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Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

Notice 8 [1830]

Source: Hobart Town Gazette, 23 October 1830

NO 203.
Colonial Secretary's Office,
Oct. 18, 1830.

THE Attention of the Colony being at present so much alive to every circumstance connected with the Aboriginal Natives, the LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR has directed the following narative to be made public, which His Excellency feels satisfied will e received with much interest.
By His Excellency's Command,
Mr. Bisdee's Farm,
White Hills
, Oct. 16, 1830.
On the afternoon of Friday, the 15th inst. About ½ past 4 o'clock, as Thomas Savage, an Overseer in the service of Mr. BISDEE, of the White Hills, was at work splitting timber with another man, he heard a noise which attracted his attention, and he proceeded in the direction from whence it came, supposing the Lieutenant Governor, whose arrival was expected, was approaching, and who, in fact, did arrive just about that time, -- from that moment Savage's companion saw no more of him. On Saturday morning, Savage had not returned. Mr. Edward Bisdee thought it probable that he had gone to Mr. Jones's, to inquire after a cow which had strayed away; and therefore he was not particularly anxious, but as up to the middle of the day, Savage was still missing, some search was set on foot, and about 2 o'clock a vague report was brought in that Savage had been taken by the Natives, who had let him go again. At this time, the Lieutenant Governor was on the point of mounting his horse to visit the several Parties which were forming on the Jordan, and on his arrival at Jones's hut, he learned from a shepherd, that Savage had been there, that he had been with the Natives, and had proceeded with a small party up the Tier leading to "Miles's" Lagoon, the Lieutenant Governor, accompanied by Mr. Frankland, Mr. Charles Arthur, and Mr. Edward Bisdee, instantly proceeded up the Tier, which was rapidly ascended, and on their arrival at the Lagoon, named "Miles's" there they met Savage half naked, who accounted for his absence nearly in the following words:-- "I was working with my fellow-servant between 4 and 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, when I heard a very soft coo ee, and thinking it was the governor coming, I went to meet him, but very slowly, being bad with the Rheumatism, I walked a very little way, when -- as it were, instantaneously, -- I was surrounded by a mob of Natives who raised their spears at me, and I should have been dead in a moment had not a White Man who was standing by with a double barrelled gun called out, and they immediately desisted. The White Man then spoke to me, and said don't be afraid Savage, you was very kind to me in Jail about 3 years ago, and I wont suffer you to be hurt -- the Man I immediately recognized to be a Convict named "Brown," who was in prison about 2 or 3 years ago, and when I was Mr. Bisdee's servant I used to be civil to him, and take him now and then something to eat. Brown is a fine stout man, well dressed and shaved, rather light hair, rather pale complexion, he had on a good pair of shoes, cord towsers, dark waistcoat striped up and down, short jacket, and was carrying a double barrelled gun.
Presently whilst he was talking to me, six more blacks came out of the bush and joined us and Brown then said, I must go a little way along with them. I was so bad with [r]heumatism before that I could hardly walk, but the fright cured me and I could walk as well as ever, and I began to consider how I could slip away -- however we walked along talking. Brown told me he had been with the Natives about 3 years, and said he was surprised at so many parties being out. I said I had remarked the same thing and believed the Governor was determined to take all the Bushrangers. -- I then said, Brown, you know the Governor has promised to be kind to all these poor People if they will be quiet, -- you had better not be deceived again. But he might let the Governor know the Blacks should commit no murders whilst he was with them (remember their spears were raised to kill poor Savage had they not been restrained in this particular instance by the all powerful interposition of Providence!) and turning round he appealed to the Mob, -- you never knew me kill or commit a robbery? to which they all replied, shaking their heads, No ! No ! No ! Savage had on a cap and a good pair of shoes, which Brown was not restrained by gratitude from making him take off, and gave them to one of the Men whose face indeed was black but his features were evidently those of a White Man. He had on a shirt and trowsers, with a single barrelled gun in his hand, -- the name of "More" was on the lock -- this man never spoke during the whole time Savage was with the mob, Brown had evidently the complete control over the mob which did not exceed fifteen or twenty. One of the women was Brown's Gin, and he seemed very fond of her. She was quite big with child, and looked to be confined every hour. All the mob were very fond of Brown, and did everything he told them. Brown said he was afraid to go to Launceston he was so well known there, but he had been frequently in Hobart town, and here he bought the clothes for the women, pointing to some petticoats which the Gins had on. When the six men came out of the bush one of them was carrying the carcass of a sheep over his shoulders and half round his neck, just as they carry a kangaroo. The animal had just been killed, and soon after Savage fell in with them not more than a mile from Mr. Bisdee's house they stopped to make a fire, and hearing the report of a gun Brown said -- we must not stay here, let us be off, and accordingly they crossed the Jordan, and continued marching until about eleven o'clock at night they reached Miles's Lagoon, where Brown said, now Savage you may go, and we shook hands very comfortable together all round. On being asked whether he afterwards stopped to watch them, he said no -- he was half frightened to death, and was happy to get away.
By the time this information was given it was nearly dark, but the Lieutenant Governor descended the tier with all dispatch, and in the course of an hour and a half four parties were sent off, with orders to proceed during the night ten miles beyond the Lagoon, as far as he Quoin, and then to spread themselves out and scour the bush thoroughly; and supposing the natives to be tired with their long march the previous night, and especially so the woman with child, it may be hoped that they will be surrounded, or at least driven to the southward and eastward, if that has not been already effected by the parties which came over the tier at day light this morning.

This singular occurrence has at length brought to light, that although the natives have been guided by men worse than savages, they have had more than savage instinct for their guide in the various murders and robberies which they have perpetrated.
The Tribe had no dogs with them!

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania