diseases due to lack of vitamins. Prior to this time I had made friends with an Australian soldier at the time we were in the jail. Arthur Gibbs, or Gibby….The group we formed consisted out of Jim an orderly, Harry a chemist and myself. I was employed in the garden.

There was a canteen with very meagre supply, cigars, palm oil, blachan (a shrimp paste). Our rations consisted out of rice, a thin bitter soup and one or two dovers (rissoles) rice mixed with dried fish and fried in the oil. Breakfast was porridge of rice mixed with crushed corn. It was cooked the night before and in the morning it was heated mixed with a bit more water. We would get a scoop of it plus one spoonful of sugar.

Because I worked outside I was able to steal some food. A sweet potato, some spinach leaves etc.  I knew many weeds that were edible.  And other things like the pips of the Jack Fruit.  The Jap guard often had a piece of jack fruit and threw the seeds away, roasted they are good eating. The problem was to get wood for a fire. The camp was under Gum trees and there were some branches but the bulk of wood came from the cemetery.

Cemetery duty

There were so many people dying there was always a call for volunteers to go with the stretcher to the cemetery. This was up a hill and there were many Rubber trees. As that area was out of bounds there was always plenty of dead wood to be gathered. So I regularly volunteered to attend a funeral.  James and Harry had their own sources to get something extra and we divided this.

Food savvy

In the period of the dry fish supply I discovered that the English cooks filleted the fish and threw away the bones. So I asked if I could have the bones and I minced them to a paste which was something extra to eat with the rice. The other item that helped was the Blachang, the smelly paste. I fried it in oil also as an extra taste and it must have had some nutrition in it.

At last we heard that the Japanese had given in and the war was over. It did not take long and our troops started to arrive. Amongst them were welfare people who did their best to bring us comfort. They had vans and handed out tea and biscuits.[2] 

The Aftermath

The authorities did not want me to leave Singapore for my recuperation after the three and a half-year in the prison camp because I was a medical nurse and there was a shortage of nursing staff. I had my heart set to be sent to Australia and not Holland. Then at some time beginning March 1946 an announcement was made that after the end of March no more Dutch troops were to go to Australia. I moved heaven and earth to be sure that I would not miss out.


The Event appeared in two newspaper articles.  The article above has been saved in the family archives with no reference.  The other can be found at,

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/98375220?searchTerm=rups&searchLimits=dateFrom=1947-04-13|||dateTo=1947-04-13 (Sunday Mail, Brisbane)

Frank at 82

age 82 years, the time of writing.

Frank died in 2008, at the age of 90 years.  In his self-written obituary he wrote,

I have always been thankful to Australia and the people have always treated me well.’

c. A. Maie 2020

[1] Rusty Rups’ Xmas in the camps.

[2] Rusty Rups’ liberation from Kranji


Embedded Racism: we’ve been here before

In 1997 I wrote an article titled, The Showboat Carousel: the Whitewash of the Blacks which was published in National Outlook, April 1998.  It was really an extended book review of Canadian writer, poet and novelist M. NourbeSe Philip’s,  Showing Grit, written in 1993, with reference to what was occurring in Australia at the time.  Although twenty three years later some comments may be dated and in other places I may express myself differently or choose different vocabulary, I thought I would republish the original article here, as it and indeed M. NourbSe Philip’s writing, maintains relevance.

In the second half of 1996 I had the fortune to be introduced to M. Nourbese Philip, Canadian writer, lawyer and scholar after reading her book Showing Grit. [1]

Showing Grit was written during the furore surrounding the 1993 opening of Show Boat in Toronto.  It was Nourbese’s hope at the time of writing that her book would assist “those in the front line of the effort to stop this production”, for when Show Boat came to Toronto it caused an outcry in the African-Canadian community.

To understand why is to be African-Canadian, or African-American, or any other non-white person who is living under white domination at the end of the twentieth century.

In Showing Grit, Nourbese explores the issues, conditions and attitudes that still support racism today, and how the emergence of musicals such as Miss Saigon and the re-emergence of Show Boat is a concrete and very public indication that racist and sexist attitudes still exist, are supported by large numbers of people, and are funded and promoted by large corporations for whom profit is the only morality.

The issues involved are complicated and reflect very much on us as a society.  Nourbese explores these in some detail and although hers is a Canadian analysis of an American musical, the issues are still relevant to Australians.

The central objection to Show Boat is that it is a racist musical based on a racist book (Show Boat by Edna Ferber).  Its portrayal of the Blacks is historically inaccurate, stereotyped and outdated.  The underlying themes in the story are:

  • intermarriage is dangerous and only ends in disaster
  • to be Black or thought of as Black is shameful
  • to be Black is to be uneducated, ones only value being to serve and support .  the white boss – “happy cotton-picking darkies” – providing local colour and entertainment
  • Blacks accept their condition with resignation and Christian forgiveness
  • the best thing that could happen is for the Blacks to disappear so that the whites can get on with their lives.

The dislike of the ‘Nigger’ shines through.

As a white Australian, does that make you feel uncomfortable, angry…or more secure, relieved, secretly pleased?

As an indigenous Australian, haven’t you heard this all before…too many times?

So why again…and why now?

Nourbese’s research into the history of the book, films and musical productions of Show Boat reveal that its revival came during periods of great financial unease, or when African-Americans had taken significant steps forward in their struggle for equality.  So she surmises that at these times the white (moneyed and middle class) are needing reassurance because there may be a hidden fear that if things continue the way they are going then “we may end up like ‘them’”(poor, underprivileged) or even worse, like them as people – perish the thought!  How better to silence the thought and instead demean the ‘other’…put them in their place…disempower them.

Financial security is not a given any more in Australian society.  The number of job losses over the last two years is an indication that all is not well and that the politicians promises are coming to nothing.  As well, since the 1960’s indigenous Australians have made some progress in their fight for equality and respect.  At the moment in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics Aboriginal artists are receiving a lot of support and publicity.  On the world stage it is a politically correct thing to do.  Yet behind the scenes the Prime Minister seems to be sidestepping the more controversial issues and backstepping on others, especially when it interferes with corporate agendas, so that marginal groups (indigenous Australians as well as women, the elderly, gays and lesbians) are losing ground.

Is this why the Show Boat carousel has arrived in Sydney?  If not, why is a musical which supports the stereotypical Black man and woman of the 1880/90’s white mind reproduced in these enlightened times?  Moreover why is an outdated, revamped American musical still being presented rather than one of our own?

A full-page advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 23rd August calls it ‘The Great American Musical’ and the ‘Winner of 5 Tony Awards in 1995’.  So?  The producers in Canada claimed it had historical significance as the highlight of the work of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.  It’s historical significance is that, apart from a few well known songs, it was Kern’s only highlight and one in which he borrowed (stole and profited from) the traditional music of the African American.  No compensation or royalties were or have ever been offered.

It was also lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II’s first critical success in which (in the words of his son) he “expressed things that nobody had expressed before”…well, no white person.  The ‘nobody’ was the Black.  Once more the Black has disappeared.

The producers claim it is historically accurate.  Maybe, but from whose perspective?  Better that the biased, racist versions of history remain in libraries, museums and video stores for the purpose of study and discussion than be presented as a contemporary version of white ‘truth’.

The producers also insisted that the musical version shows racial harmony and understanding.  They presented a television show narrated by a Black actor on the making of the musical to prove how sensitive the show is.  They prepared a schoolboard approved anti-racist educational package for schools and offered subsidised performances for students.  If they were telling the truth why the overkill?  Especially as the extensive media coverage (including advertising disguised as news items, special articles and television programs) excluded all opposing views.  Apart from being another example of the increasing intrusion of the corporate sector into school life and ‘news’ (which is also happening in this country) and the fact that The Toronto Star newspaper was one of the sponsors for the show, who really stood to gain from all this effort?  Who could afford the tickets?

Certainly not the African-Canadian community who were aghast that ‘once more with feeling’ they were being portrayed singing soul songs and happy with their lot – their ‘lot’ being inevitable, just like “ol’ man river rollin’ along” – less than the reality.

The real story was, and is, one of continued rebellion by the African-Americans from the beginning of slavery to the present.  It is also the story of holocaust – their genocide and separation from family – as well as their persistence and ‘showing grit’.  But this story is silent and silenced.  Where is the musical with the real story?  Where is the money to fund such a production?

In that case where are the musicals with the real story of indigenous Australians?  There was Bran’ Nue Day.  It trod carefully and the anger was well hidden under smiling faces, yet it was there.

Our Prime Minister is encouraging us all to leave the past behind and move forward.  But to move forward without turning, acknowledging and apologising for past mistakes is to ignore the wrongs and maintain the silence, in the hope ‘it’ will disappear (who will disappear?).

In 1992 Pope John Paul II was the first person in an official capacity to ask for forgiveness for the sins done to the Africans in the name of slavery.  It made 3-4 lines in a side-bar in the Toronto Star.  Galileo’s pardon by the Pope at the same time warranted an entire article.  If this is how we gauge what is important you can see where our loyalties lie.  So, our Prime Minister is not alone in refusing to acknowledge that Christian white oppressors are accountable and need to face their victims and apologise.  But it does not excuse him.

Another Prime Minister Gough Whitlam wanted to maintain the rage over the injustices done to him.  How can we do less for those for whom injustice is still a daily experience?

Prior to the October 17, 1993 opening of Show Boat in Canada the producers had made six million dollars in advanced ticket sales and their corporation’s share prices rose on the stock exchange.

This is the reality.  Money makes money.  You give the people what they want and they’ll pay.  Who is guilty here?  Who is being served?  Who are the servers?

As Nourbese says, the “blond head has greedily sucked African blood from the wound it created but has taken no responsibility and made no reparation, yet it is still continuing…..We may not be able to stop them, but we shall not bless them….It is my hope others will stand with us”.

What Show Boat is presenting may be about 1880’s America but its presence in Australia at this time is saying more.  It is saying that Australian whites still want to keep those of colour in their place, that they are still not ready for change, for true equality and sharing of resources.  The wealthy white corporate mind mirrors itself in the rest of those who will attend this production.  Where do you stand?

