When a fishing boat was christened on Fairy Creek in September 1876, it provided not only a cause for celebration for the region’s Aboriginal community, but a reason for lament.
The boat had been intended to provide the local Wadi Wadi with a means of earning a living through fishing.
Significantly, the 20 Aborigines present at the ceremony included all the remaining relics of the community between Bulli and Macquarie River ‘‘of the ancient and long numerous inhabitants of the Illawarra’’.
But such was the annihilation of the race, only two were pure Aborigines, the Mercury said.
The project had been initiated two months earlier when several gentlemen, led by Wollongong post and telegraph master Phillip Mackel, petitioned the government for a fishing vessel for local Aborigines.
The government was so impressed by the cause it ordered a suitable boat be forwarded to Wollongong ‘‘with the least possible delay’’, it to remain under the supervision of the harbour pilot and Wollongong police.
‘‘An excellent boat for the purpose’’ arrived and was at once taken on by King Timbery, Billy Saddler and a few other ‘‘natives’’ of the district.
In the meantime, Mrs Davis of the Harp Inn was ‘‘struck with the happy thought’’ of naming the boat in a befitting manner.
‘‘In order to give the idea a practical effect, that lady arranged for the naming ceremony to take place on Saturday last, and prepared a bounteous and excellent spread for the occasion.
‘‘The interesting ceremony accordingly took place on the day named, and in the presence of exactly a score of Aborigines and a small party of friends, invited by Mrs Davis, such including Captain Houslar (the pilot of the port), and the Rev Dean Flanagan (St Francis Xavier minister).’’
The boat, on being pulled ashore near Fairy Creek, was boarded by Mrs Davis who broke a bottle of champagne over the bow, naming the craft The Queen Emma, of Illawarra, in honour of King Timbery’s wife.
‘‘The boat having been so named, the company resorted to the shaded spot where the luncheon was provided, and there all present partook to their appetite’s content of the munificent spread of the choicest delicacies of the season and the cellar.’’
Following the lunch, his August Majesty King Timbery rose and in a few remarks returned thanks to Mrs Davis, and called on all his people present to give three cheers for that lady, which they did ‘‘right yellishly’’.
He then called three cheers for the government and for Reverend Flanagan.
GENEALOGY SEARCH TIP
As part of the University of Wollongong’s 60th anniversary celebration, more than 1000 vintage photos of staff, students and the campus have been digitised. Visit www.flickr.com/photos/60392191@N04/sets.