Research Origin of Australian Football's Gaelic Origin Myth [+Marngrook]

BringBackTorps

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They say rounders which is still played in a huge variety of different ways at schools is a forerunner to baseball, rounders was a English game, they still play a variety of rounders at the primary school across the road, markings around the basketball courts

Basketball is pretty much American.

Ball games have been happening for thousands of years, everything is related, but to say that Tom Wils was not somehow influenced by Marngrook and Aboriginal culture is bizarre, he was the only white child in a district where local Aboriginals still practiced thousand year old customs, he spoke their language and played with them.

He would have been influenced in a variety of ways he probably did not even realise, let alone reflecting on his childhood in later years.
L.Wills Cooke, grandson of Tom Wills' brother Horace, has told journalist/author Martin Flanagan, & a public meeting of Old Melburnians FC (ex Melb. Grammar students -this school played against Scotch in the famous game organised by T.Wills in 1858) that his mother told him of this family legend - Tom Wills, as a young child in the isolated Moyston area, played Marngrook with aboriginal children.
(The ball, made of possum skin, tied up with kangaroo sinews, & stuffed with charcoal, was kicked high in the air between two groups of aboriginals, who faced each other in 2 lines. The winner was the person who was able to catch the contested high ball, without it touching the ground, the most times).

Wills was so fluent in the Western Vic. Aboriginal dialect that, 20 years later after leaving that district in 1845, when he returned, he was able to recall & speak to the Aboriginals in their dialect. VERY COMPLICATED dialect conversations re cricket rules & coaching cricket skills for their tour of England!

These Aboriginals embarassed the Hamilton white cricketers by defeating them in a cricket match, prior to the English tour. The Hamilton cricketers then challenged them to a Victorian Rules match for "revenge"-but they declined, as their train was leaving for Melb. the next day.

Wills NEVER trained these Aboriginals in Vic. Rules. However, the West Vic. district whites obviously believed (which has PROFOUND implications) that the Marngrook they had witnessed in Western Vic. would have enabled these athletic Aboriginals to play a genuine "fair"contest of Vic. Rules ie there was some overlap in skills between Marngrook & Vic. Rules (but no tackling in Marngrook).

Marngrook was also witnessed by Europeans in other parts of Victoria -including very close to Melbourne, up to c.1870 (Incidentally, Aboriginals were seen & recorded by europeans playing Marngrook in what is now called Collingwood in the 1860's - fairly close to where Vic. Park currently stands!).

In historian David Thompson's important new book "The Rules That Made Australian Football" Walla Walla Press, NSW,2013, pg19, Thompson quotes historian Jim Poulter, who quoted 1850's Warrandyte (c. 30 kms NE of Melb.) settlers seeing"...a spectacular game of native football that involved players leaping high into the air onto each others backs in order to catch the ball...the athletic displays of the footballers (Aboriginals playing Marngrook -my words), men and women, were met with much excitement and cheering from hundreds of onlooking natives, settlers, and gold miners... this was 1852...".

The 1859 Melb. Rules allowed a FREE kick for a mark, if the kicked ball was not touched by another person first- thus placing great importance on catching. (otherwise, the round ball could NOT be picked up off the ground, only dribbled ala soccer).
The 1858 Rules of the "chaotic " football games that occurred then in Melb. (following Wills'famous 1858 letter to Bells Life), with much disputation amongst the players over the "agreed"rules, sometimes causing "fisticuffs", have not survived.

Thompson writes at pg.90 "The mark was the CENTRAL (my emphasis) element of Australian football, this practice being recorded at the FIRST (my emphasis) interclub (properly formulated- my words) match between Melbourne and South Yarra in 1858...".
At pg.91, Thompson writes"...there is some evidence that the settlers watched games of marngrook (in Melb. environs -my words). William Kyle, who lived in Melbourne (in the1850's-my words), recalled that game (marngrook-my words) with its spectacular high catches, was frequently played and witnessed by european spectators. It seems MORE than a COINCIDENCE (my emphasis) that Australian football featured similar catching methods. It seems likely that some future Aust. footballers had watched and approved of the way that Aborigines leapt for a catch introducing this technique to a new game...".

We are unlikely to ever know for certain why the MARK/FREE kick was the CENTRAL, distinguishing element of the Melbourne Rules of 1859 (its potency emphasised by the lack of an offside rule).

And we will never be certain what motivated its early white proponents to attempt this"suicidal" dangerous feat (People in the 19th century could, & often did, die from complications of broken bones then, no antibiotics for infections. Some believed high jumps were too dangerous,& should be banned).
Spectacular high marking was a very rare feature of Vic. Rules until popularised by Charles "Commotion"Pearson in the 1870's (Many female spectators then would shriek out in fear when Pearson flew for a mark, thinking he would severely injure himself on landing in these hitherto rare jumps. Thus the females caused a commotion, hence Pearson's acquired famous nickname).

The 1859 Rule makers never gave reasons as to their prime influences (except for Wills famously saying 'We decided we should have a game of our own', & 'Melb. grounds were too hard for the Rugby school game'). Commotion Pearson never explained what influenced him to regularly attempt "suicidal"leaps to mark the ball (nor the other, earlier, irregular high leapers).

