Lancelot Threlkeld

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Lancelot Edward Threlkeld
Personal
Born(1788-10-20)20 October 1788
Died10 October 1859(1859-10-10) (aged 70)
ReligionChristianity
Spouse
  • Martha Gross (married 1808–1824)
  • Sarah Arndell (married 1824–1853)
Children
  • Joseph Thomas Threlkeld
  • Martha Threlkeld
  • Tabitha Threlkeld
  • Mary Williams
  • Elizabeth Sophia Threlkeld
  • Lancelot Edward Threlkeld
  • Sarah Ann Threlkeld
  • Thomas Samuel Threlkeld
Senior posting
Ordination8 November 1815

The Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld (20 October 1788 – 10 October 1859) was an English missionary, primarily based in Australia. He was married twice and survived by sons and daughters from both marriages.[1] His work in Australia did much to increase knowledge of Aboriginal languages, but he had little success with converting Aborigines to Christianity.

Early life[edit]

Born in Southwark, England, now in south London, on 20 October 1788, Threlkeld was son of Samuel Joseph Threlkeld, a brush-maker, and his wife Mary.[2] In 1813 he began training as an evangelical missionary with the London Missionary Society (LMS). His missionary career began in 1814, with an assignment to the Society Islands.[3]

Missionary life[edit]

Evangelist[edit]

Threlkeld was well educated, and on 8 November 1815 sailed for Tahiti, but the illness and subsequent death of a child of his detained him for a year in Rio de Janeiro, where he started a Protestant church.[4] He left for Sydney on 22 January 1817, arrived on 11 May, and after a short stay went to the South Sea Islands, where he reached Eimeo (now Mo'orea in French Polynesia) in November.

A missionary station was established at Raiatea and Threlkeld worked there for nearly seven years. His wife died, and left with four children he returned to Sydney in 1824.[5] Here Daniel Tyerman and George Bennet, travelling LMS deputies, appointed Threlkeld as missionary to the Lake Macquarie Aboriginals. Situated on land allocated by Governor Brisbane, Threlkeld was instructed to teach Aboriginals agriculture, carpentry and establish a children's school. The LMS also dictated Threlkeld learn the local language as a precursor to successful Christian conversions.[6]

By September 1826 Threlkeld and family were living on site at the Bahtahbah mission in six-roomed house.[7] Alongside the Threlkeld family were three British overseers, one an assigned convict, one an adult and one a child domestic.[8] Threlkeld, who was paying Aboriginal workers on site with fishing hooks, food and clothing, wrote in 1825, "[It] is my intention to act here upon the same plan we found so successful at Raiatea namely, give nothing to any individual but in return for some labour for common good!"[9] Threlkeld wrote of the early period of the mission's settlement. Aboriginals frequenting the mission sought land allocations: "Two natives have spoken to me already to allow them a portion of land for agriculture."[10]

Residing on site at Bahtahbah mission enabled Threlkeld to work closely and frequently with Awabakal Elder of Biraban.[11] One significant task they undertook together was to establish a written form for the Awabakal language. Threlkeld wrote of this period as one being filled with mornings in which he worked with Biraban, "who speaks very good English, in writing the language.... Our conversations vary, and cruise from enquiries into their customs and habits. Easy sentences, passages from scripture, and information on Christian subjects are attempted."[12] As a consequence of such work, Threlkeld published Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales.[13]

In 1834 Threlkeld published An Australian Grammar, comprehending the Principles and Natural Rules of the Language, as spoken by the Aborigines, in the vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales. The book describes the Awabakal language. It was followed in 1836 by An Australian Spelling Book in the Language spoken by the Aborigines. Threlkeld worked on for some years and also began translating the New Testament into the Hunter's River Aboriginal language.

