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3-072 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Fyans, Foster,63
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Bride, 1898
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Arrived, by order of General Sir Richard Bourke, at Geelong in 1847, where, according to the General's directions, I was to take an absconded felon on my staff. This man had been a resident near Geelong for 33 years, and was therefore well acquainted with all the natives in that locality. My orders from the General being to assemble as many of the natives as possible, for the purpose of knowing their numbers in this part, due notice was given, and we succeeded in making a large muster of 275 of all classes - men, women, and children.  The General sent bales of blankets, slop clothing, dresses for the females, shoes, and a large quantity of flour and tea, and two dozen of tomahawks (not issued, but thrown into Moorabool River). These articles were all divided amongst the natives. Unfortunately, a few blankets were deficient, whereupon the native men unprovided set up a yell, and became almost frantic, a state of things which instantaneously became general, and the assembly demanded more and more every minute. Fearing bad results from my visitors, from their general demeanour and manner, and becoming somewhat apprehensive, I ordered my two constables to load, and my ten convicts to fall in close to my hut. The natives saw this preparation, and I kept some distance from them with my double-barrel gun, accompanied by Mr. Patrick McKeever, district constable, also armed; it had the effect of making the natives retire, the interpreter Buckley telling them to do so. I was exceedingly happy at the result, not having the slightest trust in Buckley; and I may now add, my conviction is that the natives assembled wishing an opportunity to murder every person in the place. After this escape I never permitted more than a few to approach the place, when they were kindly treated and provided with some salt pork, which was not such a delicacy as mutton, but fresh meat was not to be had, and sheep were extremely dear and scarce.
A few days followed. I saw a native in a rage take a child giving it many blows, and eventually catching it by the leg, and battering its head against a gum-tree. This was on the opposite range of the river. On my arrival at the spot (which took some considerable time, on account of the river winding so much), when I reached the tree I found evident marks that the child had been killed, and taken from the place, but there was not one native to be seen.
A station at the Leigh was attacked; two men in charge defended a few hundred sheep, driving them before them to another station.  I saw some four natives that had been shot dead. I investigated the affray, and gave much credit to the men for their good conduct.
Buninyong, only 50 miles from Geelong, was thought a great discovery. Some few of the settlers removed to that locality, where many disturbances took place. Shepherds were murdered and sheep stolen. On numerous occasions I have had to visit the place, on complaint of the settlers, and also that I might have it in my power to gain information as to the reported depredations of the natives. I felt convinced of these depredations, and generally found the origin of theft and murder was from an over-intimacy on both sides - the women ruling, depraved, and bad; so much of this existed that there was hardly a shepherd without disease. Large families of natives - husband, wife, boys, and girls - were eaten up with venereal disease. The disorder was an introduction from V. D. Land, and I am of opinion that two thirds of the natives of Port Phillip have died from this infection.
During 1837-8-9, as the country began to be occupied, I had many journeys to stations, of from 40 to 50 miles, Colac and Buninyong being the most distant. In all my investigations I found where life was lost that blame was attributable to both sides - to the jealousy of the native and over-intimacy of the hut-keeper or shepherd, who was one day feeding the natives and the day following beating and driving them from the place.
In 1840 I was made Commissioner of Crown Lands. I had eighteen troopers. These men were soldiers who were sentenced by court martial (when serving in America), for desertion, to transportation to N. S. Wales. I never met with a more orderly or steady set of men; they had their horses always in good order, and were ready and willing to perform their duty. No pay was allowed by Government, and their only remuneration was the common ration. For the seven years I held the office of Commissioner of Crown Lands I had only one man who left me. He deserted to Adelaide.  Every man I had could have followed him, and that, too, well mounted. I am glad to say, to their credit not a man followed his example.
In 1839 the squatters in Portland Bay District were very limited in number, not exceeding a dozen. In 1840 very few joined them, and the revenue in licenses did not exceed £150. In 1842 the district began to become of some notice, and a vast number of most respectable establishments appeared. In 1843 and 1844 the district was rapidly filling; and during 1845 and 1846 there were four hundred licenses granted in a country almost without a European in it in 1839 - and nearly as large as England. Mr. Gisborne was the Commissioner of Crown Lands for Port Phillip, which was divided when I was appointed. I may remark on the Portland Bay District - knowing it for years, and having ridden over it some thirty-four thousand miles - that a finer or a more beautiful country cannot be. There are parts sandy and barren, but generally the ground is useful, many parts possessing great advantages for pastoral purposes, and many bits of ground being fitted for immediate agricultural purposes, I may safely say, without an outlay for grubbing a tree - so different from New South Wales, where every one cleared is attended with a serious expense. The district is exceedingly well provided with water; many of the waterholes are everlasting, and there are besides reaches of rivers and many fine and valuable springs.
