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Chapter NumberVII
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Full Date1895-01-12
Page Number27
Word Count4015
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.

Chatter VII. More Incidents of the Time.

The imaginary boundary between the Lake Boga run and ours was about Swan Hill ; of course there were no surveys down our way in those days, but , we agreed between ourselves that we should endeavour to keep our cattle from

going beyond Swan Hill, and Lake Boga were to try and prevent theirs from coming on our side of it. While the blacks were so bad at our place, they were cunning enough to be at peace with Lake Boga; they considered it would not suit them at all to be unfriendly with both places; they also kept on good terms with Mr. McTier across the river. By doing this they thought they always had, some safe place to fly to, but this they intended should only last for a time. They were now just beginning to spear the Lake Boga cattle, and Mr. Baker, the person in charge, thought it best to take no notice of it, provided they did not go too far. When we first came in contact with the blacks, and as soon as we could understand each other a bit, their chief wish seemed to be for us to give them names, and for some time a mob of from six to a dozen a day would come to our hut to be named. They got so numerous at last that all such names as Jacky, Bobby, Charley, Tommy and Dicky became exhausted, and we had to resort to some of a more aristocratic nature — such as Sir Robert Peel. The fellow we called "Sir Robert Peel" was a fine tall fellow, deeply pock marked, and a great scoundrel to boot. We noticed several of the blacks were pock marked, but they were all old men. It is quite evident from this that small-pox was in the colony before the white people came to it. It sometimes occurred that if Mr. Baker or his stock riders happened to be after their cattle Swan Hill way, and the day getting advanced, and probably our place would be nearer to them than their own, they would come and stop the night with us, and we sometimes in like manner would go to Lake Boga for the night. The blacks were In the habit of coming to the Lake Boga hut, and this scoundrel, Sir Robert, belonged to that tribe. He was known to have killed two, if not three, white men, and he had a hand in the murdering of Faithfield's man, a long distance up the river. Faithfleld's party were coming from the "Sydney side" with stock for Port Phillip; (Melbourne) when the Murray blacks attacked and killed them, and this fellow, Sir Robert, was one of the murderers. Mr. Baker used to say, "I would like to settle that fellow, but, of course, would not do so in cold blood." As I have said, the blacks were just beginning to spear the Lake Boga cattle, and as no notice had been taken of it, they still, under the pretence of being friendly, used to come to the hut. Baker and I had been out one day among their cattle, and we saw where the blacks had killed a beast the day before. When we got back to the hut my noble Sir Robert was there. Baker said, " That scoundrel was in the killing of that beast, I know, and I would like to serve him out." 'The blacks were camped for the night a short distance from the hut, and Baker thought of a plan for paying Sir Robert out. After we got our supper, Baker took an auger and with It bored a hole in one of the blocks which were used for seats ; he then filled this hole with gun powder, and near the bottom of the hole he made a smaller one with a gimlet, and made a fuse and put it to the gimlet hole. He then placed the block against the slab wall of his bedroom. Ths interatices between the slabs were rather open, a circumstance not unknown in those days, for no one looked for comfort, and the word draught was never mentioned ; we never used to catch cold. After Baker had got the block charged and everything to his liking, he went to the camp of the blacks and prevailed upon Sir Robert to come and have some tucker. Robert accepted the invitation and he was invited into the hut and told to take seat on the block ; he was going to sit on the ground, but Baker would not have it. He must sit up like a white fellow. When Sir Robert was seated on the block, a piece of damper and beef were given to him, together with some tea. He was enjoying it very much when Baker went into his bedroom smoking his pipe, and while there, he applied the