Despite this socio-linguistic success in 1827, the lack of religious conversions led to the LMS objecting to Threlkeld's expenses. This assertion also affected Threlkeld's conflict with the colonial magistrate, Rev. Samuel Marsden, and Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Dunmore Lang.[14] The LMS consequently appointed Marsden as a financial overseer and thus manager of the Bahtahbah mission.[15] In 1828 the LMS, dissatisfied with Threkeld's evangelical work, directed him to abandon the Bahtahbah mission, and offered to pay for his return to London.[16] Declining the LMS invitation, Threlkeld was subsequently appointed by Governor Darling, on behalf of the colonial government, to continue his "Christianisation and civilisation" work with a salary of £150 a year and four convict servants, with rations.[17] This mission was allocated between 1000 and 1280 acres (405–518 ha) on the northern side of Lake Macquarie, and were named as Derabambah, Punte and Puneir by Aboriginal populations and Ebenezer (mission) by the European population. Initially, a mission house with 12 rooms was built of weatherboard and plaster.[18] Later the site also hosted a storehouse, a barn, a hut (as living quarters for Australian/European men living on site), orchards and fenced cattle spaces.[19] However, with less financial support and goods to distribute Threlkeld's ability to persuade Awabakal people to remain on site dramatically decreased.[20] The official closure of the Ebenezer Mission occurred on 31 December 1841, with the precarious financial position of Threlkeld leading to the establishment of grazing stock and mining of coal seams on the property.[21] In 1842 the British Secretary of State for the Colonies qualified the evangelical missions, such as Threlkeld's, as failures.[22] However, the LMS, having received a letter from the Quakers James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, detailing the specific nature of missionary work in the Australian colonies, acknowledged Threlkeld's "vigilance, activity and devotedness to the welfare of the Aboriginal race."[23]

In 1842 Threlkeld became pastor of the Congregational church at Watsons Bay, Sydney, and in 1845 he was appointed minister of the Mariners' church at Sydney, a position in which he continued for the rest of his life.

Interpreter[edit]

The Awabakal Scriptures[edit]

Threlkeld worked in association with Biraban to translate, conceptualise and write various Christian religious texts.[24] Threlkeld published a book describing the Awabakal language: An Australian Grammar, comprehending the Principles and Natural Rules of the Language, as spoken by the Aborigines, in the vicinity of Hunter's river, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales.[25] This was followed in 1836 by An Australian Spelling Book in the Language spoken by the Aborigines. Threlkeld described the translation process with Biraban as follows: "Thrice I wrote [the Gospel of Luke], and he and I went through it sentence by sentence as we proceeded. McGill spoke the English language fluently."[26] The objective of Threlkeld was to create a linguistic record "before the speakers themselves become totally extinct," as a means of "scientific inquiry" and "ethnographical pursuits".[27] Threlkeld began translating the New Testament into the Hunter's River Aboriginal language, but realising in 1842 that his mission was achieving little success, Threlkeld ceased his linguistic work.[28] Threlkeld later resumed working on publications of the Awabakal language, publishing A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language (1850) and was working on a translation of the four Gospels at the time of his sudden death on 10 October 1859.

The Supreme Court[edit]

Threlkeld's linguistic work was highly valued in the Colonial Courts in the 1830s, as "Aborigines were not permitted to give evidence in court, not being allowed to swear an oath on the Bible without adhering to Christianity."[29] Threlkeld also provided ethnographic information used to inform judges' conclusions in numerous cases.[30]

Protector[edit]

Threlkeld used the mission's Annual Reports and formal inquiries, such as Committee on the Aborigines Question, as forces to attempt to ameliorate Aboriginal dispossession and violent subjection.[31]

In 1840 Threlkeld, writing to the Colonial Secretary, highlighted the paradoxical nature of the colonial courts: I am now perfectly at a loss to describe to [the Aborigines] their position. Christian laws will hang the aborigines [for] violence done to Christians, but Christian laws will not protect them from the aggressions of nominal Christians, because aborigines must give evidence only upon oath.[32]

After the closure of the Ebenezer mission, Threlkeld served on Aboriginal welfare boards, attended police courts in support of Aboriginal defendants, and joined the Ethnological Society of London.[33] In 1853 Threlkeld argued that the low status attributed to Aboriginals was a "convenient assumption", as such characterisation at the level of "species of wild beasts, [meant] there could be no guilt attributed to those [settlers] who shot them off or poisoned them."[34]

Contemporary relevance[edit]

From the late 1970s, Threlkeld's accounts were utilised in the regions of the Hunter Valley and Watagan Mountains in Land Rights claims and the determination of Aboriginal sites of significance.[35]

In 1986 Threlkeld's work became the basis for an Awabakal language revitalisation project.[36]

Australia's History Wars[edit]

