Tuesday, December 1, 2009

William Buckley

William Buckley.

Who is that?

The names sounds sort of familiar, but I may be thinking of a similar sounding name. Isn't there an American named William F. Buckley, or William S. Buckley. I don't know who he is.....

Okay yeah. There's a William F. Buckley. Lord Wiki says he was a conservative author and commentator.

The Australian Buckley was a convict. Ah. I must have added a handful of convicts all at once...or maybe just two. I'll have to see who I get tomorrow.

Baby William was born in 1780 in Cheshire England. His mom was an unmarried woman named Eliza Buckley. Lord Wiki says that William was raised by his grandparents. I wonder if the mother had any part in her son's upbringing....or did the grandparents pretty much take over the whole job?

Buckley became a bricklayer's apprentice. Then he left that to join something called the King's Foot Regiment. This was part of the British army. Buckley later became part of the King's Own Royal Regiment. I think maybe this was a promotion. I could be wrong. I asked Lord Wiki, and didn't understand his answer. I don't care enough to pursue it, so.....

Anyway, Buckley went off to fight Napoleon in the Netherlands. I'm not sure how that went. Lord Wiki doesn't say much about it.

Later back in London, Buckley was accused of stealing cloth. Buckley insisted he was innocent; that he had been holding the cloth for a woman, and didn't know it was stolen. I guess no one believed him. He was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. Interesting. Mary Bryant got only 7 years. I think? I wonder why Buckley's sentence was double that.

Lord Wiki gives some physical descriptions of Buckley. He was supposedly tall, had shaggy black hair, and a face full of Smallpox scars.

Buckley wasn't part of the First Fleet. Well, because if he had been, he would have been only eight. I wonder if there was a minimum age for the whole Australia transportation punishment.

Wait. Here we go. Lord Wiki says the youngest transported convict was Mary Wade. She had been eleven years old. Wow.

Buckley left for Australia in April 1803 via the HMS Calcutta. They arrived in October. So, the journey took six months. Is that how long the First Fleet took?

Well, no. That one took about eight months. The time is similar though. The differences were probably due to weather, length of stops, and other stuff like that.

The Calcutta didn't dock in Port Jackson. They parked themselves in Victoria. The plan was to start a new settlement called Sullivan Bay. Lord Wiki says it was the first time the British had tried to make a permanent settlement in Victoria. A judge in Sydney was appointed as lieutenant governor of the settlement.

The settlement was started by two ships, the Calcutta and the Ocean. There were 467 people involved, and 299 of them were convicts. Wow. Lord Wiki says that within those 299, there were six convicts under the age of twelve. It's hard to imagine a child doing something bad enough to send them off to a whole new continent. Well, murder maybe..... But I'm betting most of those six kids did something much less horrible than that.

The settlement didn't last very long.... just a few months. There wasn't enough water and suitable timber. If I'm reading this right, most of the group ran off to Tasmania.

Before all THAT happened though, William Buckley escaped. He managed to do that about two months after the settlement had began.

Buckley and some other convicts managed to steal a boat. They went around the bay...near Melbourne. Then for some reason, the group split up. The others tried to head towards Sydney. Buckley stayed near the bay. I'm confused. Who got the boat? Well, I guess those heading off towards Sydney got it. Right? Maybe? Was there two boats, or did Buckley not have a boat anymore?

Lord Wiki says that Buckley traveled around Port Philip Bay. I'm guessing he was on foot by now.

I'm trying to find me a good map.

Well, here's a fairly good one. But I need something that puts the location more in context. I'm not that familiar with the Melbourne area.

Okay. I'm just using Google Maps now. The bay is below Melbourne, then to the left is Geelong. It's a bit hard to explain.

At first, Buckley avoided Aboriginal Australians. But then he stopped the avoiding, and met up with some nice folks. These were the Wathaurong people. They lived in the area that is now Melbourne and Geelong.

According to accounts, Buckley first met some friendly Wathaurong women. They invited Buckley back to their camp. The Wathaurong people ended up believing that Buckley was the returned spirit of one of their own. Would that be a reincarnation thing, or did they believe Buckley was literally a spirit?

Well, either way.....Buckley was warmly welcomed back. He was given the name Murrangurk, which means returned from the dead.

Buckley lived with the Wathaurong people for thirty-two years. It seems like he was pretty much accepted as one of them. He wasn't allowed to fight in tribal wars, but that was because he was seen as being spiritually important. I wonder why the Wathaurong people believed Buckley was a returned spirit. I know there had been similar beliefs regarding Captain Cook, and that had something to do with missing teeth. At least I think so. I could be remembering it wrong.

Was there something trivial like that which led the Wathaurong people into believing it, or was it something more substantial? And could they have been right? Had Buckley been a lost soul living in England. Maybe all that happened to him happened for a reason. Maybe he was meant to get caught with the cloth. Maybe everything happened so he could come home again.

I like imagining that kind of thing.

Lord Wiki says that Buckley had two Aboriginal wives, and probably a daughter. I wonder if their descendants are floating around Australia somewhere.

In 1835, Buckley returned to the white world. A new group of Europeans were settling in the area. They were led by John Batman. When Buckley entered the camp, Batman himself was off in Tasmania. Buckley met with three other men. They were nice to Buckley, but Buckley kept his identity a secret at first. Like Mary and William Bryant, he tried to pretend he was a shipwreck victim. A few days later he came clean and told them the truth. It seems everyone was fairly nice about it, and Buckley ended up with a pardon. Well, it was thirty-five years later. I guess it would be hard to be angry about something that happened that long ago. Plus, all he had done was steal a damn piece of cloth.

It looks like Buckley chose to stay with the white people, but he didn't cut all ties with the Wathaurong folks. He became an interpreter for the two groups.

