Minutes of Evidence: William Wright
Tuesday 10th December 1861.
Mr Wm. Wright examined.
1211. You joined Mr Burke's party at Menindie ?-Yes.
1212. In what capacity did you join ?-Third in command of the expedition. I was appointed by Mr Burke, subject to the approval of the committee.
1213. But in the first instance you started from Menindie ?-Yes, I went out as a volunteer to show so far on the road
1214. And you went as far as Torowoto ?-Yes.
1215. Knowing the country ?-Yes, as I had travelled over the country before, and Mr Burke had been advised by different settlers and gentlemen on the river that it was possible for him to get to Cooper's Creek at that season of the year; but as I knew the country and had been over the country a very short time before, I knew that it was possible.
1216. On what ground did those people suppose that it was not possible at that season of the year ?-I believe generally from what they learned of Sturt's work: he describes that country as being perfectly dry country and no permanent water, and it was generally supposed by people who had not seen the country that it was not possible to go out in that season of the year.
1217. Did Mr Burke desire you to return back to Menindie after this ?-Yes.
1218. And gave you an appointment ?-Yes.
1219. What was that appointment ?-Third in command, if the committee in Melbourne approved of the appointment.
1220. Subject to their approval ?-Yes.
1221. What had you been occupied in at Menindie before you went with Mr Burke ?-I was in charge of a cattle station belonging to Mr John Baker
1222. Had you been long there ?-About three years.
1223. Menindie station ?-Yes
1224. Had you been far up the county towards Cooper's Creek ?-I had been out twice about twenty miles beyond Torowoto
1225. Had you been out there at different seasons of the year ?-Yes, I knew the country, and knew the state of the water-at least, I had an idea of it at the time Mr Burke started, and I was quite confident Mr Burke could have taken the whole party up (which I advised him to do) and form a depot at Cooper's Creek. I had travelled over the country, and knew more of it than any other man on the Darling at that time.
1226. And you knew the blacks ?-Yes : I told Mr Burke before I left him that I would procure guides to take him on to Cooper's Creek, which I did. I got the natives that were with me to get blacks to take him on as far as Bulloo: they left him there, and he crossed to Cooper's Creek without any guides. Mr Burke had guides with him to Bulloo.
1227. You were not in employment when Mr Burke first arrived there ?-I was when he first arrived; but the station had been sold and changed hands, and it was taken forcible possession of.
1228. Did you see the state of the party when they arrived first at Menindie ?-Yes.
1229. The men and animals, and provisions and stores ?-Yes.
1230. Were they a well provided party ?-Yes, with everything.
1231. As a bushman you are aware of that; there was nothing wanting ?-The party was as well equipped as could have been with provisions and ammunition and that sort of thing. There were a few of the men that were rather disagreeable, from what I could hear from Mr Burke.
1232. You went with Mr Burke with a view of showing him a better route to Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.
1233. Were they blacks that you knew that went with you ?-Yes, one was a black fellow that had been out with me before.
1234. There was no difficulty in reaching Torowoto ?-None whatever.
1235. Having arrived there, did you determine to return, or was it Mr Burke's wish that you should return ?- It was Mr Burke's wish that I should return from Torowoto to Menindie. Mr Burke's wish was that I should go farther on with him, but I could not possibly do it at that time; I was anxious to get back ; I wanted to send my wife and family down the river, and I wished to be back in time to send my wife and family by the steamer. I gave Mr Burke my word that I would take the remainder of the party out as soon as I returned, which I should have done had I got instructions, or had my appointment been confirmed.
1236. When you got to Torowoto, you determined to return to Menindie ?-Yes
1237. And the blacks with you ?-Yes.
1238. What was the agreement you entered into with Mr Burke there ?-I arranged with Mr Burke to bring up the remainder of the party.
1239. In the first place he offered you an appointment ?-Yes.
1240. As what ?-Third in command.
1241. Who were you to be under as third-who was to be the second ?-Mr Burke was to wait on Cooper's Creek for my arrival; Mr Wills was second.
1242. You were to return to Menindie to bring up the party ?-Yes.
1243. Was that agreement in writing ?-No, I had no written agreement; the only thing I had was the despatch I brought in from Mr Burke, which I sent down to Melbourne.
1244. That was the second despatch addressed to the committee ?-Yes.
1245. Did you see the contents of it ?-Mr Burke read it to me.
1246. But you had no copy of it ?-No.
1247. Did Mr Burke state to you at that time what he intended to do ?-He stated that when he got to Cooper's Creek his intention was to send back the horses and camels to Menindie; and if I met the horses and camels-if I had started before they came to Menindie-I was either to stop at one of the permanent waters, or go back with those horses, and load them with stores, such as tea, sugar, and flour, and what I thought would be the most necessary stores to fetch up to Cooper's Creek.
1248. That was the direction to yourself ?-Yes.
1249. Did he tell you what he intended to do himself ?-He intended to wait there till I got up, and then he intended to take me on with him I believe.
1250. Did he say anything about making a depot at Cooper's Creek ?-He said he would form a depot there, and of course he would have to do so if he intended going on and sending the horses and camels back.
1251.You were to bring the whole of the party up from Menindie ?-Yes; and I believe Mr Brahe also understood from Mr Burke that he was one that was intended to be sent back with the horses and camels from Cooper's Creek.
1252. And Mr Burke wrote his despatch in which you understood, having had it read to you, that you were to be appointed third in command ?-Yes.
1253. What did you do when you got that despatch ?-I came back to Menindie.
1254. There were no other writings ?-No.
1255. No other despatches brought back ?-I believe there was a despatch from Mr Wills too, as far as I can recollect, but the despatches were enclosed in one envelope, if I recollect rightly; I also sent down a letter to the committee myself at the same time.
1256. Who was left in charge at Menindie when you went away with Mr Burke ?-Dr Beckler.
1257. Did you ask in your letter to the committee to have your appointment confirmed ?-I just merely stated what Mr Burke had mentioned to me.
1258. You made no statement to the effect that you could not start until the appointment was confirmed ?-I did not state that; I stated that I was waiting for despatches authorising me to start.
1259. To Dr Macadam.-You handed in a copy of Mr Wright's letter, did you not ?-The first letter we received is the letter dated the 20th of that month; we have no knowledge of any letter of the 3rd.
1260. To Mr Wright.-Have you a copy of that letter ?-I have not.
1261. Was it ever acknowledged by the Royal Society ?-No; it never was answered at all; the first despatches I got from the society was after I had sent Mr Hodgkinson down.
1262. Do you recollect the date you arrived back at the Darling ?-No, I do not recollect the date.
1263. Do you recollect the date when you left Mr Burke at Torowoto, the date of the despatch it would be, would it not ?-Yes.
1264. Did you take longer to come back from Torowoto than you took going up to Torowoto with Mr Burke ?-No, much less time.
1265. Then you must have got back somewhere early in November ?-Yes, I came back in either six or seven days, and when I arrived at Menindie the trooper Lyons was there with despatches for Mr Burke, and he told me his instructions were to deliver these despatches to Mr Burke himself.
1266. You must have got back about the beginning of November ?-Yes.
1267. When you got back to Menindie did you forward the despatch immediately to the committee, did you send it down by the first mail ?-Yes; I posted it at Menindie.
