Burke & Wills Web
www.burkeandwills.net.au
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017

Minutes of Evidence: Dr John Macadam

Report of the commissioners appointed to enquire into and report upon the circumstances connected with the sufferings and death of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills.
Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.
Parliamentary papers, No 97, 1861-2. 1862.

Friday 22nd November 1861.

The Honorable John Macadam, Esq., M.D., M.P., examined.

Q1. [Pratt] The Commission wish to be furnished with a statement of the party started up by the Exploration Committee, the instructions given by the committee to them and the supplies with which they were furnished on leaving ? - I have been deputed by the Exploration Committee to bring all the papers connected with the progress of the expedition and to submit them to the Commission for full investigation. I will hand in a list of the parties sent out ant the positions they occupied and a copy of the agreement made with them and the instructions given to them. Robert O' Hara Burke, Esq. was the leader, Mr Landells was second in command Mr Wills was the astronomer and surveyor, Dr. Beckler was medical officer and botanist Dr Becker was artist, naturalist and also undertook to conduct the geological observations, Mr Ferguson was foreman, and there were nine persons besides in the position of subordinates. The names of those persons with their salaries attached will be found in the agreement which will be placed before the Commission. The instructions which were given were regulated according to the duties of the officers of the party. Copies of the instructions to astronomical observer and to the geological observer and to the botanist will also be laid before the Commission. I may state that these were drawn up by committees consisting of gentlemen apparently in every way suited to draw up such instructions as would prove of the greatest public benefit from the observations made. The astronomical part was left to Professor Neumayer, the natural history and botany to Dr Mueller, Professor McCoy, and others, and everything was done to ensure a safe transmission to the committee of all the observations made. Those observations were received at different times, as the books will show, and were taken every care of, and when they required any further examination or calculations, as in the case of Mr wills' notes, the notes were transmitted to the observatory and a person employed so as to make up the calculations and mark out the camps as to their precise positions. The instructions which were sent to Mr Burke I may perhaps be permitted to read at this stage.

(The same was read by the witness. - Vide Appendix A). [Macadam read the instructions given to Burke.] - Those are the main instructions.

Q2. [Pratt] Leaving him a very wide discretion apparently ? -A very wide discretion, and indeed previously to the issue of those instructions, the committee decided to leave Burke entirely to his own discretion when he left Cooper's Creek.

Q3. [Pratt] Is that on record ?-I believe it is on the minutes.

Q4. [Pratt] Will you furnish that to the Commission ? -Perhaps I may leave the examination of the minutes at this stage as they are handed in; I can recur [sic] to them again.

Q5. [Murphy] Were those instructions given in writings ? -Yes.

Q6. Were they in duplicate ? -Yes; and since that copies have been given to the commanders of the several expeditions which went out. There is one point which I would notice here, that the committee distinctly set forth in the instructions themselves, that Mr Burke could make arrangements for keeping open communications in the rear to the Darling if in his opinion advisable, and hence to Melbourne, so that the committee might receive intelligence; and I may quote from a despatch of Mr Burke's which will show the Commission that Mr Burke recognised this responsibility in a letter written from Menindie; in his letter to the committee, dated the 16th October,1860, at Menindie, he says, "It is my intention to form a depot on this river, somewhere in this neighbourhood, and to proceed on towards Cooper's Creek with a small party by a route which will be shown to me by Mr Wright, manager for Mr Baker, and which I have every reason to believe is quite practicable, but I shall not incur any risk, and I shall keep open the communication to the Darling." That is the last despatch to us before he left Menindie.

Q7. [Sturt] Have you any subsequent letters from him ? -We had one from Torowoto, halfway to Cooper's Creek, which was sent back by Mr Wright; that is dated the 29th of October.

Q8. [Sullivan] Have you the whole of Mr Burke's correspondence ? -Yes.

Q9. Will those papers be handed in to the Commission ? -Yes, everything. There is a later despatch dated Torowoto Creek 29th October, 1860, when he was about to start, giving the particulars and the names of the men. He says "Mr Wright returns from here to Menindie. I have appointed him as third officer of the expedition, subject to the approval of the committee, from the day of our departure from Menindie, and I hope they will confirm the appointment. In the meantime I have instructed him to follow me up with the remainder of the camels," and so on. It will be seen by this quotation that Mr Wright was an officer selected entirely by Mr Burke, that he had every confidence in him, and the committee afterwards ratified his appointment.

[Murphy suggested it would be better to proceed in a more formal manner by handing in a list of the party and provisions and stores and then all the correspondence.]

Q10. [Murphy] Would you, after you have read the instructions, hand into the Commission a list of the supplies with which the party started ?-I now hand in the list of stores, horses, and equipments, taken from the Government Storekeeper's books. [The witness delivered in the same - Vide Appendix C.] I may state the committee did not purchase these articles themselves, but all the articles necessary for the expedition were first of all mainly suggested by Mr Burke, approved of by the committee of the society appointed for the purpose, afterwards submitted to the approval of the Honorable the Chief Secretary, and then passed on to the Government Storekeeper, who supplied the articles and furnished us afterwards with the account.