In 1839, by order of Sir George Gipps, I left Geelong to proceed to Portland Bay. I was allowed three mounted police and seven horses. Mr. Smyth, of the Survey Department, had orders to attend me. The distance is about 220 miles. At that time the squatting stations were chiefly about the towns. We proceeded, bringing provisions on a pack-horse. We experienced great difficulties and obstructions. In many instances we had to return for miles, the country being impassable, and seek another route. We were two days endeavouring to cross a stony range, and had to return to Mount Eeles, without water. We found ourselves surrounded by, I suppose, 150 natives, following us with their spears, yelling and brandishing their waddies.  On leaving the range we halted at a tea-tree scrub, where we found water. We were cooking some pannikins of tea when we heard the native cooey in every direction; this subsided; I suspected that the natives were close to us. I walked down the creek with my gun, first ordering the men to stand to their horses. I returned and told Smyth that the creek, I thought, was full of natives. We took some tea, mounted, and rode about 50 yards, when a formidable number, at least 150 natives, jumped from the brush-wood in the creek, making after us for some miles. We escaped them, and we met others, but none would approach us. No inducement could persuade them. We chased one, to endeavour to make him find water for us near Mount Rouse; he ran fast, and got to a tree, climbing it like a monkey, and letting fly behind on some of the party as he ascended, to his utmost satisfaction. We were eighteen days before we reached Portland after leaving Port Fairy. On our left we met many obstructions on the flat grounds and large swamps in that part of the country, which is intersected so much by two small rivers, that with difficulty, after some days of consultation as to what we should do (as our stores were all expended) - whether to push on or return, we came to a determination to endeavour to gain the high ground, which we fortunately did on that evening. After spending a truly miserable night, with nothing to eat, plenty of rain, and a good fire, we were glad at daylight to proceed again, when, to our great joy, we saw a vessel at anchor in the bay. We descended towards the beach, when our hearts failed us. We were pulled up by a large river in front of us. Another consultation took place, when one of the policemen said, "Let us go on to the sea." In the former instance Smyth thought to keep up the river was our only plan, which we did. Smyth swam across with a sabre in his mouth, and got on the sand-hills, whence he could see the river, which close to the sea became a large lagoon. On returning, he explained it was useless to follow down; therefore the party kept up, following the river, and rounding some large lagoons.  In the second instance we took the advice of an old policeman; we reached the beach where a hard sand answered as a good road. Had we in the first instance travelled down to the beach, we could have crossed in like manner, for the river in this neighbourhood has an entrance into the sea. We reached Portland in a few hours, receiving a hearty welcome from Messrs. Henty, who kept a whaling establishment, and were the only residents in the place. I had His Excellency's order to make some investigations, and, after a rest of three days, our party proceeded towards the Glenelg, to a station held by Messrs. Henty and the Messrs. Winter, on the Wando River. After finishing my business in two days, we purchased some provisions to carry with us on our return home. After crossing the Wannon River, we made a new route, almost east; and we met with no kind of obstruction, and were only one day without water. We reached Geelong on the fifth day after leaving the Glenelg. I may remark during this journey we did not meet with any natives; the country was desolate and uninhabited, and was covered with rich kangaroo grass three and four feet high. At that time I considered the country beautiful, particularly in passing Mount Sturgeon and the long range of conical hills for many miles towards what is now called Mount William. We passed Terrinallum Hill, now called Mount Elephant. Since the journey, I have again visited all these parts. On the hill - Mount Sturgeon - a large stone sits in a cradle; one or two of my policemen moved the stone; it is nearly round. Terrinallum has a large crater, like every other hill in this part; also basins, some of them of great depth and two and three miles in circumference. Three great beauties of the kind are close to Timboon. The country between Timboon and the Hopkins River would remind any person lately from home of a nobleman's park, with the expectation of coming soon to a magnificent house. Many a dreary ride I have had over this magnificent, splendid country, lying waste and idle, with an odd flock of sheep here and there and fine, fat bullocks with hundreds of square miles to roam over.  This land, for agricultural purposes, none can surpass, and it would maintain thousands and thousands of people by common industry, with a yearly surplus of grain, enough to feed the entire population of Victoria to this 17th day of August 1853. It lies, as formerly for years, in the hands of a few squatters at the nominal yearly rental of a squatting license, which is nothing like the value of the ground.
