Old Tumut - The Valley Ninety Years Ago

20 April 1926 The Tumut and Adelong Times

(By W.B.)      

The aborigines have a custom of   preserving human fat. They show it with reluctance to Europeans. \I could not ascertain the motive with certainty.

Some said it was as a charm others that it was used in the cure of disease.

That it is applied to the latter purpose I believe, from having seen it smeared over or near the place at which a patient complained of pain, or injury.

The fat is not taken from particular individuals, that from, any human body being considered equally efficacious.

The aborigines, when young, have the foot arched, becoming flattened as they advance in years, and the children, as among all savages and perhaps even civilised races, when able to provide for them- selves, are careless of parental regard or protection. 

The emu were abundant about this part of the colony, more particularly at a place not far distant, called ''Naganbilly."

It is, however, to be regretted that the birds are becoming rarer, as settlement advances, as they could be readily domesticated.

The emu is principally valued for its oil. The natives in this part of the colony call, them 'Gorin' and 'Berebine.' 

The skin of a full-grown bird produces six or seven quarts of oil, clear, and of a bright yellow color.

The method of extracting or trying the oil is to pluck the feathers, cut the skin into pieces and boil it; but the aborigines   prefer the flesh with the skin upon it, regarding it as the Esquimaux do the flesh of whales and seals, as a highly luscious treat.

The oil is excellent for burning. It produces no disagreeable smell.

It is also considered as a good liniment for sprains or bruises in horses and cattle, either alone, or when stronger stimulating properties are required, mixed with turpentine. 

The aborigines have many superstitious ceremonies connected with their practice of the healing art, as   we find among all, primitive races. 

Thee few medicines administered by them are from the vegetable kingdom.

They also make use of a crystal, for the cure of diseases, not by administering it to the sick person, but the physician employs its aid to act upon the superstitious mind of his patient; it is the common quartz crystal.

The name it is known by to the natives of the Yass, Murrumbidgee and Tumut countries is 'Merrudagalle.' The aborigines say they manufacture it, but would not mention the ingredients of which it is composed, as this was a secret.

The women are never permitted to look upon it, and the priests impose upon their minds a belief that, should their curiosity prompt them so far, they would instantly die.

The crystals are valued according to their size and it is not easy to procure a large one from them.

The following account of the   manner in which the crystal is used; by the physician may be considered interesting.

In the Tumut country, a native black, named Golong, was suffering from a spear wound, received a short time previously in a skirmish with a hostile tribe; it was in the evening (for the stones are used only after dark) when a native of his tribe, named Baramumbup, employed the crystal for the purpose of healing the wound in the following planner:-

The patient was laid at a distance of - twenty or thirty yards from the encampment, after which the physician commenced the examination of the wound, which he sucked;  then, without spitting, he retired to a distance of ten to fifteen yards from the invalid, muttered or appeared to mutter, some prayer or incantation for about a minute .

On concluding, he placed the crystal in his mouth, sucked it and then, removing the stone, spat upon the ground, and trampled upon, the discharged saliva, pressing it with his feet firmly into the ground.

This ceremony was repeated several times on this and subsequent evenings, until the patient's recovery, which, of course, was considered to have been effected by the wonderful curative properties of the crystal. 

On the 14th of December, I left the Tumut country on my return to Yass.

Day had just dawned when I commenced my journey; the sky was clear and serene, the rising sun gilded the tops of the picturesque mountains; the atmosphere was cool and refreshing.

But, as the day advanced, it became more sultry; vegetation drooped with excessive heat and the feathered songsters ceased their carrolling, and only a few crows were visible.

I arrived at Darbylara late in the afternoon.

Cattle and sheep stations now extend for some distance down the Murrumbidgee, probably as much as 50 miles. The following is a list of them, commencing from below Mr. Warby's farm at Darbylara, proceeding down the stream:-

The first station is:-

'Minghee,' belonging to Mr. Warby sr.;

2 miles beyond, 2nd station, 'Gundagiar,' Mr. Hutchinson; 

5 miles, 3rd station, 'Willieplumer,' Mr. Stuckey;

4 miles, 4th station, 'Kimo,' Mr. Guise;

3 miles, 5th station, 'Wadjego,' .Mrs. Jenkins;

4 miles, 6th station, 'Nanghas,'' Mr. J. McArthur;

8 miles, 7th station, 'Jabtre,' Mr. Ellis;

9 miles, 8th station 'Wandubadjere,' Mr. Thorn;

10 miles, 9th station, 'Kubandere,' Mr. Thompson;

10 miles, 10th station,. 'Rilling Hilling,' Mr. H. M'Arthur

The natives' names of that part of the country where the stations are situated have been retained.

The distance in miles is nominal. 

The family at Darbylara are generally industriously employed in making butter and cheese, which is taken to Sydney for sale.

They possess numerous herds of cattle. Formerly, flocks of sheep were kept about the farm; but from great losses being sustained among them, from a morbid propensity of destroying their progeny they were given up, and more attention paid to this as a dairy farm, for which purpose no land could be better selected.