Show Boat is due to open early next year.  The ShowBoat carousel has just begun – prepare for the publicity whitewash.

c. 1997

[1]  M. Nourbese Philip, Showing Grit.  Toronto:  Poui Publications, 1993

1790 – Elizabeth Pulley’s third year and on the move

Pulley image cropped 3 We left Elizabeth and Anthony at the end of 1789 when everyone in the new colony was feeling abandoned and desperately in need of supplies from Britain.

Growing despair.

The New Year did not fulfil their wishes.  It was now two years since the First Fleet entered Port Jackson and almost three years since it left the homeland.  In that time not a word had reached them directly from England.  The feeling of isolation experienced when the transports had returned to England the previous year deepened.

The supplies which had been brought out with the transports were coming to an end.  Everyone was feeling abandoned and dejected with a growing concern about the lack of food.  As Capt. Tench expressed it, ‘Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides’.  Phillip did not expect the provisions to last beyond May.  Marines had no shoes, the convicts clothing was in tatters, and the settlement was beginning to look like a gypsy camp.

The only ships left which could be used to procure anything were the Sirius and the Supply.  The previous year the Sirius had travelled to the Cape of Good Hope to obtain provisions.  During the journey it suffered storm damage and had been out of commission for eight months.  Now repaired, plans were instigated to send it to China to obtain more.  It never made it.

Lightening the load.

To ease the stress on the settlement at Sydney Cove/Warrane, and as prospects seemed more promising at Norfolk, Phillip had gradually over the years sent more and more convicts and marines to the island.  In March Lt. Ross, some officers, a company of marines, and about two hundred convicts, including children and their belongings, were placed on board the Sirius and Supply to be relocated there.

All on shore watched anxiously as the ships sailed out of the harbour and disappeared from view.  The passengers on the Sirius were to be landed at Norfolk Island on the ship’s way to China, and the Supply was to return to the Cove/Warrane.  Landing at Norfolk had never been easy, and this time the Sirius was caught in the currents and hit a reef.  Although no lives were lost the ship was wrecked.  Phillip was devastated.

Last chance.

With a heavy heart Phillip ordered the last remaining vessel, the Supply, to be prepared to sail for Batavia the following month.  It was to procure flour and, while there, hire another vessel to bring back more supplies.  After the Supply’s departure the settlement was placed on its severest rationing yet and work was reduced so that time could be spent at home gardening;  not that many took advantage of it.

Tightening the belt

All private provisions and remaining animals were taken for public use and carefully guarded.  The killing of animals was forbidden, not that this prevented people, that is, convicts, marines, and seamen, stealing or killing them.  Punishment increased in severity.  Phillip turned over his private supply of flour for public use and placed himself on the same rations as everyone else.

Fishing was a priority and, as the seines now needed repair, Traditional Aboriginal-style techniques and equipment were employed instead.  Attempts were made to hunt the local kangaroos but their wariness made them a difficult target and the enterprise was soon abandoned.

Boilers were erected on the east side of the Cove/Warrane to extract salt from sea water.  Salt was essential for preserving meat.  A tallow-hut was built, probably for making candles and soap.  As original structures were now starting to decay, the building and repair, especially of secure storehouses, continued slowly.

The silence in the settlement weighed heavily as so many living quarters were now empty and little work was being undertaken by marines or convicts.  Rumours of England’s abandonment of the colony were rife.  People were seen crying.  Officers wrote of how Captain Cook had led them astray and that this country was an alien land which did not support life.[1]  Phillip had already had enough and sent a letter home requesting temporary leave.

Elizabeth and Anthony

So far I have found no mention of Elizabeth, Anthony and son Robert during this time.  Like everyone else they would have been affected by the lack of food, resulting in little energy. Anthony’s work at the brickworks would have been reduced.  It may be possible that Elizabeth’s sentence was now over, although Anthony probably still had some time to serve.[2]

So everyone struggled through. In May, although Phillip had tried to conceal how badly the settlement was doing, it must have been obvious and Bà-n-eelon made his escape.  Undeterred, Phillip ordered the ground to be prepared ready for planting of wheat and barley in both the Cove/Warrane and at Rose Hill.

Desperate for help from Britain

Since the arrival of the First Fleet a party of marines had been sent to Botany Bay/Kamay every week just in case an English vessel had arrived there by mistake, but none had.  In January of 1789 a party of seamen had been sent to the bluff on South Head/Barraory/Tarraibe and a flag-pole erected so that a flag could be raised as a signal at the first sighting of ships.  During the following months, as the waiting continued, the temporary shelters that had been erected there were replaced by permanent huts.[3]

Then the miracle everyone had been hoping for occurred.  On 3rd June, while the celebrations for the King’s birthday were being prepared, a flag was seen raised at South Head/Barraory/Tarraibe.  Excitement and confusion reigned.  People ran about aimlessly, some women with children in their arms.  Others hugged each other.  Everyone held their breath.  Phillip headed off down the harbour to check and returned with the news that a transport from England, the Lady Juliana, had finally arrived.

Disappointing news

However all was not as expected.  The transport carried over two hundred women convicts, some too old to work, and no supplies apart from two years provisions for the women on board.  It also carried news of other transport ships and their convict loads following closely behind.  The most devastating news was that the fleet’s supply ship, the Guardian, with its load of supervisors, skilled workers, and provisions, had been shipwrecked on an iceberg at the Cape of Good Hope.  Those items which had been salvaged were transferred to the other ships in the fleet.

The Lady Juliana also brought news from home of the King’s illness, the French Revolution, and letters from family and friends.  A few days later work was suspended and a public Thanksgiving Service held to celebrate the King’s recovery.  The whole settlement attended the service, with Rev. Johnson presiding.  Afterwards the Officers dined and were entertained at Government House.

…better news

Throughout the month four more transports sailed into the harbour discharging their cargoes of male and female convicts, the first detachments of the soldiers who were to replace the marines, and, on the Justinian, some extra provisions and stores.  As soon as the stores were landed the full allowance of rationing was restored, afternoon work reinstituted, and the daily routine once more signalled by the drum.  Bread was baked, liquor distributed, every convict received a pair of shoes, and women were employed sewing new slops (clothes) for the men.

…and disorder

Stealing had not eased with the arrival of the Second Fleet and the reinstatement of full rations.  As soon as the first ships were anchored, people were caught sneaking on board to take anything they could.  In the hospitals and sick tents the sick would steal from each other.

The hospital was full.  A large number of the Second Fleet’s convicts had not been well cared for on their journey, having been shackled like slaves.  Many convicts had died.  The bodies of those who died on arrival were thrown overboard into the harbour or buried on the north shore/Cammerra.  Even more died during the following months.  Burials were almost a daily occurrence, although weddings kept a similar pace.  According to one of the recently arrived female convicts, ‘The Governor was very angry, and scolded the captains a great deal’, saying ‘it was murdering’.

By the end of June three hundred and forty nine new arrivals had been admitted to the hospital.  By mid-July this increased to four hundred and eighty eight.  The hospital overflowed.  A portable hospital and extra ‘sick tents’ were erected.  The stores, also, had been damaged.  One thousand and twenty eight pounds of rice and one thousand five hundred pounds of flour had to be condemned.

The masters of the ships, hoping to take advantage of the great need in the settlement, immediately set up their own stores to sell clothing, accessories, and other goods at highly inflated prices.  Needless to say they did not sell much.  They had misjudged the amount of money available in the colony and soon admitted defeat, packing up their goods and returning to England with them.

The settlement was now bursting with activity and people.  It was a case of everyone for themselves.  As housing was limited, long-term residents were shuffled to make way for the new.  One newcomer, Capt. Hill, could not believe the state of the colony, the lack of buildings and resources, and the rationing with which he was made to comply.  His letter home laid the blame squarely on Phillip’s ignorance and lack of ability.  I guess he felt he could have made a better job of it.

Phillip at wit’s end

Phillip, on his part, was responding yet again to news of England’s plan to continue sending two fleets of convicts per year from its overcrowded English and Irish gaols.  All he could do was stress how difficult it was to motivate long-term convicts to do anything, and how little support the civil and military officers were willing to give.  He viewed them all as ‘dead weight’, and continued to beg England to send supervisors, artisans, agricultural experts and free settlers instead.  It was a long and frustrating battle.

By the end of August all the transports were on their journey back to England, taking with them those marines and officers who wanted to return, as well as letters and other gifts to family members and the Home Office.  That was not all.  Some had an extra cargo of stowaways, often with full knowledge of the ships masters.  The absconders who were caught during the pre-sailing raids were returned to shore and punished.

The colony expands west, attended by the NSW corps

By the end of the year most of the new arrivals had been bundled off to Norfolk Island and Rose Hill where the focus of agricultural effort was now concentrated.  A few remained at the Cove/Warrane to assist with public building and maintenance, or to be maintained as servants.  Both groups were also joined by a detachment from the NSW corps, which was to work alongside the Marines.  Our story now moves with them.

Rose Hill/Parramatta

 After the arrival of the Second Fleet, the establishment of the satellite town at Rose Hill took on greater urgency.  The town was laid out, boundaries tagged, and the sites for an overnight house for the Governor, huts for the convicts, and barracks for the soldiers, marked.  As bricks and tiles were made in Sydney/Cadi, a road was built from the brick kilns to the Cove/Warrane for their transportation.  Bricks were then ferried to Rose Hill by boat.  Another road was laid out at Rose Hill from the landing place to allow their transport west to the hill.  Bricklayers and labourers were gradually relocated there to build the much-needed storehouses and huts and clear tracks of land for cultivation.

Dharug and Guringai unrest

Conflict between the new arrivals and local Indigenous Australians continued.  My reading of the journal records is that the settlers robbed the local Indigenous People frequently and that most of the Indigenous attacks were on straying cattle or for food.  A number of the Dharug people expressed their anger at the invasion at Rose Hill and that they were being forced further and further out as their land, food and water resources were increasingly being taken over.

However the problems were more widespread than that.  The Indigenous People had kept well away from both settlements during this time.  They were probably terrified of getting sick or being captured as well as aghast at seeing yet another load of intruders being deposited onto their land.  Also, during winter, the fish had disappeared and Aboriginal families and groups had moved to where food was more plentiful.  A few had been sighted in August by Officers on an excursion southwest of Rose Hill.

