William Buckley, the wild white man
There's no local hero quite like William Buckley. I've cobbled together a kind of bio of his life here, plus posted a painting I did of Buckley's Falls and two pictures about Buckley I found on the internet.
The 'wild white man', was born at Marton, Cheshire, England, the son of a small farmer Because of his great height, 6 ft 6 ins (198 cm), he joined the army. In 1799 he served in the Netherlands and was wounded in action. After his return to England, he was convicted at the Sussex Assizes on 2 August 1802 of having received a roll of cloth knowing it to have been stolen, and was sentenced to transportation for life.
He was taken to Port Phillip in April 1803 in the Calcutta and there he and two companions absconded from the camp. Buckley wandered around the bay, along the coast to what was to be later called Breamlea, Torquay, Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. His first permanent resting place was near Mount Defiance (between Lorne & Apollo Bay) where he found an abundance of shellfish, edible vegetation and natural cover. It was here that his contact with the Wautharong Aborigines began. The local tribes knew him as Murrangurk. On his travels he had picked up a spear from a grave site to use as a walking stick. This spear had belonged to the aboriginal Murrangurk. The locals believed Buckley to be reincarnated as a white man. The name Murrrangurk has also come to mean 'back from the dead'.
For the next three decades Buckley wandered extensively throughout the region, living with local tribes who took him in as one of their own and taught him to hunt and live as they did. Most of his years on the run were spent around what is now Geelong, through the Otway Ranges and along the coast near Barwon Heads. He learnt their language and their customs, and was given a wife, by whom, he said, he had a daughter.
For thirty-two years he lived around the coast of southern Victoria. On 7 July 1835, Buckley wandered into a camp of John Batman’s at Indented Head and reacquainted himself with European society. At first he had forgotten his own language, but he was identified by the tattoo mark on his arm, and the initials 'W.B.'
John Batman employed him as interpreter at a salary of £50, and he later became government interpreter
February 1st, 1836
Gellibrand sought knowledge from Buckley about the Aboriginal communities he had lived with. 'It appears from his statement that the Tribes are most peacably disposed [and] that they fully understand the nature of the Grants issued by them… I am quite satisfied that he can only be acted upon, by kindness, and conciliation, and by those means he will be an Instrument in the hands of providence in working a great moral change upon the aborigines'.
February 4th, 1836
On 4 February, William Buckley accompanied Gellibrand and his party on a trip west from Melbourne, heading toward Geelong, where they met with a group of Aboriginal people with whom Buckley had lived.
February 5th, 1836
'I directed Buckley to advance and we would follow him at a distance of a quarter of a mile. Buckley made towards a native well and after he had rode about 8 miles, we heard a cooey and when we arrived at the spot I witnessed one of the most pleasing and affecting sights. There were three men five women and about twelve children. Buckley had dismounted and they were all clinging around him and tears of joy and delight running down their cheeks[.] It was truly an affecting sight and proved the affection which these people entertained for Buckley… amongst the number were a little old man and an old woman one of his wives. Buckley told me this was his old friend and with whom he had lived and associated thirty years.'
William Buckley was confused in his loyalties, and felt that neither the Aboriginals nor the whites trusted him entirely. Unhappy and disillusioned, he left for Hobart in December 1837. He became assistant store-keeper at the Immigrants' Home, and from 1841 to 1850 was gate-keeper at the Female Factory. He retired on a pension of £12 to which the Victorian government added £40 a year. In 1840 he had married Julia Eagers, the widow of an emigrant. Buckley died at Hobart in 1856.
To put the story of white/Aboriginal contact here is a timeline of Aboriginal heritage and decimation in Victoria - on this website.