jim birtles

Wiradjuri Nation: Triamble Valley Aboriginals, cont. P.37

A funny incident I can recall. Dad wished to see Jack about something, so rode down to see him. I went along too. Jack was not at home, so we rode around inspecting some sheep (Dad owned the land upon which Jack lived) then returned to his home, and saw him walking down Racketts Gulph carrying a bucket of water. This mystified Dad. As a walk up this creek water would be a very long and tiring walk. Whilst ample water flowed close by in the river. So we waited for Jack to approach, and Dad asked him why. “Oh Boss” he exclaimed, “the water in the river has been polluted. I drank it yesterday, and blue flames shot out of my mouth—a bilious attack. I will never drink it again!” Poor old chap. He had obviously suffered a bilious attack and blamed it on the river water. To explain the difficulty in obtaining water from this creek, I must point out that all the creeks and gullies falling into the Macquarie River are the same. Where they head on the Triamble tableland, they have ample water, with excellent springs, then when they commence their final plunge, through very steep gorges, on their way to the river, the beds of these creeks and gullies become very stony and boulder strewn, also very porous, as all the water goes underground; so you can appreciate Jack would have had to clamber over this boulder strewn creek bed for a long way before he came to water.
 
Jack Driscoll lived in his house until sometime in the late 1930s when his home burned down. He came up to ‘Echo’ and tried to tell Dad, “Me no home”. Dad thought he was saying “Me no hoe” as he was employed in digging seedlings out. Dad offered him another mattock, thinking he must have broken his. This caused more confusion than ever. Eventually Dad understood he was saying “Me no home”. Upon fully understanding  his house had really burned down, Dad set about questioning him as to how it happened. Jack replied, “It was burned down by electricity.” This presented quite a poser, as there was no electricity in the area at that time and nobody would have thought Jack would have heard the word, he being quite uneducated. What caused his house to burn down was never resolved for certain, just that Jack was becoming old and possibly careless with fire. As his dwelling was constructed of sheets of stringy-bark, both roof and walls, it would be very subject to fire.
 
It was then decided that as Jack was getting on in years, it would be more appropriate to build him a dwelling much closer, so Charles Suttor decided to build him a hut on ‘Leiteleinna’. This was on the Triamble Creek, on the western side of where the ‘Wing Vee’ homestead stands today, in late December, 1942, only to find him dead. He had been dead for a number of days. In such situations the local police were notified, in this instance, the sergeant from Hill End, as this was his area, and he patrolled it on horseback. As Jack had been dead for some days, and as there were no suspicious circumstances, they merely rolled him in one of his blankets, dug a grave quite close to his hut and laid the old chap to his final rest. He was the last of the Driscoll family. They all lived, died, and were buried in the Triamble district, but their name is perpetuated by the paddock where they lived on the river, being known as Driscolls paddock, also a large waterhole in the river near where they lived, has always been known as Driscoll’s Hole. From this hole Murray Cod of enormous size have been caught—it has always been very popular with fishermen. Of course, with the Burrendong Dam, there is no longer an individual hole, but topographic maps still show the area as Driscoll Hole.
 
It is very sad that the once proud people of the Wompanjee and Waradgerie tribes that once roamed the hills and valleys of theTriamble Macquarie region have died out and disappeared almost without trace. All that remains to remind us of their existence is one cairn of stones on the tableland on ‘Wing Vee’ and occasional artefacts that can be found also, maybe the occasional tree from which they cut their opossums. Their utter disappearance remains a mystery, one thing is certain—they were not rounded up and shot by the early settlers as happened in other areas of the State, nor were they forced to depart due to ill treatment. Maybe that they saw the white man take over their land, and perhaps the will to live died slowly in the face of change, which was beyond their comprehension and to which they were unable to make adjustment.
 
Note: I omitted to mention that Mrs Driscoll was known as the ‘Echo’ washerwoman, as she did the washing, apart from other household duties, for Grandmother, Mrs Henry Edward Suttor, in the old original ‘Echo’, also in the second ‘Echo’ homestead, and I understand, continued to do so until due to advancing years, the walk of between three or four miles from their home on the river became too much for her.

The Aboriginals of Bathurst by CE Suttor, March, 1993.

It is well recorded that when the first explorers discovered a passage onto the Bathurst plains, the natives were not at all troublesome; very frightened at first, then curious and friendly, and always responded to friendly gestures. This party was led by the Assistant Surveyor of Lands, Mr George William Evans. The route they had followed down off the main dividing range was via Mt Tarana, north of the pass, now marked by the Tarana Railway Junction. Mr Evans was tremendously impressed with the country. This was on the 1st December 1813. He wrote in his diary on 6th December 1813, “I conceive it strange we have not fell in with the natives. I think they are watching us, but are afraid.”
 
