The last voyage of a Royal Navy explorer credited with giving Australia its name will see his remains returned to the village where he was born.
The remains of Captain Matthew Flinders, who led the first circumnavigation of Australia, were discovered by experts excavating St James’s burial ground, Euston, London, for the new High Speed rail project.
Following a request by descendants of the Flinders family and the local community that he be returned to his home village of Donington, Lincolnshire, HS2 Ltd’s chief executive Mark Thurston has written to the family to say he can be buried there.
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The last voyage of a Royal Navy explorer credited with giving Australia its name will see his remains (pictured being dug up) returned to the village where he was born, it has been announced
The remains (left, being dug up) of Captain Matthew Flinders, who led the first circumnavigation of Australia, were discovered by experts excavating St James’s burial ground, Euston, London, for the new High Speed rail project. Following a request by descendants of the Flinders family and the local community that he be returned to his home village of Donington, Lincolnshire (right)
His final resting place, more than 200 years after his death, will be at the Church of St Mary and the Holy Rood in Donington, near Spalding, where he was baptised, and where many members of his family are buried.
The move has been supported by the Church of England’s Diocese of Lincoln, which has given consent to the reburial at the parish church.
The Rt Rev Dr David Court, acting Bishop of Lincoln, said: ‘It is an honour for both the church and the diocese that we will be able to welcome home one of Lincolnshire’s great explorers.’
The move has been supported by the Church of England’s Diocese of Lincoln, which has given consent to the reburial at the parish church. Pictured: Where the remains were dug up in Euston
Captain Flinders made several significant journeys, notably as commander of HMS Investigator, in which became the first known person to navigate around the entire coast of Australia and confirm it as a continent
In his will Captain Flinders, who joined the Navy aged 15, left instructions for the erection of four marble slabs in the church to commemorate him and his forefathers, while there is also a display and a stained glass window marking his life.
The Rev Charles Robertson, Vicar of St Mary and the Holy Rood, said: ‘It is with great honour and joy that we received the good news that the mortal remains of Captain Matthew Flinders will come to Donington.
‘It is a privilege to welcome home this great explorer to rest in peace in his home church.’
The Rev Charles Robertson, Vicar of St Mary and the Holy Rood (right), said: ‘It is with great honour and joy that we received the good news that the mortal remains of Captain Matthew Flinders (left, his breast plate) will come to Donington
The statue of explorer Matthew Flinders and his faithful cat Trim outside London’s Euston railway station, where his remains were discovered in a long abandoned burial ground
Helen Wass, HS2 head of heritage, said: ‘It is fitting that the last voyage of Captain Matthew Flinders will be back to the village of Donington where he grew up and we are pleased to be playing our part in his last journey.
‘This local boy from Donington put Australia on the map due to his tenacity and expertise as a navigator and explorer.’
Captain Flinders made several significant journeys, notably as commander of HMS Investigator which he navigated around the entire coast of Australia, the first known person to do so, confirming it as a continent.
The explorer was joined by Bungaree, an Aboriginal Australian who was the first from the country to sail around the continent.
Captain Flinders is also credited with giving Australia its name, although he was not the first to use the term, with his work popularising its use.
Captain Flinders: British navigator, hydrographer and scientist
Capt Flinders is famous for sailing the HMS Investigator around Australia with Englishman George Bass and Indigenous man Bungaree between July 1802 and May 1803.
That voyage proved to the Europeans that Australia was a single continent, rather than two separate landmasses previously called New Holland and New South Wales.
Capt Flinders is also widely credited with popularising the name Australia as well, even though he was not the first to coin the term.
The navigator and scientist was born on March 16, 1774, in Donington, Lincolnshire and was educated at Donington Grammar School.
From a young age, Flinders, had a passion to set sail and explore the world after reading Robinson Crusoe
His father was Matthew Flinders, a surgeon and his mother was named Sussanah.
The precocious teenager had a yearning for adventure and after reading Robinson Crusoe, wanted to take to the high seas, so joined the navy at the age of fifteen in 1789.
He set sail in 1791 under the direction of William Bigh on a voyage to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica and then in, after returning to England, saw action at the naval battle of the Glorious First in June 1794.
In a voyage on the HMS Reliance in 1795, and on his first voyage to New South Wales, Flinner was noted as a brilliant cartographer and navigator.
