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Manuscript Collections

Spencer correspondence with Cowle

Letter 1

Illamurta

30th July 1894

Dear Professor,

            Under separate covers I am sending you two tins as under —

1. Flat sided tin containing the Sugar Ant (“Yarumba”) and small ants and embryos dug out by myself, I could not find the winged ones. Blacks state they show up after rain.

2. Circular tin containing Sugar Ant (“Ittoo-ittoonee”) and four other kinds, two of which are winged and dug out of the same hole. No embryos — this ittoo-ittoone appears to be a second ant of the sugar kind and not so large although esteemed equally by the festive nigger — his congeners are a small yellow tailed ant, a large bodied ant with large callipers, a small winged ant and a large bodied winged one. I trust they will reach you safely and if you can drop me a line from Charlotte Waters you might tell me which is the Western Australian one and if you want more, also any hints as to packing. Dr Stirling wrote telling me you were staying behind with Mr Watt, otherwise I would have posted direct to Melbourne.

            How did you get on at the Alice and did Belt behave himself at our highly priced hotel. There appears to be some alteration in our Mail as it was four days late and I don’t know when it returns so am sending in at once to prevent missing it. If you see Keartland kindly tell him I have got any amount of finch eggs if they are any use — the confounded niggers keep bringing them to me but always manage to smash any other or larger varieties. With kind regards and best wishes to Watt and yourself.

Believe me,

Yours very sincerely,

C.Ernest.Cowle [Note: Cowle always signed with a full stop after Ernest]

Send a few more bottles and some spirit if you can manage it — most of the other leaked.

(in pencil in Spencer’s handwriting)

Mr Thornton pr photos

Exchange Hotel

Adelaide

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Letter 2

Illamurta

14th Nov 1894

My dear Professor

            Your very welcome letter arrived safely but I cannot say the same of the jars of spirit, one of which, and several of the smaller ones were broken. In the big jars I found a frog and a little crayfish or yabbie — was this an oversight? at all events I have put them by till I hear from you. It has been terribly dry since you were here and I saw no frogs while digging out and cleaning our Spring which was very low but will look out as much as possible when I see any tadpoles again and next mail will try and get some more of the red ants for you as I have told the lubras to locate some of their haunts. I am sending you this mail two of the small earth lizards which I spoke about, they have only two legs and these seem undeveloped, they wriggle out of sight in the fine dust very speedily. I hope they are some link [sic] (On a second examination I find the larger one is growing two more legs confound him) Re rats, I saw two the other day which you may not have got but I could not preserve them — they were coloured like the one we got from the Sandhills, this side of Ayers Rock — body slightly smaller, long hind legs, on which they hopped but the female had no pouch — I have two boys out now looking for some as they say they are about here — I was awfully savage that I had no salt and that it was the hottest day up to date. At all events they were not pig footed.

            Everyone here highly excited over the forthcoming races and busy with their horses. I don’t intend going in if I can avoid it but, if you were to be there would do so and I think you would find some interesting anthropological specimens present on the Racecourse — the details of their history and private life you could obtain fully from me — Gillen would not do as a cicerone as he would allow himself to be overcome with pride and prejudice which, coupled with ignorance and arrogance and a certain amount of good nature, appear to be the unfailing attributes of all that class of ill bred irishmen. N.B (I am of Irish extraction myself). You know I like Gillen but also know his failings and from the little glimpses I got of him from your letter I should not be surprised if you had bottomed his character thoroughly, I wish you would let me know if it tallied with my description. I had a long letter from Keartland who, like yourself, fears the pruning knife. I am sending him two big lots of eggs which I hope will arrive undamaged although I have fears after the way your tins suffered. Winnecke and the Doctor I have also heard from but Belt wants leaving in the centre of Lake Amadeus with a looking glass, he never answered my letter — I think the Photos you sent are really excellent, especially the one of Ayers Rock taken from near our Camp there, I wish it shewed that big piece of rock like a spring better. Amadeus is also nice and I recognize easily the short tail and nonchalant manner of the much anathemized [sic - anathematized] Camera pack horse.

            Constant association with the learning and refinement of your Camp had not the humanizing influence on the native assistants that it should have had. Arrabi has certainly not been much in evidence since I met him last but ‘Meenemurtyna’ joined several other young men and has had rather a good time on the Peterman and Gill’s Range. I followed this party backwards and forwards from the camp on Trickett’s Creek to Bagot’s Creek on the top of Gill’s Range on foot last month, saw some nice inaccessible Rockholes but had no luck as they unfortunately came across our footprints near where you were digging with Pritchard and left no signs after that. I hate being bested so I am going out again in about a week.

            It will take me some time to completely grasp the names of various animals you mention owing to lack of an appreciative audience with pocket books to jot down the golden utterances. “I say Tate, what did you say this was? Exaltatus or latifolia”, here Tate replies, “latifolia”, but discovers next day that it is incanis?? and so on. By the way, the member of your party that told the chief scandal mongers of Alice Spgs that Cowle travelled over a month with your Exped’n and never washed once is only to be described in the vernacular of the North West as a b-d.

            Are you really serious in saying there is a chance of your coming up next year? You know we would be only too glad to see you and do anything we could for you, only I think you might lend the Camera to Gillen. One current story was that all the plates were broken between Alice and Oodnadatta and that the party was indebted to Gillen for any photos taken by the Expedition. I was down at Horse Shoe Bend last week selling a dead man’s effects and saw Field there, he was going down to Crown Point to meet a lady to attend to Mrs Gillen so that I reckon the Pontiff does not intend to let the race of Kings of Alice Spgs die out for want of direct issue.

            The Garden, which you ask after, is the cynosure of all beholders, putting all joking out of the question it has been a wonderful success and without seeing it one could not picture the extraordinary growth in it. Beetroot, Cabbages, Cauliflowers, Onions, turnips, Carrots and small stuff galore and we expect to have plenty of all kinds of melons and cucumbers also tomatoes within a month. Well, you know this part of the Colony does not go for much in the line of sensational items, so you will, I trust, excuse the jumble of this epistle and with very best wishes for a pleasant vacation and a prosperous New Year

Believe me,

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

I got over a couple of gallons of Dawson’s Dufftown to celebrate my birthday last month — we drank more than one ounce p [sic ] diem. Thanks for kind invitation to sample yours which I will avail myself of when I get the chance — one can’t say how soon or how long this may be.

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Letter 3

[Note on top in WBS’s handwriting — Ulmatum [sic, male symbol]

                                                            Phascologale cristicauda —

                                                            replied Jan/95]

Illamurta

16th Nov 1894

Dear Professor

            The boys brought me in two rats or mice just now, not the long legged kind but different to the ones I saw you with so I am sending along this mail — they have thick set legs and a coarse tail — one I have gutted and one left whole as the mail leaves soon — kindly have a look at them on arrival in case they go bad — Locality Police Camp.

Yours Sincerely

C.E.C.

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Letter 4

Illamurta

22nd Dec 1894

My dear Professor.

            When you were up in these parts you impressed me with your many good qualities, especially the virtue of forgiveness, but it was left to me to discover since that you were a genuine Christian — considering how impatient and untractable [sic] I was on many occasions it is awfully good of you to spare time out of your many calls on same to write such long letters to me, only one who has spent many years in the Desert like myself can fully appreciate the pleasure of hearing and being brought in contact with a high state of civilization once more, my head scorches at the memory of many things and if I have not plainly expressed myself to you it is the fault of a none too brilliant intellect at any time having become greatly corroded. I have had two days genuine work trying to get you some specimens of ants etc but had no luck at all, only finding some of those mice which we got at Bagot’s Creek which I knew were no good to you, the rain still keeps off and everything is getting a very parched appearance, I am glad you asked about water — our Spgs or Soakage is running fairly well since I cleaned it out thoroughly. Bagot’s Creek I visited a fortnight ago and had difficulty to get a drink for the horses, there only being the smallest possible amount of water on the surface, the Kathleen, and Reedy Hole only have the main Rock Holes just level with the surrounding country and no water escaping at all — at these three places the reeds are very dense and 12 or 15 ft high. At Penny’s Spgs (where Watt was snailing) there is scarcely any water at all. You seemed surprised and perhaps a little incredulous when I told you all these places run strong in the Cold weather, yet rain or no rain, they will be just the same next year — there are a fine lot of Grass trees on the East End of Wild Eagle Plain about six miles from our Camp and I am sorry you can’t photograph them just now, they are all out in new bloom — some of the rods are 10 to 12 feet long and many of them have assumed most fantastic shapes.

            Belt has at last written and complains bitterly of his treatment by other members of the Expedition while at Alice Spgs, he says, “You know I had no sleeves and only part of the back left in my smoking Jacket and the other Johnnies were too damned jealous to lend me anything”. The young man will not die of modesty.

            Daer went in to the Races on 13th and is very, very confident of success with his horses and, fond as I am of the topic, it is a relief to be done with it for a time — you see it is the great annual festival of the Country and for four months before and four months after, with many encroachments on the intervening period, forms the sole topic of interest and conversation whenever any inhabitants of the place meet. Martin went in two days ago and we have not yet had Thornton up here, I read an interview in the Observer of Carr-Boyd whom you say you heard lecturing and I came to the conclusion that I only knew one greater liar.

           Gillen very kindly invited me in for Xmas but I had decided to stay Home this year and declined so Mrs Gillen sent me out a pudding, by the interchange of such courtesies the integrity of Gillen’s Empire is kept unimpaired and alliances with outer provinces cemented.

            Garden feeling effects of the hot weather but still in very fair order. I am just harvesting our little bed of onions, some of which are between 1 1/2 to 2 lbs weight, this is not a very exciting topic to you and you may reckon it small but the importance of it on the Finke will be recognised when I tell you that the fruit of the onions is only to be purchased very rarely at from 9d to 1/6 p lb. Tomorrow I will be a sort of distributing centre and despatch Cabbages and a few of the above mentioned to Henbury and Tempe Downs as Xmas offerings. Spirits safely to hand and I am glad my vermin got through — you did not tell me if the lizards were common and if you require any more “Ill-chillyeras”. We are only allowed to send 1lb parcels through the post from here and it is only through the complacency of Officials at Oodnadatta that any others reach us. Well, you know what a Country this is to collect news in so I am forced to close this, wishing you and yours health, happiness and prosperity, and Remain,

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 5

Illamurta

18th Feb 1895

Dear Professor

            If you had only been in this Country for the last month your desire of seeing a rain here would have been gratified. I should say we had quite a foot here in the last six weeks and mail was ten days late. Daer was in at Alice Spgs and I was an orphan and kept busy dodging rain spots all night (it never ceased for four days and nights) and once, when I essayed to find some dry garments, I found myself smothered with that wretched ant, known to us as Piss-ant — this little beast, evidently wiser in his generation than ourselves, foretold a damp time and shifted with his lares and penates, eggs etc into every fold of my clean clothes. I have not secured any marsupials this mail but I think have got the Alpha and Omega of those Sugar ants complete and am sending same to you. Bottles marked Yar. are the Ayers Rock kind, and others are the “Ittoo-toonee”. I got large and small winged ones in each kind and also larvae, and notice that the females of the Ittootoonee are also red — these I dug up personally so can vouch came out of the holes of the respective kinds. If this doesn’t wipe out Camponotus let me know and I’ll shoulder a shovel once more. I am also sending two small jars of various sized bullfrogs and frogs — there are two kinds, I feel sure, a small, dark one which sticks about the water and a larger sized one which we used to dig up in the Garden all the dry time but can’t find there now. I could not separate them but I noticed that one lot of bullfrogs appeared to develop legs at a much earlier and smaller size than others. I am also sending, amongst the ants, one or two of the vermin who have infested us since the rain — I did hope to have had a real good time amongst the Marsupials but the rain kept the boys constantly going keeping the horses and Camels together — Daer being away with the others. I was awfully sorry you were not here as there were other ants especially the Bulldog which I would very much have liked to dig up and see into but he came out in too strong a force for a single man to attack and I beat a retreat — I noticed a fish or two in the Creek the other day but could not catch him. I will secure one in a day or two and if they look different to the Red Banks one I will secure some for you — by the way, did you get any specimens of a very small frog [drawing] (I have mistaken my vocation) he is a little bigger than above and generally appears in hundreds out of the big Sandy Creeks just before a rain. I did not notice them this year but may have mentioned them to you when we were together.

            I was surprised when I got your wire a couple of days ago and could not see what it referred to at first. You said very little about E. C. S. except that he had taken all the Credit of South’s cat’s agility and that he had done all the Zoological work. I read your letter to Daer and some of the Tempe people when they came in from the Races, transcribing some parts, so there is absolutely no fear of anything further occurring from here. Personally speaking, I am sorry that the hitch has occurred and wonder if “that old savage” did on purpose or what, one can’t imagine such a thing otherwise — Stirling has been very good to me since he went down and we write occasionally, he has never asked me for anything so far beyond “Ethnological” side lights which I cannot give him with Gillenesque assurance and finality and won’t until I am certain in my mind that I am at the bottom of it and when this may be, you, who appeared to size up the niggers intellect speedily and his capacity for replying Yes to everything may guess. There will be absolutely no difficulty about a Euro’s head or skin or both and I will see to this when I get back — our boys generally get one or two a week here.

            I am sending Keartland a lot of eggs this mail which I hope will reach him in safety before he starts out on his next Expedition, at one time the Blacks used to plague me with the little chestnut eared finch eggs but now its quail. I have blown over 50 and thrown away tinfuls but they will stick to it, they are all over the place and all sizes. Yesterday my egg man turned up with half a Billy full and after drafting out some eggs I put the rest under the table still in a mass in the Billy, and this morning got 5 young and now there are three or four more cheep-cheeping so I will have to destroy the lot to be humane.

            Very many thanks for the tobacco from both of us and also for the Photos. I also received two pipes from Keartland and as I write I puff at the joint product with much contentment. I have not yet had time to have a good look at them, the mail turned up per Blackboy from Doctor’s Stone’s [sic] yesterday, and we don’t know when it’s going back, so Daer thinks I had better start at daylight tomorrow and go to that track to meet Alice Spgs down mail in case the regular mailman goes back via Owen Spgs from Mission, this means pretty well 50 miles tomorrow so I am a bit pushed. I quite expected that when it did come we would have nearly a week as usual. I know you are not interested in the Racing News but I must tell you that Daer won four of the principal races with our horses — no money — that hairy eared Irish shark Gillen had got most of the wagers and refused to part — Hope you will have a decent time in Sydney and find that rising Geologist in a clean celluloid [sic]. I promised him a couple of the little “Moloch horridus” and have had several but have feared them going bad before arrival as he wanted them alive — would they live secured to the bottom of a box? I know they are hardy.

            You frequently write kind of tirades on the marriage state with which I agree — marriage in itself is alright but the inevitable consequences, as Kipling puts it, are the very Devil — I am not likely to try it at all events for years, I have formed good resolutions and when I next visit the Cities am going slow. I am awfully glad you got to know Pat Byrne thoroughly going down — don’t you think he bears out my statement that he was the only man on the line who really was informed on most subjects and a good fellow besides. Barcoo which I told you about is very prevalent at present and we all have had a touch of it lately.  Good night and good luck,

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 6

Illamurta

11th April 1895

Dear Professor

            It was not forgetfulness which made me miss last mail but an utter absence of material to work on and I fear it is but little better this time. Owing to the floods I took our mail nearly to Mt Burrell and when I got back to Illamurta I heard from Gillen that you were to be at C.W. on 6th Feby. I was very much annoyed at not knowing earlier as I could just as easily have taken the Mail to C.W., had a talk with you, and got thoroughly grounded in “Sminthopsi” [sic] and “Psammophilus” or rather “Phascologale”. I am posting you a skin and a salted rat which I got near Haaste’s Bluff — my little bottle of spirits would not take them and I tried dry salting as an experiment — probably you got these at the Charlotte but the extreme length of tail and their teats being placed (drawing) like those of a cow fetched me — they are both adult females and had young ones attached which the boys lost, one has a few grey hairs in end of the tail and the other is black. I think if you wet the drysalted one she will pull into shape and you will see the udder and teats complete. You did not tell me if I sent you the right kind of frogs from here, I have seen no others about yet and presume that the tadpoles and frogs in Creeks and rockholes around would be pretty nearly all similar, it is difficult for an untasselled youth to distinguish differences but if worth while I will bottle some at each camp I notice them at.

            I seem to meet with better luck for Keartland than any one else and I really believe that I have got him some good eggs. Mr French wrote asking me for some Polytellis Eggs but I fear they have disappeared from us again — they never were plentiful about here, but if I fail in that line I will get him some others equally as rare when the Season comes again — judging by the number that have gone to Town the eggs and offspring of these wonderful birds should be as common as sparrows.

            You tell me you travelled down with “Dick”, well isn’t he a beauty — he patronizes, lectures and advises me whenever we meet in a charming manner, and really he is quite serious in fancying himself a very shrewd business man. Yet in reality “Dick” has been thoroughly victimized by every one he has had really close business transactions with — he came out here to try and induce me to go in with him but I reckoned Dick had lost the energy which characterized him some years ago and have an objection to getting at or being got at by my friends. He wrote me from Alice Well this mail and tells me he was ill most of the time in Town with fruit cholera, no doubt he was so greedy that he didn’t wait to spit out the stones and pips.

            Gillen I have not heard from lately but he is thriving from all accounts and busy over his nigger stones — as you say it is nice to be Protector of Aborigines when one is interested in the Animals — no stones — no flour etc and a hell of a lot of moral influence — we get three bags a year which I distribute amongst about 30 old hags when I go out Tempe way but it is only a drop in the ocean. I was round Gosse’s Range, across the saddle and close by Haaste’s Bluff then along Mareena into Tempe — saw plenty of niggers and Camera spots, quite 100 in one mob all told — Pat B. tells me you were studying the nude at C.W. and has sent me “Reef and Palm”.  I regret that prurience is one of the failings of an otherwise noble character.  I can quite picture your troubles with the “undergrads”. I reckon you are capable of handling them though and would be sorry to be one of the ones you felt inclined to squelch. Winnecke’s syndicate don’t seem in any hurry to make up their minds about starting him out again — and I am sorry to hear about his liver — were you serious about this and is he really bad? He doesn’t look particularly healthy. All quiet at Tempe and if things keep so, I will either take a run in to Alice and see the Pontiff or down to see Pat as I feel the want of a change and have not pouched enough yet to go slow on — I can’t see where this tickles you people, as I fancy I can do it yet and will.

            Pater had left the Bank and wanted me to go for a trip to Tasmania and make the acquaintance of numerous bucolic cousins but I think this would be a trifle too steady — when I want a quiet time I think I will go on one of those excursions to the South Seas or Japan. England might be more beneficial but your tariff stiffened me. Well, good night and good luck — if I can get over some day to Melbourne you might let me take your place for a day with your Students. Thanks very much for kind wishes and invitation, it will be taken advantage of yet.

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 7

Illamurta

16.5.95

Dear Professor,

            Yours safely to hand and I note remarks re ground vermin. You must not think it any trouble looking out for them for you, it is a pleasure as the landladies say, only I don’t want to bother you with rubbish or stuff arriving in bad condition — if dry salted specimens are any good it is no trouble whatsoever to stow them but bottles run such a risk, not only travelling round with me but also on pack horses to the Bend — you see, if a Mailman finds the shape of his bags not to his liking he jumps them or waddies them to the desired shape with disastrous results. Well, with regard to Haplotis M. and Co. of the Jerboa species — both those came out of one hole but I am confident are not the ones that build the stick nests and which used to be plentiful about Blanchewater and Montecollina on the Strelezecki [sic] Creek. Gill sent me a couple of dead Bats which seem a little larger than those occasionally around at night — if I find them presentable I will post them and he tells me he can obtain more if required. I have not seen Byrne or Gillen so far although I hear the latter was close to C. W. taking Mrs Gillen and the children part of the road and that he goes down himself a little later — I believe he is timing his visit to meet Davitt, the other patriot, with whom he will join forces and together they will lecture on Home Rule from English and Colonial Stands, I believe he intends to put the Government on a firm Financial basis and in the spare time he gets from the Bars, platform and theatres he will settle such minor details as the State-Bank, Bimetallism, Minimum Wage and assist his Brother to provide that the State shall buy all wheat grown on the Village Settlements at not less than 5/- p bushel, this and photographing Davitt first [sic] the House of Commons in the old Country will about keep him from mischief of a more serious description unless he thinks of standing for N.T. District at the forthcoming Elections, in which case he will endeavour to get the Blacks enfranchised and on his return a business like canvass with the aid of Govt. Rations will be the result.

            Like other Nor West notabilities I may visit the Southern Regions about the end of the Winter but at present am undecided in what character to appear, Blackfellow, Theologian or Savant — the latter I should certainly adopt if I could only keep my d-d mouth and ignorance to myself at inopportune moments, and only spread myself before the reporters — however, I believe the World is very narrow and I might run foul of a snag if I ventured very far even before them. I deeply sympathize with the trouble you are experiencing from the Treasurer Turner, as you say it is manifestly unfair to bring you out, breaking up your home etc, under a specific agreement and then trying to crayfish.

            I received very bad news about my mother’s sudden death in Melbourne this mail and seem utterly unable to realize it yet, it is the first break in our family and I was so looking forward to seeing them all once more soon, Mother’s intention was to take a cottage in Melbourne and spend the rest of her life there and was over there for the purpose, luckily the Father and some of the girls were there at the sad end but after she got ill she only lived for 48 hours and the others only got over in time for the funeral.

            Willshire wrote to me this mail and talks of leaving the Victoria River Downs Police Camp, 500 miles South of Palmerston, and asking me to let him know if he can recommend me as a suitable man to take his place. I am replying no at present, under the circumstances, and am afraid if I got the position it would cause too much jealousy amongst the senior men, yet this place is getting too civilized and I scarcely think I will be a favourite with the newly arrived Missionaries. If I go there later on I ought to be able to do something for my Scientific friends but would have to visit civilization first and, with that end in view, will devote all spare time to studying the “London Journal [sic - punctuation] so as not to appear outré (?) [sic], this journal was the favourite reading of Thornton and he left a complete file behind him, extending over many years, so that if I wade through the lot I should have a fair veneer of the language and manners of your bloated English aristocracy, so highly acceptable to Colonials of both sexes. With best wishes,

I remain,

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 8

Illamurta

June 19th 1895

Dear Professor

            Very many thanks for your kindly expressed sympathy, I do not feel it so much now that the first shock has gone off.

           

            I have been away at Tempe for the last fortnight chiefly about head of Walker, Shag Hole and Pine Point with Coulthard and only returned yesterday with Martin. By mail Martin had an offer for 500 head of Cattle on the Run and returned post haste to Tempe. I expect him back tomorrow en route for Alice Spgs to wire and if I can get my share of this mail finished in time it is most likely that I will take a run in and make obeisance to the great or rather I think the advertisement puts it Big G. You know he and I are the best of friends but invariably have at least one battle royal when we meet and exchange many doubtful compliments and, after an absence from each others vicinity of 18 months, there is bound to be an escape of pent up steam and I think the change will do me good. When coming from Tempe the other day I met Belt’s friend, I mean the one he assisted in the search for that “kind of bloody weed that grows on these ere bloody hills”, and he looked very much as if the search or weed had not been a success. Another acquaintance of yours has just turned up, while I am writing this, in the person of “Arrabi”. I told you we got him employment in Police at Barrow Creek 200 miles North of Alice and thought he was out of the way for a time but here he is. We have been examining him and he reports being discharged but from my previous knowledge of the gentleman I feel certain he has shirroccoed  [sic], however he will go on to Tempe till further particulars come to hand but sooner or later I fear parts of his anatomy will adorn someone’s Shelves (saving presence of Missionaries).

            As long as you are not too much troubled with inspecting parcels I will continue to send along anything I am not certain of, and, in accordance with this intention, I forward a “jerboa” about half size of last, which appears different from “Mitchelli” and, I think, an adult also two young ones which the blacks tried to convince me were another species.

            I have the names you have given me fairly correctly for Gillen’s benefit but it is in ornithological nomenclature that I expect to score most heavily as I scarcely expect him to be too well up in that line, I am glad Pado is crushing well for Marsupials, what line do Squires and Field affect? It was very kind of you to tell me to make your house my Mecca when I visit Melbourne, and I know that you really mean it, but my Sister lives there also and would never allow it and on the whole I am assured that this would be very much to your benefit, You, who constantly live surrounded by intellectual people and the refining influences of women would have to cage me somewhere in the back yard and if any of your acquaintances dropped across me, you would have to exhibit me as a specimen of what a Nineteenth Century Australian, debarred from these privileges and with a backward tendency, can develop into. You see, Professor, no one is more keenly alive to their imperfections than I am and yet I haven’t got the stamina to get shut of them. I think it is only my memories of a few good women that have kept me from going to the dogs altogether.

            Re Northern Territory, I got a wire asking if I would like to be transferred there and that I could travel overland. To which I am replying in the negative today, I note what you say in regard to the possibility of Illamurta being closed and my relegation to more salubrious spots but at present am doing fairly well here and until I have a good balance at my back and fates are propitious will remain. At least, I would like another year and as people in our line of life appear none too keen for N.T. I don’t anticipate much trouble in getting there when I desire to — besides this, unless I got charge of Willshire’s place it would mean actual loss. I also have an enquiry from Williams (Oodnadatta) who wishes me to join him and go in for 6 or 12 mos. [sic - months] leave without pay and either go through to W.A with Camels via Musgrave, Mann, and Tomkinson Ranges for ourselves or for a Syndicate which he is assured we could easily get up. This scheme I am considering carefully as one must be on the look out for a chance to rise somehow — What do you think of it?

            I can quite picture your restiveness re publication of the proceedings of the great Expn. [sic] and look as anxiously forward to Belt’s contribution to the Volume which, I am afraid, will consist of low down personalities and a gorgeous description of the immense assistance he rendered the starred members of the party. Winnecke writes in better spirits and also Profr. Keartland who seems to be having much trouble and illness in his circle — Well now, once more thanking you and with best wishes from us both.

