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Gringai otherwise known as Guringay, is the name for one of the Australian Aboriginal people who were recorded as inhabiting an area of the Hunter Valley in eastern New South Wales, north of Sydney. They were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups as a clan of the Worimi people.[1]


The Gringai lived round the Williams River, Barrington tops, Dungog, Barrington and Gloucester area and traded with the Paterson River Aboriginals[2] The centre of their territory is on the land where the modern town of Dungog (perhaps "clear hills" in the Gringai dialect).[3] Lies.[4]


Two people of the Gringai are known by that name as a result of their arrest and subsequent trials. Wong-ko-bi-kan (Jackey) and Charley were both arrested within a year or so of each other in the 1830s. He was judged guilty nonetheless and sentenced to be transported to Tasmania for manslaughter after spearing a John Flynn on 3 April 1834. Flynn died soon after. Flynn had been a member of an armed troop of 9 settlers who went to the aborigines' camp at the Williams River at dawn to arrest some of them for culling sheep on their land. Wong-ko-bi-kan could, in another perspective, be said to have been defending the native camp from armed intruders.[5] Wong-ko-bi-kan's case elicited some sympathy among the presiding judge and several observers, for the way in which the settlers had provocatively approached the native camp. Wong-ko-bi-kan died in his Tasmanian prison soon after, in October of that year.[6][7]

Another Gringai, known only as Charley, in May 1835, soon after the incident with Wong-ko-bi-kan, was arrested and, in August of that year, deemed responsible for the death of 5 convict shepherds working for Robert Mackenzie, later premier of Queensland, at rawden Vale 26 miles west of Gloucester.[a] Though generally understood by Europeans as an act of warfare, the trial interpreter, Lancelot Threlkeld, in whom he had confided stated that Charley had acted after an Englishman had stolen a tribal talisman, called a muramai, and that the victims cohabited with a native woman, to whom the sacred object was shown. For this reason he implemented tribal law after a decision had been taken to that end by the elders. After his sentence he was brought back to Dungog and hung publicly as a warning to other Gringai.[9] Local historian Michael Williams comments that, "Charley, ... was both an enforcer of one law and the victim of the enforcement of another set of laws."[10] One late story, recounted in 1922 in the Wingham Chronicle, suggests that a raiding party set out to enforce the verdict by hunting other Gringai, managing to round some up and push them all over a cliff at Barrington.[10][b]

Syphilis contracted from convicts, and other introduced diseases, took their toll. In 1847 alone, 30 Gringai children died of measles.[11]

Ceremonial life[edit]

Key rites in the ceremonial life of the Gringai and related tribes, such as the keeparra, were described by Walter John Enright and R.H. Mathews in the late 19th century who managed to obtain permission to view and records them from the last remnants of the tribe.[12][13]

One of the Gringai Bora rings used in the initiation is reported to have been at Gresford[14] A karabari was reported as having been performed on the occasion of the appearance of a comet in the sky in 1845/1846.[15]

Some words[edit]

  • wilhurgulla (place of little sticks)
  • erringi ( black duck)
  • monduk (fertility)[3]

Alternative names[edit]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ In Upper Ghangat, 12 miles northeast of Gloucester, five convicts tending cattle had taken revenge on the local tribe by lacing damper with arsenic and giving it as a gift to the natives. Many warriors died. The area became anathema to the tribe, calling it Baal bora (apparently, "place to be shunned")[8]
  2. ^ a strong body of settlers from the Williams and Allen Rivers struck out to the north west, ascending the Williams and Chichester Rivers. They ascended the lofty Mackenzie Tableland and located the first body of fugitive natives camped on the northern face of the mountain on a narrow shelf above a gigantic cliff which overhung a "tangled mass of brush and vines. Silently and surely they laid their plans and long ere the dawn of day the sleeping camp was encircled from cliff edge to cliff edge. Day broke and the sleeping blacks arose. Then maddened with fear under the gunfire they broke hither and thither in vain attempts to escape. Then panic stricken they turned to the cliff edge and sprang into space and, so perished. At a small plain a mile west of the present Cobakh Station the Port Stephens men came into conflict with the remaining body of natives, but the fugitives broke and fled northwards to a little flat-on the Bowman River. Here the final tragedy occurred; a stand was made by the blacks, but in vain. Years afterwards their unburied skeletons could be seen. The law claimed yet another victim. A native was captured and executed at Dungog, near where the present Court House stands."[8]


  1. ^ Miller 1985, pp. xv, 110.
  2. ^ Williams 2012, p. 15.
  3. ^ a b Williams 2012, p. 16.
  4. ^ Roginski 2015, p. 15.
  5. ^ Williams 2012, p. 23.
  6. ^ R. v. Jackey [1834].
  7. ^ Williams 2012, pp. 17–18.
  8. ^ a b W. 1922, p. 2.
  9. ^ Williams 2012, pp. 18–19.
  10. ^ a b Williams 2012, p. 19.
  11. ^ Williams 2012, p. 22.
  12. ^ Mathews 1896, pp. 320–340.
  13. ^ Enright 1899, pp. 115–124.
  14. ^ Williams 2012, p. 29.
  15. ^ Fraser 1892, p. 23.
  16. ^ Mathews 1896, p. 321.
  17. ^ Fullagar 2015, p. 35.


Further reading[edit]