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Sketch of Eyre's first camp on the Murray
Title : Sketch of Eyre's first camp on the Murray Sketch of Eyre's first camp on the Murray
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Source : PRG 1258/2/2330
Date of creation : ca. 1840
Format : Artwork
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Sketch of Eyre's first camp on the Murray.

The first European settlement on the River Murray in South Australia was Moorundie, settled in 1841. Moorundie was established by the Resident Magistrate and Protector of Aborigines, Edward John Eyre. Explorer Eyre had discovered the area in 1839 and later was granted 1411 acres there by the colonial government.

Eyre was present at Moorundie from 1841-1844, during which period he monitored and attempted, with some success, to allay the conflicts between the indigenous inhabitants and the overlanders who passed through the area. He also distributed food rations to aboriginal groups in the region. Eyre grew irrigated crops on the river flats including maize, wheat, vegetables and orchards.

Moorundie was occupied until 1856 when, partly due to flooding in the region, settlement was moved to newly established Blanchetown, approximately 5 kilometres upstream.

Mary Thomas, daughter of early pioneers and printing press operators, Robert and Mary Thomas, referred to the Moorundie and often referred 'kindly' to Aboriginal people in general, in her diary (PRG 1160/6, p. 42). Please note, the language used to describe Aboriginal people is inappropriate today;

Mar. 31, 1846.   ....(near the Port) Some few natives have been paying us a visit lately. Cow-eeta (?) was one who seemed to be a civil, quiet man. Another was a woman named Coonartoo. Mr. Wilkinson stayed some time in our house. We made an arrangement to go see the blacks in the evening. At the time appointed Mr. Wilkinson left home with Mrs. Skipper and my sister Helen, preceded by Mr. Skipper, Mrs. Wilkinson, and myself. We all walked down to their wurlies, which are erected at a place some distance from the town. On arriving at this spot we could not help admiring the splendour and wildness of the scene, as we stood surrounded by, I should think, four or five hundred natives and among large trees of which some [were] half hidden by the darkness, while others were partly illuminated by the native fires and, by throwing out their broad shadows, appeared in bold relief. The fires, by which we were guided to their place, were numerous and appeared to be made in circles to some degree of uniformity. Instead of having them crowded together they left good spaces between each. After visiting the blacks belonging to two or three different tribes, we went to another part of the ground, where we found a large number of natives assembled and making preparations for a corroboree, which we waited to see. The result was very gratifying. A great number of blacks ranged themselves with scrupulous regularity in a sitting position so as to face the dancers. These consisted of the Moorundee tribe and their corroboree was intended to represent the stealing of a wife from another tribe. The whole scene was well acted, and what especially delighted me was that they kept such true time with foot and voice. Although I have often heard the corroboree I never discovered anything in the shape of a song so nearly resembling vocal music as that we were favoured with. I should think that there were about 150 of the Moorundee tribe dancing, and the number of spectators was afterwards swelled by several natives from Encounter Bay who not in general being on friendly terms with those from Moorundee, kept their spears in their hands instead of laying them down. Besides these we saw some from Kapunda.

Related names :

Eyre, Edward John, 1815-1901

Coverage year : ca.1840
Period : 1836-1851
Place : South Australia
Region : Riverland and Murraylands
Further reading :

Eyre, Edward John. Journals of expeditions of discovery into Central Australia, and overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound, in the years 1840-1..., Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1964. Facsimile edition; original published London: T. & W. Boone, 1845

Eyre, Edward John. Reports and letters to Governor Grey from E.J. Eyre at Moorunde, Adelaide: Sullivan's Cove, 1985

Internet links :

University of Adelaide Online Books: Journals of expeditions of discovery into Central Australia, and overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound, in the years 1840-1 sent by the colonists of South Australia, with the sanction and support of the government by Edward John Eyre.

Royal Geographical Society of South Australia (Library)

SA Memory Foundation of South Australia 1800-1851 Diary of Mary Thomas

Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Search: Eyre, Edward John

Downstream: the River Murray in South Australia See: Aboriginal Australians: Edward Eyre and Aboriginal groups; and European settlement along the Murray

Postcards Online Channel 9 Adelaide See: Portee Station on the Murray River for a unique experience



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