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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Url
Full Date1894-12-29
Page Number31
Word Count3967
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 V. The Killing of Andrew Beveridge.

Having tasted the beef, and probably getting tired of it, or with a desire for change, the blacks made up their minds to kill our sheep, so they travelled down the river to where Andrew Beveridge was located with the sheep.

Andrew used to visit us about once a week, and of course we told him of the blacks having killed some of the cattle. He said, "I suppose the next thing will be an attack on the sheep ; if they do so I will threaten them ; it may frighten them and they will desist." Very soon after this they (the blacks) went to the two shepherds who were always together, well mounted and armed, and having only one flock of sheep, to mind between them, for we had a rule that no one was to be alone. There must be two together. The blacks sneaked on to the sheep, the shepherds never seeing them until they noticed the sheep make a frightened rush, and then they saw about a dozen blacks who had caught about four sheep and were making for the reeds with them. They had come on to the sheep while they were drinking at a small lagoon in the reed beds. The shepherds could do nothing but tell their master (Andrew) when they brought the sheep home in the evening what had happened. The shepherds thought that Andrew seemed to make very light of the matter, as he passed it off by saying, " Oh ! that's all right. They always do this sort of thing in places like this when it is first taken up. They never take many, and we must expect, you know, to lose a few in this way now and then." Andrew's motive in talking this way to the men was that we had a rule that none of us were to tell the men when we had been in danger, or if we had to speak of it to do so in a very light manner. Our reasons for this were that we felt sorely afraid the men might leave us, and we knew quite well they would do so, but that they were afraid they might not find their way back to the settled parts ; and another reason for their not leaving, us was their fear that the black would kill them before they could reach safe country. Andrew talked very differently, however, to black "Mr. Beveridge," telling him to inform tbe blacks that if they took the sheep again he (Andrew) would shoot them dead. Black "Mr. Beveridge" delivered this message to his countrymen, and they sent one in return to the effect that they would kill Andrew first. Andrew kept this message to himself, not thinking it wise to tell the men. The message waa delivered on a Tuesday, and on the following Thursday the blacks again sent to Andrew stating that they would kill him at " narrangee" (daylight) on the following Sunday morning. Black " Mr. Beveridge," begged of Andrew to come to our hut and remain there. Andrew did come up on the Friday afternoon and told us all about, it, keeping it, however, from the men for the reasons before stated. He had partly made up his mind to remain with us, but on Saturday he said, he had determined to go back, because he thought the men would be sure to hear from black "Mr. Beveridge" the cause of his absence, and they would surely all bolt and leave us all to be killed. At any rate we should be at the mercy of the blacks, owing, to being so short handed. We did our utmost to prevail upon Andrew to stay with us, but he would not, and he tried to make us believe that it was only a bit of bounce on the part of the blacks, or consoled himself by saying so. He said, " Oh ! it is all gammon.' If they meant to kill me they would not have warned me." This remark of Andrew's had a lot of reason in it, and we partly agreed with him ; and so, being short handed at our hut, none of us went back with him. Apart from this reasoning, we thought that it was likely the blacks had sent the message to Andrew in order to induce some of us to go down, and, if so, it would be a good chance for them to come and murder those who remained behind. Andrew went back on Saturday, seeming, we all thought, very low spirited, and apparently abstracted in mind. Just before starting he bade us all good-bye, shaking hands, and saying with a forced smile that he would come back again to us next Saturday and stay with us dur-. ing Sunday. He got safely to the camp in the afternoon and found things all right, the two men preparing timber for building the hut, and black " Mr. Beveridge " being also there. He seemed very sorry that Andrew had come back again. The poor fellow, with tears in his eyes, tried very hard to persuade Andrew to come back to us. . The smail tent was occupied by Andrew, and the larger one the men had. They were about 50 or 60 yards apart. In the men's tent all the firearms he had were a couple of small pistols, which he always kept in his, belt beneath his " jumper " or outside his loose serge shirt. Andrew threw himself on his bed dressed as he was on