Q11. These are the whole of the things supplied to the expedition at starting ?-Yes, except scientific instruments, &c.

Q12. Was the quantity of provisions fixed for a certain time ?-Yes, it was arranged that the amount of provisions should be capable of supporting the whole party for eighteen months.

Q13. The whole party, men, horses, and cattle of all kinds ?-Yes.

Q14. [Sturt] Had you any correspondence from Mr Wright when he was at Menindie ?-Yes. I may state that though the provisions were calculated to last eighteen months yet it was supposed that by care they might last for two years.

Q15. [Sturt] Does Mr Wright in his correspondence show the quantity of supplies he had at Menindie after Mr Burke had left?-I think not. We have no list of the stores left by Mr Burke at Menindie but we had afterwards a list in this book of the stores brought back by Mr Wright from Cooper's Creek, as well as those left by Mr Burke

Q16. [Murphy] Then in this book are all the stores supplied to the expedition when it started from Melbourne ?-Not only the whole of the stores supplied to the expedition when they started from Melbourne but also the amount of stores found by Mr Howitt at Menindie when he started. The total expenditure for stores, &c., was £4,585/2s./10d.; that included wagons and equipment generally.

Q17. [Pratt] Did not Mr Burke detail to the committee what he had done with those stores and the quantity he left behind at Menindie when he started from there ?-I am not aware that Mr Burke left any detailed account of the stores left at Menindie.

Q18. [Sturt] Did Mr Wright have occasion to send Mr Hodgkinson down to Melbourne, pointing out that fresh supplies and sheep would be required ?-Yes, in his despatch received per Mr Hodgkinson, who arrived on the 30th December, he pointed out the desirability of having an additional supply of horses and about 150 sheep, which he intended to drive on to Cooper's Creek. I may mention that this was received by the committee on the 30th, a meeting was held on the 31st, and within the following two days Mr Hodgkinson was despatched, not only with the £250 for horses and sheep asked for by Mr wright, but £150 more (in all £400), with further authority to expend anything that was deemed necessary.

Q19. That appears in the minutes ?-Yes. Mr Wright was taken on by Mr Burke on the 19th October; on the 29th he arrived at Torowoto, which is about 200 miles from Menindie. Then Mr Burke gave instructions to Mr Wright to return and to bring up the stores as rapidly is possible to Cooper's Creek. Mr wright left Torowoto as I understand on the 31st October, but the first despatch I had from him at Menindie is dated the 19th December. How he occupied himself between those two dates does not appear, considering he had gone up in eight days, and there is a difference here of a month and nineteen days on the return journey, presuming he wrote this despatch the moment he reached Menindie.

Q20. Is this correspondence numbered ?-They are not numbered, but they are all put up and marked distinctly, the numbers are placed upon them as regards each particular letter.

Q21. [Sturt] Had you any letters from Mr Brahe ?-There is just Mr Brahe's report given to us, drawn up by him in town here, but Mr Brahe came on from Cooper's Creek to Menindie after joining Mr Wright at Bulla, and then came on by himself to town.

Q22. [Sullivan & Murphy] Then there was no correspondent with the committee but Mr Burke; until Mr Burke finally left he was the only correspondent of the committee ?-We had afterwards correspondence with Mr Wright and personal interviews with Mr Brahe who came back on one occasion, and Mr Hodgkinson who came back on another.

Q23. Until the time that Mr Burke finally ceased corresponding, did you have any correspondence with any other member of the expedition ? -No, with the exception of his last letters from Cooper's Creek.

Q24. Were the communications with Mr Hodgkinson, when he returned, personal, or was there any written correspondence ?-No; he only brought Mr Wright's letter.

Q25. Have you any minutes of Mr Hodgkinson's communications with the committee ?- No; Mr Hodgkinson himself made a statement which appeared in the press afterwards.

Q26. [Pratt] Did it come to your knowledge as secretary, that Mr Burke expressed the strongest desire to the committee to be left untrammelled by instructions ?-No, not particularly; because Mr Burke understood that from Cooper's Creek he was to consider himself free; that was the general understanding.

Q27. [Sturt] Did the committee give Mr Burke any instructions as to forming a depot at Cooper's Creek ?-Nothing further than in the general instructions.

Q28. Those were definite instructions for the formation of a depot at Cooper's Creek ?- Yes; it says "The committee invest you with the largest discretion as far as the forming of depot s and other camps generally."

Q29. Which depot seems not to have been formed ?- There was a depot formed at Cooper's Creek, and left in charge of a portion of the party.

Q30. [Hervey] Is there any correspondence or interview recorded with Mr Landells ?- There is a letter from Mr Landells when he arrived here with an account of certain unpleasant circumstances which had transpired between Mr Landells and Mr Burke, and some difference of opinion as to the management of the camels and so on, but nothing appertaining at all to direction as regards route.