Believe me,

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 9

Illamurta

23.7.95

Dear Professor

            Your letter duly to hand and I have sent word to P.M.B. re the fawn coloured jerboa which has not turned up this way so far although we have at present a regular plague of mice, they are in everything, flour, sugar, rice, etc, they were at Erldunda about six months ago and later on at Henbury so the main lot appears to be coming from the South, they seem to me just like the domestic mouse, shall I send you a specimen. I went into Alice Spgs as I intended and had a fairly giddy time. Gillen may tell you, if he finds time to mention my name, that I was a little uproarious but I am giving you the facts. I was simply exhilarated — we never had a battle even, simply fair comment on subjects in general, naturally I gave him my ideas on the present one man S. A. Government and the idiocy of his (Gillen’s) brother in particular posing as a man of enlightened ideas and fancying Village Settlements had completely settled the labour question, and, in consequence, he believes now I am morally and politically beyond reform, we mutually plastered each other up and I won his heart completely by talking of you and the other scientists while, on his part, when talking over Native totems he said. [sic - punctuation] “You are one of the few men in the Country with sufficient intellect to take an interest in this subject without wanting to rush off and talk of lubras and horses like the other bloody fools”. I did not forget this as it was such a mouthful without a break, he really has a splendid lot of stones and I will try and get him more but these less civilized blacks are more chary of imparting any knowledge than the animals about A.G. Gillen talks of how much they value these stones and of their great antiquity yet he gets these niggers round him to obtain them by any means they can, knowing full well how little the really interested natives have to say in the matter, how he reconciles this with his position as Protector of Aborigines, and his negrophile ideas in general, I can’t conceive and in consequence I am beginning to think there is something in possessing a truly Roman Catholic conscience and that there may be something in the remission of sins after all. Putting all nonsense aside, he was very nice and when one is personally in contact with his bottle of Dawson, he exercises a charm over an untamed mind which is hard to realize till you experience it. If the Horn Expedition does no good to the Scientists of made reputations it will have accomplished one great thing at all events, and that is the renascence or renaissance of Science in the Nor West (provided it ever existed in the Country). All the people at A.G. who know their alphabet now seems to be going in for eggs, rats, bugs and shells etc. I saw Squires out on an unsuccessful search about Condon’s [sic] lagoon.

            I am sorry I displayed such ignorance re the surroundings of a knowledgeable man of the present day but feel more contented now that I am aware that you do mix with the common clay occasionally and even relish it, however in view of Gillen being at present touring the other colonies I have decided to postpone my visit till the tail of that comet is swallowed in oblivion of the past. I am sending Mr French a few eggs which I trust will be the ones he wanted, I notice that even collectors of little eggs have their little animus towards one another and I fancy the black cockatoo has something to do with it. French has a most exalted opinion of you and constantly tells me how good you are to him.

            Horn is hanging fire properly and it must be very trying to a temperament like yours constantly kept at Concert pitch by a class of students feelingly described in your last, I fancy you ought now to be metaphorically rather like a lizard’s tail and apt to snap off rather short. I am off to Tempe in two days and on my return Daer will probably go over to Melbourne for a trip. The garden and hens are in great form and likewise the goats and sheep who have increased some 40 odd in the last week so I am nearly out of my mind mothering kids. I find I am reduced to scraps of paper so I must conclude, wishing you a good time and that you may survive the ordeal of Gillen who should be crushed a little since Rosebery’s fall.

Remain [sic],

Yours very sincerely

Ernest.Cowle

Please remember me to Gillen if he is around.

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Letter 10

Illamurta

5th Oct 1895

Dear Professor

            Your very interesting letter describing the visit of the Ameer [sic - Emir] of Alice Spgs to Melbourne safely arrived and I can quite picture him making an Ass of himself in each and all of the occasions you wrote about. When I meet him I will get his version and, when I let you know how he transfigures things, you will turn green with envy that your powers of imagination are so feeble compared to his — he will even turn those green blouses into profit and there is but little chance of our gins seeing them — as he can scarcely coerce Daer or myself into buying at his own prices no matter how those poor devils at Alice Spgs stationed under him have to ante up with the poor satisfaction of seeing their women clothed in Gillen’s mistakes — I’ll bet he didn’t declare duty on them at all events. I got a few very poor stones the other day and a nice lot of wooden ones which I have written to him about — Posing as an upright youth before both Black and White is annoying at times — for instance, I promised not to let any other Blacks know that I had been shown this Plant and in consequence could only carry away the Sticks I could jam into a pair of Pack Bags and had to leave upwards of 80 hieroglyphical sticks running from about 2 ft to 5 ft in length behind. One of these was very interesting and I believe it told of how, in the early ages, Chambers’ Pillar took a long journey away to the East and then came back and settled where it now sits — I might have rigged these sticks where we rigged the Camera but I would never have got through the Blacks unseen which meant hell for my guide — I am only afraid they will find out their loss before I go there again and if so they will shift everything. Times are very busy just now, as you say, with the damned, horsethieves etc and I have only been home for three days between mails — I had a trip up by Mission Stn., Alice Well Ellery’s Creek and the North side of the Range which I ran along to the big Glen Helen Gorge, then on to Glen Helen and across to the Palmer via Gosse’s Range. I saw some strange sights in the Stockline on the North side of McDonnell and it was surprising how many foals seemed to have lost their mothers — if ever there was a forsaken piece of Country it is this part when one gets off the Pad, I had to leave two horses clean done through the stones at Shag Hole and go back and replace lost shoes before I could get them down and home. Almost immediately afterwards, I heard that several of these people were about the Finke and about a horse bearing another man’s brand under the Station one [drawing] being taken out of the yard at Mt Burrell, shot and burnt while the Drovers were breakfasting in the Creek half a mile away — of course I started to investigate and met the Alice Spgs Police near Francis Well with the suspected offender in charge so returned home to attend to mail. Daer is still away but when he does return and things are fairly quiet, I will make a special trip out from King’s Creek after Sminthopsis but you know I am not exactly a free agent here and will have to let things settle properly.

            Last night Bertie, the lubra, brought me a rat, as she had been in the Sun with it all the afternoon I disembowelled him and put him in Spirits — today I have all hands searching for his Wife as I think he is a Phascologale something — he does not seem to be cristicauda or Dasyuroides, tail too short and no crest — and much resembled a short ferret in body. Ears large and flat. If they are not successful I will pack him up tonight in the only jar I have and trust he will reach you in a fit state to examine. I was afraid to drysalt him as the sun might have made him a bit close. I would very much like to see Pat Byrne and get him to explain to me the difference between Sminthopsis, Phascologale Hapalotis, Dasyurus etc as my learning is turning dog on me properly. Which is “hallux” Dew claw? and also what means “crassated” scaly?

            Garden flourishing and I planted the Melons Mr French sent me yesterday — All the eggs I sent him got broken but I hope this mail’s supply will be more lucky [sic], I think the smashes take place before they get to the Coach at Horse-shoe Bend — I only wish I could get you more animals, so far Keartland’s line seems to have been the only one I have been really successful in. I don’t intend closing this till I see if the boys have any luck tonight but am not very sanguine.

            No luck — I suppose my Swan is only an ugly duck, sorry I can’t make him less bulky but I thought he was touched with weather.

Kindest regards
C.E.Cowle

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Letter 11

Illamurta

5th Nov 1895

8th

            Lubra just brought me in 4 half grown Phascologales which I have packed in our old tin once more so they may be handy for distribution to your friends — if not fully developed, their teeth are — they can bite like Hell. Hope they will reach you safely, the cristicauda was very plain before I choked them.
C.E.C.

Dear Professor

            Your welcome letter to hand and I was glad the jar reached you in safety. I was always thinking that I had wasted spirits on some rubbish again — the tin on return trip got a regular smashing up — one jar in fragments and a mark on wrapper. Rec’d in this State G.P.O. I fancy the operators take a delight in thumping that stamp on tin. Daer talks of leaving Town about 8th inst and is, I hear, in a bad way unless some new stuff, recently discovered in England and which they have sent for, does him good, I am afraid it is only a matter of time with the old Chap.

            I have heard but little of Gillen’s return beyond that he is rather quiet and developing temperance notions but whether this is the result of a surfeit at the Banquets in his honour or whether he considers it more consistent with his dignity I cannot say — a short sojourn in charge of his Monkey Cage at Alice Spgs should restore him to his right tone once more. I don’t intend to go in at Xmas if I can help it so won’t be able to administer any tonic personally. Palmer is now a knight of the cleaver at Pt Darwin and hopes by strict attention to business, tact etc to gain a fair share etc — he only lost 100 head of his sheep and goats going over. Glad to hear the Horn book is at last going to the Press but evidently your labours won’t be over for some time and, as you say, it is a pity a few chapters cant be added on the relation of your experiences with the other members during compilation. I have been at Home most of this month for a wonder and for once in a way quite exhausted my reading matter, finally getting down to Ruskin on “King’s Treasuries” and “Queen’s Gardens” but find he writes in a vernacular which seems almost of another age.

            I suppose this will reach you while in the misery of going through Exam Papers and if you are busy I will not presume to expect a letter but have the honour to inform you that I reckon our mail will only be a six weekly one for the future, I think, as there is only one train per fortnight to Oodnadatta now. Keeping very dry here and a plague of Pissants and blow flies around which take a lot of fighting. With best wishes and kindest regards,

Believe me,

Yours very Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 12

Illamurta

13 Dec 1895

Dear Professor

            Your truly welcome letter to hand — thank you for sympathy re poor old Daer. I was looking forward so much to seeing him when I got back from Erldunda a couple of weeks ago but when I got to Henbury I heard he was dead — you did not see much of him as you say, so you can’t know what a thoroughly good safe, reliable mate he was in all things, which means a lot in our life here, and I miss him terribly. The powers that rule our Dept. have placed me in charge, which is promotion to the extent of transferring the responsibility of the place to me, but no increase in golden pieces, however it is an especial mark of confidence. Kean from Alice Spgs is to arrive shortly and be stationed with me but I am not highly impressed with what I know of him and long for the old times and Daer. Since last writing, I have been to Erldunda and out to Reedy Hole which looks very different now to what it did when you and I were there — the waters has dried back to the big hole which the horses would not go near on account of the Reeds and there was very little at Bagot’s Creek — at both places the reeds were very dense and much higher than a man on horseback. I had hopes of rounding up some blacks when I should have spelled a day and put the gang marsupial gathering but smokes are delusive affairs and on reaching there I found it was the wind that had carried the fires along the porcupine and the gentle darkies evidently as far off as ever, they had been burning those high Sandhills South of the Range and it should have panned out well. By the bye, “Lydekker’s Marsupials” is not to hand. The weather has been suicidal for weeks and one would fancy a deluge was imminent by the thunder, clouds, and lightning, I was positively nervous some nights with so much steel round me — if there is no rain, the Tempe people will soon have Cattle on South side and if my duties permit I will look after the Rats and while protecting the interests of A E Martin endeavour to advance science one more peg. I cannot give you much information re “Ittootoonee” as they used to go back a long way and come bundling out promiscuously — the inflated ones are much more active than Yarumbas — and first shower I will dig up some more holes, the main difficulty is keeping on the line and when it’s lost or getting into difficult country, the blacks guilelessly remark “No more”. I think the rain disturbs all their arrangements but honestly I am too busy to go out now and hunt them to a finish. I am sorry Prof’r Tait thinks I have neglected him but whenever I have been in promising spots, I have not been able to delay fossil hunting and one feels chary of forwarding plants because if he happened to have got them when with H.E.E, they would be received redly [sic]. I also regret that I have been of little use to Dr Stirling in his work — the charming chaos in the Menagerie is very interesting and no doubt highly interesting to his Serene Highness Belt, the vagaries of Horn won’t disturb him much as he has not been working for the unborn generations.

            I really hope to spend Xmas quietly here altho’ Gillen, Kelly, the Missionaries and the Cook at Tempe are all desirous of my presence for that occasion. It doesn’t do to make oneself too cheap, ahem! and if I had my way I would like to wire for a case of beer and slip down to old Pat Byrne whom I haven’t seen for two years. It would be capital if we could manage that little Exp’n next Summer, you could bring up a Village Settler and I would supply some bare rumped niggers and that would render one member of the party at least, supremely happy — one only has to know F.J.G. and to study S.A. Politics very slightly to be convinced that there is a lot in heredity after all, I wrote to him the other day and sent him some sticks civilly as I expect a plum pudding from that Quarter — Where do you intend putting in the festive season? Don’t repeat the last year’s experiment and take the wife and children to the Sea — perhaps though, this is a necessary relaxation for all English People as they all seem to rush off to Ramsgate, Margate or some other fashionable seaside resort periodically and have their places robbed while they are away. I had one of those intermittent shower baths today and feel thoroughly clean in body, mind and clothing. Sincerely hoping you will have a pleasant Xmas and a prosperous New Year, free from the worries of a beggarly, retrenching, promise breaking Government (Also applies to S.A. only more so).

Believe me,

Yours very sincerely
Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 13

Illamurta

28th Jan 1896

Dear Professor

            Many thanks for “Lydekker” who arrived safely this Mail. After last mail we had simply terrific heat until about a fortnight ago when a few welcome thundershowers put a green complexion on affairs. You, no doubt, will have heard that I did not visit Alice Spgs for the Races and Xmas, which I spent quietly here. I gave an old fellow a month’s work cooking for me so that I would not be entirely alone and then Kean turned up on the 24th and with the aid of two bottles of beer, things were more typical of a Bush Xmas. Gillen sent me out a little Pudding when Martin returned and also what he calls a bottle of generous Port to wash it down — it is needless to dilate on his vivid imagination to you who can readily picture how easily he would translate cheap Colonial into the above highly named liquor. It was reported that he was to visit the Mission Station this month and I asked him to let me know the date so that I could meet him there but he changed his mind, dreading the damage to his complexion and now has the cheek to invite me in to spend a quiet whiskeyless week with him; I may have to run in on a flying trip shortly but will conduct myself very sedately. Re niggers, I believe he is something very pure — I have sent him a few stones and sticks which he says were very acceptable as they were genuine — a short time back he obtained some very choice specimens from B.K. over which he went into raptures but found out later that a guileless, civilized darkie had manufactured them for the occasion — he is getting on wonderfully fast and will shortly be able to teach the Blacks if not their own Customs, at least what they should have as customs — and, as you say, the beauty of the study he has taken up is that no one will refute his Statements. As usual he won some money and there is no doubt but that his Catholic Majesty looks after his own — the latest idea is that he and I should jointly own a horse next year but I feel off as the Czar is slightly too autocratic for my taste and I fancy that he would play Brer Rabbit to my Turkey Buzzard in the long Run and yet the Serpent has a wily tongue and charms very cunningly.

            My assistant, Kean, is right though in his way but of the bourgeois bourgeoisy — you know the type of young man who talks of “keeping company” with a “young lady” etc and talks of various damned nice fellows with whom he has been intimate, Coachmen to Mr So and so and others. I sincerely trust I am not snobbish but these little items in connection with others indicating the greatness of his derivation jar one inexpressibly at times and make one almost wish for solitary state — my appointment will give me some freedom of movement once a few contingencies are settled but I don’t reckon that will be much before the end of April and I have a trip to both C. Waters and Gill’s Range Sandhills both in view.

            The complications at Home are, I suppose, settled ere this — Australia could easily be captured and all of us transferred to a Foreign Power without any of us up here being much wiser with this six weekly mail — I hope America has to come down for altho’ the British race are very much inclined to be aggressive, they can retreat when convinced of error and this time I really believe they are in the right. I recently have been presented with a Swan Foundation Pen and an Independent Pen, I am writing with the latter and must say that it is acting up to it’s name, each time you observe any alteration in the shading of the writing in this pistle [sic] you can fancy me screwing and unscrewing and breathing blessings on the maker and donor equally.

            That book, which is to make Horn or mar him, must have left you with but little time for pleasure for over twelve months now and I can’t make out why you don’t quietly pack things up and try the dignified silence rôle yourself. I fancy if you ignored Horn altogether for a time it would bring matters into better train and convince him that common courtesy is just as welcome and necessary at the Antipodes as it is at St. James and Hampton Court or such places as your nobility frequent.

            Sisters, Aunts and Cousins unite in desiring my presence in Victoria to such an extent that I am almost afraid to go down and cross the Border for fear of only getting back in sections. I have seen none of them for fifteen years and their recollections of me are confined to visions of a pink and white youth with nice manners which he dared not cast off as his spirit tempted, having a healthy dread of a long reaching Maternal and Paternal hand — this has now lapsed and if I could really convince myself that it is merely distance lending enchantment to the view I would risk it.

            With heartiest good wishes for self and those you left behind when you went to the Mountains with Mr French.

Believe me,

Yours very Sincerely

CErnest [sic]

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Letter 14

Illamurta

12.3.96

Dear Professor

            I have to thank you very much for the Part II of the H.E.C. I have not gone through it yet and only looked at the pictures which the Blacks call “indoota” or very good and they ought to be competent critics, they recognised the Rats and lizards very quickly but the diagrams of skulls and feet seemed to puzzle them very much. What an immense amount of work you must have had getting this in order and from the Prospectus I have before me from Dr Stirling I see there are three more parts to be yet issued and pity you if you have to edit all of them as well. Who is writing the Narrative of the Expedition for part one, which should be highly interesting if it goes into details of the Camp very closely? I saw where Horn had read a paper in England on the Expedition which was favourably criticized and noticed where he touched on Dr Stirling.

            Are you really serious about visiting Cent’l Aus’a again next Xmas? We would want to arrange a little plan beforehand and get the Comm’r to tell me to assist you any way I could, and all would be smooth as we could use the Camels etc. I could easily arrange to be at Charlotte Waters next Xmas if you could not get further than that but my idea would be for us to go to Erldunda from Idracowra and out to Coolada Spgs from there — then on up the Palmer either straight to our Camp to replenish or on along Gill’s Range, the extra distance coming in here would only be twenty miles. Why I suggest Coolada Spgs is because they are small mound Spgs in long Salt arms amongst Sandhills and small tablelands and the forms of Mus and Coy [sic: - company] inhabiting both should be there together. I made a flying trip out that way last month just to see the Country as I had never been on that part and liked it very much and hope to be able to make a trip from close to Tricketts Creek down by Mt Ebenezer or Mt Connor to Erldunda this Winter. About 9 miles from Erldunda, on a dry canegrass and saltbush Swamp, I came across scores of those twig mound Rat nests (you told me in your June letter, that though formerly common, you did not know where they now were). I let the boys have an hours sport burning out some of them and chasing the inhabitants which are regarded as a delicacy — there were four or five in each mound we tackled and I secured an adult male and female which I carefully salted but they got rather strong and I had to air them which let the dead men beetles get at them a bit. I have just wrapped them up in calico and addressed them for you Hapalotis Conditor, to make certain that they are precisely the same form as you spoke of, they did not strike me as being so Jerboaey as Mitchelli and I can get you good dry salted specimens any time if you want them.

            Re Phascologale Cristicauda, I see in Plate I Fig I a life size drawing, didn’t I send you a lean one about three times this size. I found one of the Cats chewing a McDonnellensis the other day so they are also about here.

            I intend trying to go down and see Pado in May, I would have gone now only Kean has had to go to Pt Augusta again over those horse cases and won’t be back till end of April. An hour or two with you or Pado with a specimen or two before us would teach me more than a lifetime of Lydekker and enable me to notice the different kinds of mus readily. I had bad luck with a splendid lot of eggs as the mice got into them while I was at Erldunda and took the lot, nearly (200) wadding and all, and my collectors not shaping well, earned a hiding but I have been enabled to send a few good kinds to French this Mail and have got niggers searching for the beloved Black Cockatoo Egg. Strange to say, this Season seems quite different to 1895 oologically — some birds which were very plentiful last year are not about at all and vice versa — last year one saw Epthian Tricolor everywhere and this season I have not taken one of their eggs but those of the Blue wren were very common.

            Our cats seem either utterly sick of mice or to be strict vegetarians. There are four and every one of them eats largely of any cooked vegetable such as cabbage, carrots, beet etc. Is this natural?

            I haven’t heard from Palmer for ages, I think he must have been busy making small goods and Sausages for the Xmas Festivities and studying how to run those opponents out of the business.

            If affairs work as arranged, I will go to Alice Spgs before next Mail day and no doubt have the pleasure of interviewing Gillen. I want to see him particularly about nigger questions and put him on a right level as regards some other items — he runs away with an idea now that no one but himself has any right to possess nigger Stones etc at all, utterly forgetful that he is not going in for the subject for the benefit of the Blacks themselves but entirely for self glorification. I was up at the Mission Station about a fortnight ago and found the Missionaries very kind and hospitable, I didn’t see the one I object to, Strehlow, he had not arrived many weeks with a new wife and appeared to [sic] much occupied to be visible but the head man and his wife and I get on capitally and altogether this man Bogner (Revd) seems much more sensible and less narrow minded than any of those we have seen there before. I returned home along the Mission Range via Pine Point and Shag Hole and noticed one of those twig nests Rat near Pine Point — The Palmer ran from Bowson’s Hole to just below the Tempe Road crossing and the Finke and Ellery’s creek might get to Henbury or just past — none of the other creeks ran although there was nearly 5 inches in January and over two in about 48 hours last month — the first lot made splendid feed but the hot weather burnt up all of it in a few days and if the second lot of rain had not have come it would have been disastrous. I can notice the effect of this very plainly in the Garden here where the ends of the Pumpkin and melon vines, all tender young growths, are burnt off as if frostbitten.

            I am glad Mrs Spencer’s illness is a thing of the past — my sister writing from Melbourne tells me that the heat there has been extraordinary, the same as in the other Colonies.

            Well, as regards War — I see there is still plenty of talk and poor old Salisbury seems to be having to climb down over Armenia through the currish action of Germany, Russia and the Gillenish Irish. He will no doubt prove that it is only the purest motives that have led them to help to harass England — anyhow, I hope his brother doesn’t get re-elected for he appears even more pompous and assertive than the one we know and like, although we frequently dissect him in a unmaliciously affectionate manner.

            Don’t forget to keep me posted as to your movements for the next Xmas and also as to the exact time you would be likely to have at your disposal and with the most sincere good wishes,

Believe me,

Yours affect’ly
C.Ernest.Cowle

By the way, the Blacks at Tempe report Rabbits out by King’s Creek and Laurie’s Creek, also West of Coolada and the Mission Blacks report them out from Haaste’s Bluff. As many of these Niggers, including Arrabi and others, have been prisoners and witnesses in Port Augusta and have eaten and seen lots of Rabbits there should be no doubt about it being true — One of my trackers told me, at Coolatta [sic] Springs, that he saw a rabbit while after the horses and showed me the tracks of one on one of the Salt arms running from the Spgs. I have heard of odd ones on the Finke but fancy if Rabbits are really plentiful out there, they must be coming from the South in a line considerably West of the Finke — What do you think about it? No one asked the Blacks about it but they reported it at Tempe and again some of the Whites at the Mission spoke about it and this, coupled to what I heard and saw at Coolatta, make one think it is really true although none have appeared inside the actual boundary we work on.

C.E.C.

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Letter 15

Illamurta

17.4.96

I am keeping one P. McDonnell’s [sic - McDonnellensis] in Spirits for you. C.

Dear Professor

            I was delighted with your long interesting epistle but surprised that even you could not distinguish any Mus on sight and felt a little easier in my mind at not being able to properly spot the one I send you under separate cover. I salted her immediately I got her but she is rather high yet. She is of the bandicooty appearance and you will observe the rudimentary pouch if you soak her in Water as I dodged it in opening her up, extreme tip of tail missing — Locality between Henbury and Mt Burrell in Porcupine — Arunta name “Inchillya”, Looritcha name - “Winterra” — On the authority of blacks I may state that it eats principally Witchitys [sic] and grubs, constructs a little nest in a crab hole with grass on top, chiefly nocturnal — and my boys reckon that could get me some more some moonlight night in Sandhills near here by laying out some bones and watching — Shall I give them a chance at it or not? Re Megadermas Gigas — which I note you did not receive many specimens of at Alice Spgs — they are very plentiful in some caves near that ceremonial Stone on Henbury, if you want more; I skinned a couple but they went fairly rotten in the bags and to the best of my recollection their skin and fur seemed longer and stronger than that of some I skinned at Alice Spgs years ago. Am sending remains of one with the Rat. To recur to ‘mus conditor’ I don’t think he is migratory at the spot I told you of, for Warburton says they have always been plentiful there.

            I have been in to Alice Springs and I think even Gillen will tell you that I conducted myself respectably — thanks to Mrs Gillen’s kindness, he laid in one bottle of Whisky and when I finished that, I left, we had no time to get fairly discussing things in general so the atmosphere was balmy and genial and I did not get beyond telling him he was a b-d with Comfort and Prosperity and asking him if he didn’t think he was a piece of costly and totally unrequired piece of gilding to the Telegraph Station — after he had told me he could not let Field accompany me back, although he had admitted that Field had carried on everything perfectly correctly during his long absence in Ad’e [sic - Adelaide] and Melbourne. Two or three times he started little ranting orations with outstretched hands and eyes fixed on some imaginary object in the Sky but as Field and I immediately started to converse privately together, they fell flat — he has got hold of a word or two somewhere and worries them properly — The present one is Pessimism and I had to listen to one or two little lecturettes on this when I had “no get away”. Pado, I believe, has at last solved the real cause of Gillen’s nigger tendencies — his theory is that Gillen will shortly induce them to believe in transsubstantiation and make him their High Priest and Treasurer. You know I like Gillen but, thunder!, isn’t he a tremendous carmine hypocrite. Now as to that trip of yours. I expect to see G shortly again and also Pado and get their views but I have been working out the time at your disposal and can’t make it fit in with George Gill’s Range (I hope to be there next week) much to my disgust — allowing you to be at C.W. for Xmas, you could not get to Reedy Hole much under ten days, at least same returning to C.W. = 20. 14 days Adel’e to C.W. and back = 34 which would make a very large hole in the time you have at disposal especially as we have allowed absolutely no time for Zoological Research and packing and unpacking the Camera. Can’t you get a solid three months on the excuse of illness or something and disappear for that space of time or do you feel that your absence from the youth of Melbourne for so long a period would throw back a lot of your work almost irrecoverably? I often feel that way myself and say it honestly without egotism or any conceit whatsoever, although our lines of life are so widely separated. I can quite understand how a mug could mar either of our efforts in a very brief period. I will write more fully when I have seen Gillen and Pat and, at all events, if you can’t get this far, I will do my utmost to get to Charlotte Waters to meet you once more.

            I have sent your friend French a pair of Cockatoo eggs this mail and confidently expect to hear of them arriving in fragments. I can not understand how it is that with these egg people even when a box arrives intact and unbroken, it is invariably only the valuable eggs that are damaged. I often muse over this.