What we can be certain, though, is that some of the most vociferous, current opponents of the marngrook connection to Wills/ other early rule makers (direct or subconscious connection) in 1859 (& marngrook's connections to jumping players from 1858 -1870's) come from devotees of RL, RU, & soccer.
And for the same reason that soccer supporters are trying to usurp & monopolise the words "Australian Football" for their code.
And for the same reason that RL, RU, & soccer devotees refused to call our code "Australian Football"-its correct name since the 1880's; but deliberately called the code "Rules", or "Aussie Rules"; or "'the Melbourne/ Victorian game"; or "aerial ping pong"; or "gayFL". etc.

Must deny/obfuscate/divert/ignore its "Australianess"- & the great pride many Australians have in our Australian game.
And thus they argue that AF is simply a slight variation, & direct lineage, of ancient English school/folk games.
 
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papabear

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What we can be certain, though, is that some of the most vociferous, current opponents of the marngrook connection to Wills/ other early rule makers (direct or subconscious connection) in 1859 (& marngrook's connections to jumping players from 1858 -1870's) comes from devotees of RL, RU, & soccer.
And for the same reason that soccer supporters are trying to usurp & monopolise the words "Australian Football" for their code.
And for the same reason that RL, RU, & soccer devotees refused to call our code "Australian Football"-its correct name since the 1880's; but deliberately called the code "Rules", or "Aussie Rules"; or "'the Melbourne/ Victorian game"; or "aerial ping pong"; or "gayFL". etc.
Must deny/obfuscate/divert/ignore its "Australianess"- & the great pride many Australians have in our Australian game.
And and/or argue that AF is simply a variation, & direct lineage, of ancient English school/folk games.
So now it was Rugby League and Rugby Union and football/soccer people trying to change the history of AFL.

Give me a break. The post I have quoted is just flat out (insert word here).

AFL historians generally write their opinions on their game. Rugby League / union historians might cross over a little bit given the nature of its history. Soccer historians will write about that.

To summarise the incorrect inferences made in your posts:-
1 - Other sports are writing the history of AFL somehow belittling it.
2 - You are more "australian" then other people depending on what you claim your family background is.
3 - This notion that only AFL gets given a hard time by rival codes and AFL fans havent ever given derogatory names to other codes... FFS
4 - Australianess? what is that?
5 - The ownership of the word football, AFL can use it / NRL can use it, soccer can use it. NFL can use it, even union can use it (although I am not sure that they do) It is just a term for someone referring to their code of choice, the fact that you think that everyone should refer to your game how you refer to it, or somehow trying to offend your game.

Quite frankly, I read alot of forums, I see a lot of people taking the piss out of sports, taking the piss out of eachother. But your intention was not to take the piss, you actually believe the crap you wrote. Which, imo, makes it easily the most ignorant post I have read for a long time. Easily.
 

Our Game

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L.Wills Cooke, grandson of Tom Wills' brother Horace, has told journalist/author Martin Flanagan, & a public meeting of Old Melburnians FC (ex Melb. Grammar students -this school played against Scotch in the famous game organised by T.Wills in 1858) that his mother told him of this family legend - Tom Wills, as a young child in the isolated Moyston area, played Marngrook with aboriginal children.
(The ball, made of possum skin, tied up with kangaroo sinews, & stuffed with charcoal, was kicked high in the air between two groups of aboriginals, who faced each other in 2 lines. The winner was the person who was able to catch the contested high ball, without it touching the ground, the most times).

Wills was so fluent in the Western Vic. Aboriginal dialect that, 20 years later after leaving that district in 1845, when he returned, he was able to recall & speak to the Aboriginals in their dialect. VERY COMPLICATED dialect conversations re cricket rules & coaching cricket skills for their tour of England!

These Aboriginals embarassed the Hamilton white cricketers by defeating them in a cricket match prior to the English tour. The Hamilton cricketers then challenged them to a Victorian Rules match for "revenge"-but they declined, as their train was leaving for Melb. the next day. Wills NEVER trained these Aboriginals in Vic. Rules -but the West Vic. district whites obviously believed that the Marngrook they had witnessed in Western Vic. would have enabled these athletic Aboriginals to play a "fair, even match" of Vic. Rules ie there was some overlap in skills between Marngrook & Vic. Rules (but no tackling in Marngrook).

Marngrook was also witnessed by Europeans in other parts of Victoria -including very close to Melbourne, up to c.1870 (Incidentally, Aboriginals were seen & recorded by europeans playing Marngrook in what is now called Collingwood in the 1860's - fairly close to where Vic. Park currently stands!).

In historian David Thompson's important new book "The Rules That Made Australian Football" Walla Walla Press, NSW,2013, pg18, Thompson quotes historian Jim Poulter, who quoted 1850's Warrandyte (c. 30 kms NE of Melb.) settlers seeing"...a spectacular game of native football that involved players leaping high into the air onto each others backs in order to catch the ball...the athletic displays of the footballers (Aboriginals playing Marngrook -my words), men and women, were met with much excitement and cheering from hundreds of onlooking natives, settlers, and gold miners... this was 1852...".

