William, the Bridge.
I am trying streak running for the first time in my life. No, not running naked across the local footy ground while there is a match in progress, but running every day, rain, hail or shine, for at least a mile, this is streaking. I have been having a go at this since August last year.
Every day, as part of the journey, I run across the William Buckley Bridge. This bridge crosses over the Barwon River in an area once the home of the man himself, William Buckley. This is the bridge -
Here, below, is the name on the bridge, like William, it is a bit worn.
William, the Man.
William Buckley was born in 1780 in Marton, a village in England. So yes, one of our first national heroes was a pom, or as they were called back then, a POHM., i.e. Prisoner of His Majesty, lucky William.
William achieved convict-hood in 1802 when he was found guilty of stealing a cloth in England. I know, stealing a fabric. The wonder is he wasn’t flogged or hung or both. But Lucky William got another deal. He was “transported”.
William might not have realised it then, but he was part of a bigger problem. His Majesty, King George, of whom William was now a Prisoner, had gone and lost some of his British colonies. Just like that, he lost ’em, poof, gone. A colonised settlement on the other side of the world can be like a holiday home you never visit. It gets taken over by thugs and brutes who love it so much that they call it their own. This funny period, when His Majesty lost some of his colonies, is often called the American Revolution.
So, after the American Revolution, HMK (His Majesty the King) was facing a severe problem of overcrowded prisons, what with not being able to ship them off to America anymore. What to do to relieve this prisonic pressure? Well, while one door closed, another opened, can’t send them to America anymore. So where else can they go? Australia, Of course.
And thus went William, off to Australia in general, Sorrento in particular, not far from the Barwon River, not far, if you don’t mind a bit of a boat ride across Port Phillip Bay. Which, in the fullness of time, was exactly what William did.
So, by 1803, William was now a prisoner of the HMK in far-off Australia, a POHM, and, fair to say, he didn’t like it at all. He hated it, so, with a couple of mates, he escaped, and for the next 32 years, he resolutely stayed escaped, living as a “wild white man” among the Wathaurong people, an Indigenous group who inhabited the area now known as Barwon.
Why didn’t they kill him when they found him, as they were inclined to do? Well, some locals thought he could be a ghost of a recently departed tribe member; he looked quite ghostly. One young lady, a widow with children, spoke up and claimed William was her beloved deceased, now returned and looking a bit washed out from the journey. But most definitely him.
Maybe William looked like her ex, or perhaps the widow was lonely. William was not about to argue. No doubt he was scared and hungry and most likely bereft of female affection. He went along to get along, as you would.
Ultimately he stayed, settled, and even thrived. During his time with the Wathaurong people, Buckley learned their language and customs till, ultimately, in 1835, he was discovered by John Batman, a controversial Australian explorer and entrepreneur who had come to the area to establish a settlement.
Here is William on his reunion with the settlers -
Now, John Batman was astonished to find a white man living among the locals and, being something of a hustler, he quickly recognised that our William could be a valuable asset. Reluctantly William agreed to act as an interpreter and mediator between the settlers and the Indigenous people. It is said he played a crucial role in negotiating the purchase of land from the Wathaurong, part of that would become the site of Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria.
In his later years, William settled in Hobart, Tasmania, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He died in 1856 at the age of 76. He even wrote a book about his adventures, which you can find here on Amazon. The book was first written in 1852 and then updated, more recently, by author Garry Linnel.
William and me
My only connection with the incredible William Buckley is the beautiful bridge named in his honour, which I run across daily. I suspect William was never a streaker, more a survivor. I can’t help thinking, for a man who changed countries and tribes and learnt a whole new language just to stay alive and remain free, he would have been very good at the modern TV show, the Jeff Probst version of Survivor. William Buckley played one hell of a social game in a season where getting voted off the tribe usually meant they snuffed out a little more than your torch.
Another Survivor, and Streaker, you may be interested in is the hero of my first novel, Constable Chris Taylor. You can learn more about Chris here -
Thank you for reading.