Singular Discovery

The Australian

11 September 1835

The reader is already aware of the pastoral expedition of Mr. Batman and others to Port Philip.

The tall and stately gait of the natives of that region had already struck Mr. Batman as being peculiar, as indeed it had done some years before Messrs. Hovell and Hume, who made the coast in that direction across the country from Sydney.

On a close investigation a few very handsome individuals were found to be of a lighter, colour and some with countenances approaching nearer the contour of European faces than the generality.

Indications too of a higher state of civilization, or rather of a less savage state than prevailed among most: of the other tribes of New Holland were here and there conspicuous.

Rude embankments, with tolerable stone facings, were found in parts constructed across creeks and inlets, with convenient sluices, for the purpose of catching fish at the fall of the tide.

Several of the bark shelters or wigwams were formed in a superior and comfortable manner, tolerably well thatched with a narrow opening for the doorway, and fire place in front.

Pieces of wood were hollowed or scouped out to serve as calibashes or buckets to carry water, and the dresses of kangaroo skins were neatly joined together with regular stitches, and cut away so as to form a convenient vesture.

The settlers however had not domiciled themselves in their new position many days when these and various other indications of ingenuity were satisfactorily explained by the appearance of a white man, clothed in a kangaroo skin cloak.

He was at first rather timid in his approaches, but when spoken to kindly and offered a piece of bread he threw off his reserve and after eating the bread with apparent relish, and looking at it as if endeavouring to bring something to his recollection he exclaimed with symptoms of delight glowing in his face 'bread'!

Other English words soon returned to his memory, and he was at last enabled to communicate that his name was William Buckley - that he had been one of those who escaped from the encampment of the prisoners by the ship Ocean, formed by the late Colonel Collins, in attempting, agreeably to the instructions of the British Government, to form a settlement at Port Phillip, in 1803 - that he had lived ever since with the tribe of the Aborigines, whom he then met with in the bush, and over whom he had long exercised the rule of a chief.

He is a very tall man, having served as a grenadier in Holland under the late Duke of York, and according to the measure which has been sent over to procure garments for him, he is six feet five inches high, and so stout and portly as to measure three feet nine round the chest.

The long period of unsophisticated, out of door, wandering life which he has led seems to have agreed remarkably with his health, of which though from fifty eight to sixty years of age, he stands a perfect picture, and would certainly eclipse in the effect of his physical appearance, if not in his rhetorical, the celebrated Mr. Cobbett in the House of Commons.

Through the assistance of the new settlers, he has forwarded a petition to the Lieutenant Governor, praying for a pardon, mainly with a view we presume to enable him to remain where he is, and to communicate the result of his intimacy with that interesting country, and the many valuable discoveries which he has made in it, which we are glad to learn his Excellency has been kindly pleased to grant, impressing at the same time upon him the expectation that he will continue to do all in his power to maintain an amicable intercourse between the Aborigines and the Whites.

For he had already been the means of preventing a sanguinary attack of his tribe, through misapprehension, on the little party already settled there.

In a philosophical point of view this discovery is truly interesting, and a narrative of his various vicissitudes, during his long sojourn, well told, would rival the classic work of Robinson Crusoe, and as the means of promoting further discovery, and preserving an amicable intercourse with the whites, the circumstance it both memorable and, if well directed, invaluable.

Two other prisoners from the Ocean absconded with him, but be had never seen or heard of them since the end of the first twelvemonth when he joined the blacks.

(From the Tasmanian of August 28)