Local Treasures: The Athel D’Ombrain Archive

Athel D’Ombrain

Day Shift – 15/11/2011 – 02:10 PM – forthcoming
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses the recent digitisation of the Athel D’Ombrain Archive comprising of over 2,500 negatives, and talks about his life and extraordinary contribution to the Hunter Region.

Broadcast Notes:

The Athel D’Ombrain Archive was donated with the University of Newcastle Archives in 1982.

The following notes are from an 1981 article in the University News entitled “University Post” (Vol. 7 No. 12 July 1981 p.[3]) supplemented with further notes from a variety of websites. He left an incredible and varied legacy in the wider Regional community. These photographs are an outstanding document of his life’s work and contribution to the natural world,  history, architecture, science and art. They document many historical buildings throughout the Hunter Region, prior to restoration. They also document buildings and structures no longer extant.

The negatives were digitised by Sharon Mee and Michael Sherriff, and both should be congratulated for scanning the two and a half thousand odd negatives that are very challenging to handle. Sharon is currently uploading the negatives to our flickr site here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157627892125061/

Here is a selection:

Rear view of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Mr. Sam McKeachie looking through upstairs window, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Well and shutters, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24 1961Bats in cellar, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Wire winding wheel in cellar, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Wire winding wheel in cellar, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Wire winding wheel in cellar, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Steps to cellar, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Roof showing storm damage, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Peg Bartlett in 100 year old period dress looking out of top window (coloured negative), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Rear view, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Rear view, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Side view, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Front doorway, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961
Colonnades and front verandah, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961From across the river, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Wallpaper, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Relative of Captain Cromarty with punt shotgun, Bob's Farm - September, 1973Peg Bartlett in 100 year old period dress looking out top window, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Front verandah showing front door, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Stairway with cedar doors, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961
Front and side view with Mr. McKeachie standing in front, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Fireplace, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Picture frame, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Western aspect, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Ground floor rooms, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Ground floor rooms, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Showing damage to walls and general condition, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]
Showing damage to walls and general condition, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1977]Cedar doors, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage to ceilings, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Corner of Room, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Fireplace, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Corner of Room, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage above doorways, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]
Dome, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage to walls, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Fireplace, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage above fireplace, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Living room, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Fireplace, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Swallows nest in one of the smaller rooms, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]

Pre-Restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Windows - pre-restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]White-ant damage, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage to rear chimney, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Damage to rear chimney, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Columns and water tanks, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Columns and water tanks, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]

Pre-Restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Stages of interior restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Stages of interior restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Stages of interior restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Stages of interior restoration, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building, Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia [1978]Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August 1981
Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Western end, Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Western end, Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Front, Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Front and side, Exterior photographs, Pre-Restoration photographs to record the condition of the building (for the National Trust), Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - August, 1981Armstrong Galleries, Morpeth with Campbell's Store in the background, NSW, AustraliaArmstrong Galleries, Morpeth with Campbell's Store in the background, NSW, AustraliaAnlaby's InnAnlaby's InnAnlaby's InnAnambah, Maitland, NSW, Australia [1964]Statue on stairway, Anambah, Maitland, NSW, Australia [1964]Ironwork from the roof, Anambah, Maitland, NSW, Australia [1964]Angel Inn, Maitland, NSW, Australia - July 1, 1966
Angel Inn, Maitland, NSW, Australia - July 1, 1966Proprietors and crowd having the last drink, Angel Inn, Maitland, NSW, Australia - July 1, 1966Proprietors and crowd having the last drink, Angel Inn, Maitland, NSW, Australia - July 1, 1966Australian Agricultural Company - remains of stone wharf at Booral, NSW, Australia - August 17, 1976Australian Agricultural Company - remains of stone wharf at Booral, NSW, Australia - August 17, 1976Australian Agricultural Company - remains of stone wharf at Booral, NSW, Australia - August 17, 1976Australian Agricultural Company - remains of stone wharf at Booral, NSW, Australia - August 17, 1976
Booral House, NSW, Australia - July, 1975Boydells Caegwrle, Allynbrook, NSW, Australia - September, 1976Boydells Caegwrle, Allynbrook, NSW, Australia - September, 1976Boundary stones, Maitland, NSW, AustraliaBoundary stones, Maitland, NSW, AustraliaBoundary stones, Maitland, NSW, AustraliaBoydells Caegwrle, Allynbrook, NSW, Australia - September, 1976
North East boundary stone, Colinson St. Tenambit (Mr. and Mrs. Crisps property), NSW, AustraliaBoundary stone (location not specified)Boundary stone at St. Johns College, Morpeth, NSW, AustraliaPeter Buntings house, Cnr of Lawes and William Street, East Maitland, NSW, AustraliaPeter Buntings house, Cnr of Lawes and William Street, East Maitland, NSW, AustraliaBrough House, Church, West Maitland [as it was when it was the Girls' High School Hostel, before alteration], NSW, Australia - May [1979?]Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961
Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961Staircase of Aberglasslyn House, Aberglasslyn, NSW, Australia - March 24, 1961
Athel D’Ombrain A.M. (1901-1985) was a photographer, optician, naturalist, author, cricketer, pioneer angler, game fisherman and historian.

He was born in Casterton in the Western District of Victoria in 1901. His father, a general practitioner, was one of the pioneer ornithologists of Australia, and had helped in the formation of the Royal Australian Ornithologists’ Union. It was through his father, and the excursions they shared together, that Athel learnt about the natural world. His interest was further developed by living on the north shore in Sydney at a time when the suburb was sparsly settled and a fine place in which to study birds and animals.

He attended Shore College, Sydney between 1913-18. After being educated at Shore, and realising that his interests were not academic,  he later studied agriculture at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, and worked on the land at Somersby, garnering much success as a citrus-grower. He was part winner of a Wembly Medal and winner of several prizes in local citrus shows.

Athel had also studied optometry and when his brother, Arthur, an opthalmic surgeon, said he should move to Maitland and work with him as a manufacturing optician he said he would. In 1929 he moved to Maitland to work as an optical dispenser at his brother’s practice, and for over 20 years was associated with his brother in Maitland, and later for some years in Newcastle.

Athel was a well respected cricketer with the Northern Suburbs Cricket Club. Known as ‘Dorn’ to his fellow cricketers, his first A Grade season (1929-1930) marked the beginning of an association with the Club that would last over fifty years.

