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Chapter NumberIV
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Full Date1894-12-22
Page Number29
Word Count3173
Last Corrected2018-05-07
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleOld Time Reminiscences. A True Record of Early Adventures
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By James Kirby, a Colonist of 1840.

Chapter IV. The Black Protector.

Hitherto the reader will see that the blacks had not in any way molested us ; no, they were very quiet, they used to come daily to our hut, and, indeed, sometimes would make their mia-mias a short distance from it, and

sleep there at night; everything, indeed, was going on as well as we could wish. We kept them well supplied with fishing hooks, and gave them a few tomahawks, with which they were delighted. They had no iron tomahawks, nor had they ever seen one until we gave them some; they had nothing better than the stone or flint tomahawk. These flint ones were of a greenish hue, and very hard. They brought them to a thick edge by rubbing them with other stones. The flint itself was left long, in order to fix the handle, whioh handle was composed of a tough stick, and by placing it in the hot ashes brought the stick so that it would bend tightly round the back of the tomahawk about the middle of the stick, and the two ends, whioh would be about 15 inches long, were wound round each other, and thus formed the handle. These instruments were good enough for chopping green bark, but not for hardwood. For cutting any thing in the way of skins, or for sharpening their spears and implements of war, they used the mussel shells, of which they always kept a supply, and were nearly always, when in camp, scraping away at spears, boomerangs, etc. Their mode of getting fire was this; first they would look for a dry log with a suitable crack in it, and having found one, they would get a dry, sound stick, of about an inch in diameter, and by striking one end of it against the log cause it to split up the middle; the next thing was to got some down or dry bloom of the bullrush, fill the crack in the wood with this stuff lightly, and then with the sharp edge of the split stick saw it quickly aoross the orack, and in a surprisingly short time smoke would issue ; and if the black fellow did not get winded, fire would soon follow, but if he ceased rubbing or sawing for one instant all his hard work must be done over again ; it takes a strong, active fellow, with "good staying powers," to create fire. If his lungs are not good, or he is short winded, he need not try to get it. Owing to the severe work in getting fire they were very careful of it when once obtained, and used to carry fire with them during cold weather for the double purpose of keeping it and to warm themselves. They generally used dry strlps of bark for the purpose. One day when all was quiet as usual, some- thing was seen in the direction of Swan Hill which sorely perplexed us to discover what it could be. It would sometimes look like a large, bright star ; at others would give out flashes of a glaring whitish color of fire, and then again nothing would be visible. Again the flashes appeared when we least expected them. This was altogether too much for us. We could not for the life of us make it out. We had a field glass, but it was of no avail. We waited and watched, and at last he with the glass said he could see some- thing moving, and in the course of an hour or so we could discern with the naked eye some- thing white moving, and this something was gradually approaching us. Anyway, it seemed to be coming in our direction. We could still see the flashes I have spoken of. At last we made it out to be a cart with a tilt to it, and as it got nearer we could make out three horsemen. There occasionally came a flash from the horsemen which seemed to us most extra- ordinary. At length we made the puzzle out. It was a spring cart with a white tilt, and one horse drawing it, and the flashes that so per- plexed us were caused by a new crosscut saw which the travellers, for convenience of carriage, had lashed on the outside of the tilt, and when the horse swerved a bit and brought the saw with its flat to the sun it caused the flashes. Anything like this was very exciting in those outlandish parts. The cart contained " the black protector," and the horsemen were two police troopers he had brought with him as a body guard, and the third was a black interpreter. What caused the flashes from the horsemen occasionally was the sun shlning on the policemen's scabbards ; so after all it was not much to be alarmed about, but we conjectured lots of things that were about to happen, and now, at this time, when I think of it, I console myself by saying it was funny. We had now been six months in our new and outlandish home and had not seen a white man since we left Lake Boga when travelling here, except Ogilvy and Green, so that it was only natural that we were pleased to see people of

