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A friend's passing - 1845

In the blog post of 19/12/16, we heard about the Christmas feast hosted by Sydney businessman Charles Smith for several dozen Aboriginal men and women in 1844. The guests included Aboriginal people living in Sydney and some who had travelled from the Shoalhaven area about 100km to the south. After the feast was over many of them stayed on in Sydney, and probably heard in early January that Smith had been taken seriously ill. A fortnight later, aged only in his 40s, Smith died.

Charles Smith had known local Aboriginal people for a long time, and in particular a group from southern Sydney led by William Annan. Annan’s group often visited Smith when they were in town and one report of Smith’s death noted that he had been ‘a kind and benevolent friend’ to them. When Annan died six months before Smith, his group gathered outside Smith’s home in mourning, and refused to speak Annan’s name in accordance with Aboriginal custom. And when Smith died soon after the feast, several of his Aboriginal friends gathered in the same spot and were in mourning once again, ‘silent and mute as if some awful calamity had overtaken them.’

A week after his death, Smith’s funeral procession wove its way from his home south to his final resting place in Newtown. You can read about it here - Hundreds of people took part in their carriages, on horseback and on foot to pay respects to a prominent Sydney businessman and philanthropist. Among the mourners were some of his Aboriginal friends. They had lost a key and influential supporter in Sydney, but fortunately there were still others who had similar views. In the same procession were locally born men like George Hill and WC Wentworth, who took on similar roles to Smith in later years, as we will see in future posts.

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