            Horn’s vagaries seem to cause you all no end of trouble as S and W, in addition to yourself, hint that matters are not going smoothly. The omission of Winnecke’s Map will be a more serious loss and blank than the absence of the Looritcha Castes from Stirling’s Work. You must be possessed of a more equable frame of mind (trained intellect, Ref — Gillen) than I have, for I am sure I would make one dash for satisfaction by giving the World a few of the facts as they are — Where does Belt come in? I suggested to Winnecke that Belt should collect the different members of the Exp’ns opinions on his brother-in-Law and publish them as an Appendix and then he might rest content with having done something stirring at all events. In reading the Zoology I notice that there were two kinds of new ants in those I sent you but I’m hanged if I can recollect the difference of C. Cowlei and C. Midas. I thought they were both alike. I will have to go digging again soon to compare — struck rock last attempt. All the Blacks in the Country and many of we whites are suffering from a severe attack of Influenza or Nigger Pleurs as it is more generally called, thank goodness I am about over mine thanks to a free use of Rum. I always fancy this stimulant, if good, soars over Whiskey, I intend asking Sub-Prot’r Gillen to recommend that I be supplied with ten gallons for the Natives. I don’t think I have anything further to write about this Mail so I will finish by wishing you a safe exit from the troubles of Editorship and all good thoughts.

Yours sincerely

C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 16

Illamurta

30th May 1896

Martin says you can make Tempe your head quarters as long as you like. C

Dear Professor

            Only a short letter this time for, for once I feel a bit done up — I only got home last night and have been hard at it all day answering letters and trying to finish a heavy batch of Official stuff for mail tomorrow morning. When I tell you that since the 2nd of the month I have been to Mission Station and along range via Pine Pt to Tempe and Home — off next day to Idracowra and back, off next day to Mission and out to Tempe and then off again next day to Idracowra and home you will believe that I have not had much time to spare in these short days — Reasons — a rotten case of using cancelled brand which will cause me to be at Alice Spgs on 10th June and a civilized beast of a Tempe nigger shaking another blackboy’s lubra and turning loose then amongst the cattle, he will be more trouble to get in those Ranges between the Palmer and the Finke than a dozen wild blacks as he is up to all the moves and worked those valleys running East from Palmer or Ilarra nicely — on my second trip he slipped me at the Mission Station in the night as he unfortunately was away, after wood, when we surrounded his Camp and saw us as he was coming back and cleared down the Creek. He would probably have stopped had this occurred anywhere else but I was a bit anxious as to how the Missionaries would shape as I confidently expected them to report me for wattling the deuce out of two of their blacks for interfering with my protégée?? [sic] “Jado”, whom I had sent there with a message to the Missionaries a couple of days previous to my first visit. I got the lubra and another suspected native and took them to Tempe and Martin took the lubra and saw where two beasts had been killed and only a little meat taken. I think matters are smooth up the Finke as I was very polite to Mr Strehlow, J.P., who hates the English, I believe, as cordially as his Kaiser does and he requested me to allow him to photo my Camel and self — Gillen, I missed there by a few days both times but I think he must have been telling them that my methods were sound if stringent or a large pumpkin or some tomatoes which I diplomatically took there may have caused them to think less of the wily niggers. One good turn deserves another and I will take Gillen in some stones and that is enough of aborigine for tonight. Practically speaking I dread going in to Alice Spgs as Gillen will be awful after the success of the Ministry at recent Elections — I haven’t had time to look at a paper and see into things and make up a few offensive reasons to account for the defeat of virtuous members and triumph of the villainous ones, including his brother — worst of all, I believe he wins some money from me over results and I dare not dispute it for he might get his brother or Kingston to eject me Hospital Board fashion. I quite agree with your remarks re the way we discuss each other and I know you thoroughly understand how well I like Gillen — I reserve to myself, in open argument, the right to pitch into him but when other people do it, I am on his side. Kean got back here on 1st May and brought some papers and Horn’s speech for me which had been missent to Alice Springs. Many thanks for the Report and also for Part Botany and Geology — On my return from Alice Spgs I will send Kean to Erldunda (with orders to secure me a pair of “Conilurus”) Conditor) for you) [sic] and have a few quick days at various books. A very brief epistle from Keartland this time and I was amused at your description of his multifarious appointments in the Expedition — the Scientists of the Party, being all embodied in one person, certainly ought not to fall out. I think he must have been flurried and thinking of the tassels his name will bear after his return or he would not have left two lots of eggs in the chip boxes when returning empties.

            Palmer writes at last and says he is not making a fortune but hopes to do well in the future — he says he is trying to work up a trade in corned beef with Java, Singapore etc., something very special sells 10lbs to the other people’s one [drawing] — and has the promise of a new line of Steamers trading between Singapore and Sydney. I can’t quite make out whether the Steamers are to carry his Beef or merely consume it.

            Re your trip, I am glad you have more time at your disposal and will hold a consultation with G and B and arrange when in at Alice Spgs. You say you want to visit G. G. Range in a heavy rain — well, unfortunately this can’t be fixed to order or everything could be arranged to order smoothly for you to miss Race Week which is chiefly notorious for the affectionateness of the Rum laden inhabitants of the District for any one with the price of a few drinks and for exhibiting a mutual friend of ours as a money grasper of a high order. The rain, as a rule, comes about end of Dec’r or early in January but some years it is a minus quantity — we could be sure to be able to find a cave to keep things dry in such as camera etc and you might enjoy the pleasures of the Barcoo. When we know a little more definitely you might ask the Commissioner to ask “M.C.C. to render you any assistance he could”. While writing this Martin has come in en route for A.G. to be sworn in as a J.P. I will try and persuade him to stay tomorrow so that I can send letters to Alice Spgs where mail leaves a week later than it does with us, and now, once more thanks and good night,

Yours very affectionately

Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 17

Illamurta

7th July 1896

Dear Professor

            Your long letter to hand last night — Re your trip. Gillen’s idea was for me to meet you at C.W. and land you at Alice Spgs after which he would take you in hand and would see you back to C.W. or rather send you back as it would be impossible for him to get away for any time during the hot weather as the line would immediately feel his absence and go wrong at once. I told him you would not visit Gill’s Range unless it rained and wanted to avoid the Race Week but he sat on all little objections like that in his usual lordly manner. My idea was if I could meet you at C.W. with the Camels which are all riding ones, for you to leave there or send to Alice Spgs everything that you do not require on this part of the Country so that we would not be hampered with any thing you except the necessaries and travel quickly (out of Coolata if you liked) up here, get rations and on out to Gill’s Range, getting back to Alice Spgs first week in December and sorrowfully bidding you good bye — the chief requirement would be some “bouilli” as meat keeps badly at that time. Flour, tea and Sugar we could get here as our loading comes up now. If it keeps dry the Tempe Cattle will be out about Reedy Hole and there should be “Looritchas” there but in that same contingency you say you don’t want to go near there at all. My only fear of arrangements this far ahead is of anything eventuating between this and November to prevent my meeting you at C.W. which would be an awful mess — things are slightly unsettled just at present and I am going to Mission Station tomorrow to get a blackfellow remanded to Alice Spgs for trial and will see Gillen again then and suggest a safer plan — that is, for you to go straight to Alice Spgs by mail and then, if it rains, for me to come in and get you there in December and see you safe via Gill’s Range down to C.W. Jan’y and Pado who would be home again then — this would prevent the possibility of your being stranded at all. I may have to take this aforesaid blackfellow down, in which case I would see you and we would know what we were doing properly, but I am not keen on going down at present at all — things are not working extra smoothly and I may be anywhere in six months and my peace of mind would be destroyed for ever if your trip was spoilt through me and not through my fault. Gillen was not bad this time but is whiskey starving himself and his friends to such an extent that it is getting painful and he has the cheek to say it is for our own good, luckily Martin was stopping there too and was well supplied. (G professes to be insulted if you take your own beverage.) Gillen was photographing mad and it was really hard to get a word with him — he is aggravating over Nigger questions — you tell him some little thing and he is very interested and makes all sorts of enquiries and perhaps starts talking to you on the same subject next time he sees you and calmly assures you he has worked all this out long ago — he will only see three or four “Looritchas” at the Mission and christianity or rather associating with the disseminators of such has rendered them imbecile.

            I noticed G. trying to get information from my boy and was not impressed, it was chiefly on subjects Gillen was apparently well up in and he seemed too eager to show it, for whenever the boy was in doubt he would say, “so and so isn’t it”, and naturally the boy would say yes. Pado really intends going down in Sept’r and if I do, I will be back before the end of that month which would not hinder my being at C.W., in fact there is really nothing tangible to prevent my being there and able to put myself entirely at your disposal for a month or so but it is as well for us to be prepared at all points — I expect you will get the same non-committal, non-official answer from the Comm’r that H.E.C. had — people have to be so careful nowadays with this blatant Ministry but you have a friend at Court in Peter.Paul.G[illen] and he, being the echo of the Premier, can do much — Warburton has taken down a small lot of Cattle and Martin has sent down 290 head and I trust for both their sakes that they will strike a good market — I do hope we can arrange to go out Erldunda Way as it is a piece which has not been skirmished over — how would it do to go there, if there had been no rain at Gill’s Range it would take about 8 days from C.W. and from there to here 4 or 5 or to Alice Spgs 7 days. Well I suppose we will all know better what we are doing in a few weeks — in any case you will require little beyond tobacco, bouilli and what little luxuries you can’t do without such as soap etc. The main ingredients — flour and sugar, are handier to procure on the spot — Oh — bring in any case, a few pounds of good tea — All Govt tea is rotten and I can’t say what ours will be like although I have written and ordered the best Assam.

            I am fairly shivering with the cold so good night, with all good wishes and hoping we may soon meet.

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest. Cowle

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Letter 18

Illamurta

22nd Aug 1896

Dear Professor

            I was very glad to get your letter, when I last wrote to you I was hurried, worried and generally upset and could not express myself with the lucidity I wanted to and even after I had written to you I would have written again only I thought I might only make a worse muddle, let me try and do better this time. I got my nigger remanded to Alice Spgs and came home here and then found that if I did not clear again next day I would miss Gillen and no one would be available to try my animal, so I sent a boy on to Gillen post haste, burnt up my private letters and cleared myself, how I fared at Alice Spgs Gillen no doubt told you, as I asked him to explain matters and although he wanted you there Race time I think our arrangement is best and as I put it before, absolutely prevents a complete fiasco. At present “M.C.Cowle is informed that Prof’r Spencer is visiting C.A.  at end of October and is instructed to render any assistance and to accompany him to G.G. Range”. It still keeps dry and at present Martin has cut trenches out of Reedy Hole and Kathleen and has about 2500 cattle out there — how should this affect the Country biologically — of course, if there is rain I do not think the Cattle would be left there long and, in accordance with your instructions, I am praying fervently or blaspheming, one’s just as effective as the other to a Protestant. I can’t make out this year at all and the effect of rain, as you remark, is very noticeable on the fauna of this region — I have just been telling Mr French that at this time last year the Season for hawks and parrot eggs was about over, yet up to date I have only secured two eggs — even the house mice are missing. I have just been trying to secure one this last three weeks to compare with one the lubra brought in from the Sandhills without luck, to me they appear exactly alike but she has a name for each. Sometime ago I saw or caught a glimpse of a spotted cat (Dasyure) Charlotte Waters ‘Chilpa’, Looritcha “Coonincher”, and have been offering a shirt for one. All the blacks know him but have not secured one yet and they recognize the drawing in “Lydekker” — Jado brought me in two Rabbit bandicoots a week ago, “Per” Lagotis I think, and a couple of days ago the boys dug out a pair by the horse yard, they bite hard and as I am probably going out Tempe way in a few days I intend to slaughter and salt them, I have been feeding them on “Yellka” and witchities and have also tried carrots and lettuce leaves but they do not appear to be thriving and as each night they turn the straw I gave them, over any everything, I can’t say how much they eat but I must say they appear leaner than when I first boxed them. Pado tells me he is off on 15th Sept and may run over and look at the West but perhaps the fact that our own Gold Fields are on the move may induce him to return; several of us are in a syndicate so as to be the early worms if possible, up to date my part has consisted in writing out a little cheque and I am totally in the dark as to the personnel of the Concern but I think Pado will have the engineering of the matter on his hands when he goes South — wish us luck but don’t invest unless you can get in on a free pass. I have a good many sovereigns sunk in that Golconda and if this venture brings them back I’ll be quite satisfied without wishing to rob my friends and the Widows and Orphans.

            My Camera not yet to hand and I missed an interesting subject (anthropologically or ethnologically) in a Native confinement, there were no old hags about, and the youthful mother seemed to have no idea of what to do, so Kean and I had to act as accoucheurs gynaecologists?? the child throve for about three weeks but the night before last I think the lubra slept on it and the poor little devil died. Did Gillen tell you that my prisoner took his sentence most impassively and only murmured that — “crimson lubra bin make him kill cattle” — but when he got at him in his den and unfolded a papyrus as long as himself and started to trace his descent through endless aunts, and great great grandfather’s mothers he fainted away completely! Gillen was flying round with “Sal Volatile” but I was calm as I could prove I landed him there with a full stomach, and in the event of an inquest would have pointed out that the cause of death was “Gillen unwatered” and if his God, Kingston interfered in his Hospital Board style I should have endeavoured to wreck his autocratic Govt. on the Question even a Sub-Protector has no right to invent tortures, surpassing those of the Inquisition in general fiendishness. Glad to hear that Dr Stirling’s work is at last in the Press, this off your mind and Mrs Spencer and the children being away in England will leave you with quite a free hand and now it rests with Providence, rain and yourself as to how we fix things finally. Let me know if you decide on trying my side of the Country first and I will try and let you know as soon as possible if there is rain. I want no more than yourself to be at Alice Spgs during Race Week and personally it makes no difference now whether I meet you at C.W. and say good bye at A.G. or vice versa. If we hit the Mission about Xmas time you would see German Style and a large lot of blacks who they feast gorgeously at that time and we might also be recipients of a shirt, trousers and hat as Bogner presented every white man there with this trousseau last year — think of that and with all good wishes and trusting Mrs Spencer and the children will have a pleasant trip.

Believe me.

Yours sincerely

C.E.C

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Letter 19

Illamurta

9th Oct 1896

Dear Professor

            Whatever befalls you in this land of heat and blasphemy you will surely welcome it as a change and relief after your solid drudging of the past year; you will find Gillen “on Aborigines” in his den very restful and soporific and can snore to your hearts desire once he gets well into the subject.

            Touching Gill Range. I was out there a good deal last month, chiefly on top of it and was thoroughly disgusted with the appearance of the whole place, there appears to have been no rain there at all since you and I were there before and certainly not for the last 12 or 18 months. Reedy Hole and the Kathleen, which used to be fairly pretty little spots, are as bare as a board, all the fern and reeds eaten or trampled to pieces by the Cattle, I don’t think you would even recognize Reedy Hole. Niggers being driven in from the Sandhills were slaughtering a bit, Martin and I tracked them for three days on foot and got to the old hags of the party and later in same day we saw the rest of the party carrying beef up the Range, we expected them to run into us nicely but after a long delay we found they were cooking it under that big Cliff just west of Penny Spgs and when we tried to get down to where they were, they must have heard us or two outposts who may have been were posted 300 yards off on the Porcupine Hills to watch against interruption may have seen us — anyway the lot disappeared hurriedly when we dropped over the last ledge leaving two whole cows cooking in the fires, you will know the Spot when I tell you it was right at the “Cycads” and know how awkward a spot it was to reach from on top. I saw one rat hop out of a little cave we camped in one night and would have liked to secure him but it was dark and we dare not light a fire for fear of being seen or smelt. In the book you are writing in collaboration with F.J.G.  I hope you will take cognizance of the aborigine’s appetite when he has food in the bush. I calculate that the average of every man, woman, and child is 20 to 30 lbs of beef p day. This is no exaggeration, goodness only knows what the bucks actually eat because, of course, the children can’t eat their allowance of the average. You see every time they wake up through the night they gorge and if it makes them sick they can start again the next moment on an empty stomach. At the same time they can do a starve with anyone. If information on the subject is of any use to you I shall be happy to give it to you when we meet. I was greatly grieved to hear of the Commissioner’s death, he was a genuine personal friend to me. I do not know anything of his successor and now also Gillen’s brother has gone, he wrote me a few lines just after it occurred and the poor old chap was terribly upset. I shall expect to hear from you definitely shortly after you get to Alice Spgs as to the date I am to be at Alice Spgs. Kelly will send out a boy with your letter. I don’t want to be hanging round Alice Spgs longer than I can possibly avoid. On meeting with you, I will place myself under your orders and we will go where it suits you best, Kelly tells me that Comm’r Peterswald was very anxious that your trip should be a success and that he would wire me when you left Adelaide. My sister, Mrs Symon, is very anxious that I should go down and go to West Aus’a but I feel that I am better off here — in any case I will have to go to Adelaide early in the year and see the Father who the girls tell me is not looking extra well — what I mostly dread is the army of nephews and nieces and cousins far and near that I will see and have to be amiable to. Very many thanks indeed for the “Narrative”, I have only glimpsed at it and will give you my candid criticism on it when I have gone through it properly. From what I saw of it I don’t fancy it is exactly a true tale of what occurred, too flattering in parts and lacks luridity to a Norwest reader. The illustrations are beautiful and I think Red Bank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge two of the best. I think you had better bring a pair of thick india rubber soled tennis shoes with you (not with stitched soles) as you will find them excellent for walking on the Rocks with and in slippery places, the stitched sole ones cut too quickly.

            Our gold prospects were healthy at last news but you will have heard later developments from Pado. I don’t think there is anything else to write about today so I will close trusting that we will soon meet and have a pleasant trip — Let me know as soon as you can from Alice Spgs as to when I am to be there and with best wishes,

Believe me,

Yours sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 20

Illamurta

9th Feb 1897

Dear Professor

            Your letter overtook me at Henbury, on the 1st of the month, as I was wearily wending my way home and I much compliment you on your clairvoyance or powers of deduction — you gauged my whereabouts to an offy gaff  but you are wrong in supposing that I was cursing the individuals who lured me from this Oasis — honestly, I was only conscious of a dull disappointed feeling at not having been able to do more for you and that there had not been rain, I wanted to tell you this properly before I left C.W. but when I do really feel things I am always chary of expressing them and go in for a careless style which might lead one to think I was callous of all kindly feelings. Hell, was it not hot the day I left you? I got to the Goyder with my meat rotten, in good time, shaved at daylight and on to Crown Point and pitched, scandal chiefly, with Mrs Ross till after midnight when I observed poor Miss Ross about on the snore and returned to our anty [sic] spot. Jane, at the Bend, was pretty quiet and gave me a lot of damaged hen eggs to carry me along, but the hottest day I have felt this year was the 31st. I went a little past Warman’s Camp for dinner and pulled up at 11.30 am and tried to make another start at 3.15 but the camels would not face the sand till nearly Sundown. It was simply red hot. I heard many accounts of a wonderful barking spider Lizard they had for me at Henbury but it turned out to be an ordinary “Ilchiljira”. At Idracowra I sent out some lubras to look for lizards and they turned up at Sundown with two Jam tins full of scorpions only, many of which got loose, so I camped nearer the buildings that night. As regards Tempe and George Gill’s Range, things are very, very bad, cattle about on the die and I believe they were going to shift them to Glen Helen but on my return home I found letters from Coulthard saying that the Blacks (who never do wrong) were killing wholesale out at Reedy Hole and not even taking the meat, also that they had killed some old blackfellow for giving me some information. I could not quite make out whether there were 70 Blacks at King’s Creek or 70 Cattle dead as I could not understand the blacks waiting to be counted. It is the hot weather and drought forcing the Natives in to these waters I fancy. I sent Kean and the boys out at once and would have liked to have gone myself as a lot like that should have some curios but I had to send him as he had not been away for three months. I got a few wommeras as I came home and told Nat and Kean to look out for your rat-tails and chignons etc. You recollect that spear I told you of — well the niggers want me to lend it to them as it belongs to the Parinthi dance and they wish to show it to the blacks and lubras once more — the spear forms the nucleus and is dressed with feathers and a lot of parinthee wooden churina, I think, after the style of your big “Nurtungu” The Finke and Mission Blacks want to hold a big Ungoora and are mustering “down” for it — I fancy that “Emu” is the object and they intend asking Mr Parke to let them hold it at Henbury. If I were not going down I would let them hold it at Ilpilla and see the lot — they want me to see the Parinthie business so I will probably let them have the spear when I come back. Cranky Jack and Bad Crossing Jack are talking of what they are going to do with Nat by and bye re those sticks and I told all the blacks that I was the delinquent and would cut their combs if they went much further. B.C. Jack’s long locks would be valuable for trade purposes. I saw a lubra this time and asked what she had done with her hair which I knew she was keeping for the making of a certain young man called “Jackawarra” and she told me that it was “too much long time” so her father sold it to the Crown Point Blacks for a pipe and blanket. At all the big Ungooras they have a lot or group of those ceremonies and dances and go through that smoking process, only from what I hear on the Finke, they give the lubras an extra fumigation. I do not know the terms you have for the various ceremonies and I suppose you know the foregoing but I am just writing it in case you thought that those shows were only held on very rare occasions. That is the impression you gave me when you said that the one at A.G. would probably be the last held. I enquired particularly as to who were the showmen and believe it is the Blacks, or rather old men, who have charge of the bulk of the churina which represent the object in view — sic. Rat Rat and B.C. Jack for the Bat — Nat’s father and other old men of the one they talk of now. I will try and see as much as possible of their capers and give you results from personal observation and which I can guarantee — damn hearsay —

            Dr Eylmann turned up here the day before yesterday from the Mission Station and has been spending his time about there and from Finke Gorge to Ellery’s Creek examining the Country — He is no slouch at gathering information and his present idea is to have a look at Tempe then to Alice Spgs, Paddy’s Hole, Northern Territory and then to try and go through Northern Queensland and back to his Native Land — he seems to be going in lightly for everything Fauna, Flora, Geology and anthropology and takes plenty of notes, he says he may publish an account of his observations when he goes home but that will not be for at least a year — he has not been working in any way with Strehlow and in fact Strehlow appears to have been just as rabbitholey with him as with everyone else for he tells me he only spoke with him five or 6 times altogether, he is not making collections as he has not means of forwarding things but has a few little odds and ends, churina etc. I asked if he noticed any differences between the Barrow Creek Natives and the Finke ones and he said that the difference is strongly marked — the Barrow Creek Natives are darker skinned and haired and that they are not nearly so Jewish in type as those about the Mission, where the hair at the tips is in many cases quite light. I believe he took samples of a good many, would you like some of the light specimens. I often wonder whether the water of the Finke has a bleaching effect. By the way, he saw our young Camel about 20 miles above Running Waters on the Finke 8 days ago and I have sent two lubras in to see if it is still there, I could not send the only boy I have left here but if I can hear of it still being there I will go myself. Mr Warburton was disappointed that we did not go round his way — he heard the Three Decker Spencer and the Ironclad Cowle were to be cruising in his vicinity.

            I have at last got that well-earned promotion I told you of and can now write 2nd instead of 3rd Class to my name, this carries with it a whole 6d p diem extra so, on receipt of this, I wish you would buy a long sleever of the beverage I recommended for you and French. Porter Gaff (Lemonade and Stout). I hope you told him how hopeless the Season here is entomologically and oologically. I did not see an egg coming back and am wondering if the drought will delay the black Cockatoo this year. I have got bottled, an “ilchilljera”, small snake, Scorp’n, Amphibolorus maculatus, Hinulia Lesueri [sic], Varanus Eremius, Phasco’e Mac’s and in a tin I have a Perag’e Lagotis with two young ones about size of Rats. Hope to get something better soon. I found the garden almost a Desert much to my disappointment, nary a melon or tomato and expect none unless we get a good shower — don’t forget to send me Pt  Anthropology and the Recipe for Lemon Syrup without Lemons as one cannot say what the Federation Convention will say re my leave. Father wants me to go over and look at West Aus’a with him but I am off that. Kindest regards and all good wishes to you and hoping to see you soon and that Bailes climbed no red mulgahs with the team en route to O.D.

Yours very Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

Haven’t heard from the Pontiff to date. Won’t close this till last minute.

11th Field has just sent me a wire, “Leave can’t be recommended till Statistics are collected.” Don’t know what Statistics are meant but I suppose I will get another wire or particulars next mail. We were stunk out by those Peragale last night — they simply filled the tin and gas oozed out to Hell. What is the reason of this or is it just heat manufacturing a deadly gas. Sorry you were not here to enjoy it.

 

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Letter 21

Mission

15.3.97

            A real puff in the Bulletin of 9th of Jan — complimented F.J.G. on it and asked him to send me his photos as I wished to write a few articles for Leader while I was down South — Suppose he’ll snort in reply

Dear Professor

            Two days before mail is due at our place and here I am — I was looking forward to a letter from you but must clear tomorrow — two blacks speared Beattie at New Glen Helen on night of 6th — not dangerous luckily, and I am, of course, called on to arrest the articles and you can fancy my chance of success when I know their dart is Mt Jiel or Belt Range — A wise lot of superiors think a man has only to walk out and get these fellows in the Street — I have a warrant, if I get near enough they will go down to Pt Augusta. I have no doubt of getting them in time for the old proverb is true that everything comes to he who waits — thank god no lubras in this affair. Beattie told these blacks to clear as they stole his flour and Sugar and threatened to shoot them — same night he was struck with two spears simultaneously, one just struck the bone 4 inches below his neck and the other went right through his left hand and pinned it to his breast just below the other wound. I suppose this hand and brisket bone saved his life. I have quite a jar full of Hinulia Lesueri, Fasciolata? Amphib’s Mac’s, Egernia, 3 Ruficaudata, one of which is lined — ocellat and some others like little Jew lizards only tails banded and marks on back bone placed thus (drawing)——— one was very gaudy — spots like crushed strawberry and ground colour greenish.