Saturday night, black "Mr. Beveridge" lying down at Andrew's tent doorway. Poor Andrew became very restless and uncomfortable as the night advanced, several times jumping on to the floor and listening. At last, It seems that he could not stand this state of excitement any longer, so he went over, to the men's hut at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning; the men were all fast asleep, and when Andrew woke them up they could not make out what he wanted, or why he came into their hut at that hour. Even now Andrew did not tell the men that he was afraid the blacks were coming to kill him at daybreak, and they remained in ignorance as to the cause of hls being so very unlike himself ; the men noticed, that he seemed very low spirited. He remained in the men's tent for about an hour, and they also noticed that when he was speaking to them, he would stop suddenly and listen. He eventually went back to his own tent and lay down on his bed, but did not sleep. About an hour before daybreak black " Mr., Beveridge " went into Andrew's tent and begged of him to come into the bush with him, because he was quite sure the blacks would soon be there to spear him. The poor fellow was still obstinate, and would not go. Just as the day was breaking a soft "coo-ee" was heard in the reeds, evidently not far off. Andrew said, "They are coming," and got up and walked out of the tent. In a very short time a good many black heads could be seen about the edge of the reed beds, and then suddenly there appeared a great number of blacks. Andrew walked towards them, when they began yabbering, black "Mr. Beveridge" keeping near Andrew, all time. At !ast, the

blaoks took up their spears, and were just going to spear Andrew when black "Mr. Beveridge" caught him in his arms and begged of the blacks not to kill him, calling out, " My brother ! My brother!" (He often called Andrew his brother). When black "Mr. Beveridge" caught hold of Andrew the blacks put down their spears, but only for a short space of time, for after they had another yabber they took them up again. All this time black "Mr. Beveridge " held Andrew clasped in his arms; the blaoks called to him to let him go, but he would not. At last they said that if he did not let him go they would spear him also ; so he had very reluctantly to let go of his friend, and as soon as he did so a shower of reed spears were sent Into Andrew. Some struck and entered his body, and two entered his skull. Before he was quite dead black "Mr. Beveridge" caught up his body and carried it into the tent, where he died in a few seconds. No men could possibly have done more to save his friend than did black " Mr. Beveridge." The blacks, thinking that Andrew would as soon as he became aware of their approach make for the men's hut, had unknown to him placed a line of blacks between the two tents, and we learned afterwards that it was these blacks that were to have speared him, and not those in the reed beds. All the men were fast asleep, and when the noise made by the blacks awoke them they looked out and saw what was up. Tho doorway, of the men's tent faced the blacks, and the other end, where there was no doorway, was almost touching the mallee scrub. The men saw that they would be killed if they went out at the doorway, and they rushed to the other end and bolted into the mallee before the blacks saw them. They had no time to lose, for as soon as the blacks had killed poor Andrew they made for the men, but were just too late. One of the men got a blow from a black's "waddy " just as he was leaving the tent. The blow was aimed at his head, and struck him on the car cutting it clean off. When we subsequently asked why they did not fire at the blacks, seeing that they had plenty of loaded guns and pistols, they replied that the thing came on them so suddenly that they, being hardly awake, did not know what to do. I can well understand this, because they had no leader ; they were not cowards, and I am quite satisfied they would have shown fight if poor Andrew had told them what was about to take place and been there to lead them. I have always thought that it was a very great mistake of Andrew's not to tell the men in time. Surely he could not have been afraid that they would bolt that night when he was in their tent? It is a most extraordinary thing that he did not tell them. Possibly had he done so his life might have been spared. Another extraordinary thing is that Andrew had his two pistols in his belt when the blacks speared him, but he never took them out to fire. Fortunately the blacks did not follow the men into tbe mallee ; it would appear that they did not particularly wish to kill the men ; but probably they would have done so had they been protecting Andrew. After killing Andrew they disappeared as suddenly as they came. One of the shepherds caught his horse and galloped as hard as he could to our place. He reached the hut about 9 o'olook in the morning and told us the sad news of Andrew's murder. He said the