Kenny Story

Rosslyn Thom  grhom@bigpond.com
 
Chapter Seven

 

Herbert William George Kenny

by Grahame and Rosslyn Thom






Herbert or George William Herbert Kenny as his name was registered at birth, was born at Collingwood, Victoria on 25 June 1849.  He married Rose Marion Baker at Coonabarabran on 13 January 1877.  In all documents except the Electoral rolls he was always known as Herbert William George, or just Herbert Kenny.

Herbert and Rose had the following children :-

    1 Eyre Evans (Evans) born Belar Station NSW, 2 November 1877
 
    2 Frances Ethel Ashurst (Ethel) born Ulamamby (sic) Station near Coonabarabran NSW, 28 November 1879
       
    3 Millicent Susan Emily born Ulimamba (sic) NSW, 6 April 1881
       
    4 Beatrix Rose born Ulimambi (sic) Station, NSW, 11 March 1883
           
    5 Herbert Edward Gray (Bert) born 23 January 1888, Berwick, Victoria
       
    6 Dudley Roy (Roy) born New Koreelah, NSW, 15 August 1892
                    
    7 Arthur John Charles (Jack) born New Koreelah, NSW, 16 May 1895

Much of the story of the life of Herbert Kenny has been written in the articles by E E Larcombe that follow later.  However, to assist readers, the events in Herbert’s life are summarised in year order below.

1849 - birth on 25 June at Collingwood, Victoria
1850s - attended St Kilda Grammar School
1860 - witnessed the departure of Burke and Wills expedition
1861 - father Eyre Evans Kenny dies on 19 September at Moonee Ponds, Victoria
1860s - attended Scotch College, Melbourne
1860s - worked in an office and then in a bank in Melbourne
1860s-70s - worked as a jackaroo then overseer on Cobram Station, Murray River, Victoria
1870s - Overland trips to Eden, Wellington, NSW and elsewhere
1870s - Overseer then station manager of Garriwilla, near Gunnedah, NSW
1870s - Station manager of five stations, including, Belar and Ulimambra, NSW
1874 - while exploring met Andrew Hume and party who were searching for the Leichhardt expedition, at
           Thargomindah, Queensland
1877 - marriage to Rose Marion Baker on 13 January at Coonabarabran, NSW
1877 - birth of son Eyre Evans on 2 November at Belar Station, NSW
1879 - birth of daughter Frances (Ethel) on 28 November at Coonabarabran, NSW
1881 - birth of daughter Millicent on 6 April at Ulimamba (sic), NSW
1883 - birth of daughter Beatrix on 11 March at Ulimambi (sic), NSW
1883c - moved with family to Berwick, east of Melbourne
1880s - travelled up the coast of NSW to Brisbane where he met explorer A C Gregory who gave him a compass
1885 - travelled to Adelaide by rail, coach to Maree, horse to Cooper’s Creek, then to Innamincka Station, where he
            was first the book keeper, then station manager
1885 - erected fence around Burke’s tree
1885 - mother Frances Anne Kenny dies on 21 July at East Melbourne, Victoria
1886c - travelled through South Australia to the MacDonnell Ranges, NT, where he met explorer David Lindsay (1886), and to Ayres Rock (now Uluru)
1887 - explored the district between the Victoria and Daly Rivers, Tennant Creek and MacDonnell Ranges
1888 - birth of son Herbert (Bert) on 23 January at Berwick, Victoria
1888c - station manager Lawn Hills Station, near Burke, NSW
1888c - station inspector for the PFA Company in the Yass district, NSW
1889c - station manager New Koreelah Station
1890c - family moved to New Koreelah Station, NSW (purchased part)
1892 - birth of son Dudley on 15 August, at New Koreelah, NSW
1892/98 - station manager Isis Downs, Queensland
1895 - birth of son Arthur (Jack) on 16 May at New Koreelah, NSW
1898 - worked in Sydney with the Department of Lands
1904 - Listed in the NSW Post Office Directory - at Windyhaugh Station
1908 - marriage of daughter Beatrix to Arthur Devine on 3 March in Warwick, Qld
1909 - birth of grandson Stanley Devine on 9 July in Warwick, Queensland
1909 - Herbert, Rose, Roy and Jack move to Morpeth, NSW to live
1910c - CP officer, Lands Office, West Maitland
1910 - marriage of daughter Millicent to Frank Sellars on 7 February in Townsville, Queensland
1911 - birth of grandson Colin Devine on 23 March in Warwick, Queensland
1912 - birth of grandson John Devine on 8 September in Warwick, Queensland
1912 - family moved to Windsor Road, Riverstone (Vineyard) NSW
1913 - wrote letters to the newspaper Australasian concerning the fate of Leichhardt
1914 - birth of grand daughter Rose Sellars on 8 January in Bowen, Queensland
1915 - son Arthur (Jack) enlists at Liverpool in the AIF on 5 March, departed Sydney 19 June, fought on Gallipoli -
            17th Battalion
1915 - son Herbert (Bert) enlists at Liverpool in the AIF on 6 April, departed Sydney 7 June, fought on Gallipoli - 
            7th Light Horse
1915 - birth of grandson Maxwell Devine on 19 April in Warwick, Queensland
1916 - son Arthur (Jack) returns to Sydney and discharged 7 July medically unfit
1916 - birth of grand daughter Joyce Sellars on 17 December
1918 - son Arthur (Jack) re-enlists on 13 May and embarks from Sydney for overseas on 19 June - 34th Battalion
1919 - son Staff Sergeant Major Herbert (Bert) returns from war on 28 June
1919 - birth of grand daughter Beryl (Hope) Devine on 5 September in Warwick, Queensland
1919 - son Corporal Arthur (Jack) returns from the war on 23 September
1920 - birth of grand daughter Coralie Sellars
1920c - living at 27 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, NSW
1920s - Secretary of the Blacktown School of Arts, member Blacktown Agricultural Society and Progress Association
1923 - marriage of son Herbert (Bert) to Amy Maclean on 4 December, in Bowen, Queensland
1924 - birth of grandson Frank Sellars on 7 April in Bowen, Queensland
1825 - birth of grand daughter Elizabeth (Betty) Kenny in Bowen, Queensland
1926 - birth of grand daughter Lesley Kenny on 30 September 1926 in Bowen, Qld
1927 - death on 11 July at 87 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, NSW
1928 - birth of grand daughter Colleen on 26 May 1928 at Bowen, Queensland
1931 - death of wife Rose on 15 October at 87 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, NSW

In addition to the story of Herbert’s life as reflected in the timeline above and in E E Larcombe’s articles, the following pieces of interesting information have been found.

Coonabarabran

Herbert was a station manager of several properties to the south and east of Coonabarabran in the 1870s and early 1880s.  It is where he met and married his wife Rose.

Coonabarabran is known as the 'Gateway to the Warrumbungles', a mountain range which arcs around the town to the west, north and east. Essentially a quiet country town on the Castlereagh River, Coonabarabran is 451 km north-west of Sydney between Gilgandra and Gunnedah and 509 metres above sea-level.  Wool and wheat are the economic mainstays of the town. There is also a strong timber industry based in the Pilliga Scrub to the north-west.

The town's name derives from the language of the Kamilaroi people who inhabited the area prior to white settlement, though its meaning is now highly uncertain.

The first European to discover the Castlereagh River was George Evans, a member of John Oxley's 1818 party which passed 25 km to the north during the expedition which led to the European discovery of the Liverpool Plains.

The 'Cooleburbaran' sheep run was established in 1836 and, in the late 1840s, became known as 'Coolabarabyan' when it was owned by James Weston who grew wheat and established a mill. By 1848 a man named William Field owned the land opposite on the northern bank of the river.

The two men had selected land around a river crossing on the 'Old Wool Road' which joined the inland to the river port of Morpeth. When settlement of Queensland proceeded, the wool trade from the north also crossed the river at this point. Both men realised the potential of the site and each established a store and hotel on opposite sides of the crossing.

Other buildings developed, including a blacksmith, a Presbyterian school and a post office which opened in 1850. A small police force was posted to the town as early as 1857. A survey of the townsite was conducted in 1859 and land sales proceeded in 1860 when the first courthouse and lock-up were built.

A public school was built in 1870. The following year the population was still only 163 but it more than doubled in the 1870s. All of the major religious denominations built churches in the course of the decade. Cobb and Co established a coach service through the town in 1876. A shire hall, sawmill and newspaper were established the next year, and a new sandstone courthouse was built in 1878.

Further expansion occurred in the 1880s with improved roads and services, new and more specialised stores, banks, the establishment of the local agricultural show and a bridge over the Castlereagh in 1885, though drought followed by a plague of kangaroos and emus caused economic hardship.  After weathering the depression of the 1890s the town became a quiet service centre.

From the Coonabarabran district the Kenny family moved to the Berwick district, east of Melbourne in about 1883.   Although the reason for this move is not known, it is likely that Herbert was asked by his widowed half-sister Emily to assist in managing her properties in the Parishes of Packenham and Gembrook, east of Berwick, including two properties of about 157 acres each.  Emily had married solicitor Henry Lawes in Melbourne in 1856, and Henry had died on 7 August 1882, at Hawthorn, a Melbourne suburb, leaving his estate to Emily, including a large house on 157 acres in the Parish of Pakenham.  When Emily died in 1892 at Hawthorn, she still held the Pakenham lot plus another similar sized lot in the nearby Parish of Gembrook.

While Rose and the children lived in Berwick, Herbert had “itchy feet”.  He took a trip along the coast of NSW to Brisbane where he met explorer A C Gregory who gave him a compass as Herbert had mentioned he would soon be travelling out to Innamincka.

In mid 1884, at the baptism of their niece Mary Elizabeth (May) White, daughter of William and Teresa Mary White (nee Baker), in Dubbo, Herbert and Rose were named as god parents to May.  We do not know if Herbert and Rose attended this service.