            I have also a decaying Aloota, ears small, tail rather bare and distal end whitish, fur coarse — one decaying Con’s Conditor and two of another species, smaller and with very long slender tails last 3 inches white, breast also white, came from Erldunda and boys tell me they are the other kind of nest builders but unless I see some myself this time I will swear to nothing, the Kean salted them like I told him and then shut them in an air tight tin after they had a bit of rain — consequence ripeness and I had not got them aired when I left — Wooden nosebones galore — Tempe Rain 3 1/2 inches at Station very patchy elsewhere — Illamurta 1/4 inch drizzle, 18th Feb, 1/4 in on 23rd and not quite 1/2 inch drizzle on 26th. Ellery’s Creek ran slightly to below Running Waters — Finke quiescent — I am writing this while waiting for the horses and would like you to tell Mr French why I am not writing to him — Have not heard from Pontiff since I saw you — I had to go after that camel calf myself and got him at Boggy Hole — mutually glad to see one another — Have got G’s wommera’s [sic] and yours — Down unprocurable at present, Pelicans carry very little anyhow at present as I shot two but the inside of their pouch or fernambag is infested with a species of (drawing) tick. Expect me when you see me and, with best wishes, Believe me,

Your affect’e friend

Ernest Cowle

Mission people very kind and a healthier tone as regards Natives prevails at present. I spent a mauvais quart d’heure with the razor I bought from you before arriving last night.

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Letter 22

Crown Point

5.8.97

My dear Professor

            Only about two lines to tell you I am on my way back at last and to apologize for not writing before but I have stedfastly [sic] set my mind against all business of that kind in the City so I know you will excuse me. They humbugged me terribly all the last part of my time down South owing to the witnesses clearing from Pt Aug but we got them close to Parachilna and back in time and the result was 10 years hard. The Judge made many complimentary remarks and ordered the Sheriff to award me £10 thereby making me feel dashed uncomfortable but it will please the father. I feel certain it is Gillen I have to thank for calling the attention of the authorities to my brilliancy for I had an official rem’s sent to me for perusal after going from Min’r of Education to Chief Sec’y etc etc. and it stated “I have been privately informed”. I turned loose all the time I could in between times so have left the City Vultures battening on my feathers and have left undone all that I should have done but never mind — for a time at least I was in Melbourne perpetually haunted by a tribe of admiring Cousins (Melbourne item from Hammerdene to C.W.) Poor old Winnecke looked haggard and worried and would be all the better for a change outside somewhere. I did not see Keartland as I left the day before Calvert peoples funeral. Pado is looking very well and we mutually agreed that Adelaide was a hole and Victoria the only place to go to — I stayed with him two days and got here last night — camels not very gay as they have been indulging their cannibalistic tastes on one another and in consequence are mighty lame I am taking up your M.S.S. and another registered parcel for Gillen who is sending a boy to meet me at the Bend — By the way I hear Sargeant and Jane have fallen out again, she has a black eye and is now camped on the opposite side of the Creek awaiting my arrival to put everything straight and I am now scheming to find out how I am going to sneak past — I think I will tell her Mrs Ross would like her to spend a month or two with her but it won’t do to tell this to Mrs C. Point who wishes to be very kindly remembered to you — and here is the mail — With all to good wishes [sic] to Mrs Spencer and yourself.

Believe me

Yours very Sincerely

C.E.Cowle

Did you get names of the long tailed white tipped rats yet?

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Letter 23

Illamurta

20th Oct 1897

Dear Professor

            Your letter safely to hand and I regret that I still have to report dolefully on the state of the Country as far as rain is concerned. I have been up Glen Helen way for a fortnight and that is about the only portion of our district where feed is plentiful although water is getting scarce. I spoilt about 2 dozen plates through over exposure and did not discover till I got back and received your letter and some prints from Dr Grant that my plates were Ilford “Empress” (rapid) and not “Ordinarys” like the few I got in Melbourne, so you can guess the mess I made with exposures of two or three seconds in good lights. I ran across the Blackfellow “Boomerang” with the abnormal shins and got a pretty fair plate but made a fearful muddle when I tried to get his shins only, I swung back the lens a bit and did not tilt the ground glass to correspond and the result was that besides being almost black I got his feet longer than his shins. Many of the plates seemed to be chafed also, although I put them in pairs and back to back wrapping in black paper — should I have put the gelatine sides together?

            Since then I have learned the secret of the rising and falling front to cut off or extend foreground and enclose a print or two of the lubras here to show you the latest efforts exposed, as you suggested, with shutter set for time and released as quick as can be — also “shins” — which I have offered Gillen the Plate of if he wants it for the M. Opus. By the way he wrote to tell me he was likely to come out this way soon and, of course, relies on the use of my Camera but although that is six weeks ago I have heard nothing further and will probably miss him, Martin has just sold 400 Store Cattle to Kidman and they have gone to Ellery’s Creek Gorge till the road is open, he also sold 180 to Wallis and Harding so that we have had lots of passers by and callers. Did you leave any Spirits of Wine at Sandford’s Blood’s Creek for vermin? I heard the fate of some there from a man a few days ago and made a notes [sic] of his words. I was putting an “Ilchillyera” in spirits and he remarked — “Holy b-y “Christ” is that snake juice? Bob Stuart says the b-y snakejuice that b-r left at Sandford’s makes the best hot grog he ever tasted” — It must have come off something full flavoured.

            Glad to hear your investment in the milking line as unqualified a success as your garden. I would not suggest the Export trade as I fancy there is too much swindling in the old Country. You have plenty of room and why not try a neat Kiosk facing Alma Road and a good sign-board of yourself analysing the fluid and devitalizing the bacteria on the vegetables — ought to go like anything and the returns would be quicker. As you worked up a trade, you might add “Summer Drinks” Lemon Syrup without lemons etc which I like very much. The Illamurta Show as you call it is rather like a bad Plum Duff at present.

            Expect to be too busy to eat my Xmas Spread anywhere except here or on the wallaby somewhere, things got a start on me last time and I have never caught them up again.

            I don’t think the yellowish rat you refer to came up about these parts — is it the fawn one that was so plentiful C.W. way? but I will examine throats of any — just now an attenuated lizard is all the ground life to be seen — The lubras had a Moloch in a box and I noticed it laid four eggs one day.

            I don’t think there is any chance of my going to Alice Spgs in place of Kelly and in fact I would not care for it but, oh my God, how sick I am of this fellow here — Gillen writes gloating over Kingston’s reception on his return and still regards him as an Angelic being, only to be looked at and spoken of with deepest reverence.

            My sister tells me she called on Mrs Spencer but she was not at Home and that she will send my photo shortly. Please thank Mrs Spencer for her kind wishes and tell her that I am afraid civilization has seen the last of me — that beastly cold I had won’t go away and causes a slight pain in my chest which I have written to Gillen about.

            Frith is to be married to the much talked of Miss Bell of the Oodnadatta Pub about 17th Nov’r. Don’t forget to give me your ideas of latest attempt with the Camera — toning etc — I got a lot of prints spoiled with rust in a tub the other night — Is there any means of keeping rust off a big tub for one night only. You will observe a flare spot on one print caused by a crack in dark slide which I have repaired.

            Kindest regards to self and Mrs Spencer.

Yours very Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

            I am also sending you a serrated piece of flint picked up by Coulthard at the back of the Red Banks on Glen Helen — He says the Blacks don’t know it and say they never made it — my opinion is that it is either a spear head or neck ornament from farther North or West — What do you think and what tools would it be trimmed with?

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Letter 24

Illamurta

8th Jan 1898

Dear Professor

            It is just a year today since we left the Alice together and, much as I would like you up here again, I reckon you are damned lucky to be out of the Country, or at least the Western portion of it, this year. I fancy all the ground vermin must be dead, one never sees the track of any species of rat and even snakes are missing. The higher mammals such as Sheep, Cattle and horses are rapidly following suit. I hear eleven horses are dead out of the Missionary teams at Horse Shoe Bend — things are serious here, at the Mission, Henbury and at Tempe although Martin wrote that he had a third of an inch in December. I had a long trip about and on top of the Gill Range in November, and secured you a few nose bones and hair girdles, the blacks had very little except these and stone adzes which I could not carry, the ubiquitous butcher knife was there but no stone ones and I feel convinced that it is almost a thing of the past for many miles West and at least as far South as Ayers Rock. As soon as I got back I set sail for Alice Spgs but, as I had to go on to Paddy’s Hole, I had but little time with the Gillen, not even time to quarrel as he devoted most of the conversation we did have a dissertation on Kingston’s many good qualities. He (the Pontiff) looked very well but complained as usual of overwork — I interrogated him as to the duplex system and he told me he had it all at his fingers ends but was not so confident when I asked him why Todd sent up Griffiths and Johns while he and Kiernan were already on the Ground. I told you I had a job getting back and, after the mail left, I took a walking tour through from here to the Mission via Palm Creek to start the Blacks back to their own haunts, I should say it was not more than about 32 miles, but I found the Bed of the Finke pretty heavy from Palm Creek up, carrying a waterbag and some tucker in my fly round my shoulders. I quite agree with your remarks as to his G’s knowledge of blacks and I think he would make a most excellent Protector down below — He, and the Missionaries, I do not regard as a blessing to either Native or Caucasian Population in the Country and I leave it to your own unbiased judgement to say whether the aged and infirm have really done any better from the presence of either party. I had a lively interview at the Mission when I got there but Bogner and I are first rate friends again and trouble, I think, comes from Strehlow. I objected strongly to being held out as a threat to the uncivilized blacks while the Christian ones were being allowed to do as they liked — you should see the state of affairs there and without being prejudiced, honestly they only hear of the things that are done by the Natives who do not happen to be persona grata with the scholars — the others they rig out and shield in every way and, when anything does occur, they pretend not to know who has done it — fancy psalm singing all day and then dancing all night with the others in the Creek. I have not heard from Byrne for some time and cannot understand why he does not write to French or you, by the way, can you instil into the mind of this respected gentleman that Pado and I live only a trifle over 200 miles apart and that it is much easier to communicate with him from Adelaide generally than from here — writing for a Bower bird he says “if you can’t get time to skin, send one down in Spirits, I think Byrne has plenty” as if Pado and I played in each others yards daily.

            12th Jan Today I packed up four poor skins for Mr French and hope he will get one good one out of them and the Bird of Paradise into his possession and in the same box I am sending two large “Tiliqua” for you, gutted and dressed with arsenical, [sic - punctuation] soap they appear to have dried well and should be stuffable without losing colour. I wish you would let me know how they get down, the large one was a male and the lesser a female. Kean had wasted the spirits when I got back but I expect two gallons by Marsh next month — he is bringing Rations for Tempe. I can’t say when I will get another chance at Boomerang who runs about the Darwent and Belt Range but when I do, rest assured that I will get him in two or three positions. I fancied that his legs would astonish you, there is nothing wrong with the Print and I often told you of his legs before when you expresses a desire to have his shin bones — hunt the Missionaries and Protector and perhaps you will and perhaps G. might get you an order from Kingston for his Skeleton in toto. Gillen was pleased to say that I focused alright after trying me with his camera but we had no time for lessons in anything else. I sent him the plates of Boomerang and some others that he asked for so that he could print and tone some himself, haven’t heard or seen results. I had to lay my Camera up, could not spare horseflesh to carry it this last trip or two and did not care to risk having to leave it and the packbags hung up indefinitely in a mulgah while we walked home — must try and take it next time though — Dr Grant sends me a lot of prints that he takes, with details on the back, but, of course, he scarcely understands the sort of place we live in, postal disabilities etc and that we have not a druggists within 5 or 600 miles to get “Rodinal” hydrochinone etc from. I have an exposure meter and have also made a note of your hints.

            Had a very quiet Xmas this year but not so bad if the horse feed worry was away — the boys got a lot of ducks from the Finke and I really spread myself in the manufacture of the pudding. I do not think there was another mob of natives in the North so well satisfied with themselves and their lot for the time being as ours. Mrs G.’s pudding to come and one from my sister sampled today — The Post mistress at Mt Lofty told the sister she could send up to 11 lbs, result C.E.C. Dr to E.H.S.

            Parcel paid Wells 3/- Bend Sargeant 3/- = 6/-. Wells has rose price to 6d p          lb. Honest Ted has done the same. Happy New Year.

            Yrs truly

            E Sargeant

            This is from Charlotte Waters.

            Kean is just back from Erldunda and tells me Parke is going to put 500 Cattle at Ilpilla (you know a mile from here) and this means that I will have to take our horses somewhere if it holds out — Coolata Sp on Erldunda or Glen Helen are only places I can think of at present but I might get a Soakage down at Roger’s Pass.

            Glad your garden is still flourishing, ours is a shadow of itself and everything stunted — tomatoes spotted and melons burst when half ripe — fancy us being glad to buy as the passing Afghan to sell — Potatoes @ 3 p lb and Onions @ 6d — low rates owing to so many going bad on the Vendor but it will give you an idea of what the vaunted Oasis has come to.

            This will reach you in the midst of the Federation Fuss and I believe the clan will be very strongly represented in your City about that even Felix and his wife are coming over from West Aus’a. I hope Mrs Spencer and the children had a really nice time at Sorrento and that the publication of the Book of the Century will enable both you and Gillen to devote a little time to your wives. Mrs G. looked haggard and tired. Please thank Mrs Spencer for her kind enquiries after me. I am right as ever and the spell here for the last three weeks has completely set me up. Most sincerely wishing that you all will have many pleasant, prosperous New Years and at least seven of Plenty with the phenomenal Cow.

Believe me,

Yours very affectionately
Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 25

Illamurta

25th Feb 1898

Dear Professor

            Mail here last night nine days late and leaves tomorrow, so only a line to thank you for the “Beetle” and Paper — Heat here January damnable 110 to 121 = good rains all round the Stations but nothing here beyond drizzles, we had about an inch in ten days falling so slowly that it never ran six feet away from the iron roof and nothing sprang up but flies, flies, flies. Camels in a very bad state and I fancy some will lose eyes altogether. Beautiful feed at Running Waters, Finke ran from top end past Henbury and further down in patches. Blacks still bad at Tempe among Cattle — (there is something lovable about them is there not?) following Cattle wherever they are taken — latest stand was at the Ilarra, just over the big hole — “Arrabi” is one of the worst. Camera did not look well when unwrapped and I fancy the weather has affected plates — air ball bung etc — I enclose Racehorse F.16 Exposure as p your instructions, also Kean on old “Ahzul” — Am sending for Acetate of Lead and Glauber’s Salts to make combined toning and fixing bath as this “Austral” Sun Paper would not tone with the borax and chloride of gold and faded out almost completely in the hypo, the detail in Keans is good. Please tell French I am not writing this mail. Racehorse and Jado egg hunting on the Finke — did you get the two “Tiliqua Occip” I sent you care of French. Exposure for Kean F.16 and as directed. I hope Mrs Spencer and the little ones had a good time at the Seaside. Good wishes to you all.

Yours very Sincerely

C.E.Cowle

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Letter 26

Illamurta

17th Apl 1898

Dear Professor

            Very glad indeed to get your letter, we were not allowed an extra fortnight like the Alice Spgs people and it was about eight weeks since we had heard anything from the South. Pado, I can no more make out than yourself, I get a line about one mail in three, I fancy he is terrifically tired of the euphoniously christened “Stinkpot” Kiernan, whose nose old Jilly pulled scientifically some time back. Ross gone South for a spell and will probably return with a wife and governess. You must be delighted with the finish of the “Black Work” you have been engaged on but I think you should have seen the Black as a real wild beast as well as in the shape of a Corroboree Monger and knowing your common sense, I feel convinced you would have thought there was also something “hatable” about the Aus’n Native as well as loveable — you often used to tell me that I only saw the worst side of the blacks, perhaps I do, but in your brief experience of them did you ever come across a sign of genuine gratitude or feel convinced that any goodness of yours to them could not be wiped out in a second by a word or two from another black — also in your researches into their distant origin, did you ever come across anything represent’g our “thank you”. I speak sourly just now. Last January we found some killing wholesale and one got “hurt” seriously in the leg — Well, I thought this would be a lesson to the others so did not proceed against the one we had caught, and who had already been in gaol, but gave him and the lubras flour, tea and Sugar. Well, when I was out there last week I saw these at the Station alright but, happening to go over the Undia [sic - Undiara?] Country twice, I found that when they thought I would not return, they had skipped over there and were as busy as ever with the Cattle — Unfortunately I lost their tracks in rain. [sic - punctuation] but came on another mob who killed three and one was damaged. You also say — You wonder they do not kill more — “Damnation” what more can they wan’t [sic] when each mob kills enough to gorge on each day and, if the beast is not fat enough, leaves it untouched and kills another — this was alright, and there may have been some excuse on account of the drought, but what can their supporters put forward now when Tempe has had over 8 inches of rain — and feed everywhere, and all kinds of bush tucker plentiful — No, Professor, I do not like severe measures myself, unless driven to it, but I reckon these blacks want one real drastic lesson in the same way that Strikes etc should be treated, and taught that, if they have the protection of our laws, they also must conform to the others. Our share of the rain was about 5 inches and fell too steadily to leave much water in Creeks but the feed is lovely and vermin in the shape of caterpillars and flies a regular plague, I got an awful soaking out on Laurie’s Creek for 2 days and another along the Levi Range some days later. Water fairly ran out of the tops of our boots and, as everything in our swags was soaked, we had to build a fire and dry ourselves as we could, even my diary and record of Natives, in the middle of my blankets was wet, me furious of course at the tracks getting washed out when we were so close on them, when we might have kept dry in a cave. I have not seen any rats yet but I think they should show up and I should not be surprised if “Spathopterus Alexandrae” returned. Most of the small birds are plentiful but I have not seen a quail yet.

            Did you not see “Albani”? It seemed quite strange to get your letter and needless to say refreshing to get one which did not run to a paragraph or two on her merits or demerits. I have tried to please the hearts of the egg people this time but there are a lot under my bed going stink rapidly, when one has only a few hours to do a big mail in, eggs are certainly de trôp. I never heard from Verb Sap if he could do anything with the Bower birds I sent or if you got the Tiliqua and nosebones. Haven’t seen the Pontiff but expect to before long. I reckoned to get some blacks this bush trip and go in but failed as I told you — I must go out to Tempe again at once. Martin will probably shift all the Tempe Cattle to Glen Helen to try and give them a show but I am afraid a few others will follow them and make things hot — Just now Martin is up there trying to send a mob of stores to Town, fair feed there all the Season. Parke’s people in difficulties and I think Joe Breaden is up in the Bank’s interests. Mission Station keeping it’s even tenor of muddle, one or two yarns but I can’t relate them at present. Garden starting to look very promising — hope yours is the [sic  - missing word, same?]. You should take a spell, old man, or you will be ill. Kindest regards to Mrs Spencer and yourself.

Yours very Sincerely

C.E.Cowle

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Letter 27

Illamurta

24th June 1898

Dear Professor

            I do hope and trust that the almighty Pontiff found time to put my message in one of his letters to you, otherwise you must be thinking me most ungrateful for not answering yours. Well, to go back to the start — shortly after sending you my last hurried line to you, I wended my way to Tempe and in a very few hours cut tracks of some poor creatures after cattle, followed these for four days to point of Mt Levi Range when, as we were only about six hours behind them judging by their fires, I took to them on foot but soon discovered that they had just taken a scoot round and come back to where they had started from to get a good view of the Country and see if they were still being pursued and of course saw our footmarks and bolted, after a few days fruitless fooling, trying to track them on those hard Peterman flats, I struck for the Ilarra and Wild Eagle Plain which was the only other place where there were Cattle and, of course, soon had their tracks again, I sent the horses to Tempe and early next morning sniped this lot (3) on the top of Mt Shady — took them to Tempe and left them and returned to Wild Eagle and Horse Plains as we had seen tracks of another mob after Cattle. Next night morning early we saw where they had been after Cattle which, unfortunately for us on that occasion got away after being speared and, as I learnt later, they were on one of the high points that morning and saw us tracking them when they went to see where more Cattle were. I again abandoned the horses (you can imagine what a handicap they are in those narrow plains where the points of the Ranges command such an extent of country) and followed them for two days in the centre of the Range between the two plains then across Wild Eagle to Nth side and along it East. I reckon they must have been getting pretty hollow by that time for they shot out on plain and ran a beast up a very rough Creek and killed it and I made pretty sure of them for, at next Camp, I found they had only gone an hour or two and felt confident that, loaded with beef inside and out, they would not go far but, as usual, while trying to keep their tracks down the side of a range we were seen and when we rushed the Camp only found the meat, and after a long chase in the hills we only managed to get one out of the four near Bosun’s Hole Plain — this left us with over 25 miles to walk back to Tempe and I can assure you that on these cold nights there is not much pleasure in camping blackfellow fashion without blankets and just a little fire on each side. I find that the fire either toasts you or that you wake up with unfailing regularity each hour when it dies out and sometimes you cannot even light the fire for fear of being seen. You say, I always see the worst side of the blacks and I hardly think you judge fairly — these four were Station blacks and all well treated and generally getting odd jobs about the place with no excuse at all to go out to Wild Eagle, and only did so because Martin and Coulthard were at Glen Helen and they did not expect me to be out again so soon, and relied on their tracks being obliterated before anyone saw them. The force of example of the “whites killing” does not apply at Tempe because, thank God, so far that place has been immune in that respect from the absence of travellers. I took the niggers to Alice Spgs, where they were sentenced to six months and sent Kean down with them, did not see much of Gillen as I was only there forty eight hours and raced home here and on down the road to attend at Horse Shoe Bend as Dep’y Ret’g [sic - Deputy Returning] Officer over the Federal business — had to wait there two days and has the place had been recently ennobled with a licence to sell Wine and Spirits etc, things were very mixed, then on to C.W. and back home via Erldunda. Mrs Sargeant has gone to Town and has a deed of separation with her husband, he to allow her 15/- p week as long as she remains chaste and, unless people have a very depraved taste in Cities, I should say he would have to pay alimony for many years. Pado was bright and cheerful, more so than I have seen him for a long time. I said, “Spencer is wondering “what’s up” and tells me you have “not written for ages”, to which he replied, “Well, to tell you the truth, old man, there is absolutely nothing to write about and, although he very kindly writes to me, I reckon I would only bore him.” I don’t know whether this was the whole truth but at any rate he seldom writes to us up here now and perhaps in your case is a bit ashamed to after his neglect. I hoped to see the Ross’ who were due from Town but they were all detained with influenza at Oodnadatta.

            Many thanks for the Pamphlet on Initiation Ceremonies which was very interesting, especially as regards the Tualcha-mura or Potential Mother in law. Was not that an embellishment of those uncontaminated old vermin beds, “Rat-Rat”, “Cranky” and Bad Crossing Jacks, to prolong the flour producing epoch? At all events the present system is very much more rapid, certain and beneficial to the young man and one of the things he has to thank the white man for but I suppose you and your collaborateur would avoid that description as it is too near actual facts and hardly romantic enough — Putting all nonsense aside though, old man, I think the amount of work you have done is simply stupendous and, to the interested people, will be of most absorbing interest and value. (Don’t see that it will actually benefit the Aruntas much though) and I hope it is properly and beneficially recognized but don’t, for goodness sake, tell Gillen I have said so, you have fairly spoilt that man and he goes about with his brisket out and a comb on him like a Langshan Rooster and, unless he gets a P.C. ship [sic] at least, will be disappointed — I told him I could guarantee him one subscriber and he snappishly said, “We don’t want subscribers all we want is” [sic - punctuation] Kudos (did you teach him this latter word?, his silence when I asked him appeared to me as if it were so). We only had time for a skirmish or two, chiefly on the conduct of aboriginal warfare, he is inclined to be most philanthropic at the Govt and other people’s expense but his own pocket is another affair — he amused me when I said he never spent anything on them — he got most indignant and said, “Why, don’t you know, it has cost me over £100 for Photographing Material in the last few years.” — He was very much taken with my Camera and offered me his and a horse, he wanted £7.10 for an exchange but we did not deal although the Native question at present keeps mine idle. I read your critique on Roth’s work and also that of the ‘Bulletin’ of 25th Dec 1897 (in case you missed it). I thought the idea of Circumcision being a kind of mimicry, pretty absurd — and the regulation of Classes by Food — Very very German “The God of the Belly”. Before I forget, I want to ask you a question — There is a rumour current that a lubra at the Mission gave birth to two abortions with tails (dead), presumably this is the result of allowing the dog to have intercourse with her and is supposed to be frequently done by old women — what I want to know is, whether, granting such intercourse has taken place, could the woman conceive?

            I expect, by the time you get this far, you will reckon that Pado was right but I can’t help it, I feel in good spirits thanks to Kean telling me he would not return if possible and on account of the glorious Season. Besides the good rains I told you of before, we have had light showers every month and when I came home the other day the garden was a picture and Cauliflowers etc bursting all round. Tempe people shifting more Cattle to Glen Helen and many of the Gill blacks have in consequence gone over to Mareena, so I suppose they will give us trouble there now instead of visiting their more outlying properties to the South. I expect you heard the Parke’s were in the Bank’s hands for a bit and that the working man is now a little less independent on £1 and 25/- p week in lieu of 30/- and 35/-. I think Parke’s affairs will straighten shortly. I expect you have fathomed our mail arrangements by this time and learnt that it takes us two months now to get a reply instead of six weeks and that it is supposed to be an advantage for us — Wells appears able to do just as he likes with Todd and everyone else seems to conspire to allow him to make £300 or so a year by running a mail with less than half the horses he really should have — Of course you saw that yourself — War news etc is antique when we get it and when, like myself, we miss a mail or two and papers, we get fearfully behind times. ( I have been reading Feb and March papers since I got back to try and get a grip of things). French says you, he and someone else are just off for a holiday which I hope was an enjoyable one, and that he attended to the provender satisfactorily. I am asking him what you people consider an outfit on these occasions — glad his last eggs arrived safely for the first time and hope to send him a few black Cockatoos this mail. I am enclosing two in Keartland’s lot for your friend Dr Ryan and telling K to hand them to you. Please remember me very kindly to Mrs Spencer and trusting you are all well and safely over the Measles.

Believe me,

Yours Sincerely

C.E.C

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Letter 28

Illamurta

7th Aug 1898

Glad Pado wrote again, he missed me this time.

My dear Professor

            You are a true Briton to write when you had no letter from me and when you were in trouble over Mrs Spencer’s illness which I am heartily glad you tell me is over. I understood from your last that it was something very mild, you told me it was about half a measle but it must have grown much worse. I think I wrote you nearly everything that was going in my last, and would not have attempted anything this mail had I not wished to call your attention to the idiotic things papers will publish on Ethnology and am referring to an article by W.H. Hardy in Observer of 23rd July — this man is blacksmith or something at the Arltunga Cyanide Plant and you will see the depth he has gone if you trouble to look at the article — I suppose he poses as an authority now and this is the sort of damned rubbish that people read and believe — he can scarcely be ignorant that you and Gillen have really gone into the subject and are publishing a book on the subject it, for Gillen was out there in the beginning of the year and no doubt blasted on his trumpet or he is not the man you and I know. If this Hardy is the man I think he is, I fancy he got most of his information from the young lubras which he mentions several times.

