NAME: Murdering Gully
LOCATION: Gully on Mount Emu Creek, where a small stream adjoins
from Merida station (near Camperdown)
DATE OF INCIDENT: early 1839
ABORIGINES INVOLVED: Tarnbeere gundidj clan, Djargurd wurrung language
EUROPEANS INVOLVED: Frederick Taylor, James Hamilton, Broomfield,
REPORTED ABORIGINAL DEATHS: between 35 and 40 men, women and children.
massacre site is significant for the following reasons: the extent to
which the local Aboriginal clan was decimated; the fact that oral histories
of this event have survived, as has detail in local diaries; the perpetrators
incurred considerable censure from Aboriginal protectorate officials,
Wesleyan missionaries, and local people, who demonstrated their disapproval
by changing the name of Taylors River to Mount Emu Creek; and finally,
because of the notoriety of Frederick Taylor, one of the principal actors
in the conflict.
Djargurd wurrung clan that particularly suffered during the late 1830s
was the Tarnbeere gundidj. This clan's name literally means belonging
to Tarnbeere, or flowing water, a reference to nearby Mount Emu Creek.
This clan was effectively exterminated in a massacre in early 1839 by
a group of Europeans led by Frederick Taylor, the manager at George McKillop
and James Smith's station at Glenorminston, adjoining Lake Terang. Glenorminston
was also known as Weeraweeroit, after the Aboriginal name for the camping
place and waterhole on the rivulet near the home station. Before his involvement
in this massacre, Taylor had earned some notoriety through his involvement
in the murder of a Watha wurrung Aborigine in October 1836. At that time,
John Whitehead, a convict shepherd working for Taylor murdered Woolmudgin,
the clan head of the Watha wurrung balug clan based in the Barrabool Hills
near Geelong, apparently with Taylor's encouragement.
Murdering Gully massacre took place in early 1839 and was investigated
by Assistant Protector CW Sievwright, responsible for the Western District
of the Port Phillip Protectorate. The massacre occurred at Puuroyuup,
or Puuriyuup, a gully on the Mount Emu Creek (known to the Djargurd wurrung
as Borang yalug), where the creek is joined by a small unnamed stream
from Merida station. At this gully were camped between 45 to 52 men, women,
and children. These people were predominantly Tarnbeere gundidj , along
with members of other Djargurd wurrung clans and several Gulidjan people.
Apparently the massacre was organised in retaliation for the killing of
some of Taylor' sheep by two Aborigines.
we can learn the details of the massacre from the five accounts that record
the evidence of some of the survivors. From these accounts of this massacre
it is possible to compile a list of Aboriginal informants and survivors.
accounts are first hand, and although they agree on the details of the
massacre, some differ on what happened to the corpses. A combination of
them can be summarised as follows.
heard of the encampment at Puuroyuup, Taylor and associates James Hamilton
and Broomfield headed a party of shepherds with the intention of attacking
them. Taylor no doubt agreed with the conventional view held by most settlers
that bullets were the only antidote to Aboriginal sheep stealing, and
that, when a few were shot, the rest kept clear. Furthermore, many settlers
believed that it didn't matter if those attacked were not the actual perpetrators
as vicarious punishment was thought to be just as effective.
they approached the gully on horseback, the party formed an extended line
with Taylor in the centre. They found the Aboriginal people asleep and
advacned shouting and immediately fired upon them, killing the whole group
except 12 people. They afterwards threw the bodies in a neighbouring waterhole.
One of the survivors was Woreguimoni, a Gulidjan, who had hidden in the
long grass. Karn, alias Mr Anderson, had also safely fled the gully when
the Europeans approached. He returned after they had left the scene, and
began to remove the bodies from the waterhole, placing them on the ground
four deep, head by head. In the course of this, he was discovered by some
of the Europeans, who took him and his wife and child, who had also escaped,
to Taylor's home station, where he and his family were given provisions
so that they would stay nearby, and away from the waterhole. With Karn
removed from the waterhole, a cart was taken to the scene of the massacre
and the bodies bought up to the home station, where they were conveyed
to some other waterholes and thrown in.
had been spared when he stood up and begged Taylor to spare his life.
After the massacre, he sought the refuge of the Buntingdale Wesleyan mission
near present-day Birregurra. Two further survivors of the massacre, Bareetch
Chuurneen - alias Queen Fanny, the 'chieftess' of the clan - and a child,
were pursued to Wuurna Weewheetch (the home of the swallow), a point of
land on the west side of Lake Bullen Merri. With the child on her back,
she swam across to a point called Karm karm, below present day Wurrong
homestead, and escaped. Other survivors included Benadug, Born, Tainneague,
second account of the aftermath of the masssacre comes from Wangegamon,
a Djargurd wurrung man, who escaped by running to the other side of the
river and hiding in the grass behind a tree. From this vantage point he
saw his wife and child killed. After the bodies had been thrown into the
creek, the water became stained with blood. Grieving, he remained near
the gully for two days. According to Wangegamon, two days after the massacre
two men named Anderson and Watson visited the site and, seeing the bodies,
felt remorse and asked Taylor why he had killed so many women and children.
Anderson, Charles Courtney, James Ramslie, and James Hamilton subsequently
made some fires and burned the bodies. Two days after cremation, Taylor,
Watson, and Anderson returned with a sack and removed all the bones that
had not been consumed by the fires.
is possible that the differences between these two accounts may only be
chronological; that is, that the cremation took place after removal of
the corpes from the Mount Emu Creek Waterhole, thus the accounts are complimentary.
The destruction of the corpses was a deliberate and commonly used attempt
to destroy hard evidence.
of the survivors sought sanctuary at the Wesleyan mission, and it is largely
through the efforts of missionaries the Reverend Benjamin Hurst and Francis
Tuckfield, Assistant Protector Sievwright, and Chief Protector George
Robinson, that we know so much about this massacre.