Besides playing, he was also served as Secretary from 1930-36, and later conducted Coaching Classes. In recognition of his long playing and administrative services, he was made a Life Member of the Club in the early sixties and Patron from 1968.

In 1934 he, along with Wallace Fitness, approached the secretary of the Hunter River Agricultural and Horticultural Association Show Society, asking whether they could display some local photographs in the Fine Arts Pavilion at the 1934 annual Maitland Show. The request was accepted, and so was founded the Maitland Salon of Photography.  In 1946 Maitland Salon became an Australian Photographic Society approved Salon and then in 1958 became an International Salon with approval from the Photographic Society of America and finally in 1982 the federation International De L’ Art Photographique granted its patronage.

In February 1936, he married Esma Drew, of Clarencetown, by whom he had a son, Robin, who later became a Technical Officer in Chemical Engineering. Esma died in May 1980.

Around 1950 Athel retired from optometry and became a photographer for The Maitland Mercury. After the 1955 flood hit his home he left the newspaper and established a commercial photographic business in Maitland. Concurrent with these activities he was a “photo-finish operator” at the Maitland Showground and a stringer cameraman.

Through the efforts of Athel and Newman Silverthorne, the Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club was formed with Headquarters at Bundabah on the northern side of the Port. In 1935 the fishing enthusiasts built a clubhouse at Shoal Bay. “There was not one house at the bay at this time – nothing but bush”, he says. The Fish Club was taken over by the Army in the Second World War, following which it was incorporated into the Country Club Hotel. He was renown as a pioneer angler who adopted a scientific approach to the sport and who was very successful in the post war years. He is credited with devising the now widely accepted tag and release concept for big game fishes, commencing his first experiments in 1938.

Athel was an expert naturalist especially on Port Stephens and its flora and fauna. For example, he visited Cabbage Tree Island regularly for 44 years observing and banding the sea bird called Gould’s Petrel. The island is the only known nesting place of the species.

He also enjoyed looking at the birds in the wetlands at Hexham as he travelled between Maitland and Newcastle in the train. Previously he had contributed several articles to the Newcastle Morning Herald. In 1965 he wrote a piece about the birds at Hexham, which came under the notice of the Herald’s Editor at the time, Mr E.K. Lingard, who liked the story so much he asked Athel to write a weekly column. For some time he became a Saturday correspondent for The Herald. He also authored a number of published books, ‘Game Fishing Off the Australian Coast’ and ‘Fish Tales’, and an unpublished account of Gould’s Petrel, called ‘North East of Toomaree’, and an unpublished autobiography

His newspaper articles and books contributed a great deal to the unfolding of the wonders of nature. Moreover, he was continually identifying specimens found in the bush and backyards for individuals.

On the 9 June 1975, in recognition of his service to photography and the study of nature, he was awarded Member of the Order of Australia.

In 1981 he was invited to become a Convocation Visiting Scholar at the University of Newcastle, the third to hold the position since its inception in 1977.

As a result of his photographic work over many years, he amassed a monumental collection of photographs relating to the Hunter Valley. One of his roles as Convocation Visiting Scholar was to work in association with Denis Rowe (University Archivist) in the Archives in the Auchmuty Library, cataloguing his photographs and organising the articles about nature that he had written for the Newcastle Herald.

He continued to write his columns up until a few months prior to his death at age 83 in 1985. According to his son, Mr Robin D’Ombrain, he wrote a total of 995 articles for the Newcastle Herald.

He was a member of the Royal Australian Orthnologist’s Union, an Associate of the Australian Museum and a Member of the Order of Australia.

Welcoming the Scott Sisters Home to Newcastle

Plate 1 from the Australian Lepidoptera (1864)

To celebrate the recent purchases of three original Scott Sisters works through the University’s Reta Light Memorial Trust and Vera Deacon Regional History Fund Cultural Collections in the Auchuty Library is launching a Welcoming the Scott Sisters back to Newcastle Exhibition dedicated to their legacy in the service of science and art.

When: Tuesday 20 September 2011, 10am – 12pm
Where: Cultural Collections Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle (Under the Mirror Ball)
Guest Speaker: Dr Anne Llewellyn
Cost: Free

The Exhibition will feature the three recently purchased Scott Sisters works, and printed illustrations from the books. In addition we will display the work of the University’s Nature Illustration students, along with life size models, and the ongoing restorative work of the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project that have been working on Ash Island, the original home of the Scott Sisters, over the past 18 years.

View the set of plates on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/sets/72157627585881887/

In so bringing the Scott Sisters back the Newcastle the University of Newcastle:

– brings into its custody the exceptional scientific achievements of the entomologist and entrepreneur Alexander Walker Scott (1800-1883), and his talented daughters Harriet (1830-1907) and Helena (1832-1910), artists and naturalists, who were educated and worked on Ash Island documenting Australian plants, animals and insects. This is of immense Local, National and International significance.

Scott's Australian Lepidoptera Plate 4

– actively supports the historical legacy of this environmental and scientific education in our students, especially those particularly enrolled in Dr Anne Llewellyn’s Natural History Illustration Course, the only course of its kind in an Australian University, and one of a handful worldwide, as well as those in environmental sciences and history. This interdisciplinary course is testament to the continuing legacy of the superb work of the Scott Sisters.

Plate 11 - Scott's Australian Lepidoptera (1864)

– promotes and supports the work of the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project and their University partners and volunteers, such as the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, that is actively rehabilitating natural landscapes and ecosystems that have been destroyed over the past 200 years of industrial development.

– promotes our Region’s story and place in the context of the ‘Beauty from Nature’ National Exhibition currently underway in the Australian Museum highlighting the work of the Scott Sisters, where all their original plates, archives, manuscripts and scientific and artistic tools and specimens are held. See http://australianmuseum.net.au/Scott-Sisters-Butterfly-and-Moth-Drawings

Plate 19 - Scott's Australian Lepidoptera (1864)

– promotes a greater respect and awareness for the pre-colonial, indigenous natural environment and the knowledge and sustainable practices of the Aboriginal people who lived on the Islands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European peoples.

