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Chapter NumberIX
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Full Date1895-01-26
Page Number28
Word Count4401
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 IX. A Remarkable Request and Its Sequel.

Before the white men arrived to help us we had put all our saddles and bridles, including the spare ones, outside the hut, a little distance from each other, and on their arrival we did the same with theirs. This was done with a

view to lead the blacks to believe there were more white men who had come down in the night, than there really were, and I quite believe it had the desired effect, for I am sure that only for this ruse they would have attacked the hut on the second night . The cavalcade reached our hut in good time in the evening, and it was considered the worst had passed, for we had now comparatively open country to go through. After resting the night, a good many of those who had come to our assistance started for their own homes early in the morning. I will here relate something that very muoh surprised us before leaving Brierley's. The sergeant asked him if he would write a description of the fight in order that he might take it to Melbourne with him, and hand it to the Herald (I think the paper was called), while the sergeant himself would write an account of it to be given to his superior officer. Mr Brierly acquiesced, and had written a portion, when the sergeant (after seeming very uneasy

for a while) asked Brierley to "stop for he had something very terrible on his mind, that he was almost afraid to give utterance to." Mr. Brierly ceased writing, and of course was surprised at the remarks made by the sergeant. The sergeant at last commenced by saying, " Oh ! it's terrible. Oh ! It's terrible. " What's the matter ?" said Brierley. The sergeant replied "May I call young Klrby and two or three of the others who took the most active part in the fight to come into the hut, and will you also request all the others to go far enough from it to be out of hearing ? Oh ! it's terrible, it's terrible, yet I have a chance." I and a couple more were asked to go Into the hut, and the others walked off some little distance, wondering what the matter was. Shortly after we had gone inside the sergeant addressed us thus, " Gentlemen, you have it now in your power to do me the greateat favor i have ever had done to me in my life, and the favor I am about to ask of you is one that will in no way injure you, but will be greatest blessing to me, if you will comply with it." Here the sergeant again, almost broke down, and once more exclaimed " Oh ! it's terrible, I can hardly bring myself to speak of It" He had by this time worked himself into such a sad state that way one and all, pitied him, and could not conceive what this favor that we were able to confer could possibly be. At last he summoned up courage, and continued, "Gentlemen, you will be surprised to hear that l am a prisoner of the Crown for the term of my natural life, and I feel sure that the happy moment that I have been longing, hoping aud praying

for, although unexpected, has at length arrived." Of course we assured him that anything that lay in our power to help or assist him we should be only too pleased to do, for he was a favorite with us all, and how suoh a fine gentlemanly looking man as he was could ever be a convict surprised us extremely. The sergeant oontinued, " I feel sure, gentlemen, if you will do what I am about to ask it will be the means of getting me a free pardon. We assured him that we would comply with his wish, if at all reasonable, " So now, sergeant tell us what you would have us do." "I will, he answered, " and will be as brief as I can."' He then went on to say that he had to send in to his superior officer a written account of the fight and the capture of tbe three prisoners, and what he most earnestly desired of us was to allow him to make it appear that he was the most active and did the most work in the fight. He went on to say that, doubtless, we would get a lot of praise through the medium of the Herald and other papers, but this empty praise will not be of much benefit to you a few years hence. Then, turning to me, he said, " Mr. Kirby, I consider your actions throughout have been most courageous, not only in the fight, but also in your daring ride through 25 miles of dense mallee in order to obtain help for us, and you deserve all and great praise. You knew that the blacks would kill you if they overtook or waylaid you, and you also knew that if you made a mistake in your path you might die for want of water on the one hand, or be exposed to the blacks on the other, and again, you might get lost and die, leaving your bones to bleach. Yes ! It would have been a horrid death for you, not a soul near to say "Good bye." He then addressed the others, spoke highly of their courage, etc , and then concluded by remarking, "Now, I want you all to allow me to take credit to myself for deeds which you have done, and for which deeds, as I have said before, you would only get empty praise, but if I got the praise due to you it will, I feel sure, be the means of getting me a 'free pardon,' which, gentlemen, I need not tell you, would be the greatest boon you could possibly bestow on me." The reader of these chapters (especially the last one) will most probably have set me down as an egotist, but I must remind her or him that I am writing of my own personal trials and bush pioneering in the early days of the colony, and that I am writing from memory about facts concerning myself, and that there is no fiction about it. Had I intended to give any other than a "plain unvarnished tale," I should probably have described how the " sun rose, the breezes blew, the river flowed," etc.; but as the intelligent reader already knows that these things happen in the due course of nature, I have refrained from thus prolonging my narrative. To return to our story. When the sergeant had concluded his appeal to us we, one and all, gave consent most willingly that any praise due to any or either of us should be transferred to him, and so shaking hands with him hoped he might succeed in getting his pardon. Mr. Brierley and the sergeant then sat to work to write out an account of the capture and fight, which the sergeant, after reading to us, put in his pocket and took with him to Melbourne. On his arrival at the metropolis, he handed the report to the proper authorities, and in due course of time it was considered, and the outcome was that the sergeant got free pardon, and I for one was very pleased and I am sure the others were also. It may, perhaps, interest the reader to learn what the scrape was that caused the sergeant to be transported for life. Simply it was this. When a young man, in the old country, he was sent to college. The collegians were like many of that class, a little inclined to be wild and fond of playing practical jokes. One night they played a joke on an old gentleman, through which he met with an accident, and ultimately his death. On hearing this sad news, the sergeant and his comrades gave themselves up to justice, and were tried for it. The sergeant not thinking it would be such a serious matter, took the blame wholly upon himself, in order to shield his friends, and this resulted in transportation for life. At the time of playing the joke, they had not the remotest

