Tuesday, February 5, 2008

James Murrell - The Other William Buckley

Everyone is familiar with the name of William Buckley, the convict who escaped from Collins Settlement in Victoria and spent many years living with Aborigines before announcing his presence to white settlers.
There was also James Murrell.

In Queensland in 1863, 2 shepherds were faced with a naked 'Aborigine' who called out "Don't shoot me, I'm a British subject".
After taking him in and giving him a good scrub-a-dub-dub and clothing, the shepherds were amazed to hear this wild man's story.

James Murrell was a sailor who'd been on the ship Peruvian when it ran aground on a reef off north Queensland in 1846.
Only 7 of the 22 aboard managed to escape onto rafts; after 6 weeks at sea they finally hit land at Cape Cleveland (near current-day Townsville).
Although the local Aborigines treated them kindly, 6 died from the long voyage leaving Murrell as the lone survivor.

He was a young, fit man who adapted to the Aboriginal way of life quickly. He moved further south, after several years, to live with another group of Aborigines, who again readily accepted him.
After many years James had given up hope of ever contacting white folk when members of the tribe told him of white settlers living in the area; that was when he found the shepherds.

Murrell told the tribe of his intentions to live with the white folk and had a tearful parting. He travelled down to Brisbane where he became a huge favourite; was given a job and interviewed by the Govenor. He penned his account titled "Sketch of Residence Among the Aboriginals of Northern Australia".

Although James Murrell married and had one child he never fully adjusted to life as a white man again, similar to William Buckley, and died less than 3 years after meeting the shepherds.
On his death, flags were lowered to half mast and a long funeral procession exhibited the respect the public had for him.

More details on James Murrell's life HERE.


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