1268. You knew the time the post occupied in reaching Melbourne, from your having been there three years ?-I expected to get an answer in four weeks.
1269. You sent no letter yourself with that despatch ?-Yes, I sent the despatch and a letter.
1270. Not by the same post ?-Yes.
1271. Do you know whether it was enclosed in the same package ?-No, it was a distinct letter by itself.
1272. And that was somewhere about the early part of November ?-Yes; I left all my note-books up at the camp at Pamamoroo when I came down, expecting to return up there again, so that I cannot give statements as to dates.
1273. However you came back in a few days ?-I think I was six days coming back.
1274. And when you got back you found the trooper Lyons with despatches for Mr Burke ?-Yes, which he described to me as being something of very great importance, and his orders were to deliver those despatches himself to Mr Burke; and it so happened that Dr Beckler and Mr Hodgkinson were away, out in Scrope's ranges, with the horses, and I had to wait two or three days before they came in, before I could send those despatches on. As soon as I could get the horses I sent the despatches on by trooper Lyons and one of the party, saddler McPherson, and a guide with him who had been out with me. I expected when they returned to see the horses and camels, and part of Mr Burke's party return with them.
1275. Had you any doubt about their being able to overtake Mr Burke ?-No, none whatever; if I had had any doubt about it I should not have started them; I started them a few days after that with a black fellow as a guide.
1276. And you heard nothing more of them for some time ?-No; the first I heard of them was, the black fellow came in and brought a letter for me from Lyons, which stated they had not overtaken Mr Burke and were lost. Two or three of their horses were dead and the only one they had was with the black fellow, and they were in a state of starvation, and praying me to send out relief to them, which I did. I then sent Dr Beckler and one of the Hindoos and two or three camels to bring them in.
1277. Did you write to the committee then of those things ?-Yes, I sent Mr Hodgkinson down immediately.
1278. A considerable time had then even elapsed since you got back ?-I never got any despatches till I sent Mr Hodgkinson with the despatch to the committee; the first despatch I got was an answer to this letter.
1279. The date of that despatch in which you announce the failure of McPherson and Lyons journey, was the 19th December; from the 5th of November, about the time you returned from Torowoto, up to the 19th of December; seems an enormous time and the Commission would like to get some explanation of how that time was occupied; did you keep any journal, you being then supposed to be charge of the party ?-No.
1280. What were the party and yourself engaged in ?-We did not keep any journal until I started from the Darling.
1281. On the 5th of November or thereabouts, you returned to Menindie from Torowoto, and until the 19th of December, when you wrote down to the committee, there is a large space of time in which it appears we have no knowledge of how you or the party were employed-what were the party doing at that time; you yourself being aware of' the nature of the country, the want of water and the difficulty of getting up to Cooper's Creek ?-Just merely looking after the stock that were there, the camels, and attending to them; in fact, I did not know rightly what to do or how to act, as I had no instructions to act in any way whatever from the committee any further than what Mr Burke had said to me; of course I hardly knew my position until I got my despatches.
1282. You knew the nature of the country and the-difficulty there was in going through it at a bad season, you knew that Mr Burke had gone up at the very latest period when he could probably succeed, and yet from the 5th of November to the end of December, nothing was done ?-I was expecting to have the horses and camels in with Lyons and McPherson, and part of Mr Burke's party, according to arrangements between me and Mr Burke.
1283. According to his own statement, Mr Burke expected you to have followed him up so closely as to have reached Cooper's Creek two or three days after he started ?-I do not see how he rightly could have expected that.
1284. His statement is so, that he expected you, in fact, he was almost inclined to wait till you came ?-He told me that he intended waiting there till I came, and if Lyons and McPherson had overtaken him I believe he would have waited there.
1285. Do I understand that you could not act without the confirmation of the committee; that Mr Burke gave you to understand that ?-He did; he told me that I was to get the sanction of the Royal Society.
1286. Knowing that twenty-eight days at least must elapse from the time of sending a letter from Menindie before you could get an answer from Melbourne, how can you reconcile that with his idea that you would only be two or three days after him ?-I cannot reconcile it at all.
1287. What were Mr Burke's positive instructions to you when you left him ?-Mr Burke's instructions to me were to follow him up as soon as my appointment was confirmed.
1288. And not until that ?-Not until that, and of course I could not do so.
1289. Did any of the party rebel against your appointment ?-No.
1290. When you joined the party at Menindie, on your return from Torowoto, were they all willing to start with you if you had started ?-Yes, I believe they would have started.
1291. On the strength of Mr Burke's nomination ?-Yes; but I had no written agreement from Mr Burke-none whatever.
1292. It was a mere personal arrangement ?-Yes.
1293. The despatch that Mr Burke sent down by you was read over to you ?-Yes.
1294. Will you explain then what was understood by this paragraph of it, "In the meantime I have instructed him," that is Mr Wright, "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." How do you reconcile that-having had that read to you-with not starting ?-One reason why I did not start was sending those despatches out to Mr Burke; the trooper said distinctly that he was to follow up Mr Burke and deliver those despatches.
1295. You said just now that you would not have gone until the confirmation of your appointment ?-No.
1296. Under no circumstances ?-No; it did not suit me to go until I was certain whether my appointment would be confirmed or not.
1297. How long was it from the time that Lyons started for Cooper's Creek till he returned to Menindie ?-Some six or seven weeks. I started Mr Hodgkinson down directly he did return.
1298. Do you know of any documents that were buried at Torowoto; was anything buried there whilst you were present ?-Yes; there was flour, and a little rice and tea and sugar.
1299. And some papers also ?-No, I never saw any papers; there were no documents or writings, that I saw, of any kind.
1300. Is that your letter of the 19th December (handing a document to the witness) ?-Yes.
1301. You state there your reasons for not starting were, that the camels left behind, nine in number, were too few to carry on the party ?-We had not strength enough to proceed.
1302. Are the Commission to understand you to say that the delay from the 5th of November or the first week in November until the 19th of December, when you wrote down relating McPherson's and the trooper's failure, was occasioned by, in the first place, your having to start them with a portion of your stock ?-Yes; and in the next place not getting any despatch from Melbourne.
1303. Any confirmation of your appointment from the committee ?-Yes.
1304. What were the party doing the whole of that time-merely looking after-the stock ?-Merely looking after the stock.
1305. How is it that you felt it indispensably necessary to have the confirmation of the committee ?-I really did not know whether my appointment would be confirmed or not, or whether I would get any remuneration for it.
1306. The party were willing to go on with you ?-Yes..
1307. They were willing to abide Mr Burke's nomination ?-Yes.
1308. What, then, was the reason that it was necessary that you should possess the confirmation of the committee ?-I thought it necessary to do so.
1309. Was it a mere personal reason or anything connected with the success of the party ?-It was just that I thought it proper to get some instructions from the committee.
1310. Your instructions were plain, Mr Burke gave you them; were you afraid of your salary ?-I was not at all afraid of that.
1311. Would you, if possible, give some reason why it was indispensable ?- The greatest reason of my stopping was sending those despatches out.
1312. That was another reason; the main reason you say was the absence of the confirmation, you say that you would not under any circumstances have started without the confirmation of the committee ?-No, I would not.