On 21 July 1885, Herbert’s mother Frances died in Melbourne.  It is not known if Herbert attended her funeral as sometime in 1885 Herbert travelled to Adelaide by rail, coach to Maree, horse to Cooper’s Creek, on to Innamincka Station, where he was first the book keeper, then acting station manager.  Innamincka is situated in the north east corner of South Australia on the banks of Coopers Creek.

The area was the traditional home of the Yandruwandha, Dieri and Yarrawarrka aborigines.  The first European to travel to the area was Charles Sturt in 1845.  He was followed by A C Gregory in 1858 and then Burke and Wills in 1861.  The first white settlers were Customs officers who collected taxes from drovers crossing into South Australia from Queensland.  In 1871 M F Lennon opened the Bushman Hotel on the banks of Coopers Creek. 

In 1872 the Innamincka cattle station was established and grew to 16,000 square kilometres.  A store and post office opened in 1877 and a fortnightly coach service started in 1879 from Beltana to Innamincka.  In 1881 Innamincka Station was purchased by William Campbell  MLC of Melbourne.  In 1882 Campbell returned to England and appointed Alfred Walker as manager.  Walker held this position until 1908.

In 1882 a police camp was established, resulting in a small community developing called Hopetoun.  But the locals ignored this name preferring to use Innamincka.   In 1885 Walker decided to take a six months holiday and Herbert was appointed as station manager during his absence.  While at Innamincka Herbert erected a fence around Burke’s tree.

Herbert next explored the district between the Victoria and Daly Rivers, Tennant Creek and MacDonnell Ranges, where he met  explorer David Lindsay (1886), and to Ayres Rock (now Uluru).

Their son Herbert (Bert) was born on 23 January 1888 at Berwick.  At about this time, Herbert managed Lawn Hills Station, near Burke, and then moved to Yass in NSW where he was the station inspector for the PFA (probably the Pastoral Finance Association Company).

In about 1889, Herbert was asked to be the station manager of New Koreelah, a large cattle property at the head of the Clarence River close to the Queensland/NSW border.  It is said that the “bank” asked Herbert to take on this role as the bank thought highly of Herbert’s skills.   The owner was probably in financial difficulties for in 1890, Herbert purchased two lots being part of the old New Koreelah Station. The two lots were in the Parish of Mandle, being Lot 5, the homestead block of 320 acres and adjoining to the south, lot 6 of 950 acres, both on the eastern side of Koreelah Creek.  Following the purchase Rose and five children moved to New Koreelah.

The closest town was Killarney just over the border in Queensland.  This is probably where they went shopping and picked up their mail.  The South Killarney town site was first surveyed in 1878, but the town already boasted several shops and services by this time. Many early settlers selected land in the Killarney area with the first arriving in 1863. During the 1880s Killarney was described as “one of the most flourishing towns in Southern Queensland” A branch railway was built from Warwick in 1885.

Sometime around 1892 Herbert again got “itchy feet” and took a position as station manager of Isis Downs Station, a very large property to the south of Longreach in south-west Queensland.  It appears he remained in this position until 1898.  This seems to indicate he left the management of New Koreelah in Rose and Evans’ hands.

On 2 April 1897 the Brisbane Courier advised that “Alford & Co, Stock and Station Agents, report, Brisbane, 31st March, having sold during last three months :- for Herbert Kenny, Esq, New Koreelah, 600 bullocks” (amongst others).

The Brisbane Courier of 9 August 1898 reported that “Mrs Herbert Kenny and Miss Kenny of New Koreelah station, Killarney, are in town for a few weeks, and staying with the Misses Cullen, Barra, Montague-road, South Brisbane.”

It is likely that Rose and her daughter came to Brisbane with Herbert as he appeared as a defendant in a civil case in the Queensland Supreme Court on 3 and 4 August 1898.  The action was taken against Herbert by James Henry Brookes, grazier of Queensland, to recover £280 for alleged breach of contract to deliver cattle.  The Brisbane Courier of 4 August reported that “an agreement was signed by both parties on the 29th April 1898, and in this it was agreed that the defendant should sell to the plaintiff 150 bullocks as inspected by the plaintiff on the 28th day of April, 1898, on New Koreelah station, at £3.10s per head, delivery to be given at Tenterfield on or before 20th day of May, 1898.” 

Herbert refused to deliver and made a general denial in court, asking for the contract to be waived as Brookes had failed to make the selection on 14 May.  The following day, 4 August, James Aidis, Herbert’s head stockman, gave evidence supporting some aspects of Herbert’s statement.  That afternoon, Judge Cooper summed up, and concluded that he favoured the plaintiff’s position.  The Judge described Herbert’s case as “a fantastic one”.  The jury took 15 minutes and found for Brookes for £213.15s.  It is hard to think why Herbert took the position he did.  Perhaps he got a better price for the 150 bullocks and hoped Brookes would not take any action.

The three newspaper items above were found on a test web site of the National Library of Australia - now Trove. 

Sometime after this court case, and probably due to being short of funds, Herbert sold Lot 6 to David Cullen.  The Cullen family had become good friends of the Kennys.  In 1898 the NSW Government balloted a number of lots on the western side of Koreelah Creek, near New Koreelah.   It is said that Herbert, Evans and Ethel put their names forward and were the first three names drawn out.  However, it was revealed that Ethel was under age and her lot went to the Davidson family.  Herbert obtained Lot 23 of 1600 acres in the Parish of Reid, with its eastern boundary being Koreelah Creek.  Evans obtained 1720 acres, being Lot 97 in the Parish of Acacia, adjoining his father’s Lot 23 and a small part of it’s eastern boundary on the Creek. On the immediate eastern bank of the Creek was Lot  5, New Koreelah Station then held by Herbert. 

Following this purchase by Herbert and Evans, the combined properties were probably called Windyhaugh.  The origin of the name Windyhaugh is not known.  There is a place name Windyhaugh in a beautiful valley to the west of Alnwick in Northumberlandshire, England and in 1898 American novelist Robert Travers wrote a book titled “Windyhaugh”. Haugh means “a low-lying meadow in a river valley”.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 3 October 1899 reported that Pitt, Son and Badgery had sold at the Homebush Yards 4 heifers at £4.15s, one steer at £4.11s, 38 calves at £2.9.5 on account of New Koreelah Station.

It is likely that Herbert again left the management of these properties to Rose and Evans as it is reported that he took up a position in Sydney with the Department of Lands. 

On 8 June 1907, Rose’s mother Ann died in Dubbo.  It is likely that Herbert and Rose attended the church service at St Brigid’s and the burial service at Dubbo cemetery.

In late 1909 Evans sold Lot 97 to Peter Mutch and it is likely that at about the same time Herbert sold Lots 23 and 5 to Peter’s brother George Mutch.

The Kenny family’s next move (Herbert, Rose, Bert, Roy and Jack) was south to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley sometime around 1909, where Herbert was, for a short period, the CP Officer in the Lands Office, West Maitland.  This move saw the breakup of the family.  Evans remained in the Koreelah district, Trixie married Arthur Henry Devine in 1908, raising a family in Warwick, Ethel lived with Trixie in Warwick, and Millie married Frank Sellars in Townsville in February 1910, then settled in Bowen, Queensland. 

Herbert, Rose and the three boys moved south again to Riverstone, west of Sydney.  Some background history; in 1803 a government stock farm was established in what was to become the Riverstone/Marsden Park area, on the basis of the abundant water supply and good grazing land there. In 1810 Lieut-Col Maurice Charles O'Connell was granted 2,500 acres of land in the district, which he named "Riverston Farm", after his birthplace in Ireland. 

Originally, beef cattle farmed in the area were driven overland to the Hawkesbury River for transport by sailing ship to Sydney Cove. The construction of the Sydney to Richmond Railway line in 1864 both eliminated the need for this and opened up the region to non-rural development.

An important meatworks was established there in 1878, undergoing various stages of rebuilding and expansion until it closed permanently in 1992. In the 1880s O'Connell's widow subdivided and sold off most of the original grant, and a pattern of intersecting streets was laid out, mostly named after famous streets in London.  A substantial railway station, churches and other infrastructure were also constructed. The presumption was that Riverstone was set to become an important regional centre but this did not happen.  Until the beginning of the 21st century, Riverstone remained a small country town.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 21 June 1912 advised under the Vineyard column that “Another new arrival to Vineyard is Mr Kenny, who comes from the Hunter District, and has bought Mr Robert Strachan’s homestead.”  The Strachan family had lived on the property for 35 years.  However the sale was finalised on 25 September 1912 in the name of Rose Marion Kenny.  The 76 acre property was on Windsor Road, Vineyard.

In September 1913 the Dubbo Dispatch newspaper reported on the marriage of Herbert and Rose’s nephew John Francis (Jack) White to Elizabeth (Lizzie) Jane Priest at St Brigid’s Church, Dubbo.  The report has a lengthy list of gifts, including silver cake forks from Mr and Mrs H Kenny of Riverstone.

Marie recalls that her mother, May White, told her that Jack and Lizzie, after their wedding, called on their uncle and aunty.  They were met at Riverstone station and travelled to the farm in a horse drawn vehicle, and Lizzie described Herbert as a “real gentleman”.   Jack’s father Bill White and his cousin May Murphy (nee Anlezark) also visited the Kennys at about the same time.  They were to be met at Riverstone station but no one came.  So they had a long walk to the farm.  May said all the Kenny boys, Ethel and Millie were good looking like their father, and Trixie looked like her mother Rose.  May recalled later that she thought it was a poultry farm.  She exchanged letters with Bert, Jack, and the girls, but this ceased when she was busy with her own family. 

By mid 1915 with Bert overseas at war and and Jack returning home having been injured at Gallipoli, the Kenny family were probably struggling to maintain the farm.  On 17 August 1915 Rose mortgaged the property to Mrs Annie Pickup.  Then on 5 August 1916 the farm and equipment was sold to Joseph Samuel Harding.  The homestead was demolished some years ago.

Prior to the sale the Kenny family moved several kilometres south to a smaller property named “The Pines” in Dromana Road, Mardsen Park, not far from the Riverstone township.  It was from here that Jack joined the AIF in 1915 and rejoined in 1918 to serve in England.  Bert served at Gallipoli and in the Middle East till he returned home in 1919.