Early in September a party on the way to Broken Bay[4] had come across Baneelon and Colby in a group at Manly[5] who expressed their fear of the Governor’s game keeper, McEntire.  Later that day at Broken Bay a young aboriginal man speared Phillip in the shoulder, misinterpreting the Governor’s gesture of peace for one of aggression.  He was a local Guringai man, so probably unaware of the peaceful relations that Phillip and the Officers were used to having with those they knew.  The wound was not fatal and Phillip soon recovered.  However, the garrison at Rose Hill was strengthened.

Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert on the move

It was likely that at some stage during the second half of the year that Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert moved to Rose Hill, being transported there by boat along Parramatta River.  Whether they were part of the group of bricklayers and labourers who moved there in July, or whether they were sent there once clay had been discovered and brick-making commenced in September, is a matter of conjecture.  All I am aware of is that in March of the following year Anthony was charged at Rose Hill with being in possession of a pair of stolen shoes.  It was also during this period that Elizabeth became pregnant with their second child.

Although located at Rose Hill, Elizabeth and Anthony would have known of Phillip’s accident and of other events occurring in Sydney.  The movement of people and goods between Rose Hill and the Cove was a daily occurrence and news of the comings, goings, and shenanigans at both settlements would have been the topic of many conversations.

Runaways and executions

Runaways had been a constant feature of both settlements since arrival.  Some runaways returned starving, others were found dead in the bush, and still others were never heard of again.

Three events particularly would have been of great interest to Elizabeth and Anthony.  The first was the surrender early in the year of ‘Black Caesar’, a man of African heritage who had been working as a servant in England and had been charged with stealing.  He was transported to Australia on the Alexander, the same ship as Anthony and became a repeated absconder.[6]  On his surrender Caesar spoke of seeing cattle[7] in the care of an Aboriginal group.

The second was the abscondment of five male convicts in a stolen punt from Rose Hill to Sydney Cove/Warrane in September.  On reaching the Cove/Warrane the escapees stole another boat and headed out to sea, never to be seen again.  The escape had been carefully planned, with the men taking provisions, bedding, clothes and utensils with them.  They had collected their provisions over a number of weeks, so everyone in the settlement would have known about it.

Another major event was the execution of two men found guilty of armed robbery at Rose Hill in October.

Bà-n-eelon and Còl-bee re-appear

In October an interesting reversal took place at Sydney Cove/Warrane.  One day Bà-n-eelon and Còl-bee caused quite a stir by returning to the settlement with a few friends. They proceeded to show their friends around and introduce them to those they knew.  Gradually the visits of the local Aboriginal People increased in frequency until they occurred on a daily basis.  While in the settlement they would be fed and sometimes slept overnight.  As the frequency increased Aboriginal women began to leave their children in the settlement to be fed and cared for while they went on ‘walkabout’.  Food was scarce, but no longer scarce in town


Bà-n-eelon’s visits became so frequent that Phillip built a hut on the point on the East side of the Cove/Warrane for him and his family, which probably included his second wife Barangaroo[8].  Sometimes the sounds of Baneelon’s group singing and dancing around the fire at night could be heard in the town.  By December Bà-n-eelon, Còl-bee and a group of friends would remain in the settlement three or four days at a time.  During one of these visits Abaroo, who had been living with the clergyman’s family, went to join them.[9]  Nanbarree, who had been living with Surgeon White, also spent a night away but returned the next day.

In December some of the local Aboriginal people joined Phillip on one of his regular visits to Rose Hill.  Bà-n-eelon, Barangaroo and Còl-bee also visited at various times.  However none stayed long, indicating they wanted to return to Sydney/Cadi as soon as possible.  Barangaroo would not even stay overnight.  None seemed comfortable in the area[10].


In any case the visits at both settlements came to an abrupt end later in the month when McEntire, Phillip’s game-keeper, was fatally speared while in Botany Bay/Kamay.  In a way it was not unexpected.  The Aboriginal People did not like him and, in fact, feared him.  Even Còl-bee had expressed his fears to Phillip when they had met in September.

The story was that McEntire had been staying in an overnight hut on the north shore of Botany Bay/Kamay when some of the local Dharug or Gadigal approached him.  Thinking they were friends, he walked towards them unarmed.  One of the group speared him.  McEntire made it back to the settlement hospital where Còl-bee and others came in expressing their concern.  They gave the name of the perpetrator as Pemulwuy, from Bid-ee-gal group living in Botany Bay/Kamay, and promised to deal with him.[11]

Nevertheless Phillip was so outraged at what seemed an unprovoked attack that he reluctantly, and not without opposition from some Officers, sent out two successive parties to capture and bring back, or kill, as an example, six of the clan.  Both raids were unsuccessful.  The Dharug in the area had long gone and the parties ended up getting lost, probably due to misdirection by their Indigenous guides.  Còl-bee’s and Bà-n-eelon’s, promises of ‘taking care of Pemulwuy’ were also never carried out.  In fact, at one stage they were seen going in a totally different direction.

McEntire finally died in January 1991.  It was suspected that the attack on him had not been unprovoked:  if not this time, then on previous occasions.  The feeling in the settlement was that he did not treat the First Nations people kindly and they definitely did not trust him.  Judge-Advocate Collins wrote, ‘this man had been suspected of having wantonly killed or wounded several of the natives in the course of his excursions after game’.

Settling in

By the end of 1990 Rose Hill was becoming a thriving community.  Land had been cleared, crops planted and the brick kiln erected. Well over five hundred convicts had moved there.  Convict huts had been built along two cross streets, each with its own garden;  thirty two men only group houses along the main street, nine houses for single women along the cross street, and ‘several small huts where convict families of good character are allowed to reside’ – most likely where Elizabeth, Anthony and Robert lived.[12]

Rose Hill 2 cropped

The Governor’s hut was finished, and the barracks begun.  The new storehouse was nearly complete.  There was a church camp, a blacksmith’s, a hospital, a bakery, brick-kilns where Anthony probably worked, the superintendent’s house, and cattle-yards, and on the other side of the river, the Government farm, barn and granary.

Ending the year on a good note.

The end of 1990 also saw the arrival of the Dutch snow, Waaksamheyd, hired by the Supply in Batavia to bring out flour, rice and salt.  And, at Rose Hill, a Christmas divine service would have been conducted by Rev. Johnson, with all in attendance.[13]

[1] Initially British agricultural and husbandry practices did not naturally thrive in the Australian environment and the colonial leaders were constantly on the lookout for more appropriate sites.  It is interesting to be updating this in 2020 when Australia is in the middle of an horrendous drought and fire season, as well as diminishing water supplies.  The whole issue of appropriate land and water use practices is being seriously debated.

[2] There were a number of convicts who had now completed their sentences, were officially ‘free’, and under no obligation to work.  Some of them wanted to return to England.  Phillip did not know what to do with them and had written to Home Office requesting instructions.

[3] According to https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/south_head ‘Aboriginal names for the area were recorded as Woo-la-ra or Tarralbe for Outer South Head, Burra-wa-ra or Barraory for Inner South Head, and Mit-ta-la (or Metallar) for Green Point (Laings Point). According to the same source Nanbarry, made an unsubstantiated claim in 1790 that, ‘as it is recorded in the journals, this was one place the aborigines did not go near.  To them the area was considered to be a ‘place of death’’.  The journals record that the area was understood to be a burial or cremation ground, and a place of ‘engagements’ (i.e. a place where internal and intertribal conflicts were resolved through ‘payback’ combat).  Arabanoo was taken there in February for a visit where he demonstrated Indigenous burial practices and how to light a fire with two sticks.

[4] Probably the land of the Wannungine/Wannerawa band of the Guringai nation

[5] Land of Cannalgal or Kayimai people of the Guringai nation.  Some Indigenous Australian’s interpretation of this event is that the spearing of Phillip could have been intentional but was not aimed at killing him.  Rather, because the spear used was not a ‘killing spear’ with barbs, and the position of entry was not in an area of the body which would have been fatal, it could have been a warning that they were unhappy with the way that they had been treated and with the actions of McEntire, and a sign of acceptance/respect in accordance with their tradition of ‘payback’ .

[6] ‘Black Caesar’s’ story appears to be one of working hard and reliably for periods, followed by stealing, being charged and escaping into the bush.

[7] Cattle had disappeared from the Governor’s farm in 1788.

[8] The area’s Indigenous name was Tu-boe-gule, now named Bennelong Point where the Opera House is located.  B’à-n-eelon’s first wife had died.  Barangaroo was from the Cammeraygal band from the north side of the harbour and must have been imposing as this was remarked upon by the officers.  She was also a fishing woman and in control of the food supply, making and using lines and hooks to fish from a canoe, with a small fire inside for cooking the catch.  She did not like the new arrivals at all, refusing to mix with, or dress like, them.  Barangaroo Reserve is named after her and, in addition to everyday public access, serves as a focal site for Indigenous ceremonial events.  When she died in 1791 Barangaroo was buried in Phillip’s garden as were her daughter, Dilboong, who died in infancy and Arabanoo.

[9] Abaroo, also known as Boorong, became Baneelon’s third wife after the death of Barangaroo.

[10] My understanding is that band/clan/language differences needed to be respected and ‘just arriving’ without proper ceremony was unacceptable and could be dangerous.

[11] Pemulwuy was later to lead the guerrilla-style resistance against the outward thrust of English settlement in areas around the Georges River, the Nepean/Dyarubbin, and beyond.

[12] I thought I read, possibly in an Historical Journal, that the married quarters were near the brick kilns but as I am unable to find the reference this cannot be confirmed.

[13] Rev. Johnson had been complaining of the lack of attendance during the year until Phillip announced that those who did not attend in future would experience a reduction in rations.

Response to ‘Dark Emu’

img066 cropped

PREAMBLE: December 2019.  I wrote Response to Dark Emu in April 2019.  It is now December 2019 and a controversy has arisen within and outside the Aboriginal community around the claims in the book and Bruce Pascoe’s background, with some questioning and others supporting the research analysis.  As in my initial response below, many Australians were excited to read this book and to have, finally, a compact consolidation of information about early Australian Aboriginal life.  No doubt the conflict will play out in the media until a definitive answer is reached.  In the meantime, encouraged by an article in The Saturday Paper, I am happy to stand by my original response.  And I stand with Professor Marcia Langton in her commentary on the questioning of his background.