The 1859 Melb. Rules allowed a free kick for a mark, if the kicked ball was not touched by another person first- thus placing great importance on catching. (otherwise, the round ball could NOT be picked up off the ground, only dribbled ala soccer).
The Rules of the "chaotic " football games that occurred in Melb. in 1858 (following Wills'famous 1858 letter to Bells Life), with much disputation amongst the players over the "agreed"rules sometimes causing "fisticuffs", have not survived.

Thompson writes at pg.90 "The mark was the central element of Australian football, this practice being recorded at the FIRST (my emphasis) interclub (properly formulated- my words) match between Melbourne and South Yarra in 1858...".
At pg.91, Thompson writes"...there is some evidence that the settlers watched games of marngrook (in Melb. environs -my words). William Kyle, who lived in Melbourne (in the1850's-my words), recalled that game (marngrook-my words) with its spectacular high catches, was frequently played and witnessed by european spectators. It seems MORE than a COINCIDENCE (my emphasis) that Australian football featured similar catching methods. It seems likely that some future Aust. footballers had watched and approved of the way that Aborigines leapt for a catch introducing this technique to a new game...".

We are unlikely to ever know for certain why the mark/free kick was the CENTRAL, distinguishing element of the surviving Melbourne Rules of 1859.

And we will never be certain what motivated its early white proponents to attempt this"suicidal" dangerous feat (People in the 19th century could, & often did, die from complications of broken bones then, no antibiotics for infections. Some believed it was too dangerous, & should be banned).
Spectacular high marking was a very rare feature of Vic. Rules until popularised by Charles "Commotion"Pearson in the 1870's (Many female spectators then would shriek out in fear when Pearson flew for a mark, thinking he would severely injure himself on landing in these hitherto rare jumps. Thus the females caused a commotion, hence Pearson's açquired famous nickname).

The 1859 Rule makers never gave reasons as to their prime influences (except for Wills famously saying 'We decided we should have a game of our own', & 'Melb. grounds were to hard for the Rugby school game'). Pearson never explained what influenced him to regularly attempt "suicidal"leaps to mark the ball (nor the other, earlier, irregular high leapers).

What we can be certain, though, is that some of the most vociferous, current opponents of the marngrook connection to Wills/ other early rule makers (direct or subconscious connection) in 1859 (& marngrook's connections to jumping players from 1858 -1870's) comes from devotees of RL, RU, & soccer.
And for the same reason that soccer supporters are trying to usurp & monopolise the words "Australian Football" for their code.
And for the same reason that RL, RU, & soccer devotees refused to call our code "Australian Football"-its correct name since the 1880's; but deliberately called the code "Rules", or "Aussie Rules"; or "'the Melbourne/ Victorian game"; or "aerial ping pong"; or "gayFL". etc.

Must deny/obfuscate/divert/ignore its "Australianess"- & the great pride many Australians have in our Australian game.
And thus they argue that AF is simply a variation, & direct lineage, of ancient English school/folk games.
One of the best posts that I have read and yes our game is the only AUSTRALIAN Football born and bred in Australia not an imported one from England or Ireland.Weather RL urgers like PB like it or not that is the truth and to come on here ********ting about our game just proves what a glutton for punishment he really is.
If any of us tried this on LU we would last about 5 minutes before we would be banned.

As for the predominance of Islanders/PNG and Maoris playing both the Rugbys this will hurt both RL and the struggling RU in the future as it will force a lot of boys/men who cannot compete with the much bigger and stronger bodies to look to other sports and that is not a racist view its just what is happening to those sports as those guys are the best suited to play those sports.Its a bit like the black athletes at the Olympic games who have dominated running for decades.
 

BobbyMorri

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What we can be certain, though, is that some of the most vociferous, current opponents of the marngrook connection to Wills/ other early rule makers (direct or subconscious connection) in 1859 (& marngrook's connections to jumping players from 1858 -1870's) comes from devotees of RL, RU, & soccer.
And for the same reason that soccer supporters are trying to usurp & monopolise the words "Australian Football" for their code.
And for the same reason that RL, RU, & soccer devotees refused to call our code "Australian Football"-its correct name since the 1880's; but deliberately called the code "Rules", or "Aussie Rules"; or "'the Melbourne/ Victorian game"; or "aerial ping pong"; or "gayFL". etc.

Must deny/obfuscate/divert/ignore its "Australianess"- & the great pride many Australians have in our Australian game.
And thus they argue that AF is simply a variation, & direct lineage, of ancient English school/folk games.
Do you have a first party source from the time? nope. it is just guesswork. but some of the links are very very thin. Mark is not a unique premise. look at Rugby and Gridiron. Sheffield rules had a mark. high flying mark it may have been influenced by Marn grook. but by the 1860's, the aboriginal way of life in Melbourne had nearly been wiped out. sports evolve naturally. just look at Aussie Rules in the last 30 years. it was likely taking advantage of the unique rules. people liked those aspects and slowly the game evolved to a stage where is doesn't look very similar to its cousins. i think Marn Grook is revisionist history at its finest. that is just my opinion. no one will know for sure. but there is no shame if to hide the english school origins. it was still Melbournes game regardless of Marn grook.

