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Cora Gooseberry (1777–1852)

by Keith Vincent Smith

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Cora Gooseberry (1777-1852), by Charles Rodius, 1840s

Cora Gooseberry (1777-1852), by Charles Rodius, 1840s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an8953993

Cora Gooseberry (c.1777-1852), Aboriginal woman known as 'Queen Gooseberry', was the daughter of Moorooboora (Maroubra) (c.1758-1798), a prominent leader of the Murro-ore-dial (Pathway Place) clan, south of Port Jackson. Her Aboriginal name was recorded as Kaaroo, Carra, Caroo, Car-roo or Ba-ran-gan. For twenty years after the death in 1830 of her husband Bungaree, the Broken Bay chief, she was a Sydney identity, with her trademarks a government issue blanket and headscarf and a clay pipe which she habitually smoked. When he first saw her at Brisbane Water in the early 1840s, explorer John F. Mann noted that 'she had little on beyond an old straw bonnet', but in an 1844 pencil portrait by Charles Rodius, she wore a modest Mother Hubbard dress. Gooseberry's mob, including Ricketty Dick, Jacky Jacky and Bowen Bungaree, camped in the street outside Sydney hotels or in the Domain, where they gave exhibitions of boomerang throwing. Her name also appears in magistrates' blanket lists in Sydney as 'Lady Bongary' or 'Mrs Gooseberry'. Boio or 'Long Dick', of the Walkeloa (Brisbane Water clan), claimed to be her son by King Bungaree.

In July 1844 the Australian reported that Gooseberry attended a levee at Government House, wearing her straw hat, a 'new pink robe of very curious workmanship' with 'the order of her tribe in the form of a crescent, suspended by a brass chain from her ebon neck'. She could spin a yarn as convincingly as Bungaree, telling the artist George French Angas that Bungaree ruled the Sydney Aborigines at the time of the First Fleet in 1788—when he was probably a 10-year-old boy. In July 1845, in exchange for flour and tobacco, Gooseberry took Angas and the police commissioner W. A. Miles on a tour of Aboriginal rock carvings at North Head and told them 'all that she had heard her father say' about the places where 'dibble dibble walk about', an inference that he had been a koradji from that region.

On 30 July 1852 Gooseberry was found dead at the Sydney Arms Hotel in Castlereagh Street, where according to press reports she had been drinking in the kitchen the previous night. The coroner returned a verdict of death from natural causes. The publican E. Borton (or Berton) paid for her burial and headstone in the Presbyterian section of the Sandhills cemetery (Central Railway). The stone was later removed to the pioneers cemetery at Botany; the epitaph has now faded, but was recorded by Mrs A. G. Foster in 1901. There are portraits of Gooseberry by Rodius, William Fernyhough, Eugène Delessert and James S. Bray. Angas's water-colour, 'Old Queen Gooseberry, Widow of Bungaree', which he had exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, London, in 1846, is held by the South Australian Museum, Adelaide. Her rum mug and a brass gorget or breastplate inscribed 'Cora Gooseberry Freeman Bungaree Queen of Sydney and Botany' are among relics in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Another gorget, engraved 'GOOSEBERRY Queen of Sydney to South Head' is held by the Australian Museum, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • G. F. Angas, Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand (Lond, 1847)
  • A. G. Foster, The Epitaph Book (Syd, 1901)
  • K. V. Smith, King Bungaree (Syd, 1992)
  • Geographical Society of Australasia (New South Wales & Victoria), Proceedings, 1883-4, p 27
  • Australian (Sydney), 27 May 1844, p 299
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Aug 1852, p 3, 22 June 1900
  • Truth (Sydney), 28 Aug 1910
  • Return of Natives, Sydney, 1833-1836 (State Records New South Wales).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Keith Vincent Smith, 'Gooseberry, Cora (1777–1852)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Cora Gooseberry (1777-1852), by Charles Rodius, 1840s

Cora Gooseberry (1777-1852), by Charles Rodius, 1840s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an8953993

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Queen Gooseberry
  • Lady Bongary

New South Wales, Australia


30 July, 1852 (aged ~ 75)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.