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Muster Cattle on Maneroo. - In the year 1840 I assisted in mustering on the plains of Maneroo a herd of cattle, belonging to a Dr. Shirwin, and purchased from him by a mercantile firm in Sydney to send to Port Phillip as a speculation.
Start for Port Phillip. - Thirteen hundred mixed cattle were gathered, with which our party started in August for Port Phillip by way of Yass.
Many other Herds on the Road. - There were several other herds travelling on this road at the time. [262] It was said that there were 20,000 cattle between Yass and Melbourne. However this may have been, there were so many different parties moving with stock in the same line as ourselves as made it necessary that great care should be exercised to prevent the mixing of herds, and consequent annoyance and confusion.
The Crossing-places over the Rivers. - This was particularly the case at the crossing-places over the rivers, where, sometimes from accident, bad management, or from the cattle proving refractory, one party would occupy the ford for two or three days. It was usual for the parties which might be a day's stage, or even more, in front or behind, to send all their men that could be spared to assist at such times.
The intermediate district through which the road lay was very thinly settled and stocked, but still it was all nominally taken up. There was, however, abundance of grass and water for travelling herds without interfering with the resident stock.
The "Major's Line." - In approaching the district of Port Philip we understood that the line which we followed was that struck out by Major Mitchell on his return from Portland Bay.
Finding, when we reached the Goulburn River, that the cattle market in Melbourne was overstocked, it was determined to place the herd on a run if it could be found.
Campaspe. - With this view the country was explored to the north of Major Mitchell's return line, first down the Campaspe; but though there was no station below what is now Mr. Lynott's (one formed below it having been abandoned on account of the attack of the natives), the country looked so parched up and uninviting that it was not taken up.
Lower Loddon - The same cause deterred us from occupying the Lower Loddon, which had been already passed by others as worthless, the value of it and the country to the north generally as a winter run for stock not having then been ascertained.
Halt the Herd at Glenmona. - In order more perfectly to prosecute the search for available country, the herd was halted at the creek lately occupied by McNeill and Hall, near Burnbank, whence excursions were made in various directions. [263] 
Dutton, Simson, and Darlot. - This creek was then occupied by an out-station of Messrs. Dutton, Simson, and Darlot, who had recently arrived from the Sydney district with one of the largest establishments that had ever come overland. It formed the western portion of their run, their eastern boundary being forty miles distant, near Mount Alexander. On this same creek, to the southward, nearer to the Maiden Hills, the Messrs. Hodgkinson were established, the southern portion of their run having been previously held by Messrs. Lang and Griffin, who had moved from it to Mount Elephant, and prior to them by a Mr. Bowman (or Borman), who, I understood, was drowned in going by sea from Melbourne to Sydney. At this time there were no stations to the north of this part of the country.
Avoca River. - The Avoca was also unoccupied except at its source in the Amphitheatre, among the Pyrenees, where Mr. Irvine had a sheep station. There had been a station taken up about ten miles below this by a Mr. Oliphant, but one or two of his shepherds having been killed by the natives it was deserted, and occupied afterwards by Mr. Irvine. Mr. Briggs, who finally settled at the Grampians, had halted hereabouts for some weeks on his way down from Bathurst with sheep.
Southerly from this neighbourhood the country was held by Messrs. Donald and Hamilton (west from Mount Misery); by Messrs. Learmonth (north-east and south from the same hill); by Mr. McCallum (north from Mount Beckwith), he having purchased from Mr. Hawdon; in the same line proceeding easterly, by Mr. Donald Cameron, and further on by Captain McLachlan, to the north of whom were Mr. Lachlan Mackinnon, who afterwards sold to Mr. Hunter; and Mr. Colin Mackinnon, who disposed of his station to the Messrs. Joyce and moved on to the Pyrenees. [264] 
River Wimmera; Mount Cole. - Proceeding west past the Avoca, we found the Mount Cole branch of the River Wimmera occupied at the upper part; first by Mr. Irvine with sheep; next to him by Mr. Lynott with cattle of Dr. Imlay's of Twofold Bay; and below him by Mr. Francis.
Mr. Francis was killed in 1842 by a wound inflicted by a madman whom he had imprudently employed.
Mr. Lynott about the same time sold his station to Mr. J. A. Cameron for £1,300, who later disposed of it to Mr. C. Williamson of Melbourne for £30,000.