1313. Then all other reasons are inferior to that ?-That is the main reason, another thing was that there was not sufficient strength to have taken much stores out after I had sent the horses away with Lyons and McPherson.
1314. There is no occasion to give any other reason if that one was to guide you under any set of circumstances; did Mr Burke know that that was your intention ?-I told him before I went back that I should like to get the answer from Melbourne.
1315. Did you make it indispensable ?-I did; I told him that I must get an answer before I started.
1316. You are confident in your own mind that Mr Burke made the appointment subject to that condition, that your appointment had to be confirmed before you would start from Menindie ?-Yes; and the time was mentioned how long it would be before I could get the answer from Melbourne; I recollect his asking me particularly how long it would take before answers were up at Menindie from the despatches sent down, and I was to hasten on as quick as I could to send the despatches down.
1317. You state that Mr Burke told you your nomination must be confirmed ?-Yes.
1318. And not to start until it was confirmed ?-He did not tell me not to start, but he told me to wait for despatches; what Mr Burke wrote and what conversation I had with him was somewhat different.
1319. His despatches and your conversation ?-Yes.
1320. Did you entertain any hope after remaining there that month of still reaching Cooper's Creek ?-Yes, I felt certain that I could reach Cooper's Creek at almost any season of the year.
1321. The result showed that you were mistaken-you never did reach Cooper's Creek-your party never did ?-That was on account of my not being able to take the party on, on account of the invalids. I could not travel further than I did with them.
1322. Whilst you were waiting all that time at the Darling the stock were falling off for want of feed, were they not ?-No.
1323. Did not one of the horses die ?-The horses that were out with Lyons and McPherson died.
1324. None of the horses died that were left in charge of the party at Menindie ?-None, there was only one horse left there.
1325. Is there not permanent water some reasonable distance from Menindie ?-Yes, about seventy miles.
1326. Is that the nearest ?-Yes.
1327. Why did you not make an effort to push up there for a starting point, instead of waiting at Menindie, which must be a place pretty well occupied by stock all round it ?-There is lots of feed there; there could not have been a better place for the stock at that time.
1328. Were any of the men ill whilst you were remaining there ?-I believe Mr Hodgkinson had been ill once or twice with sun stroke or something of that sort; he was the only one.
1329. You must see that it is quite irreconcilable with Mr Burke's idea that you were to be only two or three days behind him, and yet that you were to wait four weeks for instructions from the Royal Society in Melbourne. After writing on the 19th of December, you made a further delay till the 26th of January ?-Yes, I was waiting for despatches, and after I got the despatches I had to purchase horses; the horses you purchase on the Darling are not exactly fit for that sort of work, and it took me some days to train the horses and get them so that I could put packs upon them.
1330. Until the 26th of January you did not make a final start; from the 5th of November till the 26th of January the party remained there, and then you made a final start for Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.
1331. What was the state of the party at that time ?-They were all in good health, and the stock all in good condition.
1332. What provisions did you take up then; did you take more than ample for your own party as well as for the relief of others ?-I took stores for about six months for my own party.
1333. And what was your intention then-to proceed to Cooper's Creek ?-Yes; and then, if I found it possible to go on towards Eyre's Creek, I should most likely have done so; but I intended sending part of the party back to bring stores up after me.
1334. Then you left stores behind you at Menindie ?-Yes.
1335. Who was in charge of them ?-They were sent down to Mr Paine's the innkeeper there. There were stores of all kinds.
1336. Clothing and all ?- Yes.
1337. Did you take up ample for your own party for the six months, of clothing and everything else ?-Yes.
1338. And they were all in good condition ?-Yes, when they started.
1339. And you had some difficulty in getting up ?-Yes.
1340. From the want of water ?-I was out myself from Torowoto about sixteen days, looking for water, the country had so much dried up from the time I had been over it before. I thought it advisable to leave the party and go on in advance to see if it was possible to take the whole of the party on. I could not follow Mr Burke's tracks, they were not to be seen in many places, and in places where he had found water there was none when I went out. Other members of the party, after I started from Torowoto, began to get ill; Dr Becker and Stone were not at all well leaving Torowoto
1341. When you found them getting ill, you did not make any effort to send them back before they were too far gone ?-I expected that when once I got to permanent water, the men would soon get better. I had not the slightest idea that the men were going to be affected in the way they were, and die off, or I should have sent them back.
1342. Had you had any experience of that sort of thing before, the suffering from scurvy. Had you ever suffered from want of water in the bush ?-I have often suffered from want of water and never felt better in my life; and myself and the Hindoo and Smith when we were out sixteen days suffered more than any others of the party.
1343. You went to Bulloo at that time ?-Yes.
1344. And you returned and brought the others up ?-Yes.
1345. You got the party on to Bulloo eventually ?-Yes.
1346. You remained at Bulloo a good while ?-I did; in fact I could not go on any farther; it was not possible for me to travel with those men.
1347. You got to Bulloo on the 4th of April, having left Menindie on the 26th of January ?-Yes.
1348. You were upwards of two months getting to Lake Bulloo ?- Yes.
1349. In that time Mr Burke had crossed over ?-Yes.
1350. When you got to Bulloo you had two or three men sick ?-Yes.
1351. It appears that you remained there from the 4th April to the 17th April, merely going backwards and forwards to where you left the two sick men. You made no effort to reach Cooper's Creek at that time ?-Yes, I did.
1352. Before Brahe joined you ?-Yes, I took Smith out with me.
1353. And did you strike the creek ?-No, I did not.
1354. What was the reason you did not strike it, it is not so very far ?-It is not far, but one reason was, that I was surrounded by the blacks and driven back.
1355 Then you did make an effort to reach Cooper's Creek from Bulloo, and did not do so ?-Yes; I left, Bulloo with Smith, leaving the party there in charge of the doctor.
1356. And you did not strike the creek ?-No.
1357. You were still impressed with the absolute necessity of carrying relief to the party who were out; the whole party, as you supposed, were then away. There are expressions in your own journal, in which you say, "my anxiety to move arose from the fact that I felt Burke's stores must require replenishment, and that any party left at Cooper's Creek would be anxiously expecting our arrival." You wrote that on the 3rd of April, when you were in the next camp to Bulloo ?-Yes.
1358. But still, though you were under that impression, you did not make any effort (except that you say with Smith) to reach Cooper's Creek, and you took no stores forward ?-I could not make another effort, it was not safe to leave the camp.
1359. But it is not more than seventy miles ?-About seventy miles.
1360. How long were you out with Smith at that time ?-Only a very short time.
1361. A day ?-Yes, a day, I think.
1362. A day and a night ?-Yes.
1363. Did you ever make use of the observation to anyone that you felt it was useless to go to Cooper's Creek, as you expected Mr Burke could never get there; that you knew it was useless to go to Cooper's Creek, as you were satisfied Mr Burke would, never arrive there ?-No; I could not do that, or I should never have gone there.
1364. Did you make use of any observation that you were satisfied Mr Burke could not arrive there ?-Before I went to Cooper's Creek ?