our own sort, no matter who they might be. In those days, at such far away places one could not look upon them in any other light than as friends, if they were white, and so we gave the black protector and his men a hearty welcome, and were very glad indeed to see them. After hobbling out their horses (we had no paddocks yet) we invited them into the hut, and our cook prepared them a good meal of our best, viz., salt beef, damper and tea, and up till long past our usual bedtime we sat talking and asking questions as to what might have taken place at Melbourne, or the settled parts, since we left. Oh! I it seemed quite grand to hear fresh voices and to look on new faces. I could have sat up all night I liked it so much, but the others were fatigued, so at last we went to bed, or, rather, "got between the blankets." On the following morning the black protector gave us a sort of sermon, in which he beseeched us to be very kind to the blacks, and reminded us that they were brothers in the flesh, that color was only skin deep, and so forth, and finished by saying that if we were to kill any of them we should be as guilty of murder in the sight of God and man as though they were white men; and then, after repeating the Lord's prayer he told us he should feel obliged if we could get a lot of the blacks to assemble at the hut, as he wished to convey to them through his black interpreter that it was our earnest wish and desire to be kind to them and to live in peace with each other. By this time we had induced a blackfellow, one of the finest looking in the tribe, to stop with us, and as this fellow seemed to take such a great liking to Andrew Beveridge (he did not care so much for names we had bestowed on some of the other blacks, (such as Jacky, Billy, Tommy or Bobby), he wanted to be called Mr. Beveridge, we complied with his wish and named him "Mr. Beveridge." Now to comply with the black protector's request we started black "Mr. Beveridge" off to acquaint them that more white fellows had come and wished to see as many blacks as they could at our hut. In response to this invitation a goodly number of biacks put in an appearance on the following day, and on their arrival the black protector desired his two policemen to accompany him outside the hut. He seemed very nervous, we thought (in plain English, frightened). After saying a short prayer to himself he walked out very majestically, the two police close behind him, and the black interpreter by his side. He said some thing to his interpreter, and then the interpreter said something to the blacks, which, of course, the blacks did not understand ; nor was it at all likely that they would ; for he ought to have known that throughout the whole colony the blacks have different "lingoes," even within a distance of 10 or 15 miles. But it was all right, the Government would pay expenses. I don't know that the black interpreter would be paid, but feel certain the black protector got paid for the interpreter's services. Strictly speaking, it was the black protector's duty to have come to these parts before any white people came to settle down. He was supposed to pave the way by interviewing the wild blacks, thus making it tolerably safe for white people to come after him. But he knew a trick worth two of that. He let the white people go first, and when they had been there long enough, as he supposed, to have made friends with the biacks, he would just, " to take the down off," make his appearance, always, of course, taking care that he was well guarded at the Government expense. After the black protector had gone through a lot of humbug by telling his interpreter to convey to the blacks his desire to be on peaceable terms with them, and a lot of bosh, which neither the interpreter nor the blacks under stood, he in a very commanding manner turned to us and said, " Run in one of the best bullocks you have on tha station, shoot it, and give it to the blacks." What with the interpreter's signs, a few of their words and a few of ours, we made the blacks understand what was going to be done for them, at which they seemed very pleased indeed. They were told to come again the next day and the fat bullock would be killed for them. After getting our breakfast, Peter and I went out to run in a good bullock. We had a stock yard built by this time, so the bullock was run into the yard, and soon after a great number of blacks came, smiling all over their faces. It was going to be a great feast for them, and they seemed delighted at the prospect. At length the blaok protector issued from our hut and desired his interpreter to beckon the blacks to come near him. He still used caution, and had the two polioe troopers at his back, for fear, I suppose, that the blacks might devour him. He then made another slow set speech to the blacks, which, of course they did not understand. He then said, " Now let the bullock be shot, and let there be no mistake about the shooting. Let there be no misfire or occasion for a second shot, for I want the biacks to see what a reliable and deadly weapon the rifle is, and bear in mind, gentlemen; that I shall see you paid for this bullock." I used always to carry, slung on my back, a very good short rifle, and also two horse pistols. Peter was armed the same. They were uncomfortable articles to carry on horse- back every day, riding after the cattle, but it had to be done, and we would not be allowed to leave the hut without our firearms. From practice with this short rifle I became a very good shot, and I was asked to shoot the bullock. There was a tree in the stock yard up which I climbed, and took good aim, dropping the bullock first shot. This pleased the black protector and rather astonished the blacks. Giving away the bullock was done by the black protector, who went into the yard and invited the whole of the blacks to come and help themselves. The blacks set to work at once, and with their mussel shells and stone tomahawks cut the bullock up in junks as big as one could conveniently carry on his head. It did not take them long to finish the job, for they cut through the hide and flesh with the shells, and with their tomahawks cut or broke the bones. They made a clean sweep of it ; took everything away, both the inside and outside. It was ail one to them ; all would do to eat. A few days after giving the bullock to the blacks the black protector, police troopers and interpreter left us and made their way back to the settled parts, where doubtless the black protector felt much safer. It was a great curse and misfortune that he ever came near us, for I attribute Andrew Beveridge's death by the blacks and our other losses and misfortunes to - the black protector's visit, and to his giving them the bullock, for up to this time we were getting on very nicely indeed, so much so that we decided on taking up more country farther down the river, and with this end in view my brother Edmund went back to, Melbourne to purchase a flock of sheep. He bought 2000 ewes down that way, engaged two shepherds, and travelled up again with them, arriving at our hut without loss of sheep or casualties. On their arrival Mr. Andrew Beveridge said that he would take charge of the sheep, as he had more liking for them than for cattle.

