Born: c. 1804; Died: c. 1864
Samuel Shumack, in his Recollections says ‘In 1856 the local tribe of Aborigines numbered about seventy and their chief was Jimmy the Rover.’
His real name was Noolup. He was a fearsome Ngunnawal warrior. He was given his epithet (‘the Rover’), as periodically he would leave the district for several years before returning. Shumack estimates that he was born about 1804.
According to the account of early European witnesses (Beattie, Naylor, Moore, Wright, McNamara and McKeahnie) the leadership of the Ngunnawal was fought out in about 1846 between Noolup and an unnamed rival, very close to where the Queanbeyan showground is now located. Noolup prevailed in this contest and his opponent was buried nearby with full honours.
Shortly after spearing his rival Noolup disappeared and didn’t return for some years. In his absence, it is thought that Onyong took over the leadership of the Ngunnawal, but he was soon ousted again, when Noolup returned.
According to stories from Ngunnawal women told to the Coppin family, Noolup returned with a young white child that he had saved after an attack by Indigenous warriors on an isolated homestead in northern NSW. She became his wife. He was very protective of her and was distraught when she died at a young age.
Noolup was a frequent visitor at the McKeahnie’s homestead in Gudgenby and saved a McKeahnie infant who had become lost and was in danger from wild dogs. At her wedding in 1861 Minna Close Davis was presented with a Ngunnawal necklace (photograph below) by Noolup on behalf of his tribe. Through acts like this, he was a very popular figure on the Limestone Plains.
In about 1864, when Noolup had killed another Indigenous man in a fight near Yass, he was pursued by the police. The McKeanhies and other local families who knew him gave him a place to hide and kept him provisioned. But he died shortly after. The McKeanhie sisters arranged his burial in accordance with his wishes.
- Gillespie, L. L., Aborigines of the Canberra Region, Campbell, 1984
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- Meyers D. (ed. K. Frawley), Lairds, Lags and Larrikins: an Early History of the Limestone Plains, Pearce, 2010
- Moore, B., Cotter Country, Canberra, 1999
- Shumack, S. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack), Canberra, 1967
- Various editions of the Queanbeyan Age, Goulburn Evening Penny Post and Queanbeyan Observer and Mining Record