Q31. Will you formally hand in the letters and documents ?- Mr Landells report forms one of the letters.-The witness handed in the following documents, viz:-Instructions and Minutes of the Committee;

1. A List of the Supplies furnished.
2. Correspondence and Despatches of Mr Burke
3. Mr Wright's Diary.
4. Despatches from Dr Becker.
5. Dr Beckler's Statement in relation to his resignation.
6. Meteorological Notes by Dr Becker.
7. Letters from Dr Becker.
8. Mr Hodgkinson's Statement in reference to Mr Landells.
9. Dr Becker's Diary up to 14th November [1860].
10. Letter of Mr Wills to Professor Neumayer, in reference to Mr Landells resignation.
11. Correspondence relating to the purchase of horses by Mr Wright.
12. Despatch from Mr Howitt from Pamamoroo Creek.
13. Diary of Mr howitt from 1st September to 9th October 1861.
14. Mr Howitt's Despatches.
15. Despatches from Captain Mayne, the Auditor-General in Sydney.
16. Despatches from Mr Knowles, left by Mr Howitt in charge of the Menindie depot .
17. Mr Landells' Report in reference to his resignation.
18. Mr Wright's second Despatch.
19. Mr Hodgkinson's Statement with reference to the depot at Menindie.
20. Despatches containing the particulars of the return journey of Mr wright
21. Mr Howitt's further Despatches, received 31st October [1861] and 4th November [1861].
22. Narrative of John King.
23. Mr William Brahe's Report.
24. Despatches from Captain Norman from Brisbane, received 26th August [1861].
25. Further Despatches from Brisbane from Captain Norman, received on 7th September [1861].
26. Agreement for conveyance of coals to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
27. Notes of Plants by Dr Beckler (three papers).
28. Further Despatches from Captain Mayne in reference to Rockhampton Expedition.
29. Mr Wills' Reports up to 15th December [1860], at Cooper's Creek.
30. The Charter-party in reference to the Firefly, for conveying men, horses, and stores from Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
31. Copy of a Letter from Sir Henry Barkly to Sir George Bowen, with reference to the fitting out of the Expedition from Queensland.
32. Report of Dr Beckler, the Health Officer to the Expedition.
33. Dr Becker's Despatches and Diaries.
34. Original list of horses supplied to Mr Wright at Menindie.
35. Documents referring to expenses at Menindie.

Q32. [Murphy] What men of the original party are available for examination if the Commission were desirous of examining them ?-You have Mr King, who is on his way to Swan Hill at present, and may be expected here on Monday. Mr Brahe is also here. Mr Wright I have telegraphed for to South Australia.

Q33. He was not one of the original party ?-No; he was originally from Menindie. Mr McDonough who was one of Mr Brahe's party from Cooper's Creek, and is now in town waiting test he should be required. There is also Dost Mahommed, a sepoy, at Menindie at present; Mr Hodgkinson's evidence would have been important, but he is now with Mr McKinlay's party.

[Pratt asked of Dost Mahomett "Does he speak English or is it difficult to make him comprehend what is meant?" Brahe said it was difficult to make him understand in English what was meant. He spoke Hindostanee. He was at Menindie at the moment.]

Q34. [Pratt] Where is Dr Beckler ?-I cannot say. I believe he can be reached [through Dr Mueller]. [Dr Wills thought Dr Beckler was with Professor Neumayer, somewhere near the Murray. He had that morning seen a letter from Professor Neumayer.] Those are all the persons who went on with the expedition to any extent. There is another man, Smith, at Menindie, who was with Mr Wright's original party; he is now attached I think to Mr Howitt's party.

[Hervey asked whether the maps placed on the table were for the use of the Commission? Macadam replied 'Certainly, but the surveyor-general would provide them with a new and complete map embracing Wills' last notes'.]

Q35. King, Brahe, McDonough, Beckler, and Hodgkinson, were the original party of Mr Burke ?-Yes

Q36. Then of Mr Wright's party who remained behind, we have Doctor Beckler and Mr Hodgkinson ?-Yes.

Q37. And Mr Smith, who is at Menindie now ?-Yes. I would wish to put in a copy of the last manuscript account by Mr Brahe, and also Mr King's narrative, and Mr Wills' notes, transcribed by the committee appointed for the purpose.-[The witness delivered the same.]-I would wish to make one statement; I have already spoken of the rapidity and despatch on the part of the committee in providing the required supplies for Mr Wright The next visit we had from a member of the party was after the disastrous result winch occurred under Mr Wright when Mr Brahe came to town; he arrived on the Sunday morning at half-past eight; the committee met that afternoon, and in four days afterwards Mr Howitt's party was strengthened and despatched, and I think it only a matter of justice to the committee, to state that Mr howitt was in the field with his party to ascertain the reason why we had no information before Mr Brahe arrived in town with the news. He met Mr Brahe, I think on this side Swan Hill; Mr Howitt returned with him, and the party was increased and strengthened in order to meet the additional necessities of the case. The date on which the committee first considered the propriety of sending on a party lest anything should be wrong, because previously to that they had rested on the assurance that the communication would be kept open, was on the 13th of June; Mr Brahe arrived on the 30th June, but Mr Howitt's party was in the field on the 26th of June. Finally Mr Howitt left for good on the 4th of July. I mention these dates to show that no loss of time occurred.

