06 February 2015

Millers Point: yilgan maladul

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 February 2015, written by Leesha McKenny, the matter is raised about giving the name of Barangaroo Point to the headland southwest of Walsh Bay known as Millers Point.

It is likely that the Indigenous people of Sydney in 1788 had a name for this point, as they did for many parts of the Harbour. Gradually the First Fleet Europeans got an inkling of what some of these names might have been, although their understanding of the language then was rudimentary, and so many mistakes in communication are likely, and consequently the names ascribed to places is uncertain.

The person acknowledged then most proficient in the language of Sydney (known as the ‘Sydney Language’ as no name for the language was recorded, though an indigenous name that might be attributed to it is Biyal-Biyal) was junior officer of the Marines, Second-Lieutenant William Dawes. Dawes was, according to historian Professor G. Arnold Wood of the University of Sydney writing in 1924, ‘the scholar of the expedition’.

Dawes laid out the street plans for Sydney and Parramatta. He made the first meteorological records of Australia recording every day of the First Fleet period. An engineer, he set up the defences of the colony at Dawes Point. And an astronomer, he set up an observatory there too as directed by the Astronomer Royal in London before the First Fleet sailed. And Dawes lived at the astronomy at what became known as Dawes Point, but which Dawes recorded as Dara in a sketch map he drew at the beginning of the first of two language notebooks he compiled, based on conversations with the local indigenous people. He never intended it as a real map, because cartogaphy was another of his accomplishments.

Here is the map, which includes the name ‘Dara’—which word features in some of his language records:

Dawes’ sketch map
Loosely redrawn

From the records compiled by Dawes and others it is possible to establish two reference points on this map: 
1. Dara (Dawes Point) and 
2. Memel (Goat island)

A third is:
3. Kowang

The local language was not written, until by Europeans, and consequently it is possible that Dawes’ ‘Kowang’ is the same place as the following record:

gawan =
"Ross Farm"
Anon (c) [c:38:16] [BB]

Lt Governor Ross had a farm at ‘Cowan’. The location of this farm is given on an anonymous chart of Port Jackson, drawn in February 1788, published in Art of the First Fleet (Smith and Wheeler, 1988: p. 73), an extract from which is in the the centre of the three maps below:

Dawes’ map, rotated
Anonymous map of Feb. 1788
Modern (NRMA) map

Ross’s Farm is shown at the middle of the left side of the centre map, on the Balmain Pensinula.

The other places maked by Dawes are:
4. Ilkan máladúl
5. Wari-wal
6. Kaneagang (Kameagang?)
7. Koowarinang

‘Koowarinang’ is written upside down and hard to read.
The following enlargements enable others to hazard what the word actually was:

The maps above enable speculation as to where Dawes’s places actually were.

1. Dara: Dawes Point
2. Memel: Goat Island
3. Kowang: Peacock Point (Balmain East)
4. Ilkan maladul: Millers Point (southern end of Walsh Bay,where the finger wharves are)
5. Wariwal: southern end of Goat Island
6. Kaneagang: Pyrmont Peninsula [?]
7. Koowarinang: Sydney Cove (also separately recorded as Warang)

Ilkan maladul
Study of the Sydney language reveals that no words started with a vowel.
Consequently ‘ilkan’ cannot be correct.
Words recorded as starting with a vowel were those where the initial consonant was not detected,
and where the initial consonant was so unusual to speakers of English that it was ignored.
So ‘ilkan’ might have been one of:
and of these three, yilgan is the most probable.

Searches in the records reveal no instances of either yilgan or yilgang.
This does not mean that the word did not exist, but rather that is was not recorded. 

What did emerge were the following few possibilities:

yilga =
"To leap"
jump  :
King in Hunter [:409.1:22] [BB]
yilga =
"The barb of a spear"
barb  :
Dawes (b) [b:23:13] [BB]
yalga =
"Barb on a spear"
barb  :
Anon (c) [c:27:4] [BB]
yilga =
"Chest "
chest  :
Mathews KML/Dwl [:276.1:24] [Dwl]
yigal =
"(grass-tree flowering top)"
spike  grass tree:
Hunter Sketch Book [:69:1] [BB]
yigal =
"The tree itself is named Ye-gal'"
grass tree  :
Collins 2 [2:120:45] [BB]

Although there were no yilgan(g) instances, when a word such a yilga has -ng suffixed to it, it may denote a noun. So if yilga is ‘leap’, yilgan could conceivably be ‘a leap’.
Similarly, if yilga means ‘barb’, yilgang might be the process of making a barb. This gives a suggestion as to a possible meaning for yilgan maladul. Recalling that it is a headland, where there might have ben native vegetation, or where people went bathing in the water, there could have been barbs being made for spears, or there could have been swimming.

Thus first three examples in the table above seem plausible beginnings in a quest for a meaning.

Investigations based on wilgan or ngilgan yielded no encouraging results.

The same pursuit of possible meanings was undertaken for maladul.
The only slightly promising results were those in the table below.

miladang =
shield  waddy shield:
Mathews DARK 1903 [:281.2:1] [Dark]
milaDunD =
shield  :
Mathews DG 1901 [:159.2:27] [DG]
milidang =
"a guard"
shield  guard:
Bowman: Camden [:18:60] [DG]
malad =
headband  :
Anon (c) [c:4:6] [BB]

Shields are needed for protection against barbs. But the link to yilga: 'barb' is tenuous.

The first two of the examples in the table, by Matthews, are out of the immediate language area being to the north and to the south of the Sydney district. They were also recorded over a century after the First Fleet.
The third entry by Bowman is from the right time period, but also a little out of the area.
Finally, all four example are for miladang or similar, rather than maladul.
The fourth entry malad is probably just a red herring.

If maladul were to be two words, mala dul, the possibility arises that both might mean ‘man’.

"˚ Múlla ˚"
mala =
"˚ A man, or husband ˚"
man  :
Dawes (b) [b:13:3] [BB]
mala =
"A man"
man  :
Collins 1 [:509.1:0.2] [BB]
mala =
"The first time Colbee saw a monkey, he called Wùr-ra (a rat); but on examining its paws, he exclaimed, with astonishment and affright, Mùl-la (a man)."
man  :
Tench [:270:25] [BB]
dul =
"white man"
whiteman  :
SofM 18960912 [13.5: Fulton BB] [:13.5:16] [BB]
dalayi =
man  :
Bowman: Camden [:15:13] [DG]
dalayi =
man  :
KAOL Rowley [DgR table] [:122:1.6] [DG]

This analysis raises the possibility that Ilkan maladul (yilgan mala dul) might mean ‘jump man’. But this is far fetched.
Nevertheless, yilgan maladul does seem a likely genuine name for what has long been known as Millers Point.

The language examples cited above are taken from the Bayala Databases.

Jeremy Steele
Friday 6 February 2015

1 comment:

ROYSFARM said...

Thank you!