Frontispiece - Scott's Australian Lepidoptera Volume 2 showing the original pier and entrance to Scott's house and farm from the River

In addition copies of the (hot of the press) Butterflies and Bushland The illustrated guide to Ash Island Butterflies by Rosie Heritage and Julian Brougham will also be available for sale with a selection of twenty three (23) beautiful original paintings by Rosie Heritage, the illustrations used in the book ‘Butterflies and Bushland’, on display.

The book was made possible through a Department of Environment and Sustainability and Climate Change Caring for Our Country Grant, and continues the legacy of the work of Alexander Walker Scott and his two talented daughters Helena and Harriet, who, through their mastery of science and art, captured the flora and Lepidoptera of Ash Island, transforming it “into a place of scientific interest world wide.” Ash Island is gradually re-establishing its former splendor, after years of industrial degradation, through the work of the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority and the volunteers of the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project.  This book is the field guide to the environmental re-birth of this magical place and its butterflies.

I hope you can join us in welcoming the Scott Sisters back to Newcastle and celebrating their continuing legacy through the University and community.

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

The Scott Sisters on Ash Island.

Text of the speech delivered by Dr Anne Llewellyn on the occasion of the Launch of the Exhibition

Harriet and Helena Scott are currently being celebrated in an exhibition at the Australian Museum.  Their work has remained largely unrecognized for 150 years since they lived and worked on Ash Island researching and illustrating the plants, insects and animals that inspired them.  Marion Ord’s 1988 publication that included reproductions of the plants and butterflies of the island reintroduced the world to the work of the Scott’s and reminded us of a world on Ash Island that has been largely lost as a result of heavy industry that used the Island as a dumping ground.

Tutored and guided by their father Alexander Walker Scott, a noted entrepreneur and entomologist, Harriet and Helena enjoyed the beautiful natural environment of Ash Island for a period of twenty years faithfully recording and documenting the wildlife around them.  The 2560 acres of land on the island was originally granted to AW Scott in 1829 but it wasn’t until 1846 after his marriage to Harriet Calcott that the family took up residency on Ash Island.  The home they moved into was modest described as being ‘ a simple house with a verandah, sheltered by pines and a huge Moreton Bay fig tree, with a plantation of orange trees behind a modest garden’.  The Scott’s oranges were reputed to be the best in the colony and were sent to the Sydney market.
Harriet and Helena then aged 16 and 14 mixed with prominent scientists and artists and the Island was often visited by memorable guests such as, Ludwig Leichhardt, the artist Conrad Martens and the ornithologist John Gould likely also visited.  Walker Scott is acknowledged by Gould in the 1865 publication of Birds of Australia as having shown him a brood of Grey Goshawks. The Scotts welcomed and entertained the colonies and visiting rich, famous and most interesting characters.

As a member of the Entomology Society of New South Wales and as a trustee of the Australian Museum, AW Scott was in a good position to introduce his talented daughters to the scientific elite. Harriet and Helena had some obvious advantages over their contemporaries in having this close contact with the scientific community that enabled them to seek advice and close scrutiny of their artwork.  As a result of their work on Lepidoptera, the sisters were made honorary members of the Entomological Society of NSW, a rare tribute for women of their day.

The Australian Museum collection of Scott papers, which largely covers the Lepidoptera, indicates that their research was meticulous and included written descriptions, notes and illustrations of each species.  Two notebooks contain numbered observations that align to numbers on the field sketches and when viewed together, each provides a comprehensive description of the colour, patterns and size of each specimen and their associated chrysalis. The notes also include descriptions of transparency and how the insect moves. The Scotts also collected and bred specimens to inform their work.  This collection, which includes a number of type specimens, has been dispersed across the Australian Museum collection but they remain excellent examples of scientifically significant colonial collecting.

Unfortunately the idyllic lifestyle on Ash Island did not last indefinitely and AW Scott was declared bankrupt in 1866. His wife died earlier in the same year and the remaining family moved back to Sydney.  Helena had married Edward Forde in 1864 but Edward also died in 1866 as a result of fever while conducting a survey of the Darling River.  Helena had planned a publication on Flora of the Darling based on specimens she had collected while accompanying her husband on the Darling trip.  His death saw the collection passed onto Rev William Woolls who included them in his 1867 publication Contribution to the flora of Australia.

The sisters continued to draw and paint commercially for the rest of their lives. Harriet drew botanical illustrations for the 1879, 1884 and 1886 editions of the Railway Guide to New South Wales, and they both executed designs for Australian Christmas cards. Her embarrassment at being forced into being paid for her illustration work led Helena to write in a letter to Edward Ramsay:

‘above all … let nobody know you are paying me for doing them for you … I should be sorry that anybody else should know and Papa would be mad’.

The illustrations of Harriet and Helena are represented in a number of notable publications including the landmark 1864 Australian Lepidoptera and Their Transformations,  J C Cox’s 1868 Monograph of Australian Land Shells, Gerard Kreft’s 1869 Snakes of Australia and 1871 Mammals of Australia.

The University of Newcastle has generously brought home to Newcastle some of this important cultural heritage in the books we see today.  As is the case with much of the natural and cultural history of Newcastle and the Hunter region, our ability to research and enjoy it is limited to museums and galleries out of the region.  Though some of this information is being reproduced electronically, the opportunities for Novocastrians to turn the pages and be delighted by the original published work of Harriet and Helena and the many other artists who have documented the rich history of the region has been limited to major national or international libraries or museums.  I am delighted that the University through funding from the Rita Light memorial trust and also the Vera Deacon regional history fund recognizes the important and significant contribution of the Scott family in recording the natural wealth of this area.