I’ve just finished reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe[i], and was challenged by a contact to follow up and write a response.  I’m not sure if what I will have to say will add anything to the information out there, but here we go.

For a while there have been a number of articles online and through my networks about how badly we, that is the general Australian public, have got ‘it’ wrong;  the ‘it’ referring to the truth about pre-colonial Indigenous Australian presence and civilization.  It is not so much that the early Europeans who were dumped here, as well as those coming by choice as explorers and claimers of land did not know, they did, and recorded it in their journals and letters.  It is more that this truth was never recorded in and taught as part of accepted Australian history, and my understanding is that it is still being ignored.

Bruce Pascoe has done the research through the journals and letters, and the drawings that accompany them, as well as archaeological evidence, and consolidated the research into compelling evidence of pre-colonial Australian Indigenous life:  of permanent and semi-permanent settlements and villages; of agriculture, irrigation practices, and food preservation and storage; of animal husbandry and aquaculture; and of inter-tribal, or clan group, co-operation and trade.  What existed here were thriving communities, not only the ‘hunter-gatherers’ depicted in accepted Australian history.

Why has this early history been ignored?  Well, that is what conquerors do.  They dehumanize and devalue those who are already living in the territory they wish to conquer so that they feel justified in doing so.  In 1998 I wrote a text for the video which became the hypothesis for my thesis.  Part of it follows.

‘I am a displaced woman
Living in a strange land,
     not mine by right
But claimed by my recent past

My people came from the North
What is it about the North that gives “right of possession?”
The right to see a land
     and a people
          and say
               and feel
that it is O.K. to take possession
That we are more civilised
     and will benefit those already on that land
That we will bring a better morality
     a better understanding of life
     a better experience of life
That we have the answers.

The vanity.....the foolishness...’[ii]

What is also interesting is the continuing affect this paternalistic, Eurocentric attitude has on what the rest of the world considers to be important, and what we study and learn.  Last year I read of the discovery of stone pillars in Turkey of 10th to 8th millennium BCE – ‘the world’s oldest known megaliths’ – and that religion in the area appears to have an earlier history than previously considered.  Well, apparently Australia had its own ancient standing stones positioned in a way that could have had cosmological significance – how come I wasn’t taught that?

The regions around Turkey and the middle East have long been perceived as the beginnings of modern civilization, when hunter-gatherers began to settle, and from where their practices spread.  However that may be an illusion.  All history is interpreted from the perspective of whoever is interpreting it and information available.  What if, at the same time or even before, Indigenous Australians had also settled and engaged in similar practices of planting, harvesting and storing local strands of grain, baking bread and cakes, corralling animals and building permanent homes?  What then?

The other accepted story is that we all emerged from East Africa, travelling north-east and then split off; groups moving north, or further east, and some moving through the south of India to Australia.  From the Human Journey,[iii]

‘Another hypothesis is that Homo erectus reached the Near East about 125 KYA and from there they moved across Asia and into Europe around 43 KYA in one direction, and east to South Asia, reaching Australia around 40 KYA in the other direction. East Asia was reach by 30 KYA.’

However, what if this is not the case, as seems to be one of the underlying questions in Dark Emu.  This year I came across an article which placed humans in Australia 120,000 years ago, not long after it is accepted that humans arrived in the Near East.[iv]   While I respect, have great interest in, and support The Human Journey project, the above information clearly needs to be updated, and I’m sure it will be as information comes to hand.  However it is the Western bias of archaeology and interpretation which continues to prioritise the information that reaches the general public and becomes ‘fact’.

Pascoe also challenges the Western mindframe and history of dependence on conquest, innovation and intensification in contrast to early Indigenous Australian’s culture of kinship and cosmology (spiritual), sharing of resources, the land viewed as being held in common, and an aim of continuance. The types of crops and agricultural practices, the aquaculture system, and the land caring and clearing practices all worked with the Australian environment, not against it.  To continue with my 1998 text,

‘Yet we bring in all the trappings of an alien life
     and suffocate what is already there
          alien food
          alien clothes
          alien morality
          alien spirituality
          alien lifestyle
Nothing...not one thing

So we fight...and fight...
     to survive
Fight the land
     Fight the people of the land
We do not listen
     We do not see
     We do not respond
until we have created a space...an environment
     that is our own
Then and only then do we feel
     a sense of place
But it is an alien place in this land
It sits on top...
               all that is here
All that makes this land itself.’

Earlier this year I read Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood (Australia, Scribe, 2016).  I was struck by her need to repeatedly return to the country in which she was born, to remember and reinforce her connection on a deeper level.  On page 213 she writes,

‘Finding an iconography and an organising principle that was embedded in my own hybrid European-Antipodean culture became my driving preoccupation.  The ancestral imprint that gave the desert paintings such authority and power was not available to me.  Nor were the domestic and ceremonial elements of women’s paintings.  I needed to find an equivalent that belonged to my own culture.’

It so reminded me of why I travelled the well-worn track of my thesis, both physically and theoretically, and that this project continues to haunt me and has been part of the way I define myself.  I would like to think that if the forebears who made decisions about acceptable history and education had had the foresight to include the real pre- and post- colonial history warts and all, as well as the language and permitted songs, dances and beliefs or cosmology of Indigenous Australians, I would not have been left feeling so alienated later in life as I became aware of that loss.  I would like to think that as a child I would have found it fascinating and fun.[v]

Dark Emu presents the real pre-colonial history which included alternatives to our current agricultural and animal husbandry practices, alternatives that work with the land rather than against it.  It seems to me that Pascoe is hoping that the rest of Australia will wake up so that the next generation of Australians will learn another way, especially as we seem to be losing the race with self-sustainability and climate change.

We have an election coming up.  The current government is focusing on economic prosperity and growth, and seems to be ignoring the cost in environmental and human terms;  the opposition and some other candidates, including the Greens, are championing climate change, sustainability, alternative energy sources, education, and health with a focus on community.  The Indian-owned Adani coal mine has just been given the go ahead by the federal government in spite of opposition from many Australians, including the traditional land owners who are now being threatened with covering Adani’s court costs.  So I guess we will see what the majority of Australians really do care about, and if they are yet ready to listen.

To continue,

‘And what of our spirituality?
Those religions which came with us from the North?
     from elsewhere?
They also sit on top
     uneasy in their new location
Imposing their rituals
     their beliefs
     their festivals
     their seasons
on a place that does not connect...communicate

Their place...their heart...
     like the people who worship them
          is not here.
It is in another land
where they make pilgrimage
          always away...
               never here...
                    never here

How then can we aliens feel a sense of place
     of belonging
     of home
     of spiritual home
when we ignore and are ignorant of all that is here...
     that was here from the beginning?

Can we recover what was lost...
     connect with what was ignored...
          or is it already too late
               too late to make a beginning
                    to take the first step
                         to take time to make the first step?’

c. Annette Maie, 2019


[i] Pascoe, Bruce, Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture.  Broome, WA, Magabala, 2018 (2014).  Reconciliation NSW has put together a recommended reading list on Indigenous Australian cultures, history and politics, 10 Recommended books

[ii] Women and the Land, 1998.  At the time of my own gaining awareness, sorting and writing I did not go so far as say ‘murder those already living on the land’, but that is the reality of what occurred.  A continually updated Map of known massacres of tribes in Australia is available.  It is an eye-opener.

[iii] http://www.humanjourney.us/

[iv] http://ancientnews.net/2019/03/11/archaeology-places-humans-in-australia-120000-years-ago/?fbclid=IwAR2kYplDVu27MLHqmVeoAm4ja91TelzZw_2NBIzodvZdmbFYqPkjweIkV9I

[v] I was so impressed by the response of New Zealanders to the murders of Moslem worshippers this year, including the young people of many nationalities joining their Maori brothers and sisters in performing the traditional Haka: such a symbol of unification tied to the longer heritage of that land.  I remember in the 1970’s being taught a Haka by a New Zealander of European descent, yet he had learnt the movement and song at school.  At that stage the hidden story of Indigenous Australians had not yet reached me, although now I am aware that the reaching out had begun decades earlier.

1789 – Elizabeth Pulley’s second year

pulley image cropped 3 The following is the next in the series of my version of Elizabeth’s first years in Australia[1][2].  The story is my take on what life would have been like for Anthony and Elizabeth, and draws on events that would have affected them directly or of which they would have been aware.  The previous instalment, 1788 – Elizabeth Pulley’s first year, finished in December 1788 at the time of Ar-ab-anoo’s capture.  Ar-ab-anoo was probably from the Kayimai  of the Guringai nation who were living around North Sydney/Manly/Kay-yi-my.


The second year of settlement began with New Year celebrations, which included the usual hoisting of the flag, suspension of work, and the Governor’s dinner at which Ar-ab-an-noo was in attendance.  The band played, a singer sang, but Ar-ab-an-noo was not impressed and went to sleep. Ar-ab-a-noo’s abduction had led to a few months of relative peace.  The Traditional Owners, understandably, kept their distance, as the little trust they may have had in the British would have evaporated.

Ar-ab-a-noo, Nān-bar-ee and Ab-ar-óo

Ar-ab-a-noo was quick to learn the English language and customs, and was taken back to his people a few times so they could see he was not harmed.  But his people kept well away.  Phillip’s plan had backfired.  By April Ar-ab-a-noo’s fetter was taken off and he was free to move around the settlement, causing comment wherever he went.  In the same month disaster struck.

Reports were coming in of large numbers of Aboriginal People being found dead around the cove/Warrane and along the coast.  It was small-pox, probably brought in by the British.  Whereas the settlers were immune, being previously exposed to this disease, the Indigenous population had no resistance.  Between April and June they died in their hundreds[3].