Flinders was promoted to lieutenant in 1798 and visited the Furneaux Islands, with a visit to Norfolk Island following soon afterwards.
He sailed back to England in 1800 and in 1801 published Observations on the Coasts of Van Diemen’s Land, on Bass’s Strait and its Islands, and on Part of the Coasts of New South Wales.
Flinders was given the command of HMS Investigator in January 1801 and set sail for New Holland later that year, but prior to leaving married Ann Chappelle.
He set sail in July 1801 and landed in Cape Leeuwin in December of that year before extensively surveying the southern Australian mainland.
Flinders moved extensively along the coast, before heading to Sydney in 1802, with the ship running low of supplies and also leaking.
He left Australia soon after the circumnavigation as a passenger on HMS Porpoise in 1803.
But the ship was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and he ended up sailing a cutter more than 620 miles back to Sydney to arrange for a rescue of the crew.
Capt Flinders again tried to sail back to England later that year, this time in command of HMS Cumberland, but he ended up being imprisoned by suspicious French officials on Mauritius for six years.
He finally made it back to England in 1810 where he began preparing his circumnavigation voyage journal for publication.
By then he was in very poor health.
Capt Flinders finally published A Voyage to Terra Australis on July 18, 1814. He died the following day aged 40.
Tens of thousands of skeletons will be removed from the burial ground where the station for the HS2 rail route will be built, and re-interred at another consecrated site which is yet to be announced.
Archaeologists conducting the dig were not confident they would find Captain Flinders among the 40,000 people interred there, as the headstone marking his resting place had been removed during expansion of the station in the 1840s.
But the experts were able to identify the remains of the explorer, who was buried in the burial grounds on July 23, 1814, by the lead depositum plate, or breast plate, placed on top of his coffin.
A specialist team from HS2 will transfer the remains to the Diocese of Lincoln for safekeeping until further burial arrangements can be made, which will be announced at a later date.
The untold story of King Bungaree: The Aborigine who joined Captain Flinders and was the first Australian to sail around the continent
King Bungaree, Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe, was among the first to be called ‘Australian’
He was dubbed the ‘King of the Blacks’, the ‘Supreme Chief of the Sydney tribe’ and ‘His Aboriginal Majesty’.
Bungaree, who circumnavigated Australia with Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802-03, was for many years the most famous Aborigine in the New South Wales penal colony.
He was one of the first people to ever be described as ‘Australian’ and among the most regularly painted men in the nation’s early colonial history.
When Bungaree died at Garden Island in 1830 he was better known in Sydney than Flinders, who had died in England in 1814.
No statue of Bungaree exists but the cat who also accompanied Flinders on his most important voyage features in at least five in Australia and England.
Bungaree was the first Aborigine be officially recognised as a leader by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who gave him a brass or copper breastplate bearing the inscription ‘Boongaree: Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe 1815.’
He was widely known around Sydney as ‘King of the Blacks’, ‘King of Port Jackson’ and ‘King Bungaree’.
Bungaree was also the subject of the first lithograph printed in Australia, by Augustus Earle in 1826.
He was so well-known that at least 18 portraits and other illustrations were made during his lifetime, whereas there are just two or three of his friend Macquarie.
The most famous portrait of Bungaree, painted in 1826, shows him standing on the heights of The Rocks, with Fort Macquarie and ships anchored off Bennelong Point in the background. When Bungaree died in 1830 he was the best-known Aborigine in the New South Wales colony
Most of those illustrations show Bungaree dressed in discarded military uniforms given to him by governors and other important citizens.
Born about 1775 among the Garigal people, Bungaree was described in the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1966 as of ‘happy disposition and much intelligence.’
He was also recorded as Boongarie, Bongaree, Bongary, Bonjary and Boungaree and moved to the Port Jackson settlement in the 1790s with the remnants of an indigenous clan from Broken Bay, north of Sydney.
Bungaree was a talented mimic, being able to imitate the walk, talk and other mannerisms of each of the governors he knew.
Bungaree was so well-known that at least 18 portraits and other illustrations were made during his lifetime, whereas there are just two or three of his friend Governor Lachlan Macquarie
He used his skills in street performances to cadge rum, tea, tobacco, bread and sugar for himself and his people.
‘He spoke English well and was noted for his acute sense of humour,’ according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
‘Although he had no tribal authority his adaptation to the life of the settlement, his talent for entertaining and his high standing with governors and officials established him as the leader of the township Aborigines.’
