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Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, Vol 1 (of 2) by Thomas Mitchell

Part 8 out of 8

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articles in daily use. The situations of the different fires were
regulated also, and only allowed to be made in the places fixed for each.
The door of my tent (2) was usually towards the meridian (1) and in
observing stars it was desirable that no such light should shine before
the sextant glasses, nor any smoke impede the observations. By the
accompanying plan it will be seen that no light was in the way, while, by
these positions, other purposes were also answered. The cook's fire (11)
was near the light carts. Mr. Larmer's fire and tent-door (3) were placed
so as to be in sight of the cook. The men's fire was made opposite to the
two tents (5, 5) so as to serve for the men of both. The other fire of
the men (5) completed a general arrangement of firelight around the boats
and carts, so that nothing could approach by night unseen by the people
at their fires. One of the heavy carts (7) was sufficient for the
carriage of all articles in daily use: it was called the shifting cart,
being the only one in the line which required to be loaded and unloaded
at each camp; the rest contained gunpowder (6) and stores which were
issued in rations every Saturday. One great convenience in having such a
fixed plan of encampment was that I could choose a place free from trees
and establish the whole party on the ground by merely pointing out the
position for my own tent (2) and how it was to face (1).

No further orders were necessary and I could thus at once mount my horse
and proceed to any distant height with the certainty of finding the whole
camp established as I intended on my return. In arriving late at night on
any spot and the party having to encamp in the dark, still everyone knew
where to go, for by constant custom the arrangement was easily preserved.
Thus anything we wanted could be found by night or day with equal
facility; and we might be said in fact to have lived always in the same
camp, although our ground was changed at every halt.

A stockman came to our camp, whose station was about six miles further up
the creek, in one of the valleys amongst the ranges. He had heard from
the natives that they had killed a "white man, gentleman," as they said,
and he added a number of horrible particulars of the alleged murder of
Mr. Cunningham by the aborigines which subsequent accounts however proved
to have been much exaggerated.


This day I recognised Mount Juson, a conical hill where the beacon which
he had erected while I was engaged at the theodolite, still stood. Mr.
Cunningham had requested that I would give to the hill the maiden name of
his mother, which I accordingly did. This appeared to me at the time
rather a singular request, and now it seemed still more so for, from his
melancholy fate almost immediately after, it proved to be his last.


September 13.

Taking forward with me two men to the first of the two rocky places in
our line which, as already stated, I wished to alter, I found that both
acclivities might be avoided, and the road also shortened at least a
mile, by taking a more easterly direction up a valley which led almost
entirely through fine open forest land to our old route. I completed this
alteration about an hour before sunset. Water was the next desideratum,
and I had the good fortune to find also enough of it in a rocky gully
where there was also greener pasturage than any that I had seen during
the journey, distant only a quarter of a mile to the northward of my
newly marked line. This was the only link wanted to complete the route
which the carts were to follow; and it may be imagined with what
satisfaction I lay down for the night by that water which relieved me
from all further anxiety respecting the party I had succeeded in
conducting through such a country during a season of so great drought.

September 14.

Having despatched the two men back to the camp with information and
written directions respecting the line to be followed, the plan of
encampment and the water; I struck again into our old track by following
which I hoped to reach Buree that night, this being the station whence I
first led the expedition towards the Interior.

The consciousness of being able, unmolested, to visit even the remotest
parts of the landscape around, was now to me a source of high
gratification; but this feeling can be understood by those only who may
have wandered as long in the low interior country under the necessity of
being constantly vigilant, on account of the savage natives, and to
travel cautiously with arms forever at hand.


At length I came upon a dusty road presenting numerous impressions of the
shoes of men and horses; and after having been so long accustomed to view
even a solitary, naked footmark with interest, the sight of a road marked
with shoes, and the associations these traces revived, were worth all the
toil of the journey. The numerous conveniences of social life were again
at hand, and my compass was no longer required for this road would lead
me on without further care, to the happy abodes of civilised men.


On reaching Captain Raine's station at Buree, a native named Sandy
informed me of the melancholy end of poor Cunningham; the particulars he
described having been gathered by him from other natives who were
eye-witnesses of the appalling circumstances. A report from the officer
of mounted police, whom these natives afterwards guided to the remains of
my unfortunate fellow-traveller will be found in the Appendix 1.2.

I hastened to Bathurst and made arrangements for sending back a cart and
fresh horses to bring on the sick men of the party, as quickly as
possible to the hospital. Whiting, contrary to my expectation, lived to
reach it; and he and the other invalids having received every attention
from Mr. Busby, the Government surgeon, were restored to health in about
three weeks after their arrival.







Sydney, Sunday Night, 10 o'clock, 27th November, 1831.

My Dear Major,

Colonel Lindesay desires me to say that although there is no relief on
the road he thinks it of sufficient importance to despatch a man all the
way through to Pewen Bewen, to acquaint you with what we have just heard
by express, that The Barber HAS ESCAPED.

I need not say how exceedingly I regret this on all accounts, but
particularly as I think it is likely to add to your difficulties; and
certainly does increase the necessity for very great vigilance and
caution on your part and that of your men, but PARTICULARLY OF YOUR OWN.
The Barber succeeded in filing his irons through and again digging
through the wall, there was no military guard over the gaol, and the
constable in charge appears to have deserted his post.

