John Dunmore Lang.

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tremendous shout burst from the spectators, who immediately
relapsed into their former silence. All now being ready, one or
"two of the friends of each party spoke across the ring for a few
minutes ; and as soon as they ceased, the Doctor threw his spear
with all his force at the other, who, however, succeeded in ward-
ing it off with a kind of wooden shield called an elemang, into
which, however, it penetrated three or four inches. The other
then threw in his turn ; but his spear was also warded off in the
same manner. The third spear which the Doctor threw pene-
trated quite through the shoulder of his adversary, who instantly
fell, when one or two of his friends, jumping into the ring, pulled
out the spear and returned it to its owner ; and the tournament
concluded with loud huzzas from all parties. They all then re-
tired to huts, which had been erected for the occasion, and the
next day they again met at the ring, in order to give the friends
of the wounded man an opportunity to avenge his quarrel.' But
it appeared that none wished to do so, as each had now wounded
the other, and a reconciliation took place between the two tribes,
which was announced by shouting, dancing, &c., and a parcel of
boys were selected from each party and went into the I'ing to
wrestle ; after which both tribes joined in a hunting expedition,
which lasted a week : but my feet being sore, I was consigned to
the care of the women.

Account of a fiqht among the natives of Mobeton Bat,

WITNESSED BY JoHN FiNNEGAN.

The natives of Pumice Stone River, having a quarrel with
another tribe, at the distance of twenty-five miles to the S.W.,
they were about to set off for the latter place, in order to decide it;
and as I was then living with the chief of the Pumice Stone River
tribe, he insisted on taking me with him. We accordingly set
out early one morning, travelling from ten to fifteen miles daily.
Our party consisted of ten men, eight or nine women, and four-
teen children, the king, his son, and myself. The men carried
the nets, and the women were loaded with fern-root, &c., all par-
ties, men and women, being armed with spears. On the third
day we halted, and all the men went out fishing. After eating a
hearty meal, they commenced painting and decorating themselves
with feathers. The king himself covered me all over with char-



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412 COOKSLAND.

coal and bees' wax ; and, when all were dressed, we again went
forward, and in a diort time arrived at a number of huts, which
had been erected for the occasion. They were so numerous, that
I could hardly count them ; and each tribe (for there were many
tribes assembled to see the fight,) appeared to have their huts
distinct from the other. On our arriving within a small distance
of the encampment, we all sat down ; and as soon as we were
perceived, the assembled multitude began to shout, and imme-
diately my companions were visited by several of their friends,
and all began to weep piteously. Shoitly afterwards, the chief of
the tribe on whose ground we were, came to us; and having con-
versed for some time with our chief, he pointed out a place on
which we might build huts for ourselves. The women of our
party then immediately commenced building, and in less than
two hours, had finished five or six commodious huts, in which we
all rested that night. The next morning, a large party, including
our chief, and several of his men, went out kangaroo hunting.
They were not, however, very successful, having only caught one
large kangaroo. They, however, gave me a great piece of the
hind quarter, of which they made me eat very heartily ; and
here I will observe, that at all times, whether they had much or
little, fish or kangaroo, or any thing else, they always gave me as
much as I could eat. The same evening at sunset, the whole
party, carrying firesticks, went away about a mile and a-half to
where the battle took place the next day, the chief leaving me
with his wife and his children in the hut. He, however, re-
turned some time in the night ; for I found him at my back
when I awoke in the morning. The next day, after breakfast,
the ceremony of painting was gone through afresh, and we
marched in regular line, our tribe having been joined by several
strangers, all of whom seemed much rejoiced at my accompany-
ing them. We shortly arrived at a level piece of ground, in
which had been dug a circular pit of about forty feet in diameter.
I was now left in care of the chiefs wife, at a short distance from
this pit ; but being anxious to view the fight, in spite of her en-
deavours, I went up towards it. She, however, followed me,
calling out and weeping ; upon which one of the men of our
tribe came to me, and taking my hand, led me up to the pit. I
there saw a woman of my tribe, and one of another, fighting
desperately with sticks. The battle did not, however, last long,
as they appeared to be quite in earnest, and in five minutes, their
heads, arms, &c., being dreadfully cut and swelled, our woman
was declared the conqueror, the other not being able any longer
to oppose her. The victory was announced by a loud shout from
all parties, and the Amazonian combatants were immediately
carried away by their respective friends. The man who had
brought me to the pit still continued to hold my hand, and I ob-
served his whole body tremble hke an aspen leaf. The chiers
wife now came again to me, and endeavoured by every means in