Want of Water to the North. - On exploring the unoccupied country to the north, we found it without water. Places to which we were taken by the natives with assurances that there would be plenty of water, we found quite dry. This was particularly remarkable in the channel of the Wimmera, which looked as if it had not run below the stations of Mr. Clarke of Dowling Forest (then managed by Mr. Francis) for some years.
Mount William, Wimmera. - From this district to the Mount William branches of the Wimmera there were no settlers; though Mr. Blow shortly afterwards came in upon the intervening space with sheep of Mr. Sinclair's (of Van Diemen's Land), occupying country which is now held by Dr. Blundell and Dr. Thomson, it having first passed through the hands of Mr. John Allan, and thence I believe into the possession of the Bank of Australasia.
Near to Mount William Mr. Horace Wills, from the Murrumbidgee River, was settled. He had sold a portion of his run to Captain Bunbury. Mr. Kirk was superintending a station east from Mount William on the Hopkins River; this was afterwards sold to Messrs. McGill and Ross, and by them recently disposed of to Messrs. Richardson and Wright, and Rodger. From these stations north for twenty miles, following the course of the Wimmera, there was no one; beyond this distance Captain Briggs was settled with sheep brought down from near Bathurst, the property of the Redfern estate there. These were sold to Mr. Boyd, of Sydney notoriety, and next purchased, I believe, by the present proprietor, Mr. Carfrae. [265]
Plains and Northern Wimmera. - North of this place, the plains and River Wimmera itself were totally unoccupied, little known, and supposed to be worthless for stock.
Progress and Cause of Settlement of the Inferior Northern Country. - At this time the richer portions only of the colony found favour in the eyes of intending settlers as only being calculated to afford marketable stock. Afterwards, when melting down had been established into a system rendering settlers independent of the limited market of Melbourne, and giving a value to lean stock in consequence of their being in demand to replace stock boiled down from the richer runs, country till then despised was greedily taken up. The northern plains and the parts more immediately watered by the Wimmera and its tributaries were occupied under these circumstances. Then it was discovered that tracts which had been passed over as barren in summer had a peculiar value in winter, and in fact it gradually became apparent that they were second to no district in their capacity for producing fat stock, the fattening seasons, however, being different.
Water becoming more permanent. - Their condition also, of being in a great part without water, seemed to have altered, and creeks which had formerly been dry for long periods now filled with the regular rains.
We take up a Run. - Finding the vacant country between Captain Bunbury's and Mr. Briggs's stations in some respects suitable for our purposes, we occupied it, intending, however, to remain there only for a time, during which search for a more favourable spot might be prosecuted.
The Station changes hands. - The station so formed remained permanent, passing into the hands of Messrs. Rose and Jackson, and from them to Mr. Horace Wills - Mr. Rose, in 1843, taking up a run to the west of the Grampians, between Mount Zero and the Victoria Range. At this time, following the Grampians round the south-west, there was no station beyond that of Captain Bunbury till Mount Sturgeon was reached, where Dr. Martin, of Heidelberg, had a herd of cattle in charge of Mr. Knowles. [266] 
Shortly after I settled, however, Mr. Chirnside took up a small creek flowing on to the plains from Mount William.
To the south-east Messrs. Stevens and Thomson had arrived overland with sheep from Yass, and occupied the Fiery Creek. East of them were the Messrs. Campbell, who had settled at Mount Cole about a year before.
Between the Grampians and Victoria Range a Mr. Dwyer took up in 1842 some country at the back of Dr. Martin's run.
River Glenelg, upper part vacant. - The Upper Glenelg, at its rise amongst the ranges, was unoccupied, nor am I aware that any country for a considerable distance west from its source was taken up till later, and all towards Mount Arapiles and on the waters running to the Wimmera from the western side of the Grampians was yet vacant.
River Norton. - It was not till 1843 that Mr. Rose took up a run on the head waters of the Norton (or McKenzie), which I had explored much earlier, for a heifer station, reaching it through a wild and beautiful pass, now called "Rose's Gap," but which I did not then think worth occupying.
Victoria Range. - It was about 1843 that Mr. D. C. Simson took up country lying immediately beneath the Victoria Range to the west, and various stations were quickly formed on the Wimmera and Upper Glenelg, Mr. Sherratt establishing himself on the latter river below Mr. Simson, having removed from near Mount Alexander.
I leave the Grampians. - At the end of 1842 I left my residence at the Grampians and purchased a station from Mr. Simson on the creek which now forms the western boundary of the county of Talbot. My acquaintance with the former neighbourhood consequently ceased to be kept up except by casual visits.