lighted pipe to the fuse, which came through the interstices, and we waited for the result. Robert was just taking a drink of tea with his mouth full of food when "bang" went the log, and it sent Robert up to the ridgepole. He came down from the roof on his foot, and away he bolted screaming and shouting at the top of his voice. " It is a wonder it did not kill him," said Baker, " but if it had it would only have been an accident. He ought to have been hanged long ago." The blacks kept away from the hut after Sir Robert's blow up. Shortly after this Mr. Curlewis sent a mob of horses, mares chiefly fo breeding purposes. They came from the "Sydney side." Horses were very dear in those days, and Baker was sadly afraid the blacks would spear a lot of them, so he put them on the other side of the lake, and the stock riders used to mind them there. The blacks did not oome near the hut for a good while. One day when I happened to be at Lake Boga, Baker said to me, " Come on round the lake a bit and have a look at the horses that have arrived." We went, and after looking at them were making back again for the hut. The two men were coming with us. By-and- bye one of them said, " I can see something moving near the hut." So we pulled up and looked intently in the direction indicated. At last Baker said, "By George, it's blacks, and they will kill old Jimmy, the cook, before we

can get to him " (he was alone in the hut). With that we started at a gallop, and when we got nearer we could see a number of blacks sneaking along under the bank of the lake ; the hut stood not far from the lake. When we got within 500 yards of the hut a black sprang out from the cover of a saltbush and threw a spear at Baker, which fortunately did not hit him, but the horse was frightenod and swerved suddenly, nearly throwing his rider, who, however, clung to the horse's neck, and by good luck regained his seat. When we got to the hut we called to Jimmy to hand out the firearms. He, not dreaming of such danger, was sitting on his bunk mending an old pair of trousers. On looking out, however, he soon saw what was up, and by the time we had emptied the guns we carried, he handed out the loaded guns. Lake Boga, iike ourselves, always kept plenty of guns loaded, hanging round the inside of the hut. The blacks ran into the lake, but the shore shelved in so far that it was not deep enough for them to swim or dive in. They thus became good targets for us, A lot of these fellows never came near the hut again or ever attempted to kill man or beast after. No, they were very peaceable after this— I mean the fellows who made targets of themselves, not the other fellows who ran away. In fact, they might have died for all we knew. Sir Robert never killed anyone after this; he may have died also for all we knew. We had quite given up the idea of keeping the country on which poor Andrew was killed. We had to abandon it as there were not enough of us to cope with the blacks, and some time after we had made up our minds to do this a Mr. Brierley and another man came riding to our place from the direction of Swan Hill. We were very glad to see them, and still more so when Brierley told us he had a big mob of cattle coming on. They would, he thought, reach our place by the following night. He said he wanted country, and asked us what sort it was lower down the river. We related our sad experience of it, and that we had reluctantly to give it up owing to being

short handed. He asked if we any any objection to his taking it up. We told him we certainly had not, indeed, on the contrary we were only too glad at the prospect of having more white people there, because the more there came, the sooner these black wretches would be stilled. In due time Brierley's men and oattle arrived, and we gave them a hand down as far as where Andrew was killed, but Brierley formed his camp about five miles lower down. Brierley, like ourselves, brought a couple of white men with him for building huts, &c.; he had also two stock riders, a bullock driver and a cook. One of the stock riders was called Smoker, I remember, and about this gentleman I shall have something to say later on. The cattle belonged to a Mr. Cogill, and Mr. Brierley was instructed to go and look for country, and if he found any suitable, he was to take charge of the station when formed and manage it for Mr. Cogill. Tba blacks treated Brierley's party somewhat the same as they treated us at first, and led them to believe that they were going to be very friendly with them, and they remained quiet for considerable time, occasionally spearing a bullock, but nothing more; but up our way they were simply terrible. We were afraid we should have to abandon the place. At this time the boundary line was not run between Adelaide and Melbourne, or rather between South Australia and Port Phillip. We applied to the authorities in Melbourne for protection. They thought we were in South

Australia, and referred us to that colony, the authorities there referring us back again to Melbourne, so that between the two we got no protection at all, and matters with us were getting worse every day. What with riding all day, heavily armed, after the cattle, and two of us having to watch during the night for fear the blacks would set flre to our hut and burn it down, it was enough to wear us out. I, being young (only 17 years old), felt the want of a good night's sleep, for month after month, riding as we used day after day, trying our best to keep the cattle from the blacks, we got very little peace. One evening, after getting my supper,. I was very soon in bed and asleep, and it was just awful to be called when sleeping soundly and told it was time for you to get up and watch. Many a time I felt that I had not been in bed an hour when, perhaps, I had been four or five. The reason why we were so afraid the blacks would fire the hut while we were asleep was because one day at the time the blacks visited us the scoundrel, Sir Robert, stood at the door of the hut talking to the other blacks, when we caught the word "wanup," he pointing to the walls of the hut and then to the roof, which was thatched with reeds, the walls being of pine, both being very inflammable materials. The word " wanup " signified fire, and so from that time we were always in dread that they might throw a fire spear into our thatch and if they did so our shelter and protection would be gone and we very probably burned in our beds. As I have before mentioned, there were always blacks round the hut at night, although never in the daytime. We never could see the fellows, although we watched for them, but we could hear them as one would cough or make some sort of noise. Our ohief object in watching was to see that none of them had a fire spear, which, of course, we could see in the dark, and we knew they had no way of making a fire

quickly, as they had no matches, and we were not foolish enough ever to give them any ; in fact I do not suppose one of them had ever seen such an article. One afternoon, to our agreeable surprise, three horsemen arrived at our hut. We were pleased indeed to see them, and more so when they told us they were policemen, come to give us protection. Sergeant Jones, of Mount Alexander, heard by some means of the state of affairs down our way and that we wanted, protection, had applied for it, but unsuccessfuliy, so he took upon himself to oome to

us and bring the two men he had under him with him. They stayed with us a few days and made all inquiries from us concerning Andrew's death. The sergeant said it was his full determination to capture the murderers if possible. He asked if any of us oould identify the murderers. Old Joe, the cook, was the only one who saw the spears thrown, and said he could pick out the man who threw them. Now, it was of no use thinking about getting hold of them at our place, as the blacks were not now friendly with us and never came near in the daytime ; how ever, as they were friendly down at Brierley's, the sergeant decided on going there. Accordingly, a party was made up, consisting of the sergeant, the two policemen, my brother Edmund and old Joe, the cook. The police changed their uniforms for plain clothes, with which we supplied them, and the party then started. They had their blankets rolled up, covering up their swords and fire arms, whioh were strapped in front of them on their saddles. When the party arrived at Mr. Brierley's there were some blacks about the place, and the sergeant gave out that his party were going further down the river in searoh of new country and that they had a big mob of cattle ooming on. Old Joe did not know any of the blacks he saw there, neither did my brother, as he had been away a good time when bringing up the sheep, and in

consequence neither did the blacks know him, although it was at first feared they would. The sergeant's party made themselves very agree able to the blacks, and promised them that if they came two days after they would give them (the blacks) "plenty tucker." The next day there were no blacks about, so the sergeant, with the help of the others, cut a lot of stout mallee sticks, and with them fenced in a small space in front of the hut. They finished this by evening, and then they cut about 4 or 5 feet of a good strong, light rope, in which they made a hang man's noose. They then made some more of these noosed ropes. Their plan was to entice the blacks into the enclosure they had made, and get them to partake of a mixture they had prepared for them, consisting of flour and water mixed in milk dishes, adding a little sugar by way (as Joe said) of a " sweetener." The blacks came at the appointed time, the milk dishes were placed on the ground within the enclosure, and the blacks invited to "fall to." Accordingly, a lot of them squatted on the ground, and lapped up this mixture with their hands, and seemed to he enjoying it very much. While they were thus engaged, the sergeant gave one of the pieces of rope to my brother, and one each to the two policemen. Old Joe was to stand in the hut, and look through the hole which answered for a window. My brother and two policemen were to walk round at the back of the blacks seated on the ground, carrying the ropes in a playful manner with them. The blacks, of course, could not understand English, so old Joe said, "I can see three fellows there that I could swear to having thrown spears at Mr. Andrew." "Which are they, Joe ?" said tho sergeant ; "speak, but do not point at them." Old Joe kept talking to those with the ropes, and when he got them stationed behind the three fellows he wanted, he said, "Now, then, pop it on them." As soon as Joe gave this out the nooses were thrown over the heads of the three wanted, and pulled tight, so as to nearly choke them; this accomplished, the sergeant, as pre-arranged, fired a gun over their heads, and as the blacks had oome in a friendly manner, they brought no weapons with them, and they were so bewildered at seeing