sheep were still in the yard and the other men hiding a short distance in the mallee when he left. Within 20 minutes of the shepherd's arrival at our hut a party of us, consisting of Peter Beveridge, a Mr. French and another (I forget who), and myself, started off with all speed to where the murder was committed. The country down to where this took place was open for about 3 miles after leaving our hut, then for the next 10 miles the mallee came in close to the reed beds, so close indeed that there was only space enough to admit one bullock dray passing another. It was a very hot day, and when we arrived at this narrow pass we thought it advisable for each of us to take a drink of water, because we intended to go into the mallee and ride through it parallel with the river for about 10 miles, and then come out about 2 or 3 miles on this side of the camp where the country again became open. Our reason for taking to the mallee was that we guessed the blacks would be on the look out for any of us who might venture down that way, and if we had foolishly gone along the narrow path they oould without much trouble to themselves have stood either in the reeds or the mallee and thrown a spear or two Into each of us and the thrower be perfectly safe because we could not see him. It is well for us that we decided to take the mallee for it. The dangers of the mallee were great, but not, we considered, so great as going along the narrow pass. The two great dangers in taking the mallee were, vis., if we got lost in it we should die from thirst and hunger ; if we kept too much to our left we should get too far in and perhaps never get out again, and if we kept too much to our right we should come out on the narrow pass and the blacks would kill us. We learned afterwards that our surmise as to the blacks keeping watch on the narrow pass for any white fellows was correct. As I said before, we were about to take a drink of water before entering the mallee. We were cautious, and therefore arranged that only two of us should dismount at a time. Of course we were all well armed. Peter and the man whose name I forget were the first to dismount. They took a drink, and Mr. French and I were In the act of dismounting for that purpose, when a low "Coo-ee " was heard apparently not many yards from us in the reed beds. I need hardly say that French and I did not get down for our drink. Oh ! no. In far less time than it would have taken to get a drink we were all some distance in the mallee. Personally I did not mind having been deprived of the drink, because I could stand that sort of thing, but I really pitied French, who suffered from thirst very much, and even those who had been fortunate enough to get a drink complained very much of thirst before we got to our destination. After we had got well into the mallee it was decided that Peter should ride first, and that we would follow, as he was supposed to be the best "bushman." Before we had travelled a couple of miles I began to think that Peter was not going in the proper direction, and after going a little farther I said so, and we rode up to him and mentioned my doubts. He said he knew quite well that he was going right, so we continued to follow him for the next mile. I was more convinced than ever that he was bearing too much to the right, and that if he still kept in that direction we should emerge into the most dangerous part of the pass, where the blacks were. So we again overtook him and I pointed out by the sun that he was taking us too much to the right. "We had no compass with us. At last I said, " I for one will not follow you any further in this direction. The rest can do as they please." After some little time spent in talking, I said it just amounted to this, " I will lead you if you like, for I feel certain I can bring you out safely and at the proper place, but l will not follow Peter any longer," I ought to mention that the other two of our party had never been in the mallee before. I said at last, " Now, gentlemen, whom will you follow, Peter or me? If you follow me I shall start in that direction," pointing to the way I should go. They then cross questloned Peter, who at last confessed that he did not know where he was going. That decided it. I took the lead and they followed me, Peter all the time, of course, saying I was going wrong. These remarks used to annoy me very

