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Chapter NumberIII
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Full Date1894-12-15
Page Number31
Word Count3192
Last Corrected2018-05-07
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleOld Time Reminiscences. A True Record of Early Adventures
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OLD TIME REMINISCENCES. A True Record of Early Adventures.

By James Kirby, a Colonist of 1840.

Chapter III. Rescuing White Men from Starvation.

As I before mentioned, Peter and I were told off to attend to the cattle, and we used to take turn about to go in the early morning for our horses, whioh, as they were always hobbled in the evening, did not go more than half a mile or so from the hut. On this particular morning

—just about sunrise - it was my turn to go for tho horses and I had walked about a quarter of a mile, when, as I was descending a small pine rise, I saw two objects, but could not make out what they were. They were not cattle, or horses, too bright a a red for any animal I had ever seen ; they were moving in my direction. I walked as fast as I could towards them and when near enough, I saw they were white men. They did not see me approaching until I called to them, when the sound of my voice startled them so much that one of them fell down from weakness and the shock, although I did not call very loudly, i was about 50 yards from them when I called out, "Hullo, mates, where are you off to? But this, it seemed, was too much for their weak state. I went up to them, and it made me very nervous, for I could never have imagined that live skeletons existed, but I could not compare them to anything but this. They were nearly void of clothing. One of them had on what had once been a scarlet singlet, but the sleeves were torn off and the body of it in rags; his trousers had only one leg, and he had no boots. The other had little or nothing on him in shape of clothing, but he had one boot — one of the sort called "half bluchers." It was the singlet that looked so red with the bright morning sun shining upon it, but at the time I could not conceive what it was or what to make of it. I spoke to them in hopes that they oould speak English. I inquired, "Are you hungry?" They answered, "Oh yes, so hungry; have you got bread or anything to eat?" I said, "No, but I will soon get you some," and was about to start back for the hut when they said, "For God's sake do not leave us ; we shall die

