In the days of the pioneers: How Charlie Cameron escaped murder at the hands of blacks [21 February 1947]

[Editor: An article regarding one man’s experiences with the Australian Aborigines. Published in The Land, 21 February 1947.]

In the days of the pioneers

How Charlie Cameron escaped murder at the hands of blacks

(By W.R.C.)

When Charlie Cameron, an uncle of the writer, was working on a sheep station in the Darling Downs, area of Queensland, now a dairying district, but at that time inhabited by wild blacks, he had a narrow escape from death at the hands of the local blacks.

It was supposed that no blacks were in the vicinity at the time so his elder brothers Don and Alec, who had business elsewhere, left him at Tregonning homestead with a shepherd, Tom Scott. There seemed to be no danger.

About eight o’clock in the evening, when Charlie and Tom were going to bed (they went to bed early in those days) a little black girl, about seven years old, crept into the homestead. “Mine thinkit,” she said, “you and Tom better get out of here and hide alonga bush.”

Pressed for reasons to back up her advice, she said, “Mine tell you too much already. Sposem I tell you any more maybe I get killed. Mine take big chances tell you so much.”

They thanked the kid and saddled horses. They didn’t hide in the nearby bush, but rode forty miles. When they returned they found the homestead burned to the ground.

On the same night Hornet Bank homestead, a hundred miles away, was raided by blacks, only one member of the household surviving.

* * *

Charlie seemed to bear a charmed life. When he moved out later into Central Queensland, where he managed Penola Downs station, a police party, under Inspector Beresford, engaged on a punitive expedition against blacks who had murdered two white men, stopped at the homestead for a night, and Charlie agreed to join them as a guide in two days’ time. Before the two days expired the blacks crept silently into the police camp and killed Beresford and all his party as they slept.

After he moved up to Mitchell River station, on Cape York Peninsula, Charlie expected to find very hostile blackfellows, but he found the males of the tribe an amiable and peaceable lot.

The women were not of the same nature, and of six murders of whites while he was on the Mitchell River, five were committed by lubras, none of the murderers ever being identified or brought to justice.

* * *

Discussing his later experiences in the Burketown area of the Gulf country, Charlie used to say that the blacks were harmless and the whites more amusing than dangerous.

There was no lock-up at Burketown, and malefactors, mostly just plain drunks, were chained to a log by the police. One Christmas Eve, however, the police chained too many to the log; and the prisoners, becoming thirsty, picked the log up and carried it into the local bar.

The police, represented by one mounted constable, was compelled to “shout” for all his prisoners before they would consent to carry their log back to its proper location.



Source:
The Land (Sydney, NSW), 21 February 1947, p. 9

Editor’s notes:
kid = child

lubra = an Aboriginal woman

malefactor = someone who breaks the law, a criminal; someone whose behavior is evil or wrong; someone who maltreats, harms, or does ill against someone else

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