            I saw Dr Eylmann again at the Mission last month and he really is a close and inquisitive observer — talking over blacks adding hair to their own to lengthen it, he told me that he had really seen them doing it somewhere above Tennant’s Creek although he was convinced that it did not take place down here and also that the stuff used as cement was beeswax of a kind — he intends visiting Arltunga and then riding down the road to about Hergott, selling his horses and getting back to Germany — he, of course, cannot take specimens home but he draws capitally and has a great number of sketches — those of various birds heads and feathers being excellent and very recognizable even uncoloured. I was sorry I could not see a little more of him but I had to go on a wild goose chase round Glen Helen searching for Arabi and three others who were supposed to be about Mareena Bluff, but whose tracks I did not find till I had run down the Walker to within a dozen miles of Tempe, and found where they ate a calf. I left the horses at Tempe, and put in four days on foot on those hills, bounding Horse and Wild Eagle Plains, and saw six of their camps step by step. Returned to Tempe for horses and more food and followed them on to another bullock, in and out of hills and finally left them going towards Mission, in those Hills dividing Wild Eagle Plain and Mission Plain. I must get this lot by hook or crook and am off again in three or four days but anticipated trouble for, besides Arabi, there is another ex Barrow Creek tracker and the others are semi-civilized. All the others against whom I have warrants are temporarily scared back and if I could snap this lot might remain in back country and in that case, with the exception of two or three who really do know better, I would get the warrants withdrawn. I do wish they would steady off again and that you were coming up this year. I feel certain this tribe has some divisions because of the rows lately over one or two having wrong lubras and I cannot get time to sit down amongst them and really worry at it.

            There is a new man here in place of Kean but I can tell you but little of him so far, he is not impressive although full of ideas and suggestions which he is not slow at airing and I will probably be able to dilate on him in my next — According to his own account he has been a terribly wild young man in his time and tremenjiously [sic] successful with fair women etc. I would like you to meet this type if they only would not be subdued by your presence.

            The Ross’ got up to Crown Point after a rough time at Oodnadatta, influenza etc, and I hear now that Mrs Ross is very bad with rheumatism. Martin shifting nearly all their stock to Glen Helen — strange to say, in spite of many rains, there has been no water near the Station for more than twelve months. At Ooreyechikna Spgs in Mareena where I got water last year in the drought, I could not fill waterbags, another lot of Spgs at the head of the Walker were quite dry although usually at this time of the year they run freely and make a big waterhole but, as regards this part of the Country, I should say from appearances that there had been none of the rains there this year and for quite two years previous.

            I was pleased the publishers gave you all the pictures you asked for and hope the next three months will pass rapidly and land you in the long vacation and a well deserved rest. I am not writing to French this time as there is nothing in his line to chronicle — hawk eggs should be about but my huntsman is not extra spry at present owing to an old spear wound in the thigh breaking out all round. Kindest regards and good wishes to you and yours.

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest Cowle

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Letter 29

Illamurta

1st Sep 1898

Dear Professor

            Very glad to get your letter a couple of days ago, just after my return from a long spin round Tempe Downs. I had the new man with me and went zigzagging about without any luck for about ten days and, as a last hope of seeing blacks, I went to Laurie’s Creek, West of your beloved Gill Range and got seven, four of which are now outside and I intend taking them in to Alice Springs on Monday for trial but I am afraid we may be delayed there for the noble dispenser of Justice is, I believe, down the road with his wife. This gang, I was rather pleased to find, did not attempt to clear out beyond a temporary aberration on the part of three of the younger members, although they had a most excellent chance of getting away because they saw us some distance off — I scarcely felt happy and comfortable the night we got them because I had a feeling that they had, to an extent, been deceived but I hope I made matters clear generally that I had not broken my word. You see last Xmas we had one of this gang and cautioned him pretty severely, then I took him away with us on a walking expedition and I think he felt certain he was going to be shot but instead of that I gave him some flour and tobacco and sent him to his Country and told him to tell his friends that if they ran away when we appeared they would be shot but and that they were to stop, after we growled at them they would be our mates till they went wrong again and get tucker and tobacco whenever we saw them — twice members of this party got away since this occurred but “Wurnwinta” was not with them, on this occasion he was and I believe kept them steady, I made the boys explain that, if they had stopped on the previous occasions I would have given them a hiding and finished growling but that now that we had been forced to take out Warrants or “Papers telling all about Policemen to shoot them”. I would have to take them to Mr Gillen and probably gaol — presented “Wurnwinta” with a blanket, Shirt and tucker. After seeing Martin at Tempe Downs, I decided to let three more go as an experiment, one was an old man and the other two young men of that impressionable age when 6 mo’s [sic - months] in Pt Augusta would finish their education as thorough scoundrels, they were not on the warrants although we had two cases against them and went away with some flour and unscathed with various messages and instructions as to how to act on our appearance in future, I am not over confident of success but I would like to get these blacks into the present condition of those at Glen Helen Station. The four we have here, Peetalla, “Purnka”, “Chuperoo” and “Toolinya” have had a long innings since 1896 but have kept out of the road since the drought broke up and I cannot feel so bitter towards them as I do to the more civilized ones such as Arabi and Coy, who are still in the ranges between here and Shag Hole. Racehorse was here a day or two ago with some emu eggs as a midwinter offering. It is getting pretty difficult to locate the blacks on Tempe now for the reason that nearly all the Cattle have been shifted to Glen Helen and so few remain that the wily aboriginal finds it pays better to stick to legitimate game on the Ranges. I have been a bit prolix on this subject I fear but you have some idea of the surrounding circumstances and I think you are scarcely always fair to me, I mean, I think you believe I am harsh when in reality nothing would please me better than to be able to go about and them come up to me at once instead of clearing and they would do this were they not perfectly aware that I know what they have been doing the few days previously. I do not care for the new man at all as a mate and your idea is most erroneous that I desire to live alone for I would always employ a cook — I can’t always be with another man patrolling and one slip or mistake on his part might undo the fruits of a good deal of my endeavours to instil confidence in fair play amongst these Natives whom so few people understand or get a grip over.

            Sorry to hear of French’s smash again, one has to be careful about enquiries, you know P.M.B. is a trifle ‘difficile’ and if he gets worried with enquiries from the authorities, may get snaky and you also know how, by his courtesy, many little parcels over the statute weight of one pound reach C.W. and here. I was very much amused at French’s list of articles for that trip, notably Insectibane and Fire Kindlers, I presume each member carried his own soap.

            Glad to hear of the progress of the Book and know it will be as accurate as possible for such a work, especially as you have had the editing and correcting part of it to do, I have considerably more confidence in you in this direction than in the Pontiff and when you are away from his magnetic influence more dispassionate and the term Gillenized remains in abeyance for the present. I only hope the old fellow will be back when I get into Alice Spgs so that we can have a days talk for once in a way, I would not be in such a desperate hurry to get back this time.

            Your exemplary conduct for the last two years certainly deserves a fitting recognition from Mrs Spencer and I trust that even if you do not manage to get as far as this you may be able to accomplish that Lake Eyre trip. The locality is doubtful to me but I fancy the Blacks stretching over towards the Cooper are much more intelligent than C.A. specimens but to get them undiluted you would want to get well back from the Stations. I saw most of the Gladstoniana in Martin’s Illustrated Papers and thought it bad taste, I mean the different pictures of the Widow etc in a privacy but I suppose in historical events like this the public’s craving for detail must be satisfied.

            Pretty busy just now getting ready to start for Alice Spgs so you must excuse me, I was very pleased to get your assurance that Mrs Spencer was well again.

With the best wishes to you all,

Believe me

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 30

Illamurta

18th March 1899

My dear Professor

            I am delighted to hear from you again and that you are back safely from the old Country. I intended writing a line of welcome to you last time but unexpectedly received word from the Missionaries that my friends had come in there after the gins I left and that they had managed to secure three, so that I had to bustle round and start in earlier than I expected. “Arabi” once more escaped, although, [sic - punctuation] the Mission boys had hold of him. On arrival at Alice Spgs we had to wait about a week for a second Justice and, when they were convicted, I sent Barlow on down with them, a nice batch of six, making sixteen in less than twelve months which surely should convince people that this playing with Blacks is all rot, you have a fair idea (when away from Gillen) of what it is like to have to capture them and I would never despair of moderating your views a little but a man who will get up on a Public Platform and calmly state that a blackfellow occasionally kills a beast because he is “hungry”, and that he doesn’t appreciate the offence because the whites kill his euros and kangaroos, is beyond all hope and either criminally ignorant of the real state of affairs or wilfully perverting for some purpose or another. (I don’t think I have written to you since I saw him on his return from Town have I?). This last gang have been busy all last year and especially so since November and knew apparently that we could not go out on account of the boys being laid up with measles, and had killed three beasts and a calf in three days at Gilbert Spgs and then gone back into the Hills towards Shag Hole to manufacture a new lot of spears and it was while thus occupied that we came on them, I know the wood they use for the body now because there was practically a plantation for miles at this particular spot, very crooked and tough it is but generally of the same size throughout, I destroyed 27 new spears besides several unfinished ones which was not a bad outfit for only six blacks and one young fellow, was it? I fancy they have no totem connected with cattle and no restrictions and that it doesn’t matter a damn whether their fathers or mothers or great uncles kill the beast, it is common property and bulky, hence their desire for it. Gillen was more retiring and modest than I expected, after his Command Interview at Govt. House and his successful debut as a lecturer but had altered his views on the Great Work a little, spoke of pecuniary profits now and I succeeded in getting him properly riled several times. Please accept my most sincere thanks for the book which has just come to hand, late mail as usual will prevent my reading it yet but I will review it in my next. I do not think the illustrations are as well got up and finished as I expected, what do you think of them. I must write and congratulate Gillen on “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” up to date by S. and G. He takes anything about the book so seriously — Anyone who has said anything in it’s favour is “One of the Leading Scientists of the World, old man”, all others — Carmine Idiots.

            Of course you heard of Beattie’s fate, about half a mile from the H.E.E. Camp where I left you on Red Banks Creek, a cold blooded murder by one of the semi-civilized natives. I was very sorry to miss Gillen at the Alice this time and am afraid I won’t see him now before he goes down, if ever again, once we get so widely separated. The Alice itself was just awful, especially the Police Camp, and no doubt one does miss Kelly and his wife there; no matter what people may have said about her, she was always kind and hospitable, even to extremes. But oh, the difference now, untidiness and uncouthness brought to a fine art doesn’t half describe it, the woman is generally barefooted and talks vulgarly and incessantly, squints, shrews and oh hang it that’s enough, I don’t suppose you are likely to be there after Gillen leaves unless you come up to work out this Looritcha mob.

            A man called Price Maurice has been up round here lately and picked up some marvellous information from the blacks, he is a chum of old Winnecke’s, has money and is his own master, not a bad fellow away from strong drinks and the subject of blacks and what they tell him — he started down by Gill Range and L. Amadeus to look for Gibson’s remains but turned back and I suppose is in Town now, I was a bit annoyed because he was securing every Churina stone he could get hold of and several places took stones that I had not interfered with, to please you and G. I fancy he collared my sugar ant stones which I wanted as a parting gift to Gillen and arranged with the owners to purchase honestly but told them to wait till I told them to come down with them as my movements were uncertain — You recollect I had these once and gave them back to them. P.M.’s modus is to entice a nigger to show him things, (generally some scoundrel), and give him a shirt and collar the boodle — I told him that, they seldom belonged to the shower and that the trouble came afterwards. I hope when this reaches you, you will have settled down a bit and not feel the irksomeness so much — did the business that took you home, turn out in your favour and do you know a J.F. Jervis-Smith F.R.S. — he wants Native things for the Millard Laboratory, Oxford but I am not in the business. My sister, Mrs Symon, her husband, five children and probably my Father and other sister leave for a six month’s tour of Europe, Canada America and Japan, in Prinz Regent Luitpold on 2nd Ap’l and I had serious thoughts of taking down those last lot of blacks and joining in. I spent a good many hours on pros and cons but I reckoned I could not expect to get back here if I left and starting on new ground on an empty exchequer is not in my line.

            Snakes have been giving me fits lately and shaken up my nerves considerably, I have had no less than four very narrow squeaks in the last month. One night, lying on my blanket in front of the wurley, I felt something against my leg and took no notice as I thought it was one of the dog’s tails — after a bit I raised my head and you can guess how I felt when I saw a good sized snake coming over my thigh and towards my face. I sang out to Barlow to get a light and then kept perfectly still — He was a long time fumbling with matches and rubbing his eyes and it seemed an eternity to me, luckily he snake had come off my breast and gone just round my head and away for I don’t think I could have stood the brute on my face and would have moved and probably got a nip — two nights ago, while at tea, I noticed the Cat very excited and when I looked up, a snake was hanging out of the bough roof just above my head and presumably was going to use me as a ladder — Got him about an hour later.  Please remember me to Mr French and tell him I regret I cannot make birds lay without rain which still avoids our camp. With kindest regards to Mrs Spencer and the children, whom I hope you found well and all good wishes for yourself.

Yours very affect’ely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 31

Illamurta

15th Apl 1899

My dear Professor

            I got home (to stop) four days ago for the first time since last mail day so you will know that I have not yet been able to read the Book, which wants time to enable me to grasp those systems etc, even admirably put as they are. I got through the introduction, in which I see you perpetuate the same story about the cattle killing which Gillen disclaimed and said he had been mis-reported on. Then I got on to the “Urabunna” tribe and was very much interested. I suppose this is the Tribe you were anxious to get to Lake Eyre to enquire further after. The idea of the Totems being divided between the two classes is ingenious and, were it not for the sort of promiscuity of the marriage system, ought to be as effective as others in preventing marriages of those too closely related. I note the remarks as to jealousy not being noticeable among them as one man’s “Nupa” is “Piraungaru” to certain others — surely, though, in some cases ( I mean in the present day), it must lead to ructions where a Blackfellow gets over fond, not affectionately perhaps of one of his Piraungaru who is someone else’s “Nupa”. Of course, from personal observation of blacks I see that some of them resent very strongly any interference with their women, be it by a white man or a black, even if of the proper relationship while others are apparently indifferent. The book does not want reading, it should be studied which takes time. I see the Illustrations are excellent, when I looked at them first by a smoky glassed lamp without cutting the leaves, I thought them bad, the spear throwing and boomerang throwing and Triff and Lottie side and full face look like Gillen and the Anschutz at loggerheads though. Measles have thinned out the Blacks round about considerably, Mission Station about 18 since the middle of February, Tempe two, Erldunda one and about enough at Henbury and Idracowra to make it up to 30 for my district and I presume we rejoice thereat on different grounds. I have our mutual friend Arabi chained up outside at last, he cunningly saved his bacon when he found he was cornered — we could not get a shot while we were galloping in the scrub at foot of the range as both hands were occupied in steering our horses and I reckoned he had once more escaped but we headed him off the gorge and he dare not tackle the range which would have exposed him too much so he walked back to us — when we first saw him he was carrying half a wallaby, cooked, in his hand and the hind legs of a calf on his head — the calf probably in case that occasional hunger seized him. I expect I will have to take him in to Alice Spgs as soon as mail goes and then on down, I will try and get rid of him at Charlotte Waters or Oodnadatta if I can manage it. Barlow is not back yet from the last gang and I don’t know when he will be as he did not write. I have been down to Erldunda, out of Tempe twice and up to the Mission and back since I last wrote you, so you will see that when I say I have been busy it is a fact; the night I returned from Erldunda, Martin came and reported that he had been attacked by one of the blacks that had come back from Gaol in January at a little Spgs called Mt Shady and had to shoot him in self defence — so I had to see if Strehlow would hold an enquiry or not — Martin had taken this blackfellow as his others were either away or down with measles. I do hope this will give us a rest from Cattle killing and that I can do some photographing etc. I am getting awfully tired of being at their tails so constantly (Blacks) but like the outside life — Three of the George Gill Gang camped here last night returning from Gaol and were profuse in their protestations of how they were going to sit down and I suppose they will till the Cattle come back from Glen Helen directly (there are only about 500 on Tempe this last 12 months).

            I did not get as far as “Magic” in your book but is it not astonishing how firmly the idea belief of what some blackfellow can do, is engrafted in them all. A certain lubra died a bit to the North here recently (probably of measles) but they had the idea that she had been speared in the head by Mission Blacks, “perhaps might him bin walk too close long corroboree” no sign of a wound anywhere but the Blacks had closed that up and she was alright for a week after leaving the Mission and then took ill and died. I tried to see if she had ever been near the Corroboree place but she had not. Old Larry whom you will remember, is fully believed to possess all these magical powers and to be able to make the dead live and is to give me ocular demonstration of it (our boys are thoroughly convinced of his ability which one would not Credit after the time they have been with the whites and it shows that tradition dies hard), by letting me kill a “Possum” and if it recovers after my treatment and his I will give him a bag of flour. I want to see how the old dog will shuffle out of it. They cannot understand the measles yet but I expect will discover it to be the work of someone before long — They know whites get it and perhaps that will confuse them for a time but I’ll back their inventive faculties to be equal to the occasion.

            I get scraps from Byrne occasionally and hope to see him in a few days, he is like me, pretty tired of it but want of dollars and dread of the future keeps him anchored.

            I suppose you are settled down to routine work now and almost miss the magnum op. but receiving congratulations on its success will occupy you a bit — Gillen, I hear wears a nose bone now and never speculates in any shares without first rubbing his belly with his sacred churina — I hope I get in, in time to see him.

Yours very sincerely
C.Ernest Cowle

Please remember me very kindly to Mrs Spencer whom I trust is in good health and yourself likewise.
CEC

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Letter 32

Charlotte Waters

10th May 1899

You are as hopeless as Gillen on Blacks. I read your letter to him and he punctuated it with “Quite Correct”, “I agree entirely” etc. May the Bulletin give you your desserts.

Dear Professor

            I was lucky enough to meet your eminent collaborateur at Alice Springs and to be present at the small social tendered to him by a few of his intimates, of course flattering remarks were the only ones admitted and his receptivity was great, at times he was a little inclined to let himself go and rave on “Basil Thompson”. “Andrew Laing” [sic], the “Times” etc, but we did not thoroughly succeed in penetrating the mask of modesty in which he has wrapped himself since his lecturing tour — God alone knows where it will end for he has now tasted publicity and although he disclaims all notion of again lecturing, fancy, he has a large stock of phrases carefully rounded off and waiting only the hint of an invitation to launch them on the enlightened Public. Living alone has done him a lot of good and he is now more human and rational and far more like an Alatunga of the Alcheringa than a white man degraded by contact with the blacks, he takes the “Observations” at irregular intervals now. I went out again from the Bend and met him on his way down and he trapped me beautifully over the election of his Political Idol C.C.K — When I fell in, his language was like that of Robert Cran and totally unworthy of him, quite subdued me because I was so completely had and instead of his having to give me a bottle of whisky, found I owed him one. Voting was not brisk at Horse Shoe Bend and the air was heavy with the flavour of rum and onions but I believe the old members will be returned and the Bend Electors showed their common sense in almost unanimously rejecting Extension of Franchise for Legis’e Council. Arriving here on Sunday night, I again met the Pontiff and Bradshaw and have spent the last couple of days in amiable discussion. Pado has not been in his best form and his very natural grief at Gillen’s departure has robbed me of an ally that I firmly relied on several times and firmly convinced the Pontiff that he had overwhelmed me completely. Bradshaw, who seems a nice fellow, left yesterday after we had all pushed his trap a hundred yards or so towards the Boundary line and G left this morning amidst a perfect volley of curses and invocations to the Holy Trinity from Bob Cran after breaking the buggy pole as a preliminary. I would like to be present at the 1900 Meeting for Advancement of Science — If you advertise fully the fact the F.J.G. is to be a Vice President it should be a great draw and many people no doubt will forego the Paris Exposition Trip to hear him speak. Pado joins in kindest regards.

Yours Sincerely

C.E.Cowle

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Letter 33

Illamurta

10th June 1899

My dear Professor

            Yours of 17th Ap’l, which I see you posted at Carlton on 10th May, reached me tonight. The mail was four days late and, as it will go back on its usual day, I have only a little over 24 hours to answer something over forty letters, some of which must go by the board. I had already read the Bulletin Critique — got it at the Bend on my way back after writing to you from Charlotte Waters. I did not like his remarks on the Style at all, for I knew you were writing purely for the Scientific World and not the Bulletin readers who rather run to twaddle by Harry Stockdale and others in ‘Aboriginalities” etc, but I would much have liked to have seen the writer whom Gillen told me was a very able man, tackle it on facts— He ought to know as much on that subject as the authorities you quote, at all events, for even you will admit that all Australian Aborigines customs are not similar although perhaps they may have much in common. Take the instance of the Boomerang returning to the thrower, which you mention. I have no doubt that most scientific people are firmly convinced that all aborigines have the power but, as you say, they do not do so in this Country at all. As a boy, in Victoria I saw them bringing it back frequently in 1876, on the Murray about Mildura in 1880 and also some of the Cooper’s Creek Blacks were very expert, I will certainly enquire into the evolution of it from the straight stick but on the Cooper they used both. Another thing is, what became of all the stone axes that they had on the Finke in years gone by? — I can’t get hold of them although I know they used them not so long ago and I know they used to get them somewhere near that Warman’s Camp where you and I photographed that lubra. The part that rankles in one is the growth of the new cult of “Spencer and Gillenism”, so to say, on the Native as a human being. I do not talk of their traditions or rites because I firmly believe you went deeper into them and more correctly than anyone ever will again, but do you honestly think you and Gillen saw any Natives as ordinary beings — wherever either of them me you met them, were they not always on their good behaviour, (outside tribal rites etc mind), with the perfect confidence that they would be rewarded with tobacco or flour etc? Did you see, from personal observation, if they were sensuous, cruel or immoral? You seem to have a sympathy with scoundrelism of the “Arabi” type and look on them as heroes for leading the others astray — Such Blacks I cannot have any sympathy for, but when it is a case of an uncivilized one I would always be lenient because perhaps he might not understand the white man’s ways. Any one reading about Arunta Blacks might easily be led to believe that they only wanted wings and haloes (vide F.J.G’s last report and lectures to Luritcha Blacks when being sentenced) but he knows perfectly well that it is on account of so many people about those more settled Stations and Fear that was properly installed into them that keeps them from cattle killing — It is not so many years ago since they were worse than even these Luritchas have been and they were not cured by gaol. You must bear in mind that there was no Protector about Alice Spgs and most people in the Country had some good reason to keep the Native subdued. I am not advocating shooting, for a moment, in the so called good old style, but they should be made to respect the law of the Land that has been taken from them, and it would be better for them — as for whites killing their emus and kangaroos etc, Alice Spgs is the only place where this is done, one might say and the carcase is nearly always given to the Blacks but, if it has been skinned, in most cases the Blacks won’t trouble to cook the carcases because, thanks to the advent of the White man, they are not hungry, you saw an instance of this at Crown Point. A stock phrase of the cult is “Put yourself in the Blackfellow’s Place”. Well, suppose you and Gillen put yourselves for a while in the “Squatter’s Place”. You rent the Country and if the Government does not prevent the blacks destroying your property wholesale, do you not think you would feel inclined to do so. I don’t know you well enough to positively swear what you would do but I am certain the blood of Gillen’s ancestors would rise and that of his could coloured brethren fall in his case and he would cry out pretty loudly. By the way, Field and I had each a wager with Gillen before he left Alice Spgs — He bet us each that neither you nor he would reap a penny profit from the great work in five years. I pondered over this a good deal and have now come to the conclusion that Lang, Tylor, Frazer and Coy must have been very, very, expensive. I wish you would tell him this. I’ll advertize it here. I am perhaps bitter on the Native question again tonight — My two best boys ran away a few days ago, Nat after being with me four years and Jack six years, of course there was a woman in it. Nat, I considered old enough to have a lubra of his own and told him whenever he got a right one he could have her and live with her but as the one he wanted had gone down below the Goyder, he said leave her — he knew the rules of the Camp, that I allowed no one to sleep with lubras here, black or white, as I know from dearly bought experience that a young blackfellow with a lubra is utterly useless for our work and yet I found he was sneaking and camping with one here which he had told me was a wrong one for him — I hunted her off the place, the [sic] banged him round and a little later he said he wanted to go too. I thought he wanted to go at once and caught hold of him and said, “Alright, I’ll let you go but I’ll straighten you up first” but This was because he knew thoroughly well that I had impressed on them all that I would let them go at any time if they told me but that, if I had punished any of them and they wanted to go, then they must wait till I got someone to replace them — He told me he would wait till I got another boy and I explained thoroughly to him, quietly and dispassionately, why he had been punished and that I had looked on him to set the others an example and he said I had always told him straight and that he knew I would have told him to take this lubra altogether if he had told me that her relations now would overlook the consanguinity (not extra close). I thought he was really convinced of his error and intended letting him stay here about a month and then letting him go away altogether if he so desired when he was cool. I don’t know if I have made this clear to you that they are perfectly at liberty to have intercourse when they play together because then they cannot go to extremes as they can when sleeping together for I may assure [sic - you] that the young native, away from the tribal control, with a lubra of his own is immoral in the extreme. I considered Nat quite old enough to have a lubra but he preferred to deceive me although he knew my promise was as sacred as my word, that a transgressor would be published punished and I felt that if I had overlooked his offence, my influence over them would be gone — he would either think that I was frightened to do it or that he was invaluable and you will see that it would have had a bad effect on the other ones. So much for his case. The other boy, Jack, is not yet circumcised and ran away from his friends when they wished to perform the ceremony, he was spelling from 1st March to about 12th May and being found in full rations by us during that time — came back here of his own accord on that date and then ran away with Nat — the pair of them reached the Mission Station that afternoon — got a lubra to go up to the Station and get these gins to come down to the Creek quick and told them I was camped there and wanted them — the gin Jack was after, he had followed out from Alice Spgs to the Mission when she came out with Mrs Myers ( who was confined that night) and the pair then made into the Ranges and over A.G. way. You see these semi-civilized boys talk together — ours have been in there too much this last twelve months and seen the slackness of discipline at other places and that, if a boy got a job at the Police there or Telegraph, he could keep any gin he had managed to get, you see it is a gain to the tribe in one way and reprisals don’t occur as they used to — the old men cannot straighten up these boys as they used to and it is only out back where you see the, [sic] young fellows keeping to their correct camps till their wives are handed to them. It is bitterly cold and late and won’t I have to write tomorrow. I feel half inclined to throw this in the fire but on one or two occasions you have been pleased to say that our blacks are properly treated and that is why I have told you so much tonight. I know that if I have been strict at times with the boys, that I look after them in sickness and feed them on a scale and style different to anywhere else, expect them to come to me when anything is wrong and rely on fair play but deceit is innate in them somehow — if I had given Nat a good hiding when he came up as I should have done and then said, “Now go away if you want to”, it would have been alright and the others would have further understood that I would keep my word about allowing no boy to leave in anger. You can understand how if that was allowed, every time one checked or had to speak sharply to a black he would want to go and in a place like this we would be stranded, they are the first that ever served me in this way at all events and I will bring them back sooner or later. This is probably the last time I will worry you on the subject of blacks as beings — My next will be on them as Dreamers. I hope now to have a little quietness till Snider and Co returns and, if I get Nat and Jack back, I will go down the Sandhill way to Erldunda — Get fairly pure Native that way if I can come on a lot — there are a good few somewhere about E of Ayers Rock I fancy and it is only odd ones that visit Tempe.  Racehorse’s lubra “Coomba” died the other day — much to Coulthard and my sorrow, and Coulthard tells me that Racehorse cried like a white man over it — he was to come to me for consolation after a trip out somewhere. I like him and nearly all the Glen blacks who have behaved splendidly while the Cattle have been up there, now they are all being brought back to Tempe but I must go up and take them some good conduct rewards soon. I tried hard to get a photo of an aged couple here the other day but I am afraid I failed — They were agreeable in every way but very unsteady on their pins and I could not get them to stand in one position while I pulled out the dark slide, anyway I’ll develop them after mail goes. Have you seen G. yet? I am anxious to get at the papers and see what he has been up to — I got one slip where he has been giving his opinion on the Mineral Wealth of Cent’l Australia and the Railway etc. Please thank Mrs Spencer for her kind enquiries and tell her I am well. and believe yourself that I get hell from rheumatics occasionally. With kindest regards to you both.