if you do." I got them to sit on the ground and told not to move till I came back. Running all the way to the hut, I related there what I had seen. Our breakfast was just ready. Taking a "billy" of tea and a little food with us, a party went and brought the lost travellers slowly back to the hut; fortunately they were not very thirsty, as they had had plenty of water from the river for several days, but prior to reaching the river they had suffered terribly from thirst. We gave them the little food we brought with us, and they drank some of the tea. The first thing to do, now that we had them at our hut, was to resort to our slop chest, and put some clothes on them, rigging them out in moleskin trousers, undershirt and a blue serge shirt overall, and we also gave them boots. The clothes were sad misfits, for they only fitted where they touched. The poor fellows were so thin that you could see their joints, and their arms were not much thicker than a good stout finger ; their ribs could be easily counted, and the eyes were sunk right back in their heads, and with their high cheek bones, and their lips blackened, they would frighten any one that looked at them. We had killed a bullock the evening before, and the cook put on some steak in the pan, in order, as he said, to give the poor fellows a good feed," and by the time we had finished dressing them the steak was nearly cooked. The smell of the steak made the starving men ravenous, and we had to hold them, or they would have attempted to snatch the steak, out of the pan, and would probably have fallen into the fire in the attempt. Andrew Beveridge fortunately knew that if they got too much food at once it would almost to a certainty kill, them, and gave orders that they were only to have very small quantities, and at stated times. We accordingly only gave them a small piece of steak and damper, but they craved for more, and begged and cried like children for some, but we did not give it to them. Oh ! when I think what hideous mortals they were to look at, it almost makes me shiver now, nearly 50 years after. After clothing and feeding them we put them to bed, thinking they would go to sleep, but it was no good; for they kept calling to us for more food, and calling us greedy, and abusing us for not allowing them to have as much as they wanted. We learned that their names were Ogilvy and Green. Like many others in those days, they had a great idea that some good open country was to be found by penetrating far enough into the mallee, and with this object in view they started from somewhere on the " Adelaide side"— as South Australia was then called. Their idea was to enter the mallee and steer by compass for the Murray River. At starting they had several men, a spring cart with rations, a keg of water and a little dog. For a week or two they had to chop down the mallee so that the cart could go through, consequently they oould only travel a few miles a day. After awhile the men got disheartened and said they would go no further, so they took some rations and water, and with their blankets set off on the tracks made by the cart, and made back again for the Adelaide side, and Messrs, Ogilvy and Green saw no more of them. These two gentlemen were thus left alone In the dense mallee, but being possessed of more courage and enterprise than their men, they decided to push on, so they took the horse but left the cart, for they saw plainly they would never cut their way through with the latter. They took what rations they could carry, also some of the water and a blanket each. When they left the cart, they thought they would make the River Murray in a couple of days at furthest, but unfortunately they had taken the wrong bearings, in consequence of which they were for days travelling almost parallel with the river. I forgot to mention that they had taken a gun from the cart, and also the littie dog. They travelled on, every hour expecting to come to the river. I forget how long they were in this suspense — anyway the rations they had, as well as the water, were used, although they husbanded them as much as possible. They only saw one bird, a crow, which they shot. They ate it very sparingly, and by this time the mallee scrub had torn off their clothes, and they themselves were becoming very weak. The horse also became too weak to carry any thing. Their blankets had got so much torn by the scrub that at last they had only a piece of about 4 feet long and 3 feet, wide. Having become too weak to carry the gun they left it behind them, and they had nothing now but what they stood in, and that was not muoh, for the mallee scrub had laid claim to and deprived them of nearly all clothes. They were now very thirsty, so they used to lie side by side at night and spread the little bit of blanket out to catch any dew that might fail during the night, and when it had caught a little they took turn and turn about to suck it, and that is the only thing they had to moisten their tongues for a number of days, and nothing at all to eat. At last human nature oould stand this no longer, and they made up their minds to lie down and die. Mr. Green lay down and wished his companion " Good-bye " by shaking hands with him. They could not apeak — their tongues: were so much swollen. Ogilvy was somewhat stronger than Green, so he walked slowly away from his friend, leading the old horse as usual. He had not gone far from his dying friend when the old horse sniffed the air and gave a faint neigh. Ogilvy had hopes that it was water the horse smelt, so he let him go and followed on his tracks, and in less than half a mile he saw the river. The horse got up to his neck in it ; and when it came out of the water it looked more like a long barrel than a horse. Mr. Ogilvy displayed great caution when he got to the water. He drank a little, then went in up to his chin, put his head under water, but kept his mouth closed. After standing in the water for some time he took another drink and taxed his brain as to how he could possibly carry some water to his friend, whom he had so recently left to die for the want of It. He could not for a time think of anything that he could carry water in, but at last it struck him that the one remaining boot he had on might hold some. He soon tried the experiment, and to his exceeding great joy found it would hold nearly a pint. After taking another very small drink or two, he resolved to try and carry some to his now almost dead friend. Mr. Ogilvy felt much stronger now that he had had a drink, so he filled the boot and started on the old horse's tracks into the mallee to his friend ; he had not more than a mile to travel, but of course that was a long way for a person in his state. Mr. Ogilvy got safely to his friend by following the horse's tracks. Had he not taken the horse with him when he parted with Mr. Green he never could have found his way back to him from the river. When he got to him he was on his back gasping for breath, with his tongue out of his mouth, much swollen. Ogilvy poured a little of the water into his mouth, but Green did not have power to swallow, and when Ogilvy saw the precious fluid running out of the corners of his mouth and going to waste, he had to adopt some other plan, so he sprinkled a little over the face and kept moistening the tongue, turning him over so as to cause the blood to clrculate, and eventually got a little water down his throat, and by degrees a littie more, then the eyes began to open and the faculties to play their parts, and soon after Mr. Green became sensible again. Mr. Ogilvy left him, and followed the horse's tracks back again to the river, for the double purpose of getting a drink