Q38. Would you furnish to the Commission that information on a precis for the use of the Commission ?-I will furnish a list of dates for the use of the Commission. Then the notion of sending a steamer to the North was entertained by the committee on the 24th of June, before the news came by Mr Brahe; but, as the members of the Commission may be aware, that vessel, although finally decided upon to go (or at all events, the proposition to the Government was made), was under repairs, and could not be despatched for some three weeks. There is only one other circumstance which I would state - that Mr Burke, from the evidence, must just have been dying when Mr Brahe was on his way between Sandhurst and this. I was also going to remark that Mr wright wrote to the committee on the 19th of December from Menindie. He left Menindie for Cooper's Creek on the 26th of January; he arrived at Bulla 70 miles from Cooper's Creek, on the 4th of April; he was at Bulla on the 4th of April, 70 miles from Cooper's Creek; Mr Burke arrived there on the 21st, and then Mr Wright had a most ample supply of provisions of all kinds, including, as one article, twenty packages of preserved vegetables: he had flour, rice, pickles, and everything that could have conduced to the prosperity of the party, and those were, for the most part, brought back to Menindie afterwards. On the 29th of April he met Mr Brahe coming back from the creek, eight days after Mr Burke's arrival, and he reached the Darling on the 18th of June.

[Pratt said it would be desirable for Macadam to hand in the statement he had just made in writing to be placed with the other statements.]

Q39. In the documents that we have shall we find the quantity of provisions taken on by Mr Burke, and the quantity of provisions taken on by Mr Wright, and the quantity of provisions still left at Menindie as yet undisposed of ?-We have no official information of the amount of provision taken on by Mr Burke: he thought he would not wait for the total supply, and took a certain portion and carried it on. We have an account of the stores he took with him from Cooper's Creek with his party of four, and the amount left by Mr Brahe; but if Mr Hodgkinson can be found out, as he was acting as storeman at Menindie, I have no doubt he will be able to give information upon the subject of stores.

The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to Wednesday next, at one o'clock.

Wednesday 27th November 1861.

The Honorable John Macadam, Esq., M.P., further examined.

Q40. Have you any further papers to lay before the Commission ?-Yes; I have some further despatches from Captain Mayne in Sydney, a despatch from Queensland, a despatch from the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey in South Australia, two lists of stores and equipments at Menindie, on the Darling, received from Mr Howitt, also a document signed by Mr Burke at Swan Hill, being a record of the quantity of oats and hay obtained by him from the police, also a summary of the storekeeper's showing the main items of expenditure for stores [which was £4585 according to The Age, 28 November 1861], also the two agreements, the agreement with the men of the original party, and also the agreement with Mr Howitt's party.-[The witness delivered in the above mentioned documents.]

Q41. [Murphy] Would you read the names of the committee that had charge of this exploration matter from the first ?-Yes. I may state that originally there were two committees- there was the original committee belonging to the Royal Society, and there was a committee selected at a public meeting called the "Exploration Fund Committee," a committee instituted for the purpose of raising subscriptions. Those two committees were amalgamated and with the consent of the Government afterwards took charge of this exploration. The name of the committee as it stood were;

Sir William F. Stawell, Chairman;
the Honorable John Hodgson M.L.C., (since dead),
Vice-Chairman: Mr Ligar, the Surveyor-General;
Mr Hodgkinson, the Deputy Surveyor-General;
Professor McCoy,
Professor Neumayer,
Dr Mueller,
Captain Cadell,
Mr Selwyn,
the Rev. Mr Bleasdale,
Dr Gillbee,
Dr Eades,
John Watson, Esq.,
Angus McMillan, Esq.,
Dr Iffla, Sizar Elliott, Esq.,
Dr Mackenna,
James Smith, Esq., and
Dr Embling, with
the Honorable Dr Wilkie to act as treasurer and
myself [Dr Macadam] as secretary.

Q42. [Sullivan] Did the committee appoint any sub-committees to take charge of any particular portion of the exploration ?-Yes; as each subject came under consideration, a committee was selected composed of gentlemen supposed to be more intimately connected with the subject under enquiry.

Q43. [Sullivan] Which sub-committee had the care of the selection of the provisions ?-The names are in the minute book.

Q44. [Sullivan] The provisions were selected by a sub-committee ?-Yes, to work in conjunction with Mr Burke. the calculations as to the provisions were principally made by Dr Mueller who having been out with Mr Gregory in the northern Exploring Expedition, was supposed to be more intimately acquainted with that particular head of the subject.

Q45. [Murphy] Mr Burke himself was conversant of everything that was provided ?-Yes.