But that leads into your last line. laughable. sole fans of other sports couldnt give a damn about the history of AR. was Gillian Hibbins, an official AFL historian for 150 years an evil fan of one of those "english" games. what a joke. paranoid wouldnt cover this.

it is your right to call Australian football whatever you what. like it is for Australian football to claim it as well. it is not a damn copyright. it is a damn word.

if being an Australian-born game is a selling point for you and others. cool. i couldnt give a damn.I watch sport because i enjoy it and that is all i need. but using the fact it was created here as a stick to hit others is very tiresome. Australian cricket is part of Australia. Swimming is also part of Australia. they all provide the sporting culture of Australia. AR, RL RU and AF have all made their home here. their clubs are Australian. and Australias sporting culture is better for it.
 

Garlic muncher

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Do you have a first party source from the time? nope. it is just guesswork. but some of the links are very very thin. Mark is not a unique premise. look at Rugby and Gridiron. Sheffield rules had a mark. high flying mark it may have been influenced by Marn grook. but by the 1860's, the aboriginal way of life in Melbourne had nearly been wiped out. sports evolve naturally. just look at Aussie Rules in the last 30 years. it was likely taking advantage of the unique rules. people liked those aspects and slowly the game evolved to a stage where is doesn't look very similar to its cousins. i think Marn Grook is revisionist history at its finest. that is just my opinion. no one will know for sure. but there is no shame if to hide the english school origins. it was still Melbournes game regardless of Marn grook.

But that leads into your last line. laughable. sole fans of other sports couldnt give a damn about the history of AR. was Gillian Hibbins, an official AFL historian for 150 years an evil fan of one of those "english" games. what a joke. paranoid wouldnt cover this.

it is your right to call Australian football whatever you what. like it is for Australian football to claim it as well. it is not a damn copyright. it is a damn word.

if being an Australian-born game is a selling point for you and others. cool. i couldnt give a damn.I watch sport because i enjoy it and that is all i need. but using the fact it was created here as a stick to hit others is very tiresome. Australian cricket is part of Australia. Swimming is also part of Australia. they all provide the sporting culture of Australia. AR, RL RU and AF have all made their home here. their clubs are Australian. and Australias sporting culture is better for it.
Who has ever denied the public school background of many of the main players ? - no one has, not ever.

But what many people deny is the possibility and very real possibility that Wills played marn grook, hell he probably played a million different games with indigenous kids and his life influenced by his ability to sing their songs, play there games, speak there language, understand their customs.

Just as his life was influenced in England as a boarding schoolboy, his life must have been influenced by his childhood associations with indigenous kids.

Not only that but Horace Wills-Cook statement that his great Uncle played Marn Grook passed down through the family, it makes sense that it would be passed down through the family rather than journalled or known by all and sundry.

Taking any ideas from Aboriginals who were considered sub human and sub intelligent by many in contemporary society of the day would have been possibly social and career suicide and also may have spelt death to a new game.
 

Professor Knowall

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marn_Grook
... Sports historian Gillian Hibbins, who researched the origins of Australian rules football for the Australian Football League's official account of the game's history as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations sternly rejects the theory, stating that while Marn Grook was "definitely" played around Port Fairy and throughout the Melbourne area, there is no evidence that the game was played north of the Grampians or by the Djabwurrung people and the claim that Wills observed and possibly played the game is improbable ..."
Please note my location (Wimmera). I'm talking now of my local area and history. The part bolded above (by me) of Gillian's history really annoyed me as it is simply factually wrong. In fact, she couldn't have been more wrong -

1) Moyston, where Tom Wills lived with his father, being the very first and for a while the only family of European descent (though Tom himself was third generation Australian) is at the Eastern edge of the Grampians, not North (though at least Gillian got the tribe right).

2) There is clear cut documentary evidence of the Djabwurrung playing Marn grook. Wimmera pioneer James Dawson (whose descendants are still prominent in the area) witnessed a group of young Djabwurrung men playing the Marn grook football game with a stitched up possum skin for the ball: "One of the favourite games is football, in which fifty or as many as one hundred players engage at a time. The ball is about the size of an orange, and is made of opossum-skin, with the fur side outwards..." (Ashley Mallett, pp12, The Black Lords of Summer: The Story of the 1868 Aboriginal Tour of England and Beyond, University of Queensland, 2002)

3) The very closely related Jardwadjali tribe (the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali share 90% of their languages, which Tom Wills learned as a child playing with the local indigenous children) lived (and still do) on the Northern and Western parts of the Grampians and not only did they play Marn grook but its actually a Djabwurrung/Jardwadjali word! The game of Marn grook is most closely associated with the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali peoples and they claim it as their own (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marn_Grook) - "... evidence supports such games being played primarily by the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali people and other tribes in the Wimmera, Mallee and Millewa regions of western Victoria (which are commonly associated with the name "Marn Grook") Aboriginal Heritage - History and Heritage - Grampians, Victoria, Australia.

Therefore the bolded claim made by Gillian is, as I stated above, factually dead wrong. I really don't know how she got it so wrong (basic lack of research I guess) as the evidence has always been very clear around up these ways for those who bother to look and do their research more thoroughly.