A number of Indigenous Australians who were found sick but still alive, were brought into the settlement’s hospital for treatment.  Of those, two children survived.  The boy, Nãn-bar-ee, was adopted by Mr. White, the surgeon-general, and the girl, Ab-ar-òo, was ‘received into’ the family of Mrs. Johnson, the clergyman’s wife.  [4]

Then, in May, Ar-ab-a-noo, who had been tending his people in the hospital, became ill, and died eight days later.  According to Captain Tench, ‘the governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person’.  I wonder if his remains were ever found or are still under, supposedly, The Museum of Sydney?

East side vertical

East side of the Cove: Governor’s residence on corner of Bridge and Loftus Sts. [5]

The developing town

Life for Elizabeth, Anthony, and now Robert, continued with little change.  Couples married (Anthony was witness to a friend’s wedding in September), children were born, and a number of them and their mothers died during or after birth.  The building and organisation of the settlement struggled on.

Two roads, one linking the landing, hospital and stores, and another down to the magazine and Observatory, were under construction.

Sydney cove west side vertical

West side of Sydney Cove[6]

A second and more stable boat was being built to transport supplies between the Cove/Warrane and Rose Hill.  Temporary shelters were slowly being replaced by more permanent brick buildings and Anthony would have been busy at the brickworks.  

The brickworks[7]

Well, most of the time.  On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.


The brickworks were well out of town, so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and Traditional custodians, probably the Gadigal or Kamegal bands of the Dharug nation, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay/Kamay to attack and to plunder their fishing-tackle and spears.

They were met or ambushed, depending on source, by a group of Indigenous Australians who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitred the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.

Protecting food supply, the Night Watch, and mutinies

As well as ‘slacking off’, the stealing of anything and everything at both Sydney Cove/Warrane and the newly established Rose Hill gardens by all and sundry continued unabatedly.  In March six marines were executed for a well-organised and long-term exercise of systematically robbing from the stores.  By August a Night Watch was established in both places to try and quell the nighttime raids.  It turned out to be very effective.

Tension between the officers continued.  This time Lieutenant-Governor Ross turned his ire on Governor Phillip and Judge-Advocate Collins.  Ross’ complaints related to the chain of command being abused, and he, or his officers, being slighted or sidelined.  Underlying the complaint was the old grievance of who was in charge of whom and who should be required to do what.  The newly established Night Watch, which was instructed to stop and detain marines as well as convicts, was also a sore point.

Ross had had enough, and openly, and inappropriately, complained about his situation.  He was heard publicly stating, ‘Would to God my time was expired, too’.  He was soon to get his wish.  Plans were already being made in Britain to bring the marines home and replace them with an army corps.  But Ross was not the only discontent.  Insurrection was also becoming a problem at Norfolk Island.  In March news had come from there of an unsuccessful convict mutiny.

The Kings birthday and the first play

The tension was somewhat diverted mid-year with the celebration of the King’s Birthday.  This time the officers were entertained at dinner in the newly built Government House (cnr. Bridge & Phillip Sts).  The highlight of the night was the performance of Farquhar’s comedy of the Recruiting Officer by some of the convicts.

Sixty people attended the play, held in a convict-hut especially fitted up for the occasion with

‘three or four yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls’.  A ‘prologue and an epilogue, written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion;  which…contained some tolerable allusions to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation in New South Wales.’

Expansion beyond the Cove

In the meantime explorations continued further west of Rose Hill, and north-west along the Hawkesbury River/Dyarubbin, past Richmond Hill and the waterfall at the junction of the Grose and Nepean rivers.[8]

from the cove to the hawkesbury

The usual selection of seeds and vegetables were planted in any potentially suitable site on the way.  The parties noted yam planting, animal traps, hunting huts, and other signs of organised Aboriginal husbandry.[9]  They also noted the after-effects of torrential rain and flooding, which meant that the area would not be suitable for European agriculture.  Every attempt to go further, towards the Carmarthen and Blue Mountains/Colomatta, was still thwarted by the rugged countryside.

Diminishing stock and food reserves

Back in the settlements provisions were, as usual, limited. Rats, which had decimated everything in March, still proved to be a problem in the stores in October. There was an imbalance in new births of sheep and goats, with significantly more males than females being born.  Everyone was henceforth forbidden to kill a female.  Fish once again returned with the warmer weather in September, and by summer they were plentiful.

At Rose Hill and Norfolk Island clearing and planting crops had continued steadily throughout the year.  There was still hope that the gardens at Rose Hill and on Norfolk Island, as well as in the Cove/Warrane, would soon produce crops beyond seeding stock.

rose hill from bradley 1789Rose Hill c. 1789

 James Ruse, a farmer and one of a number of convicts whose sentences were now expired, had been sent to Rose Hill to develop an experimental farm.  Even so, in November, almost everyone’s rations were again reduced.

The Indigenous population re-emerges

The warmer weather also brought the Aboriginal Australians.  The devastation caused by small-pox, and the usual lack of food in winter, meant that very few Aboriginal people had been seen on the shore or in canoes.  Many had run away or moved to other areas.  Then in September the attacks on solo or unarmed English recommenced.

At the end of November Phillip once more captured two adult males, using the two Aboriginal children Nãn-bar-ee and Ab-ar-òo as bait,.  The men were Bà-n-eelon and Còl-beeCòl-bee was a chief or elder of the Ca-di-gal band, and was very respected by Bà-n-eelon, who remained quiet in his presence.  Bà-n-eelon was from the Eora. [10] Both had obviously survived small-pox. 

It was not long before Còl-bee managed to escape, even with an iron ring on one leg.  Bà-n-eelon, however, seemed right at home.  He quickly imitated the language and manners of the English, eating and drinking everything he was offered.  He laughed, danced, sang, and skited about carrying off women and fighting competitively, especially against the Cam-ee-ra-gal (based on the North shore, and one of the largest and most powerful tribes in the area).  He was quite a character; dressing in the military red coat and trousers, flirting with the women, and generally keeping the town entertained.[11]

Fear of starvation

In spite of these diversions, everyone in the settlement was becoming pre-occupied by a growing fear.  As the year drew to a close and 1790 began, Capt. Hunter wrote,

‘in every company, the converfation turned upon the long expected arrivals from England…with a fupply of provifions’.

c. Annette Maie, 2020

[1] These stories sprang from the research my mother, Madge Rups (nee Rope), undertook in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I extended from late 1990’s onwards to include the social context and Indigenous-British relations.  It is a compilation drawn from the Journals of the First Fleet, the Historical Records, the Picman Catalogue, the Colonial Secretary’s Papers, articles from the Royal Historical Society Journal and Proceedings, and other writing.

[2] As I explained in the previous instalment, it was two hundred and thirty years since my ancestor Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Australia and it seemed an apt time to offer my version of her first year in the colony.  I had also uploaded a very much abbreviated version of the first part of Elizabeth’s story, Beginnings and Arrival, in 2017 as Remembering Elizabeth Pulley on ‘Australia Day’  , which I then extended as a series in 2019-2020, Elizabeth Pulley Sets SailAll the stories are excerpts from a longer doco-story, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley: and her first five years in Australia which I wrote for my family in 2010.

[3] Estimates vary from hundreds to thousands.  Gov. Phillip commented that, from the information he was able to gather, ‘one-half of those who inhabit this part of the country died’.  The Indigenous Australians called it ‘devil devil’. The question ‘where did it come from?’ remains unanswered. Smallpox has a 10-14 day incubation period so it is unlikely to have come directly from the fleet’s human cargo.  Test tubes of scabs were apparently brought in for inoculation purposes and probably stored in the hospital laboratory, although there are questions about whether it would have remained active for the length of, and weather changes during, the journey. So either someone accidentally or purposefully let it loose or it came from somewhere unknown.  I doubt if it would have been on Phillip’s orders although he had enemies and some officers, let alone the rest of the rabble, did target the First Peoples.

[4] I have not yet found a reliable genealogy for Nãn-bar-eeAb-ar-òo, also known as Boorong, was from the Burrumattagal band of the Dharug nation (around Parramatta) and became Bennelong’s third wife (Ref. Why we should remember Boorong).

[5] Soas not to infringe copyright all sketches are my copies of original records with additions.

[6] My understanding is that George Street follows this early road, and that at this stage the landing of goods, etc was carried out via the beach.

[7] I have previously uploaded this section about the brickworks onto the Rope-Pulley facebook page.

[8] During the course of my research I have been constantly amazed how quickly and extensively the newcomers travelled in their efforts to find suitable settlement and agricultural sites.

[9] In his article, Australian Temper and Bias,  Bruce Pascoe summarises the evidence, recorded in explorer’s journals, of early Aboriginal settlement and agriculture around Australia by the time of European arrival – vast fields of agriculture, bread making, the damning of rivers and streams, and building.  Pascoe has published a detailed account of this in his adult’s and children’s versions of Dark Emu.

[10] This is one example that the devastation caused by the smallpox epidemic meant that old tribal groupings and territory divisions had broken down.

[11] Detailed information about Woollarawarre Bennelong, as he preferred to be called, and his story can be found at, Bennelong among his people.  In November 2018 the NSW State Government bought the site where Bennelong is believed to have been buried to establishing a public memorial.  Although Bennelong was born on Wangal land on the south side of the harbour, he was buried in Wallumedegal territory on the north side at Ryde.  Both Abaroo and Nãn-bar-ee are believed to be buried beside him.  It interests me to note that I was born on Wangal land and in the later years of my life have moved back there.

Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives (2023 update)

Australian bush Woodford


This year I will again be honouring my convict ancestors’, Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, arrival in Sydney Cove/Warrane on 26th January 1788.  Elizabeth had been sentenced to be ‘hung by the neck till she be dead’.  She escaped that fate by being shipped to Australia.  Because of this I and our family have been given the gift of life yet I am well aware of the devastation it caused the First Peoples of this continent.  As I have written many times previously, while I am happy to celebrate my ancestors safe arrival in Sydney Cove/Warrane on this date, in my view designating 26th January as ‘Australia Day’ and a national day for all Australians is insensitive, unacceptable, and must change.

The Roving Date.  Protest.  Alternative Events.  #changethedate.  Summary.

The Roving Date

Recently there has been increasing interest in and debate about the dating of ‘Australia Day’ and its designation as a national holiday.