Over the last 20 years, the legacy of the Scott’s research and illustrations has informed the rehabilitation of Ash Island.  Peggy Svoboda and a team of volunteers have established thousands of plants including orchids catalogued in the Scott collection.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before the Island will again boast the sentiment expressed by Ludwig Leichhardt whilst a guest of AW Scott in 1842:

..it is a remarkably fine place, not only to enjoy the beauty of nature, a broad shining river, a luxuriant vegetation, a tasteful comfortable cottage with a plantation of orange trees, but to collect a great number of plants which I have never seen before.
(M. Aurousseau (ed. And translation) Letters of F.W. Leichhardt, Vol. 2, Cambridge 1968

The accompanying exhibition of Natural history illustration, is the work of current research higher degree students from the University’s school of Design Communication and Information Technology who are carrying on the tradition of Harriet and Helena.  As their work demonstrates, the Hunter remains a focal point for the observation and visual interpretation of nature some 145 years after the Scotts left Ash Island.  The physical natural environment of the area remains a rich resource for staff and students of the Natural History Illustration program unique in Australia to Newcastle. Through meticulous field observation, recording and research, this exhibition exemplifies the best practice established and executed by the Scotts on Ash Island and puts Newcastle and the University on the map internationally as a focus for excellence in this field of endeavour.  I thank the RHD candidates represented in this exhibition for contributing work for the exhibition and congratulate them on their commitment to the elucidation of science and contribution to knowledge. The world sorely needs such advocates at this time of global warming, habitat destruction and projected sea level change.

To read more on the work of the Scott family the following link to Beauty from Nature: art of the Scott Sisters exhibition currently on show at the Australian Museum
http://australianmuseum.net.au/Beauty-from-Nature-art-of-the-Scott-Sisters/

Media Links

Great Scott’s Ash Island home restored (Newcastle Star 21 September 2011)

Live: Talented Newcastle sisters celebrated (Newcastle Star 21 September 2011)

Sisters’ 1840s botanical paintings open gallery (Newcastle Herald 27 August 2011)

Butterflies of Ash Island (ABC 1233 Interview with Julia Brougham and Rosie Heritage)


William Squire’s Breeches Bible

Breeches Bible page containing ownership inscriptions by William Squire

Day Shift – 20/07/2010 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses an interesting document that fell out of the University of Newcastle’s Breeches Bible.

Broadcast Notes:

One day one of my work colleagues asked me to look at a document that had fallen out of the Breeches Bible held in our Morpeth/Renaissance Collection. It was of Italian origin and they wanted to know what it was all about. What struck me in the first instance was that it was from Livorno in Italy. It was along this coast of Livorno (or Leghorn) where the famous Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in 1822. I had spent a number of weeks on a pilgrimage chasing his memory all over Italy back in 1993, so it was exciting to handle a relic from those times. The document was dated the 20 April 1781 and appeared to be a consignment note or receipt.

Italian consignment note found in University’s copy of the Breeches Bible

I have left a copy with my father to have a go at translating, but here is my attempt:

A di 20 di Aprile 1781 In Livorno
On the 20th April, 1781 in Livorno

Ha caricato con il Nome di DIO, e di buon salvamento una volta tanto
in questo Porto di Livorno

A shipment with [or in] the name of God, and of good condition for once
in this port of Livorno.

L J U[lti]mo Bevmo Monsig. Proporto, i Nicario Generale Antonio Baldovinetti, per conto e lincie di Chii petta
sopra a Navicello nominat San Ranieri, Pad Gio Batta Pucci Toscano

L J [Last] Monsignor Bevmo proposes, the Vicar General Antonio Baldovinetti, on behalf of lincie di Chupetta
aboard the Navicello by the name of San Ranieri, Pad Gio Batta Pucci Toscano

per condurre, e consegnare in questo suo presente viaggio in Roma AS Eta L Sig. Marchese Lorenzo Quistigniani, o chi per erro
to conduct and deliver in this his present trip to Roma A.S. Eta L Signor Marquis Lorenzo Giustiniani, or whomever

le appie nominate, e numerate Mercanzie, asciutte, intiere, e ben condizionate, segnate come di contro, e cosi promeete detto Padre
at the foot of the labelled and numbered Merchandise, dry, interred, well packed, clearly marked, and so this promises the Patron

a suo salvo arrivo consignarle, e di nolo li sara pagato Pavoli uno Perglas
on his safe arrival deliver, and the freight charges will be paid by them.

e per fede del vero sara questa con altre simili firmata da detto Padrone
and in good faith this will be signed by that other similar patron

e non sapendo scrivere, per lui da terza persona, ed una complita l’altre restino di nullo valore. N.S. l’accompagni a salvamento, Amen.
and unable to write, to him by another person, and a full the other remains of no value. N.S. take her to safety, Amen.

I dico un Pacchetto Contenente Carte Stampate Involte con carta, e Ammagliato con spago, con La Sua Direrrione come sopre
I say a package containing printed papers, wrapped with paper and bound with twine, with its Directions as above


Antonio Candrini Uffi
Antonio Candrini Uffi

The Old “Navicello” from the Port of Livorno still exists and has been restored here http://public.fotki.com/Magwa/cruising/msc_monterey/ports_of_call/porto_di_livorno_-/20060412livorno384.html Whether there was more than one I am not sure. Our consignment note appears to say that the name of the Navicello is the San Ranieri.

Some of the names mentioned in the document were traceable. The Vicar General Antonio Baldovinetti is one notable Jansenist (a counter-reformation movement within the Catholic Church and deemed a heresy) who was later driven out of Leghorn around 1790 by what he believed was an 0rchestrated campaign from Rome.

Another name in the document with a marvelously long name of Prince Lorenzo Giacopo Angelo Filippo Domenico Louis Ignatius John Giuseppe Vincenzo Giustiniani, (bapt. 2 Oct 1767; d. 22 Mar 1843)?] has possible English links to the Clifford family through the family of the Earl of Newburgh.

And it is through this link that provides the possible connection as to how this book came down to us in the Morpeth Collection.

Our copy has no title page, but further along is a title page of sorts for the concordances (see image above).

On this page the owner of the book, William Squire, signed ‘Squior’ and dated his copy of this work with the inscription ‘1644 William Squior his booke 1649 [?]’

William Squire’s Signature and Date

In addition at the top right hand side of the page is another marginal note with a decorative motif or doodle:

William Squire’s Curse to Book Thieves

It is rather faint, so we have heightened the contrast to read his threat to anyone that would dare steal ‘his booke’:

William Squire’s Curse to Book Thieves (Higher contrast image)

It reads:

William Squior his booke
He that steals it shall be
hanged on a hooke but if
the hooke fails he shall be
hanged on a nail but if
the nail fails he shall be
hanged on the […] hooke

We can’t make out the second last word, so if anyone has any ideas on what it could be please let us know.

