Correspondence, Depredations by Australian Cannibals?

The Sydney Herald

22 March 1839


On the night of the 16th instant, as two stockmen named Thomas McAllister and Thomas Boyd, were encamped a few miles on the Maneroo side of the Bogong Mountain, better known by the name of the Australian Alps, they were suddenly alarmed by hearing a violent rustling in the bush, but supposing it to be occasioned by some animal, they took little notice of it, until it was repeated more than once; they then proceeded to make search but could see nothing, which sufficiently alarmed them to make for their horses which ware hobbled some little distance from their fire.

After saddling their horses and preparing for a start which they had scarcely completed, they saw a black native pass between them and the fire and immediately another was then adding fuel to their fire to make more blaze by the light of which they perceived six or eight more blacks surrounding them, they immediately mounted their horses and started off at full speed for three or four miles, when they again encamped and as they thought out of danger.

The night being very dark they were fearful of venturing farther, and being on the top of a very high range, they thought themselves in safety for the remainder of the night, and took the precaution of not making a fire as a guide for the blacks, should they attempt to follow them.

They had not remained long in this way, when they perceived small lights glimmering in the distance, which proved to be the blacks tracking their horses with torches, they again mounted and proceeded about six miles through a country almost impassable when they again encamped, taking the same precaution as to the fire as before.

They remained here sometime in safety, and were endeavouring to make themselves as comfortable as the situation would allow, when their attention was arrested by the sound of fire aims at some distance from them, while they were contemplating what this could mean they were suddenly surpised by the yell of these Demons within a very few yards of them and they found themselves surrounded in every way, their numbers being considerably augmented since the first attack. Finding their case was desperate, they had sufficient presence of mind to rush to their horses, surrounded by weapons (viz spears and boomrings) thrown from every direction by these savages, one of which struck Boyd in the head and almost felled him to the earth.

Providentially they got on their horses without any serious injury and immedately commenced galloping down the range they were on followed by these merciless wretches.

The range being very steep and rocky McAllister's horse suddenly stopped through fright although spurred by him most severely, whilst in this predicament he could hear the blacks running along some little distance from him following Boyd, who had passed on when McAllister's horse stopped, he remained in this way a short time, when he heard the blacks passing him back again.

He then made down the range and went as fast as he could to a station called Blowring, at which he arrived about eight o'clock in the morning.

Boyd it appears was not so fortunate. When he left McAllister and arrived at the bottom of the range, he endeavoured to spur his horse over a very deep creek, which must have been too wide for the animal, as he fell with his head against the opposite bank, which killed him on the spot.

The blacks were now passing him on both sides but did not see him lying in the creek, when they could not track him any farther he heard them returning, and taking off his boots and clothes he commenced running with the blacks in close pursuit.

They went some miles in this way, and Boyd finding he had the advantage from the immense fatigue the blacks had undergone in following them so great a distance, made for the camp where he was first attacked, and then commence retracing his footsteps (it now being morning), by which means he evaded them tracking him and arrived at Blowring, where he found McAllister, about six o'clock in the evening.

They were both severely bruised from the falls they had received, especially Boyd, whose head was cut open most frightfully, and his feet and face were almost cut to pieces, it seems wonderful how they escaped so miraculously, and nothing but a thorough knowledge of the country and the darkness of the night could have saved their lives.

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