Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Moowattin (c1790-1816)

Moowattin was adopted at about the age of 5 years by Richard Partridge and his wife Mary Greenwood - who had a grant of land near present day James Ruse High School, Carlingford. Richard and Mary had a son (also named Richard) who was born in 1794 and then a daughter (also named Mary) born in 1797. Moowattin would have roughly been the same age as their son. While it is entirely supposition, it might have been possible that they decided to adopt an Aboriginal boy as a playmate because they boy may have been shunned by other playmates because his father was the gaoler and hangman at Parramatta.[1] They called the boy Moowattin, ‘Daniel’. The Rev Samuel Marsden said that Moowattin was of the Parramatta Tribe.[2] By 1802 Moowattin had befriended the botanist George Caley[3] and after a few years went on collecting expeditions with Caley.

Their earliest identified journey was in 1805 when they started from around here and travelled over five days through present day Wahroonga and then down to the coast near Brookvale and back again.

Caley recorded the beginning of this trek thus:

“Monday Feb 18, after leaving Capt Macarthur’s Pennent hill, I went in a path made by cattle, 2 miles, in about a NNE direction. The path here not becoming easy to trace, I unloaded the mare and sent her back. On first leaving the farm, the ground was a little scrubby, and we crossed two small rocky creeks, whose water ran to the right. Afterwards we went up hill and kept upon the range.”[4] And so Caley described crossing through Beecroft.

Moowattin was described by Caley as:

“the most civilised of any native that I know who may still be called a savage and the best interpreter of the more inland native’s languages of any that I have met with….I can place that confidence in him which I cannot in any other - all except him are afraid to go beyond the limits of the space which they inhabit with me (or indeed with any other) and I know this one would stand by me until I fell, if attacked by strangers. This man is Moowattin.”[5]

Later that year he went to Norfolk Island. In 1806 he went to Tasmania and Nattai – near present day Appin. While on the Nattai journey Moowattin was speared striking near the upper thigh. “Yet notwithstanding this severe wound he very soon recovered. It had bled very copiously.”[6]

In 1806 Caley starts to refer to him as Moowattin rather than Daniel – perhaps showing that, having turned 15, he had now been initiated and given his adult name.[7] A further suggestion of an initiation is that he was later identified by several marks in his forearm – perhaps these were initiation marks as can be seen in the portrait of Bidgee Bidgee.[8]

Then in 1810 he travelled to England when Caley returned to give evidence in trials arising from the Rum Rebellion. There he met Caley’s patron, Sir Joseph Banks.  Caley hoped that “by shewing him the different Museums we should get a better knowledge of the animals of this part…”[9] After a voyage of 5 months Moowattin was not allowed to disembark for a further 3 months because the authorities would not accept guarantees of his orderly conduct.[10] Banks regarded Caley as “injudicious” for bringing Moowattin to England and further referred to the “unfortunate native.”[11] These comments may have arisen from Moowattin starting to drink so heavily that on 11 February 1811 an angered Caley struck Moowattin so hard that Caley broke his own thumb.[12] William Lawson met Moowattin while in London and:

“I asked him how he liked the fine things in England his answer was ‘I am anxious to return to my own Country, I find more pleasure under a Gum tree sitting with my tribe than I do here.”[13]

Another anonymous source says that Moowattin said of England that he:

“thought there were too many house, trees were much wanted; could not imagine how all the people got food; thought the weather was sower cold. Clouds too near the ground; horses fine, the men strong, the women beautiful…”[14]

Moowattin led Caley to different eucalypts and named new specimens for him. He explored. He parted with his knowledge and his friendship. Caley responded in kind. In January 1811 Caley had Moowattin inoculated against smallpox at the Vaccine Pock Institute in Golden Square, Westminster.[15]

When another of Banks protégés and friend to Caley,[16] George Suttor of Chelsea Farm Baulkham Hills, returned from London in 1811 he brought Moowattin back with him. On the return voyage Moowattin was reported by a fellow traveller, Robert Lowe, a grazier,[17] as saying how he “was so much pleased with the manners and customs of Europeans that he had frequently during the passage avowed a determination to conform to them entirely after his arrival.”[18] Following his return he stayed in Suttor’s home for a few days before selling a shotgun given to him by the botanist Robert Brown[19] to purchase peach cider and then travelling the few miles to his land. The Rev Samuel Marsden met him a few days later at Thompson’s Corner and in response to the question of why he left the home of Suttor he said “Me like the bush best.”[20] When Marsden had met him he was naked.[21] In 1816 a local constable, James Oldgate, who had known him for 12 or 15 years said that Moowattin “had informed him that he would not live in the bush now from his being habituated to the white people’s mode of living.”[22]

Moowattin then gained employment with William Bellamy an emancipist who had a farm around present day Aitken Road, West Pennant Hills. Some 12 months after Moowattin had commenced as a labourer, working as any other labourer,[23] on 6 August 1816 he was alleged to have attacked and then raped the 15 year old Hannah Russell[24] the daughter of Henry Russell a worker for Samuel Marsden at his Thompson’s Corner property. Hannah had been returning from Parramatta where she had obtained some funds for her father. Moowattin admitted to robbing the daughter[25] but denied raping her. She had been found bruised and ill treated by one of John Macarthur’s stockmen, John Shee, who (while not having observed the rape or anyone present) did observe that ther “neck was very black”.[26] He was accompanied at the time of the incident by Biorrah. At his trial there were a number of Aborigines present in the Court including Bidgee Bidgee.