Even though the Vineyard property was sold in 1916, records indicate that Herbert continued to live here while Rose lived at “The Pines”.  This was probably as a result of Roy requiring close supervision, and a desire of Herbert to continue to “work the land” for as long as possible.  He turned 70 years of age in 1919.

In May and June 1919 Rose wrote from “The Pines” twice to the Army Office in Sydney enquiring about Bert’s expected arrival and asked about the availability of free train tickets stating that “We are in poor circumstances”.  Army Records replied advising that two admission cards to the Anzac Buffet would be issued to Rose and that she could apply for two free rail passes; one for herself as next-of-kin and another for a relative or near friend.  Evans travelled from northern NSW to join his mother in welcoming home Bert in August 1919. 

In November 1919 Rose’s sister Teresa White died in Dubbo aged 55 years.  Rose attended the service at St Brigid’s Church and later the burial at Dubbo cemetery.  Teresa left her husband Bill and four children. 
 
Around 1920 Herbert, Rose and three sons again moved a small distance south, to a town house at 87 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown.  Their home was close to the centre of the town.  In 1921 the population of Blacktown was 7381 and the first picture theatre, the Rivoli, opened.  As will be read elsewhere Herbert became active in the local community, joining the School of Arts, the Agricultural Society and the Progress Association.  Probably through these organisations the Kennys became good friends of Edwin Larcombe (1877-1957) and his wife Grace; Edwin was headmaster of the local primary school.  

Descendants of Herbert hold an old photograph, a little smaller than A4 size.  On the back of this photograph Herbert has written a story to his son Jack.  There is no date but seeing that Jack enlisted in the Great War in 1915, its likely that Herbert wrote it about that time or maybe after Jack returned in 1919.  Please appreciate that there appears to be a number of errors.  Herbert is probably recalling events as described by his mother as his father died when he was 12 years of age.

“Jack  Your great granfather (sic) can be seen inside the coach indistinctly.   After the storming of Seringingapataw (Srirangapatna), He returned to England & subsequently lost his life at Elligipour (Ellichpur) during an action there.  He served under Wellesley (afterwards Duke of Wellington) & was through the Pinsular (Peninsular) War, Ciudad, Rodirigo (Rodrigo), Vittoria (Vitoria), & other wars between 1808 & 1812, & was in India at the time of the battle of Waterloo in 1815.  When he lost his life at Elligipour, in India, my father was in the same action. & saw his father dead on the battle field & helped bury him in his soldiers grave - Both my grandfather & father were mentioned many times in despatches by the Duke of Wellington (then Wellesley) my father was then only a very young man - there are four on the box seat besides the driver - all officers who commanded during the Pinsular War under the Duke of Wellington - I cannot recollect their names but the second from the left is the Duke of Cambridge, but I do not think he served in the Pinsular War, although he was Commander in chief for many years when your cousin succeeded him, under new regulations  Your cousin I think was afterwards succeeded by Lord Roberts for the following five years.”

If it is correct that Eyre Evans Kenny is inside the coach then this photograph must have been taken prior to his departure to Melbourne, that is prior to 27 August 1842.  And the earliest date it could have been taken is late 1839 when cameras were first used in England.  We have yet to identify the building or location.

Assuming that the Duke of Cambridge is sitting on top of the coach, this raises further questions.  The first Duke of Cambridge, Prince Adolphus Frederick, died in 1850 and it was his son the second Duke, Prince George, who was Commander-in-Chief from 1887 to 1895, followed by Viscount Wolseley, then Lord Roberts in 1901.  Therefore, is the younger man on the left front, Prince George?  Surely this man is too young to have served in the Peninsular War of 1807-1814.  We have tried to find a link between the Kenny family and Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, who was Commander in Chief 1895-1900; but have not succeeded.

Another question is why would the Duke of Cambridge be sitting outside the coach with Eyre Evans Kenny sitting inside?  Keeping in mind the period when the photograph may have been taken, 1839-1842, there were two known major events in the life of Eyre Evans Kenny during this period.  First was the marriage of his eldest daughter Caroline on 17 February 1842 to Charles Spencer Owen at the Old Church, St Pancras, London.  Second was his second marriage by licence to Frances Anne Gray on 5 March 1842 at Edgbaston, Warwickshire.  Neither church looks like this building. 

Returning to Herbert’s story, from a letter he wrote to his grand daughter Rose Sellars on 19 August 1924 we learn that their house at 87 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, was named “Methane”.

Herbert died at home, 87 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, NSW  on 11 July 1927.  His wife Rose died in the same home on 15 October 1931.  They are buried together in the Church of England Cemetery, Prospect, NSW.  Their sons Eyre, Jack and Dudley continued to live in the family home for most of  rest of their lives.

In April 1991 we visited Blacktown and viewed the site of 87 Flushcombe Road and then went to the Church of England Cemetery at Church Lane, Prospect. We found a headstone for Herbert Kenny, but were unable to locate a grave for Rose.  As we were leaving an elderly man and woman arrived.  They noticed our interstate number plate on our car and came over to us.  The woman asked if we had found who we were looking for.  They knew a lot about the cemetery and local people.  As a result we were informed that Rose was buried in the same grave as Herbert but the headstone was not altered to include her name and details.

We also learnt that the woman remembered Herbert visiting the Blacktown Primary School at the time she was a pupil there.  He gave a talk to the pupils about the aborigines of Innaminka and showed them his collection of spears and nullah nullahs.

The following obituary was found in family papers without noting the date and name of the newspaper (Identified on Trove as the Cumberland Argus, Friday, 15 July 1927, page 6).

“Death of Mr Herbert Kenny

The death occurred on Monday of a gentleman whose name should not be omitted from the historical records of Australia.

For eight years a resident of Blacktown, Mr Herbert Kenny passed away at 2 am on the 11th instant, at his residence in Flushcombe-road, Blacktown, in the presence of his wife and several members of his family.  For some few months previously he had been ailing, and his death was not unexpected, although when the Great Reaper claimed him, the wrench to his loved ones was severe.

The deceased, who was 79 years of age, and who leaves his wife, and a grown-up family of seven (four sons and three daughters) was very highly esteemed and respected throughout the whole district, and, indeed, in many parts of the different States of the Commonwealth.  Two of his sons are returned soldiers, one residing in New South Wales and the other in Queensland.  Two of the three daughters are married.

The late Mr Kenny was a native of Collingwood, Victoria, and a typical Australian.  His father was Colonel E E Kenny, of the Indian Army, where his grandfather and great-grandfather had also served.  Well over 6ft in height , and as straight as an arrow, in principle as well as stature, he had a personality that was always remarkable.  He was an expert rider and bushman, which were great assets to him as a manager and owner of large pastoral properties.

Probably no man in Australia, without a motor car or aeroplane, has blazed as many tracks through the wilds of this great country.  He had many vicissitudes in life, and trials and troubles through droughts, bush fires and the depredations of the aboriginals, but he fought them all and succeeded where many a less-balanced or brave man would have succumbed.

Among the many properties with which he was connected as manager or otherwise, probably Innamincka was the most remarkable, from the fact that there, are the graves of the explorers Burke and Wills.  This station, 30 years ago, was the property of Mr Henry Colless, senr, well-known in Bourke, Richmond and later of North Shore, where he is still living.

While in charge of Innamincka station, on Cooper’s Creek, Mr Kenny erected a protecting fence around “Burke’s tree”.  His investigations on the station are of great historical value, as he located Gray’s grave to the northward of the homestead.  The Lake Massacre graves he firmly believed were those of the lost Leichhardt expedition.  The “Innaminckas” told him of the attack on this earlier party by the neighbouring Coongie tribe, and he witnessed a pantomime performance by the blacks depicting the struggles and squeals of mules as they were surrounded, one by one, by a circle of natives.

In later years, the deceased managed Lawn Hills Station, out from Burketown, and owned Koreelah station in Queensland.  Not long after he disposed of that property, the family came to Blacktown and settled down.

For the past three or four years, the veteran filled the position of secretary of Blacktown School of Arts, and did his work in a most conscientious manner, which was thoroughly appreciated by the whole of the members.

The funeral on Tuesday was a large one, the remains being interred in the Church of England cemetery, Prospect.”

*************************************

The following letters and articles reveal much about the life of Herbert Kenny and his beliefs about the fate of the explorer Dr Leichhardt. 

From the Parramatta and District Historical Society Journal and Proceedings Vol 4 1935, pages 129 to 135

THE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATIONS OF THE LATE Herbert KENNY

By E E Larcombe ASTC  (Edwin Edmund Larcombe, Headmaster at  Blacktown State Primary School)

On reviewing the life of the late Mr Herbert Kenny, numerous links will be found that connect it not only with the early pioneer settlers, but also with the intrepid band of explorers that preceded them.  There are other historical associations connected with his life, however, that are not entirely devoid of interest, which will be mentioned later on.

Born at Collingwood, near Melbourne, in 1858, he was the youngest son of Colonel Eyre Evans Kenny, who had been on active service in the Peninsula War, and also in India and Burmah.  The family names Eyre and Evans, had always been given to the eldest son for several generations, Edward John Eyre, the Explorer, being a relation on the one hand and Sir de Lacy Evans, a British leader in the Crimea War, bore the second family name.

One of Mr. Kenny's most treasured possessions was the dark red sword scarf, which had been worn by his grandfather and also by his father. 

After the Battle of Corunna, Colonel Kenny was one of the officers who stood by the grave of their late leader, Sir John Moore, and the scarf, with five others knotted together in pairs, was used in the burial ceremony.

"Slowly and sadly we laid him down" wrote the poet, Wolf, who had immortalised the incident by its description in verse. 

After the Peninsular War was over, the Colonel's services were required in India, where he had great influence over the natives, and so he missed the opportunity of serving under his old commander, the Duke of Wellington, at Waterloo.