Q46. And it was with his approval ?-Yes, the sub-committee went into it with him. The list of stores was drawn, up, the articles of food were prescribed and the quantities required, and some of the members of the Committee even superintended the preparations of the different descriptions of food. Sir William Stawell personally looked after the preparation of the bread-and-meat biscuit, and so on. When approved of by the Committee, it was submitted to the Chief Secretary and was approved of by him, and the Government storekeeper had orders to carry out the arrangement.

Q47. Was the transport also provided with the consent and knowledge of Mr Burke?- Entirely with his concurrence. At one period the committee proposed that an offer made by Captain Cadell, on behalf of the Murray River Navigation Company, for the removal of some of the stores by the Murray, should be accepted. He offered to take some 30 tons of material gratuitously, but Mr Burke considered that it would be much better to have the whole matter under his own control, inasmuch as he could regulate it as to time and not be dependent upon any accidents upon the river.

Q48. No restrictions were placed upon Mr Burke as to what he might have thought fit for the expedition ?-None whatever; and before leaving he expressed himself, both to the committee and in public, as satisfied that the whole thing was got up entirely to his satisfaction, and that he believed the expedition was equipped such as no expedition was before.

Q49. Were the committee aware of Mr Burke's plans after he reached the Darling ?-We had no knowledge whatever as to what course he would pursue.

Q50. He was unrestricted as to the course he should pursue when he reached the Darling ?-He was unrestricted, except that he should move from Cooper's Creek.

Q51. You received despatches from him pretty regularly until his arrival at Menindie, and whilst he was there ?-Very regularly indeed.

Q52. Did you receive any despatch after the date of his departure from Menindie ?-We received a despatch dated from Torowoto.

Q53. But not before that ?-We had several despatches from Menindie.

Q54. Announcing his departure ?-Announcing his intention to depart that day.

Q55. Upon the day of his departure from Menindie there was a despatch from Mr Burke ?-Yes.

Q56. You received no other despatch from Mr Burke except that received through Mr Hodgkinson, dated-the 19th December ?-No other despatch, except the one from Torowoto., dated 29th October, which reached the committee 3rd December; until recently we had that memorandum from Cooper's Creek.

Q57. From the time of the departure of Mr Burke from the Darling you received no despatch, nor had any knowledge of the proceedings of the party either at the Darling or after they had proceeded from there until you received from Mr Hodgkinson the despatch dated the 19th December ?-None whatever, except the one stated above.

Q58. Were the committee aware of what Mr Burke had done ?-The committee only became aware of what Mr Burke had done when they received Mr Wright's despatch from Mr Hodgkinson dated the 19th December.

Q59. Are you aware, from the correspondence, that Mr Wright's had returned to the Darling on the 5th of November, after leaving Mr Burke on his way ?-Yes.

Q60. Had you any reason to form a judgment as to the cause of your not hearing from Mr Wright from the 5th of November until the receipt of his despatch of the 19th of December following ?-That circumstance is quite unaccountable to the members of the Committee.

Q61. You received no communication yourselves on that subject ?-No.

Q62. Nor had you any knowledge until that time that there was a party returning to the Darling ?-No knowledge whatever.

Q63. On what date did you receive that despatch from Mr Wright's ?-On the 31st of December, when Mr Hodgkinson arrived in town: he arrived on the 31st of December, or the 30th; I am not quite certain which.

Q64. The despatches that were written in reply to his are dated the 31st of December, are they not ?-They are dated the 31st of December. I think he came on the 30th, and a meeting was called on the 31st, and the despatch in reply bore that date.

Q65. Had you any knowledge that the party were returning to the depot at Menindie from the 5th November until the receipt of their despatch of the 19th December from Mr Wright ?-No.

Q66. Had you any means provided by the committee for keeping up communication between Menindie and this colony ?-There were no means provided by the committee, but there was a postal communication.

Q67. How often did that run ?-Once a fortnight.

Q68. And there was no letter received from any of the exploring party after that last despatch from Mr Burke upon the day of his starting from Torowoto. until the receipt of that despatch from Mr Wright's ?-None received by the committee, and I am not aware of any having been received at all.

Q69 It appears from one of the letters that the dried provisions procured in Melbourne were spoilt, do you know who examined those provisions ?-They were principally examined by Mr Nash, the storekeeper, and by Mr Burke himself.

Q70. Were you one of the committee that examined all the provisions ?-No

Q71. Has there been any reason assigned why the preserved provisions spoilt so soon ?-I have never heard any reason given in reference to it.

Q72. One of the despatches states that the dried provisions were spoilt ?-Yes, the pemmican.

Q73. Has there been any cause assigned for that ?-No reason has ever been assigned for it.

Q74. Do you know positively that Mr Burke examined this provision-are you aware, of your own knowledge, that he examined that?-I never was with him, but he stated that he was quite satisfied with the provisions supplied

Q75. You are not aware of the reason why it spoilt ?-No.