In 2016 the Rope-Pulley Family Heritage Association newsletter[1]  discussed the different dating and versions of ‘Australia Day’ and the various celebrations held on 26th January both at a state and national level.[2]

More recently the Reconciliation Council of NSW uploaded additional information about, and history of resistance to the 26th January being designated ‘Australia Day’.[3] Some of it includes,

The 26th January as a national official public holiday called ‘Australia Day’ is recent (1994) and could well have been politically motivated as were earlier dates.  The first ever official national day that was actually named ‘Australia Day’ was July 30 in 1915, which was to raise funds for the World War I effort.  In 1916, the Australia Day committee that had formed (to organise the war effort fundraising the year before) determined that it would be held on July 28.  In 1837, the first Sydney Regatta was held. In 1838, crowds of people attended the event and to see the hoisting of the New South Wales flag. South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) were toasted as sister colonies, despite having their own celebratory day.[4]

In The many different dates we’ve celebrated Australia Day SBS has also traced the history of ‘Australia Day’ and its recent national significance concluding that “Australia Day officially became a public holiday for all states and territories only 24 years ago, in 1994.”


The Reconciliation Council of NSW has also traced the history of protest in relation to the 26th January.  In 1938 on 26th January there was a significant Aboriginal protest calling it a ‘Day of Mourning’ and, as the rally was held, 25 Indigenous men were told if they did not perform the role of ‘retreating Aborigines’ in a re-enactment of the First Fleet, their families would starve.[5]

Then, in 1972 the Aboriginal tent embassy was established in front of Parliament House, Canberra.   2022 marked the 50th anniversary of the Tent Assembly.    Begun as a protest about specific land rights its continuing presence challenges the Australian government on broader Indigenous land rights, sovereignty and self-determination.

On 26 January 1988 40,000 Aboriginal protesters and non-Aboriginal supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of British invasion.  Simultaneously “prominent and articulate” Aboriginal advocate Burnum Burnum “planted a huge Aboriginal flag on the White Cliffs of Dover and issues a declaration claiming England for the Aboriginal people”. [6]


The history and reasons for such protests and about the dating and therefore original intention of Australia Day as “the idea of Australia’s national day being a celebration of British colonialism” are also detailed and examined in Professor Marcia Langdon’s Welcome to Country* (p. 175).   “This absence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their histories and cultures from the story of the Australian nation cannot be understated” (p.176)

Alternative events

There are an increasing number of events on offer around this date that highlight the conflict.

25th January

In 2023 at 7.30 pm on 25 January the Sunset Ceremony on Gadigal country will be simultaneously simulcast on NITV, SBS and streaming platforms SBS On Demand and 10 Play, then encored at 6am on Thursday 26 January on 10 and at 12pm on NITV and SBS.

Then at 8.30 pm at Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney Festival is presenting Vigil: Awakening (2023) which will also be livestreamed.  The evening vigils began in 2019 when the Festival of Sydney offered a vigil to signify ‘The Day Before Everything Changed’ and in which the public was invited to participate.  In 2020 and 2021 the event was title was shortened to Vigil, and in 2022 titled Vigil: Songs for Tomorrow.

26th January

In 2023 in Sydney the day begins at 5.20 am with a Dawn Reflection during which the Opera House will be lit by First Nations artwork.

WugulOra Morning Ceremony, at Barangaroo Reserve at 7.30 am.  Previously it has begun with a ritual walk along George St. In 2023 it will be broadcast live on ABCTV and streamed on ABC iview.

For a number of years there has been an Invasion Day protest and march.  In 2023 there will be a rally 9.30 am at Belmore Park, Eddy Avenue, Haymarket.

In 2023 at 10am Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council is holding a 1938 Day of Mourning Commemorative Event at Australia Hall, 150-152 Elizabeth St., Sydney.  Anny Druett, granddaughter of Pearl Gibbs one of the original protesters, and Warren Roberts are keynote speakers.  Musician Charlie Trindall and Actor-comedian Steven Oliver will be performing. After the event there will be a procession to Yabun Festival.

Yabun Festival at Victoria Park has been an alternative event for many years which celebrates Aboriginal heritage, culture and survival.  In 2023 it will be livestreamed.

Then there is Yumi Wansolwara, a celebration of South Sea Islander culture at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont.

Alternative events such as these are gathering momentum across the continent – to remember and heal.  ANTaR is listing major events in each state.  In addition events at Bondi, Sutherland, Griffith and Newcastle have come across my radar and in 2023 South Australia will be holding events over the two days with the theme, ‘connecting to country and nature’.

In 2021 Anita Heiss, Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland and a  Wiradjuri woman offered her list of numerous alternative activities for the day, What you can read, view and do.


It has been recognised for a long time that Australia Day and other national days in this country only celebrate post-colonial history.  There is no national celebration or holiday that celebrates anything of the previous 60,000+ years when the First Nations Peoples lived on and cared for Country, or recognises the ceremonies and celebrations they engaged in.  As can already be seen there is a lot of heartache and discomfort around the date in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. [7]

In 2017 Reconciliation Australia published an issue addressing the arguments around the need for change. 

Coach, trainer, speaker and Ngemba woman Anny Druett also discusses background and issues involved suggesting the name ‘Acknowledgement Day’ as an alternative for 26th January: one which would have “the potential to connect us through cultural protocols that have been handed down for over 60,000 years, or over the last 4,000 generations”, so that “Australia will genuinely be able to commemorate and celebrate both our First Nations, and our continent: past, present and future.”

In 2021 Wiradjuri historian, author and Aboriginal engagement expert Nola Turner-Jenkins posted,

“I am getting asked more and more about what are my thoughts on Australia Day celebrations. My thoughts are this – the current public holiday and focus is for one society to celebrate a different Australian version of their English/European heritage, hard work, colonisation and exploration in search of a way to showcase a unique Australian identity.You have governance control and that is what you have decided is right for all Australians.  As a person who is of the First Nation people of this land it is not right for me to celebrate your version of an Australian identity.  It is not my identity.  I hold a different identity so why should my unique and ancient identity that already exists be forcibly diluted amongst your new one?”

Continue reading “Australia Day: conflicts and alternatives (2023 update)”

Anthony Rope and the Sydney Cove brickworks

thumbnail (1)

I’ve been motivated by Julie Austen’s link on Rope-Pulley Family Heritage association facebook page to upload information I have.  This is an excerpt from a 2010 family compilation, The Story of Elizabeth Pulley and her first five years in Australia, which I began to serialised in 2020 as Elizabeth Pulley Sets Sail and Other Stories.

‘On 11th February Anthony, along with John Summers, was charged with ‘neglecting to work where ordered’, and ordered 25 lashes.  Then, on 9th March, Anthony was charged again, and ordered 25 lashes.  Perhaps there was a reason for his reticence.

The brickworks were well out of town (The Dictionary of Sydney places them two kilometers out of the settlement in what is now Chinatown), so there was always a potential lack of supervision of workers there.  It seems that conflict between the brickworkers and the Traditional Owners, which had come to public attention in December, was not isolated, and on 6th March it came to a head.  Members of the Brickmaker’s gang, and some others, armed with working tools and large clubs, went towards Botany Bay to attack the Aboriginal groups there and plunder their fishing-tackle and spears (possibly from the Kameygal or Gweagal clans of the Dharwal nation).

They were met, or ambushed (depending on source), by a group of Indigenous Australians, who killed one of the convicts and injured seven others.  The convicts who escaped gave the alarm and an officer, with a detachment of marines, was sent to rescue the wounded and bring them back.  Later two more armed parties of marines reconnoitered the area to signal the Governor’s disapproval.

Over the next couple of months the convicts involved were rounded up, charged, and ordered 150 lashes and to wear a leg iron for a year.  Samuel Day, who had been Elizabeth’s accomplice in the sea-pye incident the previous May, was one of them.  Anthony, however, was not on the list.  I would like to think that his reason for shirking work during this period was because he would have known of the plans for the impending attack, and he did not want to be part of it.  So, he stayed away.  But I could be quite wrong.  He may have just been ‘slacking off’.’


c. Annette Maie, 2018

Education Week: The Mudgee Ropes and the Lawson Creek Schools

It’s Education Week and an appropriate time to revisit and update an article I began in 2016.  It is especially relevant as it is also my great grandfather George Rope’s memorial day next week.

The background research for this was conducted by my mother, Madge (Rope) Rups during 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s; taken from birth, marriage, death, cemetery, land and department of education records as well as information given to her by relatives.  Madge was born in Mudgee,  After she died In 2015 I began re-checking her records and my additions with the purpose of handing them on to the next generation.  I was amazed to notice for the first time how many of the third generation of Australian Rope descendants ended up in or around Mudgee and how involved they were with the establishment of the first schools in the area.  This is their story.

First I wish to acknowledge the original inhabitants, the elders past and present, and the violence that was part of Mudgee settlement.[i]

The Mudgee area is the home of the Wiradjuri Nation’s Mowgee clan. The Mowgee women’s totem is the wedge tail eagle (Mullian), and the men’s, the crow (Waggan).

In 1821 James Blackman jnr, assisted by Aaron an Aboriginal guide, finds the Cudgegong River, and Blackman follows it to the Burrundulla Swamps.  Later that year Lawson makes it as far as the Aboriginal camp at Mudgee.  By 1822 Lawson has convinced George and Henry Cox (of Mulgoa) to settle the land with him.  Other settlers soon follow.

Gradually the battles begin between the settlers and Mowgee people over the Cudgegong River, other food sources (incl. animals which the settlers would kill), and sacred sites.  In 1824 Martial Law is imposed, and the Mowgee people are shot without question. 

By 1845, the time that Robert and his siblings probably arrive, Mudgee has been gazetted as a village, there are 30+ dwellings, including a post office, 3 hotels, a hospital, 2 stores, an Anglican church and a police station.  There is little evidence left of Aboriginal presence.

My family’s story centres on my great great grandparents Robert and Hannah Jane and their son George Rope, as well as James and Elizabeth Rope and families.  Robert was the grandson of first fleet convicts Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope.  Anthony, Elizabeth and their growing family had moved west following the expanding settlement in the Sydney basin, finally working and settling around the areas east of the Nepean River/Dyarubbin.