The country for many miles about Colac nothing can surpass in its fine, rich soil. The lake is in circumference about, I suppose, 14 miles. A few years ago it became almost dry. On visiting it, it was my opinion that it would in a few years become a large swamp. Of late years it has regained its waters, so much so in May 1852, that its banks were overflowed - the water rushing over the plains into the Barwon and Leigh, and causing the wonderful flood on the 20th May 1852. At Geelong the Barwon River rose about twelve feet higher than the highest flood experienced since my arrival in 1837, destroying a vast deal of property, and carrying the bridge away on Barwon River, Geelong, and also several others.
The squatting population consists of such various classes of persons that it is impossible to speak of it as a body. Many of the squatters are gentlemen, worthy and excellent men, of undoubted character and well connected at home. Mount Emu is a beautiful country. A noble pack of hounds was kept up by gentlemen squatters who met every season, hunting twice and thrice a week, and meeting at each other's houses, where good cheer and good and happy society were ever to be met. I have sat down with thirty gentlemen at Mr. Goldsmith's to an excellent dinner given by that gentleman. There was an ample provision of all that was good set before his guests, who, one and all, had hearty and joyful faces, talking of to-morrow and the day's sport before them. We retired to rest on our shakedowns on the floor at eleven o'clock; at daybreak the master of the hounds, a squatter, sounded his bugle; shortly after, his second, for breakfast; and in half an hour his third bugle, when a fine pack of dogs let loose from the kennel appeared, full of life and glee, led away by the well-known master of the hounds, Compton Ferrers, followed by thirty well-mounted gentlemen squatters.  The game was not far distant. In half an hour we came on the scent of a native dog; he had a long start; the pack took up the scent, and followed breast high; the ground was rather moist; some horsemen were thrown out; but there were twenty in at the death, after passing over sixteen miles of ground without one check. The wild dog is noble sport; and as to the day I speak of, I doubt even if Leicestershire ever turned out a better pack or a better set of sportsmen in a field during a season.
On the following day I had the pleasure of again meeting the same party, and on many occasions after this. I may now remark, in a country like this, where dissipation prevails, among this class of gentlemen squatters in no instance did any man exceed, or forget that he was a gentleman.
Another class of squatters is a kind of shop-boys. A plain man can barely approach them. They have wonderful sources of wealth and comfort, with dirty huts and no comfort, but with plenty of pipe-smoking, grumbling, and discontent. For seasons a hut would be just the same - on one side of the door you will see an aged tobacco plant; there is no garden - no vegetables, but bones, rotten sheep skins, and filth in plenty. Inside the door there was often a large hole in the mud floor worn by the heels of persons going in, and, if not aware of this, ten to one that you had a chance of upsetting the table, tin-dishes, and greasy mutton chops. As to beds, this gentry are not particular. I lay on one for hours in great torment, tired and wishing for sleep; I envied five or six who were snoring close about me. Sleep I could not, from something hard and long under my loins. I took my knife, cut the sacking, when I pulled out the leg of a sheep with a long piece of the hide as crisp as a toast.  Here is a country yielding all that man can require for only a little labour. It abounds in a class who care for nothing excepting self-interest. For years they have the same hut; not so much as a drop of milk; for breakfast, hysonskin, mutton chops swimming in fat, and damper; damper and fat chops for dinner; hysonskin and the same for supper. No deviation even in lent.
Another class consists of old shepherds. I have known this class to grow rich, the master poor, and in time the worthy would become the licensed squatter. I have known many of them to become wealthy, and some who did not forget themselves; but most were out of their places, and it would have been better for the community had they remained shepherds rather than become masters. Litigation is a favourite rule, and almost anything can be gained by an overwhelming evidence.
