TOM UGLY'S SPIRIT TALKS BACK
I speak, a spirit from this place,*
to you who’ll never see my face.
You only know the local fame
this bridge has given to my name.
But I lived here a chief of men,
staunch and strong. This river then,
the bay, the caverns, land and sea,
was Eora country, wide and free.
This bridge is ugly! I was not!
But let that be…My bones were what
the white man sought. He came to trace
the measure of my alien race,
to shed white light on my dark kind
and with his white superior mind
investigate my bones and give
his verdict on the primitive.
He thought to plunder from this place
a sample of a lesser race -
to trouble for some scholar’s gains
my resting bones, my life’s remains,
to make of me some grizzly prize
displayed to prying white man’s eyes.
But I lay low and lie here still
beside this bridge. My spirit will
accept the tribute to my name
and overlook its spurious claim.
I’ll see this bridge, this link, this span
as symbol. Bridges could deliver man.
*Eora “from this place”
We set out in a small, but safe, well-built boat belonging to Jonny, rowed by Jonny and 2 white men, to cross over to Cook River Bay. It was our intention to find the skeleton of a blackfellow called Tom Ugly (native name Tow-weiry), a chief of the Sydney tribe, who lived near the outlet of the Cooks River and was buried where he lived and died, under an overhanging sandstone rock. Jonny told us that Tom Ugly, an outstanding specimen of an Aborigine, died about 10 - 12 years ago, but that only 9 - 10 months ago he had seen his bones sticking out of the sand in the spot to which he led us, which apparently prevented him from continuing his search for shellfish.
Journal of Dr Karl Scherzer, 1858 Transcribed Dymphna Clark 1995