Burke & Wills Web
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November 1861

Wednesday, 27 November 1861.
Page 2.

Arrival of King, the explorer, in Melbourne.

John King, the sole survivor of Mr Burke's Exploration party from Cooper's Creek to the Gulf of Carpentaria, arrived in Melbourne on Monday evening by the train that reached the Spencer-street station at six o'clock. From about five o'clock groups of persons anxious to welcome back the first who had crossed and re-crossed the Australian continent began to pour into the station, and its vicinity was so crowded with cars and spectators that it was impossible to reach the entrance.

The arrival of the train was hailed with vociferous cheering. The carriage in which King was a passenger was at once recognised by its being decorated with flags. Such was the "rush" to see King that it was some time before the porters could reach the carriage door, and when they had reached it they experienced considerable difficulty in getting the door opened. Dr Gilbee, who was accompanied by Dr Macadam, was in attendance with his private carriage to convey King as quietly as possible to the Royal Institute, where the Exploration Committee and a numerous assemblage of ladies and gentlemen were in waiting to see him. Those gentlemen, however, were unable to reach the carriage; and Dr Wills, who was fortunately opposite the door, seeing that it was impossible for the arrangements to be carried out, immediately conveyed him to an open car and drove off. Dr Gilbee and Dr Macadam, with King's sister, immediately followed. The cars were then rushed, and cars, buggies, horses, and pedestrians raced along Collins-street to William-street, and thence to Government House.

A great many were, of course, disappointed by this alteration, as it was generally expected that King would be received by his Excellency and the Committee at the Royal Institute, and therefore drove along the streets that were likely to facilitate their reaching the institution before King's arrival. On reaching Government House, King was assisted up stairs, for though he looked very healthy and robust he was scarcely able to stand. He was taken into the room adjoining the Chief Secretary's office, where he was shortly afterwards joined by his sister. Their meeting was, or course, strictly private.

In a few minutes the approaches to Government House, the lobbies, stairs, and landing were impassably crowded, so that it was necessary for the police to clear a passage for his Excellency from his own office to that of the Chief Secretary. His Excellency, accompanied by Captain Timins, entered the Chief Secretary's office, and after a short conversation with Welch, who accompanied King to town, went into the ante-room, accompanied by Captain Timins, and followed by Dr Wills, Welch, and Brahe. When his Excellency entered thc room, King and his sister respectfully stood up, but his Excellency requested them to be seated, as King was evidently unable to stand on his feet. His Excellency cordially shook hands with King.

His Excellency said: I congratulate you heartily on your safe return to Melbourne. Do not stand up to receive me; 1 you are rather weak. Has your health recovered?
King (faintly): Yes, sir.
His Excellency: I suppose you were in a very reduced state when you were at Cooper's Creek with the blacks?
King: Yes, sir, very much.
His Excellency (to Miss King): Where ! is your brother going to stay?
Miss King: He is going to stay with me, I your Excellency, at St. Kilda.
His Excellency: I suppose the better way would be to let him have a few days' perfect quiet.
Miss King: I should like him, your Excellency, to have a few days' undisturbed rest.
His Excellency: I hope you will, at any rate, leave his address with me.
[Dr Wills wrote down the address and , gave it to Captain Timins]
His Excellency (to King): You were in India, I understand?
King: Yes, Sir.
His Excellency: What were you there may I ask.
King: A soldier, sir.
His Excellency then rose, and again shaking hands with King said: I wish you good afternoon. I am glad to see you back. I have no doubt but in a few days' time you will be sufficiently recovered to face all the receptions that are waiting you.

His Excellency then withdrew, but immediately re-entered the room and introduced the Mayor to King and his sister. The Mayor shook hands with King and said, Mr King, I am glad to welcome you back to thc city of Melbourne. I do so, not only for myself, but also on behalf of the corporation and the inhabitants of this city. The corporation will take an early opportunity of presenting you with an address congratulating you on your safe return.

His Excellency, the Mayor, and the Town Clerk then withdrew. Several gentlemen busied themselves for some time to obtain a clearance of the passages, in order that King might bc conveyed safely to a conveyance provided for him by the Town Clerk under the instructions of the Mayor; but they were met with cries for King to appear at the balcony.

It was then stipulated that King should appear at the balcony, but that he should not be expected to speak, as he was too faint to do so, and also that there should be no cheering to disturb him. With this arrangement the crowd at once complied, so far as to leave the passages. King, accompanied, by his sister, was then assisted on to thc balcony over the portico by Dr Macadam and Mr Selwyn. He remained; only for a few minutes, during which time he was vociferously cheered by the crowd.

King was then assisted down stairs, and handed by his sister and Dr Macadam into Sir William Don's carriage, which was kindly giveu up by the baronet for his accommodation. Accompanied by the Mayor and the Town Clerk, King and his sister were then driven off to a friend's house in St. Kilda amidst reiterated cheers.

It was expected that he would have been conveyed in the first place from Government House to the Royal Institute to meet the Exploration Committee, and a party of police were in attendance at the building to keep back any crowd that might assemble. He was, however, too much fatigued by the journey and overcome by his reception at Government House to be able to bear further excitement.

The Mayor, on returning to town, called on Dr Eades, and requested him to visit King at St. Kilda. Dr Eades at once complied with the request. He reports that King's state of health is such that he must be kept in the greatest possible quiet tor several days. He will not, therefore, be at the meeting of the Exploration Committee today.

(From the Melbourne Herald).


 

Page 3.

The Castlemaine Advertiser, after giving a account of King's reception at that place says:

In the course of conversation with one and another, King gave utterance to sentiments which will gratify the friends of Burke, and put it out of the power of any who may be so disposed to insult his memory and blot his tomb. He expresse the most chivalrous attachment to his leader, who he says was as kind to his subordinates as he was daring in the carrying out of the enterprise in which his hero was concerned, and which his duty demanded.

He denied that Gray was severely treated, saying that Wills being some miles distant could not know what actually took place, but that he, who reported Gray's fault to Burke, was present, and saw tha the chastisement was limited to a box or two on the ear with the flat of the hand not a sufficient punishment to increase any malady under which he might at the time have been suffering.

He says be will be able to contradict many reports that have been spread unfavorable to his leader's reputation. Amongst the interesting statements made by Mr Welsh to the gentlemen assembled were these:

That the body of Burke was found at a distance of 16 miles from that of Wills, and that the revolver found near Burke's body did not belong to him, but to Wills, his own having been destroyed in the fire of the gunyah, in which a quantity of other property was lost.

Burke's request, therefore, to have the revolver placed in his hand when dying, and to allow his body to remain unburied, is susceptible of some other construction than that which has been put upon it. King persists in stating that Burke fully expected to find a strong depot at Cooper's Creek, as he had left instructions that a surveyor of the party should, during his absence, be employed in making a survey of the district.

The effect of the provisions left by Brahe in restoring their health, was perfectly astonishing, and all they had to complain of was the deficiency in quantity. The reason assigned by King why Burke's party did not mark the tree was, they had nothing to mark it with, no instruments being left but a pair of old lancets and a stump of a worn-out knife.

Many other interesting statements were made by King relative to the last moments of the leader of the expedition, which will doubtless be ere long presented to the public in a proper shape, and prized by the admirers of the great explorer as his legacy to posterity, and his parting wishes, to be treasured up in the recollection of those with whom he was on terms of friendly intimacy.

 

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