Believe me,

Yours very affect’ly
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 34

Illamurta

9th July 1899

My dear Professor

            Thanks to the Charlotte Waters mail having been left behind at Oodnadatta in mistake we are practically letterless and paperless this time and this is only a short screed to heartily congratulate you on the “Magnum Opus” which I have carefully read since last writing to you — Criticising such a work is out of the question and no one could do it unless he practically traversed over the whole ground again and then compared the results — the amount of information of a hidden character which you have got together is simply stupendous and I only wish you could get up and do the Western tribes as thoroughly — the myths relating to “Inapertwa” are especially interesting but I cannot get that right about not eating the “Totem” or only sparingly — they did it apparently in Alcheringa times and my questions have led me to believe that they still do. I tried an old Kangaroo man of “Undiarra” and he seemed surprised at the idea of not doing so but I will watch closely, when I see old fellows together, if I can get their right totems and see how they shape, I also note the fact of the totem name originating from where the mother “conceives” the child — Do they not, in some cases, take also or claim the totem of their actual birthplace in addition. P. 584. I see I am quoted as the authority of saying the “Amera” might be used as a “musical instrument”. This is the first I have heard of it. I know I took several in to G. and perhaps Nat may have told him of it but as there are only boys here now I cannot enquire at present. I intend going over the whole book again shortly and am more convinced than ever that the conditions of tribe as regards severity of punishment for tribal offences is very lax nowadays. Barlow is at present away after those boys. I heard they were about Owen Spgs way and sent him in. I heard a fortnight nearly ago, that he had got them and some others killing a beast near Owen Spgs but nothing further and do not know if he has taken them down or not. Can’t understand his not sending me some word unless he has and that boy levanted as well. You see the lubras that have been here, they have got pretty sweet on and want to exercise sole rights of proprietorship without any title whatsoever — the parties interested, of course, do not object, although they are offending against all tribal canons, because they are Police boys and they look to them to screen their offences as a reward for their complacency. I have tried to guard against this by not allowing any of them to consider such and such a lubra as his sole property in opposition to the other trackers but found out recently that it was what had occurred and that there had been internal dissensions over the matter. Don’t want to have to deal afresh but will have to if I don’t get matters straight — present day tribal punishments are mostly bosh as the young man is too useful as a tobacco purveyor etc to the older ones and it is generally the gin who suffers. I am sorry I missed the papers as I expected to see some Gillen, I must write to him as soon as I see him settled at Moonta whither I see, Chance, who used to be at Alice Springs has just been moved to — something over drink I fancy. Racehorse called last week to inform me that evil influences had been at work and the cause of his lubras death. I fancy he wished me to act as the avenging party but I think I convinced him that it was not evil spirits that were responsible for the measles and told him how she should have been cured and how so many white people died from same thing — this may save some other unfortunate on whom suspicion might fall but, as his Mother and another tribal father also pegged out, I am sceptical especially if the suspected party possesses a desirable lubra to replace either of the missing ones — Coulthard still at Glen Helen getting the remainder of the Cattle together and Tempe quiet — Is it the lull preceding another outbreak? I trust not — With kindest regards to Mrs Spencer and yourself.

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest Cowle

Bitterly cold up here — no rain. I fancy temperature lower some mornings than when you were up.

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Letter 35

Illamurta

3rd Sep 1899

Dear Professor

            It is so long since I heard of or from you that I thought you had forgotten me. I can understand the quantity of work you must be getting through, removing all the articles from National Library to the Museum, and must congratulate you on the appointment as Director, provided it is not a purely honorary appointment which Governments are so fond of rewarding deserving people with — latterly some of my preconceived notions have received a very severe shock and I now think success should always be followed by and everything give way to Cash Considerations. During the last month I was out round Tempe and Gill Range. The Country out there was looking lovely and the blacks, most of whom had just returned from Gaol, were stopping on their own country and behaving well so we were on the friendliest terms, they took me to one plant and were anxious for me to go to another but I could not go on and although the grass was perfect and in full seed, water, away from the main Range was not plentiful for the horses. I got one stick which I will probably send to Gillen but it is awkward as it is nearly 2 ft long, I got it as it is marked in squares [drawing] thus, instead of circles etc as usual and all the natives who gave it to me could tell me, was that it represents lubras sitting down and had been stolen from other blacks very much further west when they were children. I think their marriage system could be more easily got a start on amongst the more civilized blacks about Oodnadatta as I think the Natives there are chiefly Luritcha or closely allied — All the less civilized ones that return from gaol to Gill Range come back from there via Alberga and complety [sic] West of Finke and Erldunda which they would not be likely to do if they had not much in common. [sic] and would probably prefer the civilized road. I have had a long letter from Gillen who appears to be settling down and beginning to like his new surroundings in spite of occasional hankerings after the old unrestraint of Alice Springs, and, at Alice Springs, I fancy they rather miss the old regime. I have not been in since the new Governor arrived there.

            We expect Henbury people up every day to take away some of the Tempe Cattle and Martin hopes to get them all away from Tempe before January which will make things a lot easier for us. I do not think the Blacks will follow the Cattle there. I hope Mrs Spencer yourself and the little ones are well and with all good wishes.

Remain,

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 36

Illamurta

13th Ap’l 1900

My dear Professor

            No letter from you but I suppose you are still up to your eyes in Exams etc. The Pontiff wrote at length on this occasion and fairly gloats over his Melbourne triumphs, I think I told you that he no longer dates events from any period but that, and every remark, is prefaced, “Before I was or After I was President etc etc etc”. We have actually had rain at last, although none of the big Creeks ran properly, it was soaking and every promise of a splendid season — feed in abundance everywhere and a royal time for blacks for there are simply millions of “Illpierer” and “Uttnirringhita” Caterpillars everywhere and they can and do get bushels in an hour or two. The “Illpierer” is on the grass and herbage only, from an inch and a half to 2 1/2 inches long and about as thick as a blue lead pencil. Colours vary, the one in front of me [drawing with notes]

ground colour from green to brownish black — belly cream“Incharlka” also a ground species

[drawing with notes]

Spots are black with pink centre and the bottom stripe is white, belly and general ground colour green.

“Uttnurringhita” infest Eremophila Paisleyi and some of the other Eremophilas which it strips completely and one kind of the eremophila, the Finke blacks call the Uttnirringhita bush on account of the caterpillars liking for it — Size something like that of the others.

[drawing with notes]

The circles are orange and there is an ill defined yellow stripe of spots underneath, then the same little yellow spots on brown or greenish black ground under belly with a greenish yellow stripe between the legs from head to tail. These grubs or Caterpillars must grow very rapidly and I presume the eggs of the two former must be laid in the ground and the last one on the Eremophilas, but I cannot make out how they retain their fertility through such long droughts and it is only a good rain which seems to release them. I have churina of first two and also got some pieces of stone representing the bark which those Alcheringa women used in the old days and also some of the foreskins which are represented by little hollow pipes. I was up the Peterman just before the rain and found the blacks busy — speared five one day — I did not get the ring-leading gaolbirds so I let those we did capture on Range go — Since that I have been down to Erldunda and saw an interesting Rat Spot away to the South about 25 miles, two parallel rows of stones for a long distance and one row near the Rockholes, our old guide explained that the single Row was the spectators watching the others dancing and had names for some of the stones — a devil of a mob must have gone into the ground at this spot and I reckon the hoary old frauds that placed those stones there must have perspired freely while they were thus salting the ground for their credulous descendants. I got two beautiful Snake stones from Mareena. They show the striation, naturally representing the marks on the Snake. I have sent for some Flour and Sugar and can make a rise in churina directly. On my return from Erldunda I went into the Finke and got “Jado”, who used to be my egg hunter, and a boy for killing a calf and at present he is chained up and I expect we will take him to Mission for trial in a day or two, this confounded wretch I let off at Xmas for same offence and he keeps coming here and getting Rations and physic for his child’s eyes which in reality they throw away and only want to find out whether I am at home or where I am likely to be so that they can go in at the calves without their tracks being seen. Pado talks of going for a trip home to the old Country in Sept’r or October and I think is souring considerably of late like myself from uncongenial companionship. The Bogner’s [sic] went down a fortnight ago and I do not know if they will come back, other local matters quiet. I wish you would send back the letter from R. H. Matthews [sic] which I sent for your opinion, I have another long one this time in which he asks questions enough to run into a small volume but I must tell him I have not got any time.  As a matter of fact I have not yet read the papers of the mail before this and don’t see much chance of doing so for a bit — You see, when one is home there is cooking etc to attend to besides other little jobs. Under separate cover I am sending you my four little beloved Lollitcha “Churina” which I told you of before — I could not find out what the little stone in the paper meant for it does not belong to the other churina but was in a nigger’s bundle carefully wrapped up. Gillen might have got the ones I send [sic - sent] you but I always am sceptical of his collections destinations nowadays and I reckon your Institutions were slow that they did not supply someone like myself with a ton or so of flour to purchase these sort of things with while they were plentiful and before every Tom, Dick and Harry got hold of them. I have to go carefully to preserve their confidence and prevent people who know they will trade these things with me taking advantage of them and spoiling matters by yapping and telling lubras and others about them, the whole secret lies in not appearing grasping and stifling covetous thoughts when viewing objects later they will be offered to you. Ross is at Oodnadatta and getting on alright and Kelly writes regularly from Adelaide and sends me his bible, the “Bulletin”, and the “Australasian”. I wish if you have any prints of pictures you took on the Horn Exp’n or going down with me, you would send him a few, he has often asked me to try and get him some of the views and been very good to me. I know it is a vicarious sort of way of repaying his kindness, by trading on someone else’s, but it is the only way I can do it — His address is:

A.Kelly

c/o Police Station

Two Wells

S.A.

It is a pity you are not up here just at present and me with a little time on hand so that we could go and view the plants which the Blacks want to show me, I don’t trouble to go as I told you and more especially because I am afraid of other people getting the trackers who might be with me at the time to take them to the repositories when I might be away somewhere.

            There is a yarn about a party of 5 whites and an Afghan who started 8 or 9 months ago from West Aust’a being attacked by Blacks in Rawlinson Ranges and a man and many Camels being killed. All I heard was that the party had turned up at Oodnadatta and were going to report to the Police there and that the Afghan had gone off his head and tried to shoot the leader of the Expedition and been shot dead by one of the others — if there is any truth in the yarn, I suppose details will have been in the papers. [sic - punctuation] but I hope I don’t have to go after the Blacks. For I do not see how the right offenders can be identified, knowing how they would probably put the blame onto innocent ones; anyway I think the occurrence took place on Western Australian ground. I can equip myself here for a three weeks or a month’s trip alright but beyond that with present appliances I could not do much good and would require more transport like our Army in S. Africa. I hear Belt joined the second S.A. Contingent over there. Well I must shut up, I reckon I weary you when I get scratching along — I hope this finds you well and that Mrs Spencer will return from England in the best of health and spirits.

Yours very sincerely

C.Ernest.Cowle

I saw the pictures in both Leader and Australasian. G. looked quite a noble Roman amongst the other Scientists and as scanty haired as any of them if that is an indication of brains.

E.

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Letter 37

Illamurta

28th May 1900

My dear Spencer

            turned Yours of Ap’l 11th turned up about three weeks ago, evidently crossing one of mine, I could not possibly reply and in a line to K, asked him to tell you so — on this occasion I am taking time by the wool. I told you I was going to the Mission to get Jado and boy tried — the boy got a whipping and Jado was sentenced to 6 months. I brought him here and shod up a lot of horses and started away South to try and get him some companions but had an unsuccessful trip. We did not see a sign of any tracks till we got over 100 miles from here, about 50 miles West of Goyder (Coolida) Springs and a bit S.E. of what I took to be Mt Connor — the ones I wanted had been about here and boxed with a lot of others from further South, we tracked them to one or two dry claypans and then had to give it up and make back for water, I would have liked to have gone on as they were evidently making a young man (the trackers pointed out where they had been tossing him up etc) but I had never been in that part of the Country before and feared the water they might make to might be impracticable for already thirsty horses — as it was, at one place we carried water out of a gorge for over two hours and the only other waters were Native Wells in ground something like that at Kamran’s Well — we lost a day at each of a couple of them, cleaning them out, and found they made about 10 gallons p hour or say 1 to 1 1/2 horses, rather slow you can guess, with twelve head to water — saw three other wells we did not use and no doubt there are plenty of others scattered about if one had a good guide — don’t seem to be any good waters about the scattered Ranges — the most eventful occurrence was when we tried to cut off a corner by crossing an apparently safe arm of a lake, all went well till we reached the far side and I was just congratulating myself when all the horses went down flop — the saddle ones struggled back onto safe ground with the loose ones but the heavy packs anchored the others, took off everything and got out two — Your friend “Manfred” would not make an effort and I felt inclined to shoot the pig, we had to clear his legs out of briny (oh so salt) mud and then roll him over and over with the surcingles, even when he reached good ground, he would not trust himself to stand up for a good bit. As soon as I got home I started Barlow off down with Jado and since that, I have been here, reading up the accumulated papers and doing odd jobs, nursing a smart twinge or two of rheumatics etc. We had two or three nice showers since I wrote you and all the Country could not well look better although the rain was a trifle late. Martin has got nearly all his Cattle off Tempe and onto Henbury and is trying to sell the horses and station now for very little. Just before we went to the Mission, eleven blacks, including “Meenamurtyna”, came over to Tempe one night from Ayers Rock way and speared an old man, left him rather bristly with 8 spears in him. (I believe he was sleeping with two others whom they first woke up), they also wanted “Arabi” but the devil looks after his own, for I told you he had gone out George Gill Range way. The reason was that these two had killed one of their mates close to Tempe a couple of years ago. We do not interfere in these matters but they killed a couple of beasts as they were going, back on Tricketts Creek plain, so I’ll have to look them up soon.

            I note your remarks re Cassias and Eremophilas etc and I am sending you some of the Palm seeds (“Livistonia Mar”) and some of the seeds of that “Tecoma Australis”, at least that is what I think you call it, the thing that the last joint of the spears is made of with a pithy centre and grows near Rocks. [sic - punctuation] the clusters of flowers are large and pretty, creamy coloured with brownish centre, flowers about size of Eremophila. I will get Cycads first chance and also others. I am sending you a specimen of a poisonous creeper which appears to attach itself to the prickly Tribulus and wish you would give me it’s [sic] name. I have not seen it growing here myself but the Missionaries attribute the death of a lot of their sheep to it just after the rain.

            I have not got anything in the nigger line lately or since I wrote to you, too good a season I reckon at present, I had the old fellows up here for a day or two and tried to get some information from them but their yarns are a bit incoherent to us and they do not seem able to tell you why things were always done. I will probably copy out my notes soon and send them to you. I believe that every water hole, Spring, Plain, Hill, Big Tree, Big Rock, Gutters and every peculiar or striking feature in the Country, not even leaving out Sandhills, without any exception whatsoever is connected with some tradition and that, if one had the right blacks at that place, they could account for it’s [sic] presence there — you may recollect when we left Idracowra and camped before photoing Chambers Pillar with the telephoto — we went on next day and came to some a box watercourse (caused by blood escaping from a Snake woman’s teats) a lot of jumbly little hills (Crows that came from Jay etc), we had dinner at two little Hills on a creek (the breasts thrown away) and so on endlessly, almost to account for two bright stars in the sky — You, of course, know the sort of thing. It seems to me that Alcheringa blacks of, say, Kangaroo totem, these fed on Kangaroos — Now the difficulty comes in that these kangaroo totem men sometimes assumed the actual shape of Kangaroos (see Undeara notes of mine), Snakes or Emus etc likewise, and it is difficult to tell when they are feeding on their ordinary totemic food or eating each other cannibalistically. I am not using the name totemic names as you do in your work like Erlia (Emu) men, Achilpa (Wild Cat men), but I think you will see what I mean. The Erlia Men or men of Emu totem lived principally on Emus, this does not come in always for I have a churina of blue crane totem and this one and others travelled with Mulgah seed men and fed on Mulgah seed. I think I told you about the set of circumcisional articles I got —

Pooras — Peni

Illknaguirta — Testicles

Ill-ying-a-pooler — Foreskins

Lallira — Stone knife

Im-itch-er-iknilla — Gum tree bark

Stone Nanja — of Twantinna

ilknurritcha of the grass seed totem

These are just sufficiently like the articles they are supposed to represent to be recognizable — The stone knife is [drawing] flat like that and the stone, representing the piece of gum tree bark, is not unlike the shape a burnt flake often assumes. In this case it was a woman of the Lizard Totem that was burning the articles off a lot of Ullakupera totem not far from where you and I saw Walter Parke after leaving “Undeara”, and it was a grass seed Totem man who showed them the Lallira and gave them some. This man same from between Doctor Stone’s and Mt Burrell, varies a little from the Alice Spgs version, but I suppose each lot differ a bit — It is your friend “Ungutnika” that looks after these and brought them to me. When the old fellows were here before I just wrapped a piece of Paper on each stick as — kangaroos from ‘Undeara’, Kangaroo from Attitara — Kangaroo from Idracowra and so on, to see if there was any humbug about the churina they had fetched but the three who came this time never failed in the slightest degree in re-identifying them which is a rum thing when one cannot see any differences in a probably perfectly plain stick with considerable grease on it. I may send you an untoned print of a photo I made of them — the individual pictures were failures — I fancy the heat spoilt some of my plates or the gelatine on them during the summer.

            Whooping cough very bad at Mission and I know six little ones died there recently and a lot of old blacks have a sort of cold. I can’t keep them here and they will not look after themselves unless under your immediate eye — My own keep well and I often try and explain the theory of germs to them but I fear they look on me as a Munchausen and ascribe disease to evil influence of others although they reckon I pulled them through the measles and kept them from any deaths which occurred at nearly every other place. War still dragging on in spite of Roberts presence, I do so hope Mafeking gets saved in time. Pado writes occasionally and is well but a bit down just now over shares, like myself. I put every penny into them and if I had sold out on the top prices, could have stood behind about £2000 — now not a quarter of it. Never mind, they may go up again. Gillen wrote me a long letter by same mail as yours and I think likes Moonta in reality and is taking a leading part in local affairs by the aid of a Magic Lantern and a glib tongue.  I reckon his successor at Alice Spgs is not much liked and for some reason has his knife into Gillen on every occasion. I have not been there since poor old Gillen left and don’t often hear any news of the place — things very mixed at the Police Camp there. Well, I suppose you will be pretty full of me before you get this far so I’ll hope you are well and shut up. May add more after mail. I hope Mrs Spencer and Miss Dorothy get out safely and a pleasant trip.

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

Over     Over    [for continuation of letter on inside page]

7. 6.00 Your letter came yesterday, so I’ll add a bit to this long screed. Glad the churina got to you safely. They are not “Illoota”as you seem to say. They are “Loollitcha”, this is a bush something like an Acacia only with smaller dark green leaves and grows a little purple fruit [drawing] of nice flavour and glutinous if I recollect aright, blacks are very fond of it but I have never seen it South of Glen Helen Gorge and it ripens about Ap’l or May. I will send a specimen when I go that way.

            I see what you say about Native Collections and agree with you as to the best place for their final resting spots. I hope you did not think I meant anything personal in my remarks, I wrote pretty stiffly to the Pontiff when I heard he had sold parts of his for such a big sum,  not because he made money out of them if he felt that way, but on account of his saying always that they should not be taken from the blacks and that he was only getting them purely in the interests of science and all the while holding out both his hands and a carpet bag for everything he could get, I know when he said the trustees had wired to him, I replied, “Why don’t you say Spencer wired and repay one good turn by advising the Adelaide people to buy his now.” (Spencer’s) and that if he had straight out at the start that he might make something out of them it would have been alright see. I also see that you have sent Ross £20 for me to lay out — this should be ample for a good bit although I did not mean you to do that when I wrote. I meant it was a pity you had not done it ages ago before the blacks parted with so many things to Tom, Dick and Harry as they have done and that a lot could have been got cheaply at the start before the more civilized ones taught them to put a higher price on things. I told you in a previous part of this that the market was slack at present owing to a good Season but can only say I’ll do what I can — the guileless native, though, when he really knows one is in the market, shapes somewhat thus — 1st, several churina, all blacks liberally rewarded. 2nd visit — about half a dozen turn up with perhaps a couple of churina and when it comes to payment each produces a good sized sack and can’t understand that there is a limit to flour and the purchasing power of each ancestor. Consequent disappointment. I presume you want all the churina I can get both wooden and stone, and any other nigger weapons and gear whatever that is genuine. Or is there a limit to the number of boomerangs, Woomeras, Pitchis etc? — I was collecting a few things myself but will knock off and get Ross to send me about £10 worth of stuff and leave the balance in his hands for cartage etc till we see how we get on. Anyhow, don’t send any more money because I could have financed the concern and settled easily enough with you.

            Grubs Illpierer, Uttnirringhita, “Uncharlka” — are only obtainable now in unrecognizable cooked forms, apparently keep well, will send Attnyum-eeta (Witchety proper) by and bye. And will see if there is an Utnirringhita bush in flower round about Camp before mail day.

Thanks for sending prints to Kelly. I have some spirits. I still hear from old Winnecke regularly, I do not think he has missed more than one mail since 1894. Papers seem full of bubonic and the Appeal Clause in the Commonwealth Bill. My talented brother-in-law, Symon, seems to be in hot water all round and of course is right — His advocacy and support of Kingston, in spite of the bitter feeling between the pair of them, will please the Gillen immensely and draw us very close together.  No more just now, old man, I’m a bit twingy in the shins — With best wishes.

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

Shall I write out the notes on Churina I got here and see if you can connect them with any others — one, I think, relates to the origin of the Finke River.

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Letter 38

Illamurta

8th July 1900

Dear Professor

            Just a line to congratulate you on the F.R.S. and the Fellowship of the Ant’l Soc’y which you richly deserved. How is it that the Pontiff did not get some letters such as K.C.B etc. I thought it was a certainty with Kingston at Home to advocate his claims. I have posted you seeds of two of the Philotus’ — it is difficult to get properly ripe ones for they shed the lower ones before the tip is mature, also a kind of daisy which grows in the bed of seldom running sandy creeks and is rather pretty and a very free flowerer, I got some of the Palm Kernels (Zant’a and Thorntonii) but I found they were all too old and have told blacks to bring me more for the inside of these was rotten. Re Native Peach or quondong (Santalum), note that the kernels of these are carried by the Blacks and used as an unguent for the hair and head. I found a bag full in an old niggers kit last month, they soften a bit when kept and when squeezed are like thin putty. I often wondered what they cracked up the peach stones for as I knew they did not do it for eating and fancied that it was done in play by children.

            A new man came in place of Barlow a few days ago but I cannot give you an opinion on him yet as he has not had time to develop his various madnesses — hasn’t been in the Bush before and, on first impressions, is decidedly commonplace and I fear from what I have noted, far from energetic — hope he will be a success and find a few more “aspirates” in time.

            Ross advises me that rations ought to get here about end of the month. I was mixed a bit over the cheque. He told me you had sent him £20 and told him to send me some Flour etc and you telling me you had told him to do this and to draw on him for cartage made me think the £20 was on this account — he has explained that the cheque was for moles and rats and everything is alright now. I got three ancient Emu Churina during the month — markings very indistinct, I saw a very old Stick in Martin’s possession which I am anxious to get from him as it is not of much value to the person he is getting things for in England. But Tempe is Yorkshire and a queer nut in a deal. The churina is of the “Nyee roo” which is a little bird, either “melanodryas bicolor” or one of the Cuckoo Shrikes, I will ask details before I go on with my attempt to get it. So far I have Eagle Hawk, Kangaroo from Idracowra, Carpet Snake from Erldunda uncharlka grub, Illpierer Grub, Dove, Little Hawk, Carpet Snake from Main Camp, Wild Dog from Irrecowler, Mulgah Seed, Blue Crane, “Goanna” from Ippia, Kangaroo from Attitara; Kangaroo from Undeara, Witchity grub (the one they get underground), Emu from Horse Plain, Inncharlka from Deception Creek and others from Glen way that I have not yet got details of, nor of the stone Emu, and Snake from Mareena.  Am just finishing mail — so I must shut up. With best wishes

C.E.C.

The sticks I have been enumerating are not Museum a/c — but mine, and will go to you first chance and you can do as you like with them only you must give the Pontiff a little divvy out of the duplicate ones or he will reckon I have deserted him.