1365. Yes ?-Never before I went to Cooper's Creek. In fact, after I went to Cooper's Creek and returned back to my depot again I expressed the wish to go back to Cooper's Creek again. I said, "There may be a chance of Mr Burke, although it is so long over the time he said he would be back in ; there may be a chance of his returning and I would wish to go to Cooper's Creek again;" and Dr Beckler said, "You see the position you are in, and the responsibility on your hands. So sure as you go back to Cooper's Creek, here are three men will die. You have buried three men already, and so sure as you go back again so sure those men will die. It will be three or four weeks before you will be able to start for the Darling, and," he said, "you will he sacrificing those men's lives for the chances of a man that it is more than likely will never come back this way."
1366. Still being within seventy miles of Cooper's Creek, and being at Bulloo from the 4th of April until you were joined by Brahe on the 29th of April, you made no effort, except this one for a short time with Smith, to reach Cooper's Creek ?-No, I did not.
1367. And you did not attempt to take up any provisions or stores at that time ?-No, I could not do so; in fact it was not safe for me to be away from the camp, the blacks were there every day annoying us, and coming sometimes as many as forty or fifty, and often more than that; I dare not leave the camp.
1368. How many men had you in the camp able to protect themselves ?-Only three; when I and Smith were away there was only Hodgkinson and the doctor.
1369. There was yourself, Hodgkinson, Dr Beckler, Smith, and Belooch who were in good health ?-They were for a short time, that was when I started them to go back to take the invalids back; but shortly after I returned Smith and Belooch got as bad as the others, in fact I expected to have to bury both of them.
1370. Whilst you were at Bulloo, Dr Beckler was in charge of the sick persons at Koorliatto ?-Yes.
1371. And you, with Hodgkinson, Smith, and Belooch, were at Bulloo, and backwards and forwards ?-Yes.
1372. And you were there from the 4th of April until the 29th of April, when you were joined by Brahe, and the whole time under those circumstances ?-Yes, and I could not move from that ; I found it was not safe to be away from the camp, the blacks tried to surround Smith and me the first night we camped out, in fact eight of them followed us away from Bulloo.
1373. Brahe joined you on the 29th of April ?-Yes.
1374. And you got from him information as to Mr Burke for the first time ?-Yes, he told me his instructions and what his orders were from Mr Burke.
1375. You state in the journal what I suppose is correct, "Brahe had received instructions to remain at Cooper's Creek for three or four months, but had extended that period to eighteen weeks, and only left when his rations ran short." ?-Yes ; his men were not in a state to stop there, in fact one of the men died on the way down, and one of the others, McDonough, we had to lift on his horse or camel or whatever he rode, morning and night, in fact the days we started the men tented twice, and I said to the doctor "It is not possible I can take those men in, I must either stop here until they get better or bury them, and in the meantime I might go to Cooper's Creek again;" and the men actually cried, and begged and prayed of me to try and take them in.
1376. You knew from Brahe that he left because his provisions ran short ?-His provisions were short I believe after he had buried what he left for Mr Burke, in case of his return.
1377. You, knowing that, made no effort to carry provisions up there, seeing that Brahe must have had a short supply to leave and to bring on, and he having brought the largest quantity with him, what effort did you make to send provisions on to Cooper's Creek ?-I could not possibly have taken provisions there; I had just to make a hurried journey across to Cooper's Creek, in fact I was very uneasy all the time I was away from the camp.
1378. Brahe returned to you and stated that he only left when his rations ran short, and you knowing that Mr Burke and his party were then out, and your being within seventy miles of the spot which he would likely return to on his way back, and having plenty of provisions, did not endeavor to put any provisions there because you say you could not ?-I could not have done so without taking a great deal longer time, and if Mr Burke had returned I thought what Brahe had left would have been sufficient to have brought him in so far until some person could meet him.
1379. Did you expect him to come in there ?-I did not; from what Mr Brahe told me I expected they had gone to the east coast.
Mr Brahe.-It is a mistake about the distance being seventy miles; the distance from, Bulloo to the depot at Cooper's Creek is 150 miles.
1380. To Mr Wright. -You say you did not expect Mr Burke to come back there ?-No; I did not expect him to return after what Brahe told me of the conversation between him and Mr Burke and the time he had been away, and the provisions he had taken with him; I did not expect him back after he had been eighteen weeks away. Brahe told me distinctly that his instructions from Mr Burke were to remain there three or four months, at first he told him he would be back in twelve weeks, but Mr Wills, after Mr Burke had left Brahe, desired him to stay another three or four weeks.
1381. At any rate when Mr Brahe returned to you, you had a largely increased party then ?-Yes, but I had two or three other invalids.
1382. There was yourself, Hodgkinson, Dr Beckler, Smith, Belooch, Brahe Dost Mahommed, and McDonough, who, although ill, was able to work; all those men were in good health at the time you were joined by Brahe ?-They were not in good health because they were able to work for a few days, and. after two or three days they came to me and were not able to work; McDonough and Belooch were not able to move to do anything for themselves.
1383. The stock were not in bad health ?-No.
1384. You had abundance of horses and camels and an ample supply of provisions ?-Yes.
1385. And yet you made no effort to go and place an additional quantity at Cooper's Creek, being within seventy or eighty miles of the nearest point of the creek, but you turned your back upon the creek and went from Bulloo on the 1st of May ?-Yes.
l386. Brahe joined you on the 29th of April and on the 1st of May you turned your back upon the creek, that is two days afterwards ?-Yes, I went about twenty miles back.
1387. On the 1st of May you left Bulloo to return; at that time you had the had the number of men I have mentioned, viz., yourself, Hodgkinson, Beckler, Smith, Belooch, Brahe, McDonough and Dost Mahommed, two of them ailing and the rest in tolerable health, with abundance of horses and camels, all in good condition, with abundance of provisions, but having got some short distance you thought better of it ?-I did not think better of it after going some short distance, because it was my intention as soon as Brahe came in, to go to Cooper's Creek, which I stated to him.
1388. After going two days' journey you did return to Cooper's Creek ?-I buried Dr Becker the day after Brahe came, and I shifted the camp about twenty miles farther down the creek, and then went to Cooper's Creek.
1389. Did you take any spare horses with you ?-We took a pack-horse.
1390. You did not take any provisions or clothing with you ?-No.
1391. How long were you reaching Cooper's Creek ?-We reached there on the third day.
1392. What day did you leave ?-I do not recollect the day, but the diary will show.
1393. You reached Cooper's Creek on Wednesday the 8th of May, and you say you found no signs of Mr Burke having visited the creek, or of natives having disturbed the stores; how did you arrive at that conclusion ?-There was no mark above ground showing that any white man had been there. There were two or three fires about the place, which I supposed had been made by blacks; I looked at those fires particularly, and there was not a stick of wood as large as one of the pensticks on the table, which was not burned, just as a blackfellow makes a fire, he just brings what is enough to keep a fire and no more. I took Brahe there, and told him to take particular notice to see if the place was in the same way he left it, and he looked at it and said it was. The place had been covered over and everything was so much like he had left it that he did not know it had been disturbed.
1394. Did you leave any record at Cooper's Creek of your having been there ?-No, I did not; I intended doing so, but I thought if I disturbed the place where the things were buried and took the bottle up, the chances were the blacks, as I supposed they had been at the depot, would discover them; I was not very sure whether they were watching us, we had seen a smoke the night before, and being over cautious I would take the bottle up to put a note in it.