Mr. Kenny's grandfather was Lieutenant Colonel William Kenny, who also served in India in the hill country, east of Surat, against the Mahrattas.  The Nizam or Viceroy of the Great Mogul, wishing to reward him for services rendered, presented him with a valuable ring, a purse of gold and a handsome Arab steed.  The ring was made of gold and had an oval platinum seal on which were engraved certain Arabic characters.  It was a hundred years old, at the time of presentation.  Although not of great monetary value, it conferred some special rank upon the bearer, and would admit him to an audience with the Nizam at any time.  On showing it to a native his services could be requisitioned, and a parcel or letter, sealed with it, would be certain of immediate delivery, free of cost, throughout the Nizam's dominions.

While serving under Sir Arthur Wellesley, after the victory of Assaye, he led the storming party against the mountain fortress of Gawilghur, which was thought to be impregnable.  Being mortally wounded during the assault, he died at Ellichpur hospital, a few days after, in the year 1804.  Concerning this engagement, General Wellesley wrote in his dispatches:  “The gallantry with which the attack was made by a detachment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kenny has never been surpassed."  This was praise indeed from that great soldier.  It is recorded that he was so beloved by the sepoys, that a light was placed upon his tomb, which was not allowed to be extinguished.

The bullet-pierced scabbard and sword are treasured relics of this brave soldier, while the ring was worn by Mr. Kenny's father during his life-time, and later on, for over fifty years by Mr. Kenny himself.  The latter was also very successful in dealing with the natives of his own country.

At an early age, the family removed to Broadmeadows, about seven miles from Melbourne, and here was spent his childhood’s days.  The nearest neighbour was Mr. John Pascoe Fawkner, who was associated with the founding of the colony, and he had pleasant recollections of invitations to that gentleman's place, as there was plenty of fruit in the orchard or vineyard.

At St. Kilda Grammar School, Mr. Kenny began his school career, and later on went to Scotch College.  As a lad he witnessed the departure of the Burke and Wills' expedition from the Royal Park, Melbourne.  The leader rode ahead on his grey pony, the pack horses came next, then the camels, and, lastly, six wagons heavily laden with luggage.

As Colonel Kenny had been introduced to the leader that day, he invited him to call in at his home at Broadmeadows, which was on the intended route.  So the Colonel and his family had the pleasure of Mr Burke’s company for a short time, and they farewelled the caravan as it slowly wended its way towards the unknown interior.

The fine appearance and manly bearing of the leader were impressed upon the mind of the lad, and the memory of that departure was brought vividly before him when, in after years, he resided near the place where both Burke and Wills perished.
 
Having a natural liking for the study of nature, he used to visit the Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, and there was spoken to by the director, Baron von Mueller, who knew his father.  This great botanist had been a member of Mr A. C. Gregory's North-west expedition, and retained a deep interest in exploration.  But what concerned him most of all was the fate of his fellow-student and co-patriot, Dr Leichhardt.

Not only did he organise special search parties, but he gave every possible assistance to the explorers on setting out, and on their return awaited anxiously for any news of the lost expedition.  So that the search might still be continued, he wrote to the authorities in South Australia, just before his death, as he believed that the place where the party perished would eventually be found in that territory, if ever located. 

When Herbert was still a young man, his father died, and though the "spell of the bush" was strongly upon him, yet he remained in Melbourne for several years to be near his widowed mother, and took a position, first in an office, and later on in one of the Melbourne banks.

After meeting Mr. Fred Wolseley, he was persuaded to return with him to Cobram Station, on the Murray River, as jackaroo, but it was not long before he rose to be overseer.  At that time Mr. Wolseley was the managing partner of the station, and even in those days the vision of a shearing machine, to take the place of hand shears, had come to him.  On more than one occasion Mr. Wolseley roused his overseer from his slumbers to take him to the blacksmith's forge to help to work out some idea that had just occurred to him.

It was from this station that Mr Kenny began his experience in overland travelling, and soon became an expert bushman and a first-class shot with the gun and rifle.  One trip was taken in search of "summer country" for the sheep, near the head of the Murray River. 

On another occasion he accompanied the manager (Mr Wolseley) across the Dividing Range, taking a buggy and horses with them right to Eden, where the vehicle was taken aboard the boat and shipped to Port Macquarie.

The difficulties of this pioneering feat can hardly be fully appreciated until the rough nature of the country traversed is known.  Needless to say, the axe was used freely; a block and tackle were also requisitioned when in difficult situations, and the bush brakes of saplings, tied behind the buggy as drags, were used in the descent.  Another trip was made in the direction of Wentworth to report upon the mallee country, but as the successful methods of dealing with this type of vegetation were then unknown, he reported against taking up land there.

The station was now about to be sold to a former manager, who had married the sister of Sir Patrick Jennings, and was now the means of obtaining the services of Mr Kenny, first as overseer and then as station manager of Garriwilla, near Gunnedah.  There were five adjoining properties at that time, and Mr Kenny was also manager of Belah as well as Ulimanbi near Coonabarrabran.

It was here that romance entered upon the scene, and he chose his life-partner, who, for over fifty years, was a real helpmate, sharing the many vicissitudes among which his lot was cast. 

Too much praise cannot be given to the brave women who first settled in the outback country.  Their splendid hospitality to the traveller, their care and aid in cases of sickness or accident, their cheery words in times of difficulty and danger were equalled only by the heroic bravery with which they faced the hard conditions of a pioneer's every day life.

It was in this district that Mr Kenny collected some very fine jaw-bones of the Diprotodon or giant kangaroo, which has long been extinct, but which formerly lived in this country. Professor McCoy declared them to be the best preserved specimens he had hitherto seen. 

In order to stock the stations, trips were made sometimes to the West and sometimes across the Queensland border.  On one of the excursions he went beyond the Cooper and followed down the Diamantina River into parts of the country hitherto untrodden by the white men.

It was about this time that Mr. Andrew Hume came into notice.  He had been unsuccessful in bringing back certain alleged relics of the Leichhardt expedition from Central Australia, and again set out for a second attempt in company of Sergeant O'Hea, V.C.,  and a Mr Thompson.

As they were travelling towards Thargomingah in south western Queensland, Mr Kenny met the party.  Hume was very reticent about his intentions, but Mr O’Hea had a long conversation with Mr Kenny and told him that he thought they were making for Cooper's Creek first. 

Unfortunately, Hume made a fatal mistake in misjudging his distance from permanent water.  The consequence was that both O'Hea and Hume perished in the dry country, and Thompson, with great difficulty, retraced his steps to the nearest station, but he was too late to save the lives of his companions.

After the sale of his station, Mr Kenny returned with his wife and family to Melbourne.  His services were now required in the search for pastoral country in the central districts of Australia.  Leaving Melbourne in the eighties, he travelled through South Australia to the Macdonnell Ranges, but only near the mission station did he find good grazing country.

When near Mount Edward to the north of the Macdonnell Ranges, he met Mr David Lindsay, who told him the bearings to take to reach Ayre's Rock.  Following those directions, and recrossing the ranges, he reached this huge mass of stone, whose smooth and rounded sides gave it the appearance of having been lately turned out of some gigantic oval mould.

Assisted by a black boy, he followed up one of the runnels and so was able to climb to the top, a feat that appeared impossible to the visitor in those regions. Large thin slices of the rock had peeled from its surface, while caves were found at its base.  The rock was really an altered sandstone, but it had the appearance and weathering of granite. 

Returning to Melbourne, Mr. Kenny went on another trip up the north coast of New South Wales, and at Brisbane he met Mr. A. C. Gregory the explorer and told him that he was about to go to Innamincka, Cooper's Creek.  After inquiring if he possessed a compass, Mr. Gregory produced a pocket one and, giving it to Mr. Kenny, remarked that it had been to the Cooper before and also had travelled over most of Australia.  "It is a most reliable one," he added, "and handy to carry in one's pocket."

Leaving his wife and family in Melbourne, Mr. Kenny, in 1885, travelled to Cooper's Creek to report on the advisability of changing the cattle station at Innamincka to a sheep station.  The trip was undertaken by rail from Adelaide and then by coach from Marree. One of his fellow passengers was a gold prospector about to search for that metal in the ranges of Central Australia.  While travelling along in the coach, Mr Kenny glanced at his map and then asked the driver when they would reach Lake Blanche, as it appeared to be on their track.  "We have been travelling over it for some time" said the driver, but not a trace of water was visible, except the mirage effect which was present in the heated atmosphere.

Arriving at Old Innamincka station, he found that Burke's tree was within a quarter of a mile from the homestead.  After reporting against the introduction of sheep, Mr Kenny assisted with the station accounts as book-keeper, and when the manager was away on a six months’ holiday, he took charge of the property.  One of his first thoughts was to protect the historic tree by erecting a fence around it.  A visiting photographer took a photo of Burke’s tree and also of the Lake Massacre graves, which had been visited by the explorer McKinlay.

Treating the natives kindly, and respecting their customs and rights, he won their confidence so that they told him many items of interest about the visits of the white men.   They knew of Sturt, Burke and Wills and McKinlay.  But some remembered the visit of another party, with mules and cattle, who were attacked and killed by the neighbouring Coongie tribe, but they did not know the leader's name.  They also showed him the locality of Gray's grave, which lay to the north of Innamincka and not at Lake Massacre as is generally marked on the map.

Being a keen student of nature, he wrote a description of the habits of the Channel bird, which was published by Mr. A. J. Campbell in his book, "The Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds”.   He soon collected specimens of birds and their eggs, also insects and reptiles for the Museum in Melbourne.

About the year 1887, he went on another long trip across central Australia, still in search of pastoral country. 

On this occasion he took a white man and two black boys and twenty horses.  The route lay northward along the overland telegraph for a considerable distance before striking westward to the country between the Victoria and Daly Rivers.  Good grazing land was encounted here.  On the way, however, they struck the porcupine or spinifex grass, which was a source of trouble and annoyance to the horses who suffered severely from the spines.