It's not only probable, but almost certain, that Tom Wills both witnessed and played Marn grook with his indigenous playmates - who were his only playmates (there were no other European settlers in that area back then) growing up in Moyston. He knew Djapwurrung dances, he could sing Djapwurrung songs. He spoke the Djapwurrung language – being the language native to the place he was from. At the very least, he would have witnessed their favourite sport of Marn grook. Why would he have not also played it with his mates - particularly as Tom later became such a dominant sporting figure. Where else, how else, did his sporting prowess come from, growing up as he did with and amongst the Djapwurrung people of the Eastern Grampians?
 
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The_Wookie

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It's not only probable, but almost certain, that Tom Wills both witnessed and played Marn grook with his indigenous playmates - who were his only playmates (there were no other European settlers in that area back then) growing up in Moyston. He knew Djapwurrung dances, he could sing Djapwurrung songs. He spoke the Djapwurrung language – being the language native to the place he was from. At the very least, he would have witnessed their favourite sport of Marn grook. Why would he have not also played it with his mates - particularly as Tom later became such a dominant sporting figure. Where else, how else, did his sporting prowess come from, growing up as he did with and amongst the Djapwurrung people of the Eastern Grampians?
You mean besides him leaving the area for boarding school at ten years of age?
 

Professor Knowall

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You mean besides him leaving the area for boarding school at ten years of age?
Not so much. He learned Djapwurrung dances, Djapwurrung songs and the Djapwurrung language all before he left for boarding school. Why wouldn't he also not have played Marn grook with his indigenous mates as well - especially as he ended up developing into the finest all-round sportsman in Victoria at his peak? For someone so talented not to have partaken in any sport by the age of 10 seems very improbable.

Also, the final paragraph wasn't the main point of my post, which was to point out the puzzling factual error made by Gillian Hibbins in regards to Marn grook not being played around the Grampians where Wills was raised - when it was actually the epicentre of Marngrook.
 

The_Wookie

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My point is his sporting prowesss is probably just as much if not more owed to his development in his boarding school years as anything else.
 

Professor Knowall

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My point is his sporting prowesss is probably just as much if not more owed to his development in his boarding school years as anything else.
Fair enough, your point is valid. Our points don't really clash and doesn't alter my point about Gillian Hibbin's factual error about Marn grook
 

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BringBackTorps

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Please note my location (Wimmera). I'm talking now of my local area and history. The part bolded above (by me) of Gillian's history really annoyed me as it is simply factually wrong. In fact, he couldn't have been more wrong -

1) Moyston, where Tom Wills lived with his father, being the very first and for a while the only family of European descent (though Tom himself was third generation Australian) is at the Eastern edge of the Grampians, not North (though at least Gillian got the tribe right).

2) There is clear cut documentary evidence of the Djabwurrung playing Marn grook. Wimmera pioneer James Dawson (whose descendants are still prominent in the area) witnessed a group of young Djabwurrung men playing the Marn grook football game with a stitched up possum skin for the ball: "One of the favourite games is football, in which fifty or as many as one hundred players engage at a time. The ball is about the size of an orange, and is made of opossum-skin, with the fur side outwards..." (Ashley Mallett, pp12, The Black Lords of Summer: The Story of the 1868 Aboriginal Tour of England and Beyond, University of Queensland, 2002)

3) The very closely related Jardwadjali tribe (the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali share 90% of their languages, which Tom Wills learned as a child playing with the local indigenous children) lived (and still do) on the Northern and Western parts of the Grampians and not only did they play Marn grook but its actually a Djabwurrung/Jardwadjali word! The game of Marn grook is most closely associated with the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali peoples and they claim it as their own (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marn_Grook) - "... evidence supports such games being played primarily by the Djabwurrung and Jardwadjali people and other tribes in the Wimmera, Mallee and Millewa regions of western Victoria (which are commonly associated with the name "Marn Grook") Aboriginal Heritage - History and Heritage - Grampians, Victoria, Australia.

Therefore the bolded claim made by Gillian is, as I stated above, factually dead wrong. I really don't know how he got it so wrong (basic lack of research I guess) as the evidence has always been very clear around up these ways for those who bother to look and do their research more thoroughly.

It's not only probable, but almost certain, that Tom Wills both witnessed and played Marn grook with his indigenous playmates - who were his only playmates (there were no other European settlers in that area back then) growing up in Moyston. He knew Djapwurrung dances, he could sing Djapwurrung songs. He spoke the Djapwurrung language – being the language native to the place he was from. At the very least, he would have witnessed their favourite sport of Marn grook. Why would he have not also played it with his mates - particularly as Tom later became such a dominant sporting figure. Where else, how else, did his sporting prowess come from, growing up as he did with and amongst the Djapwurrung people of the Eastern Grampians?
The reason that Gillian Hibbins was possibly "so dead wrong"about Marngrook is that she is neither qualified in Aboriginal history, culture, customs, language & games in Western Vic; nor did she conduct sufficient research on Marngrook. At least she admitted Marngrook was played around Melbourne & environs, pre 1860's.

She is an expert in early colonial sports & pastimes in Vic. - but she does not claim any expertise in Aboriginal culture, either from published studies or (just as importantly) oral traditions. Hibbins, it is clear, gave Aboriginal culture & Marngrook a cursory examination only. Thompson & Poulter, IMO, are more valuable guides on the topic of the early influences.
Of course, English school games were the major influence -but the game that emerged in 1858 was unique. T.Smith (Wills listed first in the 1859 Rules, with Smith, Hammersley & Thompson) was an Irishman, never went to one of the English schools that had their unique code -but attended Trinity College, Dublin, so likely familiar with a Gaelic Football variant. AKA Football Smith, Red Smith.