the three so suddenly roped, and at the gun going off just over their heads, that the free ones bolted for the river as fast as they could run, and in a terrible fright. Previous to the arrival of the blacks at the enclosure, the sergeant had caused a bullock chain to be fastened by each end to the stakes of one of the sleeping bunks, and to this chain he intended to handcuff the prisoners. Now came a tussle, viz., to get these three fellows into the hut. They were all powerful men, and it took all the united strength of the white men to bring them in and handcuff them to the chain. It was accomplished at last, and the three prisoners were put in a sitting posture under the bunk after being safely handcuffed. The blacks who ran away at the time of taking the prisoners called out in their own lingo to the latter that they would return in a large body at daylight next morning, kill the white fellows and rescue the prisoners. The prisoners, fortunately, were not cunning enough to keep this piece of intelligence to themselves, but made it known to those in the hut as a kind of threat. Sergeant Jones at once decided to send up the river for more help, so my brother was despatched at once to our hut, where he arrived safely and made known at once what had taken place. Upon hearing the news George Beveridge, Mr. French and myself at once started on horseback to Brieriey's. In addition to the threats made by the prisoners that the blades would attack the sergeant's party next day they also told them that they would form a line at the dangerous narrow passage I

have previously mentioned, in order, If possible, to prevent any help coming from us, so my brother cautioned us not to go that way but through the mallee. My brother got a fresh horse and rode fast to Lake Boga for more help and also to send a message from there to Reedy Lake, in order to get as strong a party together as possible ; but, the day being far advanced, it was feared this much needed help would not be down at the place by daylight. French, George Beverldge and I got down all right, although we had about 12 miles of dense mallee to go through. After arriving at Brierley's and having supper, we set to work cutting holes in the sides of the hut to fire through. We made a good many, about the size of a mortise hole in a post. This done, we set about making cartridges, and in a few hours we had a good number made. The next, thing was to make another table, as we wanted two— one for the loaded and one for the unloaded firearms. The sergeant then gave orders as to what we were to do when the blacks made the attack. Mr. French was told to load the guns and pistols for us (but not to flre or do anything else), and for this purpose he had one table, (the other table being exclusively, for the loaded arms. When any of us had fired a gun or a pistol we were to lay it on the " unloaded " table, and when we wanted a loaded gun we were to take it from the "loaded" table, thus preventing confusion. We had no boards for making a second table, so we stripped a sheet of bark from off a box tree, spread it out as flat as possible, then driving four stakes into the floor of the hut nailed the bark on to them. Young Farrell (the policeman) was told to do nothing but look after the prisoners, for it was feared that, owing to their hands being very small and thin and their wrists very muscular, they might "slip their handouffs" when the fight began.

Farrell was to guard them with a drawn sword, but on no account to touch the firearms. The door of the hut was very insecure, being only a piece of bullock hide nailed on a frame. Windows there were none, there being merely a square hole cut in the slabs at the end of the hut and another In front of it. Those holes were closed at night with a pieces of bark, which in the daytime was taken out and hung up by a thong of green hide. This thong was about 12 or 15 inches long, and It was one of these thongs that saved the sergeant's life— how I will show later on. During the night time, when we were making

these preparations, we could now and then hear the blacks heaping spears at the back of the hut. We oould also hear them whispering through the cracks to the prisoners, who answered them back in whispers. We had now everything in readiness for the fight, and I may add we meant to fight. When all was prepared some of our people (eight in all) laid down on their bunks for a sleep, others watching. I had no bunk and had been watching. After our watch was relieved, the sergeant said, "You two (meaning the young policeman and me) had better have a snooze if you can." It wanted now about two hours to daybreak, so the policeman and I laid down on the floor with our feet towards ths door, and although in the midst of danger, went fast asleep. I need hardly say how we listened during that night for the sound of the horses coming, nor how earnestly we wished to hear someone call out in our own tongue, "Hallo! mates, here we are," or something like that; but no such sound reached us. When on the alert, listening for those you are expecting, one catches at every slight sound. One and two or three times during the night we thought we heard help ooming, and then one would say, "No ! it is not them; it is those wretches sneaking more spears at the back of the hut." (To Be Continued.)