Telling Places in Country (TPIC)


Aboriginal Life Stories - Clanspeople Encountered


Mannalargenna was 5' 8" tall and about 55 years old when he met Robinson on 1 November 1830 on the Anson's Plain, inland from the southern end of the Bay of Fires. His country was Tebrikunna, now known as Cape Portland, in the far northeast of Trouwunna and he was the leader of the Pairrebeenne clan. Mannalargenna had four daughters and two sons and he is a direct ancestor of the majority of Aboriginal people in Tasmania today. Robinson considered Mannalargenna as being of 'superior intelligence', and there is no doubt that he was revered as a formidable warrior and seer amongst his people. He was extremely fond of smearing himself all over with grease and red ochre and he maintained his long locks of hair and beard with this material.

After losing his first wife he married Tanleboneyer who was one of Robinson's early guides. Mannalargenna and his wife accompanied Robinson on his journeylines around the island from 1831 to 1835. He did not conform to Robinson's wish to wear clothes and remained in his preferred ochred and naked state until he died.

Born about 1775 Mannalargenna had lived half of his life in a world of uncontaminated cultural traditions and the other half he experienced the full impacts of the British invasion. On the arrival of Robinson's vessel to Big Green Island in October 1835 Mannalargenna cut the physical symbol of his role and status - his long ochred hair and beard. This seems to have been a final act in the face of his loss of connections to country and traditional practice. In the face of a life of exile in what his people believed were the islands of the dead. Mannalargenna died at Wybalenna on 4 December 1835 at the age of about 60, 26 days after first becoming ill with a severe cough, a fixed pain in his right side and difficulties with breathing. The surgeon, J. Allen, conducted the post mortem and concluded Mannalargenna had died of empyema pneumonia. Robinson attributed Mannalargenna death to him cutting off his long ochred and greased hair and claimed that this sudden change had led to catching cold and catarrh. As a final act of insensitivity Robinson buried Mannalargenna's body on the burial ground in a coffin and allowed his enemies to participate in the service.