Who was William Squire or Squior? Well we think we have tracked him down. He was a student at Trinity Hall Cambridge (a known seat of Puritanism in England) later a Fellow of University College Oxford in 1655. He probably placed the inscription in his book to ward off his fellow students with light fingers. Such inscriptions relating to ‘hanging on a hook’ were relatively common for the times, I haven’t been able to find as full a rendering as ours yet. Squire became Rector of Rolleston Parish in Derbyshire, a notable polemic theologian and author of a couple of anti Romanist works. He died on September 1677. We also found an entry for him in Anthony Wood’s Athenæ [i.e., Athenae] Oxonienses : an exact history of all the writers and bishops who have had their education in the most antient and famous University of Oxford, from the fifteenth year of King Henry the Seventh, A.D. 1500, to the author’s death in November 1695 : Representing the birth, fortune, preferment, and death of all those authors and prelates, the great accidents of their lives, and the fate and character of their writings. To which are added, The Fasti, or Annals, of the said University. In two volumes Wood, Anthony A, 1632-1695:

William Squire – Biographical Entry

So this bible appears to be the copy William Squire possessed as a student in Cambridge.

For people interested in the history of the The Breeches Bible (or Geneva Bible)  see the numerous references on the internet, Wikipedia says it was was the first mechanically printed, mass-produced Bible ever made available direct to the general public and predated the famous King James Version. It was the bible was used by the dramatist Shakespeare, political and military leader, Oliver Cromwell, the poets John Milton and John Donne, the founder of Presbyterianism, John Knox and author of the classic Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan. It was also the Puritan bible of choice taken to America aboard the Mayflower.

Our copy appears to have been published sometime after 1611, and doesn’t contain any illustrations, so might have been a cheaper, student edition of the time. William Squire signed the book around 1644, which was around the time its final edition was published.

This is a investigative research case for CSI – Archives Hunter Region Division – What we would like to know is:

1. Was William Squire the book’s first owner?
2. Is there a connection between William Squire and the Italian characters in the Livorno consignment note?
3. How did the consignment note end up in an English Anglican Church collection?

Anyone who is able to add to this information, provide a better Italian translation, or provide further information on the characters in this story is very welcome to do so by contacting us archives@newcastle.edu.au

Gionni Di Gravio
20 July 2010

The Antiquities of the Wollombi District

Mount Yengo on the 29th January 2009

Mount Yengo (Yunge) on the 29th January 2009 (Representation)

Day Shift – 17/02/2009 – 02:10 PM
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Producer: Jeanette McMahon
Interviewee: Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, Newcastle University

University of Newcastle Archivist Gionni Di Gravio discusses his recent field trip to the Wollombi District to view and examine Aboriginal Rock art in the area. At a Wollombi Gathering held on the weekend to a packed audience at Laguna House he and a number of speakers from the University of Newcastle and the University of Sydney presented their work on the Antiqities of the Wollombi District and its great importance to the region. It is our Uluru and needs to be properly researched, documented and managed to safeguard it from natural erosion and vandalism. To illustrate his presentation he used exerpts from the work of Lieutenant Breton, who travelled through the area in the 1830s. For today’s broadcast he has brought in an original edition of Breton’s work and Issac Nathan 1848 work containing an Aboriginal song documented by Eliza Dunlop in the Wollombi District in the 1840s.

Broadcast Notes:

On Thursday 29 January 2009 Amir Rezapour Mogadam (Conservator) and myself were asked to accompany representatives of the Binghai Aboriginal Sites Team to examine Rock art sites in the Yengo Sandstone Country (Wollombi district).

This region is arguably home to the richest source of rock art in the world, and Yengo is as important and significant a site as Uluru is to Central Australia.

Unfortunately the area is subject to a number of ongoing threats (natural and man-made) and  we were asked to advise on conservation issues relating to the extensive rock art of the region with a view to forging closer ties with the University’s research and teaching capabilities.

A member of the team also addressed the first meeting of Coal River Working Party on 2 February 2009.

Mr Garry Jones briefed the CRWP on Yengo National Park’s history and highlighted the need for better management and conservation of the area. There is a need to record and protect this area which is rich in Aboriginal Rock Art. Mr Jones asked that the CRWP support the fostering of closer links between the University of Newcastle and organisations with an involvement or interest in the park, including the Wollombi Valley Arts Council, land owners and Aboriginal groups. The University of Newcastle could provide a scholarship for a post graduate course in Aboriginal Art Identification and Recording. It was resolved that the CRWP would investigate fostering closer ties between the University and the Binghai (Brother) Aboriginal Sites Team for the future teaching and research possibilities of the Yengo National Park.

A ‘Library of Alexandria’ in stone.

I was invited to speak at a Wollombi community gathering on the 14th February 2009. The MC of the evening, Mr Claude Aliotti, described the extensive Aboriginal cave and rock art of the region as a ‘library’. He is certainly correct. It is a library in stone, full of stone books, just like a petrified library of Alexandria, right here on our door step. (It could be called our Paleo-Biblioteca Wollombiana) Whereas, the original Library of Alexandria was completely destroyed by a series of despotic raids, ours still remains, but unfortunately not free from attack.

What follows is a precis of my presentation to the local community.

THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE WOLLOMBI DISTRICT

My personal account of this magical landscape

I work in the Archives of the University of Newcastle where we hold important research documents relating to the Newcastle and the Hunter Region. I rarely get out of the ‘dungeon’ and so it’s a real treat when I’m invited to visit some of these important areas that I have seen represented in the documentary accounts in books, articles and manuscripts.

One such opportunity arose the 29 January 2009 when our conservator Amir Rezapour Mogadam and I were asked to accompany Garry Jones and representatives of the Binghai Aboriginal Sites Team to examine Rock art sites in the Yengo Sandstone Country (Wollombi district). Amir had done his Masters on lichens and the Team were very interested in advice on what could be done about lichens on the sandstone engravings.

There is no way to capture the beauty of the place.

Mount Yango

Mount Yengo (Yunge)

We arrived at dusk and made our way to the Northern Map Site or Flat Rock at the Finchley Park Reserve.

Mount Yengo on the 29th January 2009

Mount Yengo (Yunge) on the 29th January 2009 (Representation)

There is no way I could capture (with my limited camera skills) how beautiful the sight of the crescent moon over Mount Yango with Venus to its upper right was to behold. I’ve managed to construct one as best as I can from an Astronomy program that can reproduce the heavens from any point on the planet. There was a fortunate gap in the trees to allow Venus to shine through, as the sun was descending into the west. Yengo was in an errie glow, and the scene gave you the impression it was just for you to see.

