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November 1861

Edwin James Welch,
1. Journal of Contingent Exploration Party, ML C332 (CY 1115) State Library of New South Wales
2. Field book No 1. Box 2087/7, Item a, MS13071, State Library of Victoria

Edwin Welch, surveyor and second in command of Howitt's Victorian Relief Expedition, found John King at Cooper Creek.

Friday, 1 November 1861, Depot Camp, Ptomarmora Creek.
In Camp. Employed as requested. River remaining at the same height, although word has been received that it is rapidly falling higher up.

Saturday, 2 November.
In Camp. Employed as requisite.

Sunday, 13 November.
Rest, in Camp. "Matwallah" died.

Monday, 4 November.
In Camp. Employed variously. Packed up instruments, preparatory to leaving for town with King.

Tuersday, 5 November.
In Camp. As requisite.

Wednesday, 6 November.
Left Camp at 9.00 AM with King and Phillips (the latter to look after pack-horses) and, and proceeded in to Menindee; Mr Howitt accompanying so far, to see us safely across the river; having strong which, we proceeded on our journey; crossing two deep Creeks and several small bodies of water with more or less difficulty, and eventually camped on the banks of one of them, having travelled about 12 miles from Menindee; from the depot 19 miles

Thursday, 7 November, Reed's Station.
From Camp across several water channels and creeks in Reed's back country to his home-station, where we were very hospitably entertained for the night.

Friday, 8 November.
From Reed's to Camp in a bend of the river and.

Saturday, 9 November.
Camp past McCloud's station to another Camp on the river.

Sunday, 10 November.
Camp to McPherson's Station, and there to his 15-Mile Outstation, close to which we camped in a bend on the river. Like rain during the night and mosquitoes unbearable.

Monday, 11 November.
Travelled about 30 miles and camped again on the river.

Tuesday, 12 November.
From Camp to "Tapoa Station" (Fletcher's), bought some rations and proceeded to take a short cut over on to the Murray, instead of going by the junction. Camped on a lake in Fletcher's back country.

Wednesday, 30 November.
Proceeded down up the Murray River and camped near McFarland's Station, to which I rode to get some rations and returned to the camp.

Thursday, 14 November, Mackenzie's Woolshed.
From Camp to McFarland's, where we stopped to dine, thence to camp at Mackenzie's woolshed.

Friday, 15 November, Euston.
From Camp to Euston and obtained permission to turn horses out and camp in the government paddock, intending to remain here tomorrow to give King a spell.

Saturday, 16 November, Euston.
Camped in the paddock; sent a telegram or by post to Sandhurst for Dr Macadam announcing my approach.

Sunday, 17 November, McCallum's Station.
Crossed the Murray and proceeded upwards to "Wirlong" (McCallum's Station). Introduced myself to Allan Hughan, the manager, and with King was introduced to his wife and sister; very nice people, and were anxious to do all they could for us. Spent a very pleasant musical evening. King, poor fellow, rather out of his element.

Monday, 18 of November, Narrung Police Station.
Could not get away from Hughan's until after lunch, and being then 2.00 PM, we only got about 15 miles farther, to the police station at Narrung, and were very hospitably entertained by Sergeant Murray and his wife (a very worthy nice couple), who insisted our remaining there instead of going on 2 miles further to Hamilton's Hotel.

Tuesday, 19 November, Piangil Station.
From Narrung, past Hamilton's to Piangil Sation, where we were welcomed by the Beveridges, and remained there for the night. At this place made the acquaintance of Chomley, the superintendent of police (pro tem) at Swan Hill.

Wednesday, 20 November, Swan Hill.
From Piangil to Tintinger, where having sent King and Phillips on ahead, I lunched in company with Chomley, with the other two brothers of their Beveridge family. After which Chomley, self, and Bob Beveridge started in to Swan Hill, and come when within about 3 miles of that place, sought King and Phillips a little ahead in the midst of a crowd, composed of all the elite of Swan Hill with Messrs Pasco and Foster at the head, waiting for me to come up, to escort King into the township. He was taken off his horse and put in a buggy, and the whole crowd of horsemen, buggies and miscellaneous conveyances, proceeded into Swan Hill; which owing to the flood, was an island at the time, and the whole way in we were up to the horses bellies in water, and splashing one another gloriously, the regular case of "devil take the hindmost". Arrived in the township and were conducted to the courthouse, and in due time an address, signed by nearly all the people in the place, was presented to King by Mr Pascoe, on behalf of the inhabitants; eulogistic of his heroic behaviour &c.- This at first public reception, quite nonplussed poor King, pool not knowing how to act under the circumstances made me feel quite uncomfortable. And fortunately however Mr Foster came to his relief, and promised the audience that King should return thanks the next morning when the meeting dispersed; not however, before we received an invitation to a public dinner to be given in Kings or honour tomorrow night at one of the hotels. And sought King and Phillips comfortably housed at the "Royal", and then went to Pascoe's, and where I spend a very pleasant evening and remained for the night.

Thursday, 21 November.
After breakfast, Chomley and self, crossed the river to Murray Downs Station, taking the horses I had brought down, over to turn a them out there, pursuant to orders. Had lunch with Mr Sullivan (manager) and family, and afterwards went for a sail on the river in the Sullivan's boat, returning to Swan Hill in time to dress for dinner at 7.00 PM. This same dinner was a miserable failure, Pascoe (chair), Foster (vice). In all 13 of others sat down to it, some rowdy ones too; King unaccustomed to the usages of society, was quite at a loss how to behave himself when asked to take the wine &c.- &c.- Made himself uncomfortable, and everybody all felt awkward, not his blame however, and with a due appreciation of the kindness of the Swan Hill people, I cannot but think it was in this particular instance mistaken. And after the customary toasts, Pascoe, Foster, Chomley, self and some others, withdrew, leaving only the Bacchanals behind, and an they insisted on King remaining with them, which I let him do because I knew he did not drink, and would therefore be safe. Chomley and self went into Pascoe's, had some [?] &c.- &c.- and returned to the Royal about 11.15 PM, when I heard one of the party we had vicariously left, making a desperate effort to sing "Barney O'Keefe" but being three parts strong, it was completely beyond him. Went to bed, but was kept awake for three-quarters of an hour by some other member of the nefarious party, persisting in "He's a jolly good fellow" without the slightest variation until he became [?] hoarse.

Friday, 22 November, Durham Ox.
Up pretty early, nevertheless with barely a sufficient time to have a cup of scalding hot coffee, before I heard "All aboard", the signal for jumping into Cobb's Coach, which rattled off the before me, with King fairly seated. And so goodbye for the present to Swan Hill. Arrived at the "Durham Ox" in due course and remained for the night and. King received an enthusiastic reception [?] here, and the landlord would not accept a [?] of payment for anything we had.