greatly, for I had had a good deal of experience in "bushing it," and there was nothing so perplexing as for one or more of a party, who probably knew nothing about it, to keep saying, just within hearing, "Ah! I know he is going wrong." However, by keeping the sun in a certain position, and with care and good luck, I brought them safely out of the mallee at about a mile and a half from where we wanted to get to. Putting our horse to a canter we shortly arrived at the tent. On going into Andrew's tent a most horrible sight presented itself. There lay poor Andrew on the earthen floor of the hut on his stomach, a very long jagged spear sticking up from between his shoulders. This spear must have been driven into him when he was dying, for it had gone right through his chest, the point sticking into the ground. There was also another spear piercing his skull and also a hole in his head caused ity another reed spear, but the spear was gone; there were in addition several spear wounds about the body. The tent Itself was riddled with spear holes. The flour, sugar, blankets and everything in the tent was sprinkled with blood, and poor Andrew lay in a pool of it. It was one of the most sickening and heartrending sights one could imagine, such a one, in fact, that I would not wish my greatest enemy to behold. I took hold of the spear that was in the body thinking I could pull it out, but the number of jags it had made this impossible, so we had to saw It across close to the body and then draw it through his chest. The reed spears were easily taken out. The sheep were still in the yard and no signs of our men or the blacks presented themselves. After having washed the body we carried it into the men's tent and covered it with blankets. We began to speculate as to what we had better do in order to find the men. We concluded from what Bill, the shepherd, had told us that they were not far off in the mallee, but whereabout we knew not. We had tried to induce Bill to accompany us when we left, but he said he would rather die than go to the scene of the murder again. A good Idea was suggested by Mr. French, and that was for us to fire off our guns simultaneously so as to make it appear at a distance that only one gun had been fired off, and to repeat this three or four times. In order that one should not fire before the others he was to count three, and at the last number we were to pull our triggers. Mr. French remarked, " If our men are within a reasonable distance they will hear the report and make back for the tents. We will fire three times, because they might be talking and only think they heard guns go off." The firing had the desired effect, for the men heard the report of the guns. One of the men remarked, " Listen ; I thought I heard a gun go off at the tent"; they did so, and heard the second and third reports. They at once concluded that help had arrived, and started for the tents, although they had their doubts, for they thought that perhaps the blacks might have got at the guns in the tent and were firing them off, but this idea was soon dispelled by someone remarking that if the blacks had got hold of the guns they would not know where the gun caps were, and besides they would not know how to fire, or if they did, would be too frightened to do so. However, the men thought it more prudent to approach the tent cautiously, so when they got near the edge of the mallee they almost crept along, but they soon saw some of us and came forward. Pleased indeed were they to see us. We asked what had become of black "Mr. Beveridge," and they told us that as soon as the blacks had killed Andrew, black "Beveridge" ran into the mallee and they had not seen him since. We now got the working bullocks yoked to the dray, loaded it with what was worth taking away, first of all putting In the corpse and covering it with timber to keep the goods from coming in contaot with it, and started for our hut, driving the sheep along with us. We got safely to our destination at dark, and the following day Sam and Martin dug a grave some little distance away from the back of our hut. When the grave was ready we carried the body very solemnly to it, and one of us read the burial service, and poor Andrew's remains were lowered to their last resting place amidst a dead silence, which continued for some time, for we deeply felt our sad loss. Things were now just about as bad as they could be ; the blacks were still killing our cattle. The men wanted to leave, and as they said " get out of this infernal place," and it took a great deal of persuasion to make them remain with us. I firmly believed that they would have left but that we pointed out that if they deserted us the blacks would kill us, when they discovered we were shorthanded, and that it would be cowardly of them to run away and leave us in the lurch, This last sentence had a great effect upon old Joe, our cook, who had been a pugilist of some repute on the "Sydney side.' He stood up and said, " Yep, mates, it would be cowardly, and I for one will never allow the term coward to be applied to me, and I mean to stay, and so, I am sure, mates, will you." One or two said they were determined to go, whereupon old Joe exclaimed, " You are cowards, and I'm d— d if you shall go away, at least you'll have to lick me first, and after you have done that you won't be much fit for travelling." I knew that this short but very telling speech of old Joe's had a splendid effect, for the rest soon came round to his ideas and said, " All right, we'll stay, we'Il never be called cowards," and, strange to say, they never again hinted at leaving. (To Be Continued.)