‘It seems likely that Bungaree’s facile exhibitionism too easily impressed his white contemporaries, who quite failed to understand the Aborigines.’
The late author and historian Geoffrey Dutton put it this way: ‘He mocked the white men by mocking himself.’
Bungaree was described later in life as a beggar and drunkard but deserves to be remembered as a diplomat and seafarer.
His voyages with the celebrated Flinders make him a significant figure in Australian maritime exploration.
Flinders arrived in Sydney in 1795 on board HMS Reliance with surgeon George Bass and the indigenous leader Bennelong, who was returning from England having been presented to the king.
A bust of Bungaree is displayed at the entrance to Mosman Civic Centre, which houses Mosman Council and Chambers
Historians think it likely that during that voyage Flinders discussed with Bennelong the worth of taking an indigenous person on his planned explorations.
Bungaree and another Aborigine called Nanbarry sailed with Flinders to Norfolk Island in May 1798 on Reliance and during that 60-day round trip impressed the young English naval lieutenant.
The following year he sailed with Flinders and Nanbarry on the longboat Norfolk for a coastal survey of Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay in what is now Queensland.
Flinders relied on Bungaree’s knowledge of Aboriginal protocol and used him as a go-between with Aborigines the party encountered during the six-week voyage.
Bungaree also took part in the establishment of the penal settlement on the Hunter River at what is now Newcastle in 1801.
His greatest maritime adventure began in 1802 when he set out with Flinders, Bass and their crew in the sloop HMS Investigator to circumnavigate and map the continent. That voyage also included a trip to Timor.
Throughout these journeys Bungaree helped Flinders negotiate peaceful passage among coastal Aborigines, despite not speaking their languages.
Using improvised dialogue and hand gestures he communicated the explorers’ intentions and showed crew members which plants were safe to eat.
Flinders late wrote that Bungaree was particularly kind to his cat Trim.
In A Voyage to Terra Australis published in 1814, Flinders wrote that Bungaree’s ‘good disposition and open and manly conduct had attracted my esteem.’
Bungaree was a talented mimic, being able to imitate the walk, talk and other mannerisms of each of the governors he knew. He used his skills in street performances to cadge rum, tea, tobacco, bread and sugar for himself and his people. His death in 1830 was widely noted
In 1815 Governor Macquarie set up 16 members of Bungaree’s clan on a farm at George’s Head on the north shore of the harbour near what is now Mosman.
The group was given two huts, stock, seed, a boat and farming implements on a 6 hectare lot. Bungaree, who was an expert spear fisherman, planted peaches.
In 1817 he set sail again – this time to north-western Australia and Timor in the cutter Mermaid under Phillip Parker King once more acting as a guide and interpreter.
‘He was about forty-five years of age, of a sharp, intelligent and unassuming disposition, and promised to be of much service to us in our intercourse with the natives,’ King wrote of him.
Macquarie had begun to use the term ‘Australia’ after reading Flinders’s Terra Australis and on May 26, 1818 botanist Allan Cunningham referred to Bungaree as an ‘Australian’ in his journal.
‘During the whole of this day’s excursion I was accompanied by our worthy native chief, Bongaree, of whose little attentions to me and others when on these excursions I have been perhaps too remiss in making mention, to the enhancement of the character of this enterprising Australian,’ he wrote.
While his feats of exploration earnt Bungaree’s place in navigational history, back in Sydney he became part of town folklore.
When any ship dropped anchor in Port Jackson Bungaree would greet the vessel in a fishing boat rowed by his wives, ready to collect ‘tribute’ he claimed was owed to him.
Dressed in a ragged military dress jacket with brass buttons, and in bare feet, he topped the look with a black cocked hat featuring gold ribbons and feather plume.
In 1828 Bungaree and his clan moved their camp to the Domain, where he was seen naked and ‘in the last stages of human infirmity’.
Bungaree died on November 24, 1830 after a long illness and the news reported three days later on page 2 of The Sydney Gazette.
‘We have to announce the death of his Aboriginal Majesty King BOONGARIE, Supreme Chief of the Sydney tribe,’ the newspaper said.
‘He expired on Wednesday last, at Garden Island, after a lingering sickness of several months. A coffin has been despatched thither from the Lumber Yard, and he will be interred at Rose Bay, beside the remains of his late Queen, this day.’
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