Threlkeld's Annual Reports, which contained information concerning Aboriginal massacres, such as the Waterloo Creek massacre, remain crucial points of contention within Australia's History Wars. Threlkeld has featured in the Australian history wars for his reports concerning Aboriginal massacres, such as the Waterloo Creek massacre. Keith Windschuttle argues that Threlkeld inflated numbers of the dead to gain support for his mission proposals.[37] John Harris, on the other hand, argues, "We have few enough sources of Aboriginal eyewitness accounts as it is and those we do have, we owe to the concern and courage of missionaries like Lancelot Threlkeld."[38] Macintyre explains the intersection of these viewpoints within Australia's media. The National Museum of Australia has labelled Threlkeld's era as "the most fiercely contested aspect of the national story."[39]

Publications[edit]

  • Aboriginal Mission, New South Wales (1825)
  • Specimens of a Dialect, of the Aborigines of New South Wales; being the First Attempt to Form their Speech into a Written Language (1827)
  • Morning Prayers in the Awabakal Dialect (1835) digitized by Richard Mammana
  • A Statement chiefly relating to The Formation and Abandonment of a Mission to the Aborigines (1928)
  • An Australian Grammar, Comprehending the Principles and Natural Rules of the Language, as Spoken by the Aborigines, in the Vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales (1834)
  • An Australian Spelling Book, in the Language as Spoken by the Aborigines, in the Vicinity of Hunter's River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales (1836)
  • A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language (1850)

Further reading[edit]