Loddon. District, &c. - The Mindai. - Being thus settled in the Loddon district, in 1843 I formed one of a party, consisting of Mr. McNeill, Mr. Darlot, and myself, with two natives, to explore the plains to the north of the Pyrenees, induced thereto by the accounts the blacks gave of a large lake there, which we were anxious to see, in spite of the "mindai," which they gave us to understand infested it, making a prey of emus and black-fellows, and which the old lubras of the tribe asserted would never allow us to return, an imaginary fate which they bewailed with much lamentation and weeping, endeavouring to deter us by picturing the immensity of the monster. [267]
One old and hideous hag, in particular, dabbed her yam-stick into the ground dramatically, and affirmed that "Cobra belonging to mindai, along o' this one station, tail like it along o' Mr. McCallum!" (thus indicating a length of about eleven miles only!).
The notion of discovering two such wonders, as a lake in a waterless country and a serpent of such magnificent dimensions, only stimulated our determination; so, crossing the Avoca in April, 1843, we struck into a dry creek (the Avon), running north from the Pyrenees. Finding it without water throughout its course, which we followed for a day and a half, till discerning no sign of moisture in its channel, and being in great doubt how far the blacks were to be depended on as to their knowledge of any permanent water thereabouts, we turned towards the Wimmera.
This, by travelling all night - steering by a star - we reached early on the third morning. Our horses had been two days and three nights without anything to drink, except a quart of water to each, which we gave them from our keg, pouring it into the crown of a cabbage-tree hat, into which the fold of a mackintosh cloak had been first fitted, to make it hold water.
The winters of 1843-4 proving wet, these various northern creeks filled up, and the country near the Lake Bainenon was reached and occupied by Messrs. J. and W. Donald and the Messrs. Wedge, who sold to Mr. Robert Macredie.
The Lower Avoca was also taken up first, below the station, of Mr. Irvine, by Mr. J. L. Foster and Mr. Archdale (since dead) near Bealiba; next by Messrs. Ellis, Shore, and Elliott, followed by others, down its whole course. [268] Nearer the Pyrenees, on a branch of the Avoca, were Mr. Colin Mackinnon (removal from the Loddon) and Mr. James Campbell.
Avon River. - On the sources of the Avon, among the northern spurs of the Pyrenees, a large tract of country was taken up about this time by Mr. Laurence Rostron.
Pleasure of exploring. - There was a wonderful charm in exploring country thus uninhabited except by the natives and wild birds and animals.
These occupied, without altering the face of nature, which, heterodox as the opinion in these days may seem, was, to my eye, more beautiful than in its present aspect of national pretensions and "magnificence." Herds of kangaroo abounded in the forests, and emus grazed over the plains, in some cases so tame as to approach the rider with a strange gaze of curiosity.
The creeks were then all fringed with reeds and rushes, undevoured by hungry cows and gaunt working bullocks. These reeds and rushes formed a beautiful edging to the dark solemn pools overhung by the water-loving gum-trees, where wild fowl abounded, as the plains did with quail and turkeys.
Abundance of Game. - About the Grampians, in particular, game was most plentiful. My stockman repeatedly brought in young live emu, which he had ridden down; and kangaroo-tail soup, in its abundance, ceased to have any attraction for us. I had tame emu chickens performing their strange juvenile antics round my reed mia-mia - yellow-striped and downy little objects, difficult to be recognised as the sources from which future mature emus were to grow. A female kangaroo was a familiar intimate of my hut, and on excellent terms with the dogs that had murdered its poor mother. Wild ducks, geese, and swans were constant visitors upon the water-hole opposite my door, and occasionally a pelican, or spoon-bill, appeared as a rarity. [269]
Hostilities. - At the period of my entrance into the colony of Australia Felix, in almost every part of it the mutual relation of the natives and settlers, at first, was one of distrust and violence. This, it was stated, arose from the attempts of the blacks to steal sheep, or other property of value, from the settlers. These robberies were often accompanied with violence and murder, committed in the treacherous manner common to most savages.
Such occurrences naturally led to reprisals, in which the superior arms and energy of the settlers and of their servants told with fatal effect upon the native race.
Instances of this deplorable result might often be observed by the explorer in the early days of the settlement of the colony.
