The Whaler's Tale

The Whaler’s Tale is a 12-minute film created by Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman. The film tells of the extraordinary story of the life of Tasmanian Aboriginal William Lanney (1835-1869).

From the artists:

“The life of Aboriginal Tasmanian William Lanney [1835-1869] has been overshadowed by what happened to him after his death. Few of us know anything about his extraordinary life... You would have to dig into the archives or online to find out about the remarkable events of Lanney’s life - a life which offers deep insights for us today into the turmoil C19th Van Diemen’s Land - Tasmania - lutruwita.”

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain references and images of deceased persons. This story and subsequent conversations may be upsetting as the details of our dark past are told.

The film is part of a larger artwork, The Lanney Pillar, a sculptural installation created in collaboration by Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman, displayed in Franklin Square form June to August 2021. A shorter excerpt of the film is displayed in a viewing box that forms part of the sculpture.

The Lanney Pillar is the second artwork in a series of temporary artworks that respond to the Crowther Statue located in Franklin Square as part of the Crowther Reinterpretation project.

Roger Scholes and Greg Lehman’s Artist Statement

THE LANNEY PILLAR

The life of Aboriginal Tasmanian William Lanney [1835-1869] has been overshadowed by what happened to him after his death. Few of us know anything about his extraordinary life.

A statue of the man who stole his remains from the Hobart morgue is perhaps the only public icon that may lead us to Lanney's story. The statue of that man - William Crowther - erected by his colleagues with the blessing of the British Crown, now stands in Hobart’s Franklin Square along with that of King Edward VII and Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania [1786 - 1847].

But nothing of Lanney’s life or death is marked on Crowther’s statue. You would have to dig into the archives or online to find out about the remarkable events of Lanney’s life - a life which offers deep insights for us today into the turmoil C19th Van Diemen’s Land - Tasmania - lutruwita.

William Lanney was one of the last Tasmanian Aboriginal children born on the traditional Country of their ancestors. In 1842 Lanney and his family were exiled by the Governor to Wybalenna on Flinders Island.

As a young man, Lanney joined the crews of the whaling ships sailing the Southern Ocean to Chile and beyond. Lanney’s shipmates called him 'King Billy’. In 1867 he sailed to England to meet Queen Victoria and later in Hobart he met with the Duke of Edinburgh, advocating for his people.

Lanney was an independent man, respected by the people of Hobart Town who lined the streets for his funeral. When Dr. William Crowther snatched his body from the morgue, Lanney’s dignity was also stolen - by a scoundrel whose statue still stands before you. Where is the memorial to Lanney’s extraordinary life?

This Pillar offers the public an alternative narrative, seeking to reclaim the story of Lanney’s life from under the cloak of the scoundrel Crowther up there on his bronze statue next door.

Images of Lanney’s life on the rear of the Pillar tell of his connection to his country, his exile and his whaling life.

The Lanney Pillar has a 3 minute movie evocation of Lanney the countryman, his exile and whaling life, in Pillar viewer box.

The QR coded 12 minute film The Whaler’s Tale that can be viewed online tells his extraordinary story and the absurd reasons Europeans like Crowther had for stealing Tasmanian Aboriginal bones for their English masters in London.