You've got Buckley's ... Escape

Escape (4KB)
In the Early 1800's the British government decided to establish a settlement on the shores of Port Phillip Bay in order to protect British interests and a lucrative sealing industry in Bass Strait.

David Collins, the former judge advocate in Sydney was appointed lieutenant Governor of the Sullivan Bay settlement.  He was unaware of a report favoring a settlement at 'Yarra' flats where the city of Melbourne stands today and concerned with protecting the mouth of Port Phillip Bay from a possible French settlement.

Two vessels, the transport ship 'Ocean' and the HMS Calcutta, were sent carrying officers, a marine detachment, free settlers and around 300 convicts to Sullivan Bay near the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.

During the brief occupation of the area by the Europeans in 1803-1804 a number of convicts escaped. One of these was William Buckley who lived in the area around Geelong for 33 years before meeting with John Batman's party in 1835.

Buckley's party ran towards Melbourne and came across aboriginals for the first time. They hid in the bush in fear, later fleeing towards the You Yangs. No food was to be found in the mountains, so they headed for Corio Bay where Geelong city stands today. In search of food they wandered down the Bellarine Peninsula to Clifton Springs and around the coast to Swan Bay.

From here they could see HMS Calcutta anchored in Port Phillip Bay. They lit fires, bellowed and hollowed to attract the attention of the sailors who ignored their efforts.

Here Buckley parted company with his companions. He chose freedom while the others wanted to hand themselves over to the law. None of Buckley's companions arrived back at Sullivan's Bay. Buckley continued on around the coast to Aireys Inlet and then turned back and walked to Torquay. He came across an aboriginal grave and, exhausted, he took a spear from the grave mound to support his limbs. Later he slipped into un-consciousness and was found by two aboriginal women.

The Finding of Buckley, 1869 (43KB)
The Finding of Buckley, 1869
Oswald Rose Campbell
Watercolour 1937

The aboriginals saw the spear of their dead ancestor with Buckley and thought that he was Murrangurk (buried in the spear top grave) returned from the dead.

He learnt to hunt but was barred from battles as he was regarded as a sacred human being. After a dispute with the aboriginals over the murder of a blind boy in Buckley's care. Buckley being unhappy with aboriginal tribal law decided to live alone.


He caught and ate seals and wandered down the coast as far as the Otway Ranges. He saw many ships and tired to make contact unsuccessfully until he met with John Batman's party at Indented Heads.

Buckley was taken to the Barwon River, where he met the rest of the tribe. A corroboree was given in his honour, welcoming him back from the dead. Murrangurk's family looked after Buckley giving him possum skins, clothing and rugs, and supplied him with a spear and wooden axe.