Pemulwuy (c. 1750 – 1802)

Bidjigal warrior Pemulwuy (a.k.a. Pimbloy, Pemulvoy, Pemulwoy, Pemulwy, Pemulwye, Bembul Wuyan, Bimblewove or Bumbleway) (c. 1750 – 1802), was born near and lived in the vicinity of, Botany Bay on the northern side of the Georges River. He was reputedly born with a blemish in his left eye and may have grown up to be a carradhy (healer, or clever man who interacted with the spiritual nature of things and carried out sorcery). A distinctive injury to his left foot, deliberately mutilated by a club, was a common identification mark for such practitioners including the Kurdaitcha men of Central Australia.

Following the arrival of the First Fleet, Pemulwuy provided the newly-arrived and food-challenged colonists with fresh meat until an incident involving a shooting party around one o'clock on the afternoon of 9 December 1790. 

The party, led by a sergeant of marines included Arthur Phillip's gamekeeper John MacIntyre, one of three convicts licenced to go out into the bush armed. Resting up in a clearing while they waited for the best time to hunt kangaroos, the party spotted a group of five "natives with spears in their hands, creeping towards them" McIntyre laid down his gun and approached them, talking familiarly to them in their language as they slowly retreated. One, "a young man with a speck or blemish on his left eye" jumped on a fallen tree and, without warning speared MacIntyre in his left side. According to Watkin Tench, MacIntyre was suspected of killing Aboriginal people and was regarded by the likes of Bennelong with fear and hatred. Macintyre was taken back to the hospital where he died of his wounds, reputedly making a deathbed confession, accusing himself of "crimes of the deepest dye" against the Eora people.

Although the shooting party pursued the assailants, they escaped. A retaliatory expedition that set out on 14 December, the largest military operation since the colony was founded, comprising Tench, Lieutenants Dawes and Poulden, and forty-six marines returned to Sydney after three days of searching without sighting Pemulwuy or his people. 

MacIntyre's spearing marked the beginning of Pemulwuy's twelve-year guerilla war against the settlers as he persuaded the Eora, Dharug and Tharawal people to join his raids on Prospect, Toongabbie, Georges River, Parramatta, Brickfield Hill and the Hawkesbury River, stealing and burning crops and killing livestock.  

Colonial Secretary, Judge Advocate and Lieutenant Governor David Collins suggested that most of the attacks were 'payback' for the settlers' 'own misconduct', including the kidnapping of children.

An attack on a work party at Botany Bay in December 1795 saw Pemulwuy wounded, and while he survived and escaped his injuries restricted his activities for a time. In March 1797 After a raid on the government farm at Toongabbie in March 1797, a punitive expedition tracked Pemulwuy to the outskirts of Parramatta, where he was wounded again, with seven pieces of buckshot in his head and body. He was taken to the hospital and escaped with an iron about his leg before his wounds had healed. By late April, when he was among parties that government officials met near Botany Bay Pemulwuy was 'perfectly recovered from his wounds'.

Pemulwuy's close escapes and ability to recover from serious wounds reinforced notions that he was a carradhy (clever man) and reputedly fostered a belief among his people that European firearms could not kill him.

At the start of May 1801, continuing resistance resulted in a general order from Governor Philip Gidley King stating that Aborigines in the vicinity of Parramatta, Georges River and Prospect could be shot on sight,

A further order on 22 November 1801 outlawed Pemulwuy and offered a reward of 20 gallons of rum or a free pardon for bringing him in dead or alive, and Pemulwuy was shot and killed by Henry Hacking, the first mate of the Lady Nelson at the start of June 1802. Pemulwuy's head was preserved in spirits and sent to Joseph Banks in England, where it seems to remain, unrepatriated, in an unknown location.

Pemulway's son Tedbury (a.k.a. Tjedboro) continued the resistance for some years before he was fatally wounded in an attack on a farm at Parramatta in 1810.

Sources: Stephen Gapps, The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the Early Colony, 1788-1817, J. L. Kohen, Pemulwuy (1750–1802); Henry Reynolds, The Other Side of the Frontier; Woodroffe, Keith Vincent Smith, Australia's oldest murder mystery - ; Ronald D. Pemulwuy, Ngoonjook, No. 9, Nov 1993: 23-31.

© Ian Hughes 2017