Oh. There's a sweet story here. William Buckley went traveling with a guy named Joseph Gellibrand. The two of them encountered some Wathaurong people. In his diary, Gellibrand talked about the encounter. It sounds like one of those emotional reunion scenes from Lost. There were hugs and tears of joy. Gellibrand could tell that Buckley was much loved by his adopted family. I wonder how they felt about him leaving them to go back and live with white people. Was there any resentment, or were they understanding?

It sounds like things were a little rough for Buckley himself. Lord Wiki says he eventually became disenchanted with his new way of life. He went off to live in Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land). I wonder why he didn't just go back and live with the Wathaurong people.

In Hobart, Buckley worked in an Immigrant home. There he met a widow who'd eventually become his wife.

At the age of seventy-five, Buckley died from a cart accident.

I wonder if he ever returned to Victoria to visit.

A few years before his death, Buckley's story was turned into a book by a guy named John Morgan. The Life and Adventures of William Buckley. You know, now that I think of it.... I believe my friend's husband told me about the book. I remember him telling me he had a book about a convict who lived with Aboriginal Australians. And he's from Geelong. It would make sense that he'd be interested in a convict around there.

The book has received mixed reviews through out the year. Some people have seen it as the product of a vivid imagination. Other people believe it's pretty accurate.

Have any of you read it?

Well, I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to now visit the biographical dictionary site.

They say Buckley was six feet six inches. That would be about 183 centimeters.

He was wounded in the Netherlands. It seems this is why he was sent back to England. I wonder what type of injury he had.

Here's something interesting. It seems Buckley and his escapee friends regretted what they had done. I guess escaping had been more difficult than they imagined. They sent distress signals out to the Calcutta, but the settlers didn't respond. It looks like it was at this point that Buckley separated from the rest.

All right. This site says the Wathaurong people did believe Buckley was a reincarnated version of one of their own. Well, actually they thought he had been their chief.

Through the years, there were white people who came around. But until 1835, Buckley had been afraid to approach them. He thought he might get in trouble. I don't blame him for feeling that way. I wonder though...how strong was his desire to return to white people? How happy and satisfied was he living with the Wathaurong people? He had learned their language and culture. Did he feel that he fit in? Did he long for the European way of life? Had he been homesick in some ways?

Or was he perfectly happy, but felt some kind of obligation to return?

Well, here it sounds like he ended up in a bit of a Bennelong-type situation. Buckley felt torn between two cultures....not feeling quite trusted by either group. Did Buckley feel this distrust by the Wathaurong while he lived with them; or only after he had been reunited with the white people? I wonder if Buckley felt some guilt about his identity within the tribe. They thought he was their reincarnated chief. Did Buckley believe that as well....to any level? Or did he feel to some extent that he was fooling them?

I'd like to learn more about the Wathaurong people. I'm going to do that, and then participate in Thanksgiving weekend family festivities.

Here's a Victorian Aboriginal website. Their organization is working to restore the Wathaurong language. They've been working on this since 1998, and so far they have a list of seven thousand words. That's pretty awesome. They have an educational book/program called Learning Wathaurong. I'm not sure if it's that easy to get. Maybe you need to be a teacher? I mean I'm not finding many websites selling the program. Maybe I'm just missing it.

Here's a glass company owned by people in the Wathaurong tribe. It's actually a nonprofit company. The profits go back to the Aboriginal community. They have photos of some of their work, if anyone is interested.

Anyway, I gotta go. Our friends just arrived from out of town.


  1. Hi Dina

    Six feet Six is more like 198cm. I think the idea was that white people couldn't just be regular people so they must have been some kind of ghost. Some of the Africans of Tanzania seem to still have a similar belief about the many albinos that are produced among them. I've been wondering whether it may have once been a useful belief for prevention of genetic diseases in Tanzania but today it seems cruel that people want to kill them to do magic with their body parts.

  2. Martin,

    Some kind of ghost...but the Wathaurong folks saw Buckley as someone very specific. I wonder if they saw all white people as having some kind of spiritual/special identity. Or maybe Buckley was the first white person they had seen.

    I've not heard of the Tanzania issue. I'll go google that now.

  3. Hi Dina,

    It was very common in aboriginal culture to believe that that great chiefs or warriors would be reincarnated into a person or an animal.

    I remember reading how they believed that after you die your spirit stayed in the area that you died or were buried until a women came along and the spirit attaches itself to the women (falls pregnant) than they say that the child is the reincarnation of that person.

    Like i said the spirit could attach itself to human or animal but i think they also thought they could possessed by a spirit as well.

  4. Matt,

    I love that, because I believe in reincarnation.

    I think this is the first time I've heard of a belief that your spirit stays where you died and waits. It could explain why some people have strong ties to their ethnicity/heritage.

    Maybe most people are born to the same group/people, and then others are scattered....lost.

    I think there's a belief in Judaism that those who want to convert to Judaism actually have Jewish souls and are just returning to where they're supposed to be. I might be remembering that wrong though. I could have dreamed it.

    I do wonder how the soul of a chief ended up in England. I guess he could have been one of the lost souls. Or the possession thing could work. Maybe Buckley became possessed when he was out wandering in the bush.

    It MIGHT have been simply a case of mistaken identity. But I prefer the other theories.

  5. Actually if I remember correctly the reason William Buckley was believed to be the spirit of their dead leader was because Buckley came across his burial site that had his spear sticking out of it. So William Buckley took the spear to use as a walking stick and when the two Aboriginal women saw this white hairy man with their leaders spear they thought it was their leader in spirit form.

  6. Stuart,

    Remember correctly? You mean from your past life? Do you think you were William Buckley?

    No, I'm joking. I get what you're saying. The answer makes sense. It's probably what happened.