Looking back: January 2015

The main activity on this blog was a family history series called Neil’s Decades in which I went back on both sides of my family and came forward decade by decade. The series begins at Neil’s personal decades: 1 — 1815.

We all know this year is the centenary of Anzac and Gallipoli. I have decided to start a series going back through my “personal” decades – that is mentioning things from family history – starting with 1815, when most of my family connections were elsewhere. One exception — my former sister-in-law’s family: see Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield. My former sister-in-law is a descendant of the family of Bungaree.

Sydney was a tad different c.1815:

C 359 Joseph Lycett's painting of Natives and the North Shore of Sydney Harbour, courtesy of Mitchell Library.lightbox


Jane Brooks writes of how Koorie people live in the Domain ‘in their gunyahs made of bushes.’ She also remembers seeing ‘the very tiny canoes with a gin (Koorie woman) fishing in them, quite alone, sometimes with a streak of smoke from it, and we supposed she was cooking.’ (Karskens, p. 209)

See also Bungaree and the George’s Head Settlement: 31 January 1815

On Tuesday last, at an early hour, HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR and Mrs. MACQUARIE, accompanied by a large party of Ladies and Gentlemen, proceeded in boats down the Harbour to George’s Head. The object of this excursion, we understand, was to form an establishment for a certain number of Natives who had shewn a desire to settle on some favourable spot of land, with a view to proceed to the cultivation of it; — The ground assigned them for this purpose (the peninsular of George’s Head) appears to have been judiciously chosen, as well from the fertility of the soil as from its requiring little exertions of labour to clear and cultivate; added to which, it possesses a peculiar advantage of situation; from being nearly surrounded on all sides by the sea; thereby affording its new possessors the constant opportunity of pursuing their favorite occupation of fishing, which has always furnished the principal source of their subsistence.

On this occasion, sixteen of the Natives, with their wives and families were assembled, and HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR, in consideration of the general wish previously expressed by them, appointed Boongaree (who has been long known as one of the most friendly of this race, and well acquainted with our language), to be their Chief, at the same time presenting him with a badge distinguishing his quality as “Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe,” and the more effectually to promote the objects of this establishment, each of them was furnished with a full suit of slop clothing, together with a variety of useful articles and implements of husbandry, by which they would be enabled to proceed in the necessary pursuits of agriculture; — A boat (called the Boongaree was likewise presented them for the purpose of fishing.

About noon, after the foregoing ceremony had been concluded, HIS EXCELLENCY and party returned to Sydney, having left the Natives with their Chief in possession of their newly assigned settlement, evidently much pleased with it, and the kindness they experienced on the occasion.

We Whitfields were presumably in this part of the world in 1815:


Near Drumgoon, Cavan, Ireland

See all the posts.

Other posts that bear on my family included Some interesting history of the RAAF.

On Australia Day I posted Australia Day 2015 – and Tony Abbott’s serious mental problem.

All my posts this month pretty much have been to show how deep my roots go into the countries and culture that shape the Australia we now have. None of the people I have been referring to – my own ancestors – was especially famous, but they may well be quite representative. Far more so than that ten pound Pom Abbott!  What on earth has possessed the man to make such a foolish, foolish choice on our national day of all days.

Tones, get your head examined, mate! You really need to. I am not joking. I wondered when you became leader how your party could possibly have made that choice. I wonder even more today. I suspect some of them wonder too.

The political death of Tony Abbott dates from Australia Day 2015. Mark my words.

Sadly too January brought the Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris: God is diminished and the Prophet traduced… Earlier I posted Daily Telegraph in 2015 just keeps on cashing in on fear – and that has remained the case all year.

And rather different: What’s Your Name Again?

Yesterday at Diggers a woman joined our table – aka “The Table of Knowledge” 😉 – and after a rather good conversation she took a beer coaster and wrote our names on the back for future reference. Like most of us she had passed the big 60, though not yet the big 70 like me or even the big 80 like A. But I knew where she was coming from, as during the course of the conversation Ken had come along – that’s the one I talked about in February last year:

Last Friday the conversation I was engaged in was so fascinating we talked right through “The Ode” – a daily ritual – 4pm in Wollongong — that may seem odd but which I respect. This Friday we made sure not to repeat the gaffe. My friend is a retired Port Kembla wharf labourer originally from Liverpool on the Mersey, born the same year as John Lennon – and yes as a young man he frequented the original Cavern, though for the jazz rather than the Beatles.  Of such things were we talking when “The Ode” came on Friday last.

Except I didn’t introduce Ken as at that moment I would have had to ask “What’s Your Name Again?”


No, it isn’t yet as bad as that.