1395. There was a mark of the 21st Apri1 on the tree, that was left unaltered ?-Everything was left just as Brahe left it, according to his account.
1396. If Mr Burke had returned there how was he to know any body had been there ?-They could have seen my horse tracks where the things were buried; I remarked to Brahe he ought to have buried those things two or three days before he left, and put the horses in under the shade as he had been doing before, and I said, "At all events we will put our horses in here now, and let them walk about on it, and the blacks will never think of digging there if they should happen to be looking about.
1397. Would there have been any difficulty in putting W. for Wright and the 8th of May under the 21st April ? -I could have done that with a knife if I had had the presence of mind to do so.
1398. You did not go to the creek at all ?-No.
1399. You did not make any search in fact ?-I just staid there, and had a look round about the place; in fact, I first thought of camping there that night, but the horses I had taken with me being horses that had been at Cooper's Creek with Mr Brahe, he said "If we stop here to-night the horses will certainly go back five miles up the creek, to the place where they used to run, and we shall have to walk up there in the morning for them"; and I thought it just as well to camp where the horses were used to stop as to camp there. When I saw no marks showing that any white man had been there, I was very anxious to get back to my depot as soon as I possibly could do so, knowing the state the men were in.
1400. Would it not have been possible to have sent Mr Brahe, or some other trustworthy person, back to the sick people, and yourself have gone on up to Cooper's Creek, and remained there for some time ?-It would have been impossible to have done so.
1401. What description of camping ground did you have at the nearest point of Bulloo to Cooper's Creek ?-The country was very good.
1402. Grass ?-Yes, good grass country at Bulloo.
1403. At the point of Bulloo nearest to Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.
1404. I find you were not quite three days going from there to Cooper's Creek-you got there on the third day ?-Yes.
1405. You made about fifteen miles the first day ?-Yes; it was rather late when we started the first day, but we had no water from the time we left Koorliatto Creek until we got to Cooper's Creek.
1406. Then it was possible to have remained a considerable time at Bulloo with the provisions you had without injury to the men or horses ?-No, it was not possible to wait, because the men were dying off one after the other, and if I had stopped there I believe I should have had to have buried two or three more of them than what I did.
1407. It was a good place for the animals ?-Yes, very good.
1408. You returned to Bulloo immediately after you reached Cooper's Creek ?-Yes.
1409. And made a start for home ?-Yes, as any other wise man would have done under the circumstances.
1410. You saw no camel tracks at Cooper's Creek ?-None whatever; I saw the old tracks where the camels had been, but even if I had noticed the tracks or taken any notice of the tracks about the camp it was so short a time after Mr Brahe had been there that I should not have noticed any difference in the tracks; after a track is a week old a person does not know whether it is a week old or ten or twelve days old. The only thing would have been, if I had seen the tracks of a white man or the places where the fires had been; if I had seen a track anywhere there I should have known it was Mr Burke.
1411. You could tell the track of a white man from that of a native even if he was barefooted ?-Yes.
1412. How does it happen that all your beef spoiled in curing at Menindie ?-No, it did not spoil; there was a good deal of it spoiled, but it did not all spoil, because I took a considerable lot of it out with me.
1413. What process did you adopt in curing it ?-Merely sun dried it.
1414. You have said now that under no circumstances could you start without getting the sanction of the Exploration Committee in Melbourne, but in your letter of the 19th December it appears that you say: " In accordance with 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. 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." That is different from your statement that you were waiting for the confirmation of your appointment: can you reconcile those two ?-I was waiting for an answer from the committee, and after I had sent the horses out with Lyons and McPherson, the camels were not sufficient to take out stores for the party.
1415. Are you quite clear that your first despatch, after you arrived at Menindie, contained Mr Burke's despatch to the committee, as well as a letter from yourself; did you write yourself, as well as send Mr Burke's despatch ?-I did.
1416. You are quite clear upon that point ?-Yes; I put the letters in the post office at Menindie.
Dr Macadam.-All the despatches, as they have come from the party, have been regularly handed over to the press on the day of arrival, for publication; and, upon looking up the Argus of the 4th of December, with a full account of the proceedings of the committee meeting on the 3rd, there is not the slightest mention whatever of any second despatch from Mr Wright. I merely mention this to show that we have no indications whatever of the despatch alluded, to; and, further, the very opening of the letter of the 19th December is just the introductory portion of such a letter as would be the first letter from anyone to the committee.
Mr Wright.-I recollect, distinctly, sending the letter.
1417. Did you send two despatches or one; did you write yourself, and put it in a separate enclosure ?-It was in a separate enclosure; it was not in the same packet with Mr Burke's despatch.
1418. Did you register either of them at Menindie ?-No, they were neither of them registered.
1419. Have you a copy of your letter ?-No, I have not; I am not very sure whether there is a copy of it or not at the camp.
1420. You are aware that Mr Burke's despatch was received by the committee in due course ?-I was not aware of it until I got an answer back by Mr Hodgkinson, after I had sent him down with despatches.
1421. You are aware that the postmaster at Menindie is aware of the first despatch having been posted; it was he who brought it to the recollection of the committee; he stated that there was such a despatch, but he does not speak of a second ?
The witness withdrew.
Tuesday 10th December 1861 (Second appearance)
Mr William Wright further examined.
1428. Did you hear that the settlers on the Darling at all commented upon your losing so much time there when you were waiting for a reply to your despatch; did you not hear any comments as to the water drying up, and so much time being lost ?-I do not recollect hearing anything of the kind; of course I was aware myself that the waters were drying up, and that there would be gone difficulty in going out.
1429. And you conceived yourself that there was an extraordinary delay in not receiving any reply to your despatch ?-In fact I was expecting every mail there would have been a reply to it.
1430. Can you inform the committee how many mails there were between the time of your sending your despatch down and the time you received the reply by Hodgkinson ?-I cannot; it is a fortnightly mail and I know that Dr Beckler was sending despatches down regularly every mail, and from what I could understand from him he never got any reply.
1431. Were his despatches on the subject of the delay ?-I do not know what they were at all, I know he sent regularly every mail despatches.
1432. Were you hindered from proceeding on your journey, or delayed in any way, owing to the absence of any material necessary for the journey ?-Yes, of course I was. In the first place I had not sufficient strength after sending my horses and camels out with trooper Lyons. I had everything in the way of provisions, all but the bullocks which I got at Menindie.
1433. Had you received the confirmation of your appointment from the committee, would you then have been in a position to proceed on your journey ?-I should have waited then until the return of Lyons and McPherson. I expected that Mr Burke would form his depot at Cooper's Creek, and send two or three of his party back with Lyons and McPherson.
1434. You had sufficient animals to proceed on your journey-you were not compelled to wait for anything to be sent on ?-When I came to the Darling, Lyons and McPherson were there with those despatches, and the horses I had there I sent away with Lyons and McPherson, and there was nothing left then but the camels; there were nine camels at Menindie, and one left at a station some distance down the river, which we afterwards got up.
1435. What was the condition of the camels ?-They were not in very good condition when I first returned, but after spelling so long a time as they did, they got in condition as the feed was good; but when I first returned to the Darling from Torowoto, the camels were not in good condition. In fact, Mr Burke, when he started, picked all the best of the camels himself, and left the inferior camels behind him, or what he supposed to have been inferior camels.
