Passages to the North West Plains by Michael O'Rourke.
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PASSAGES TO THE NORTH-WEST PLAINS P.3
Aboriginal Alliance Networks cont.
The Gamilaraay language extended east to about Singleton. The exact point where Gamil’raay met the Hunter basin languages, Geawe‑gal, Wanarua and Darkinyung, is not known with certainty. Possibly the junction of Wollombi Brook with the Hunter River immediately upstream from Singleton formed the meeting point. Or perhaps more likely, the meeting point was higher up: at or west of Jerrys Plains. The name ‘Gamil’raay’, as we shall see later in this paper, when it is recorded for the very first time, is securely linked to Doyles Creek, a creek enters the Hunter River just west of Jerrys Plains.
In the Warrumbungle Mountains, and at Dubbo and Wellington, the language was Wirraadhurraay, or, as it is more commonly spelt, “Wiradjuri”. Wayilwan or “Weilwun”, a variety of Ngiyambaa, was spoken further NW, beyond Gilgandra. The distinctive Wayilwan suffix -bone (-buwan) is well known, if not quite famous: as in Gulargambone, Quambone and Terembone.
James Günther, the Wellington Valley missionary, and his fellow proselytiser William Ridley said that Wiradjuri was used on that section of the Castlereagh River nearest Wellington, while a variant of Kamilaroi called Ko‑inburri (i.e. Guyinbaraay), was spoken on the section of the Castlereagh nearest the Liverpool Plains.
This is confirmed by an examination of place-names. On and around the upper stretch of the Castlereagh we find the Gamilaraay names Ulamambri, Piambra and Uarbry (suffix –m+baraay). This indicates that the boundary between Gamilaraay-Guyinbaraay and Wiradjuri lay in the eastern Warrumbungles, on or west of the early curve of the upper Castlereagh. Other place-names, for example Dandry and Tenandra, have the Wiradjuri suffix ‑dhurraay. This would suggest that the Warrumbungle mountains themselves, or at least their western sector, belonged to Wiradjuri-speaking groups.
In short, the boundary between Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri fell approximately along a line drawn from Coonabarabran to Coolah.
It is obscure whether the Upper Goulburn River community (the “Cassilis tribe”) spoke Gamilaraay or Wiradjuri: probably the former.
Based on Naseby’s line (in Howitt 1904) and Rusden’s statements (quoted below), we would expect them to have been Gamilaraay-speakers. And indeed several obviously Gamilaraay-language place-names are mentioned in the early court case R v Walker (1836). On the other hand, George Suttor in 1826 grouped the Nandowey/Cassilis people with the Wiradjuri-speakers of Mudgee, perhaps – but not necessarily - implying that they spoke that language.
Rusden wrote of a Gamilaraay group living on the Talbragar River who may have been the same as the ‘Cassilis tribe’:
“They [the Geawe-gal of the central Hunter Valley] were always in dread of war with the Kamilaroi who followed down [intruded] from the heads of the Hunter [?and] across from the Talbragar to the Nunmurra [sic: Munmurra] waters ...” (the Munmurra River being the watercourse on which modern Cassilis is located).
This seems to imply that Gamilaraay-speakers held the Goulburn Valley or at least its northern tributaries. And if we turn to a modern map, we find several place-names in the upper Talbragar-Goulburn Valley bearing the familiar Gamilaraay suffix “bri” or ‑baraay, namely Uarbry, Collaroy and Gundebri. This serves to confirm Rusden’s report.
Rusden also said that “a section of the Kamilaroi occupied the upper sources of the waters flowing into the Hunter River and those which form the heads of the Goulburn River, for instance the Munmurra Creek”. He implies - but he does not state it explicitly - that Kamilaroi was spoken on the Hunter River at least as far downstream as Mussel Brook (the tributary stream at modern Muswellbrook). As he says, the Kamilaroi “even made raids as far as Jerrys Plains [upstream from Singleton]”.
It would appear therefore that Kamilaroi-speaking communities held not only both sides of the Upper Hunter but also the region north of the Goulburn River, i.e. the north-west quadrant of the Hunter basin.
Blanket distribution records show that in 1833, at the end of the smallpox pandemic, 111 Aborigines (80 adults and 31 children) survived in the greater Cassilis district. As late as 1843 the ‘tribe of Munmurra’ numbered at least 94 people. Those receiving blankets included one man, Nedabri, whose name incorporates once again the distinctive –bri or ‑baraay suffix of Gamilaraay.
In the middle-lower Hunter valley, the language or dialect or band names were Darkinung (?Daaginyaang), Wanneroo (?Wanaruwa) and Geawe-gal (?Gayaway+n+gal).
Darkinung was the language spoken on the southern side of the Hunter from Jerrys Plains to Maitland and along Wollombi Brook, at Putty, and on the Macdonald and Colo Rivers. According to Mathews (1897) the NW extremity of their country was Jerrys Plains, upsream from Singleton, where it bordered that of the Kamilaroi. In the south, it apparently extended almost to the Hawkesbury.
Wanneroo or Wannerawa or Wonnahruah, as it is variously spelt by the 19th Century writers, seems to have been the language spoken on the northern side of the lower-middle Hunter, namely in the Glendon Brook region (opposite modern Branxton) and north to the Mt Royal Range. It may have extended from Singleton east to beyond Maitland, possibly (but probably not) taking in the Paterson River.