Hibbins' (& some other historians) modus operandi is, if no documentary evidence (letters, newspapers etc) can be found, then something never happened. This is generally a reasonable proposition. We know, however, many sports'historians are/ were simply ignorant of Aboriginal culture (& it is difficult to locate these scattered remnants of information -they won't be found in Trove, but in often obscure letters & diaries of very early settlers, oral histories of Aboriginals passed down etc.)

Sometimes we need to deduce, from the available evidence. Circumstantial evidence can lead to arguable conclusions, which may never be able to be proven.

Admitting an Aboriginal connection to AF by the pioneers in the 19th century, given the overwhelming prejudice that existed then against Aboriginals, can explain why there might be no primary- source, written evidence. Also, Wills' father & his group of 18 men, women, & children were mutilated & murdered by Aboriginals -perhaps Wills was understandably reticent to mention the Marngrook link

The Marngrook connection to the crucial 1859 Wills Rule -FREE kick for the mark/ & aesthetic appeal of marking - may have been completely subconscious (by those who witnessed Marngrook -so, of course, there would be no documentation).
 
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BringBackTorps

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Did the Aboriginal people Wills played with play Marngrook? It was not a universal sport, and the descriptions of it do not come from the area Wills was in.

Wills was a champion of Aboriginal rights his whole life, why did he never mention it?

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The irrefutable answers to these two questions are provided in posts #180,181 & 198.
 
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Professor Knowall

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So a grand nephew's claim is now proof, more credible then anything written by the person himself or contemporanously.
Wills never wrote an auto-biography, but the source here - Tom Will's closest living relative and a learned gentleman in his nineties - is a very creditable source -
"... I need to digress and tell you about a meeting I had several years ago at the Melbourne Club with an elderly gentleman named Lawton Wills Cooke. Lawton’s grandfather, Horace Wills, was one of Tom Wills’ younger brothers. After Tom committed suicide in 1880, Horace Wills was one of the few people to be recorded saying anything sympathetic or loving about him. Horace said Tom was a wild reckless individual but one of the best people he’d ever met ... Horace Wills’s daughter was Lawton Wills Cooke’s mother.

She told Lawton, he told me, and I'm telling you, that Horace Wills said that when his brother Tom was a boy at Moyston, outside Ararat, he played Aboriginal football with the local blacks. He also said they used a possum skin stuffed with charcoal and wrapped with sinew. With Lawton by my side I addressed a meeting of the Melbourne Club and told them as much. With Lawton by my side I also said as much to the AGM of the Old Melburnians Football Club, calling upon them to bear witness to Lawton’s testimony.

The Old Melburnians were established by Tom Wills’ cousin H.C.A (Colden) Harrison who was also a champion athlete and the Registrar of Titles in Victoria. Unlike his cousin Tom, he didn’t drink or smoke. He is a key witness in the story and those who seek to eliminate the memory of Tom Wills either ignore him or call him a liar. It is Harrison who records Tom Wills as saying, in relation to setting up a code of football in Victoria upon his return from Rugby in 1856, that we should have “a game of our own” ...
See more at: http://australianfootball.com/articles/view/Why+Tom+Wills+is+an+Australian+legend+like+Ned+Kelly/133

and in addition -
"... Well here are three things I know about the debate as to whether Aboriginal football was played at Moyston. Number one – the local Aboriginal people, the Djapwurrung, had their own word for football. Mingorm. Did the Italians invent the word macaroni without ever having seen or eaten a macaroni? Did any people in the history of the world ever invent a word for something which wasn’t there?

Number two – James Dawson was a Scottish squatter in the western district in the 1840s who actually liked Aboriginal people and spent a lot of time with them. His 1881 book Australian Aborigines. The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia … is one of Victoria’s treasures. Dawson describes a big corroboree at Terang where he gives an elaborate description of the Aboriginal football he saw being played, especially the leaping and kicking. Dawson lists the Djapwurrung as being one of the tribes present.

This part of the argument was interpreted by Amy Saunders, a very smart Koori woman some of you may know from the band Tiddas, in the following terms: "Do you know what they’re saying now? (By “they”, she means us, the whitefellers). They’re saying there was a tribe of blackfellers in Victoria who didn’t like footy. Well, they must have all got killed out because there’s none of them around now”.

And, thirdly, the closest living person to the whole Tom Wills story is Lawton Wills Cooke, now into his 90s and here in Melbourne. He is the grandson of Tom Wills’s younger brother Horace. Horace told his daughter, Lawton’s mother, and she told Lawton that when Tom Wills was at Moyston he played Aboriginal football with a stuffed possum skin bound up in twine...
See more at: http://speakola.com/sports/martin-flanagan-moyston-tom-wills-2015
 

SpareTowel

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While Tom was (mis)managing Cullin-la-Ringo in Queensland in 1863-64, he was known to have squandered station expenditure at pubs in and around Rockhampton. One of the local pubs during this time was run by a man named Frank Christie, alias of bushranger Frank Gardiner, who had escaped to the frontier after he and his gang committed the largest gold heist in Australian history, the Eugowra Escort Robbery. Tom returned to Victoria in 1864, the same year Frank was hunted down by troopers and dragged back to New South Wales.