Q76. Do you know what this pemmican was composed of-was it the usual pemmican of other countries ?-I believe it was. The meat was chopped very, very fine, and thoroughly dried, as I understood. I had no superintendence of the preparation of it.

Q77. What opinion had the committee with regard to the time of year being favorable or otherwise for exploring that country-what opinion was formed as to the propriety of starting the expedition at that particular time of year ?-It was considered at the time Mr Burke left Melbourne that he would have ample opportunity of reaching the Darling so as to have crossed to Cooper's Creek at a very favorable period of the year; but the roads were extremely heavy at the time, and I have no doubt that the period from his leaving this to the time of his arrival at the Darling was greater than he anticipated; but still when he crossed the country he had abundance of water, but he knew that he must push on as fast as he could to reach Cooper's Creek.

Q78. Had the Royal Society any idea of doing more than reaching Cooper's Creek that season ?-That was left entirely to Mr Burke; he was to judge on his arrival there and the establishment of a depot whether he should do more.

Q79. Had the Royal Society any idea of Mr Burke pushing on a flying party from any part of the route before reaching Cooper's Creek ?-No.

Q80. It was your intention that he should reach Cooper's Creek with a full supply ?-The notion of the committee was, that his party should be kept together until he arrived at Cooper's Creek. The wagons with which he was furnished for conveying stores were supposed by the committee as likely to prove of great use in even carrying the stores from Menindie to Cooper's Creek.

Q81. Were not the wagons peculiarly constructed, being fitted as boats as well ?-One very large wagon was fitted as a boat for the purpose of crossing rivers.

Q82. And the committee, as far as the matter rested in their hands, deemed it a prudent course to go to Cooper's Creek with the whole party and the provisions, and make a complete fresh start from Cooper's Creek for any further exploration ?-That was the notion we had at the time, that the party would be kept together, and the wagons be taken on beyond Menindie at any rate.

Q83. But you gave no instructions to Mr Burke that that was to be the course adopted ?-No; the instructions did not go that length.

Q84. Did Mr Burke complain, on leaving town, of being over supplied, and being encumbered even then ?-He did not. From the heavy state of the roads he found those wagons, and especially the hired wagons, interfered with his progress.

Q85. Had he discretion as to the quantity as well as the quality of the provisions he required ?-Yes.

Q86. From the first despatch from Burke intimating that he had gone from Menindie to Cooper's Creek, was the society under the impression that he had gone on with his whole party ?-No, because the despatch contained a clause informing us that he had sent Wright back to bring up the depot party.

Q87. Was that the first time that you became aware that Mr Burke had pushed on ?-Yes; from the time that Mr Burke intimated his intention of starting that day with a light party, with Mr Wright's with him, until we received Mr Wright's letter, we had no intimation of his movements, except the despatch before referred to. Our first intimation was that he was going to move on himself and leave the stores to be brought up after him to Cooper's Creek. Having put aside his wagons, the camels required to be loaded then. He had carefully refrained from loading the camels until he arrived at Menindie, so that they might be in good condition to transport the stores from Menindie to Cooper's Creek; and considering that the camels so laden would impede his movements, he led us to understand that he would move on with a light party a-head, and leave the stores to follow.

Q88. Did it ever strike the committee that Mr Wright's having left Mr Burke at Torowoto. on the 29th or 30th of October, and arriving at the Darling on the 5th of November, an immense deal of valuable time had been lost between the 5th of November and the 19th of December, when Mr Wright's despatch was dated ?-It was never made matter of comment.

Q89. It was the 5th of November he arrived; knowing what he had to do and yet he does not appear to have taken any steps to let the committee know what he was doing until the 19th of December?-He left Mr Burke upon the 29th of October, and he wrote his first despatch upon the 19th of December. Afterwards upon looking into this matter personally, as one of the committee, I noticed this great interval of time, but when the despatches were brought down as they urged great promptitude in our movements this question of delay was overlooked and it was not mentioned at the time. I have no doubt from the excitement of the moment this interval of time was overlooked.

Q90. [Sullivan] Has there been any explanation obtained since by the committee with regard to this long delay ?-None whatever.

Q91. I understand that Captain Cadell offered to take the provisions by water as far as Menindie or as far as he could possibly get ?-As far as the Murray navigation went, it is not up to Menindie, it is over 100 miles distant from Menindie, and Mr Burke made a calculation to look to the amount of expense and he thought lie could convey the stores as cheaply in those wagons to Menindie from Melbourne as he could by the river even taking into account the gratuitous offer of the Murray Navigation Company.

Q92. And the committee concurred with Mr Burke in the advisability of carting them by land rather than by water ?-Yes.