Accordingly, he set out taking with him the sheep, the two men we brought up with us for building the hut, etc. (Sam and Martin), the two shepherds, a man cook and one of our bullock drivers, a horse for each of the shepherds and one for himself, a bullock team and dray with rations, etc. After travelling down the river for about 15 miles he camped and set Sam and Martin to work to make a yard to put the stock in at night and to build the hut. While the hut was being built they lived in tents formed with tarpaulins, the men occupying the large end and Andrew the smaller one. I forgot to mention the black "Mr Beveridge" accompanied them; he seemed so attached to Andrew that he would not leave him. The two shepherds got 50 pounds a year each, horses to ride, and were supplied with guns and pistols. Soon after Andrew left with the sheep, and about a fortnight after the black protector had gone, the blacks came and made known to us that they wanted another bullock. This request of course we refused to comply with, and they went away seemingly very angry and "yabbered" a good deal in their own language which of course we did not understand, but concluded they were angry at not getting what they wanted. In the course of a few days, when Peter and I were out among the cattle, we saw a nice cow with a spear hanging from her, and the cattle were excited and not at all in the contented state in which we usually found them. We took the cow to the yard and removed the spear ; the next day we came a place where the blacks had killed a beast there being blood and bullock's hair on the ground, and the tracks of blacks. We now plainly saw that our troubles were beginning. The blacks did not come to our hut now, although we had, as we thought, given them no cause to be unfriendly with us. We sent black "Mr Beveridge" to try if he could to bring the blacks back again to peace. He returned on the following day and made us understand that the blacks said that we were no good and that we ought to give them bullocks like the good white man who had gone away, meaning, of course, the black protector.This sad news made us very gloomy, for although we were most anxious to be on friendly terms, we hardly knew how to accomplish it.We thought of giving them another bullock, but we knew enough of their nature to feel assured that no matter how much we gave them they would still want more, and this weakness of theirs I have found in the other tribes I have come in contact with throughout the colony. We abandoned the idea of giving them another bullock, as we knew that they would never be satisfied. At the same time we decided not to take action in the matter of their killing without leave one, or even two, bullocks, thinking we might have a chance of quietly advising them through black "Mr Beveridge" not to kill any more. Accordingly, we sent the latter to the tribe to arrange this matter for us, but they gave him no satisfaction, for when he returned we asked him how he got on, at which he shook his head and said, "Me think he killing more cattle." Things were getting worse and worse, the blacks killing cattle in sight of our hut, and with our glass we could see them cutting up the beast they had speared. I must here state that there was a long plain between our hut and Swan Hill, bordered on one side by the reed beds, and on the other by the mallee scrub, and this plain in some places was nearly a mile wide, while in others it only measured half that distance, so if we saw the blacks from our hut killing a beast on this plain no matter how fast we rode, they would run into reeds or the mallee before we could arrive at the place of slaughter, therefore all we could do was to sit on our horses and look at the prime beef that had been hacked about, probably half of it carried away. They never bled the beast, consequently the meat was all over blood and dirt. They knew very well we would not dare to follow them into the mallee or reeds, because they could throw a spear into us and we would not see the thrower, owing to the tall reeds or the mallee. The blacks have been bad in other parts of the colony, but I never could understand that they could be so very bad if the country were open, but with country like we had, the blacks had a very great advantage, for to follow them into the ambush of reeds or mallee meant surely death. ( To Be Continued )