We walked a short distance to what is known as the Northern map site and began photographing the engravings.

Sky Hero

Sky Hero

Emu Track

Emu Track

Spirit Being (full engraving)

Spirit Being (full engraving)

Spirit Being Engraving

Spirit Being Engraving

Emu Woman Engraving

Emu Woman Engraving

Brusg Turkey Engraving

Brush Turkey Engraving

Bird Engraving

Bird Engraving

Anthropomorphic figure

Anthropomorphic figure

At night, under lamp light the engravings really came alive, and features that were invisible during the day, became easy to see. At night, with the blazing starry heavens overhead, the Sky Hero’s angular mouth became fascinating.

Sky Hero

Sky Hero

I became fascinated by the Orion constellation above us, and began to see similarities between this figure and the stars of that constellation above. But after a number of futile attempts to put it together as I saw it that night, one needs to remember that we have to turn our constellations upside down, and join the dots in a different way to fully appreciate the figure as it impressed the Aboriginal artisans that crafted the original engraving. Look especially at the mouth (formed by what looks to be the stars below Rigel, and also those of Orion’s belt (Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak), his elongated form clutching a boomerang, his legs represented by the stars Bellatrix and Betelgeuse and his privates made up of the pointed constellation of stars ending in Meissa between them.

Sky Hero in Orion

Sky Hero in Orion

Another that fascinated me was a small engraving of a turtle/foetus creature kneeling towards Yango. Again I kept looking at the magnificent starry sky and thinking of the Pleiades.

Small kneeling figure

Small kneeling figure

Pleiades

Pleiades

It would be interesting to map out this site with the heavens above and see whether there is a correlation. As the stars were in equal competition the engravings for our attention I could not believe that they could not have been created without the sky as some inspiration.

Unfortunately there was also later engravings there from ‘Trace’ and what looked like a bull dozer. What will these ‘engravings’ tell future generations of our culture and beliefs?

Trace

Trace

Bull Dozer tracks

Bull Dozer tracks

The next day, the starry heavens disappeared and the I woke up to a sky full of clouds. Mount Yengo had disappeared, I couldn’t find it,  and I was convinced that this place was a really magical place. It is on a parr with anything anywhere in the world. It is our own Etruscan tomb landscape on our doorstep and much much more.

It was a magnificent experience, but the desperation of our hosts at the damage that was occurring out there through ignorance and malicious vandalism was profound.

We are all horrified by what the Taliban did to the stone Buddhas in Afganistan, but we have our own versions running around the countryside here in our equivalent Uluru and its time that something happens because we owe it to those ancient artisans to look after the place as we have become its custodians now.

Back on the 10 June 2008 two rising sun colar badges were discovered in one of the mass burial pits being excavated in Fromelles. In these pits lay the remains of Australian and British troops. In an inspiring and heartfelt gesture the owner of the land, Madame Marie Paule Demassiet, donated this land (sacred to another people) to be a permanent memorial.  We need to find a similar spirit here for this country. It is a living library and an archive in stone. It is a stone book.

The Historical Accounts

Wollombi is the place where the waters meet and forms a geographical dividing line between a number of Aboriginal tribes Awabakal, Wanarua, Darkinung and Kamilaroi. The early accounts don’t name the tribes, Breton mentions those of the ‘Wollombi’, ‘Illarong’ and ‘Comleroy’ (or Kamilaroi – with whom they had battles).

The Tribe who lived at Wollombi was probably the Darkinung, but there is also evidence that Awabakal people had close relationship with the area as well.  According to Mrs Eliza Dunlop who lived in Wollombi during the 1840s their leader was Boni. (Gunson-Threlkeld p.7)

The beginnings of Wollombi lie in Governor Macquarie’s 1818 decision to commence a settlement at Wallis Plains (Maitland). He chose John Howe, Chief Constable at Windsor to lead expedition to find an overland route, reaching the Hunter River just above Jerrys Plains in 1819. John Howe’s second journey in 1820 reached the Hunter River via Bulga and Cockfighter’s Creek (lower part of Wollombi Brook – named after one of the horses in the expedition) and discovered Patrick’s Plains (Singleton). In 1823 Howe’s Valley Road was begun and began to move settlers into the region. In 1825 Surveyor Heneage Finch found overland route from Wiseman’s Ferry through Wollombi to Wallis Plains. During the 1820s and 1830s work proceeded on the Great North Road, by 1831 the stretch through Wollombi was opened.

During this period around in the early 1830s Lieutenant William Henry Breton R.N. traveled through the region. He published his account in Excursions in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Van Dieman’s Land during … 1830,1,2,3. (1833)

Breton’s overall opinion?

“Speaking collectively be confessed I entertain very little more respect for the aborigines of New Holland than for the ourang outang in fact I can discover no great difference.” (Breton 196).

This appears harsh until we read earlier:

“Their manners are scarcely formed yet if I may judge from the behaviour of one of them he was trying to teach me the mode of throwing the spear but observing me to be somewhat clumsy he took it out of my hand remarking at the same time Oh you d– d stupid This was not polite in the barbarian but so long as the natives learn their English from the convicts I fear we shall get no better language from them I am not at all convinced that this black intended to make use of an improper expression” (Breton, 91)

Breton mentioned that around 60 natives accompanied them on their travels while they were passing through Wollombi.