Q93. In the letter written on the l8th of October, being the day before Mr Burke started from Menindie, he makes this observation with regard to his plans, and it is the only letter the committee could have received from him until the despatch from Mr Burke of the 29th October; he says it is my intention to form a depot upon the river somewhere in this neighborhood, and proceed on towards Cooper's Creek with a small party by a way which will be shown to me by Mr Wright's, manager for Mr Baker, and which I have every reason to believe quite practicable, but I shall not, incur any risk and I shall keep open a communication to the Darling. I shall be obliged to leave the doctor, that is Dr Beckler, in charge of the depot while the committee have decided upon his resignation, that is the communication which the committee received from Mr Burke as to his starting from Menindie ?-Yes, that is the first intimation we had.

Q94. But they knew no more of the proceedings of Mr Burke or the party until they got Mr Wright's despatch of the 19th December, following?-We had no information at all, and we were not at all anxious, inasmuch as Mr Burke stated so plainly that he would keep up communication with the Darling, so that we were quite content that we should receive information at the earliest opportunity.

Q95. Then, on the 19th of December, Mr Wright's writes down to the committee by Mr Hodgkinson, stating his own proceedings and how he had left Mr Burke, and asking for further supplies of horses and means of transport, and on the 31st, the day following the receipt of that letter, a letter was written to return by Mr Hodgkinson in reply to that despatch ?-Yes, Mr Hodgkinson left town within three days of his arrival in it, and he carried with him ample funds to carry out what Mr Wright suggested, and he was back with Mr Wright's in ten days; he took nine days to come down and afterwards it was found he took ten days to return; he would be there about the 10th or 11th of January.

Q96. And on the 26th of January Mr Wright's finally started ?-The 26th from the camp, and the 28th from the other side of the creek.

Q97. After Mr Wright's final departure the committee had no knowledge until his return ?-After that we had no knowledge of the progress of the expedition until Mr Brahe came to town.

Q98. After Mr Wright's return to Menindie ?-Yes.

Q99. At what date did the committee decide to forward the despatches to Mr Burke with reference to Mr Stuart's journey ?-The date of the despatch which was transmitted by Lyons and McPherson was the l8th of October.

Q100. From the correspondence it appears that those troopers started from the Darling upon the 10th of November ?-Yes.

Q101. Was there any communication sent down to the committee at that time as to the proceedings of the party or of the trooper and McPherson ?-No.

Q102. Because Mr Wright's must have been at the Darling at the time they left. He came back on the 5th of November, and on the 10th those two men started : did any communication reach the committee as to the starting of those two men on the 10th ?-No; we had no despatch.

Q103. Were the committee aware of what progress those two men made from the time they started ?-Not until the news came back of the disaster.

Q104. Are you aware whether those two men had any communication with Mr Wright's party on the Darling before they started finally ?-The letters were sent forward to Swan Hill, and Superintendent Foster selected this man Lyons. He went to Menindie, and afterwards from the despatches, I think it will be found, that McPherson was joined with him; and the despatches will show that Mr Wright's was there, and McPherson was waiting for an opportunity to follow rapidly after Mr Burke for the purpose of shoeing the horses.

Q105. Then you had heard that Mr Wright's was here ?-We heard it afterwards in the despatches.

Q106. Intimating the departure of McPherson ?-We had no intimation of their departure until we had the news of the disaster.

Q107. In fact you had no intimation of what had become of them until you heard of their failure to reach Mr Burke ?-Not until the particulars of their departure came out.

Q108. Which you did not hear until Mr Hodgkinson came down with these despatches of the 19th of December ?-Yes; we had the despatch back, it never reached Mr Burke

Q109. What time elapsed from the time you received information from Mr Brahe until the supporting party was sent out ?-I may state that, on the 13th of June, the committee (having received no information from any of the parties) passed a resolution to the effect that a small light flying party should be formed to proceed rapidly to Menindie, and one to Cooper's Creek. There was a sort of dread that something was going wrong, from having received no communication, and Mr Burke not having maintained a communication as had been arranged for. A party was organised, and Mr Howitt received his instructions on the 24th of June: he left Melbourne on the 26th of June, and he met, three days afterwards, Mr Brahe on his way to town with the disastrous intelligence from Wright's party. Mr Howitt came back very properly with Mr Brahe, and the committee then saw that, instead of having only four men and sixteen horses, as had been originally projected, it was necessary to have a sufficient party to convey provisions to Cooper's Creek, and the party was increased to eight men and thirty-seven horses; but even with those increased arrangements, Mr Howitt was able to leave on the 4th of July, and everything was prepared when he left on the 4th, Mr Brahe accompanying him. I may state at this point, that not only was a light party projected by the committee at this time, but also a proposition was made to apply to the Government to send the Victoria, steamer.

Q110. [Pratt] There are one or two statements as to Mr Landells with regard to which Mr Burke has put the word "False." One of these is that he had private instructions from the committee of which Mr Burke knew nothing; is that the case ?-We gave Mr Landells no private instructions whatever that has been answered over and over again.

The witness withdrew.

Thursday 28th November 1861

John Macadam, Esq., M.P., further examined.

612. In this letter, dated 19th October, 1860, Mr Burke states-"Mr Wright returns from here to Menindie; I informed him that I should consider him third officer of the expedition-subject to the approval of the committee-from the day of our departure from Menindie, and I hope they will confirm the appointment." Was this letter accompanied by any letter from Mr Wright asking for confirmation of the appointment ?-None.

