Edward Warrulan

Extract from

“A view from the Hill”

Sibford School’s history, written by Mike Finch

(Used by Permission)

Jane Shemeld also mentioned in her reminiscences that she was at school with a boy called Edward Warrulan, an Australian abo­rigine, who came to Sibford in 1847. This was highly unusual for the times, and seemed to fit in with Sibford's progressive nature. He was Sibford's first black pupil and his entry into the School was both an historical event for Sibford as well as being a major social event for nineteenth-century Britain. Significant reference is made to Edward in the book Perfecting the World: The life and times of Dr Thomas Hodgkin 1798-1866 written by Ed and Amalie Kass in 1988. Thomas Hodgkin was a prominent Quaker who was a renowned physician and social reformer; he was also a keen anthro­pologist and throughout his career he wanted the sons of chiefs to be educated in England: so that they might lead their people to civi­lization.

Edward Warrulan's real name was Warru-loong, the son of an aborigine chief named Tenberry. Edward was brought to England by Edward Eyre who was the appointed 'Protector of the Aborigines on the Murray River'. He later became the Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand. Eyre had a fondness for the aborigines and he took Edward and another aborigine (named Kour) to England in 1845. Kour didn't settle and was returned to Australia.

With his change of name Edward became somewhat of a celebrity. Outfitted in typical clothes of the period; a long brass-buttoned coat, flowing bow tie, wide presented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who were reported: To be pleased with the general appearance and manners of the youthful representative 'of her subjects at the antipodes'. He was examined by several eminent phrenologists who declared that his development was 'far superior to the negro race generally.'

Edward was placed in the guardianship of Thomas Hodgkin and he entered Sibford School on the 2nd August 1847, where it was hoped he would have: A guarded and religious education, instruction in the ordinary branches of useful elementary education and be encouraged to engage in some pursuits of farming or horticulture.

It would appear that Edward was happy at Sibford and made many friends. Although it is reported that he ...wasn't particularly scholarly; but he had very strong powers of observation and was, as Richard Laycock Routh mentioned: One of the finest swimmers I ever saw and he used to show the other boys how to swim in those days. He was a good, nice fellow and was very popular. He grew up into an excellent young man. Thomas Hodgkin frequently visited the School and it was decided that when Edward left Sibford in 1851, he would take up an apprenticeship in the saddlery trade in the Banbury area ...always under the careful eyes of the Quaker families in the area.

Sadly, in October 1855 Edward died at the tender age of eigh­teen after contracting pneumonia whilst visiting Thomas Hodgkin. In the section about Edward in Ed and Amalie Kass's book, they conclude by writing:

Warrulan's death was attributed to the difficulty in adjusting to the varied climate of Great Britain. Warrulan's sad story was com­pounded by the feeling that had he lived he probably would not have returned to Australia. Eyre had recommended that he should remain in England ... There was consolation in knowing that unlike most of his countrymen, Warrulan had died with Christian hope and "had not been sacrificed to the vices and cruelty of the white man or suffered to perish through his indifference." Judged by the utopian intentions of Hodgkin and Eyre, however, the experiment in civiliz­ing the chief's son was a keen disappointment.