15. A Whale of a Time

Whale of a Time

A Special Gathering


In September, 1790 over 200 Aboriginal people from Manly, Parramatta, Port Jackson and Botany Bay gathered to feast on a whale beached at Kayumay (now known as Manly Beach). The whale was shared according to custom. People who were normally enemies came as invited guests to the occasion.




Captain Nepean and a small crew came upon the beach nearby. There they were met by Colby, who boldly approached them – pointing to his leg – showing how he’d freed himself from the rope used to hold him captive. Nepean said that Arthur Phillip was nearby. Bennelong told him to give Phillip a message that he would give him a piece of the whale in exchange for hatchets.

An Encounter with Bennelong


Arthur Phillip went to the place of the whale feast. He rushed to the area, stepped out of the boat unarmed, and “advanced up the beach with his hands and arms open”. The Governor then called for Bennelong, but he was “so changed” with a long beard, that Phillip recognised him only when he held up a bottle of wine to which Bennelong replied “The King!”(a toast at official pccasions). Bennelong still kept a distance. According to Tench, he inquired about some old friends among the Europeans asking particularly about a young lady… “from whom he had once ventured a kiss; On being told that she was well… he kissed Lieutenant Waterhouse and laughed out loud.”



Arthur Phillip is Speared


Lieutenant Waterhouse wrote of the events that followed:

“… As they went up, I frequently heard a man on the right of them call out “Benalon” and told him what we were doing in the boat…”

Hunter tells us that a number of Aboriginal men were standing guard.

Bennelong asked Phillip for hatchets. Phillip promised to send them in 2 days time. Phillip then asked for a particularly large spear. Bennelong picked up the spear, walked some distance away and laid it on the ground – making it clear that there was no deal. He came back to Phillip and handed him a throwing stick instead.

This account by Waterhouse describes the event that followed…

“The natives now appeared to be closing around us, of which the Governor took no notice and said he thought we had better retreat, there were nineteen around us and many more we could not see…

Just as we were going, Benalon pointed and named several tribes around us, one in particular to whom the Governor presented his hand and advanced towards him, at which he seemed frightened, seiz’d the spear that Benalon had laid on the grass, and immediately threw it with great violence…”

Arthur Phillip was speared through the shoulder with the same spear he had asked for.

Whale of a Time


We are the Kamergal – fishers are we

The deadliest fishers in Eora country

But every now and then

The ocean will provide

The kind of food that makes your

Eyes go wide

Look on the beach – what do you see?

A whale is there for you and me


We’ll have a whale of a time

A whale of a time

A whale of a time

A whale of a time

Here on the beach,  it’s in our reach

We’ll have a whale of a time

Go tell the Bidjigal, the Wanegal too

We’re gunna have ourselves some hot whale stew

Here on the beach at the bay of Kay-u-may

The whites call it Manly so they say

We’re gathering here, away from that town

We’re gunna have a party let’s all get down