Saturday, 23 November, Bendigo.
Proceeded in the coach on to Bendigo, no other passengers. The driver informed us they were making great preparations there for our reception, and a cavalcade would meet us outside the town. On reaching the suburbs, crowds of diggers rushed our coach from all quarters, blowing horns, firing guns and pistols, cheering and waving flags &c.- &c.- as much as if it were a triumphal entry of blood royal. On approaching the town itself, flags, garlands, bouquets, and other nonsense in preparation, and to my great annoyance, I could not torture King out of his passive dead-and-alive manner to acknowledge himself, so that I was myself taking for King by nearly all, and so placed in an [uncomfortable] position. When within about 2 miles of our destination we were met by an enormous procession headed by the "Marsh Troupe" of theatricals in an enormous coach with a brass band on top playing "See the conquering hero comes". After this the carriage containing the MP of the borough, and several members of the municipal council. The coach was stopped, and King and self taken on into this carriage, which, followed by a procession of enormous length and an inconceivable crowd of diggers and motley, drove through all the principal thoroughfares of the place and finally landed us at the Shamrock Hotel in Pall Mall. With great difficulty and we fought our way up the stairs and were received by the municipal council in the large room of the house: the table of which was covered with a profusion of choice treats, and an unlimited quantity of champagne. Ahead of the table was taken by Robert Strickland JP, chairman of the municipal council, King on his right, self on his left. And his health was than proposed and rain, with three times three, and "He's a jolly good fellow." He returned thanks much better than I expected he would, but became overpowered in alluding to Burke and wills and fell back into his chair in tears, greatly attributable, I think, to bodily weakness. After this, my health in connection with Howitt and contingent exploring party was trunk in the same way; and I he was just an concluding a laughing attempt to return thanks when Hefferman, the landlord of the hotel, rushed through the crowd and implored me to take King downstairs, on the stage of an old theatre and, in association with the house, so that the crowd might see him, as they were then tearing down the stairs and balustrades in endeavouring to fight their way up into the room. I gave an unwilling assent to the request, as I did not like the idea of making a stage show of him, and was doubtful of what would be said of it in Melbourne; but it was unavoidable; so told Hefferman to let them all by know that King would come and there he cleared out immediately. Several of the municipal council accompanied us down on to the stage, when King sat down. I was, though used to crowds, astonished at the immense number of people crammed into so small a space, and could not help thinking what a glorious thing it would be for the reigning stage favourite, to see the house so full on his or her benefit night. After the noise had somewhat subsided, finding King too much overpowered to speak, I essayed to do so for him, but failed for I was nearly as bad as himself; so got Strickland who was an old resident of the place to do so for us. He commenced and I believe would have gone on for ever, but that out of consideration for King I took the latter by the arm and led him off the stage, amidst hisses, groans and curses showered the lavishly upon my head for doing so. He returned upstairs but even after this, had to go out on the front balcony to satisfy the curiosity of those who had been unable to fight their way into the theatre. Eventually I succeeded in getting into a bedroom with him alone and had acquired half hour, though the coroner was full of people, waiting to catch us if we returned out, and continually knocking for us to let them in. After the furore had somewhat subsided, I returned out, leaving King with strict instructions not to go outside the door, although as he was so weak I had not much fear of him. During Strickland in the coffee room, we went out to the telegraph office as I wished to send a telegram to Dr Macadam informing him of our proximity &c.- Having concluded this we returned to the shamrock, having been absent only about 20 minutes; when on going up to see King I was astonished at finding the room empty, and at hearing the waiter deny all knowledge of the fact. The latter was I knew telling a lie; I therefore sought Hefferman; and through him, the sweep confessed that a gentleman had taking King out for a drive in a cab. Greatly exasperated, I went to Strickland and from the description of a gentleman in the coffee room who had seen him, Strickland recognised a certain Paddy Bernard, sexton of the Back Creek Cemetery, and so it proved in the end. The Bendigonians it would appear, had resolved upon erecting a monument to the memory of Burke and Wills, but them having at two cemeteries, and it had become a matter of dispute as to which of them should be honoured by its erection therein. With an eye to business therefore, the [insistent] Paddy Bernard, and had during my absence at the telegraph office, succeeded in persuading King that he was a most intimate friend of Burke's, in fact a correction, and at the same time addressing him that if he would pick out a spot for the erection of the monument in the cemetery, over which he, Paddy Bernard presided, that the municipal council could not refuse to adopt the suggestion of such a distinguished guests. Debate talk and King went. Immediately on finding out in whose company he had gone; Strickland and self jumped into a cab and started for Back Creek. When about half way there, met the cab containing Paddy Bernard and King, returning. Both got into the cab with them. Found Paddy Bernard disgustingly drunk, [falling] over King and calling him his lost son, whom he said he and closer resembled. The seat beside the driver was occupied by a tray of all sorts of fruit, which the old fool had brought from some apple woman entire, but which neither had touched. King in a state of semi stupidity neither knowing or caring about anything. Discharged the pent up torrent of my wrath on old Paddy, and although Strickland talk to him "in the language of the parts" to at the same time, it failed to make the slightest impression. Arrived at the shamrock, told Paddy not to show his nose again, and locked King in the bedroom till dinner was ready, to prevent a similar occurrence. Compelled to dine in a private room and lock ourselves in. During dinner Mr Marsh, the head of the Marsh Troupe, sent in his band with the request to be allowed to place a box at our disposal for the evening performance. And as King had never seen a theatre, and was anxious to go, I walked down after dinner and purchased front stalls in the dress circle. Several members of the municipal council accompanied us, and we were hardly seated when the house filled rapidly; the reason of which and as I afterwards discovered, and that Mr Marsh, in the true spirit of Yankee speculation, had sent notice round the town, as soon as we were inside, to notify the fact to the public, who subsequently rushed in, in myriads. When the curtain rose, the efforts of the performers to make a commencement, were totally [?], as their voices were entirely the smothered by the cries of "King on the stage" and "Welch and take him on" which continued for some minutes, and still had length, Mr Marsh came up an requested me to oblige the audience by an complying with of their requests, as it was impossible two go on with the performance amidst such confusion. This was a very evident fact, I nevertheless [?] refused and to allow a keen to appear on the stage, and endeavoured to take him out and return to the hotel. In this I was frustrated by the [?] crowd, so I was obliged to compromise with Marsh and take him into one of the stage boxes, were all in the house might see him. Not satisfied with this they wanted him to make a speech, which he was unable from the excitement to do; when again I was just as bad; Strickland however spoke again [?] [?] and would have satisfied them and made some excuse for us, but they would not hear him, drowning his attempt with cries of "At it again Robby" [?] so that he was obliged to give up and only proceeded during a momentary lull in saying a few words, to the fact, that King would not, on any consideration, appear on the stage. After this we returned to our seats, and the performance proceeded, interrupted only at intervals by a repetition of the cries. At the conclusion, we were assisted back to the shamrock by a large crowds, but happily succeeded in getting their own safety, and shortly after turned in.

