Life and Adventures of William Buckley









"I was indeed a lone man." —Page 89.




William Robertsonn, Esquire,










Editors of Newspapers seldom succeed as authors of works on reality, or of fiction; and the latter are also generally unsuccessful as conductors of public journals. Without making a claim to excellence either in one position or the other, I may, perhaps, be permitted to state my belief that these opinions are at least probable, and my reasons for arriving at that conclusion.

The editor of a public journal—unless it be one of great consideration—goes to the performance of his every-day duty with a full knowledge, that what he has to say, will—if read—be cast aside; not more than one number out of every hundred being favoured with a second thought, or honoured with even a brief preservation. However able he may be to give useful expression to his thoughts and feelings, the effects of the ability he displays are but slightly impressive, and, at the best, only transitory. He therefore thinks seriously for a time,—forms opinions upon his thinking,—and then, goes to work, running his ideas—as the sailors would say—"right off the reel:" his great object being to express himself sufficiently correctly, and intelligibly, so that "all who run may read;" and that HE, running a race against time, may have no part of his establishment for a moment at a stand still. The very close, careful, pointing of sentences—or portions of them—he does not, and cannot attend to, as the least delay may occasion confusion. He cares very little about it in fact, because he has—or ought to have—sense enough to know, that in a very few hours—comparatively speaking—all his labours will be scattered to the winds, as old gossip, old stories, or old information.

This may be wrong; I do not say the contrary, but, merely offer an opinion; and that the book writer goes to his work very differently, because he may be permitted to hope the labours of his mind will live a few years, even if it be only in a first edition. With this feeling, so gratifying to the author, he will be careful as to what he puts before the world, knowing how many there are in it who cannot praise, but, on the contrary, delight to censure.

I allude to these matters, because it may be said by some of the readers of this narrative, that many of the sentences are crude, and unnecessarily short: that they might have been made more interesting by adopting a different style of relation. I beg those who may think this, to understand, that the Hero of these adventures can neither read nor write, and, that consequently, I have had the laborious task of connecting circumstances together (so as to make them intelligible) from rough notes and memoranda, made at various times, and by conversations, noting the points down in the shape of questions and answers, as I went on.

I trust this fact will be fairly considered by the critic, who may feel disposed—at his pleasure—to find fault with the style of this history, written and published, as it has been, under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. As to the matter of which it is composed, I have only to say, that I believe it to be faithfull: not only because he who is the subject of it, has assured me of its truthfulness, but from my own personal acquaintance for several, years with the habits of the Aboriginal inhabitants of the Australian Continent, and previously with those of other countries, in every quarter of the world.

This circumstance, I believe, first induced him to solicit me to edit a history of his life, but it is several years since that application: both of us having during the interval been otherwise occupied. At length, he having been discharged from government employ, and pensioned off on the large salary of twelve pounds per annum; and myself having retired from the very lucrative occupation of a colonial newspaper editor, I undertook the task, for our mutual benefit.

Fortunately, we found a generously disposed friend in William Robertson, Esquire, to whom this work is respectfully inscribed in token of our gratitude: that gentleman having kindly undertaken to act as Trustee for both parties, which, as Buckley can neither read nor write, as I have already said, was a safe and desirable arrangement.

It may be proper to explain my reasons for considering such an arrangement desirable. Reader, do not do me an injustice; remember the comparatively humble may follow in the pathway of the exalted, and yet not presume to greatness.

De Foe, the author of the fictitious history of Robinson Crusoe, after the publication of that very popular narrative, and during the remainder of his life, was assailed by the literary assassins of the time in a most unworthy and cowardly manner. They charged him with having surreptitiously obtained the journal of Alexander Selkirk, the shipwrecked mariner of Juan Fernandez. They said that having done so, and given his celebrated work to the world, he derived great annual profits from it, whilst he left poor Selkirk to pine in abject penury. Now although we certainly do not expect any such liberal share of fame and fortune by the publication of this truthful history, I am most anxious to avoid even the possibility of such a reproach, and hence arises the Trusteeship which Mr. William Robertson has so kindly undertaken.

For a long time a difficulty existed as to the risk of printing a narrative of the kind at so late a period, but at length, Mr. Macdougall, (late of Adelaide,) engaged on convenient terms, to bring the work out; which he has done in a manner creditable to himself, and to the colony.

I am also much indebted to William Westgarth, Esq., M.L.C. for Melbourne, who has furnished me with the Statistics in the Appendix; which, I hope, will be considered a valuable addition, and especially at this time.

I regret to say, the admirable likeness of William Buckley is the only illustration I can give, the great anxiety for gathering the golden harvest in Victoria, having driven not only the artisan, but the artist, from off the course of his usual industry.

I have nothing more to add by way of preface, or introduction: as for apologies for unavoidable imperfections, I make none,—why should I?

In giving the history of a life in the first person, and under such peculiar circumstances, I have endeavoured to express the thoughts of a humble, unlearned man, in that language of simplicity and truth which, in my mind, is best suited to the subject, and to the circumstances as they passed in review before me.

I have anxiously sought to induce a reliance upon Providence in all cases of danger and difficulty, having myself escaped so often from imminent and immediate peril. That man is the best able to judge of the value of God's Providence who has seen His power evinced in the various ways made manifest in the battle-field, in the boundless forest, on the ocean wave; of which those

"Who live at home at ease,"

know nothing, except by reading, and by the labours of others,—the Sailors, the Soldiers, the Explorers—the Pioneers of the world.

To them, to all, I now respectfully submit this book, which will be found to contain an Appendix showing something of the vast resources of the magnificent Province of Victoria, within whose boundaries the hero of the narrative passed so many years, and at length submits his history to the world.