idea of injuring the gentleman, much less of killing him. I believe every word the sergeant uttered, for he had not the slightest taint of the criminal in him. I must now take my readers back to where I left the prisoners, viz., our hut. We will find them still there, but they propose starting for Melbourne the following morning, The sergeant said he should require one of our party to accompany him on the journey, as he was afraid of being molested, and he accordingly pressed George Beveridge "in the Queen's name," to go with him. They led the prisoners to Melbourne in the same way that they had from Brierley's to our hut, the prisoners walking alongside the horse, the sergeant leading one, and the two policemen one each, George Beveridge riding in front. Th party got on all right as far as the Reedy Lake station, and as the blacks seemed tired and did not lead well, they thought that if they had a spring cart and horse they could get on much better, so the sergeant left them for a while and rode to Mr. Cooper's station where he heard there was a spring cart. Mr. Cooper told the sergeant he was quite welcome to the cart and also a horse to draw it, so he drove it back to Reedy Lake, leading his own horse behind. Next morning they made another start and thought now they had the blacks in the cart they would got along famously, but unfortu- nately, on the second day, it being very hot weather one of the tires came off the wheel and they could not get it on again, so there was nothing for it but to abandon the cart, and proceed in the manner they had formerly done. In speaking of the fight with the blacks I mentioned, that when the sergeant prevented

Farrell (the policeman) from running one of the prisoners through with his sword, the policeman took hold of the sword by the blade and struck the black right in tho face with it with all his might. This blow knocked the black down, and he remained there quiet enough after that. Now, Farrell was leading the same black, and when they got to the Serpentine Creek the foremost of the party went down the bank for the purpose of getting a drink. Farrell and the black were some little distance behind and intended to go also for a drink, but the instant the foremost were out of sight behind the bank Farrell's black took advantage of his being alone (though only for a few seconds of time), to spring like a kangaroo as quiok as lightning round the horse's tail, and In a twinkling had snatched the sword out of the policeman's scabbard and made a blow at him, but Farrell escaped by throwing himself off on the other side of the horse. The policeman had nothing now to defend himself with but a riding whip, the black struck several times at him, the policeman warding off the blows with his whip, which got cut in two places. During this time Farrell was calling for help, and the whip being now cut to pieces he put up his arm and the black struck it and nearly severed it at the elbow joint. By this time the others heard the calling, and George having no prisoner, was the first up the bank and ran to give assistance. George ran up at the back of the black, who was facing the policeman, and, catching the sword, wrenched It from him. The black, who was a big, powerful fellow, then picked up a big stick and made at George, who,