When near the Victoria he had camped and turned in for the night, when the horses became alarmed and came close to the men for protection as they were shivering all over with fright.  Thinking an impending attack by the natives was the cause of the strange behaviour, they kept their fire-arms at hand ready for any emergency.  In the morning they noticed a camel-track and soon followed it and came upon the animal, which had been the innocent cause of the disturbance.  They decided he would be more a nuisance than assistance to the party, so they let him depart in peace.

Returning towards the centre of the continent, they tried to take a short cut to the Macdonnel Ranges, but soon found themselves in difficulties owing to the scarcity of water.  They had sufficient for the men, but the twenty horses required a lot to drink, and it looked as if they would have to sacrifice these animals that were the only means of transport back to civilisation.

The anxiety of the leader, Mr. Kenny, may be imagined at this time as he was unable to sleep when, in the stillness of the night, he heard the noise of the flight of a flock of whistling ducks.  Round and round they circled and he strained every nerve to listen as the circle grew smaller and smaller before they took the final plunge preparatory to alighting.  At last the swoop came, and he noted the direction with a thankful heart for the discovery of water meant everything to the famished animals.

Next day he had not proceeded a couple of miles before he saw pigeons, which seemed a good sign. Then he saw pelicans and he knew that the water was not far away, and a little farther on he came to the watercourse itself, and rode the horses right into it up to the saddle flaps.  The weary and thirsty animals were soon refreshed and, after resting here several days, they were ready to go on.

Taking no further risks, the party now made straight for the Overland Telegraph, which they reached near Tennant's Creek, and thus made their way back to Innamincka safely.

At Somerset, Mr. Kenny met the Jardine Brothers, who had made a successful trip through Cape York Peninsula to its northernmost settlement.  After acting for the P.F.A. Company as station inspector in the Yass district, he settled down for a time at Kareelah Station, which he owned, near the Queensland border.

Relinquishing station life, Mr. Kenny now became C.P. officer at the Lands Office, West Maitland, for a number of years.  Next he retired to Riverstone. 

While convalescing at Windsor Hospital after a serious illness, he read Dr. Wills’ book, "Successful Exploration in Australia," and the "Genesis of Queensland," by Stuart Russell, and the thought struck him that the party attacked by the blacks on the Cooper was probably the lost Leichhardt Expedition.  The more he studied the matter, the more confirmed he became in his opinion.  After writing to the "Australasian" in July, 1913, the Royal Geographical Societies took the matter up, and an attempt was made to send a search party to the Cooper, but, through the outbreak of war, he was unable to proceed on the journey, although he went as far as Melbourne to discuss the matter there.

Two of his sons enlisted and fought in the Gallipoli campaign.  Herbert, the elder son, afterwards served with the Light Horse in Palestine as sergeant-major, and Jack, the youngest son, who took part in the Anzac landing, was severely wounded and invalided home, but re-enlisted as soon as he was fit to go back again.

Removing to Blacktown, Mr. Kenny acted as secretary to the local School of Arts. Which office he filled with great credit to himself and advantage to the society. 

Having been familiar with most of the country, he took a great interest in the proposed Transcontinental railway, from Bourke to Darwin via Camooweal, and wrote to the “Sydney Morning Herald” supporting the idea.

Plucky to the last, he carried on his School of Arts’ duties till unable to lift the pen, and he died at his residence in Blacktown on July 11, 1927. 

Thus passed away a most worthy pioneer, an expert bushman and pathfinder, a friend of our vanishing race, and one of Nature’s own gentlemen.



The Australasian 19 July 1913 page 155

LEICHARDT’S FATE - A QUERY.

Mr. Herbert Kenny (Riverstone, N.S.W,), writes as follows:- I have recently read with much interest two books relating to the exploration of Australia, the first being "Genesis of Queensland,” by H. Stuart Russell, in which an account is given (chapter XX.) of Leichardt’s departure from Mt. Abundance Station, in Queensland, the then furthest station, on his fatal attempt to cross the continent from east to west coast, from which time he entirely disappeared from the ken of white men, no trace or tidings of him or any of his party having been ever discovered, although no doubt the spot where he perished has long since been stocked and ridden over by white men unknowingly.  It has often struck me as being rather a slur on the then authorities, or the early pioneers, that the fate of a good man, who had already done good exploration work, should have been left unaccounted for, for, presumably, it would not have been difficult to trace the cause, and the spot where he perished, if reasonably energetic efforts had been made within a reasonable time of his disappearance.

The second book was "A Successful Exploration Through the Interior of Australia," by William Wills, being an account of Burke and Wills' expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 1860.  In this book (chapter XllI.) it states “The 'South Australian Register,” of the 26th November, 1861, published at Adelaide, contaIned the following statement, which excited universal attention:- 'The Government have just received from Mr. McKinlay, leader of the expedition sent from this colony in search of Burke, a diary of his proceedings up to the 26th October last.’  This document contains a most singular narrative, being nothing less than an account of McKinlay's discovery, of what he believes to be the remains of Burke's party."

Mr. Wills gives an extract from McKinlay's diary, descriptive of the finding and burial of the remains, which it is unnecessary to quote.  Of course, when McKinlay discovered these remains he was unaware that Howitt, who had been sent from Melbourne on a similar errand to his own, had already discovered the remains of Burke and Wills, and rescued the survivor King, whom he found living with and well cared for by the blacks on  Cooper's Creek. There is no record in Wills's book as to whether, when McKinlay's mistake was discovered, that the remains found by him were traced and authentically accounted for.  If so, the South Australian Government, or the "South Australian Register," would have some record of the fact.  If not, it seems to me that they might very possibly be the remains of Leichardt's party, for the remains found were directly on the track that Leichardt would take on his journey to the west coast; and he could very easily have reached the point where the remains were found, as the country is comparatively well watered by rivers and creeks, without any very long stages between.  I have always taken an interest in Burke and Wills's expedition, from the fact of having seen it start, when a lad, from the Royal Park, Melbourne, and in later years was resident for a considerable time close to the spot on which the marked tree still stands, under which Howitt found Burke's remains.  While resident on Cooper's Creek I often conversed with the middle-aged blacks, who distinctly remembered Burke's arrival on the creek. and King's stay with them after the party's return from the Gulf and Burke's death. On asking if Burke's party were the first white men they had seen, they replied yes, but some of the old blacks had seen white men many moons (probably years) before, and that the white men had been afterwards killed by the "Coongy" blacks, about 60 miles from where Burke perished; these would, no doubt, be their remains that McKinlay found. I have been on the spot, and could locate the graves now. The tree marked by McKinlay was then still standing.  At the time I was on Cooper's Creek the local white people did not know, seemingly, to whom the graves belonged, further than that they were the graves of some white men that were killed by the blacks many years before.  It will be remembered, Leichardt’s party disappeared in 1848, and Burke perished 13 years later.  It would be interesting to know if the remains discovered by McKinlay, and thought by him at the time to be Burke's, were ever accounted for.  At the time McKinlay discovered these remains, no whites, other than explorers who were all accounted for, were known to have penetrated so far north in South Australia, and assuming that the remains were unaccounted for, possibly they might still be identified as those of Leichardt's party.  I would gladly, if necessary, afford any further information that I am possessed of as to the spot where the remains found by McKinlay lay, although it is known to many, no doubt.


The Australasian 26 July 1913 page 214

LEICHHARDT'S FATE.

Mr. T. H. Bell, Government surveyor (Tailem Bend, S.A.), writes as follows:-  "Referring to a letter in your issue of the 19th July, from Mr. Herbert Kenny, dealing with the fate of the explorer Leichhardt, permit me to suggest a solution to the query put forward.  The section of Burke and Wills's party which left Cooper's Creek consisted of four men.  On the return journey from Carpentaria one of these, named Gray, grew very weak.  The party was then on allowance of rations, and Gray was caught stealing flour.  Burke chastised him. Gray finally died.  At the place where this occurred the party, being in sore straits, left behind all useless camp equipment and impedimenta, with the idea of lightening their load for forced marches to the depot at the Cooper, where Brahe had been left in charge.  Everyone knows the sad end of that journey. My recollection, from reading, of the events following is that McKinlay, in search of Burke's party, came across Gray’s remains, and found the impedimenta left behind in the possession of the blacks.   The latter informed them the party had been massacred.  Blacks will always supply a story if they know what you want.  McKinlay concluded that he had found the remains of Burke’s party, but this was later found to be an error, and I always understood it was decided that McKinlay had found Gray's grave, or possibly his remains, as the party may have been to weak to bury him.  This is my recollection of the matter (from reading)  but your correspondent speaks of graves.  If more than one body was found, of course I am wrong.  A reference to McKinlay’s journal or the records of the time would easily settle this."



The Australasian 23 August 1913

LEICHHARDT'S FATE

Mr. Herbert Kenny (Riverstone, N.S.W.), writes as follows :- "I have read with much interest both Mr. Bell's and ‘T.F.M.’s’ comments, on my letter re Leichhardt, in your issue of l9th July.  I readily endorse all 'T.F.M.' says, with the exception of his solution of the Lake Massacre graves.  'T.F.M.' asserts that the Lake Massacre graves and Gray's are identical.  I assert they are not.  Gray’s grave lies considerably to the N.E. of the Lake Massacre graves, and they have no connection one with the other.  I speak from personal knowledge, having been at both graves, and there are no doubt many of the early pioneers of that part of Cooper’s Creek country still in the flesh who can bear out my assertion.  I know the South Australian authorities hold the same idea as ‘T.F.M.’ but I think they are in error.  When M’Kinlay’s not altogether unreasonable mistake was discovered, and the description of the spot where Gray died was given by the survivor King, as the spots were not so very far apart, the conclusion was jumped at that M'Kinlay had found Gray’s remains.  But how this conclusion was arrived at I know not, for M’Kinlay, in his report, states 'he found the remains of two, and human hair in considerable quantity in two colours, some of which he preserved, and buried the rest.' M'Kinlay, in his report, states-'I think they were all murdered here.'  On the spot, with facts before him, he came to this conclusion. He must have had cause for this thought.   Again, he says-'The remains had evidently lain here a long time.'  One would have thought this fact would have caused him to question if they could be Burke's party, for any members of that party could only have been dead a few months at most.