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THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA. 413

her power to force me away ; but findiDg I still refused, she
went for her husband, who immediately came, and taking away
my spear, forced me out of the crowd. He then called sevei'al
other chiefs Uround me, and showed me to them. This caused
great talking and laughing among them, from surprise at my
eolour and appearance. ' The king then addressed them at some
length, apparently asking them not to hurt me, which they gave
me to understand by signs, that they would not. I was then de-
livered up to our chiefs wife once more, who led me back to the
place where we were left before. I had however, a good view of
the pit, round which the whole crowd still remained. I now
found that, while I had been engaged with the chiefs, another
fight had taken place in the pit, for I presently saw a man car-
ried out by his friends, who were of our tribe, bleeding profusely
at the side from a spear wound. He was brought down to where
I was, and placed on two men's knees, with some kangaroo skins
spread over him ; the men, women and children howling and
lamenting, much in the manner of the lower Irish. They sup-
plied him with water from time to time, but his wound was evi-
dently mortal, and in less than an hour he expired. The chief's
wife then took me away a short distance from where he lay, and
the whole set to work immediately to skin him ; but from the
distance at which I stood, I could not perceive the manner in
which they did it. In the meantime, two more men had entered
the ring to fight ; and here it may not be amiss to observe, that
previous to each fight, the same ceremony is used, that is de-
scribed by Thomas Pamphlet in the combat which he witnessed.
The third fight was now going on, while our party were engaged
in skinning their deceased companion ; when it appeared, from a
tremendous shout, that some unlooked-for event had happened in
the pit. I afterwards learned that the spectators judged that
foul play had taken place between the combatants. The crowd
upon this drew away from the pit ; and our party, accompanied
by those tribes that were friendly to them, formed themselves in
a line, while their adversaries did the same opposite to them.
The battle then became general. Several from each side would
advance, and having thrown their spears, again retire to the line,
in the manner of light infantry. Others would get behind the
trees, and there watch an opportunity to hurl their spears with
greater effect. In this manner, the fight continued upwards of
two hours, during which time many retired from the line severely
wounded, and another man (»f our party was killed. What num-
ber may have been killed on the other side, I had no means of
ascertaining. Our party now began to give way, which being
observed by the women and children with whom I was, they
made signs to me to accompany them ; and with the exception
of those who were employed in skinning the body, we made off.
Not being able, however, to run as fast as the rest, I was soon
in the midst of the opposite party, who, however, notwithstanding



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414 COOKSLAND.