As we noted earlier, some writers have mistakenly placed the Geawe-gal group in the Upper Hunter Valley. In fact the key sources, G W Rusden (1819-1903) and Mrs Rankin, are very clear about the group’s country being centred on Glendon Brook in the lower-middle part of the Valley. Rusden lived at Maitland in the period 1834-41, from age 15 to 22, and learned to speak the local language. Thus he is likely to have known what he was talking about.
If we follow Rankin, the Geawe-gal held the region north of the Hunter from near Muswellbrook east towards Maitland. Rusden’s account is broadly consistent with this; he clearly indicates that their territory did not include Muswellbrook, Maitland or the Paterson River (east of Maitland), although they did share a language with the Maitland people. If this is correct, there were at least two dialects: that of Glendon Brook and that of Maitland. Quite possibly they were part of a wider group of dialects that included the costal speech-form Kattang [Gadhang] used by the Worimi [Warrimay] people. Becky Johnson, b.1858, a Kattang-speaking woman of Tea Gardens (Port Stephens) told W J Enright that the language of the Singleton people (we read this as: at and downstream from Singleton) was similar to Worimi-Kattang.
The other name Wanneroo covered an area effectively identical with the area covered by the name Geawe-gal. We must therefore consider what kinds of names they were. Taking Geawe-gal first, the suffix –gal is a people-marker. It occurs in many languages in central-eastern Australia in such cognate forms as -galu, -giyalu, -giyalung etc. Ash et al. (2003) call it the diminutive plural suffix, literally “little ones+many”, meaning ‘group of people or mob’ (‘band’ in my vocabulary). Compare ‘Gundical’ [gundhi+gal], which Edward Ogilvie (1814-1896), son of the first settler at ‘Merton’ near Denman, gave as the name of one of the four bands or ‘tribelets’ of the Upper Hunter Kamilaroi.
In Wanneroo, the word for ‘no’ was “keawai” (Hale 1846: 526) or “geawe” (Rusden) or “kae-one” (Curr vol II; Fawcett 1898). This is perhaps to be rendered as gay(a)way. Thus Geawe-gal meant ‘those who say gayaway for ‘no’”. Here again we have a very familiar structure, for Aborigines in this part of Australia commonly selected the word for ‘no’ to name the form of speech spoken by their neighbours. The speech of the Upper Hunter and Liverpool Plains, for example, was called ‘gamil-having’ or Gamilaraay: gamil ‘no’ + araay ‘having’.
We have no meaning for ‘Wanneroo’; but it is discussed in the sources as if it were a regional language. It would appear that ‘Wanneroo’ and ’Geawe-gal’ had the same denotation, but the latter connoted a set of people. The two or more bands who spoke Wanneroo, including those at Glendon Brook and Maitland, doubtless had their own narrower names for themselves and their dialects. Unfortunately I am not aware that they have survived in the records. Cherchez-y qui peut! – ‘she who can should seek this out!’.
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9. See O’Rourke 1997 for an extended discussion.
10. Williams Grammar 1980, and earlier, Honery in Ridley MSS 1871-73; Ridley 1873b: 259 and 1875: 47, 119; and Ridley 1878. Also Mathews in several papers, e.g. 1895b. The Wangaaybuwan variant of Ngiyambaa differed markedly from Gamilaraay, having only 36% total vocabulary in common (Austin et al. 1980: 172 ff). Presumably the Wayilwan variant was likewise only distantly related to Gamilaraay.
11. Most place-names in the Coolah-Cassilis region have the Gamilaraay suffix +bri/+aroy, for instance Paiambra near Binnaway; Bullaroy trig point, west of Coolah; Vinegaroi Road, north-east of Uarbry; and Uarbry itself. But there are also several names with the -ong [-aang] and -therie [-dhurraay] endings of Wiradjuri, namely Bong Bong Creek, south-west of Coolah; and Merotherie crossing, south-west of Uarbry.
Frank Bucknell greatly simplified in telling Howitt that “between the Bogan and the Kamilaroi boundary, which runs north-westward from Wonabarabra (sic: misprint for Coonabarabran!) to the junction of the Peel River (sic: actually Namoi) and the Darling (sic: Barwon), the language is a mixture of Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri” (in Howitt 1904: 58).
See further the discussion and maps in O’Rourke 1997, citing Günther 1892; Ridley 1875: 119; also Quinn 1958 (and see the map of early stations in Pickette & Campbell 1984).
12. O’Rourke 1997, citing ‘Colo’ [George Suttor] in The Australian 25.8.1826; also in The Australian 14.10.1826. Forbes in 1833 (see in McLachlan 1981) referred to the tribelet (band) of the upper Goulburn River as ‘the blacks belonging to the Nandowa Plains’. This was no doubt the same as ‘Nandowey’ plain in the Talbragar headwaters near Cassilis, first occupied by employees of the Cox family in c. 1825 (cf also Wood 1972: 228 and Rolls 1981: 64).
13. ‘And’ vs ‘the’: Rusden’s words are quoted slightly differently in 1880 and 1904.
14. Rusden in Fison and Howitt Kamilaroi and Kurnai 1880: 279; and Naseby and Rusden
15. Brayshaw 1986: 58; Distribution of Blankets, SRNSW [State Records of NSW] 4/1133.3. By 1896, the Aboriginal population of Cassilis consisted of just one lone individual (APB report, in Votes & Proceedings of the NSW Parliament, VPLA 1897 vol 8 p.883).
16. The sources are discussed at length in O’Rourke 1997.
17. Enright 1933: 161.