1436. When you got back again to the Darling from Cooper's Creek, you did not come down to Melbourne, you went to Adelaide ?-I went to Adelaide; I intended coming round by Swan Hill, but I was informed the mail was not coming to Euston that week, and the steamer was waiting at the time, and I was told that the best thing I could do, if I wanted to go to Melbourne quickly, was to go on board the steamer, which I did, about forty miles above the junction of the Darling.
1437. Did you at any time express a doubt as to whether your appointment would be confirmed by the committee ?-Not that I recollect.
1438. Did you ever allude to any of Mr Burke's cheques having been dishonored ?-I think there was some mention of it at Menindie, but I do not recollect now the conversation about the cheques. I recollect distinctly speaking about some cheques not being honored, but what they were now I could not say.
1439. That did not lead you to question the ultimate confirmation of your appointment by the committee, and lead you to doubt the prudence of your going on without having full authority ?-The fact of the matter is, I did not know rightly what to do.
1440. Supposing this confirmation had arrived much earlier, how much sooner could you have started from Menindie than the time you did ?-I should not have started until Lyons and McPherson came in, as I fully expected the horses and camels would come back with him, and long after Mr Burke left Torowoto I believe Brahe thoroughly understood from Mr Burke that he was one that was to have come back with the horses and camels from Cooper's Creek.
1441. And you would not have started even if you had received this confirmation ?-After sending those despatches out, which Lyons said were despatches of great importance, and that he was ordered to deliver them to Mr Burke, I thought it advisable to wait until he came in, to hear something further from Mr Burke. I thought there was perhaps some different arrangement; Mr Burke might want to send to me, and I expected the horses and camels back with Lyons and McPherson, and some of the party.
1442. In this letter, which you say was read over to you, Mr Burke, after giving you the highest character, says, "I shall proceed on from here to Cooper's Creek; I may or may not be able to send back from there until we are followed up. " ?-That is very different from what he said to me.
1443. I thought you said it was read over to you ?-It was read over in the evening, before I came back.
1444. Did you have much conversation with Mr Burke on the upward journey, as to the course he intended to pursue after leaving Cooper's Creek ?-We talked it over two or three times, and I believe his intention was to go down the creek some considerable distance, and strike across to Eyre's Creek if he could do so, but after that I understood from Mr Burke that he would not leave Cooper's Creek until I reached there.
1445. Did he ever vary his intention after going across the country to return to Cooper's Creek ?-He told me if there was any difficulty in coming back that way, they would make their way along the east coast of Queensland; that was spoken of several times : Mr Wills and I talked over it at different times.
1446. Did Mr Burke ever say anything about expecting a vessel to meet him ?-There was some mention made of that; but I do not think he did really expect a vessel. He said there might be such a thing, and if there was he might perhaps take shipping and go back, provided there was a vessel; but he did not expect it, but the chances were there might be such a thing.
1447. In Mr Burke's letter he says this : "Perhaps I might find it advisable to leave the depot at Cooper's Creek and to go on with a small party to examine the country beyond it; under any circumstances it is desirable that we should be soon followed up;" so that it is quite evident from this that he expected no delay; you cannot reconcile that ?-I cannot; I distinctly understood from Mr Burke that his intention was to send a part of the party back. When he was reading over the despatch to me I did not take particular notice of it; in fact, Mr Burke used to alter his mind so very often at different times, it was not possible to understand what he really did mean at times.
1448. Do you think, when Mr Burke left Menindie, with you as his guide as far as Torowoto, he started and had laid in supplies for the purpose of then making the Gulf of Carpentaria ?-No, I do not think he had, because I advised him strongly to take the whole of the party, and stores and everything out with him, and form a main depot at Cooper's Creek.
1449. He did not follow that advice ?-He did not; that was my advice. I advised him two or three different times. He staid down at my house, and this was my advice to him. Mr Burke thought there would be some difficulty in taking the whole of the party out, and I said, "Do you suppose if I thought there was any difficulty in going out now, at this season of the year, I would go out to make a fool of you and myself too ?"
1450. What objections had he to follow that advice ?-I do not know. He seemed to fancy that it was not possible to get to Cooper's Creek at that season of the year with the whole of the party.
1451. And then he followed the course we know of, taking a small party on ?-Yes.
1452. What was his definite intention in doing so ?-I really do not know.
1453. With what definite intention did he start from Menindie with this detachment of his party; was it to accomplish the object of his mission ?-Going to Cooper's Creek, that was what I understood from him, and not to proceed farther until he was rejoined and stores brought out, and a regular depot formed there.
1454. When you left him at Torowoto had you and he a distinct understanding as to the method in which that was to be accomplished. I take it you were sent back to accomplish. that for him ?-The distinct understanding was that Mr Burke was to have sent the horses and camels back after reaching Cooper's Creek.
1455. How many ?-He said most likely the whole of the horses.
1456. He had only one horse, had he ?-He took on fifteen horses to Cooper's Creek, and he said he would send back those and just keep a few of the camels there to take a trip out to the north and explore the country round Cooper's Creek.
1457. Did he limit the time in any way within which you might reach him ?-No, there was no limit of time whatever.
1458. If he understood that you were to wait for the confirmation of the Royal Society to your appointment, do you suppose he would expect you that season at all ?-Yes; we mentioned that on two or three different times and he wanted to know particularly how long it would take from the time I got into Menindie, and I told him that it would just merely depend upon the mail; that if I happened to come in on the day the mail was starting, or a day or two before it started, it would make all the difference, as we had only a fortnightly mail.
1459. And you were to wait until the Royal Society had confirmed your appointment, and then to start ?-Yes.
1460. Were you aware of the nature of the despatches sent by Lyons and McPherson ?-I had not the slightest idea of them.
1461. Nor any one at Menindie ?-I believe not.
1462. Did the Royal Society expect they would reach Mr Burke before he left Menindie at all ?-No; they were sent to be forwarded on from Menindie. Lyons was instructed to follow Mr Burke up, and deliver those despatches.
1463. Would those despatches have been any news to Mr Burke; was he possessed of the information they contained before he left ?-I do not know; I do not know what the despatches were.
1464. Those despatches sent by the trooper were not directed to you at all ?-No.
1465. In fact, the committee were not under the impression
that anybody was there at the time. They were not directed to
anybody at Menindie; the direction was to the trooper to go on
with them ?-That was his orders (I do not recollect what the
direction on them was), and he supposed them to be something of
very great importance. That was what he told me, and for that
reason I sent them on with Lyons.
Dr Macadam.-The despatches which were sent with Lyons were of great importance, as will be seen by the contents of them. I have no doubt that when Mr Burke told Mr Wright to come on when the despatches arrived, he really meant those despatches sent by Lyons. They were answers to his Menindie despatches.
Mr Wright.-He never stated to me that he expected any despatches to be at Menindie when I arrived there.
1466. Did Mr Burke give you to understand that he would remain at Cooper's Creek, and not attempt the larger journey until you joined him ?-Yes.