613. What action was taken by the committee on this letter that was received by them on the 3rd of December, with reference to that appointment ?-I find that this letter arrived-with a number of despatches on the 3rd December. Perhaps I might be allowed to read a quotation that bears on the subject, "Mr Wright returns from here to Menindie; I informed him that I should consider him third officer of the expedition-subject to the approval of the committee-from the day of our departure from Menindie, and I hope they will confirm the appointment. In the meantime I have instructed him to follow me up with the remainder of the camels to Cooper's Creek, to take steps to procure a supply of jerked meat, and I have written to the doctor to inform him that I have accepted his resignation, as, although I was anxious to await the decision of the committee, the circumstances will not admit of delay, and he has positively refused to leave the settled districts." The committee considered that Mr Wright would unquestionably have left immediately, and that any letter which might be sent, the one taking about a fortnight to come and the other a fortnight to return, would make in the whole a month, and that any letter would not find him there, especially from the statement of Mr Burke-"In the meantime I have instructed him to follow me up with the remainder of the camels to Cooper's Creek.". Then Mr Wright himself, in the first despatch we ever had from him, which is marked here No. 1, written for him by Mr Hodgkinson and signed by Mr Wright, is dated the 19th December. I merely wish to show the confirmation of the appointment that was dwelt upon, was not at all entertained by Mr Wright or communicated to us as necessary. If he had accompanied the first despatch by a letter/saying he would not start till he received the confirmation of that appointment, it would have been immediately acted upon. On the 19th of December Mr Wright says- "I have the honor to inform you that pursuant to a previous understanding with Mr Burke, it was my intention to rejoin that gentleman with the members of the party and stores at present in this camp." Showing that it had nothing to do with the confirmation of the appointment. Then he says- "I delayed starting merely because the camels (9) left behind by Mr Burke were too few in number and too inferior in carrying powers to carry out a really serviceable quantity of provisions."

614. And the delay then was not from the want of his appointment being confirmed ?-No, it was not in consequence of that. His appointment was confirmed when Mr Hodgkinson came down, because then the committee found themselves in the position of being able to send a letter; that is recorded in the letter of the committee of the 31st of December.

615. How long after Mr Hodgkinson's arrival did he start back on his return; that is how long did he remain here ? -Two days.

616. And he carried back the confirmation with him ?- He carried back the confirmation with him.

617. And money also ?-Yes, and money also. Then at the conclusion of the letter, in reply to Mr Wright, there is this paragraph, "In conclusion, it is hoped that your endeavors to remove the stores from the present depot to Cooper's Creek will be early and accomplished."

618. There was no enquiry made there why he had not complied with the instructions ?-No; this is the first time I have ever heard anything about the non-confirmation of the appointment interfering in any way. He never mentioned it in any manner, and the committee could scarcely hope from Mr Burke's communication that he would be found at Menindie.

619. And therefore they did not think it necessary to go into the question of why he delayed ?-That arose I think from the great hurry at the moment. Mr Hodgkinson coming to town, and the good season passing away, and the necessity therefore for speed.

The witness withdrew.
Adjourned to Thursday next, at Twelve o'clock.

Thursday 12th December 1861.

Dr Macadam, M.P., farther examined.

1738. Do you wish to make any statement to the Commission ?-I merely wish to make observation upon a remark which I understand was made by Mr Wright when I was out of the room, to the effect that the inferior officers of the party very frequently forwarded despatches to the committee, that were unanswered. I may state, lest there should be any misapprehension about this, that in the original instructions given to the scientific observers, the following paragraph appeared: "All specimens, journals, sketches, maps or other documents, to be exclusively the property of the Royal Society on behalf of the Government of Victoria, and on no pretence whatever are either specimens or copies of the said documents to be given away or forwarded privately to any person, or even officially, except through the leader, although it is intended that each observer should, on publication of the results of the expedition, receive the credit due to him for his observations. All scientific or other document, journals, &c., relating to the expedition, to be at all times accessible to the leader." Several instances occurred, and I believe it is to them Mr Wright refers, wherein the second and third officers began to send in those, not despatches in the true sense of the term, but merely their diaries: and it was thought proper, on the 18th of October, in a despatch that, unfortunately never reached Mr Burke, through Lyons, to inform the leader that the committee had arrived at the following resolution: "That the leader be informed that the committee desires that all reports from the scientific officers should be forwarded through the leader only and also in accordance with the instructions, to the portion of which referring to special reports it is desired he will call their attention," I think it is right to state that those diaries were not acknowledged by the committee as coming from the inferior officers to them, but only through the leader.

1739. That does not affect the question of the statement made by Mr Wright. His object was to show the fact that the committee were in possession of the fact that they were at Menindie ?

Mr Wright.-That was the only reason.

Adjourned sine die.

------------------------
www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017, Dave Phoenix