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Monday, April 20, 2009

Geelong, Victoria




On 30th January 1856, William Buckley walked along a sandy beach the Wathaurong people called 'Kooraioo', an area now known as the Geelong Waterfront. He was an imposing figure, 6ft 6in tall, bricklayer and ex soldier and was called the Wild White Man because he lived with the local Wada wurrung balug (Barrobool) and Bengalat bulluk (Indented Head) clans for thirty two years.

In England in 1802 he was convicted of being in possession of stolen goods, in this case a bolt of cloth, and was sentenced to transportation to Australia for life. He was taken to Port Phillip in Victoria and in April 1803 he and two friends escaped from the camp into the Victorian wilderness. Exhausted and hungry, his two friends decided to head back and were never seen again. Buckley soldiered on alone and was barely alive when he was found and taken in by a tribe of Aborigines who believed this tall white man with flaming red hair was the reincarnation of a revered member of their tribe. He took a wife, had a child and stayed with them for thirty two years.


Buckley said he saw white visitors come to Port Phillip many times over the years but he never came forward. Then he heard that the natives were plotting to murder the white men so in 1835, to prevent certain bloodshed, he surrended to a party under John Wedge at Indented Head. He had forgotton how to speak English but was identified by his initials 'WB' tattooed on his arm.


Wedge could see that Buckley would be a great help in negotiating with the natives so he obtained his pardon from Lieutenant-Governor Sir George Arthur and he went on to become Government Interpreter. However, the job became uncomfortable because the white men with influence didn't trust him and the natives didn't either so he left and went to Hobart Town.


In 1837 William Buckley assisted Geelong Police Magistrate to assemble the Koories within a radius of 30 kms of Geelong and 297 men, women and children were counted. When William Buckley died in 1856, there were less than 20 natives left.


When we say "He's got Buckley's" we mean it's very unlikely or there is no chance at all. I'm not sure if I understand how it relates to Buckley. Why did people think he had no chance? He managed to stay alive in the wilderness for 32 years, lived to a ripe old age and went on to receive a good pension when he retired, I'd say he was a pretty lucky man.