“These people consisted of two tribes one from Illarong the other belonging to the Wallombi and were on their way to wage war with another tribe.” (Breton, 91)

“We found the Wollombi natives very friendly towards us but they seemed to have taken a much greater liking to some swine belonging to the gentlemen with whom I was staying; of these they slew several and were bearing them off in triumph, when to their extreme dissatisfaction, not to say dismay, the superintendant made all possible haste in pursuit with his establishment of dogs. One of these sable stealers of pork was driven into a tree, and another was fairly run down and brought to bay, crying out all the time in a most unbecoming manner; an evident proof that he did not belong to the sect of the stoics. The superintendant took great care that the dogs did them no injury, his object being only to frighten the depredators; and having recaptured his pigs..” (Breton, 198)

He then cites another example of tribe that left a shepherd to die on an ant hill:

“A neighbouring tribe killed, in 1830, more than 100 sheep belonging to a settler who has a farm near Wallombi; they then bound the shepherd hand and foot, left him upon an ant’s nest ( a bed that Guatimozin himself would not have envied him) and then departed. The man was rescued before he had sustained any injury, and most fortunately for him for these ants sting and bite in a way that would astonish any one, as I know from experience, having twice suffered from their attacks, to my great annoyance, for many days afterwards. The large black ant can cause a pain almost as acute as that of a wasp! A party of soldiers, or dismounted police, were sent after the offenders of whom they killed several.” (Breton, 199)

While noting some sympathy his honesty is brutal:

‘But on the other hand, they should not be permitted to harrass the settlers with impunity: we have taken possession of their country, and are determined to keep it; if, therefore they destroy the settlers or their property they must expect that the law of retaliation will be put in force, and that reprisals will be committed upon themselves. This has rarely been the case, as they have been wantonly butchered and some of the Christian (?) whites consider it a pastime to go out and shoot them. I questioned a person from Port Stephens concerning the disputes with the aborigines of that part of the colony, and asked him if he, or any of his companions, had ever come into collision with them as I had heard there prevailed much enmity between the latter and the people belonging to the establishment? His answer was “Oh we used to shoot them like fun!”’ (Breton 200-201).

Elsewhere he recorded a mystifying description of a Kamilaroi burial ceremony

“In an affray that took place on the Wollombi between two tribes, four men and two women of the Comleroy tribe were slain; they were buried at a very pretty spot in the following manner. The bodies of the men were placed on their backs in the form of a cross, head to head, each bound to a pole by bandages round the neck, middle, knees, and ancles, the pole being behind the body; the two women had their knees bent up and tied to the neck, while their hands were bound to their knees; they were then placed so as to have their faces downwards: in fact they were literally packed up in two heaps of earth, each of the form of a cone, about three feet high and rather removed from the cross; for their idea of the inferiority of the women will not allow them to be interred with the men. The neatness and precision observed with respect to the cross and cones is very remarkable, both being raised to the same height and so smoothly raked down, that it would puzzle the nicest observer to discover the slighest inequality in the form. The trees for some distance around, to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, are carved over with grotesque figures meant to represent kangaroos, emus, opossums, snakes, &c. with rude representations also of the different weapons they use. Round the cross they made a circle, about thirty feet in diameter, from which all rubbish was carefully removed, and another was made outside the first so as to leave a narrow interval between them: within this interval there was laid pieces of bark, each piece touching the rest, in the same way that tiles do. The devil, they say, will not leap over the bark, and cannot walk under it!

Such evident pains and labour to make a place of sepulture, struck me as being not a little extraordinary in a people so very indifferent about most other matters; but I could discover no satisfactory reason why such care had been taken of these members of their tribe. They said it was the way in which they usually buried their dead, but this practice is by no means common. Four Waddies (clubs) were stuck into the earth in the centre of the cross; and these they informed me were left in order that the deceased might have some arms, “when they jump again,” so as to be enabled to drive away the devil, and prevent him from taking them again into the earth! (Breton 203-205)

This illustration of a native burial from Oxley’s Journal could give you an idea of what these things looked like:

Native Burial Mound

Native Burial Mound

Illustration from: Journals of two expeditions into the interior of New South Wales, undertaken by order of the British government in the years 1817-18 by John Oxley (London : John Murray, 1820)

When I enquired about this, I was told that they would bury their dead in a termite nest, taking the top off, placing the dead within, and putting the top back on, and they would smooth it over, the insects would seal it up again.  This is also interesting to investigate further, as to whether any of these burial mounds still exist.

The Aboriginal World of the Wollombi District

Most of the notes below come from a magnificent book by Bill Needham back in 1981 entitled [Cover title] Burragurra: Where the Spirit Walked. Aboriginal Relics of the Cessnock-Wollombi Region in the Hunter Valley of NSW. [Title page] A Study of the Aboriginal Sites in the Cessnock – Wollombi Region of the Hunter Valley, NSW by W.J. Needham. 1981. Mr Needham wrote his book out of a concern for the protection of the area, and a need to raise awareness of the magnificent rock and cave art in the Region.

Wollombi Valley was defined by the following tribes – Darkinung Tribe (Valley itself extending south to Hawkesbury and east to Peat’s Ridge), to the east Awabakal Tribe (Lake Macquarie), Wonarua (where Wollombi Brook met the Hunter River near Singleton the southern boundary), to the west the Kamilaroi.

Tribes were made up of clans or family group e.g. Wollombi clan.

Aboriginal place names in the region include e.g. Wollombi (place where waters meet); Yengo (the stepping up place); Watagan (Place of many ridges) Laguna (Near a mountain stream); Congewai (Valley of the Lily); Tomalpin (A small hill); Bulga (Isolated mountain).

Mr Needham also recorded a number of myths and legends of the Wollombi including:

The Legend of the Crimson Waratah (from S. Brown to W.J. Needham) – Aboriginal legend holds that the Waratah did not always flower into crimson crown but originally it bloomed in white flowers. One day  a wongah pigeon was flying across the gully and was attacked by a hawk, its blood spilled onto the flowers, and from that day on it flowered into crimson.

Legend of the Giant Lizard at Yellow Rock (Broke) (from Eric Taggart to W.J. Needham) I have also had this story related to me from Brian Laut who received it from Eric Taggart who in turn received it from Tommy Dillon. A great lizard (or goanna) wended its way across the land from the coast creating valleys and mountains. As it made its way towards the plains country it was met by the warriors there who commanded it to stop, it resisted, and the warriors killed it and smashed its head. It can be seen to this day petrified as Yellow Rock at Broke. To ensure that it stays that way, to the left of the road at Broke lies a line of rock formations which are said to be the Kamilaroi warriors who stand guard, just in case it chooses to revive itself and continue its journey.

Mount Yengo. Place where the Aboriginal spirit hero, the All Father (Baiame), stepped back into the sky world after his journeys on the earth. While on earth he made man from one of his legs, and is therefore depicted in some rock art as having one leg. His travels are also documented at various sites.

