Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yemmerrawannie . . .

Sometimes we are drawn by the new and different, that far place, unknown, that will shake us into becoming perhaps a different, better person. We don't realize that each day begins 'new and different,' that we define ourselves by our routines, even so small as writing an A-Z Challenge every day.

What if our established routine were something that to others was new and different?

Today's post explores such a person, Yemmerrawannie, born (historians guess) about 1775 in Botany Bay.  Governor Arthur Phillip pretty much adopted this young man (with another, more well known aborigine, Bennelong, the names of both aborigines reported with great variety of spelling). Both were taken to England in 1792 with Phillip. Yemmerrawannie died there in 1794, at 19.

I'm remembering Ghandi's descriptions of his visit to a cold and rainy London in the 20th Century. How different would Yemerawannie's experiences have been as a young man in the 18th Century, so far from his home, barely colonized New South Wales, as he visited crowded, industrial London. What were his impressions before he died, most likely of pneumonia?

But this contrast between a nomadic life lived close to nature and Victorian England is not the real story at all. I now have extreme book lust for Rachel Perkins and Marcia Langton's First Australians.

The real story is darker, not about experiencing the new, though that occurred. The real story is about what happened between the colonizers and the colonized in the early days of settling New South Wales, this great, unexplored and stark new land; the delicate negotiations between Governor Phillip, leading a starving colony, and those who knew the land. Interactions between the two groups were always fraught with cultural misunderstandings and violence. Letters, diaries, and records hint of paternalism and that great belief that English values and beliefs trump all else. This backdrop sets the tone for the next several hundred years.

I'm left realizing that history is not fiction.

I have ordered First Australians via interlibrary loan. Excerpts may be read online at Google Books. Sources consulted: The Folorn Hope, Google Books: First Australians. UPDATE: Just found the First Australians television production online. Another fascinating resource!


  1. That is quite a Y word! Again, I enjoyed the bit of history you posted. That era and locale are not that familiar to me, so I love learning from your blog.

  2. Hello Bet, beautiful space, passing to say hello, nice to read your text.
    if you like the poetry I invite you to my space, thank you.
    happy day.

  3. I can only imagine how a primative man who lived in harmony with the earth must have felt when he arrived in England. I shivered uncontrolably for about two years when I arrived from Australia. Cold seeped into my bones and I couldn't shake it off. I lived in luxury and appreciation with a family for whom I worked as a nanny. The poor Y, would have had no such comfort.

  4. I enjoyed reading your Y post. I know nothing about New South Wales history so I found it especially fascinating. Your book series sounds quite interesting.

  5. Intriguing! Thanks for the history lessons Beth.