[Editor: This letter from Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), who led a rescue party in search of the Burke and Wills expedition, was published in The Mount Alexander Mail (Castlemaine, Vic.), 24 May 1875. The letter, written in response to some rumours about the Burke and Wills expedition, was originally published in The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 29 April 1875.]
King and the death of O’Hara Burke.
The following appeared in Saturday’s Telegraph:—
“Sir, — On returning lately from a journey to Omeo, my attention has been directed by Mr Weston Phillips, of Dandenong, to a communication from him which appeared in The Daily Telegraph of the 29th of April, and also to the issue of the 26th and 27th, containing “The Black Gin’s Story,” as related by a gentleman who has lately paid a visit to Cooper’s Creek, and also your leader on the subject.
Although late, I will ask your permission to say a few words. The very forcible manner in which you have placed the fact in your editorial, and the full details which Mr Weston Phillips has given, leave me but little to say. I should, in fact, but express my concurrence and assent in that which has been said.
So far as my opportunities went, I found King’s statement throughout consistent, and those opportunities were quite sufficient to satisfy me as to his truthfulness. During ten days in which we remained at Cooper’s Creek after the finding of King, in order to admit of his recovering strength for the home journey, I spent much time in examining him as to the events of the journey to and from the gulfs, and attending the death or Burke and Wills. As I have intimated, I found the statements consistent, and I reduced them to writing as much as possible in the very words he used. This is known as “King’s Narrative.”
I found the remains of Burke certainly removed a short distance from the spot indicted by King — no doubt by native dogs. But at the place where Burke was said to have died, only a few yards distant from where he was found, there were the articles spoken of by King. As far as I now remember, the revolver, a spoon, and a number of crow’s feathers. It will be recollected that King said he shot a crow, and made Burke some broth shortly before he died.
I never heard a whisper of any “mystery” which King had to conceal, and I do not believe there was one. So far as the truthfulness of native reports is concerned, you have exactly quoted the instance which I should have given. The information furnished to M’Kinly by his native guide, Bullenganny, which led to the conflict with the blacks at Andaginng, called by M’Kinly “Massacre Lake,” and the old black gin’s story about Burke being murdered, I believe to be equally true and equally worthy of credit.
—I am, etc., A. W. Howitt.”
The Mount Alexander Mail (Castlemaine, Vic.), 24 May 1875, p. 2
Also published in:
The Ballarat Courier (Ballarat, Vic.), 24 May 1875, p. 4
The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 24 May 1875, p. 3
The Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic.), 25 May 1875, p. 3
The Gippsland Times (Sale, Vic.), 25 May 1875, p. 4
Riverine Herald, Echuca and Moama Advertiser (Echuca, Vic.), 29 May 1875, p. 1 of the Supplement section
A. W. Howitt = Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), explorer and natural scientist; the leader of a rescue party in search of the Burke and Wills expedition; he was born in 1830 in Nottingham (England) in 1830, and died in Bairnsdale (Vic.) in 1908
See: 1) W. E. H. Stanner, “Howitt, Alfred William (1830–1908)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Alfred William Howitt”, Wikipedia
gin = an Aboriginal woman
King = John King (1841-1872), a soldier in the British Army, and an explorer; he was born in Moy (County Tyrone, Ireland) in 1841, in 1860 he came to Australia and assisted with the Burke and Wills expedition (during which he almost died), and he died in St Kilda (Melbourne, Vic.) in 1872
See: 1) Alan Moorehead, “King, John (1841–1872)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “John King (explorer)”, Wikipedia
Weston Phillips = (1835?-1883) a chemist, and an explorer; he was part of the 1862 expedition led by Alfred Howitt (1830-1908) in search of the Burke and Wills expedition; he was born in England in 1835(?), migrated to Australia with his family in 1856, and died in New South Wales in 1883, at the age of 48
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]