my fears, did not attempt to hurt nie, but merely laughed and
pointed at me as they passed by, showing the same marks of
wonder as the chiefs had done in the morning. I then walked
back to the huts which we had left that morning, but found no-
body there. However, I sat down by the fire, and towards even-
ing they began to return, a few at a time. Just before dark I
saw a large crowd approach, who (it seems,) were bringing the
bodies of the two men who had been killed. They laid them
down about twenty rods from the huts, and began a great lamen-
tation over them. The first body was completely flayed, but
they had not yet had leisure to skin the other. I attempted to
approach, but was immediately prevented by all hands, and forced
to return to the fire. Shortly afterwards our chief and his wife
came back, and instantly commenced packing up their nets, &c.^
in order to depart Two large fires were lighted where the
bodies lay, in which, I judged from the noise as well as the offen-
sive smeil, they were both consumed. Immediately after this,
our whole party decamped ; and having travelled more than half
a-mile, we stopped for the night. Very early next morning, we
again started, and travelled all day with great expedition, with-
out ever halting or eating any thing. Among our party were
four women and three men wounded, the latter very severely.
They however contrived, though with difficulty, to keep up with
us. I had observed, during this day's march, two men, one of
whom belonged to our tribe, and another to a tribe which was
friendly to us, each of whom carried something on his shoulder,
but did not keep the same path with us, walking through the bush
at a Uttle distance abreast of us. Being curious to know what
it was they carried, I attempted several times to approach them;
but as s6on as this was observed, I was invariably brought back
by the others, who made signs to me not to go near them. We
travelled that day about eight or ten miles, and towards evening
arrived at the edge of a large swamp, where we halted, and huts
were instantly erected by the women, who were afterwards
obliged to go out and procure fern-root for the whole party,
the men never providing any thing but fish or game. I lodged
as usual with the chief, at a little ^stance from whose hut I ob-
served the two men hang up their burthens, which I again at-
tempted to approach, but was (as before) prevented. Here we
remained two days, during which a large fire was kept constantly
burning undemeatii the trees, <hi which these mysterious burthens
were hanging. On the evening of the second day, I once more
attempted to find out of what they consisted, though I strongly
suspected they were the skins of the two men who had been ^lled«
The old chief, on seeing me go near them, ran after me, calling
loudly to me to return; but I persevered, and at last reached the
place. I now saw that my conjecture was right ; the two skins
were stretched each on four spears, and drying over the fire.
The skin of the head was divided into two parts, and hung down



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THE ABORIGINES OP AUSTRALIA. 415

with the hair on it. The soles of the feet, and palms of the hands,
were also hanging down, and the nails still attached firmly to the
skin. Several of the men and women were sitting round the
fire, under the skins, and now invited me to sit down with them,
which I did. They then gave me some kangaroo skin, to de-
corate my arms and head, and seemed to wish me to sing to
them ; but on my making signs that it was not proper to do so,
while the remains of our friends were not buried, they seemed
surprised, and afterwards told me, by signs, that they were
much pleased at my refusal. After sitting with them about half-
an-hour, the chiefs wife came, and brought me back to the hut.
Shortly afterwards, all the men dressed themselves in kangaroo
skins, and one of them in an old rug jacket, which I had, and,
with one or two of the women, held a consultation round the fire,
each person ha\dng a fire stick in his hand. After conversing about
half-an-hour, two of the party separated from the rest, and having
taken down the skins, set off at full speed through the bush, the
rest following, shouting, and making much noise. After this, I
saw nothing more of the skins, nor do I know what became of
them. In about three quarters of an hour the party returned,
and the man who had taken away my old jacket, gave it me
back. The next morning we returned towards the Pumice Stone
River, by the same path which we had travelled to the fight, and
the natives followed their usual occupations of fishing and hunt-
ing, as if nothing had happened. — Uuiacke's Narrative, pp. 57-81.
Passim,

Pamphlet and his two shipwrecked companions,
had been about five months among the natives of the
Pumice Stone River. " Their behaviour to me and my
companions," he observes in the conclusion of the nar-
rative of his shipwreck, " had been so invariably kind
and generous, that, notwithstanding the delight I felt at
the idea of once more returning to my home, I did not
leave them without sincere regi'et."

I had not been long in New South Wales, when I
had reason to believe, that some such doctrine as the
famous oriental doctrine of the metempsychosis, or
transmigration of souls, was generally received and
held among the Aborigines. In talking on the subject,
however, with a number of intelligent persons through-
out the Colony, I found that it was the general belief
of such persons, that the idea had originated with their
convict-servants, who, with no object whatever but
merely to practise on the credulity of the natives, had



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416 OOOKSLAND.

persuaded them, in the convict-slang of the times, that
" hlack-fellows, when they died, would jump wp, or
rise again, white-fellows, and that white-fellows would
jump up black-fellows.*' I was satisfied with this ex-
planation for a time ; but I found, at length, that it was
not satisfactory, as at different periods in the history of
the Colony, and in widely distant localities, particular
white men had been recognised (or, at least, supposed
to be so) by the blacks, as deceased black men, whom
they knew and named, returned to life again ; and the
feelings with which they were known to regard such
persons convinced me that the idea had not originated
with the convicts at all. Shortly after the first settle-
ment of the Colony, a runaway convict, of the name of
Wilson, who had lived for years among the Aborigines,
was supposed, by the tribe in which he was naturalized,
to be a particular deceased native, whom it seems he
resembled, and whose mother was then living, returned
to life again. The poor old woman believed it herself,
and adopted the runaway as her son ; and as Wilson,
who, it appears, was an artful fellow, found it his in-
terest to keep up the delusion, he was at no pains to
undeceive her.