himself and to fill his boot again for his friend. It took him the remainder of that day to accomplish this journey, but he got back to his friend before dark, and to his great delight found Green sitting up waiting for him. They could speak to each other now; they laid down together again that night, and felt delighted at thinking it would be their last night in the mallee scrub. The next morning Green could walk, and they started on the horse's tracks again for the river and got to it about midday They started at sunrise and had only rather over a mile to walk. This will show how slowly they travelled, poor fellows. When they both got to the river they concluded their troubles were nearly over for they fully expected to come In sight of a cattle or sheep station, and they said to themselves it would be a cattle station, because there were such a lot of cattle tracks. They were now very hungry, and of course very weak. The poor fellows were again doomed to disappointment, for the tracks they had seen were made by " wild cattle," of which there were a good many a long way down the river. They travelled on for four or five days, every hour expecting to sight a station, not knowing that there was none for many weary miles. They would have killed the horse, drank his blood, and eaten the flesh when in the mallee but they were altogether too weak to kill him. However, the day, before I fell in with them they had decided upon killing the little dog and eating him. Oh ! such a dog as he was. The poor little thing was a small terrier with long hair, and so poor that you could almost see his joints through his hair, and was the funniest doggy to look at I ever saw. If they had killed him I don't believe they would have got half a pound of meat off him to eat, but still they buoyed themselves up with the treat they were going to have when they did kill him. They had no knives or anything to kill doggy with, but they intended to hold him by the throat and choke him. " Surely," said they, "if we could not kill the horse we are strong enough, combined, to choke the dog." However, fortune favored doggy, for on this day when walking along they saw a black lubra sitting at the edge of the reed beds with her back to then and who was evidently deaf. They halted, not knowing what to do, for they felt sure they were amongst the blacks. However, they were so close to the poor old woman that they could see she had a number of small fishes in a net in front of her and seemed to be busy sorting them. They thought they would like to take them away from her, but did not feel strong enough to do battle with her in case she should turn on them. However, hunger prompted them, and they walked up to the lubra, who never saw or heard them until they put their hands on her shoulders and pulled her backwards, which did not require much strength to accomplish. The poor old thing was so frightened at the sight of two white men (of course she had never seen one before) that she seemed not to have power to scream or call out for assistance, but jumped up quite bewildered and ran into the reeds, and they saw no more of her, and strange to say, they never saw a black all the time they were on the river. After the old lubra ran into the reeds, Ogilvy and Green gathered up the fish. There were about 20 of them and about the size of sardines. They ate about a dozen of them raw, for they had no means of making a fire, and the balance they were keeping for next day, when they meant to finish the lot. They had these few fishes in the old Iubra's net bag, when I fell in with them. The fact of their having met with the old deaf lubra and taking her fish from her was the means of saving poor little doggy's life. Anyway he would not have been much of a "feed " for them, for, as I said before, he was the most wretched looking of dogs ; if he ever had a stomach he had lost it, for he had no signs of one now— all back bone, legs, hair and tail. The old horse they left behind them, as he was of no use whatever, being too weak to carry anything, and it was troublesome leading him ; we got him in the course of a few days and brought him to our hut, and there being plenty of grass he soon got over his trials. They had travelled up the river five days before I fell in with them, but it is so very long ago that I forget how many days they were in the mallee before they made the river. After we had nursed them up for about a week, attending to their diet and seeing that they did not get too much food at once, they expressed a desire to have a look at the country on the other side of the river. We had understood from the blacks that more white fellows had settled down there, but we had seen nothing of them. To gratify the wish of the two rescued men we got the blacks to fetch a large bark canoe and my brother Edmund, Green and Ogilvy went across the river in it, a black propelling it across. They tied light lines to their horses and swam them over, holding the lines in their hands. When over the river all right, they mounted their horses and rode over the country till past midday, when they saw sheep tracks. They followed these traoks for a considerable distance, when they saw smoke, whioh they shortly discovered came from a hut. At the hut they found a Mr. McTier, who had been sent out by a Sydney firm to look for and take up country, and after travelling for a long time he decided to take up this country, so that Ogilvy and Green were just too late. They remained with Mr. McTier that night. At supper, both Green and Ogilvy took a very hearty meal, neither Mr. McTier nor my brother thinking it would injure them after their being used to food for over a week. True, they had been used to food, but we always took good care to stop them when we considered they had had enough; however, shortly after they had the hearty meal they began to feel unwell, and got to be very bad with pains in the stomach, etc, and it was " touch and go " with them, for they were very nearly killed. . However, they were once more brought round and returned to our place, where they stayed until they were quite well and strong. We sold them a couple of our horses, and they started along Major Mitchell's old track and finally reached Melbourne, and I never saw or heard of them again. (To Be Continued.)