With regard to the gruesome story told to M'Kinlay by the blackfellow.  Did M’Kinlay believe it?  I hardly think so.  I have had experience among the 'Myal' blacks in many parts of Australia.  I do not doubt that cannibalism existed among the natives, more particularly among the northern coastal tribes; but I am of opinion the Cooper's Creek and Diamantina natives did not practice this habit.  They would mutilate those they killed in a fight, and anoInt themselves and their weapons with the fat of those slain; but not eat them.  I am speaking of the Cooper blacks, not coastal tribes.  But I do not believe for , one moment that they would dig up a dead man to feast on, who they knew had died a natural death, or, as they would believe, from having a bone pointed at him, that is witchcraft; blacks do not believe in a natural death.  I do not think any tribe would eat the body of a person who had died in a natural manner.  Even those tribes that do practice cannibalism will only eat those that they have killed or captured in a fight, and then it is more as a rite than for the love of human flesh.  Again, how are the sword-cuts in the skull to be accounted for, which M'Kinlay described, if the remains were Gray’s?   As 'T.F.M.' says, one can hardly imagine that even Leichhardt would steer a course that would take him into the Stony Desert, with Sturt's description of it fresh in his memory, although from what I have read and been told of Leichhardt, by those who knew him, I believe he would have cheerfully faced a Sahara, if he thought he would find a rare beetle or plant in the centre of it.  Should the Lake Massacre graves ever prove to be Leichhardt’s, it will show he was intending to skirt the desert on the southern edge. 

Speaking of the Stony Desert, it seems strange that two great explorers, M’Kinlay and Stuart, should have described it so differently, the latter as a stony desert, and the former as an inland sea.  Yet, though seemingly paradoxical, they were both right.  One struck it in a drought, and the other in a flood.  In a drought, the Stony Desert is a cruel place, and in a flood a fearsome one. In a big flood, an almost incredible volume of water comes down both the Cooper and the Diamantina, particularly the former, and inundates the low country for miles on either side; then the Cooper is a well-developed baby Nile.  Between the extremes, 'the Gibber country' certainly does not deserve the apellation of desert: many a prime fat beast has passed through the AdelaIde yards that  has fattened on the Stony Desert.  It would have been an easy matter for Leichhardt to have reached so far as Lake Massacre, by way of the Warrego, Paroo, Bulloo, and Wilson, besides minor creeks; once on the Wilson he had good travelling ground and water all the way, and plenty of fish and game.  I think with ‘T.F.M.’ that he never got further west than the Cooper Waters.   With ordinary precaution against treachery, from the blacks, he had fair sailing to that point; a little further west he would have  encounted  country that would have brought him to grief in any case with the poor equipment he had, even had he been a more practical bushman.

“It is quite possible that the South Australian authorities, owing to the comparatively close vicinity of the Lake Massacre graves and Gray’s, and the vague description  Kennedy would be able to give of the exact spot, may quite pardonably have made an error in assuming the graves were identical.  But that the early pioneers, with the evidence of the widely-apart graves before them, and the evidence of the blacks , from whom valuable information may be gleaned by those who understand their ways, should make a similar mistake, I think, is not probable.  I hope shortly to be able to produce evidence to prove the Lake Massacre graves are not identical with Gray’s.  Should I be able to do so, then my supposition that the Lake Massacre remains may be Leichhardt’s seems reasonable.”


Royal Australian Historical Society Journal Vol XII, 1927, pages 167 to 183

The Search for Dr. Leichhardt

by E. E. Larcombe

Many years have passed since Dr Leichardt and his party set out on their last expedition to cross the continent of Australia from Moreton Bay to the Swan River settlements.  It was expected that the journey would take at least two years, but no authentic news has ever been received from them since leaving the Cogoon River in April, 1848.

Anxiety, however, was beginning to be felt for their safety, when in 1850 the alarming news was brought to Mr. Gideon Lang, at Surat, that :-

A party of white men and two aborigines were massacred by the wild blacks beyond the Maranoa River.  The native described a treacherous surprise attack on the camp, which was in the bend of a creek, the destruction of oxen, horses and mules, but not without a desperate struggle on the part of the latter to break their hobbles, and the escape of a few of the bullocks from the slaughter. The uses of flour and tobacco were unknown to the blacks, so when plundering the camp, they left both scattered about on the ground, but they were eager to obtain the bright red blankets with which the expedition was provided.

Mr. Lang with a small party, set out for the Maranoa, but they were unable to find traces of Leichhardt.  The natives, however, pointed to the westward as the direction of the place of the attack.

The Government of New South Wales now took up the matter and promptly sent an expedition in charge of Mr Hovenden Hely to search for the missing explorer in 1852.  The stories told by the blacks to Mr. Hely were  similar to those told to Mr. Lang, and the direction of the place was also indicated to the west.

On reaching the headwaters of the Warrego and the Nive, two of Leichhardt’s old camps were found, and also two marked trees, which may or may not have anything to do with the expedition.  The natives, while admitting the truth of the destruction of the party, repeatedly deceived Mr. Hely as to the spot where the attack had taken place.  The excuse was that they were afraid of the consequences. 

Probably they only heard the story repeated from tribe to tribe from so great a distance that its exact location baffled expression.

As Mr. Hely travelled northward, the direction pointed out by the natives was more to the south-west than it was before.  This was puzzling to the party, as the tracks were all trending to the north-west.  One of the natives, however, told Mr. Hely’s guide that there were still four creeks, a long plain of three days’ travelling, and then
again three more creeks to cross before the spot where the disaster occurred was reached. 

Although his search was unsuccessful, yet he found that the natives had in their possession three tomahawks, apparently made from the iron-work of saddles which they acknowledged as belonging originally to the lost expedition.  They were made by doubling and hammering together the gullet-plates of saddles.  One end was sharpened, and they were fastened with gum into cleft sticks like the ordinary stone tomahawks.

It is to be regretted that this expedition was not followed up at once by others, while the tracks were still comparatively fresh. 

In the previous year Captain  J.B. Simpson, Master of the barque General Palmer, was instructed by the New South Wales Government to visit the North-West  Coast of Australia to inquire if Dr. Liechhardt had reached the sea in that direction, but no news was forthcoming.

The discovery of gold now diverted public attention from the search for Liechhardt for a time, but interest was soon re-awakened by the improbable story of a convict.   He spoke of the existence of a settlement of escaped convicts, amongst whom Leichhardt and his band were held as prisoners. 

Mr. A.C. Gregory’s expedition down the Barcoo, or Cooper’s Creek soon followed, and in 1858, near the junction of the Alice with that river, a tree, marked with a large-sized letter “L” was discovered.  Following down the Barcoo, past Kennedy’s furthest camp, he proved that this stream was identical with the Cooper’s Creek of Captain Sturt. It was here found that, on reaching the flat country, the river spread out into innumerable channels, which were hard to follow, and then re-appeared further on in magnificent reaches of water.

Its course, however, bore traces of recent heavy floods, which, by the debris and sediments left behind, rendered his task more difficult.  Near Strzelecki Creek he found tracks of two horses, evidently a cart-horse, and a well-bred one, and, following that channel southwards, he was able to reach Adelaide safely.

After the failure of Mr. Hely to find the spot where the reported attack took place, and after the finding of the marked tree on the Barcoo, the natives’ accounts of the tragedy obtained little credence, and other possible causes for the complete disappearance of the party were advanced.

Mr. Favenc writes :-

    Many have tried to explain it by imagining them swept away by a flood when camped on flat country, but this is scarcely likely, for even then on the subsidence of the waters the blacks would have found something of their belongings.

Thirst, he thought, was most likely the agent of their destruction, and fire completed
the work.

Practically all are agreed that had the expedition got beyond the South Australian Lake districts, they would have perished for want of water.

No additional disclosures concerning Leichhardt’s probable route were obtained until the year 1861, when Mr. F. Walker diverged from his track to the Gulf of Carpentaria and reached Cooper’s Creek.  Seven miles below Gregory’s marked tree was another tree marked with a smaller “L,” testifying Leichhardt’s presence.  Mr. Walker thought this tree indicated a return to the stream, just as the other marked tree was the sign that he had left it.

Leichhardt’s tracks are now confused with those of the Burke and Wills Relief Expeditions.  It is probable that some of the traces found near the upper waters of the Barcoo and Thomson were Landsborough’s.  On the other hand it is likely that the return tracks towards the Thomson and Barcoo, supposed by Landsborough to be Walker’s, or at first to be Burke and Wills’, were probably Leichhardt’s.

Mr. Walker also reported that a native woman gave him to understand that a party of white men had been seen travelling southward in a direction west-south-west of the Barkly River, which is a tributary of the Flinders.

Evidently the cause of the confusion with the other expeditions is that Leichhardt probably left the slow travelling bullocks at the Barcoo Camp, and, taking the native guides and horses, explored the upper courses of that river and the Thomson, and after finding his “Collar Range,” no doubt he followed the Flinders till it turned northward near twenty degrees south latitude, after which he returned to the Barcoo.   Leichhardt wrote:- “We shall sail down the Condamine, go up the Cogoon, and follow Mitchell’s outward track to the most northern bend in the Victoria;  I shall then proceed to the northward until I come on decided water of the Gulf, and after that resume my original course to the westward,” which was to take the most practicable direct route to the Swan River.

Meanwhile the Victorian relief expedition, under Mr. A. W. Howitt, had rescued King, the only survivor, and found the remains of Burke and Wills at Coopers Creek.

Another relief expedition, under the command of Mr. J. McKinlay, found the remains of white men at Lake Massacre, on the northern channel of the Coopers Creek delta.   He naturally concluded he had discovered all there was to find of the Burke and Wills’ expedition but this was not the case. 