The Barber is supposed with what reason I know not to have made for
Liverpool Plains, and old Sergeant Wilcox is again despatched after him.
It is probable that he would rather avoid than approach so strong a party
as yours, but nevertheless it will be well to be very shy in letting any
of the blacks come within your camp. They are decidedly a treacherous
race. A convict ship came in from England last night, the Surry, sailed
17th July. No particular news, except that the Coronation was positively
to take place on the 8th of September.

If you have anything to send to Head Quarters the bearer will bring it
for you.

Believe me, my dear Major,

With the most sincere wishes for your success,

very truly yours,

(Signed) J.D. FORBES.

The Barber was retaken, but his gin or native wife who had facilitated
his escape then proceeded, as is supposed, to the tribes beyond Liverpool
range. He was conveyed to the hulks at Sydney and, having been tried and
condemned, his sentence was finally commuted to banishment to Norfolk
Island where he remained from 1832 to 1835. He was then sent to Sydney
with a party of expirees (or prisoners whose sentences of banishment to
that island had expired). The Commandant of Norfolk Island had then
reported to the Governor of New South Wales that amongst these expirees
was "a man named George Clarke, who, according to private information he
had received, intended some injury to Major Mitchell." This was
communicated to me, and I at length recollected that this might be George
the Barber, whose life I had been in some degree the means of sparing. He
wrote me a letter, couched in the most grateful terms, and in which he
offered to accompany me, if permitted, on my expedition into the interior
(in 1835) and which proposal I was inclined to accept, and indeed made
application through Colonel Snodgrass for this man, as one of my party,
but Sir Richard Bourke appreciated his offer much more judiciously, as
events proved, and sent The Barber to Van Diemen's Land, where he was
soon after hanged. He was undoubtedly a man of remarkable character, and
far before his fellows in talents and cunning; a man who, in short, under
favourable circumstances, might have organised the scattered natives into
formidable bands of marauders.




Bathurst, December 7, 1835.


I have the honour to state that in conforming with the instructions
contained in the Colonial Secretary's letter of the 16th of October,
together with your orders directing me to proceed to the interior for the
purpose of ascertaining the fate of Mr. Cunningham, I proceeded with the
party on the 24th of October for Buree, which place I left on the 29th,
accompanied by Sandy (the black native mentioned in my instructions). On
the 2nd November I fortunately met with two blacks who knew the
particulars of a white man having been murdered on the Bogan, also the
names and persons of the perpetrators of the deed; they likewise offered
to accompany the police to where the tribe to which the murderers
belonged were encamped; I accordingly took them as guides, and on the
evening of the 6th they informed me they could see the smoke from fires
of the Myall blacks--on the borders of a lake called Budda. On arriving
on the banks of the lake we found a tribe encamped, consisting of upwards
of 40 men, women and children, all of whom we succeeded in making
prisoners, without any resistance on their part. Having questioned them
as to the murder of a white man, they acknowledged to one having been
killed on the Bogan by four of their tribe, three of whom they delivered
up, the fourth they stated was absent on the Big river. On searching the
bags of the tribe we found a knife, a glove, and part of a cigar case
which the three blacks acknowledged they had taken from the white man,
and which Muirhead* said he was sure belonged to Mr. Cunningham.

(*Footnote. Muirhead was one of my men, who, with Baldock, was sent with
this officer.)

The three murderers, whose names are Wongadgery, Boreeboomalie and
Bureemal, stated that they and another black, about six moons ago, met a
white man on the Bogan, who came up to them and made signs that he was
hungry, that they gave him food, and that he encamped with them that
night. The white man repeatedly getting up during the night excited
suspicion, and they determined to destroy him the following morning,
which they did by Wongadgery going unperceived behind him, and striking
him on the back of the head with a nulla-nulla, the other three then
rushing upon him with their weapons, speedily effected their purpose.

I then determined to proceed to the spot where the murder was committed,
which I was informed by the blacks was distant three days' journey, but
learning from them that there was a great scarcity of water, I deemed it
advisable to take only a small party, consisting of three troopers and
Muirhead, and one of the prisoners (Bureemal) as a guide across to the
Bogan, leaving the remainder of the party, having the other two prisoners
in charge, under the command of Corporal Moore, to proceed to a station
about 30 miles distant from Wellington, there to await my return.

On Tuesday the 10th I arrived at a place called Currindine, where the
black showed me some bones, which he said were those of a white man they
had killed, and pointed out a small portion of a coat, and also of a
Manilla hat. Being thus convinced of the truth of their statement, and
also of the spot where the melancholy event had occurred, I collected all
the remains I could discover, and having deposited them in the ground,
raised a small mound over them, and barked some of the nearest trees, as
the only means in my power of marking the spot.

Having thus accomplished the object of the expedition, I proceeded on my
return, and on rejoining the party under Corporal Moore, I learned the
escape of the two prisoners, which took place on the night of the 11th
November, when trooper Leard was on sentry, against whom I have forwarded
a charge for neglect of duty. The fulfilment of my instructions being
thus partially defeated, I considered it my duty to proceed in search of
the runaways, and continued the pursuit, I regret to say without success,
until I was obliged to return, our stock of provisions being consumed.

I arrived here with the party yesterday, and shall forward the prisoner
Bureemal to Sydney, together with the articles I was enabled to collect,
supposed to have belonged to the late Mr. Cunningham.

I have the honour to be, etc.

(Signed) W. ZOUCH,

Lieutenant Mounted Police.

To Captain Williams,

Commandant of Mounted Police.

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