Native Skeleton in a Waterhole. - When I was passing with the cattle over the Eastern Wimmera, a shepherd came up and entered into conversation with me. He held a carbine in the place of a crook, and an old regulation pistol was stuck in his belt, instead of the more classic pastoral pipe - pastoral pursuits in Australia being attended, at this time, with circumstances more calculated to foster a spirit of war than one of music. After some conversation he led me to a waterhole, where the skeleton of a native - exposed by the shrinking of the water in the summer heat-lay on the mud. There was a bullet-hole through the back of the skull. "He was shot in the water," the man told me, "as he was a-trying to hide hisself after a scrimmage! There was a lot more t'other side."
Bones under a Gum-tree. - "I might see the bones a-sticking up out of the ground close to the big fallen gum-tree, where they'd been stowed away all of a heap" - a grave good enough, he took occasion to assure me, for the "sneaking, murdering, black cannibals."
Bones under the Logs of a Bush Fire. - On another branch of the Wimmera, when looking for the horses one morning, after camping out, my black boy came back, his complexion changed to yellow with fright; taking me away to a short distance, he showed me three or four bodies, partially concealed by logs. [270] 
There were numerous tracks of horses round about. He explained the occurrence in his way - "I believe blackfellow bimbulalee sheep all about. Then whitefellow gilbert and put 'em along o' fire."
Every station had some tragic tale connected with this subject. At one, a paroquet was pointed out as it ran about the floor of the hut, quite tame. It had been the only thing left at an outstation by the blacks, after murdering the hut-keeper, and stealing the utensils and rations. It had been found perched on a tie-beam over the dead body, and brought in to the home-station.
Hut-keeper left for Dead. - At another, the servant who brought in the tea and damper had his face distorted. He had once been a good-looking man, but the blacks came on him one morning when he was shifting the hurdles, battered his face in, left him for dead, and robbed the hut.
Spears taken out of Cattle. - At a third, there was a heap of pieces of spears piled up on the rough slab mantlepiece. These had been taken out of various cows and bullocks, on a cattle run, where the natives had attacked them in the ranges, killing many and driving the rest away. The place was shown where they had had their corrobboree, to celebrate the triumph. The ground was beaten smooth and hard where they had danced, and bark plates lay about on which the choice morsels had been heaped.
Cattle driven off the Run. - On this run, out of 1,500 head of cattle, all had been driven off but about 30 "crawlers." It was many weeks before they were re-mustered.
Sheep driven away; legs broken. - From another station, a whole flock of sheep had been taken away, far to the north; a few only were recovered, numbers being found by the pursuers with their legs broken, a cruel sort of tethering resorted to in those days by the natives under these circumstances. [271]
Settler speared. - Again, at another station, a stockyard was pointed out in which one of the earlier proprietors had been speared while milking a cow.
Natives made useful. - Yet, with all this, the natives generally were welcomed at the stations for the most part, and they made themselves useful in many ways, as for instance in stripping bark, finding lost horses, and in acting as guides and messengers; but they seem always to have availed themselves of any opening for attack left by incaution - at least for a long time after the first occupation of the country.
Numerous about the Grampians. - Fish Weirs. - About the Grampians they were numerous at the time of my residence, and had apparently been much more so, judging from the traces left by them in the swampy margins of the river. At these places we found many low sod banks extending across the shallow branches of the river, with apertures at intervals, in which were placed long, narrow, circular nets (like a large stocking) made of rush-work. Heaps of muscle shells were also found abounding on the banks, and old mia-mias where the earth around was strewed with the balls formed in the mouth when chewing the farinaceous matter out of the bulrush root.
Bird Catching - They had the art here of catching birds with a long slender stick like a fishing rod, at the end of which was a noose of grass twisted up. With this apparatus and a screen of boughs, they succeeded in putting salt on birds' tails to some purpose.
One old villainous-looking black of my acquaintance used to catch large bundles of quail, which he would barter freely for suet. The kidney fat of a sheep would purchase a dozen brace.
Crawfish. - The lubras fished up crawfish from the shallow muddy water-holes with their toes and yam-sticks, and exchanged them for the dainties of civilized life. A large tin-dishful might be obtained in barter by a small expenditure of tea and sugar, and when treated with a certain degree of gastronomic science formed a not unwelcome change of diet from mutton chops or salt beef, which in those days was the almost unvaried food of the "cormorant squattocracy." [272]
Native Tracks. - I here first saw the tracks formed by the natives in travelling over any particular pass. There was one across the Grampian Range, about 15 miles north of Mount William, leading up a wild romantic glen and over on to the source of the Glenelg. I found another through the tea-tree scrub of the Wannon, near Mount Sturgeon, from which, on each side of the river, other tracks diverged over the open ground; they were much like cattle tracks, except that they passed over places which cattle were not likely to attempt.
