Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finding Bennelong

On Tuesday, while on our way to have lunch by the Parramatta River, our "Nav Lady" took us via the route of Watson Street, Putney where we spotted Cleves Park which is the location of Bennelong's grave. I had tried to find the grave site on a previous occasion in the nearby Bennelong Park.

Cleves Park was originally part of the Kissing Point property of James Squire, the First Fleet convict who established the first commercial brewery in the colony at Kissing Point in 1798. It was here in James Squire's orchard, that Bennelong was buried when he died on 3 January 1813.

It was reported that Bennelong often wandered onto the Squire's property and was befriended by James. He erected a plaque to commenorate his dear friend. The current monument was funded by the Australian Bicentennial Authority.

Interesting name, Cleves Park. My wife had an Uncle Cleve. I have not been able to trace the origin of the name?

Bennelong is the best known of our Aboriginal people at the time of the arrival of the First Fleet. Befriended by Governor Phillip, after his "capture" in November 1789, he straddled two cultures, attempting to build bridges between them. This of course took a terrible toll on him.

The following is an extract from the Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 2, page 711 [correspondance of Daniel Southwell dated 27/7/1790, on the escape of the Aborigine, named Bennalong, from Sydney Town] which illustrates his dual role.

"We have had little or no intercourse with the natives for a long time past, and Woolaraveray Bennalon [Bennilong], from whom we hoped so much, effected his escape on 3 May 1790, at a time when he was supposed to be well reconciled to his situation.

He laterally slept in the same room with the Governor’s steward, and before it was light he pretended suddenly to be disordered, upon which the other opened the door, not doubting but he would soon return; at last, tired with waiting, he thought proper to go and see how and where Woolaraveray Bennalon was. Not finding him, and after calling repeatedly, soon concluded what had happened, and accordingly went to the Governor’s room with the unwelcome news".

For a portrait of Bennelong go to the History Services NSW website at

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