The Hairy Wild Man from Botany Bay, Part 2
Hairy Wild Men over time
19 May 2014
This is part two in a series. Read part one here.
The author of "A tour through Apollo Gardens, in Gawsworth, near Macclesfield, Cheshire", the subject of part one of this blogpost, is unknown. The presence of the figure of the iconic wild man in a pamphlet created only 14 years after European settlement is curious. I suspect he may reflect the sense of intrigue but also menace that the struggling early convict settlement radiated back to its source. At least in the early days of settlement, the palpable fear of transportation to what must have seemed like the end of the earth was clearly expressed in caricatures and verse. The shackled Hairy Wild Man, along with similar monstrous tales was perhaps both a warning to viewers about the perils of transportation to remote lands struggling to be colonised and also an imaginative and engaging visual trope with a long history.
The mythical tradition of the wild man inhabiting forests can be traced back to ancient roots and appears as early as the figure of Enkidu, the hairy wild man who ultimately befriends Gilgamesh, the central character in the ancient Mesopotamian epic poem of the same name. See, for example, the cylinder seal featuing Enkidu in the British Museum.
The presence of the hairy wild man is evidenced also in the ancient Babylonian figure of the king Nebuchadnezzar, banished into the wilderness for his boastfulness and forced to live like an animal. He was captured very memorably by the British artist William Blake in 1795 (now in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London) but for a more modern interpretation, with an Australian accent, see Arthur Boyd's Nebuchadnezzar painting in the Bundanon Collection.
The depiction of the hairy wild men or 'woodwose' as they were known at the time in the medieval period was influenced by these stories but also by the Roman myth of Silvanus and such mythical creatures were later depicted, as seen here, by artists in the 15th century such as Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer.
We have recently seen in the Mapping our World exhibition the depiction of odd creatures, cannibals and seamonsters animating the surfaces of maps of the known and imagined corners of the world. But no hairy wild men that I can recall. The manacled figure of our Hairy Wild Man may refer to the convicts transported to the land of ‘weird melancholy’. The figure, with its human face, is no doubt descended from the lineage of wild men imagined and depicted over time, though very rarely are such figures depicted manacled as he is. The image and story was possibly also spawned by ill-formed notions of the strange and unlikely animals found here and which were beginning to be conveyed, in watercolour, in prose and through hearsay on board returning ships. And, as improbable specimens, both dead and alive were conveyed to England and Europe.
More recently stories of Yetis, Yowies and the waterborne Bunyip still excite cryptozoologists. A Trove search has revealed a 1994 book review in the Canberra Times about activity in our region.
The passage of such creatures from myth through 'sightings' and into print or now in blogs still taps into public interest. The Library's Bunyips exhibition touring from 2001 was one of the most successful ever mounted by the Library and always received enthusiastic community support on its extensive road trip from the township of Bunyip to Canowindra.
Inspiration for the pamphlet?
I am curious whether "A tour through Apollo Gardens, in Gawsworth, near Macclesfield, Cheshire" was in part inspired by the Elizabethan Pleasure Gardens built at Gawsworth Hall (a famous Tudor timber-framed house in the Cheshire black-and-white style, built between 1480 and 1600) which has an intriguing past - see his Wikipedia biography for more information. However, I have seen one reference in a genealogical website to a Thomas Hammond of Gawsworth who died in 1828 and whose obituary allegedly described him as "a very eccentric character, and will be long remembered for his representation of the Hermit, with which he usually entertained his visitors,and for his recitals of various addresses in that character". This character seems more likely to have perhaps inspired the character of the Hermit in our pamphlet.
The website also stated that it is possible that one of his sons, another Thomas, was convicted of fraud and was transported to Australia for 7 years which could give a connection to colonial New South Wales. I found a Thomas Hammond (born c. 1796) was transported for 7 years on the Neptune in March 1820 to NSW and later married an Ann Byrne at Richmond in 1824. They had eight children and what leads me to believe there is a strong connection to Thomas the 'Hermit' is the name of their fourth child, Edwin Gawsworth Hammond (born c. 1831). Some more research through Trove and elswhere has indicated the succeeding generations of prosperous Hammonds had at least two properties named after their Gawsworth roots. One a property near Junee, the other in Brighton in Melbourne where Firbank Grammar School now stands.
Further research when time permits will produce more connections I'm sure.
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