  • H. M. Carey, "Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Colonial Bible in Australia", Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 52, no. 2, 2002, pp. 447–478.
  • H. M. Carey, "Lancelot Threlkeld and missionary linguistics in Australia to 1850", Missionary Linguistics/Lingüística Misionera: Selected Papers from the First International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Oslo 13–16 March 2003, ed. Otto Zwartjes and Even Hovdhaugn, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004, pp. 253–275.
  • K. Austin, et al., Land of Awabakal, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, New South Wales, 1995.
  • Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979.
  • P. Sutton, "Unusual Couples: Relationships and Research on the Knowledge Frontier", Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 29 May 2002 Retrieved 10 September 2017.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gunson, Neil (1974). Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. p. 176.
  2. ^ A. Keary, "Christianity, colonialism, and cross-cultural translation: Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal", Aboriginal History, 2003, p. 120; J. Harris, p. 55; State Library of New South Wales, Biraban and the Reverend Threlkeld, State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  3. ^ C. Wilkes, Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, Vol. 2, Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard, 1845, p.250; J. Harris, pp. 53–55; K. Clouten, Reid's Mistake: The Story of Lake Macquarie from its Discovery until 1890,Lake Macquarie Shire Council, New South Wales, 1967, p. 22; Society Islands, retrieved 29 September 2017.
  4. ^ J. Fraser, "Introduction", in J. Fraser, ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p. xv; J. Harris, p. 55; K. Clouten, p. 22; N. Gunson, "Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, [1] Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  5. ^ A. Keary, "Christianity, colonialism, and cross-cultural translation: Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal", Aboriginal History, 2003, p. 120; J. Harris, p. 55; ["State Library of New South Wales, Biraban, and the Reverend Threlkeld", State Library of New South Wales. Archive, 4 September 2008]. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  6. ^ A. Keary, pp. 120–121; J. Harris, p. 55; J. Turner and G. Blyton, The Aboriginals of Lake Macquarie: A brief history Lake Macquarie City Council, New South Wales, 1995, p. 31; K. Clouten, pp. 22–23; L. E. Threlkeld, "Selected Correspondence", in N. Gunson, ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L. E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824–1859, Vol. II. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p. 181; L. E. Threlkeld, "The Gospel by St. Luke Translated into the Language of the Awabakal by L.E. Threlkeld", in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p. 125; P. van Toorn, Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of writing in Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2006, p. 40.
  7. ^ A. Keary, p. 122; K. Clouten, p. 25.
  8. ^ C. Wilkes, p. 253; J. Harris, p. 55; K. Clouten, p. 25.
  9. ^ L. E. Threlkeld, "Selected Correspondence", p. 178; J. Turner and G. Blyton, p. 32.
  10. ^ L.E. Threlkeld, "Selected Correspondence", p. 183.
  11. ^ L. E, Threlkeld, "Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie", in N. Gunson, ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L. E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824–1859, Vol. I. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p. 98.
  12. ^ L. E. Threlkeld, "Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie", p.98; Biraban, retrieved 29 September 2017.
  13. ^ L. E. Threlkeld, "The Gospel by St. Luke Translated into the Language of the Awabakal by L.E. Threlkeld", p. 125.
  14. ^ C. Wilkes, p. 252; J. Harris, pp. 55 ff.; K. Clouten, p. 26; P. van Toorn, pp. 40–41.
  15. ^ K. Clouten, p. 26.
  16. ^ C. Wilkes, p. 251; J. Harris, p. 56; K. Clouten, pp. 26–29; J. Turner and G. Blyton, p. 32.
  17. ^ A. Keary, p. 126; J. Harris, p. 56; C. Wilkes, p. 251; K. Clouten, p. 28.
  18. ^ K. Clouten, pp. 28–29; Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979, p. 7.
  19. ^ C. Wilkes, p. 250; K. Clouten, p. 30.
  20. ^ A. Keary, p. 126.
  21. ^ N. Gunson, Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859) Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  22. ^ J. Harris, p. 23.
  23. ^ J. Harris, p. 59; K. Clouten, p. 32; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, p. 40.
  24. ^ The University of Newcastle, "Backhouse, James", Chapters 33–35 of A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies, The University of Newcastle [website], 2017, Cultural Collections (taken from Backhouse, James. Chapters 33–35 of A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies. London: Hamilton, Adams, 1843, pp. 368–414. Retrieved 14 September 2017 pp. 381–82.
  25. ^ A. Keary, p. 125; J. Harris, p. 56; The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803–1842) Saturday, 12 March 1831, p. 3. Original Correspondence; P. Sutton, "Unusual Couples: Relationships and Research on the Knowledge Frontier", Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 29 May 2002 Retrieved 10 September 2017, p. 2.
  26. ^ J. Harris, p. 57.
  27. ^ L. E. Threlkeld, "A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language", in J. Fraser, ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p. 120.
  28. ^ J. Fraser, "Introduction", pp. xi–lxiv; K. Clouten, p. 32.
  29. ^ J. Harris, p. 57; Macquarie University, "R. v. Boatman or jackass and bulleye [1832] NSWSupC 4", Macquarie Law School, 12 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, [2] Retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, "R. v. Jackey [1834] NSWSupC 94", Macquarie Law School, 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  30. ^ A. Johnston, "A Blister on the Imperial Antipodes: Lancelot Edward Threlkeld in Polynesia and Australia", in D. Lambert and A. Lester eds, Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2006, pp. 74–75; A. Johnston, The Paper War, UWA Publishing, Western Australia, 2011, p. 183; J. Turner and G. Blyton, p. 38.
  31. ^ A, Johnston, The Paper War, p. 215; A. Keary, pp. 122–24; A. Johnston, "A Blister on the Imperial Antipodes: Lancelot Edward Threlkeld in Polynesia and Australia", p. 75; K. Windschuttle, "The Myths of Frontier Massacres in Australian History: Part III: Massacre Stories and the Policy on Separatism", Quandrant, December, 2000, p. 9; L. E. Threlkeld, "Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie", pp. 83-176; New South Wales Legislative Council, "Aborigines Question: report from the Committee on the Aborigines Question, with the minutes of evidence", New South Wales Legislative Council, J. Spilsbury, Sydney, 1838.
  32. ^ L. E. Threlkeld, "Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie", p. 166.
  33. ^ N. Gunson, "Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)" Retrieved 8 September 2017; Ethnological Society of London. Retrieved 30 September 2017.]
  34. ^ J. Harris, p. 27.
  35. ^ J. Maynard, "Awabakal voices: The life and work of Percy Haslam, John Maynard", Aboriginal History, Vol. 37, 2013 retrieved 11 September 2017, p. 86; K. Austin, et al., Land of Awabakal, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, New South Wales, 1995, p. 24.
  36. ^ J. Maynard, p. 88.
  37. ^ Windschuttle, Keith (1 December 2000). "The Myths of Frontier Massacres in Australian History". Quadrant. Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  38. ^ Harris, John (25 August 2017). "Aboriginal massacres DID happen". Eternity. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  39. ^ S. Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia', 3rd ed., Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2009, p. 61; J. Connor, The Australian Frontier Wars: 1788–1838, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2002, pp. 63–67.

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