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Letter 39

Illamurta

31st Aug 1900

My dear Professor

            Under separate cover I have posted you a bundle of notes on Churina, whether you will read them or not is another question. I tried to avoid the Native redundancy as much as possible but altered nothing else — you know how they go into details and irrevelancies crop up, the why and the wherefore of which, one cannot well get to the bottom of and all I can say is that these notes are the result of many long hours of questioning in an evil atmosphere and ought at least to enable you to label the churina into their right totems —

            Yesterday I got a group of 7 Sticks, genuinely antique and relating to the “Tukinjerra” totem — Amphibolurus Maculatus for certain. They are the Churina of a brother and Sister, the yamsticks they each carried are narrower = 4, an abnormally shaped old boomerang, [drawing] the lizard meat [drawing], two other heavy old boomerangs, the ribs they used to throw away = 3 more. The last three belonged to the male Spirit and I believe there are three similar churina belonging to his Sister which I want to complete — The seller was the reincarnated man, now old and blind and led here and he promised to sell me two good white stones which represent the navels of these same two “Alcheringa”. I am anxious to see what they are like — these sticks are all about 2 ft 9 or 3 feet — Some of those in the notes are longer and it is difficult to get boxes long enough for them. These nigger yarns have many points in common with some of our biblical tales don’t you think? Since last writing to you, I have been down Erldunda way and came back by Coolida Spgs then East of Mt Connor and by the Kernot Range home, we saw two or three scattered lots of blacks and got two that we wanted, you know the lot I was after down that way last April that I told you were making a young man of a youthful cattle killer — The latter is still at large with his brother and another connection and not yet allowed to go in the vicinity of the lubras, they keep them apart much longer in the West I fancy and it was amusing to note how careful they were to warn each other by smokes before approaching a well that they might meet at and camps about a quarter of a mile off — I did a war dance at one camp but got no loot except an odd girdle or two of human hair, one of the domestic cat gone wild (much esteemed), and a couple of pitchis, there were any quantity of the latter and I could have fully stocked you if I could have carried them home but I could only give the prisoners one each to look after, I also got four or five of their curved adzes but all had iron tips which I am getting replaced with flints. I hope your “petition” is a success, the funds should be forthcoming if the Anthropological lights are in earnest.

            Thanks for information re the “Dodder” — Maiden of Sydney said some of the species were injurious to plants but not known as hurtful to stock, it was sent to me from the Mission Station where it was plentiful just after the rain and they reported it as killing about 60 Sheep and some horses, I never saw it here nor actually growing. I think I wrote you last mail about the Acacia or Wattle at Gosse’s Range which I won’t forget. I see nice Eremophilas occasionally but I am hanged if I can see them seeding and flowering at the same time and the foliage of most of them is too much alike for me to discriminate. I have been busy as usual and get little or no time for reading even the papers somehow, but I have glimpsed at those N.S. Wales outrages by the “Governors”, can’t understand them being at large so long in such settled Districts and can only put it down to too many people being on the trail and humbugging up tracks, I do not fancy our best C.A. trackers would get on well in such parts for there would be much to confuse them, although in the Bush where it is simply nigger, they are wonderful. I cannot stand the semi-civilized black — blacks can only be ruled properly by fear and once this wholesome respect is blunted, as in the case of knowing gentlemen like those under review, they can be properly bad — it is not harshness that controls the outer barbarian, so much as thoughts of what the white man really can perform, should he decide to be severe, that makes the ignorant native much more amenable to discipline and common sense, familiarity and civilization teaches him to despise the white man’s ideas of punishment after trial and capture instead of “revenge”, sudden and effective at the point of a spear or rifle. The new man is improving a little but is terribly dull, knowing my angelic temper, you can picture him as rather a trial on the last trip, no interest in anything or his surroundings except at meal times and by the end of the trip, he almost knew his own quart pot from mine and what pack it and his swag belonged to — the pot was a mere detail but he is a syrup man and once I had sugared my tea, I did not care for another quarter of a pound being dumped in to it — I used to tell him to go to Hell out of the road pretty frequently for no matter how often a thing was done in front of him, he did not seem to grasp an idea of it, sort of man I can’t realize the density of and moved always as if half asleep. I think he would develop into a man too lazy even to keep his pipe alight unaided, if he got a show but he is going to develope [sic] some energy or have a sorry time. I think I told you of the colds prevalent amongst the Blacks, they cannot shake them off and I have been off colour for a couple of weeks myself — not exactly like infantile whooping cough but when one of the paroxysms comes on you have a strangled feeling, salivate a lot and each inhalation of breath sounds like a foghorn or whistle and you are distressed and exhausted for a few minutes afterwards — Don’t run away with the idea that I am ill for I reckon I am getting alright but from my own experiences I can now understand why the boys seemed so half witted to me on the trip before last.

            I hope Mrs Spencer and the daughter were blooming when they returned and that she will raise no objections to your projected trip in common fair play. Please remember me kindly to her. Kelly’s address is:

Two Wells

South Australia

Alec McKeod was out from Owen Spgs to inspect Tempe Downs for Kidman Bros. but I did not see him going back nor hear if there is likelihood of a trade, failing that, I may go in for half of it myself with another man who would look after it. I expect Martin in a day or two to go in to A.G. with the Blacks, we have not been in since the Pontiff left and personally I don’t anticipate a particularly enjoyable time for I fancy G’s successor is a bit amorphous and vaseling [sic].

With best wishes,

Believe me,

Yours very Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 40

Illamurta

30th Sep 1900

Dear Professor

            Yours to hand and I am very glad that the Petition was satisfactory in getting your leave and only hope the monetary part is satisfactorily settled — it is one thing for Scientific people to sign their names and another to put their hands in their pockets but probably they imagine that the “kudos” should simply repay you for the trifling outlay that a year’s work in the Back Blocks where locomotion and everything else is so cheap entails upon you — Gillen wrote me pretty fully on the subject and I have replied in kind and suggesting Sly [sic] Grog Selling as a means of raising the wind. I was in at Alice Spgs a fortnight ago and found the place very different to the old times and the Telegraph Station much drier except for the surreptitious bottles in various of the Quadrangular rooms — The Police Camp ménage was ghastly and I was very glad to get home again even although I found all hands as bad as ever with colds and have suffered a relapse myself. No sense of taste or smell whatsoever and just a feeling as if I had been belted all over — Gabriel sent me some stuff for the boys but says the epidemic will not go away till the hot weather comes and that one can do little or nothing. I sent Ockenden down with the Blacks and may not be writing to you next mail as I will in all probability be down the road over the Elections to escort my vote and Sargeant’s from the Bend to Charlotte Waters. I note your remarks re Seeds and am glad they are coming on alright, I can’t yet get good conditioned “Cycads”. I have my eye on a shrub in Ilpilla paddock, the seeds were not ripe when I was there a few weeks days ago nor did I catch it in bloom this year but I always intended getting the name of it from someone for Ilpilla Paddock is the only place I have seen it — hundreds of blue balls like pincushions and very striking — Will canter down and see it if a horse comes in today in time.

            I think we burnt that big porcupine bush in the Palmer Gorge or Blacks did, for it is no more. I note the sarcastic tinge of your remarks on the subject of the Camera at that and other spots but you must recollect that I prided myself on keeping appointments with Blacks, Whites or Brindles and arrived up to Time and you will admit that there was not much time afforded to be spent anywhere — you people arranged the affairs without knowing distances and had I been consulted I would have allowed margins — however, if I am still here and you can get a look round, we will try and do better next time. Should Bower birds in Spirits have the abdomen lanced and entrails extracted or not? I can get them and put them in one of the nigger cases. French has always been asking for them but I could not send him any by mail. They are always plentiful here about Xmas, and a curse in the garden on the Tomatoes, but they get shattered a lot with the gun if a big one and are rather too cunning for the little one. I have seen no Polytellis Alexandrae since 1896 and I do not think they are in the country anywhere at present — they are rather an enigma but may appear at any time again. I got a long enough box at last and packed up for you goods as p enclosed list. I must try and get a second box filled somehow to balance it so that these independent carriers will take it away for me. I pick up a boomerang whenever I see one but pitchis are awkward, they take up so much room and weigh nothing — hope you got my long bundle of notes. Got several Churina on my way back from Alice Spgs as two old bucks met me on the road — they swore they had not manufactured them to sell and as two had hair strings on them and evidently had been used, perhaps they were telling me the truth but they are newish, they are to bring me more by and bye and I will get details.  I cannot get old “Chinna-puppa” from Mareena Bluff so as to get the particulars of my two cherished Snake Stones which are about 14 and 18 inches respectively.

            Martin is trying to get rid of Tempe, he has moved all the cattle off and the place is under offer to Kidman with the plant and horses at about £800, I think. I was a fool not to snap it when I had a chance and now it has slipped me — you see I had a notion of giving up the Bush and settling but that is knocked on the head and now I only want to stay in the Bush. Martin is a real good fellow but he will never make a do out there for he always requires assistance and is what one looking on, is forced to reckon a pottering messer, he never seems to tackle a job and go through with it straight out. Please thank Mrs Spencer for kind enquiries, I hear Chappie and her Sister go to Miss Chambers’ school. Mus Domesticus is very thick just now again, their latest game is to root up every melon, pumpkin and cucumber seed you put in and I don’t know how to block them. Tried phosphorous paste last night but did not go down to the garden till after breakfast, seeds gone again but crows had taken all the bread so I could not say if the mice had also a feed — found two dead crows this afternoon at all events.

Good luck and good wishes to you both.

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 41

Illamurta

23rd Nov 1900

My dear Professor

            I have yours of 11th Sep and 21st October to reply to; when last mail left I was down the road over Elections as I surmised I would be. I spent the best part of two days at C.W. and had a good time, John and William Bailes were there bound for Adelaide and old Jelly was in from the Bore, the Bailes did very well out of this last contract and John has not altered much since you saw him, while at C.W. I posted you some seeds of everlasting and some of that other Bush that I am anxious to get the name of and think it would look well cultivated. Who are Knight Bro’s of Bendigo? they have been writing to the Mission for Palm seeds.

            Old Syme came out of his shell over the Funds for your Expedition, I was very glad to hear, but still, I think the scientists who were so anxious for the work to be done, ought to have contributed some of the Cash. (I noted the objection that results would have had to go to them though). I suppose Gillen sent you a letter I saw, signed “Cropless Farmer” which I expect riled him a bit, especially being called a “Postmaster of a small Town at a big Salary”. Whoever it was that penned this, must have some knowledge of the Pontiff, for he appears certain that he won’t be out of Pocket over it and I agree with him in that respect — It is a pity you could not get old George Hablett but old Chance is about as handy a man as you could have dropped across and a good cook — what’s more, he will not worry you too much before sunrise which will suit F.J.G. I never knew whether you really objected to my earliness or not, for you always seemed to get up so readily and cheerfully — About spirits — you ought to have accepted the claret for your Friends sake — take plenty of that “medicinal brandy” instead of that limited supply, but keep it entirely under your own immediate control (not meant for G.) I am speaking seriously now and travelling day after day, if hot or cold, one or two nips of good liquor has a wonderfully beneficial and tonic effect. I know you consider the daylight “nip” most reprehensible but it is the one of the day to restore and enliven the nerves dulled with slumber and should be a generous one. I can picture your saying “Fancy Cowle talking seriously on a subject like this”, but honestly, except when in Company or playing the fool, I hardly ever take more than three nobblers in the day. No matter what Kitchener or anyone else says about men being better without it, there are times when it is invaluable as proved in Hospitals and, if you have not got it, God help you, if you supply it’s [sic] place with what you will obtain in most places North in it’s [sic] stead.

            Kidman Bros got Tempe Downs Stock and Coulthard has the Country. He has sold the Mt Burrell place to old Hayes. Martin will probably go down soon and take a trip home, he says he will come back and try and get a little place lower down country (am afraid he will fritter away his capital if he does though). I hoped Kidman might not close at the end of his option and that Louie Bloomfield and I might have got the place for, in that case, I could have still remained here but the Kidmans knew too well what a good thing it was. Martin offered me Tempe, with all rations, plant and about 400 horses of one sort and another a few months back, for a little over £800. At this time though, I was thinking seriously of going down country and trying to settle and reward the misplaced affection of some damsel, so declined. Shares were at a good figure and the Money would have been no trouble at all. Subsequent events (affections transferred elsewhere), robbed me of my only reason for desiring to leave Bush and then Cash was not so plentiful but still tried to get place and found it under offer to Kidman. Have been kicking myself ever since. Suppose Kidman will remove stock now that there has been rain down at C.W. and should get over £1000 for the first 100 head. Tempe has been sacrificed through the regular arrival of budgets of English Magazines and papers and the policy of always “Going to do” instead of “Doing”. Do you understand what I mean? Had a most awful storm here on the 3rd, it only lasted about a quarter of an hour but unroofed the hut, ruined the garden, smashed nearly all the big trees and left the place looking as if a bush fire had passed over it, killed 10 kids, stunned others and drowned or killed 20 chicks and 4 hens. The hail was the biggest I have ever seen and bruised the bark of trees as if shot from a gun.

            My companion is not coming back and has resigned, he got down below and tried all sorts of ways to get out of going back to the Bush and at last reckoned he could not live with me — (I would not have let him in any case). Have not seen the correspondence but suppose I’ll get it next mail. What annoys me though is that new people coming up this way, are not informed what sort of a place it is and come from Town believing Illamurta is a village — when they arrive they want to leave at once and this last article, I think, used to do his utmost to get me to report him so that he might get near a Pub again. I wouldn’t do that for his Father’s sake but told him he must alter or cook for himself — this hut was erected chiefly for me and at my expense and did not cost H.M.G’t one penny for iron or anything else so I think I am entitled to the occupation of it.

            Re poor old Todd, the loyalty you speak of amongst his officers is very pretty and touching but that is exactly the bane of our Civil Service all over the Colonies. Retirement should be compulsory at a certain age if not earlier and no loophole whatever, such as “Unless considered beneficial to State to be allowed to remain longer”. This simply means, if popular and influential in most cases, and the States go on paying high salaries to useless figureheads who ought to have saved enough to have comfort to the end of their days, instead of this they are let hang on to their places as long as they can be wheeled to them and their compensation goes on mounting up and up while some poor subordinate is doing all the work at a pittance and the Public, if they inquired, would be told, “Oh, the head of the Dep’t is simply indispensable and we have no one we could promote to his position” and so on.

           Churina Am trying to get a 2nd box filled — have about 50 of one sort and another in addition to the list I sent you of the closed case. Expect camels about middle of the month but they are damned independent and won’t trouble to take a case or two often, because they say one or two camels loaded delays them so much as if all were and there’s something in it. Several of the Stone Churina I got last month are good and also big — “Utnurringhita” Grub, “Uncharlka” Grub, “Possum”, “Euro”, and Kangaroo, very old in most cases but can’t get much information except that “they bin all day sit down at such and such a place and by and by bin go long a ground there”. One wants to see a big Waterhole or cave or some other feature and to have, just at the moment, the nigger associated with that spot and ask how that tree or rock or so forth got there and then you would get the Tradition — you know how little the others know of the tradition of groups not intermixed with them or closely associated. Four old Pigs came from Owen Spgs with a dozen sticks last night (of course mail time and cost me four hours this morning for no results except one snag).

            One Churina represents a boy, one of a lot of boys of the Alcheringa times with no totem. Just a Boy as Uncle Remus would say — the other boys rambled round away to Glory but this one went into the ground near Mt Giles — from where they started, his name is “Kookitcha” now reincarnated as a lubra, “Yabbayer”, her totem I think is “Bark” which the boys at this spot played with and threw at one another. Her mother conceived her at this place and the child was a female, what interests me is that the only Alcheringa that went into the ground here was a male and I did not know the sex could be transferred in this manner. I fancied the old people would have got out of the fix in some other way.

            Let me know what you think of this and if you have come across similar cases. My best intermediary is away but there is no doubt about the foregoing — when my boy returns from his spell I will try and get this old fellow, the churina and him together and see if I can get anything more but the getting the 3 together will be difficult.

            Must shut up — I hope to see you on the road somewhere and discuss matters. Please wish Mrs Spencer and the little ones all good luck and their heart’s desire and may they have a Royal time at the New Year in France and yourself the same amongst the poor Blacks.

Yours sincerely

C.E.C.

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Letter 42

Illa HorseShoeBend

29.12.00

Dear Professor

            I sent you two cases by Camels on 13th Dec’r, hope they reach you in time to open before starting up. No time to write to you, came here post haste immediately mail got up on account of one man killing another in Sargeant’s store by a blow with a rifle — had Xmas dinner under a tree this side of Crown Point en route for C.W. Byrne and self got here last night and Inquest today — no forms or anything but work and heat — details in my next. Am nearly done up. Regards.

C.E.C.

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Letter 43

Illamurta

17th Feb 1901

My dear Professor

            Yours of scattered dates from 16th to end of January safely to hand and by this time I hope you have got the Cases safely. Martin was under the impression that his one had gone to you in error but his is still at Tempe Downs because the Afghans did not wait for Coulthard to come home, he is a bit disappointed because he wanted to fix it up for the old Country. I wrote you a few hurried lines from Bend advising you of the boxes and giving you news of Pado and self — well after that, I had to go back to look for and bury Comack who was reported as dead out East of the Govt Well — fortunately he was only nine miles out and the hot weather had left the body dry so that it was not such an unpleasant job as I anticipated. Neither crows nor wild dogs had disturbed the body, after about five weeks opportunity, so you may imagine that there is not a great amount of fauna in the vicinity of yours and Pado’s hunting ground at present. Did I tell you that the man I had here with me put in a very venomous report about me, to avoid having to go back to the Bush and wrote and asked me to forgive him for anything he said about me, he had to resign and I did not see the report till I asked for it — the fool practically pointed out that I did not want him to cook or do things not connected with Police for me but to do things for himself and as he liked and the reality was that I had struck at waiting on and being a servant practically to such a loafer — all this is mere detail. About the same time, some [sic] sent an Anonymous Letter to Lord Tennyson stating that it was commonly reported, that on the best authority, that I kept several aboriginal Native mistresses, to my disgrace and the scandal and detriment of the young troopers, stationed under me. I had done this for years to the injury and degradation of all concerned. I had powerful friends but undoubtedly in the interests of morality I should be removed to settled Districts and civilizing influences and any of the young troopers who had been stationed under me could convict me if they chose. His Excellency had promised to assist the helpless Natives and this was a chance to redeem that promise ——— Tennyson, with the customary gentlemanly instincts of a man ennobled through the accident of having had a talented father, put this before the Cabinet and Comm’r of Police and Bradshaw was to hold an enquiry — As he could not well come out, I went in and saw him and I think he was satisfied of the malicious falsity of the charges — Personally I would have much preferred his coming out and seeing things for himself and making the very fullest enquiries but if people in my position are to be subjected to such things on the strength of anonymous letters, then the game is not worth the candle for instead of a charge being proved against a man as in ordinary justice one has to disprove them and half truths are always worse to combat than either straight out lies or whole facts.

            Both Pado and I know the Maurice who called on you, he is the son of the late Price Maurice, one of our wealthiest absentee owners of Station Property, Maurice is a splendid fellow, a first class bushman with a fancy for exploring outside spots with a few camels and a blackfellow or two whom he systematically spoils, BUT he is cursed with the demon of Drink and when in its vicinity, seems able to exert no self control and makes a perfect beast of himself — I can quite understand the vinous smell as I have been there when he has been that way.

            Your remarks re the Bush bringing out the better qualities are flattering to the out back people — Personally I believe that the bush dweller, I mean the one with a real love for the Bush, get perhaps too self reliant and from a constant habit of doing things for himself a certain irritability, when others are doing these things in his company and either seeming to be sleeping over the job or slumming it. You see there are not many of us with a real love for the Bush and so many of the so called bushmen one comes across nowadays only look to it for its monetary advantages and are wholly praying to get away from it. Pado and myself were talking over Bush life when we last met and in spite of some hard times and experiences in it and often cursing it, we were quite agreed that it would be a regular heart wrench to suddenly sever connection with it.

            Well now, we have had the rain at last, and it has put me clean out of all chances of writing for, for the last four days, everything has been dripping like a sieve, for that last storm left a legacy of little holes etc in the iron which does not lay as close as formerly — We had about 2 1/2 inches, Tempe 2.15 and Henbury 1.64 up to yesterday morning, I do hope this has been general all over the Country more especially for the sake of your expedition than anything else. I only stopped two days at Alice Spgs, it was in a most desolate condition and the Police Camp as “hospitable” as ever — Bradshaw was very nice and produced some whisky — I am sorry to hear his brother died there the day after I left. I think you will be well out of the Commonwealth celebrations — certainly Sydney seems to have done things well but as you say, the wealthy people have had all the cream of the expenses and the bulk of the people got on the Pageant.

 

            Glad to say the Pontiff was in such good form when you saw him, I do not think I can write to him this time but may see you on the road up — I am off tomorrow for the Bend to meet the up mail for I am instructed that Census papers are coming by this intermediate one. Probably Brookes may be going down over the Craig-Wilson case and this may mean that we will be doing the whole district and after that I reckon on Federal Elections so there is every chance of my happening up with your menagerie. So, with that end in view, will try and arrange to work the lower end myself. All sorts of rumours are current as to how you are coming up — First I heard Raggett was bringing you to Alice Spgs.  Then that you were coming p Camels and from A.G. with horses — none of you tell me any details — I will not have time to go through this scrawl so you must take it as it is, I can clear up any of it’s failings if we meet which I devoutly trust is coming off. Kindest regards and best wishes,

Yours very Sincerely

C.E.Cowle

If this reaches you in Melbourne, please remember me to Mrs Spencer, when does she go to England.

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Letter 44

Illamurta

14th Apl 1901

11 p.m.

My dear Professor

            I rode through from Henbury the night before last so as to get a day to answer my mail in, and on arrival, I found three ancients waiting for me with about a score of good genuine Churina of the Yam and Emu Totems. “Yam” are always liberally scored and marked. Naturally I cursed some, but devoted all yesterday morning to trying to get the history relating to the sticks — you may recollect our conversation at C.W. on Blackfellows in Alcheringa times apparently existing without any totem proper at the same time as those interchangeable people and G’s pooh-poohing the idea, and as these churina now in hand, bear on the subject, I want you to enquire carefully as you go along and see what you can make of it. The Pontiff may drop on something and then will declare he was aware of it all along which is rilesome. I think his idea was that the blacks did not care to tell the totem but that is not so as they would not hesitate to tell me if they knew for one moment — My theory is that perhaps these were exceptionally talented people and were superior to the ordinary double carcased people but their full performances have been lost in the distant ages. Whenever it is Blackfellow only, he seems to have been very powerful and if he had a totem it would not have been forgotten but retained for in their memories for the glorification of that Section, don’t you think. Also the reincarnation of the Blackfellow is associated with a totem which he probably obtained through his mother. Also do not forget to enquire re the change of Sex in reincarnation and if you have time, let me know how they account for it. This is all in case I do not happen to see you near Alice Spgs and talk things over quietly when you are both more sober than at C.W. Kindest regards and best wishes to you both as well as to Chance and hoping the eggs were fresh when they reached you.

Yours Sincerely

Rossa [sic]

Be careful and do not spoil my market “Verb Sap”.

Many more Churina promised me when I am ready.

Letter 44 cont’d

                                    Wooden — from 15 inches to 3 or 4 ft.

                                                            Erlia — Emu

9.1      Choora-tarka                        Male               Panunga

9.2      Indoor-innika                        Female                      Panunga } Sisters

9.3      Kayer-yinyikka          Female                      Panunga }

9.4      Toor-pa                      Male               Bultharra

9.5      Kurn-koonika                        Female                      Panunga

9.6      Mye-oong-onya        Male               Apungata R.C.

9.7      Carpulla                    Male               Apungata R.C.         

9.8      Lay-tcher-inya                       Male               Panunga

9.9      Irree-lannana                       Male               Panunga

9.10    Lerree-irrika              Male               Papungata R.C.      

9.11    Ooltarrika                  Male               Apungata R.C.         

            Emu totem from “Inmurtoolitcha” near the Hugh Yard. In the Alcheringa, these and many others started from Ooraterra between Temple Bar and the Jay, they had many churina and had some on their heads — They crossed the Jay Creek and got to Turkillara and stopped there and showed their Churina and quabara to the Emu men there and then on to Indooritcha the other side of Hugh Yard and made many more Corroborees — (the above and some others wne [sic] then to Inmurtoolicha), the others went on West to Quarta-tooma and near here there was an old man called Maka-coorna. A Blackfellow (no totem at all) — this old man heard the noise of the Emu men jabbering and stood up and looked out and saw a big dust — the old man had a stone axe. The old man Maka-coorna called to the Emu men by putting his hand to his mouth and making a noise like an Emu and then he saw the big mob coming up and they all had churina on their heads — when they came close up, the old man tried to round them up and to kill them — “Maka-coorna” had no totem — he lived on “Inmoota” (the herb in Creeks after rain like Cress) his re-incarnation who was the father of “Looltcha” who is mother of a lubra here was of the Raritcha Rat totem (probably Bettongia) Looltcha is of the Ice totem). The Emu mob spread out their wings and charged at Maka-coorna who jumped onto a stone and a gumtree marks the spot — As they passed the stone Makacoorna jumped down and killed one of the Emu men with his axe this Emu man was lagging behind — The others ran on and got into a big cave and Makacoorna gathered many bushes and porcupine and closed the opening of the cave and lit the bushes and the porcupine and waited — By and by, after a bit, he opened a hole in the bushes and he saw two of the Emu men dead and he looked further and saw the others running away out of “Apowara” (Belt Range) Emu centre — He left them and came back to the two smoked Emus and cleaned off their feathers and took off their churina and cleaned out their guts and made a fire and put in the Emu’s [sic] and cooked them and while they were cooking he eat [sic] the guts and then he took out the Emu meat and cut it up and smashed up the bones and eat the marrow and when he was gutfull he lay down and went into the ground. Finis A waterhole marks this spot (and various other things show that the occurrence really took place for do they not remain there as silent witnesses to this day). Informant “Oolperinya” of the Emu totem assisted by Illpulter alias old man Crow and Lattchea of the Yam totem.