It's tantalising to think that Tom crossed paths with Frank, maybe shared a few beers. But did this actually happen? Who knows. I don't think it's unreasonable of historians to demand hard evidence. If you think there's sufficient evidence that Tom played Marngrook, then you can also say he got drunk with Frank Gardiner, and did a thousand other crazy things. That approach to history leads to crap like this.
 

Garlic muncher

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While Tom was (mis)managing Cullin-la-Ringo in Queensland in 1863-64, he was known to have squandered station expenditure at pubs in and around Rockhampton. One of the local pubs during this time was run by a man named Frank Christie, alias of bushranger Frank Gardiner, who had escaped to the frontier after he and his gang committed the largest gold heist in Australian history, the Eugowra Escort Robbery. Tom returned to Victoria in 1864, the same year Frank was hunted down by troopers and dragged back to New South Wales.

It's tantalising to think that Tom crossed paths with Frank, maybe shared a few beers. But did this actually happen? Who knows. I don't think it's unreasonable of historians to demand hard evidence. If you think there's sufficient evidence that Tom played Marngrook, then you can also say he got drunk with Frank Gardiner, and did a thousand other crazy things. That approach to history leads to crap like this.
Sorry, so Lawton Wills cook statement is not evidence ?.
 

SpareTowel

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Sorry, so Lawton Wills cook statement is not evidence ?.
Here's a relevant post from earlier in the thread

T. S. Wills Cooke, Wills family member and author of the Wills family biography, The Currency Lad, strongly denies any connection between Marn Grook and Australian football. From page 180 of The Currency Lad:

"Flanagan once said that he had been told by Lawton that Tom played a game with the local boys using stuffed possum skins but when I asked him he said that that was not the case. Thus we find history rewritten to suit 'political correctness', there is no doubt that the Indigenous people played a form of football but to link that to the formalization and codification of Australian Football is a bridge too far."
Also in the back of his biography on Tom, Greg de Moore includes an interview with Lawton Wills Cooke, and asks him what stories he heard about Tom through Horace (Tom's brother, Lawton's grandfather). He says he can't recall, but that his mum said that Horace considered Tom "the most handsome man he had ever seen", and that he was a womaniser with a high opinion of himself. Apart from that, Lawton's memory is hazy, and there is no mention of Marngrook. If there was a family story about Tom playing the game, you'd think that might be worth sharing with his biographer? I can only deduce that he was yanking Martin Flanagan's chain.
 

Garlic muncher

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Here's a relevant post from earlier in the thread



Also in the back of his biography on Tom, Greg de Moore includes an interview with Lawton Wills Cooke, and asks him what stories he heard about Tom through Horace (Tom's brother, Lawton's grandfather). He says he can't recall, but that his mum said that Horace considered Tom "the most handsome man he had ever seen", and that he was a womaniser with a high opinion of himself. Apart from that, Lawton's memory is hazy, and there is no mention of Marngrook. If there was a family story about Tom playing the game, you'd think that might be worth sharing with his biographer? I can only deduce that he was yanking Martin Flanagan's chain.
Right - you seriously believe that Wills the only white child in the district, who sang the local songs, spoke the language etc etc etc didn't play with a stuffed possum or kick it, sounds like a 1850's version of kicking a plastic or paper mache footy up the hallway in your house when you were a kid.

If the tribe was kicking a stuffed possum around, i am 100% sure Wills was.

Me and my mates used to play footy or our hundred varieties of it at the park across road, but it has never been documented and historians have never noted it, yet 100 years from now my great grandson who may have heard via his great Uncle that Great Grandfather Muncher used to play footy with his mates at that spot which is now a high rise apartment block.
 

SpareTowel

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Right - you seriously believe that Wills the only white child in the district, who sang the local songs, spoke the language etc etc etc didn't play with a stuffed possum or kick it, sounds like a 1850's version of kicking a plastic or paper mache footy up the hallway in your house when you were a kid.

If the tribe was kicking a stuffed possum around, i am 100% sure Wills was.

Me and my mates used to play footy or our hundred varieties of it at the park across road, but it has never been documented and historians have never noted it, yet 100 years from now my great grandson who may have heard via his great Uncle that Great Grandfather Muncher used to play footy with his mates at that spot which is now a high rise apartment block.
I'm just pointing out this particular piece of oral history isn't very reliable.
 

Professor Knowall

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... in the back of his biography on Tom, Greg de Moore includes an interview with Lawton Wills Cooke, and asks him what stories he heard about Tom through Horace (Tom's brother, Lawton's grandfather). He says he can't recall, but that his mum said that Horace considered Tom "the most handsome man he had ever seen", and that he was a womaniser with a high opinion of himself. Apart from that, Lawton's memory is hazy, and there is no mention of Marngrook. If there was a family story about Tom playing the game, you'd think that might be worth sharing with his biographer? I can only deduce that he was yanking Martin Flanagan's chain.
Really - Is that all you can deduce? I can deduce that de Moore asked a very general question ("... what stories he had heard..." - given Tom Will's life, there would be any number of family anecdotes) and that a story of Tom playing a game with the local indigenous boys using stuffed possum skins seemed too trivial and/or simply didn't come to the fore at the time, whereas Flanagan asked specific question/s about stories relating to Tom's childhood at Moyston and got what a very general question from de Moore didn't get. That Lawton Wills Cooke (a most respectable member of the Melbourne Club no less ;)) would simply make up such a story seems quite unlikely.
 