In September 1790, five convicts seized a small boat,
with the intention of escaping, if possible, from the
Colony ; but after suffering much hardship and priva-
tion, they were at length driven ashore at Port Stephen,
about 150 miles to the northward of Sydney. They
were kindly received by the natives, and, as Colonel
Collins informs us, on their own authority, — for it ap-
pears they were discovered, and brought back to Syd-
ney, several years thereafter — " they were never re-
quired to go out on any occasion of hostility, and were,
in general, supplied by the natives with fish, or other
food. They told us that the natives appeared to wor-
ship them, often assuring them, when they began to
understand each other, that they were, undoubtedly,
the ancestors of some of them who had fallen in battle,
and had returned from the sea to visit them again ;
and one native appeared firmly to believe, that his



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THE ABORIGINES OP AUSTRALIA. 41 7

&,ther was come back in the person of either Lee or
Connoway, (two of the number) and took him to the
spot where his body had been burned. On being told
that immense numbers of people existed far beyond their
little knowledge, they instantly pronounced them to be
the spirits of their countrymen, which, after death, had
migrated into other regions."*

I happened, from time to time, to hear of individual
cases of the same kind, in various parts of the Colony,
particularly at the Wollombi, in the district of Hunter's
River, and in the Cow-pasture district to the Southward
of Sydney ; but, as I was not then aware of the case
mentioned by CoUins, the subject made no particular
impression on my mind. On touching, however, at
King George's Sound, in the Colony of Swan River, on
my fifth voyage from England to New South Wales, in
the year 1837, my attention was strongly directed to
the subject once more, on being informed, by various
persons of respectable standing in that Colony, that the
same idea prevailed among the black natives there also ;
and that a particular gentleman at Swan River had ac-
tually been pointed out by the Aborigines as one of them-
selves — a particular native then deceased, whom, it
seems, he resembled — returned to life again. The pre-
valence of so very singular a superstition, on the oppo-
site shores of New Holland, appeared to me not only
to prove the absolute identity of the race, on both sides
of the continent, but to indicate some common and
mysterious origin for the superstition itself; and in this
opinion I was confirmed, on learning, afterwards, that
it was equally prevalent among the Aborigines of Port
PhiDip, — a particular individual, then residing at Mel-
bourne, having been pointed out, with the utmost con-
fidence, by the Aborigines of that district, as one of
their own nation, who had died some time before, come
to life again. On my visit to Moreton Bay, the cases
of Baker, or Boraltchou, and Davies, or Darumboy,

* Account of the English Colony of New South Wales. By
David CoUins, Esq., late Judge Advocate and Secretary of the
Colony. London: 1798. Page 426.
2d



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418 COOKSLAND.

(with which I was made acquainted quite incidentally,
and which were both precisely of the same character),
awakened my curiosity still further, and added to my
perplexity, when endeavouring to account for a fact in
Ethnology so exceedingly remarkable. I am satisfied,
however, that I have been enabled, through the latter
of these individuals, to discover the real origin of the
apparent mystery, and perhaps, also, to throw a little
additional light on what I have uniformly regarded,
for these twenty years and upwards, since I first landed
on the shores of Australia, as the darkest and most
difficult chapter in the history of man, — I refer to the
moral phenomena presented to philosophy and religion
generally, in the circumstances and condition of the
Papuan race.