1. Robert Rope2. Hannah Jane Thompson-Rope

Robert and Hannah Jane

At some stage in the 1840’s Robert, grandson of Anthony and Elizabeth and son of John and Maria, moves to Mudgee with, or followed by, his siblings Ann, George, Thomas, Elizabeth, Eliza and Mary Ann.

Elizabeth and her husband James are already in the area by 1847, and both die there.

Ann, who marries John Randall at Castlereagh,  is in Mudgee by 1860 when their children begin to get married.

By 1869 Thomas’ wife Letitia has given birth to their fourth child, Albert Robert, in Mudgee.  Thomas, Letitia and three of their eight children die in Mudgee.

Eliza marries William Rusten from Gulgong and has a child there, although she seems to have died in Penrith.  

Mary Ann was witness to Robert and Hannah’s marriage in Mudgee 1868 and she and her husband William George Frost seem to have died there.[ii]

James, another grandson of Elizabeth Pulley and Anthony Rope, and his mother, Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Anthony and Elizabeth also end up in Mudgee[iii].  James, who marries Elizabeth, Robert’s sister, is recorded as working as a labourer in Cooyal in 1847 and their first child is born there.  By the time of their third child it looks as if they have moved to Lawsons Creek, not far from Robert, Hannah Jane, and family.

Our records show that Robert acts as witness to Elizabeth’s and James’ marriage on 13th December 1853.  Robert’s partner (Hannah) Jane Rope[iv] acts as second witness.  This is a couple of months after the birth of James’ and Elizabeth’s third child.  James continues to work around the area and the family continue to expand to thirteen children, all of whom seem to be born around Lawsons and Pipeclay creek Mudgee.

At some stage five of James’ siblings are in Mudgee.  In 1859 Edward Player, James’ half-brother,  marries Jane Matthews and then Cora Proctor after Jane dies.  All his children are born in Mudgee.  There is an Edward ‘Rope’ who purchases land in 1874.  I am wondering if this is misnamed Edward Player as I cannot yet find an alternative.  John Player, another of James’ half brothers marries Elizabeth Ann Peak in Mudgee in 1869.  Eight of their children are born in Mudgee.

My great-great grandparents, Robert and Hannah Jane Rope, have four children, George, Matilda, William E. and Henry[v].

George Rope cropped4. Matilda5a. William and Henry

George, Matilda, William E and Henry

At the time of George’s birth in 1852 the family are living and working at Botobolar/Bottaballar near Mudgee.  By 1853 they have moved to Oakfield, which is overlooked by Mt Buckaroo near Lawson Creek.  Matilda, William E.  and Henry are born there.  By 1859 they have a small holding at Lawsons Creek.

In 1859 a school opens at Burrundulla on the other side of Mt Frome.  Although still in Mudgee surrounds it is a hike from Lawson’s Creek.  The search begins for an alternative location for another school.  In 1867 a school building is being erected at Lawsons Creek on land belonging to Mrs Maloney.  According to Joyce Turner (nee Tompkins) one of the schools “opened in 1868 on a flood prone site and relocated”.  By 1870 another site has been selected at Lawsons Creek and the school building is moved to its new location.  It is dedicated the following year.  In 1876 the school board is listed as James McGrath, Duncan Kerr, teacher Joseph Southwick, unmarried, and James Rope

During 1876 the board, including James Rope, requests a new building and in 1877 the plan James Rope has presented to the Board is approved, accepted and surveyed, with the value of improvements: Hut £4, Fencing £10, Clearing £12.  The following year, 1878, Mr. John Rope (I assume James’ and Elizabeth’s son) presents a bill for fencing.  By 1879 a request has been submitted to grant permission to sell the old building to pay for other buildings.

1897 Schoolhouse cropped

The class of 1897, with George’s children Violet, Clara, Alice May, Ellen Olive (Ollie), (Joseph) George and William Claude (Bill).  Photo from Ron Johnson’s collection.

This is perfect timing for George (my great-grandfather) who has married Ann (‘Hawkie’) Johnstone from Lue in 1874.  The first of their thirteen children, Maria Jane, is born the following year.  Maria Jane is followed by Florence Matilda (Flo), Charlotte Ethel (Eth), Henry Albert, Linda Dorothea, Violet, Clara, Alice May, Ellen Olive, my grandfather Joseph George, William Claude (Bill), Ivy Irene Madeline, and Daisy Pearl.[vi][vii]

6. George, Ann Hawkins Johnstone-Rope and children

George and ‘Hawkie’ build Edenville, just backing onto the railway line at Mt. Frome, to which they keep adding rooms for their expanding family.[viii]

7a. Edenville, Mt. Frome with 'Hawkie', Fla & EthEdenville

By this stage there are a lot of Rope descendent children of all ages growing up in the area.

There is a sad sidenote to this story.  A few months after the birth of George’s and Hawkie’s first child George’s mother is shot and killed by his uncle and namesake during one of his rages.  Robert, William and Henry are all there at the time, and Joseph Johnstone, ‘Hawkie’s father, is outside.  At the end of the year ‘uncle George’ is hung in spite of the rest of the family’s objections and pleas for leniency. [ix]

Five years later, in 1880, Robert marries a second time, Jane Haynes, a widow. Yet Robert seems to go into decline.  By 29th September 1887 he owes school fees, and in 1891 a letter is sent to the Minister for Public Instruction in Sydney requesting for Robert’s debts to be cancelled because of his continuing sickness (almost bedridden) and poverty:  Robert is being attended to by Dr. Nicholl ‘for the last three months’ and is without means of support.  He dies on 15th July 1892.[x]

In spite of this George and his brothers make a success of their lives.  By June 1900 George is involved as one of a number of parents signing a petition for a new school and residence.  He has six children attending the school.  By September of the same year he is named in a letter to Department of Public Instruction as willing to give or sell 2 acres of his land nearer Mt. Frome station in exchange for the present school site, half a mile away, which can only be accessed through the Rope private property.

By 1902 the new school is built on the corner of Lue and Rocky Waterhole roads and George offers to purchase the old school property at a fair price, especially as it joins his property, and as it has not been cared for since and tramps have damaged the buildings.  In October the land, near Billy’s Lookout is transferred.  In 1911 a report is submitted regarding the need for fencing to keep the rabbits out of the school garden.

8a. Mt. Frome school with George and 3 Rope childrenMt Frome School with George (my great grandfather) and three Rope children.

8b. Mt. Frome school. Joseph George 3rd row, 4th from RMt. Frome School with Joseph George (my grandfather) third row, fourth from right.

This is the school that my grandfather and siblings attended, followed in turn by my mother, Madge, and her brother, Geoffrey George (‘Geoff’) when they were young.

1929 schoolhouse with mum cropped

The class of 1929 with Madge hidden at the back.  Photo from Ron Johnson’s collection.

George’s energy and vision sees him gradually expand his holdings.  By the end of his life this has extended up the mountains on both sides of Lawsons Creek – Mt. Buckaroo and Mt. Frome.

He is obviously a very successful farmer and well respected in the community.  When he dies one obituary comments on his generosity and kindness and continues with,

‘he was a successful farmer, and for many years has added dairying as a profitable industry, and was one of the directors of the Mudgee Butter Factory (ed. which is managed by his son, Henry).  He also spent a period as alderman of the Cudgegong Council….He was an enthusiastic member of the Mudgee Agricultural Society…the Mudgee band has also lost a generous friend.  One who time after time opened his hospitable home when a band benefit was in progress.’

The other,

‘The funeral…was one of the largest witnessed for some years, thus showing the respect in which the late Mr Rope was held’

After George’s death[xi] the property passes to ‘Hawkie’, and then the two sons, my grandfather Joseph George, and William (‘Bill’).   During World War I Bill joins the army and Joseph George is constrained to stay at home and help look after the farm for his mother.   Joseph George extends the land holdings and agriculture, including an orchard and vineyards, and moves into the brick house (at the junction of Lue and Rocky Waterhole Roads) which is opposite and up the road from the old farm, adding a veranda around the outside for sleeping during summer.

The orchard contains every type of fruit, including quince, peach and fig trees.  The farm is mixed.  Although mainly dairy, there are also chooks, pigs, sheep and crops such as lucerne and oats.   The milk is separated, and the cream sold to the Mudgee Butter Factory, managed by Joseph George’s brother, ‘Harry’ (Henry Albert), while the skim milk is fed to the pigs and weaned calves.  The lucerne is pressed into bales and stored in the hayshed.[xii]

10j. Mt. Frome from BuckerooThe property from Mt. Buckaroo showing the schoolhouse, school and brick house

 10i. The orchard c. 1927 croppedThe brick house and orchard

Joseph George marries Florence Smith and the brick house becomes their home.  It is where my mother and her brother grow up and where we often stay as children.

Joseph George football cropped 2Florence May Smith cropped

Joseph George and Florence May

At some stage Joseph George also buys the two storied Hawthorn heritage cottage near what once was the causeway, and more land along Waterhole Road which was previously owned by Lawson.

When ‘Hawkie’ and my grandfather Joseph George die within four months of each other his sisters Fla, Eth and Daisy are given the brick house and surrounding land.  My grandmother ‘Flo’ inherits Joseph’s half of the farm and continues to manage it until her son, Geoff, receives a scholarship and decides to move to Sydney.  Flo goes with him.  Fla, Eth and Daisy agree to rent and run the property for her in her absence.  Madge follows her mother and brother at a later stage.

By all accounts the property has always been the centre of social life for the Lue and Rylestone Ropes when they pass through on the way to town, and the clan continues to gather regularly even after my mother moves to Sydney.   Fla also runs a post office and telephone exchange in the front room which would have been the locus for local news[xiii].  There is a wonderful story about two Rope woman saving  herd of cows at Mt. Frome c. 1935 and I am certain it is about Flat and Eth (story in notes below).

1961 map copy showing Rope land img955 close upshowing the Ropes holdings.

My uncle Geoff and family, my mother, my father and we children continue to return to the property to maintain it, staying in the main brick house with Fla, Eth and Daisy[xiv].  At some stage Fred Creaser (who marries Daisy and stays on after her death to assist Fla and Eth) is engaged to run the farm and continues to do so after the sisters die. Here the order of events is not clear but at another stage the main house becomes unavailable to us.