SpareTowel

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I might chase it up
Via a couple of emails and let you know
Thanks

Really - Is that all you can deduce? I can deduce that de Moore asked a very general question ("... what stories he had heard..." - given Tom Will's life, there would be any number of family anecdotes) and that a story of Tom playing a game with the local indigenous boys using stuffed possum skins seemed too trivial and/or simply didn't come to the fore at the time, whereas Flanagan asked specific question/s about stories relating to Tom's childhood at Moyston and got what a very general question from de Moore didn't get. That Lawton Wills Cooke (a most respectable member of the Melbourne Club no less ;)) would simply make up such a story seems quite unlikely.
Lawton says in the interview that not much was passed down about Tom because he was a "taboo subject". At the end, he says, "The family never really spoke about him. There's really nothing left to say." Greg de Moore has said that he searched obsessively for evidence of Marngrook over the course of his research, I doubt he would have passed up asking a living connection to Tom's brothers.
 

BringBackTorps

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Further recently "re-discovered" evidence that G.Hibbins' 2008 comments about Marngrook not being played in the Moyston/Ararat/Grampians region (so, allegedly, couldn't have been witnessed and/or played by young Tom Wills) is incorrect. Hibbins, like most Sports'historians, has inadequate knowledge of Aboriginal 19th century history/culture/language etc.

Furthermore, most sports' historians are obviously not proficient in linguistics/language education. The fact that T. Wills, after an absence of 20 years, was able to remember & speak fluently to Aboriginals in their west Vic. language is extraordinary. It indicates this language was "hardwired"into his brain -which could only have occurred by EXTENSIVE amounts of time he spent talking to/playing with Aboriginal children (until he left Moyston to live in Melb., from age of 10). There was no West Vic. Language Guidebooks then for Wills to learn from!
The "doubting"historians don't even discuss this major linguistic achievement of Wills -& its significance re his early exposure to Aboriginals. It can't be argued Wills might have had an affinity for languages -he failed badly at Rugby School his final exams in German (G. De Moore's Wills' biography)

The brief account from Aboriginal Johnny Connolly is probably unique ie he actually played Marngrook himself in Wills'region (In West. Vic. language, the word documented by West Vic. local settlers for Aboriginal " football", was "mingorm". The fact they had a word for "football" is also revealing!).

The circumstantial evidence for Wills seeing & playing Marngrook is quite strong -the burden of proof now falls on the doubters to"disprove" it. We will probably never know for certain.
Nor be certain whether seeing Marngrook influenced Wills' Mark/Free Kick Rule;lack of an offside Rule from 1858 (enabling a player to kick the ball to a player, who was forward of the kicker); and/or the early "leapers" for a mark".

https://meanjin.com.au/essays/marngrook-tom-wills-and-the-continuing-denial-of -indigenous-history/

Edit: see also posts # 201,222
Monash Uni. History Prof. Jenny Hocking is quoted also discounting the incorrect 2008 comments of G.Hibbins (that there was no evidence of Marngrook being played in the area Tom Wills lived in as a child)
Hocking also states it appears Aboriginal Marngrook player J. Connolly worked on one of the stations owned by Wills'father, Horatio in the 1840's.

Hocking further states the West Vic. Aboriginal word for catch of the Marngrook ball (the main purpose of Marngrook) is called 'mumark' ... sound familiar?
Author J. Poulter, IIRC, first wrote in the 1980's about the West Vic. word "mumark" -meaning a catch, of the possum skin Marngrook ball.
 
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BringBackTorps

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I might chase it up
Via a couple of emails and let you know
It is my understanding that L. Wills Cooke, born 1920, preferred to be "out of the public eye" until recent times.
I also understand that he has decided to release some documents (for the first time publicly) pertaining to Tom Wills, but only after his death. I have no knowledge what specific areas of Wills' life they relate to.

The issues raised by SpareTowell need to be addressed.
 

Garlic muncher

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It is my understanding that L. Wills Cooke, born 1920, preferred to be "out of the public eye" until recent times.
I also understand that he has decided to release some documents (for the first time publicly) pertaining to Tom Wills, but only after his death. I have no knowledge what specific areas of Wills' life they relate to.

The issues raised by SpareTowell need to be addressed.
I have emailed Martin Flanigan previously and got a response about something else, so when i get around to it in the next week or so, will do it again.

Just as when i was a kid playing mucking around with a footy in a park across the road, -- we have kids, we have footballs, ( modern day stuffed possums ) we know football was played in the area, we know kids played all sorts of games, many of those games now consigned to history without being recorded or noted by historians and in 100 years when all living memory of those games played by me and my mates is gone, i am guessing for all intents and purposes those games did not exist.

It really just goes against what is just common sense.
 
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