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Letter 45

Illamurta

12.4.02

My dear Professor

            I see you have once more returned to civilization and this is only a short letter to congratulate you on getting back alright, the scare headlines about stranded explorers, malarial fever etc made us think you really were having a risky time, I suppose it was a case of “save us from our friends” or was it a scheme of the Pontiff’s to work up some excitement. I never heard of you after you left Tennant’s Creek nor did I ever receive any letter from either of you, I wrote once and after that I heard you were likely to be back in Melbourne about the end of the year. You know I went down about the end of October and succeeded in being a bigger crimson idiot than usual, left a legacy of offences of one sort and another behind me, with my golden pieces but had the satisfaction of spending the cheque personally instead of reading week after week of how this or that mine had been badly managed and ore reserves over-estimated etc etc. I only ran over to Melbourne for about three days so I did not see much like a fool, I went up to the Museum just for an hour the day I left and had a look at the aboriginal impedimenta, I think they are capitally arranged and that numbering system makes it easy to recognize the individual articles at a glance and see its locality etc in the descriptive part at once. There was absolutely nothing on in Adelaide except Rickards and a circus at the end — Oh, there was a Mayoral reception on the Victoria Park to which I somehow got inveigled and whereat I got hustled and prodded from head to heel and wedged in the centre of a moist, perspiring crowd of female voters or ratepayers — it was their corroboree and someone was providing the Flour and Bacca on the nod and Hell.

            I came out of Town limping with awful corns on the sole of my left right foot from the effects of my general restlessness and the asphalt, then got orders to wait at Ood’a till next train to take a man called Burke up to Alice Spgs for trial — Finished that job and came here to get fresh horses and off down to Eringa to search for two young fellows. I expect you will have seen in the papers that I found the white boy and all the horses dead in various spots — this was about 60 miles up the Goyder and it is not a nice country biologically or otherwise in a season like the present. I got home nearly three weeks ago and was delighted that I only lost my own special, private horse through some poisonous weed, I spelled three days at the Goyder Well with two sore eyed men for company, innumerable flies, hot weather and the only literature was the “Confessions of Maria Monk”. If I only had been possessed of some paper I might have written a brilliant essay on “How to be happy and a Policeman”. It is a bad season again after that glorious rain of twelve months ago, how fortunate you were in striking it — This letter is all about myself but I have got out of touch with you and when you get time you must write and give me a little idea of what you are doing. Please remember me very kindly to Mrs Spencer and with all good wishes to you both, besides the hope that your recent work will benefit you not only in the well earned kudos but also in Shekels.

Believe me,

Yours very sincerely

C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 46

Illamurta

20th Sep 1902

Dear Professor

            Yours of 8th July reached me last mail also letters from Gillen and Chance, the really first authentic news I had had of any of you since I saw you at Alice Spgs. I followed most of your ramblings in the Leader till I went to Adelaide though — of course I can understand how busy you have been since your return, preparing for the lectures which I am pleased to hear were so successful. The money from Gillen’s was apparently, after all, devoted to the Aborigines but the price of admission should be higher especially as the interest of the Public was is excited with the idea of seeing pictures more or less indecent. You may have noticed various telegrams and reports of the starving condition of Blacks in the Interior, well, certainly it is an awful season for feed and water but I am quite convinced that it is a mistake, this distribution of rations in a regular manner — from what I can see it has the effect of encouraging Natives in to centres where game is very scarce and the natural foods almost entirely absent, they get a pittance of flour and hang on, too lazy to hunt as long as this is a certainty, and spend the day in talking etc whereas if they remained in their own Country in little groups they would be fat — you notice the difference travelling for the condition of many is astonishing even on Tempe where there are no longer any cattle for them to trouble — our insolvent State will find the trouble increase instead of diminishing because more and more will go to centres each year whenever things tighten and it bears out my argument all along, that on the Stations it is not the whites who keep the Blacks at head quarters but the Blacks who will congregate in their vicinity once they have got a taste of various articles. Tempe Downs is not troubled with Blacks at all now, except by the few Station ones and ex working boys. Coulthard has given them the Station and shifted to a well on the Palmer about 18 miles from here and near the junction of the Walker and that Creek, only employing an old fellow and his lubras to shepherd goats and three young boys, two of whom are from Glen Helen way and his trouble is to keep these others away from this one spot so that they will not go through his goats in his absence with his man or cadge the tucker that he gives to his workers. These sneak in in spite of his precautions and are off again to their soakages where whatever they get to eat, keeps them really in show condition, I could hardly credit the beef they have on them, while the sheep and goats are so poor — here, I have had to kill over 60 lambs last month to try and keep their mothers alive and if it does not rain soon I will be compelled to fry chops in Castor oil or neatsfoot for I have a little of that left. The garden has been excellent all the year but there are various caterpillars beginning to show up and something wrong with the onions which I do not like the look of —

Re Churinga. I understand how those notes you have are do not covered notes you have cover more than you have, but I have told you, in my last letter, that I had a case waiting here which the Afghans would not take in February and I have nearly got another and hope to get them both away in November. I have been here alone since the end of April and hope I am likely to be left so, lately I have been cutting timber with the intention of putting up a place to keep stores in, the Govt has given me 40 sheets of iron as I offered to put up the place free of any cost to them and I am now waiting till I can borrow the Henbury donkeys to drag in the stuff. if I get this wurley up it will be a godsend for with rations, papers, clothes and other rubbish gathered in last 9 or 10 years my shanty is simply crowded. Have done a great deal of travelling this year. In July the Missionaries wrote me that they had secured 11 Blacks for cattle killing on their Station so I escorted them to Alice Spgs and then to Charlotte Waters where I handed them over to Williams, Pado was looking very well and to my sorrow, he would not join me in whisky even with the seductions of lemons added, I hope he sticks to his resolution — Bennett of Barrow’s Creek travelled down with me and we just missed Scott on the road.  Alice Spgs is getting a queer place now, no less than nine women in it and at [sic] time of my visit they were all on friendly terms and “my dearing” one another. Progressive Euchre Parties, Margerison’s soap and cheap perfume pervaded the township and a lawn tennis club is talked of. Bradshaw is not a bad fellow to my fancy. Mrs Brookes was in Adelaide and her husband’s ménage was characterized by a total absence of restraint which was charming — Oh, I received a letter from Jim Field and also a watch I presented you with, I could not understand why you returned it until I set it going, then I found out, it’s vagaries are rather startling and in the vernacular, it is a b--r. Chance is happy at the Diamantina,  I did begin to think, from his silence, that you or Gillen had him planted and were going to use him as a diagram to illustrate tribal markings etc.

25th Mail got here today and Pado says he has just heard poor old Winnecke is dead, the old chap seemed to have gone off a lot when I saw him in Adelaide and presented a frowsy, unkempt appearance, don’t know whether business was bad or if it was illness but he was a totally different man to the Winnecke I had known so long. I enjoyed your description of your journey from Borrooloola very much, the Queensland Govt evidently know their duty as regards liquors and no doubt have had experience of other explorers and parliamentary parties. I noted your remarks about Democracy and think you are right, what surprises me is the way people advocate gigantic Schemes as if we had unlimited millions to work on instead of being in a state of practical insolvency — for instance flooding Lake Eyre. Now, has the University come out of the financial troubles? I hope the State came to the rescue although someones neglect was “criminal”. You must pine for the privacy of Hammerdale but you are close to your work and if Mrs Spencer is satisfied I suppose you will have to be. Are the Un’y Residences any way commodious? I hear of various Churina that are to be got but I am standing off for a while. I have often told you that too many gentlemen escort probably one or two sticks and how each produces either a 50 lb bag or the leg of a No.7 pair of moles and expects them to have a bloated appearance on his departure, by showing them that I am not keen I will get the articles easier directly if they are worth securing. No more tonight, this is terribly scratchy and disjointed but it is close and muggy and insectivorous round the lamps. Kindest regards to Mrs Spencer and trusting you are having a bit of a rest. With all good wishes for yourself and the Book. Believe me,

Yours very sincerely

C.E. Cowle

P.S. Isn’t it surprising how these German Missionaries breed — they are good neighbours though and we get on excellently now that they have realized that the aborigine has a few failings, it is a pity that they cannot learn that christianizing them is all rot, drop it and confine themselves to feeding them and teaching them handicrafts.

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Letter 47

Illamurta

25th Nov 1902

My dear Professor

            Only a short letter to acknowledge yours of 23rd ult’o and to wish you the usual compliments customary amongst civilized people at this time of the year. I have cased up and addressed to you all churina etc on hand and camels should be along in about ten days and take them away, I cannot find the list of the box I packed before I went to Town last year and fancy I posted it to you. List of smaller case is enclosed and I hope to hear of safe arrival soon — Let me know by the return mail, without fail, up to how far I gave you notes at Alice Spgs and what I posted you afterwards. I got the Sugar Ant Stones the other day and they are very old — do you not think that originally all the Churina were Stone and have been gradually replaced with wooden ones as they wore out? I observe you have been pretty busy lecturing but it should come easy now even if monotonous. Gillen wrote me quite a nice letter this time, I am wondering what is up. No rain here although various places round about got more or less, Tempe about 1 1/2 inches (stopped altogether 13 miles West of here), Henbury 60 pts, Idracowra Bend and Charlotte nil, while Eringa Station had over 2 inches. Arltunga 2 1/2 and Alice Spgs Undoolya from an inch upwards — haven’t heard what the Missionaries got if any — Been busy most of the month putting up a storeroom with an old chap I gave a job to and am now renovating the other wurley so as to be comfortable but just about when I get things fixed I expect I will be moved. Terribly hot this Summer, don’t suppose the Races affected you much unless Mrs Spencer persuaded you to take her to the Cup. Will write you properly soon — curse Xmas mails old man. Once more wishing you and yours many happy and prosperous New Years.

Yours very sincerely
C. Ernest.Cowle

Don’t forget to let me know last numbers or letters to notes I gave you at A.G.

Letter 47 cont’d

Other box has all other Churina of which you have notes and others.

Smaller box

1 Shield

1 Pitchi

# }

1 } Stone Churina

# } Blackfellow and Lubra

2 }

# }                                           # Jerboa rat?

3 } Wooden Churina                       3

# } Rat                                                # Perameles Obesula?

4 }                                           4

U.1                                          Stone Churina          Kangaroo

J [sic - or could be T] 1.x     „           „           Fire

E 1.2 and 3                           Stone Churina grassseed

L. 1.2.3 and 4 X                    Stone. Sugar Ant

1 p’r Kurdaitcha Boots

Various Nosebones

11 Spear Throwers

1 Wooden Churina Snake             }

1          ..          ..  Lubra         } Laurie’s Creek no details

2 Stone          ..  Green Snake Mareena Bluff no details          

3 Wooden     ..  Boys } West of Gill Range

1          ..          ..  Lubra } No details

2 Billy Bands - 1 Rat tails

2 wooden and 2 bone Poison sticks with down attached

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Letter 48

Illamurta

21st Jan 1903

Dear Professor

            Yours to hand and many thanks for good wishes. We got very patch [sic] rains here between end of Nov’r and middle of December, totalled about 2 1/2 inches just here, and feed came on capitally but it has been murderously hot ever since (till today which is cool and windy) and feed dried up rapidly, a lot of that smoky weather you and I had in Jan 1897. Xmas passed off quietly. Coulthard was here and the old chap that I keep to look after things while I am away, camels arrived a week beforehand with a nice selection of fixings from sisters, liquid and otherwise, my two kegs of wine etc, garden yielded Rockmelons, tomatoes and carrots and the boys got 15 large fat wild ducks. I don’t think many blacks fared better than ours on that day for I got old Dave to make them 5 Galls ginger beer and gave them three bottles of raspberry vinegar. We drank everyone’s health and cursed the flies and I thought of you and old Gillen more than once. At the New Year I started for Erldunda and on the 1st day I believe I got a sunstroke or was affected by the heat. Got dizzy and seemed to be riding down Hill. Slightly uneven ground, appeared to be all holes and gutters and a few bushes dense scrub, if I used my eyes fully, all objects were duplicated but it was alright if I closed one or lowered my eyelids, as it got towards dusk I could see Dessert Oaks, natural size, ahead of me and a miniature reproduction of some trees near me, and at night, two moons, two fires etc and was very shaky on my feet. I felt rather scared and wondered if I would wake up blind but was better in the morning and after a days spell at Erldunda, pretty well got over the dizziness and eye trouble but my legs are still anyone else’s but my own and frequently when I go to walk, I reel and tack like a drunken man and have difficulty in standing up on my feet — appetite and condition good and I have been living well so I do not think it can be anything else but the Sun. I walked about a mile to look at a Bower Bird’s nest this morning (didn’t know it was so far) and got very distressed climbing up the little rough range to get to it, I am going for a trip to the Mission at end of the week to see if the shaking up will pass it off and have written to a Doctor in Adelaide for stuff.

            Niggers pretty quiet as far as I know and a rare crop of Yellka [sic] is assured — Great rains over Alice Spgs way and Pado tells me that tribes of shark faced individuals are flocking to Arltunga as representatives of little 20/- syndicates. I fancy things are exaggerated for S.A. smokes big for very little fire — these people hardly realize Central Austa till they get two bung eyes and strike the simoon of the Desert in the shape of one of Honest E.H. Sargeant’s Price lists at Horseshoe Bend in a duststorm. Am standing out myself p force of lack of cash for one reason and distrust of the damned hole for another. Tarcoola was going to be another Kalgoorlie and Mt Morgan combined until I shot £250 into it and that collapsed it. Blast it (C. French revised). Notice Maurice has been having a good time in Adelaide and his niggers naming articles in the collection he has given the Museum, how does it fit in when they are Musgrave blacks and many of the articles come from Finke and elsewhere? What becomes of Aboriginals when fee simple [sic] of the land, Trans’l Railway, is handed over to Syndicators? Are they to be allowed to run the show under their own laws as at present or do they become absolute property of the Concessionaires as Products Mineral or otherwise? Would like to see the terms relating to them but I rather fancy the concocters of the scheme have overlooked the Aboriginal question altogether and wonder that no stringent provision has been made for their protection, certainly if the line does go through it will eternally damn a great many of them, male and female, with civilization. Will go into balance of those Notes next letter. I am glad you had a holiday even if that tramp did score his Xmas fittings at your expense. No letter from Gillen this time, he wired at Xmas. Good luck and prosperity to you all in the present year is the sincere wish of

Yours very Sincerely

C.E.C

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Letter 49

Illamurta

17th Feb 1903

Dear Professor

            Notes herewith, I am still damnably shaky, and am afraid it is Locomotor Ataxia and not Sunstroke that has overtaken me — ought to know by next mail when I get word from Dr Marten. I am doing as little writing as possible so excuse brevity, hope cases reached you safely, I know Camels got to Oodnadatta but I did not hear from Manfield. With all good wishes.

Yours Sincerely
C.Ernest.Cowle

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Letter 50

Miss Hand’s Private Hospital

Hutt St, Adelaide.

17th June 1903

Dear Professor

            It was not until I received your letter last week, that I recollected that I had not answered your former one and I must ask you to overlook my carelessness. Well, you will see from the heading of this that I am still here and I cannot say definitely how things are going, for condition is very like Sharemarket and fluctuates in a damned annoying manner, sometimes I fancy I am getting nice and firm in my legs and just about then, I get a set back in the shape of some awful rheumatic twinges which keep me in bed where I get terribly stiff and am debarred by my surroundings from the relief of a good torrent of blasphemy. The City seems to be cursed with a perpetual drizzle and to know absolutely nothing regarding it’s definite intentions. I sometimes feel inclined to get a few gallons of physic and clear back to the old N. West and its dry climate where I feel sure I would recover more rapidly if it is to be and in the other case, peg out, amongst kindred spirits, Pado wants me to go up to him and Marsh wants me to go to Oodnadatta but I will give the Doctors every opportunity first, I am putting on condition and everyone tells me how well I look and considering that I weigh about 12 stone, it is hard to realize that I am at all queer — latterly my legs have been massaged for about half an hour night and morning and it has had the effect of making me sleep considerably more than before, I almost doze off during the operation, if ever you are troubled with insomnia after all your worries I would advise you to try it. Latterly I have waded through the “Living Races of Mankind” by Hutchinson Lydekker and Coy and noted various of your Photos in the Aus’n types — the Illustrations struck me as being good but not representative as they were mostly of good specimens of their race and chosen on that account and the Letterpress was poor and the same in the “Living Animals of the World”. I thought this latter would be a complete Natural History but found it was only the best known varieties of species that were illustrated. A week ago, I went to the last day of the Races on the old Course near here and although it was a bleak dreary day, I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement and change. Kelly went with me and we patronized the Derby stand so that I could avoid meeting a lot of Women who would have asked me the same old questions till I was mad. Martin left here about a fortnight ago, having been forced to remain considerably longer on account of nasty cold which gave us all a turn, then he went and stayed at John McKay’s and got diarrhoea or something and is at present at S.A. Club, think he goes up to Gillen soon. Heard from Gillen yesterday and from Field a few days back. Jim was in great form as they had had most bountiful rains and there was a good chance of he and Scott, disposing of their Country and Stock — Byrne writes regularly and as you can imagine, is particularly caustic concerning the experts he has seen passing and read the accounts of since the Boom, he meets very few of them personally for his “aloofness” is superb. Geology Brown has been to see me a couple of times and, of course, when any of these Norwesters are in Town I see a good deal of them. Just now there is Frith from Oodnadatta, Williams, the mail Contractor from Alice Spgs, Elliot from HorseshoeBend and one or two others, which to a certain extent unsettles me and makes me hanker for the old Mulgahs and Ordivician outliers — am afraid, from the line my successor wrote me en route this time, he will not care for the Bush and I am much afraid my things will go to rack and ruin — the fool does not know what a chance I have given him and how I willingly would give all I possess to be back there again in his place. People here cannot understand my craving for the Bush again and I am quite convinced that they really think I am not in my proper senses.

            I note that Stirling is back and I hope you saw him on the return jaunt, I expect I shall see him before long, would like to have a stroll through his Museum with him — Poor old Winnecke, from what I can learn, was quite queer at the end and his wife had either left him or could not live with him, think she was a nurse and a sort of distant connection of his — How long is Mrs Spencer to be at home in England?, I note you get up to the Black Spur whenever you get a chance, is it a “buggy” sort of a spot in addition to the giant Ferns, I think I have seen many illustrations of it in Vic’n papers — I must shut up, this is very jerky; as the Lord Mayor of Adelaide gave his annual Ball yesterday thereby bringing much of my relations to the City, I have been frequently interrupted by callers relating their doings and adventures. Kelly and Mrs Kelly asked to be kindly remembered to you and with all good wishes from myself to you and yours.

Believe me,

Yours very Sincerely

C.Ernest.Cowle

Hope when you next write to hear that Proofs are all corrected.

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Letter 51

Belair

26.5.20

Dear Professor

            I was so pleased to have your long, interesting letter of 5th just as I planned to write and tell you so I went down to it for six days with a bad attack of pains, have managed to avoid bed at undue seasons for about a week now, and tobacco once more begins to taste less like pollard or some other “Ersatz” — I read in the “Bulletin” that you were retiring to England after your 33 years out here, then in the A’sian that you had bought a property out Sassafras? or Healesville way and intended living there. I have been trying to think how long it is since you called here for a few minutes en route to Mrs Gillen’s and thence to Dr Stirling’s, I know I expected to see you again on one of your trips to England, as it was reported you were coming to South Aus’a for some days en route. I think you are mistaken about Xmas 1895, you spent Xmas 1896 at Alice Spgs, I went in there a few days later and called you to the Charlotte in the early part of 1897 — we had a belated Xmas dinner off a very fine Domestic turkey at Old Crown Point on 18th January as p extracts from my diary enclosed. Your letter brought old memories and regrets flooding over me once more — I had a very bad attack of pains during February, Miss Hughes ascribed it chiefly to worry — The fact was that Thorold Grant wrote to me about some information Fitz (who used to manage “Undoolya”) had given him concerning Bob Coulthard and I finding traces of Gibson (lost by Giles in 1876) out west of Tempe Downs, it was not accurate and like so many of Fitz’s stories, it needed cutting in half and censoring, I got turning up old diaries, or rooting round I came across a ration bag I had. I had tossed a lot of letters into when I was leaving Illamurta 17 and 18 years ago and when I fully expected I would be returning there fit and well again in a few months, they were principally letters from yourself and Gillen, with a few from Winnecke, Keartland and others and they just got me down — After all the Bush was my home — I loved it in spite of its hardships and exactions in many respects. I was always happy enough there and after a little spell in civilization I was glad to get back to it. I have received many kindnesses since my enforced existence among the more civilized of the human race, but I have also observed the petty jealousies, hypocrisy and general artificiality, that it is comprised of in many instances, to a degree that has been a revelation to my simple belief — As for Religion, one has only to live in a narrow little community such as this, and note the constant quarrelling among the “professing” christians and Church pillars, to be convinced that where there was none of it, the men were no worse as men or fellow beings, and that the beliefs of the Aboriginals which there is so much anxiety to Missionize out of the remainder of them, had their good points and might well be left in peace. Of course you and I naturally regarded certain actions of the Natives from entirely opposite stand points, but although my methods might be considered harsh, I tried to be absolutely just in my dealings, to take no unfair advantage and to give him the benefit of the doubt if there was a possible one, and I endeavoured to convince him that my word was to be absolutely trusted no matter how inconvenient to myself it might be sometimes, and I do flatter myself that I succeeded to a considerable extent, for they would show me places or things quite satisfied that they were inviolate, except in their own terms, I never exploited them for my personal benefit. The Administration at the top end, both in the matter of the Natives and generally, does not appear to have been an unqualified success and the breath of suspicion hangs over those recently in authority there and their satellites, where we behind the times in C.A. or just respectful of our opportunities I wonder — you are right in saying I would probably know few of the inhabitants of the old hunting grounds if I revisited them now, fully 150 I met more or less intimately have died, many others left the North and settled elsewhere. I still correspond with those that are left whom I was pally with and whenever they come to Town they invariably come to see me. Coulthard sold Tempe Downs and lives mostly in Adelaide, he often runs up to put in the day, Mrs Gillen was here lately also Dr John or Jack, Field who is now postmaster at Glenelg and enjoying much better health, was here on Sunday — Martin sort of dropped out, he is at present Chief Clerk on the Murray Locks construction work at Blanchetown — Have not seen Mrs Ross for ages, they live down on the plain between here and the City, Ross was over Wells etc in the Centre but gave it up, he has just run up to the Stuart’s Range Opal Fields but did not stay long or do anything profitable, Ruby Ross (the little girl in the print you sent me) has children now bigger than she was in 1897 and young Alec who did well at the Mica Wolfram Field, has just discovered that there as [sic] better “get rich quick” schemes than going into business with Town smarties. Kelly’s wife died some three years ago, he is superannuated now and lives with his daughter in one of the suburbs below us and comes along now and then. As for my actual self, I bob along somehow thanks to Miss Hughes who has been with me 13 years and is invaluable in every respect, she studies my interests financially etc just as though they were her own — I have not been able to walk now for something over two years, I get into my chair at the foot of my bed with Miss Hughes assistance, and sit in it for an hour in the morning, then back onto the bed, in the afternoon she usually wheels me along the road for an hour — Occasionally my friends, the McTaggarts, come along, load me into their motor car and take me for a run, generally to the City where I love to watch the kaleidoscopic scene after the monotony of this Show, I used generally to lose some of the hide off my hips in being embarked or discharged from the motor, but they have now got one with wider doors, I could go out frequently were it not for the dread of bowel complications. I lost one nephew at the War but the others are alright and my especial friend Fred Downer, one of Elder Smith and co Directors who went to the London Board while the War was on, returned on Xmas eve, he comes to tea every Friday night and runs up in between, sort of saves me from utter stagnation, this locality is not humorous, it takes its politics, religion and other matters too stolidly and there is little satisfaction in pulling its leg. Do not suppose I will see the Prince, too big a crowd, if I went down in a car everyone would be standing up, I can’t, I would be like the pistil of a half opened lily — suppose you are in the thick of it in Melbourne at this moment.

            You do not tell me how you fill in your time now that you do not have the grind of lectures, nor the size of your Estate, nor of any particular hobby on it, I hope you soon will and with all good wishes Believe me, never forgetful of friends and their kindnesses to this irresponsible, who has no longer as good a capacity for strong drink as of yore. Your affect friend

C.Ernest Cowle

Letter 51 cont’d

1897

Jan 1 Left Alice Spgs at 8.15 am with Nat and ... [sic - word illegible] “Ahzecl”, “Avondale” “Tennant” and “Strike” — dinner at Running Waters and camped at Boggy Hole — Water very salt 28 miles

2nd and 3rd

4th      Police Camp for dinner — saw Mr and Mrs Kelly and Mrs Chance — after dinner Kelly drove me to A.G. where I saw Professor, Mr and Mrs Gillen, Squires, Jagoe, Medworth, Hablett, Gleeson, Crick — Later on Oliver and Smith with whom I fraternized and got very squiffy. Chance passed at teatime from Bond Spgs and Jack Besley came from Township tight at 8 pm

5          at Telegraph Station all day and “sorry” saw Grant, my camera pictures framed ———

————

7          Up to Alice Spgs with Camels after dinner paid Gunter £ 2/14/- South £3.13.9 Met Pep who also stayed at Alice Spgs

8          Left at 10.30 a.m., stopped for 10 minutes at Police Camp. Dinner at gate and on to near Rat Holes — Camel calf very troublesome

9          M Clure Spgs

10       Red Ochre and to “Undiarra” — — — — Hazy all day. most peculiar spot on Sun at 6 pm Professor photographing and also Sun Spot

11th 12th 13th 14th 15th ———————————

16th Jan        photoed Mulgah Scrub — porcupine and Crown Point had dinner and a clean up at Afghan Hole — Saw 4 teams at Pigeon Well (Hunt, Talbot and Coy) and on to Crown — saw Pado, Field, Mrs and Miss Ross. Stokes also Mrs Woolcock of the Cyanide Plant 19 miles [by side of paragraph - Tiliqua occipitalis ]

17th    Self Professor and Pado up to Crown Point Stores left for Idracowra Woolcock and party for Arltunga — Ross home at tea time

18th    Ross and Field to Cattle Camp and returned at 4 pm — Self, Professor and Pado up to the Crown for Photos etc. Ballingale turned up 5 pm. Xmas Spread in the evening killed a bullock — Teams all left

19th    Ross out to Cattle Self Professor and Pado left at 9.40 am — — —

20th — — — —

21st — — — —

22nd   Started out with Byrne and Prof Spencer in buggy for Anderson Range but turned back after going 6 miles — Professor was unwell very dusty and a few drops of rain and saw Cowan going Aringa [sic] way