Sunday, 24 November.
During breakfast this morning I was besieged with applications from photographers to allow King to sit for his likeness; picked out the best (Batchelder and O'Neil), and took him around and there the back way, had my own taken at the same time and returned to hotel.  Left King in his bed room and went down to the coffee room to enjoying a quiet pipe.  On returning to him after little more than half an hour, found the room full of ladies, sitting on the beds, lounging around him and as a matter of course, all talking together.  Some of them I knew and readily believe, that under other circumstances would have shuddered at the idea of being in the next room to a strange man.  So much for the force of circumstances.  Dined at about two o' clock of the hotel, although we had numerous invitations out; but did not think it prudent to accept them.  After dinner Hefferman took us out for a drive round Bendigo in his trap, which we enjoyed very much.  On returning found a Mr Gingell waiting to see me, who introduced himself as a member of the municipal council of Castlemaine, and stated that he had just come up from that place to make arrangements on behalf of the council, for King to remain very short time, on his rode down.  This I assured him was out of the question as we were expected in Melbourne, and must go right through the following day.  He however came to the understanding that he should meet the coach with a buggy at Harcourt all and, (4 miles from Castlemaine) and drive in ahead of the coach so that we may have more time to spare when there.  In the evening went to the house of one "Marks", an acquaintance and spent a pleasant hour, then returned and went to bed.

