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This web site has been created by Graham Dodsworth
as part of the objectives of the National Library Folk Festival Fellowship
awarded by The National Library of Australia and The National Folk Festival in 2004

  Indigenous song - composer unknown
  Hazel de Berg Collection - Oral DeB 75 - sung by Shirley Fish
  recorded 17th of December 1959.

I'd like to express thanks and appreciation to Esme Russell Timbery and elder John Timbery for permission to sing the song. The song is about an aboriginal who went away from Moreton Bay Island who upon returning to Kyalba said 'My people have all passed away, I'm the only one left.' Shirley explained 'The song is very sacred, also very sad'. Shirley Fish, also known as Shirley Timbery, was an Arnhem Land aboriginal at La Perouse in Sydney in 1959 when this song was recorded by Hazel de Burg.

My attempt to translate the lyrics of this song proved difficult and consumed more time than research on all the other songs in the project combined. I still believe the task is achievable and hope to supply more detail in the future. The results of what may be a small success in these endeavours are included below.

After scanning many Aboriginal to English dictionaries covering a range of dialects I discovered the word 'menindie' often represented the concept of 'serpent'. In a book by John Tully some words that stood out the most was the phrase 'lil lip . . . menindie' (similar to Fish's 'lu lu . . . menindie'), which appears to be a variation on the phrase 'the scales of the serpent', a phrase considered to be a reference to 'small pox' by aboriginal people. Small pox was prevalent in early colonial Australia and is regarded by some as a contributing cause for the decline of the Aboriginal population during those years, more particularly in southern Victoria. The convict, William Buckley, who had survived smallpox himself and who bore facial scars from the disease is quoted as having seen these same scars upon the faces of Aboriginal Elders on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. The disease may have been spread to Victorian shores by whalers before Victoria was colonised and thence to northern parts of Australia. This is merely one theory and I'm continuing to pursue a more accurate translation of these lyrics.

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