1467. That was quite understood between you ?-Yes.
1468. What object had you in visiting Cooper's Creek at all with Brahe ?-I thought there might be a chance of Mr Burke returning with his party, and by my going back it would still give him two or three weeks longer over the time in which he had stated he expected to return.
1469. It is difficult to understand why no mark of any kind, of your having been there, was placed there, in case he should ever return. When you started finally to return, after leaving Cooper's Creek, there was some allusion made to the spectacle being an imposing one, the cavalcade being of an imposing appearance ?-There was only myself and Hodgkinson and Brahe that were really fit for duty at that time.
1470. Then this remark in your diary was rather stronger than you intended: " The cavalcade made quite an imposing appearance." ?-Hodgkinson was just writing the diary, and that had no business to be in there at all. One of the camels died before I left Koorliatto Creek, and another I had to leave on the road; that, I believe, died shortly after I left it. There were two camels could hardly put one leg before the other on leaving Cooper's Creek.
The witness withdrew.
Thursday 12th December 1861.
Mr Wm. Wright further examined.
1565. There is evidently some discrepancy between the statement you wrote yourself on the 5th, when you came back, and the statement of Dr Macadam that no such letter was ever received. This letter of yours of the 19th of December, is it written by yourself ?-The one I sent myself ?
1566. The one of the l9th of December, is it in your own handwriting ?-The one that is missing ?
1567. No; this one [Handing a paper to the witness] ?-No it is not, Hodgkinson did all the writing.
1568. Did he write the one that is stated to be missing ?-No he did not.
1569. You wrote that one ?-I wrote that with my own hand. I just wrote a few words.
1570. Could your memory serve you sufficiently to write the purport of that letter that is missing ?-It would not.
1571. Nothing approaching to it ?-I never thought for a moment of keeping a copy of it, or giving it to Hodgkinson to keep a copy.
1572. Have you no recollection of the general purport of it ?-I just mentioned that Mr Burke had appointed me to take the party out and take the command; that is about the heads of it.
1573. Have you any objection to write a letter similar to that one, as nearly as you can remember it ?-No. I write a very indifferent hand.
1574. Which was the reason, it is to be presumed, why you got some one to write the letter of the l9th ?-Yes.
1575. The question was asked with this view, that if you had employed some other person, the Commission might have got his testimony to add, to show that the letter had been written ?-Just so. I believe the letters were not posted, I am not sure,-I think they did not go away till the 13th.
1576. The second post, in fact, in the month ?-Yes.
1577. If they had gone down in the first post of the month, they would have been here in the middle of November ?-It was not in time for the first post, the mail was on its way up.
1578. The letter you brought down from Mr Burke did not go till the second mail in the month, and therefore did not reach Melbourne until the end of the month or the beginning of December ?-Yes.
The witness withdrew.
Thursday 12th December 1861. (Second appearance)
Mr William Wright further examined.
1659. Mr Hodgkinson returned to Menindie on the 9th of the month of January ?-Yes, believe so.
1660. And you started on the 26th ?-Yes.
1661. What, were you doing in the meantime, from the 9th to the 26th?-As soon as I got my appointment confirmed I had to do what I should have done all the time we were at Menindie. I had to purchase horses, I had four bullocks killed, and of course I had to train those horses and get them ready to start out; and another thing, I had to go around to purchase the horses from one place to another, you cannot go to any place on the Darling and pick up as many horses as you choose. A lot of horses were offered to me by Mr Walker of Messrs. Watson and Hewitt's, and I told him as soon as I had got my answer from Melbourne, as soon as Mr Hodgkinson returned with despatches, I would go and see those horses; in fact, I said I would go and see the horses even before he came back if he would let me know the price of them. He said "we will not stand to price, you shall have the horses at a very reasonable figure and we will not stand at all to price." I said I would rather know what the price of the horses was to be, "because," I said "if I get the horses and no price is mentioned you may charge some extraordinary price for them hereafter, and as it is a matter of business I had better know the price of the horses before I agree to take them." He said he would go up to the station and see the overseer there, and send me down a note and let me know. But I never got it, for two or three days after he came down himself with the overseer and told me "there are so many horses that I could get the pick out of some thirty or forty," or something of that kind, and I think there were eight or ten to be picked by the people on the station first. I said "that may be all very well, some may suit me. What are you going to charge a head for these cattle." He said £35 a head.
1662. Was it the difficulty of getting horses and making arrangements that caused the delay ?-Yes.
1663. When Mr Burke sent you back to the Darling, were you not aware what his object was-that you might follow him up as soon as possible ?-Mr Burke told me repeatedly-which I mentioned when I came in-that he was not very sure when his despatches would be down. When he found that Mr Landells had resigned, he was not very sure whether there would be another person appointed before I was ready to start.
1664. A party appointed to supersede you ?-He was not sure whether there would be a person appointed by the committee, and I mentioned it to Mr Haverfield when I came in. Mr Haverfield can state what conversation I had with him when I came in.
1665. All the time you were at Menindie till you received this information, you did not do anything preparatory to the journey; in fact, you made no preparation whatever ?-Things were kept in order; in fact, there was nothing to be done but get the horses and cattle, everything else was ready; the stores, as far as flour, and tea, and sugar and so on were concerned, were there; the only thing was the camels required looking after.
1666. You say Mr Burke stated to you that there was a possibility of your being superseded by the committee ?-In fact, he said it was likely; he did not know till he heard ; and that I mentioned to Mr Haverfield when I came in, and I believe Mr Haverfield can state that himself.
1667. What induced you to think at any time, or to express doubts, that Mr Burke would not be likely to return to Cooper's Creek-that he would not be able to get back; what induced you to come to the conclusion that it was very doubtful whether Mr Burke would ever get back to Cooper's Creek ?-I never thought of such a thing until after I heard from Mr Brahe, when he came in from Cooper's Creek, and of Mr Burke telling him to stay twelve weeks, and he had staid so long over that time I supposed he had gone across to Queensland-gone along the east coast to Queensland.
1668. You came to the supposition that that would be his course ?-Yes; I thought that would be his course; and knowing he had only taken twelve weeks' provisions with him, and at this time it was seventeen or eighteen weeks; it was over eighteen weeks at the time I saw Mr Brahe from the time that Mr Burke had left Cooper's Creek.
1669. If you had waited till Lyons came back at Menindie, three months must have elapsed from the time that Lyons started. How long did you calculate he would take; at what time did you suppose he would return ?-I did not expect him back much sooner than three months. I thought it was likely he would stop out there and spell the horses and things he had taken out. I thought they would spell themselves for a few days before they came back with the horses and camels that I expected to see back. In fact, until I got my appointment confirmed, I did not consider myself a servant of the expedition at all.
1670. Did you not consider that Mr Burke had sufficient authority to appoint you ?-Not from the way I was appointed; he told me he was not sure that a person would not be sent from Melbourne.
1671. I presume you are fully aware that he was the leader of the expedition. I suppose from what Mr Burke stated to you, that he had ample power to deal with everything ?-No, I was not; in fact, his letter does not show he had ample power; he stated in his despatch he hoped the committee would confirm my appointment-he hoped they would do so; I recollect that part of it.