Monday 25 November.
Had breakfast early, and mounted Cobbs coach at 7.00 AM, which was literally crowded with passengers. Coach and decorated all over with flags, and the guard injuring his lungs by a producing unearthly noises from a French horn. Arrived at Harcourt in due time, and found Mr Gingell the as per appointment, only, that he had a remarkably small buggy and doubted whether it would carry three safely. Fact was, he wanted King only, and I rather think looked upon me, only as an encumbrance, or at the best and necessary evil. I however persisted in my fixed intention of not letting King go anywhere unless by accompanied him, for had I had done so I feel convinced he would have taken a month to reach Melbourne. Being of there was no help for it, he gave in and off we went. When about 2 miles from the Castlemaine we were met by several other vehicles, and changed our seats to a four-wheel carriage belonging to Wallace Esq. and, the chairman of the Municipal Council, and in the that drove on into Castlemaine, the crowd increasing at every step, until at length and we stopped at Bignell's Hotel. Here again at the crowd was enormous, everyone had been anxious to see the of the companion of Burke's, who was an old resident and known to everybody there. A public appearance on the balcony, a hurried [?] inside, and again the coach was ready to start. He mounted the box seat and[?] off and amidst deafening shouts and cheers. The coach was, if possible, more gaily decorated than the other; and the guard's efforts to attract attention through the medium of to his detestable horn, were most praiseworthy. Every man or woman and child in the township along the road turned out as we passed through, throwing bouquets, firing guns, and perpetrating every conceivable stupidity, displaying an intensity of hero worship, little short of [?] mania. Arrived at Woodend (the destination of the coach a) shortly after 3.30 PM. Train did not start till four. Went into the waiting room, but were soon driven from this retirement by the crowd, who actually broke in and surrounded us. By dint of hands fighting, and by managed to drag King along the platform, in front of the station master's house, in which we at length found refuge until the train was ready to start. The flags &c.- taken off the coach and when output on the engine, and telegrams sent down the line to announce our approach. Station platforms all the way down were crowded; and caves and all sorts of rubbish were thrown into the carriages. All of them receiving a pretty equal share, 4 hours of necessity we were not more than a minute or two at each station, nobody knew which carriage we occupied. On arriving at the North Melbourne station I was pretty astonished at the door of the carriage being opened for Dr Wills to walk in (father of the poor fellow dead). He passed me as if he had had never seen me before, boisterously welcomed King, and was going to take him out of the carriage, saying that he had a cab all ready for him there. This I objected to, when I was met with a volley of abuse, and a notification from him, that he was acting according to the instructions of Sir Henry Barkly (the Governor). I replied, that not having received any instructions, either from the Governor or the Exploration Committee to give King up, before reaching Melbourne, I would not acknowledge such authority, neither would I suffer King to get out. Mr Nash, Secretary for Railways, who stood at the door while and all was this was going on, and enquired if I intended to persist in that line of conduct, and receiving a reply and affirmative signalized for the train to proceed. Mr Proud, of Spiers and Proud, had in the meantime taken a seat in the carriage and introduced himself to me. He had, I believe, a neat little speculation on hand, with regard to King, but I did not bother my head about it. Old Dr Wills amused himself as the train proceeded by abusing me in the latest and most approved style but my sympathy for the poor old gentleman's loss, kept me quiet under the infliction and them. Arrived at the Melbourne terminus, the crowd was terrific, and I saw at a glance that no fore-preparations of any sort had been made for our reception, and naturally enough I had concluded something of the salt would have been done; after sending two telegrams to ensure it. After waiting in the carriage some little time, a cab was backed in through the crowd, when pushing King to the door, and locking my arms firmly around his waist, we plunged into the mass of humanity and succeeded after a hard fight in reaching the cab and, though not without getting a few hard knocks pancakes and sundry rents in our clothing. Old Wills had somehow succeeded in getting in with us, as well as Nash, and telling the cabby to drive to Government House, and as the nearest refuge, off we went, followed by all hands on foot, horseback, and every description of vehicle. On reaching Government House, the sentry was most unceremoniously pulled off his beat by the crowd, whilst with no little difficulty, the cab reached the steps and we made the best of our way upstairs to the Executive Council Chambers. Into this I pushed King, following him closely and on closing the door, rejoiced to find that with the exception of the policeman on duty, we were the only occupants of the Chamber. Old Wills however soon found his way in by another entrance, and in opening the door to King's sister, who was of course in an agony of excitement, several other people found their way in. King and his sister, retired to the antechamber and whilst there, Sir Henry Barkly made his appearance and entered into a consideration with me, relative to the journey down. This however was interrupted by old Wills who came up and made a formal report of my conduct to his excellency, which is a matter of course was referred to the Exploration Committee. His Excellency then had a short interview with King and left, shortly after which, to my intense delight, Dr Macadam, Mr Selwyn and some other members of the Exploration Committee put in an appearance, and after showing King [?] the and balcony to the crowd below, I relinquished my charge into their hands, with feelings of intense gratitude and that he had not been prolonged, even for another hour. Sir William Don, a theatrical celebrity, shortly afterwards drove him down to his sister's house at St Kilda, in his carriage. Met Brahe in the crowd and glad to escape to [?], went and down with him to his brother's residence at Richmond where I remained for the night.

Tuesday, 26 November.
Came up to town in the morning. Went to meeting of the Exploration Committee in the afternoon. Explained all about the present position with party &c.- &c.- Secretary read a letter from Mr Nash stating that he had been making arrangements the previous evening for our reception at the Spencer Street Railway Station, when he was interrupted by Dr Wills, who told him he had the Governor's authority to take King out of the train at North Melbourne, and induced him to accompany the next train to North Melbourne with a view of receiving him there. He had accordingly put aside all the arrangements he was on the point of making, and accompanied Dr Wills to North Melbourne, where I had refuse to give King up. Feeling himself humbugged, he sought an explanation from the Committee, for the participation of the railway officials. The Committee in turn, demanded an explanation from me, which I gave, stating that as I had received orders from Mr Howitt to proceed to Melbourne, I did not feel justified in deviating from those orders, unless countermanded by superior authority. This proved sufficient. The conduct of Dr Wills was ordered, mine eulogise and so the matter ended. I then received any instructions that I should have had to return to the party immediately, but upon stating my knowledge of the fact that some of the men were going to resign, and that Mr Howitt must necessarily return to town, to form a new party, they agreed to wait for ten days and an before taking any decisive steps. From this date to December 6th, knocked about town, plenty of invitations but did not accept half of them.

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