I stated that on my arrival I mustered 275 natives. So many years have passed over that at the present day, August 22nd 1853, I feel assured that not more than twenty aborigines are living about Geelong. Some were children when I came, and within the lapse of these few years have become aged and decrepit. The life of the aborigines cannot be of long duration; and I am of opinion longevity is unknown. Balyang was held up to be more respected than any native in this place; he was remarkable for his good conduct, decency, and good order; he was very polite, constantly sending presents of oysters and bustards. He was a particular friend of mine. By some means he became possessed of an old musket, of which I on many occasions told him to be careful, or he would shoot himself, urging that it would be better for him to use his spear and boomerang. He laughed, saying the gun was better. This remarkably fine old man went to the Werribee River to shoot bustards. As he was one morning leaving his miam, on pulling the gun, the lock went off, and the contents of the charge went through his body. He died in a few minutes, leaving some three wives and four young boys. One of the boys is still living in Geelong or the neighbourhood. He cannot be more than nineteen or twenty years of age; but for a stranger to look at him he must consider him an old man.  Woolmudgen was always with his relative, old Balyang, until the latter died, when he lived with Mr. Fisher for some years. He was taken care of, and well provided for on the establishment, his father having been killed, and his old friend Balyang gone, so that he remained almost an inmate. As he grew rapidly, he became a man in a few years; his habits changed; he withdrew himself for weeks; on returning he would only laugh at all questions put to him, saying "The bush better than house, plenty of grub good as mutton." Of clothes he had always a good supply, but when he left in the morning well dressed, if he returned in the afternoon he was always naked. He placed no value on anything. The latter days of this youth (he was about twenty years of age) were spent in drunkenness and riot. He was nearly six feet high, a powerful and strong man, but disease and filth gave him the appearance of age. He died near Geelong from inflammation. Bon Jon, another of old Balyang's tribe, lived with me for some four years. He was a stout lad, very civil and useful. He always attended me in the bush, and was often with me for a space of three or four months, going from one station to another, and during that time never seeing one of his tribe. I was passing Colac, and remained at Mr. Murray's for the night. The Colac tribe had a camp near at hand. Some seven men, accompanied by a couple of women, came to us, covered with white paint - a death warning, the women's faces torn and bleeding, the men carrying spears, langeela, and waddies. One spoke to Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray immediately told me their intention, viz., "to kill my boy, Bon Jon." Pointing to the men, I told the boy, who, in a cool way replied, "I know it; I am ready for them," letting out a volley of abuse at the party. 
Taking his pistol, and cocking it, "Come on Merrijig," he cried to the doctor, who came for the purpose of extracting Bon Jon's kidney fat. He defied all. For safety, I made my boy stay inside the house all night.  The natives remained lurking about for an opportunity to murder him. This animosity was caused by the death of a Colac native, which happened at a corrobboree near Geelong; it was, therefore, needful that a Geelong native should die. On the following morning a numerous collection presented themselves, demanding Bon Jon, with a promise not to kill him, but merely to extract the kidney fat. I asked him if he would be satisfied to undergo the operation. "Me give," said he, "if you wish it," showing his pistol's clean new flints, and his sabre as bright and sharp as a razor. All he required from me was liberty to have a quarrel on the ground. We mounted and left. About two miles from Colac we met some natives on their way to Colac from the Mission Station. Approaching us, and seeing Bon Jon, they were quite taken aback, and ran from us immediately; in fact, the party were on their way to partake of Bon Jon's kidney fat, and femoral bits. The boy was very brave; in fact, he had no fear; he begged me to let him "only kill one with the big knife," stating that he would not fire, and pointing out one who had a fine lubra, saying, "If you let me kill him, I'll get his wife." I had on many occasions tried the courage of this savage boy. Near Port Fairy, in 1843, a shepherd was most barbarously murdered by natives, which attracted the attention of the police. I was out for many days with a party of seventeen mounted border police. The weather was cold and wet, and we suffered in many ways. We were on horseback from daylight to night, examining all the creeks and stony lands between Port Fairy and Eumeralla. We spent ten days in this way, and not a black did we fall in with. We were compelled to give up, owing to want of provisions and sickness. On the following morning, accompanied by Bon Jon, we set out to seek a passage for our dray, in order to get away. We went about seven miles, and, meeting with great obstacles, returned in another direction, finding a far better country. When we came within two miles of our camp, on turning a tea-tree copse, we met a most powerful native, and on asking questions, he related to Bon Jon that the clothes he had on belonged to the dead man at Mr. Ritchie's.  It was a wet day. Bon Jon said "This is the fellow that we have been looking for." Again asking him if he had been at Mr. Ritchie's, and inquiring about the man and clothes, we are confirmed; we threw our cloaks off; the native dashed his spear through and through Bon Jon's. Bon Jon pulled out his pistol, snapped it, and missed fire; pulled out his sabre and dashed after him, when horse and all fell among the rocks and stones in a deep gully. We did all in our power to apprehend this savage, but we could not; he had four spears, langeel, and shield; with one blow he dashed the sharp end of the langeel through my horse's nose; as we came up with him, the tribe threw many spears at us, making off; the man was left to us. Jumping on a large mound of rocks and loose stones, he howled out, "Come on, white b-- ," at the same time throwing his last spear at Bon Jon. He was not to be seen in a second. This native went into Port Fairy some days after, showing his shield with the sabre cuts on it. Some months after this, at Geelong, Bon Jon became quite changed; he no longer had a wish to follow me or wear his dress. Away with his tribe constantly, he came to me occasionally; he still had a strong grudge against the Colac tribe; he came to me one day saying, "One Colac fellow down here with a gin," and that he would kill him. I desired him not. He was as good as his word. 