It is probably then that my uncle Geoff organises to rent the school back from the Department of Education.  The two families convert it into a large, single room living space.  I remember clearing out all the bird nests and droppings, as well as sheep droppings.  My cousin Judith remembers cupboards being moved from the main house to provide a division between sleeping and living areas, beds being moved over for us to sleep in, and having to bath in a tub.

As well as the tub I also remember a large log fire on which we heat the hot water in the kettle and make toast for breakfast, layered with fresh cream which we collect over the road at the farm as it is being separated from the early morning milking of the cows, and going through the mist and frost to do so.  This is still during Fred Creaser’s time as I remember helping him wash the separating machine.  And, of course, we both remember the ‘dunny’ out the back facing the railway line and Mt. Frome.  For me it was a childhood highlight; much anticipated.  For our parents, however, it was lot of hard work keeping the property maintained from such a distance and, once my grandmother dies my uncle decides to sell.[xv]

The Coopers, who are renting the school house, buy the schoolhouse and school when the Department of Education puts them on the market.  In later years when mum and I visit we notice that the school is converted into an attractive cottage – who would have believed it!  And during my last couple of visits I was delighted to discover that Moothi Estate[xvi] and winery is established on what once was the Mt. Frome section of the property.  I think both my great grandfather and grandfather would be pleased to know that grapes are still being grown on the property.


looking back from Moothi Estate

c. Annette Maie, 2018

Updated 2019.

THE STORY OF JIMMY GOVERNOR – updated 2022 (with thanks to Ron Johnson for sourcing and sharing the  newspaper article).  Other sources include Stan Grant’s Australia Day, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/governor-jimmy-6439, Katherine Biber, (2008) ‘Besieged at Home: Jimmy Governor’s Rampage’ in The Journal of Law and Social Justice, Vol. 2, Art 2, pp. 1-41, and correspondence with Mudgee Historical Society.

In 1900, during great grandfather George’s time, ex-tracker and labourer Jimmy Governor, who had been supporting his own and extended family, went on a murdering spree triggered by repetitive harassment of he and his wife Ethel for being an Aboriginal man (his father was Aboriginal and mother of mixed Aboriginal and Irish descent) married to a white woman (if the newspaper article is anything to go by, the harassment would have been severe).  According to the newspaper at the time, a few years before Ethel had lived with her parents on a Lawson’s Creek farm, near Oakfield.  Probably George and other Ropes would have known the family, and from my mother’s comments our family at the time was very aware of the story.

According to Katherine Biber “Governor’s wife, Ethel, a 17 year old white woman, the mother of his child, the Mawbey’s domestic servant, may or may not have been an accomplice to these murders”.  The Mawbey’s had been among those who had harassed her about her marriage and were Jimmy’s first target.  According to information from Mudgee Historical Society Emma was also pregnant with their second child.

Jimmy, his brother Joe, and Jack Underwood continued their ‘rampage’ until Jack was captured and Joe shot.  Jimmy was eventually captured and hung.  The story of the life of Jimmy Governor was the basis for Thomas Keneally‘s 1972 novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, which was filmed by Fred Schepisi in 1978.  His life is also the subject of Australian poet Les Murray‘s poem “The Ballad of Jimmy Governor”.  And from Stan Grant, “As modern Australia celebrated its birth at Federation in 1901…Jimmy Governor sat in a Darlinghurst jail cell, alternating between singing songs in his traditional Wiradjuri language and reading the Bible – the synthesis of the old and new worlds that collided here so violently, given form in a man soon for the gallows. “

In a 2004 article in the Sydney Morning Herald one of the results of the Governor’s payback spree was that the remaining Wiradjuri peoples around Wollar were rounded up and taken to Brewarrina Mission about 500 km away.


[i] Mudgee History website as well as other sources.  2022 update: I have recently been told that Mudgee was also home to the Meroo people of the Wiradjuri nation and that numbers of Aboriginal families in the area were forcibly removed to Brewarrina, on the Queensland border.  Brewarrina Mission opened in 1886.  The only reference I have found so far is from the Sydney Morning Herald article in relation to the Governors (above).

[ii] The road across the Blue Mountains was completed earlier in the century, Robert’s mother Maria dies in 1842, his father John dies in 1845, his grandmother Elizabeth in 1837 and grandfather Anthony in 1843.  Toby Ryan, son of Mary (nee Rope) and another grandson of Elizabeth and Anthony, by his own account, has been travelling often, crossing the Blue Mountains between Penrith and Bathurst and bringing back glowing reports: ‘great grazing country’….’a great deal of land was taken up, but not at that time occupied’ (Ryan, pp. 124-126). Although it is impossible to say whether these events triggered the move, it seems to have been time for a new start.  It is likely that all of John and Maria’s living children ended up in and around Mudgee during this period.  For a list of the siblings, family members and children whom I have so far identified as ending up in Mudgee, Rope-Pulley descendants who move to Mudgee

[iii] I don’t have the detail whether James arrives in the area with Robert, or comes separately with Elizabeth, or at what stage James’ mother arrives.

[iv] Robert and Hannah Jane marry in 1868.  Their marriage is witnessed by William and Mary Ann Frost.  Mary Ann is Robert’s sister.

[v] Matilda marries James William Honeysett, and I believe there are still Honeysett’s living in Rylestone;  William and Henry Rope become brewers and hoteliers in Orange and are buried there.

[vi] Maria Jane marries Henry Castle Adams, owner of Victoria Hotel, Orange;  Florence (Fla), Charlotte Ethel (Eth) and Daisy end up managing Lawson Creek property, dying in Mudgee; Henry marries Belle Smede and manages Mudgee Butter Factory;  Linda marries Frederick Rule Webb; Violet marries Walter Hedley Ford and dies in Mudgee; Clara marries ‘Gus’ Manners and dies in Mudgee;  Alice May marries Clarence Hilton Clark of Mudgee; Ellen Olive marries Roy Keith Stoddard and moves to Sydney; Joseph George marries Florence May Smith and manages the Lawson Creek property;  William (Bill) marries Bessie Ann Kellet, works for the office of railways which requires him to move around, and dies in Mudgee; Ivy marries Tom Rowbotham and moves to Home Rule.

[vii] On our visits to the farm we catch up with those of George’s children and grandchildren who are still around.  As well as Fla, Eth and Daisy, I remember aunty Ivy clearly, and still visit her daughter Sally up at Home Rule.  I also remember calling in regularly on Graham and Tom Clark (Alice’s sons) and, of course, visiting their brother Peter’s memorial in St. John’s Anglican church, Mudgee.

[viii] According to mum, ‘He built a house of slabs, like they used to do, with lining on the inside covered with fancy wallpaper, on the block near the railway line.  Had 13 children, so kept extending it backwards.  Because of the fuel stoves and danger of fire they had a division between the dining area, kitchen and bathroom at one end, and the bedrooms at the other.  In between was a courtyard with a cement floor.  It was long, but quite a pleasant house.  The dining room was large with a huge fireplace at one end; the other end had one or two bedrooms.’  (ed. By the time my generation visit Mt. Frome Edenville is little more than a pile of bricks, and my father teaches me to drive in the surrounding paddock).

[ix]  The family obviously wanted clemency.  ‘Uncle George’ seems to have had a harrowing time prior to coming to Mudgee, losing two children in infancy and his wife;  all in a period of two years.  His wife, Margaret (nee Behan/Behean), and the two children are all buried at John Jamison Cemetery in Penrith with her grandfather.  Uncle George was obviously struggling and I like to think he is remembered by his name being carried through the following generations (although King George VI was also on the British throne during this time)

[x] Two other deaths occur around this time. On 23rd August 1889 Elizabeth Ann (Rope) Player dies in Mudgee, notified by her son James.    On 4th May 1895 James Rope also dies.

[xi] George has the foresight to buy a sizeable plot in Mudgee Cemetery.  He, Hawkie and many family members are buried or interred there or nearby, including my parents.  There is also a memorial to Robert and Hannah Jane.

[xii] At harvest time Frank Muller who lives along Eurunderee Lane (near Pipeclay creek) comes over to help prune the orchard and vines.  He and Joseph George are great friends.  Frank Muller’s sister Freda ends up marrying my grandmother Flo’s brother, Lloyd Smith.  When mum and I visit in 2008 Frank Muller’s two grandsons are still living there and growing grapes.

[xiii] All the kids run to answer the phone when it rings and I seem to remember helping to plug in the connections to answer and transfer calls.

The story of ‘the two Rope women’ who saved a herd of cattle: “Daisy Baynham remembers when two women saved a herd of cows on Mt Frome…They lived just up the hill from the old schoolhouse on the corner of Lue and Rocky Water Hole roads. Apparently two old ladies from the Rope family lived across the Lue Road from them…..‘As Ted rushed to try to get them out of the paddock, he yelled to his wife to get the Rope girls, and they came running across the road to the bulging cows with their hands full of knives,” Daisy told me.  Daisy said the women held one knife in their mouth while they threw another knife at a cow’s bulging tummy. “Pop! It would go, as the wind escaped,” she said, “and the other lady rammed her fist into the paunch and pulled out hunks of half chewed grass.” The women treated all the cows in the same fashion and most of them  survived, according to Daisy” (an interview with Joyce Turner, nee Tompkins at http://www.mudgeehistory.com.au/Mt%20Frome_p1.html)  Eth would have been c. 57yrs and Fla 59 yrs.

[xiv] ‘Hawkie’ wills the brick house and surrounding land to her three unmarried daughters, and follows through with George’s wishes that Bill inherits the Mt. Buckaroo side of the creek, which is more suitable for sheep, and Joseph George the Mt. Frome side, which is more suitable for agriculture.

[xv] The Mt Buckaroo side of the property, which Bill inherits, is passed down to his son, Ron.  My understanding (from speaking with Ron’s family when mum dies), is that they still own their property and live there periodically.

[xvi] At the time of writing, Moothi Estate sells ‘the best’ cabernet savignon among other wines, has a cellar door, and offers lunch with a wonderful view over our ancestor’s property.