James Davies is the son of a Scotch blacksmith, who
followed his calling first in the Old Wynd, and after-
wards at the Broomielaw, in the city of Glasgow, about
twenty-five years ago. The father brought up his son to
his own business, but the latter turned out a bad charac-
ter, and was transported to New South Wales, per the
ship Minstrel, in the year 1824, being only sixteen
years of age at the time. His transportation, however,
does not seem to have reformed him in any degree, for
he was again transported for some colonial misdeed to
the Penal Settlement at Moreton Bay. He was there
employed at the forge along with another young man
in similar circumstances. The Commandant of More-
ton Bay at that period was Captain Logan, of the 57th
Eegiment, who being very zealous in the cause of Greo-
graphical discovery, and accustomed to take long solitary
excursions into the wild bush, was at length unfortu-
nately murdered by the black natives, probably in re-
venge for some act of aggression committed upon them-
selves, by one or other of the convicts under his charge.
Captain Logan was a strict and rather severe discipli-
narian, and so liberal in the application of the lash,
that Davies and his companion, fearing that it might
shortly be their turn to be flogged, although they had



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THE ABOMGINES OP AUSTRALIA. 419

nevet been punished in the Settlement, absconded, and
'* took to the bush." Proceeding to Hie nortliward,
they soon fell in with a numerous tribe of black natives,
by whom they were kindly received, and treated with
the utmost hospitality ; Davies being recognised as one
of their own number, who had died, or been killed
sometime before, returned to life again. Davies is by
no means good-looking as a white man ; and I was not
surprised at the natives fancying he was a second ava-
tar, or incarnation of one of themselves. The name
of the native whom he was supposed to represent had
been Darumboy, and this was thenceforth his native
name. The recognition of the supposed relationship
was attended, in the first instance, with lamentations,
mingled with rejoicing ; and Davies was immediately
adopted by the parents of Darumboy, who were still
alive, and regularly supplied with fish in abundance,
and any other description of provisions they happened
to possess.

The tribe in which Davies and his companion were
thus naturalized, had their usual place of habitation (if
such a phrase can be used with propriety in reference to
a migratory people, who never stay more than a few
nights in any one place) at a considerable distance in
the interior, although they occasion^ly visited the
coast to vary their usual sustenance and mode of life
by fishing ; and it was on one of these occasional visits
to the coast that Davies was found and brought back
to civilized society, as already related, by Mr. Andrew
Petrie, after he had been upwards of fourteen years
among the natives, and had long given up all thoughts
or expectation of ever returning to the society of civi-
lized men. His companion, however, had in the mean-
time, and when they had botli been only a short period
among the natives, fallen a victim to his ignorance of
the native superstitions. For the tribe being on the
coast, and encamped near some inlet of the sea, where
oysters and other shell-fish were abundant, and all that
were able being employed in gathering the shell-fish,
Davies' companion being in want of a basket or other



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420 COOKSLAND.

receptacle for those he had collected, and observing a
dilly or native basket, (which is usually formed of a
strong native grass, very neatly plaited) hanging in
the hollow of a tree close by, he took it down, and find-
ing it contained only a quantity of bones, he threw
them out, and filled the dilly with oysters. These
bones, however, were those of a deceased native of the
tribe which had thus, in conformity to the native usage
in such cases, been solemnly deposited in their last
resting-place ; and the deed which the white man had
done quite unconsciously in removing them and throw-
ing them out, was regarded by the natives as the great-
est sacrilege, and punishable only with death. The
unfortunate young man was accordingly surprised and
killed very shortly thereafter.

Davies had on one occasion, sometime thereafter, very
nearly fallen a victim himself to the ferocity of the na-
tives. In their natural state *they have domesticated
the dingo or native dog of the Colony, and every tribe
is accompanied in all its wanderings by a number of
these creatures, which assist them in hunting the band-
icoot and opossum, and which are generally half-
starved, lean and mangy, so that ^^ as lean as a black-
feUow's dog" is the usual Colonial smile for extreme
poverty. They are very fond of these animals, how-
ever, especially the women, who not unfirequently
suckle the puppies along with their children. Darum-
boy's native mother had a favourite of this kind, (as
is not uncommon among her sex even in more civilized
countries,) which Davies by some means accidentally
killed. The loss of this animal excited the bad pas-
sions of the old savage to the highest degree, and per-



Online LibraryJohn Dunmore LangCooksland in north-eastern Australia: the future cottonfield of Great ... → online text (page 40 of 47)