He loaded a carbine, followed the unhappy black with his gun, and shot him dead. Bon Jon and the gin, who was now occupying his time and attention, came back, and eat, drank, and were merry. Hearing of the murder, I had Bon Jon apprehended; he was quite indignant, asking me if I had forgotten the tribe at Colac that wanted his kidney fat. Bon Jon was tried before Judge Willis, a most disreputable old rip, who I think was in consort with the devil, for, though the evidence was clear, Bon Jon was most honourably acquitted, and handed over to another booby of fame, old Robinson, a Native Protector, to be educated and told not to break the commandments.  Bon Jon was killed shortly after this in a scurry with some natives at a corrobboree. Over the body of the Colac native an inquest was held. I took Woolmudgen to see the remains. On showing him the head, the back part of the skull being carried away, he wept bitterly, and threw himself on the ground, roaring and screaming; for many days he appeared in sad distress, and long and many a time he spoke of the deed to me, always repeating the words "poor blackfellow." These natives are all dead now, and, as far as I can learn, only one remains of poor old Balyang's friends. From long experience, particularly in Portland Bay District, I am convinced that the number of aborigines in 1837 in this district could not exceed 3,000, and I feel thoroughly convinced the race will be extinct in 20 years or less. In the district I met a native, his breast, arms, and body muscular, and in fine proportions; his legs were like fins, and not larger than those of an infant. This poor cripple followed his tribe, travelling many miles during the day; he sat in a piece of bark tied round his loins.
Emus and kangaroos on our arrival were plentiful in all parts of the district; also bustards in large flocks of from ten to thirty or forty, or perhaps more. The bustards now are scarce, and only met with in distant places. The kangaroo and emu are nearly extinct in the district; the country is almost void of game. Quails in years gone by were plentiful, but I think are fast disappearing; snipe we have in the season, but not in the same abundance as in other countries; we have also the painted snipe, the same bird that is met with in all parts of India; black ducks, large, and a delicacy; also various small ducks, and wood ducks &c.; the bronzewing pigeon, a fine game bird, fully equal to an English partridge; black swans - useless and ugly; snakes of many descriptions, and some exceedingly bold - more so than I have known them in India. The longest snake I have met did not exceed six feet. For an idler or a sportsman, this country affords nothing, and for a military officer it is the moat damnable quarter in the world.  There is nothing in the shape of sport except in the season a few snipe and quail; then it ends until the next September. At the approach of the snipe season, when you seek your "Forsyth" or "Joe Manton," to brush it up for the sport, it is more than probable that you will seek in vain, for some good and trusty servant has made it his own. Borrowing (as it is termed) these implements is common, but once taken by this class of gentry from your house they are never regained.
Of all the impositions inflicted on mankind an inn in the district is the most dreadful abomination. It appears to me the licensee considers only one duty, that is, to persecute and victimize the traveller. The law makes provision for decency, but the landlord disregards it after a license is granted; his sole object is money - not to make it honestly by a return of common comfort; his bill is the object, and pay it you must, though five hundred per cent. is overcharged. What could a man have in any part of England staying at a hotel for a night, if he expended £2? I should think such an outlay amongst the middle classes would be unknown, but in Victoria the £2 would not afford you a "nobbler." You have to put up with the curses of an ill-looking ruffian - the landlord - who heartily wishes that you never again trouble him, as he is not over-fond of gentlemen beggars. The landlord is generally to be seen playing quoits in front of the hut with a pipe in his mouth, cursing and swearing, and surrounded by half a dozen idle, drunken men - the stable-keeper always sticking close to his master, to swear by him, right or wrong, for a nobbler. These games amuse some travellers, for a fight is generally the result; and in almost all instances, as one passes through the country, the landlord sports a black-eye or two. The interior of the hut is generally built of wood and weatherboards; the floor is boarded, and a fine rattling breeze rushes in at all parts. Your company is not very refined - all smoking, spitting, singing loudly, and rioting; cursing and damning Governors, and formerly Crown Lands Commissioners. Horse races for saddles and bridles, and cockfights, are got up; you are told of fine bullock-drivers, and that Tim was the fellow to shear sheep, with flat contradictions now and again, which nearly lead to a bout, but often to the destruction of the landlord's all, in the shape of half a dozen wine glasses, and his large assortment of tin pannikins.