On the morning of 6 June 2018 over 100 people gathered in Meath Gardens, Tower Hamlets to commemorate the death of Indigenous Australian cricketer Bripumyarrimin (also known as King Cole), who passed away 150 years ago.
Bripumyarrimin /King Cole was a member of the historic Aboriginal XI that toured the UK in 1868. They were the first organised Australian sports team to tour overseas – a decade before the 1878 Australian Cricket team tour that gave rise to test cricket. He fell ill during that tour and died in June, ultimately being laid to rest in Victoria Park Cemetery (which, years later, became Meath Gardens).
The event was attended by the current Australian Indigenous Men’s and Women’s starting XIs, local residents and the Friends of Meath Gardens, as well as respected experts who have assisted in research and local primary school children. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and the Australian High Commissioner also attended.
The event was the result of a unique collaboration between Tower Hamlets council, Friends of Meath Gardens and Cricket Australia, who are managing the 150th commemorative tour of England by the Men’s and Women’s Indigenous teams. It comprised a small commemoration and remembrance of Bripumyarrimin /King Cole, speeches by Aboriginal mentor Peter Cooley and cricketer Tyran Liddiard (who is representing Bripumyarrimin /King Cole during the tour) as well as representatives of the three organising bodies and an exchange of gifts.
Finally, a new, comprehensive information panel was also unveiled at the site, close to the eucalyptus tree trunk and plaque that was laid in Meath Gardens during a previous visit by the Australian Indigenous team in 1988 (the Australian Bicentenary). This took place also, while the pupils from local schools got chance to meet and greet players from the indigenous teams.
For an Aboriginal person, the ultimate terror is to die outside their ‘country’, and therefore away from the company of their ancestral spirits, today’s ceremony therefore offered chance to remember and honour Bripumyarrimin, while also connecting residents and pupils from three local primary schools with a lesser known but unique part of the rich history of Tower Hamlets.
This also complements the theme of the recent Australian National Reconciliation Week: Don’t Keep History A Mystery, while representing the first step in the Friends’ of Meath Garden’s ambitious plans to breathe new life into a well-loved public space.
Paul Stewart, Cricket Australia’s Indigenous Engagement Specialist said:
“Commemorating Bripumyarrimin /King Cole today in Meath Garden’s was a hugely important event for our players and for Cricket Australia. Forever remembering the achievements and contribution of Bripumyarrimin to the game of cricket and more significantly Indigenous Australians is of great importance, and I know today will be a day we will all remember for the rest of our lives.
“On behalf of Cricket Australia we would like to thank the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Friends of Meath Gardens not only for their tremendous support of the management of today’s ceremony but also for acknowledging Bripumyarrimin and the story of the 1868 cricket team.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“We are proud of the amazing diversity and history of our borough. The story of Bripumyarrimin is a unique but lesser known part of our sporting heritage. Working with the Friends of Meath Gardens and Cricket Australia has been a rewarding experience and has proved to be a passion for everyone who has worked hard to make this commemoration possible.
“It was an honour to be a part of today’s ceremony. Not only recognising the man but connecting with the next generation of story-tellers to bring history to life and ensure that the memory of Bripumyarrimin lives on.”
Joanna Milewska fromFriends of Meath Gardens commented:
“Meath Gardens is a unique place, with a special history, but it remains largely unknown to many in London. A few years ago, we started out on a journey to transform these forgotten gardens. We have all learned so much along the way: about connections to place, and the power of nature to bring people together to create a sense of optimism, ownership and belonging. Residents and the local community have a real passion for the Gardens and its history, and Bripumyarrimin /King Cole is a big part of this.
It has been exciting to work with enthusiastic partners to make this event happen, to spread the knowledge of the Gardens’ history further and breathe new energy into this fantastic space that has come to mean so much to us all. We are looking forward to carrying on this journey and working with Tower Hamlets Council and Cricket Australia to continue the rebirth of Meath Gardens.”
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