not knowing how to use sword, made a blow at the black, and struck him on the head with the flat of the blade, which broke it in two. The black, nothing daunted, made another rush at George, who, stepping backwards, fell, and the black over him ; and before he could get up the others from the creek had hold of him. When those from the creek got hold of the black, he fought like a bull dog, but was soon over powered. After binding up the policeman's arm in the best manner they could, having no means to do it properly, they halted for an hour or two, in order that the wounded man might to a certain extent, get over the pain, and feel fit for travelling again. He managed to get on to George's horse, which was a very quiet one and easy to ride. The others then mounted ; George was to lead the black the wounded man had previously led. During the halt the black had laid on the ground apparently sulky, for he uttered not a word. They lifted him to his feet, adjusted the chain and were about to start, but as soon as they moved the black threw himself again on the ground, and would not walk a step. After dragging, lifting and shoving, they had to give it up, for he would not move a peg. They hardly know now what to do. At last Farrell said, "Put him on the horse, George, and you walk." They adopted this pian, but it would not work, for no sooner did the horse move than tho black fell off purposely ; they put him on again with a like result. At length they got tired of lifting him on, for he would not attempt

to keep on, and they began to think they were foiled again, but young Farrell suggested what to do and that was to put him with his stomach across the saddle, then strap his head to one side of the girth, and his feet to the other, so that he could not possibly fall off then. They finally adopted this plan, and it answered, but it made the black very sick ; so after travelling a good distance they thought they would unstrap him, sit him up in the saddle, and make him hold on by the horse's mane, but it was no go, for as soon as they started he let himself fall off again like a log, so they had to resort to the former method again, and in this way they performed nearly all the remainder of the journey. This was "the sulks" in every sense of the word, for he never spoke from the time he attacked the policeman with his sword till shortly before his trial in Melbourne, where he was subsequently hanged. Without doubt the cause of his watching for an opportunity to attack the policeman was revenge for the policeman having struck him so hard with the handle of the sword at the time of the fight.

CHAPTER X. Conclusion. The police arrived in due time at Melbourne with the blacks, and the latter were taken to the gaol, and in the course of time were tried for the murder of Andrew Beveridge. Two of them were found guilty and sentenced to death. Old Joe was the principal witness, but he could not swear positively to one of the prisoners, so he was discharged ; while, as I before mentioned, the other two were hanged. The discharged man was escorted through the other tribes by policemen, as he would havs been killed if unprotected. The police left him when they got to where they considered he was safe, and returned to Melbourne. I must here mention that before leaving Melbourne the police took this man to see the other two hanged, so that he might tell his friends what the white man had done to them for killing Andrew. Instead, however, of this having a good effect on his tribe, it had quite the contrary. I have before mentioned that a Mr. McTier had taken up the country on the other side of the river, opposite us. He bred sheep alone, and for these of course he had to keep shepherds. These consisted of a father and his two grown up sons. Mr. McTier put up a little hut on the verge of a little creek, about six miles from his own habitation. The father

used to do the cooking for himself and sons, the latter going out with the sheep every morning, returning with them to the hut in the evening. One morning the father and sons took a walk up the creek to see if they could find any more water holes in it. This was a little less than a month after the black had returned from Melbourne. Not dreaming of danger, because the blacks were friendly on their side of the river, they walked about a mile or so up the creek, where they found a nice water hole, and it being a hot day they went down the bank to get a drink. While they were drinking the blacks sneaked upon them, and before they knew what was up the blacks put a noose made out of "compung," and choked them in the same manner that we had ourselves caught the murderers, but they Improved upon our method, for they worked in a short piece of the sharp end of spears, about 2 inches long, and when they pulled the noose tight this sharp piece of wood went clear through the windpipe. Their bodies were found some time afterwards with the nooses round their necks, and the pieces of wood penetrating the wind pipe. No blacks

were ever caught for this murder. Matters at our hut were just about the same. The blacks never showing in the day time, exoept the sentlnel in the reeds aoross the river ; he was always to be seen or rather his black head was, but at night, some of them were always prowling about outside the hut. It was open war, if they caught us unguarded they would kill us, and we in return would, if we caught them "help ourselves." Mr. French was still at our place, for his hand was very painful, but we did all we could for him in the way of attending to his wants, and also bathing his hand constantly with cold water, but unfortunately he lost the use of it forever. As soon as he became strong enough for the journey we had him convoyed to Melbourne, and his case, together with the sergeant and Farrell's, were brought before the proper authorities with good results. During our period of peace with the blacks, we had ample opportunities of proving that they are not cannibals, although it has been said and written that they are. "What evidently led to this supposition is this. Some of the different tribes in many cases were "at daggers drawn" with each other, caused by their superstition and belief that one of their tribe had caused the death of one of their own, but some other tribes were friendly with each other. They frequently made war with unfriendly tribes, sometimes by open warfare, at others by