While reporting this occurrence, an Adelaide newspaper asks:-

    Who constituted that party?  Who equipped them?  When were they sent out?  How came they by their death?  Did anyone escape?  How is it that nothing was ever heard of them until Mr. McKinlay dug up their bones and collected the sad relics of their encampment?  Had they no friends?  Was no one cogniscent of their departure? Did no one look for their return or miss or mourn for them?

These and similar ones were the questions that Mr Herbert Kenny sought to investigate when living in that locality, and the answers given by the natives, who were eye-witnesses of the catastrophe, now lead him to firmly believe that the greater number, at least, of Leichhardt’s party perished there.   However, it was only after reading the accounts of the expedition in Russell’s Genesis of Queensland ,  and also extracts from McKinlay’s journal in Successful Exploration in Australia , by Dr Wills, that he associated the Lake Massacre or Tierrawarra graves with the lost Leichhardt expedition.  With the location of the scene of the disaster, much of the apparent mystery disappears.

Continuing the story of the search, we find that Mr. Duncan McIntyre,  in 1864 set out from the Paroo River to the Gulf of Carpenteria, and on the Flinders River, at latitude 20 degrees south, he discovered a marked tree, and further west two old saddle-marked horses - a bay and a black one.  This “gave rise to the Ladies’ Leichhardt Search Expedition; but an incautious movement of McIntyre in a season of almost unparalleled drought, involved not only the loss of nearly all the resources of the expedition, but also caused the ultimate death of the leader.”

In Western Australia a report was current for many years among the natives that a party of white men, coming from the east, had been murdered by the natives on the shore of an inland salt lake.  This lead to the expedition of Sir John Forrest, in 1869, who set out “to ascertain the truth of a rumour, that Leichhardt’s party had reached Lake Barlee, only 350 miles from the Swan River.”  It was fitted out by the Western Australian Government, but the search gave no further clue. 

In 1871 new tidings spread about a white man, presumably of Leichhardt’s party, wandering about with a tribe of natives, and jealously guarded by them, near Eyre Creek, and Mr. Inspector J. M. Gilmour, of the Queensland Mounted Police, made two trips to the locality.  There he found “remnants of European clothing, fragments of bones, a piece of an old tent, saddle stuffing, a net made in European fashion, and a small bag woven out of hempen material combined with human hair - some black, and amongst it brown or auburn hair, besides two sheep or cattle dogs.”

During the construction of the overland telegraph line it was thought that if Leichhardt had penetrated so far some traces might be found, as the country each side was carefully searched for telegraph poles that might be used in the undertaking; but no evidences were found.

Rumours were reported, but they all centred at places eastward of the telegraph line.  One of them evidently referred to Mr. McKinlay’s dray, which he had abandoned;  another, probably, to Burke and Wills’ party;  while a third named the spot as Tierrawarra Creek.  The creek on which the Lake Massacre graves are situated is on the western edge of Tierrawarra Swamp, and Tierrawarra Waterhole is to the south-east.

Next was reported the extraordinary story of Mr Andrew Hume, who narrated the meeting with a detained member of Leichhardt’s party in the far west.  Friends assisted him, and with two companions he set out for the Mulligan River, via Coopers Creek, but both he and one other of the party, Mr. T. O’Hea, V.C., perished in the dry country when making for the latter stream. 

Quite a number of the details told by Mr. Hume were regarded at first as impossible, but later research and exploration have proved their correctness.  Mr W. C. Gosse discovered Ayer’s Rock - a granite-like mountain - and among the numerous sketches on the walls of the caves at its base he found a drawing of two hearts joined together.

It now seemed certain that the mystery of Leichhardt’s complete disappearance would never be solved, when a letter, dated July 19, 1913, appeared in the Australasian , written by Mr Herbert Kenny, who resides at Blacktown.  In this letter he mentioned that some of the older blacks at Innamincka, Coopers Creek, had seen a party of white men travelling from the east many moons before Burke’s visit, who were afterwards killed by a neighbouring tribe. 

While residing at Innamincka station, in 1885, Mr Kenny had interrogated the local tribes about the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition.  They were the natives who had actually befriended and assisted the leaders, and had sustained and cared for the survivor until he was rescued.  They were willing and able to converse in broken English, and related what they knew of the visits of the white men, which they regarded as red-letter days in their lives.

Mr. Kenny was shown the place where the party was attacked, and the graves of some of them, which were at the bend of a creek, a little north of Lake Massacre.

“If you had heard the natives, as I have heard them”, said Mr. Kenny, “describing the slaughter of the mules, and laughing heartily at the memory of it, you would have no doubts about them describing something that had really happened there.”  Being securely hobbled, and each surrounded by a circle of blacks, the mules had no chance of escaping whatever, but nevertheless made desperate struggles and leaps to break away from their attackers. 

On July 23, 1913, Mr. Kenny replied to a correspondent in the Australasian, who asserted that the Lake Massacre graves and Gray’s grave are identical.  Mr. Kenny stated that he had visited Gray’s grave, and that it lies considerably to the north-east of the Lake Massacre graves.

As a result of these letters the Royal Geographical Society in New South Wales and Victoria took the matter up, and the South Australian Branch assisted also.  Then it was arranged that Mr. Kenny and a companion should revisit that locality for further investigations, but unfortunately he was unable to do so. 

The South Australian branch again assisted in the search by reprinting copies of the Report on Mr. Hely’s Search Expedition for Dr. Leichhardt  and the Report on White Men’s Graves in the Interior.  Later on, a search party was organised by them.  Seeing a letter in the Cumberland Argus  of April 28, 1920, written by Mr. F.S.K. Perry, of Granville about the Leichhardt expedition, Mr Kenny wrote to that gentleman detailing his experiences at Coopers Creek.  Mr Perry sent the letter to the Cumberland Argus, and it was published on May 19, 1920.  In it Mr Kenny mentions the attack on the party and finding of a bundle of papers together with some bottles containing specimens of insects, reptiles and precious opal, by two native women, who were ordered by the old men of the tribe to put them into the spout of a tree where they had found them.   The reason given was that they believed that they were bewitched, and that “debil-debil” was contained in each of them.  Unfortunately Mr. Kenny was unable to follow up these clues, as he was leaving the place for Queensland when he had obtained them. 

Mr. Kenny’s investigations seemed to supply the link which connects many of the scattered traces of the lost expedition that have been found from time to time.

Mr. McKinlay was told at Lake Massacre that the saddles were burnt, and that the iron -work was kept for use.  Both Mr Hely and Mr. Walker saw iron tomahawks near the head of the Cooper which were alleged to have been made from the saddles of the missing party.  The framework of Leichhardt’s pack-saddles was made of wood, but the destruction of the saddlery by fire was not expected. 

Regular lines of communication existed along this river, and a warning of the approaching of flood-waters was always given. 

The blacks told Mr. Hely that the cause of the attack was the ill-treatment of some of the natives by the two guides.  The Innaminckas told Mr. Kenny that these guides were accused of causing the death of one of the tribe by magic.

Again, Mr. Hely was told that the gins were not allowed to approach the place, and “That the white men’’s ‘debil-debil’ always walked about.”  Mr. Kenny was informed that the native women who found the bundle of papers and specimen bottles were ordered to replace them as they contained “debil-debil”.  The existence of a waterhole near Lake Massacre, where the blacks will neither fish, hunt, nor swim, supports this idea.

The natives told Mr. Hely that bullocks had escaped from the slaughter.  It was reported by the Commissioner of Lands that several head of cattle were found on the Upper Cooper, and were recognised by their brands as bullocks that Leichhardt had taken from Moreton Bay.

The struggles of the mules were reported to Mr. Hely as well as described to Mr Kenny.  The bend of the creek was told to Mr. Hely as the position of the camp.  The Western Australian and South Australian reports  mention the lake or water, which is close at hand, and one gives the name of the spot as Tierrawarra, which is the name of the swamp on the eastern side. 

The gathering of the neighbouring tribes to assist was mentioned in the eastern districts, while the presence of the Innamincka tribe proves that they were summoned to help in the attack. 

At Lake Massacre Mr. McKinlay found locks of hair of three descriptions - one light sandy, inclining to be golden, the other curly brown, and the third black and straight.  Mr. Inspector Gilmour had found to the north-ward, towards the piturie country and its trading centre, a small bag interwoven with human hair, some black, some brown or auburn, as well as articles of clothing. 

It is probable that relics would be exchanged for piturie or weapons.  The great piturie place of exchange was near Eyre Creek, in the Queensland Territory.  The great trading centre for the red and white ochre was lower down the Cooper, at Kopperamana.  “The natives have recognised tribal messengers, who barter their respective commodities, such as pitchuri (piturie), weapons, red and white ochre, etc., and who convey many items of information.’

Tobacco was found lying on the ground near Innamincka,  as described by Mr.Hely, and the Cooper natives told Mr. Kenny that they were afraid to eat any of the flour when offered it by the Burke and Wills Expedition.

Evidently the details of the attack were successfully broadcasted from Lake Massacre but the natives lacked means of expressing the tremendous distance, though they apparently pointed in the right direction from Queensland and South Australia, as well as from Western Australia. 

Turning to the journal of McDouall Stuart, the following question is asked by Mr. W. Hardman, M.A., in a preface footnote:-

    “Is it possible that Mr. McKinlay has been hasty in the opinion he formed from the graves and remains of white men shown to him by ‘Keri Keri’ and the story  related of their massacre?  May they not belong to Leichhardt’s party  “

Baron von Mueller, who had organised and assisted expedition after expedition in search of his compatriot, was of the opinion in 1885 that the death-place would be found in South Australian territory, and eastward of the overland telegraph.

A Queensland pioneer, also, who had entertained Leichhardt on his last journey, thought it strange -

    That the tale told  at the time by the Maranoa blacks should have met with so little credence.  It seemed so true and circumstantial to Roderic Mitchell (a son of Sir Thomas

Mitchell), Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Maranoa, that he reported it to headquarters, and a small party was sent out to inquire into the matter and recover the relics. 