Evans and his party continued to explore the country, naming the river the Macquarie, after Governor Macquarie. The aboriginal name for this river was ‘Wambool’, meaning meandering. Surveyor Evans and his party returned to Sydney in January, 1814, with no reported instances of trouble with the natives.
 
Governor Macquarie, after reading Surveyor Evans’ glowing reports of the vast tract of excellent grazing land over the Blue Mountains, lost no time in planning a road over them. This project was put in charge of William Cox JP, with a gang consisting of twenty-eight men (convicts and six soldiers). The road was commenced on 18th July, 1814, and on the 14th January, 1815, after less than six months, Cox reported this remarkable road complete.
 
The Governor set out with a party on the 15th April, 1815, to inspect the work and explore the land so glowingly described by Evans. Macquarie, in his diary records the events of his arrival on Tuesday 4th May, 1815: “We arrived at the depot at half past 1pm; the guard being turned out to receive us and the whole of the people gave us three cheers. We found here also, three adult male natives and four native boys of this new discovered tract of country, who shewed great surprise, mixed with a small degree of fear, at seeing so many strangers, horses and carriages, but to which they soon appeared to be reconciled on being spoken to. They were all clothed with mantles made of skins of opossums, which were very neatly sewn together. They appeared to be very inoffensive and cleanly in their persons.”
 
One of the Governor’s party, Major AC Antill, in his journal reported at much greater length on the natives, of which I will only include his summary: “They appeared to be a harmless and inoffensive race, with nothing forbidding or ferocious in their countenances. They were perfectly mild and cheerful, and laugh at everything they see, and repeat everything they hear.”
 
Governor Macquarie’s party remained in the Bathurst area until 12th May, 1815.
Pastoral expansion in the Bathurst area was very slow until the appointment of Governor Brisbane, in December, 1821. After this, expansion was very rapid. It was from this large influx of settlers that trouble with the natives developed.
 
I now take you to extracts from an article on the aboriginals, written by a Miss Jane Piper, daughter of Captain John Piper, formally of ‘Alloway Bank’ and later ‘Westbourne’ Bathurst.

Customs of the Aboriginals.

“There was a large camp near ‘Westbourne’ in the thirties. Their shelters consisted of two sheets of bark, under which a black and his woman slept at night. The men provided the food consisting of opossum, lizard, snake, and other delicacies. The women cooked it by throwing it on red-hot coals, skinned but not disembowelled. When cooked it was laid on a piece of bark and the man sat down to it on the ground, his woman seated at his back. He tore the food to pieces with his fingers, and threw the bones over his shoulder to his woman.”
 
When Miss Piper was eight years old, there was a fight with a hostile tribe not far from her home. Sad to say, a woman was the cause. An Aboriginal woman had been stolen and the siege of Troy was repeated on a humbler scale. The weapons used were spears, nulla-nullas, boomerangs and womerahs. The blacks prepared themselves for battle by painting themselves with coloured pigments. Needless to say Bathurst won. What became of them is not related, but the victory cost six lives, with a few minor casualties. The fallen heroes were buried with much ceremony, the bodys being placed in a sitting posture, and the heads bowed on the knees. The war weapons of the deceased were placed inside the opossum rug in which the body was wrapped. During the burial the women cried and wailed terribly, the dead man’s woman cutting her head and body severely, causing streams of blood to flow, and the men and women joined in a sort of chant, setting forth the virtues of the deceased. Women are buried anywhere.
 
I have been unable to discover any substantive evidence of any atrocities committed by the blacks against the first European settlers, but have read of several instances of some unscrupulous settlers, enticing them to eat damper, then feeding them poisoned damper, causing many to die in awful agony. Maybe these settlers did this in retaliation for misdemeanours by the blacks, such as killing sheep to feed themselves, but I have been unable to turn up any evidence of such misdeeds.

Rebellion.

In the year 1824, a foreigner named Antonio had cultivated a patch of land on the Macquarie River opposite Bathust and grown potatoes. One day quite a large number of blacks came by. Antonio, moved by generosity gave them some. Next day, they, having appreciated the gift and no doubt thinking they were there for the taking, as yams were, arrived in force, and began helping themselves. This was not to Antonio’s liking. He quickly roused the people of the settlement, who rushed down and attacked the blacks, killing many and wounding several others.
 