“G Blaxland Esq deposed to his knowledge of the prisoner whom he considered to be an intelligent man and one of the best acquainted with the English language that he had ever met with; that he had a clear conception between a good and evil act he could not possibly doubt; neither could he doubt that from his constant habits he must be aware of any act that would give offence to our laws and usages … he knew that crimes were punished by the law, and could not if committed be ignored that he was doing wrong.”[27]   

His socialisation meant that he was found to understand and live within English law. He was convicted, sentenced and hanged on 1 November 1816. Governor Lachlan Macquarie recorded:

“This morning were executed, agreeably to their respective sentences, the three Criminals under Sentence of Death – namely …. And Daniel Mowwatting ( a Black Native of this Colony) – for Rape and Robbery on a young Femal White Woman a Native of this Colony. – The three Malefactors confessed their Crimes and all died Penitent.”[28]

While the Rev Marsden claimed that Moowattin had confessed to the rape post sentence, he denied the charge on the official record.

From Moowattin we know that Saligna Blue Gum was called Calang’ora, the blackbutt the Tarunde’a, the Angophora floribunda the Nandan’gora and more than two dozen trees in similar ilk. Specimens labelled by Caley ‘got by Dan’ are held in the National Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.[29] From this young local man we know the names of more trees of this district than we know of its Aboriginal inhabitants.

 

 

 

1] The Australian 25 November 1834; K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 121

[2] The Australian 25 November 1834; K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 121

[3] George Caley was the son of a horse dealer who, in 1795 aged 25 years, sent some plant specimens to Sir Joseph Banks. Banks arranged for him to be employed as a labourer at Chelsea Gardens where he worked under botanist William Curtis. In November 1798 Banks arranged for Caley to work in Botany Bay and he arrived in Port Jackson in April 1800. He established a botanic garden at Parramatta.

[4] George Caley, An Account of a Journey to the Sea in the month of February 1805, quoted in T Patrick, J Symes, A Tink In Search of the Pennant Hills (Kenthurst, 2007) p70

[5] George Caley, Journal, 11 February 1811 quoted in R Hawkins Aboriginal Life in the Blue Gum High Forest (unpublished manuscript, 2011) p 15; K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys(Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p124

[6] Caley to Sir Joseph Banks 16 February 1809 quoted in J E B Currey (ed) Reflections on the Colony of New South Wales: George Caley (Landsowne Press, Melbourne, 1966) p 177

[7] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 120

[8] R v Mow-watty [1816] NSWSupC 2: [1816] NSWKR 2 (27 September 1816)

[9] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 124

[10] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 125

[11] Quoted in I McBryde, Guests of the Governor: Aboriginal Residents of the First Government House (Sydney, 1989) p29

[12] K V Smith “Moowattin” Australian Dictionary of Biography Supplementary. Others have suggested that Banks comments were because of remorse at the consequences to the Tahitian Tupaia brought to England by Banks: see J E B Currey (ed) Reflections on the Colony of New South Wales: George Caley (Landsowne Press, Melbourne, 1966) p193

[13] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 126

[14] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 131

[15] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 126

[16] Caley died in 1829 at the age of 55, after unsuccessfully seeking to establish a second botanic garden: this time in the West Indies. In his will Caley bequeathed freedom to a negro slave in St Vincent and provided for a cockatoo that had been his companion for over 20 years: J E B Currey (ed) Reflections on the Colony of New South Wales: George Caley (Landsowne Press, Melbourne, 1966) p 204

[17] Robert Lowe supported the Native Institution and the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge amongst the Aborigines of New South Wales: Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 2 p 134

[18] Sydney Gazette 28 September 1816

[19] J E B Currey (ed) Reflections on the Colony of New South Wales: George Caley (Landsowne Press, Melbourne, 1966) p 192

[20] Suttor to Banks, November 1812 quoted in R Hawkins Aboriginal Life in the Blue Gum High Forest (unpublished manuscript, 2011) p 16

[21] Sydney Gazette 28 September 1816

[22] Sydney Gazette 28 September 1816; R v Mow-watty [1816] NSWSupC 2: [1816] NSWKR 2 (27 September 1816)

[23] Evidence of John Shee in R v Mow-watty [1816] NSWSupC 2: [1816] NSWKR 2 (27 September 1816)

[24] Hannah had arrived free in the Colony in 1815 with her mother aboard the Northampton. Her father Henry had arrived as a convict in 1813. She went on to marry Thomas Thompson. Her son, also called Thomas (and also married to a Hannah) in 1877 bought the store established by his brother-in-law that occupied what is now known as Thompson’s Corner. See 1828 Census; G Millhouse, The Settlers of West Pennant Hills Valley 1799 Onwards (Castle Hill, 1987) p 77; J McClymont, Baulkham Hills Shire (Alexandria, 2003) p 131.

[25] And identified where he hid the stolen money – evidence of James Oldgate, Constable of Parramatta in R v Mo-watty [1816] NSWSupC 2: [1816] NSWKR 2 (27 September 1816)

[26] R v Mo-watty [1816] NSWSupC 2: [1816] NSWKR 2 (27 September 1816)

[27] Sydney Gazette 28 September 1816

[28] K Vincent Smith Mari Nawi: Aboriginal Odysseys (Rosenberg, Dural, 2010) p 134

[29] K V Smith “Moowattin” Australian Dictionary of Biography Supplementary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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