“Because the party was unsuccessful,” he continued, “it does not follow that ‘the report of the blacks was false.’”  He believed the story of a reliable Wallumbilla native, who was keenly interested in the bullocks’ tracks as the cattle were driven day by day a long way beyond his country.  The black fellow explained how this party had gone up one of the heads of the Maranoa, and reached a creek running westward, which they never left.  They were treacherously attacked and killed by the natives in large numbers.  “This,” the writer affirmed, “I have always believed was Leichhardt’s fate.  How do I know this was his party?  He was the only one who up to that date in that “district had bullocks, mules, and horses, and no drays.”

Commenting on Narren Jim’s trip down the Cooper, from Eulo, it was stated in the Brisbane Courier  that “Narren Jim’s” narrative prove the truth of Hume’s statements in many essential points.  Though they lived wide apart, and unknown to each other, they arrived at the same conclusion - “that Liechhardt and most, if not all, of his party perished or were killed in the neighbourhood of Coopers Creek.”

Turning now to Dr. Leichhardt’s own letter, written from Canning Downs, dated February 26, 1848, and printed in the Sydney Morning Herald, March 8, 1848, it will be found that before starting on this expedition the leader had received the report of Mr Kennedy’s trip down the Barcoo, and this somewhat altered his plans.  Did he make up his mind to finish the exploration of the Barcoo or Cooper which Mr. Kennedy had been unable to complete?  He writes:-

    Since I left you I have been almost constantly on the move and after nearly three months’ riding and preparing, I am now on the eve of my final start.

    My party consists of seven persons, myself included; two of them are Mr. Classen and Mr. Hentig, two are . . . . Donald Stewart and Kelly and two black fellows, Jemmy and Billy, both from Stroud, the former having been with me on my last trip.  Mr. Bunce does not go with me because I wished to form an entirely  new party. 

    My herd consists of fifty bullocks, twenty of which I received from Mr. J. P.  Robinson and thirty from the Government.  They are very quiet and will give us very little trouble after the first month.  I have twenty mules and six or seven horses.  The mules, though skittish, are far more quiet than they were a year ago, and we know now better how to manage them.  My principal provisions, besides the bullocks, are 800 lbs. of flour, 120 lbs. of tea, 100 lbs. of salt, 250 lbs. of shot, 40 lbs. of powder.  . . . . .   I shall yet find my collar range of the Gulf from which I supposed the channels I crossed to take their origin. 

    If I succeed in my journey I shall be probably able to trace the outlines of that dry  sea-bed which formed, when filled, in former times, an immense inlet of salt water  either communicating with the south or the west. 

    I am going to start next Monday, the 28th February.  We shall sail down the Condamine, go up the Cogoon, and follow Mitchell’s tracks to the most northern bend in the Victoria.  I shall then proceed to the northward until I come on decided water of the Gulf, and after that resume my original course to the westward.  One of the boiling thermometers is broken, the other is good. 

Leichhardt’s contentions being known, it is probable that the marked tree on the Flinders, at about latitude 20 deg. S., indicated the spot from which he retraced his steps to the Barcoo.  Mr. Walker thought that before reaching the Flinders the party would have trouble with their horses on the rocky ridges and probably would have to abandon some of them.  Two were found further north-west by Mr. Duncan McIntyre.

The mention of precious opal that was found in a bottle by the Innamincka native woman on the Cooper seems to point to the discovery of the opal field, to the north-west of the junction of the Barcoo and Thomson Rivers. 

Again, it was probable that the discovery of the place where the Cooper emptied itself was one of the problems that the leader undertook.  It may be that the stream named by Sturt, Leichhardt Creek, running parallel to Strzelecki Creek, attracted the explorer also, but this was only one of the channels of the Lower Cooper.  The Innaminckas told Mr. Kenny that the party who were attacked came along the river from the east, as Burke’s expedition did later on. 

Did they reach Lake Eyre?  A Western Australian rumour stated that “Three men came to a  large lake of salt water a long way to the eastward, and after travelling along the shore for some time, they turned back  . . . “

When McKinlay struck the Lower Cooper on his relief expedition he found that the natives knew more about the “white men who sat down along water” than about the more recent Burke and Wills’ Expedition.  The evening before reaching Lake Massacre he camped at a lake where the tribe who had attacked and killed the four white men were residing.  The natives at Lake Cadhiberri afterwards told him that any memos. that the whites had, as well as the ironwork of saddles, were at this lake. 

The choice of a camping-place on the bank of the creek, near Lake Massacre, was a bad one, and a treacherous surprise attack was made, which was afterwards followed by a desperate fight against overwhelming odds.  The Innamincka natives remembered two great feasts upon the mules and bullocks.  They were emphatic that the animals they killed were not horses, Yarraman, but “were close up all the same as them.”  The native guides who were the cause of the disaster perished in the first attack. The remains of a fourth white man were found later on in the vicinity of the lake by an Innamincka mailman, Mr. Rob Herbert Rowlands, who had camped close by in the locality. 

Was there a survivor?  The Innamincka natives thought not, though they knew that two were killed at the lake and two in its vicinity.

Did Mr. McDouall Stuart narrowly miss seeing one of the party when he tried to follow the track supposed to be that of a white man?  Strange to say that it was a little to the North of the peak which he had named Mount Leichhardt, in central Australia. 

The shapes, like hearts, cut in the bark of two trees, with a bar down the centre and broad arrows like surveyors’ marks on each side, found on the Fincke River by the same explorer, are more like the work of a white man than a native.

The rock hieroglyphics found by Mr. Arthur John Giles. in 1873, near the junction of Sullivan’s Creek and Fincke River, were thought to be the work of a white man.  They were like seven thermometer bulbs, with numerous arrows and half-circles between them, and two wave-like double lines across them.  May they not represent the weather records previously taken?

Again, the drawings of four red hearts, each pierced by a spear found in a cave by Winnecke near Mount Skinner, and south-east of Barrow Creek Station, are also interesting.  Do these drawings tell the same story of the fate of four men at Lake Massacre?  The hearts are placed one below the other, but the second heart is pierced by a double-barbed spear, or harpoon, and may possible be used to distinguish Leichhardt’s party, as the second in command, Classen, was a sailor.

In reports that came in from the Western Queensland stations, it was asserted in 1880 and 1881 that a white man had been living with the blacks for many years to the west of Mulligan River, and had died there in an attempt to reach the settlements.  He had come from the districts further to the west. 

Lastly, in 1888, Mr David Lindsay, while exploring the country east of the McDonnell Ranges, found a tree with the mark “L” roughly cut in the hard wood in latitude 23 degrees 26 minutes S., and longitude 135 degrees E.,  on the Elder Creek, eastward of Alice Springs. 

As Leichhardt intended to cross the continent from east to west, it is feasible to suppose that the track of Burke and Wills’ Expedition should intersect that of the former party.  But that their junction should occur at Cooper Creek, and that the remains of one expedition should mask the relics of the other, was not thought to be within the bounds of possibility.

It was Mr. Herbert Kenny who investigated the story of the party that was attacked by the blacks on the Cooper, and on reading some extracts from McKinlay’s diary in 1913, the thought came to him that perhaps these remains belonged to the Leichhardt Expedition.  The more he studied and considered the matter, the more confirmed he was in his opinion, and many references recently found in the Mitchell Library and Public Library of New South Wales all tend to support his idea. 

After his letters were published in the Australasian  in 1913, no other theory has since been advanced to take its place, or to explain the fate of the party at Lake Massacre.

“What other expedition was completely lost?”  he asks.  “What other expedition, whose fate is still unknown, took mules, bullocks, and horses on their journey?   Even if this were a private party, looking for pastoral country, how is it that no one has inquired about them, searched for them, or even missed them till Mr. McKinlay chanced to discover their remains?”

But, notwithstanding anything that may be said or written to the contrary, Mr. Kenny will always firmly believe that the story told to him by the Cooper Creek natives was that of the lost expedition, and the old camp he had visited by the Lake was the spot where the party had perished. 


Royal Australian Historical Society Journal Vol XVI, 1930, pages 167 to 168

The Search for Dr. Leichhardt.

Supplementary Note by E.E. Larcombe

The following information is supplied to supplement the article that appeared in the Society’s Journal, Vol. XII., pp. 167-87:-

It is with deep regret that I have to report  the death of Mr. Herbert Kenny, who passed away after a comparatively short illness at Blacktown on July 11, 1927, at the age of seventy-nine.  It was his theory that the spot where the Leichhardt Expedition perished was to be found in the neighbourhood of Coopers Creek, which has aroused new interest in the subject. 

Mr. O. E. Friend, a member of the Council of the Royal Australian Historical Society, has reported the fact that there were three trees marked with the letter L at Retreat Station, on the banks of the Barcoo or Coopers Creek.  One of the trees was on the right bank of the river near its junction with the Thompson.

Below the confluence of these streams their united waters are called Coopers Creek.  The other trees are on the left bank of this stream.  The second tree, also marked with a plain L, was about eight miles below the junction.  Unfortunately the floods had heaped drift wood about its trunk, and a bush fire sweeping over the country destroyed this interesting relic a few years ago. 

The third tree, evidently the last of the group to be marked, has the bark stripped off on the east side to form a large blaze reaching to the ground.  The letter is cut well into the wood in the shape of a printed capital L.  There are also some smaller letters cut beneath the large one, but they do not show out so plainly.

Mr. Friend informed me that the manager, Mr. Button, had known of these trees for about eighteen years, and their appearance had changed very little during that period of time.

This is the first occasion that so large a group of “L” trees has ever been reported.  Their situation is at such a distance beyond the routes of the explorer Landsborough’s journeys that there can be no confusion with the marked trees of that party.  Moreover, the latter was in the habit of placing the number of the camp beneath the letter L.  The two kinds of markings i.e. with the plain L and with the printed capital L, are characteristic of the Leichhardt expeditions.

A few miles farther down the Cooper, and a little to the south-west of Windorah, is the Coolabah tree marked  K  IV  by the Kennedy expedition.   A local resident reports that the K is still plainly visible, but the IV has been nearly obliterated.  Liechhardt waited at Canning Downs for the return of this expedition before he started on his last journey.






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