stealth at daybreak. If they could capture a baby or little child belonging to the offending tribe, they would bear it away with them, eventually kill it, and the lubras would carry portions of its body about with them. They are in the habit of having "big yabbers." They begin talking quietly at first about the tribe they are at variance with, and by degrees talk louder and faster, until they work themselves up into a state of great anger and excitement. When the excitement is at its height a lubra will take from her net bag which she carries slung at her back, a portion of the dead child, perhaps a leg or an arm, she will bite a piece out of it savagely, continue this two or three times, and then spit it out. She then hands the mutilated limb to others, who do likewise, all the time jabbering in a most excited manner. We noticed particularly that the body of the dead child was never cooked, and although they would bite it as I said, they would not swallow any of it. It was only their way of showing revenge, hatred or contempt. No ! I am

decidedly of opinion that they were not cannibals. The blacks now formed a line of themselves across our river boundary, speared what they could of the cattle and drove all the rest off the place ; some we got again, but they were so frightened they would not stop on the run, no matter how we tried to keep them. Out of our 700 head, we had one cow left, and her calf, we had tethered near the hut. This was our milking cow. This was hard lines, after our trouble and dangers, for 12 months, to have only one beast left out of the lot. We were riding about collecting them for months. Some had gone up the Loddon, some up the Murray, others up Avoca way, and some found their way home to my father's place, 24 miles from Melbourne. Shortly after this, my father Insisted on my brother and myself returning to Fausley, so after collecting such few cattle that we oould, we took them back again thence, the time that had elapsed from our leaving home being about 15 months. My narrative would not be complete without mentioning what had become of " Black Mr Beveridge." He, poor fellow, as soon as his friend and brother (as he called Andrew Beveridge) was dead, bolted into the mallee, for the blacks had told him that they would kill him for trying to save Andrew. We knew that he had gone into

the mallee, and that is about all. We often wondered what had become of him, and had given him up for dead, because we were aware that the blacks had threatened him, but one day about six weeks after Andrew's murder I saw a weak looking blackfellow walking slowly by himself through the bush in the direction of our place. I was riding. When he saw that I was looking earnestly in his direction he beckoned me to come to him. He was a good bit away from me, and I should not have gone near if the other blaoks had been with him, but as he was alone I did not fear, for I knew I was able for one black anyway, because, as usual, I was well armed. When I got near him he said something In a very weak voice, which I could not understand. I did not recognise him — he was so thin— without a stitch of clothing on him and his long thin limbs put me in mind of Ogilvey and Green when I found them. At last he managed to say " Mitter Beveridge," Even then I could hardly bring myself to believe it was he. I felt quite pleased when I discovered his identity. I dismounted, and walked slowly beside him till we reached our hut. We gave him food and tea, and also some clothing, and he very soon became himself again.

He told us that, fearing the blacks would kill him, he ran into the mallee, and had been hiding there ever since. He got some little food now and again, when he could catoh a snake or lizard, but he only got about two snakes and about a dozen lizards. One of the snakes was a very big one, he told us. He dared not come out for water in the day time, but used to get a drink at the river every night, and go baok into the mallee before daylight. Although a black, and I suppose would be called a " savage," yet it would be very difficult indeed to find a truer friend, and a more noble nature, than existed in this man whom we called " Black Mr. Beveridge." He was alive and well when my brother and I left for Fausley and used to be allowed what ever he wanted at the hut to eat and drink, and also permitted to lie in front of the fire at night. Since I saw the amount of good nature displayed by this man I am convinced that the blacks of Australia are naturally good natured. I will now bring this narrative to an end. The two blacks who murdered Andrew Beveridge were hanged in the Melbourne gaol in the year 1847. The written report of the capture and the fight was brought under the consideration of the proper authorities, with the following result:

Firstly— The sergeant obtained a free pardon. Secondly — The young policeman, Farrell, got a pension, being wounded in the arm. Thirdly — Mr. French got an annuity from the Government for the loss of his hand. I am writing this account in 1894, and I have never seen either of the three foregoing gentlemen since, except the sergeant, who was happy and doing well and residing in St. Kilda 40 years ago. My other companions in these severe trials are all dead and gone, and I alone am left to tell the tale, at the age of 67, so that I have had to tax my memory severely to recall what I have written of my past, and I have written nothing but that in which I have either taken a part or been an eye witness to, or interested directly or indirectly in, and if what I have written should prove interesting to the reader I shall feel highly pleased and more than repaid for the trouble I have taken in relating my trials and adventures in the early days of Australia. The End.