The Flood. The Lake Macquarie tribe (Awabakal) believe in a great flood that covered all the mountains. Proof can be found in the existence of fossilised sea shells on the tops of the mountains. (see Threlkeld’s Reminiscences – ed. Gunson, 64)

Mrs Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, wife of the local police superintendant in the 1840s also recorded some of the Spirit Beings of the Wollombi natives. They included:

Buggee – old fellow, very ill, short, fat and balding. All sickness is attributed to him.

Yaree Yarwoo – a four-eyed spirit, who carries a large bag and gets into it when he is cold. All sickness is attributed to him.

Milegun – This spirit has no hair, but immense nails for digging into the bodies of the blacks.

Muree – This spirit resides in trees and emits fire. [Bill Needham suggests that this is a reference to bush fires when eucalyptus trees at some distance from the fires erupt in flames due to the volatile oil].

Wabbooee – This as the greatest spirit of them all. He commands the seasons and the weather. He resides in the North. Water of a blood colour springs up all around him. He presides over the day. It was irreverent to speak about him, a crime punishable by death. It was believed that when he died rocks would fall from the sky destroying the world.

Wallatu – God of Poesy. He comes in dreams and transports the individual to a favoured site, where he was inspired with the gift of poetry. These songs were few in words but varied in musical tone.

The Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld was very impressed with Eliza Dunlop rendering of an Aboriginal song.  (see Threlkeld’s Reminiscences ed Gunson, 58)

Eliza Dunlop (Mulla Villa c1840s) writes of ‘Wallatu’:

A lady, Mrs E.H. Dunlop, published some years ago in one of the Sydney papers, a specimen of “Native Poetry,” and states thus:

There is a god of Poesy, Wallati, who composes music, and who, without temple, shrine, or statue, is as universally acknowledged as if his oracles were breathed by Belus or Osiris: he comes in dreams, and transports the favoured individual wrapped in visioned slumber to some bright warm hill, where he is inspired with the rare and supernatural gift.” ( with corrected text of note 75) This very individual, Wúllati, or as white folks used to call him, Wollaje, always confounding the sound of t with a j, lived near our establishment, he was esteemed highly by the tribes, and in an increasing ratio as they were nigh or more distant from this individual. No doubt he formed the delightful subject of their evening Soirees, and also of their midnight dreams. He favoured me several times with his company, and perhaps thought it an honor when he made proposals to me for a matrimonial alliance with one of the members of my family, much to the amusement of us all. He was very old, thin, small headed, bald man, of a most cheerful disposition, with a smile always on his countenance except in the presence of strangers; and whenever he came to our tribe, his company was much enjoyed, an evening feast was provided, and the chicest tit-bits were set before the toothless guest. Oft were his gibes wont to set their table, on the green grass, in a roar of laughter, and their festive board, generally the bark of a tree, was enlivened before it ended in the midnight hour with his song and dance, assisted with his own voice and musical accompaniment of two sticks, beating time to the divine inspiration of the sacred muse. (see note 76: ) The following song, composed by Wúllati, translated and published, some years ago by Mrs E.H. Dunlop, is an excellent specimen of the Poetry of the Aborigines, and ought not to be lost though the Poet and his tribe is now no more.

“NATIVE POETRY”

“Nung – Ngnun
Nge a rumba wonung bulkirra umbilinto bulwarra!

Pital burra kultan wirripang buntoa

Nung-Hgnun
Nge a rumba turrama berrambo, burra kilkoa;

Kurri wi, raratoa yella walliko,

Yulo Moane, woinyo, birung poro bulliko,

Nung-Ngnun
Nge a rumba kan wullung, Makoro, kokein,

Mip-pa-rai, kekul, wimbi murr ring kirrika;
Nge a rumba mura ké-en kulbun kulbun murrung.”

Thus “Translated and Versified by Mrs E.H. Dunlop”, of Mulla Villa, New South Wales. (In a newspaper.) [Mulla Villa (house by the river erected at Wollombi in 1841)

“Our home is the gibber-gunyah,
Where hill joins hill on high;
Where the turruma and berrambo,
Like sleeping serpents lie; –
And the rushing of wings, as the wangas pass,
Sweeps the wallaby’s print from the glistening grass.

Ours are the makoro gliding,
Deep in the shady pool;
For our spear is sure, and the prey secure…
Kanin, or the bright gherool.
Our lubras sleep by the bato clear,
That the Amygest’s track hath never been near.

Ours is the koolema flowing
With precious kirrika stored;
For fleet the foot, and keen the eye,
That seeks the nukkung’s hoard; –
And the glances are bright, and the footsteps are free,
When we dance in the shade of the karakon tree.

Gibber-gunya – Cave in the rock.
Turruna [sic] and Berrambo – War arms.
Wanga – A species of pigeon.
Makoro – Fish.
Amygest – White-fellow.
Kanim – Eel.
Gheerool – Mullet.
Bato – Water.
Kirrika – Honey.
Nukkung – Wild bee.
Kurrakun – The oak tree”.

Such is a fair specimen of Song, translated, with a little political licence. The orthography, although different from the system laid down in my Australian Grammar, sufficiently conveys the sound to enable me at once to discover the dialect of Wúllati the Poet who resided, near our residence on the sea shore, close to moon Island, until he died. The word “Nung ngnún” (See note 77 – ) means a song, and when attached to the verbalizing affix wit-til-li-ko becomes Nung-ngún-wit-til-li-ko, according to the idiom of the language, For to song a song, – English, to sing a song.

Threlkeld was therefore able to show from Mrs Dunlop’s accurate rendering of the song that it was sung in a dialect that originated in Lake Macquarie, therefore showing that the human personification of Wullatu was a Lake Macquarie (or so called Awabakal) man.

Compare this account with that published prior to this  in Issac Nathan’s The Southern Euphrosyne (1848).

Pialla Wollombi from Issac Nathan's 1848 work

Pialla Wollombi from Issac Nathan's 1848 work

There is so much more to learn and to discover in this district. I hope that we ta the University of Newcastle can help in setting up something like a research outpost out there so that the rock art can be preserved, safeguarded, documented, researched, and protected for future generations to come. We hope to also help in expanding it’s natural World Heritage listing to include its rock art as well. It is one of our region’s most sacred places, and deserves better. All roads lead to Yengo.

Yours sincerely,

Gionni Di Gravio
February 2009