After this, the blacks commenced general atrocities, killing many isolated shepherds and destroying many sheep. In a short time, these hostilities led to the death of several aboriginals and white settlers. This would have been the ‘Wiradajuri’ tribe under the leadership of the great tribal leader called Windradyne, alais Saturday.
 
It was undoubtedly during this uprising that the following occurred:
A large party of blacks, fully armed, and obviously on the warpath, led by their ferocious leaderWindradyne, arrived at the ‘Brucedale’ homestead and threatened William Henry Suttor, who was alone at the time. After he spoke to them in a friendly manner, in their own language, they departed, leaving him in pece. The same night they called at a shepherd’s hut on ‘Milla Murrah’ and killed all those present (six I believe). This became known as the ‘Milla Murrah Massacre’. Here, it was reported, the blacks had previously been handed poisoned damper. Whether there was any truth in this rumour I am unable to say, but as Milla Murrah was owned by the Suttor family at the time, if the shepherd concerned did feed poisoned damper to the aboriginals, it wold have been contrary to his master’s wishes. If so, he paid for his disobedience with his life, but unfortunately for his family, theirs too. The hut where these people lived has thereafter been called ‘Murdering Hut”.
 
Eventually this aboriginal problem under Windradyne became so serious that martial law was proclaimed throughout all the country lying west of Mt York. Under these conditions the blacks were shot down without respect or mercy, getting the worst of it, they moved to the deep valleys and hills in the Capertee country, where they were eventually cornered and killed in a most atrocious manner. The soldiers offered them food, knowing they would be hungry, especially the women and children, having been kept constantly on the move. This food was placed on the ground, well in the open. In a supposedly friendly gesture, but when they approached to get it, the soldiers opened fire, killing all women and children. Only Windradyne and a few other males escaped.
 
After this atrocity, committed by the army, the Government pardoned Windradyne, and he eventually became very friendly with the white settlers and was reported to have always been extremely fond of children irrespective of colour. Ironically, he was wounded in a tribal fight, and died of gangrene, caused by his wounds. Windradyne died in 1830 and was buried at ‘Brucedale’. His grave is located in a very aquiet and secluded spot, and is visited by aboriginals from all over the State. In 1966 a plaque was erected in his honour over his grave. 

The Bularidee Tribe

Sandwiched between theWaradgeries at Triamble and the Wiradajuries of Bathurst, were the Bularidees who roamed the hills onto the Macquarie River from well below the junction of the Wimburnda River, down to the Granits, south of Hill End, and onto the Turon River. Nothing much is known of this tribe, except that they were reported as being of very fine physique possessing very keen eyesight, and extraordinary powers of endurance. Their staple diet was wallabies and goanna, eaten in other localities. There is no record, or local tradition of any clashes between the Bularidees and white settlers. Nothing now remains of this once proud tribe who once ranged the Upper Macquarie and Lower Turon Rivers. The decent from these once proud warriors to a few drink-sodden mis-fits, as reported last seen in Hill End many years ago is very sad. As with so many of these aboriginals, assimilation with the whites, and being introduced to alcohol and tobacco was their ruination.

Conclusions:

I have compiled this record of the aboriginal tribes for the sole purpose of giving you, my descendants, some idea of what type of people they were, who roamed the country down the Macquarie between Bathurst and Triamble.
 
They were a very honourable race of people, with their own customs and laws, unfortunately for them, these laws failed to conside with the white man’s laws e.g. Under our British law, if a man took another’s life, the court would sit and hear his case, and if found guilty, he would invariably be sentenced to death by hanging (that is as the law stood back in the 1800s. Of which time I write).
 
If an Aboriginal took another’s life, the tribal elders would meet and consider the matter, and if they were convinced the person concerned was guilty of murder, they would condemn him to deth by spearing, and would decide who the person or persons were to carry out the deed (I have read that occasionally as many as three may be named, especially if he was a famous warrior). Under white man’s law, this person or persons once the ordered execution had taken place, would be arrested and sentenced to death for murder. So you can see how the scales of justice can weigh very queerly when involved in two different cultures, back in the 1800s.
 
These aboriginals wee here many thousands of years before white man and it cold be said they wee a very backward unindustrious race of people, who made no attempt to till the soil to grow their food—maybe they found no necessity to do so, nature had provided them with an abundance of game, with kangaroos, wallabies, opossums, duck, snakes, goannas etc. plus ample fish in the waterways. Also nature had



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This chapter on Wiradjuri history was written by CE Suttor in 1993 and given to Aboriginal Elder Jim Birtles of Mudgee., who contributed it to this site


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