1672. But he says in the despatch immediately afterwards:- "In the meantime I have instructed Mr Wright to follow me up with the remainder of the camels to Cooper's Creek." Supposing Mr Burke had taken you on with him instead of your returning to Menindie, would you not think he had sufficient power to employ you; he employed you to go on with him ?-When I first went out ?
1673. Yes ?-No, he did not employ me; I went as a volunteer.
1674. But you did submit to an engagement; you agreed with Mr Burke to form one of the expedition ?-Yes.
1675. Did you not consider then that he had sufficient authority to employ you ?-In the conversation I had with him he seemed to be doubtful about it, whether my appointment would be confirmed or not; and of course, until I was certain of that, I did not think I had power to act.
1676. On the 19th December you were fully impressed with the necessity of following Mr Burke, as you say [See Wright's Diary]:-"As I have every reason to believe that Mr Burke has pushed on for Cooper's Creek, relying upon finding the depot stores at that watercourse upon his return, there is room for the most serious apprehensions as to the safety of himself and party, should he find that he has miscalculated :" that was the case, was it not; this is your own despatch now being read from ?-Yes.
1677. On the 19th of December, in the first paragraph of your despatch, you say, in accordance with a previous understanding with Mr Burke, it was your intention to rejoin that gentleman at once; you did not do so ?-No.
1678. And the reason you give the committee for not having done so, is, "that I delayed starting merely because the camels (nine) left behind by Mr Burke, were too few in number and too inferior in carrying powers;" do you remember that at the last day's sitting of the Commission you stated that your principal reason was not that, but you were awaiting the confirmation by the committee of your appointment as third in command. You were asked on that occasion how you reconciled those two statements, namely, the statement in your despatch and the statement you made to the Commission on the last day. That question is still unanswered, and we should like you to answer it. Can you now reconcile your having stated to the committee of the Royal Society that your only reason for delay was, because " the camels (nine) left behind by Mr Burke were too few in number and too inferior in carrying powers," with the other statement you made the other day, that you did not start because you did not feel you were an employee of the committee at all ?-That would have been one reason; in fact, there were two or three reasons. There was not sufficient carrying power for one reason ; and another thing was....
1679. You are simply asked now, can you reconcile the statements you made here with this written statement made to the committee of the Royal Society. You made no allusion in that statement to the Royal Society to your awaiting the confirmation of your appointment as third in command ?-I think in another part of the letter I do advise the committee, if I am not sent, to send some party.
1680. Will you be good enough to find that - it does not appear to be in the letter - [The letter was referred to, but the statement did not appear to be contained in it] ?-I am almost certain from what I gave him to copy that I stated it.
1681. There is no mention of it ?-I thought I mentioned it distinctly, but it is not worded as I intended at all.
1682. How can you reconcile the two statements ?-The only answer I can give to it is the answer I have already given.
1683. But there has been no answer given to the question neither the last day of our meeting nor this; you perfectly understand the question ?-That despatch was written by Mr Hodgkinson, and he has worded the despatch in a very different way from what I intended it-very differently.
1684. It was read over to you, was it not-it is signed by you ?-That is my signature to it.
1685. You must have been a party to the despatch-you must have known the whole contents of the despatch ?-It was read over to me certainly.
1686. Will you answer this question with regard to Mr Burke's appointment of you as the virtual leader of all that he left behind at Menindie - was that appointment made because he was satisfied with you in your being able to take him so far as you accompanied him - was not that the origin of the appointment; you having done your duty by him as his guide, he therefore thought you were highly competent to bring up the remainder of the party ?-I believe he did think so, but whether that is the reason he gave me the appointment is a question: I could not say.
1687. It is the reason he gives the committee; he compliments you very highly, and hopes they will give you the appointment. That being the case, and Mr Burke giving that as the reason, do you suppose he would anticipate for a moment the detention of the party you were sent back to accompany, for two months, at the Darling-had such an idea ever passed through Mr Burke's mind ?-Certainly it had; because he questioned me about the mail, and how long it would be before there would be despatches to the Darling-in fact, I mentioned a good deal of the conversation to Mr Haverfield, he being up at Menindie at the time I came in.
1688. But you do not refer to it in your despatch ?-No; there are a great many things I did not refer to in the despatch or diary either.
1689. You observe that the delay which had occurred had occasioned anxiety in your mind; from the first paragraph in the despatch which has just been read to you, you evidently had not intended, when you accepted the appointment from Mr Burke, to lose a moment ?-I intended to stop at Menindie until my appointment was confirmed.
1690. We have not the slightest evidence of that ?-Another reason was. my waiting for Lyons and McPherson.
1691. You adhere strictly to that statement, that you would under any circumstances have staid at Menindie until your appointment was confirmed ?-Yes.
1692. You state distinctly you would not have started ?-I would not have started.
1693. Therefore if you had had fifty horses and fifty camels you would not have started until your appointment was confirmed ?-I should not; if there had not been despatches up in a very short time I should have certainly sent down to Melbourne. I should have sent in before Lyons and McPherson came back had they not been up there and me waiting for their return; I should have sent down for despatches.
1694. So that under any circumstances ?-There were despatches going down every mail from the camp-letters by every mail and none of them answered. They were going from Mr Becker and Dr Beckler, and it has been mentioned by Mr Becker to Mr Haverfield
1695. When you accepted this appointment had you any intention of following immediately ?-I could not follow immediately; in the first instance, I could not start until I sent my wife and family down; that Mr Burke knew, and I said I did not know how long it might be before there was a steamer.
1696. How do you reconcile that with Mr Burke's own statement, that he expected you in two or three days ?-I do not see how he could expect that.
1697. He does say so ?-He only stayed for two or three weeks. I left him at Torowoto and had to go back for a few days and I could not possibly be out there to overtake him in two days-I could not possibly do it. There were 200 miles that I had to go back, and the time I was going those 200 miles Mr Burke was travelling at the rate some days of 20 and some days 25 miles, but I believe nothing under 20 miles, in fact the average was 20 miles a day from Torowoto to Cooper's Creek. I had to go those 200 miles back, and how could I be there in that time, even if I had started a day or two after I reached Menindie ?
1698. But still, according to this despatch, it occasioned you very great apprehension as to the safety of Mr Burke ?-As to the safety of Mr Burke ?
1699. Yes-the fact of the delay ?-I thought it was such a time from the time he started that the party did go out and it was quite necessary that there should be a start made.
1700. From the statement you have made just now Mr Burke was aware of all your plans-that you would not leave when he expected you would leave ?-He must have been aware of it because I mentioned it to him-in fact we talked the thing over and he said also there might be a person from Melbourne.
1701. Was he apprehensive of his safety; do you know whether from the delay that must have been occasioned from your waiting at Menindie he felt or did he express to you any apprehension as to his probable safety ?-No; he mentioned to me about sending part of the horses and camels back from Cooper's Creek, so that he could not have had much apprehension about his safety. I know that Mr Brahe told me several times that he was one that Mr Burke had selected out to send back or intended to send back.
1702. Then it is to be presumed that the Commission may consider that you have no answer to make to reconcile the statement in this despatch with your garbled statement made to the committee ?-I have no particular answer to make to that question.
1703. It should be pointed out to you that unless you can answer that question satisfactorily, you stand in an awkward position before this Commission ?- (No answer.)
The witness withdrew.