John Morgan.

Hobart, March 22, 1852.

Note.— At the close of this volume, under the head "Addenda," will be found a most interesting early record. It has been taken, by permission, from the private journal kept by the late Reverend Robert Knopwood, during 1803 and 1804. It will be read with interest by most persons, not only as regards the reference it makes to the voyage out, and to the early days of the Colony of Victoria, but also from respect to the memory, of the Reverend Gentleman himself and those with whom he was associated.



Buckley's Birth, Parentage, and Education,—Apprenticed to a Bricklayer.—Runs away and Enlists for a Soldier.—Joins the Cheshire Militia, and then a Regiment of the Line.—Embarks for Holland.—Battle between the French and Allied Forces.—Returns to England.—Gets into bad company: tried, and sentenced.—Goes in the Calcutta, with a party of convicts to Port Phillip.—Ship arrives.—Prisoners and the Guard of Marines land.—Absconds, with several others.—Separates from his companions.—Alone in the Wilderness.—Sufferings in the Bush—Nooraki.

Pages 1—16

Discovered by the Natives.—Visit the Tribe.—Alarmed by Sea Elephants.—Native Grave.—Found nearly dead by Native Women, whose husbands make me Prisoner.—Fight.— Corrobberree.—Unexpectedly find some very extraordinary Relations.—The first Paletôt.—Another Battle, in which men and women are killed.—Bodies burnt.—Challenge to fight given and accepted.—Elopements, and their consequences.—Kangaroo hunt.


Hunting the Kangaroo, Emu, and Opossom.—Wild Dogs.—Having the best of a Bargain.—Eel catching.—Spearing Fish.—Manner of Cooking.—General Fight: several Natives killed.—Disposal of the Dead.—Superstitious Ceremonies.—Reflections on Savage Life.—Swan hunting.—Gathering Eggs.—The Bunyip.—More Corrobberrees, Fights, and Murders.

Pages 37—50

Marriage Ceremonies.—Destruction of Children.—The consequences of Jealousy.—Another Battle.—Another mode of disposal of the Dead.—Description of Natives.—Superstitions.—Origin of Fire.—War Implements.—Murderous Assault.—Cannibalism.


Dreadful Assassination.— Native Music.—Odd Habits and Superstitions.—The Kalkeeth Ant.—Ornaments.—Description of the Tomahawk.—More Fights and mischief.—Fatal Accident.—Venemous Snakes.—Loss of my Friends and supposed Relations.


Fishing Hut on the Karaaf River.—Great Success.—The Wombat.—Domestic Ceremonies of the Natives.—Grey Hair.—Another Murder.— Cannibalism.— -My Marriage.— My Wife elopes, and leaves me very disconsolate!—Her sad Fate.—Monster Snake.—Blind Boy.—Return to my home on the Karaaf River.


Murder of the Blind Boy.—Abandon the Natives.—A Native Woman my only companion for many months.—The Native Language.—Cannibal Tribe.—Vessel seen.—Consequences.—The White Man's Grave.—Dreadful Massacre.—Wreck of a Ship.—The Bunyip again.

Pages 97—119

News of another Ship.—Landing of Settlers.—My Reflections:—Liberty or Captivity? that's the question.—Visit the new comers.—Received kindly by them.—Messrs. Wedge and Batman.—Hopes for the future.— Exploring Expedition.—Buckley's Falls.—Receive a Free Pardon.


Change of the Settlement.—Visit from the Putnaroos and the Wainworras.—Mr., Gellibrand.—Engage as Interpreter.—Another Arrival.—First House Built.—Colonising Excitement.—Disputes between the Settlers and Natives.—Two Settlers killed.


Arrival of Captain Lonsdale.—Stockmen Murdered.—General Bourke arrives.—Earthquake.—Loss of Messrs. Gellibrand and Hesse.—Exploring Parties go in search of them.—My Horse brutally maimed.—Visit Launceston.—Return to Melbourne.—Leave the Government Service.


Charge against a Native.—How sustained.—The Climate,—Sail for Hobart Town.—Hospitable reception.—Narrow escape from becoming a Public Performer.—Government House.—Again enter the Public Service.—My Marriage.—Discharge and Pension.—Narrative draws to a close.


Historical Records of the Fourth, or King's Own, Regiment of Foot

Pages 149—152

The First Settlement of Port Phillip, and subsequent abandonment.—Settlement of Van Diemen's Land.—Death of the Governor.—Colonel Collins.


Aborigines' Superstitions and Jealousies


Editorial Notes


Statistics of the Province of Victoria, 1851.—The Census.—Public Revenues.—Commercial Results.—Effect of the Bathurst Gold discoveries.—Benevolent Asylum.—Imports and Exports.—Acres in Cultivation.—Number of Sheep, Cattle, Horses, &c.


The Golden City


Province of Victoria.—Ports.—Additional Statistics.—Population.—Gold discovered.—Ballarat.—Mount Alexander.—Gold Diggers.—Escort.—Exports of Gold.—Consequences of the Golden Discoveries.—Statistics dated 1st February, 1852.—Increase of Population.—Commercial operations.—Customs' Duties.—Pilotage.—The Harvest.—The Gold Fields.—Immense Nugget.—Escort Returns for January.—Export Returns for January.—Escort Returns to the 18th of February.


California in contrast with Victoria


Journal of the Reverend Robert Knopwood, M.A., Chaplain to the Expedition sent out under Governor Collins to form a Settlement at Port Phillip, 1803-4.

Pages 197—208

I've run my story through, "e'en from my boyish days,
"To the very moment that he bade me tell it,
"Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
"Of moving accidents by flood and field,
"And of the Cannibals, who did each other eat."


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