History with Brian James: Attacks by Windradyne

Cobborn Jacky Breast Plate. Photo: contributed
Cobborn Jacky Breast Plate. Photo: contributed

Assistant Surveyor George Evans was examining the Blue Mountains from a distance not long after the discovery of the track that had led Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth to find their way across. The Wiradjuri saw the white men but decided to keep their distance.

A few white men with a few horses wandering around the country side seemed to be no threat. The Wiradjuri had lived on these slopes and plains for tens of thousands of years. The region was rich, life was good.

They of tradition, shy and peaceful.

A few weeks later as Evans was moving out news had spread across the plains. His progress was noted. The word was to keep clear of the whites. A couple of women had walked down to the river to fish.

To their horror in front of them stood Evens, his horses, his colleagues and assistants.

The Wiradjuri nation is the largest Aboriginal language group in NSW.

The Wiradjuri are the people of three rivers because their territory is bounded by the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Macquarie Rivers.

The sense of country having borders is a modern, European notion for Wiradjuri, Wallaloo, Ngario, Yuin, Jaitmatang, Gundungurra and Ngunnawal people travelling through and sharing each others country including the annual trek to Tidbinbilla.

A quarter of a century has passed since the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet and the Blue Mountains Crossing in 1813.

The Wiradjuri already knew the stories of the colonisers and diseases which had penetrated the interior well before the white people did.

Employees of Mrs Hassall, at O'Connell-Plains, in the Bathurst country were instructed to locate some natives who had previously attacked workmen on the property and seven men were killed by them.

It was considered necessary to pursue the natives.

In a separate incident another employee, John Hollingshead, was wounded in two places, the left arm and thumb.

The employees were given weapons and some horses and told to pursue the natives.

This action led to five men being charged with an assault on an aboriginal black woman, which terminated in death. The prisoners were accordingly indicted for manslaughter. The men charged were John Johnson, William Clarke, John Nicholson, Henry Castles and John Crear. The Court proceeded as courts do and many witnesses were heard both for the Crown and also for the defence.

Many accounts of the barbarities perpetrated by the black natives had been circulated, and there had been lives and property destroyed.

At the time of the activities the employees of both Mr and Mrs Hassell became agitated and continued their request for arms, which were granted.

The first attacks by Windradyne and his men had began west of Bathurst in 1823 and Mudgee about the same time.

The Wiradjuri caused the abandonment of the Government Station at Swallow Creek in November.

The soldiers and Windradyne's men retaliated in tit for tat vigilante raids on each other.

Governor Brisbane declared Martial Law and this gave Bathurst's Commandant James Thomas Morisset almost unlimited power to supress the Wiradjuri.

A series of punitive raids that became known as the Battle of Bathurst caused the surrender of the Wiradjuri.

At midday on December 28, 1824 Governor Brisbane accepted the surrender of Windradyne and 260 of his people.

Windradyne died on March 21, 1829 when a knee wound became gangrenous.

This article was sourced from, "Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899. Macquarie Law.

  • Brian James produces his column for publication in the Young Witness each Tuesday on behalf the Young Historical Society.