Grass-tree. - One variety of food was in use among the natives here which was new to me at the time. It was a portion of the grass-tree top. This was first pulled out of the stem, a few preliminary taps being made with the back of the tomahawk, and then a length of soft, white, succulent matter neatly twisted off the lower extremity, where it had been embedded in the rugged trunk; it reminded me of asparagus in the proportion of tender to tough.
I also observed them take a red grub out from the grass-tree, which I was informed was "merrijig" and "likit sugar," with an assurance further, that I was a "stupid fellow" for not adopting it as an article of diet. I cannot confirm the character given of this eatable, however, not having been induced by the scorn and wonder of the aborigines to test their bill of fare further than by trying the crawfish and grass-tree. I conceive it quite possible, however, that an unprejudiced person might pronounce grubs - red or white - less repulsive in appearance as food than a fat, delicious oyster.
I am by no means convinced that, while in our self-satisfied horror at seeing fellow-men, black and savage though they be, eating things certainly not unlike worms, we abstain from Australian grubs, we may not be losing the enjoyment of a delicacy second only to white-bait. [273] 
How the Blacks eat Emu Skin. - When endeavouring to find the lake called Bainenong, before spoken of, I shot an emu, which the blacks who were with us received as a great prize. They cooked and eat it in a style which amused us much. Having first roughly plucked it, they took off the skin, which they stuffed with tender gum twigs; thus prepared, it was delicately toasted at a slow fire, and then rich, yellow, oily lengths of what looked like the thickest of the fattest possible goose-skin were trimmed off and swallowed, as the Lazaroni of Naples are said to suck down macaroni.
Places of Interment. - From one or two instances which came before us, I am inclined to believe that the blacks about the Grampians used to bury their dead in hollow trees. On one occasion I discovered my stockman manifesting a mysterious dislike to a particular vicinity, and on questioning him ascertained that, at the foot of a hollow tree, at the place in question, were the half-burnt remains of a human being. At another, a dead body was plainly perceptible high up the hollow of an old gum-tree.
Superiority of the Loddon and Marrable Natives. - The natives at the Grampians were, generally speaking, a much inferior tribe in appearance to those of the more fertile districts, such as the Loddon and Marrable. It seemed as if they depended physically upon the nature of the country which they occupied, the richer portions of the colony nourishing its inhabitants into better grown and handsomer men and women than the less fertile parts. About the Loddon and Marrable, I have seen men who might have served as models of symmetry and strength, and whose figures were perfection as regards the animal man. The lubras also here were often found tall, well-shaped, and good-looking, as far as could be judged of through a coating of grease and various pigments and filth - white, black, and red.
Inferiority of the Grampian Blacks - At the Grampians, both sexes were distinguished by pre-eminent ugliness and dirt, as far as I had opportunites of judging. [274]
Absence of Feeling of Revenge. - In all parts of the colony in which I have been, the character of the natives seems to be free from the inclination to vengeance so common among most savages; at least to vengeance towards the civilized intruder upon their country.
Their murders of and thefts from the white population seem generally to have been prompted by mere acquisitiveness, the objects of their desire being different from those which tempt the criminals of civilized communities.
The diplomatists of their tribes may even perhaps have pleaded justification - that their kangaroos and emus were driven away by the flocks and herds of the settlers - for reprisals upon an invading enemy, stimulating a sort of guerrilla warfare, not indeed with the war cry Pro aris et focis, but for a reason no less cogent to men whose undisciplined appetites may be presumed to have been keen enough. Their cannibalism and cutting out of warriors' kidney fat were only manifestations probably of their religion or superstition, as the rack and the faggot have been, and the prison is now, the means by which the dominant orthodoxy of the day is vindicated on the other side of the world.
Apart from these peculiarities, I am of opinion that they may, towards the whites, at least in the main, be considered a placable people; for let them be offended ever so bitterly, and overtures then be proffered towards reconciliation through the medium of the cheap gifts which pervert their wisdom, and their wrath evaporates like the morning dew.
I have known their dogs to be shot (an offence generally of the deepest dye against their social code) and the tribe depart in consequence, shaking as it were the dust from their feet against the station where the offence had been committed, the men jabbering all kinds of native imprecations, as was supposed, and the women howling ululations and hugging their dead mangy darlings in their arms. [275] In a month they have come back smilingly for tobacco, protesting with the utmost amiability that "all gone sulky now."
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