Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grand Corrobory - Nepean River 1835

The Colonist (Sydney) Thursday 9 April 1835

A corrobory of the black natives of the territory was held a few weeks ago, on the verdant banks of the Nepean River, on a scale of extent and magnificence never before witnessed in the colony. Chiefs and their jins were in attendance from all parts of the territory; .and had a great quantity of rain not fallen the day previous, the assemblage would have been much more numerous than it actually was.

As it was, the native fires in front of the temporary gunyahs along the champaign country gave a brilliant appearance to the scene; and as a flood of light was ever and anon poured on the dark forests of the Blue Mountains, that rose in primeval grandeur immediately behind the encampment, the tout ensemble was indescribably sublime, and led us irresistibly to contrast the soul-inspiring sublimity of nature with the petty pursuits and the insignificance of man.

After a plentiful repast, at which kangaroos' and opossums' flesh was devoured half roasted, and vast quantities of cabra, and the larvae of ants, were swallowed, as white people eat oysters, all alive, the kangaroo and other native dances were kept up to a late hour, while the music made by the incessant beating of the wooden waddies on the illalong, or native shield, as an accompaniment to the native dance and the native song, was particularly enlivening.

Where all were so deserving of notice, it would be unfair to mention individuals, but we cannot help noticing the following, with whose appropriate costume, and well-sustained characters, we were particularly struck, Yellamundy and Jibbinwy, with their jins, from the Hawkesbury. The former of these chiefs was in the character of a native mourner, his body being pipe-clayed all over. He was perhaps mourning for the loss of his hunting grounds, and the independence of his nation—the unfor- tunate but unavoidable, consequence of European colonization. He made an appropriate speech on the subject; but all of it we could collect was, "White fellow sit down all about ; black fellow murry miserable!"

His friend Jibbinwy was in the character of a native warrior; his face, limbs, arms, and breast being ornamented with streaks of red paint to render his aspect as frightful as possible. In this object he was certainly quite successful, and the military evolutions he and a few of his companions performed strongly reminded us of a European review. Terribalong, from Broken Bay, was in the character of a colonial Barrister. His gown was a cloak of bandicoot skins, and his bushy hair was tied up tastefully with native grass, in imitation of a wig. In the whole corrobory there was no character better sustained than this; for Terribalong's powers of imitation were admirable, and he successively and most successfully personated the whole Australian Bar.

Yakabil, from the Morumbidgee, and Black Boy, from Hunter's River were both in the character of Colonial Attorneys, and, being somewhat forward, were going to address the Meeting, when Terribalong, personating the Attorney General, and insisting that they had no right to speak since the late division of the Bar, they were silenced, and turned out of the corrobory.

The infamous Saturday, from Bathurst was in the character of a free settler.

But Eheu; quantum mutatus ab illo Saturday !

How sadly changed from that Saturday who once spread terror through the settlement of Bathurst ! 

Young Bungary, from the North Shore, was in the character of Governor Darling. For this purpose he had provided himself with his late father's old military surtout, cocked hat and sash, and he certainly sustained the character well; but the next time he personates this late Excellency, we would advise him to provide himself with a pair of trowsers also, to save appearances.

In short, the grand corrobory at the Nepean River will form an era, as is well observed by some of our contemporaries, in the history of this colony; insomuch, that in five years hence, if any thing remarkable should occur, such as the granting of a House of Assembly by the Imperial Parliament, it will not be said that the remarkable event happened in the year 1840, but that it took place five years after the grand corrobory at the Nepean.

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