BUCKLEY, William (c. (1780-1856)

BUCKLEY, William (c. (1780-1856)
the wild white man
was born at Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, about the year 1780. He received some elementary education though in his later years he was unable to read or write. He was apprenticed to a bricklayer, but when about 20 years of age enlisted in the army and fought on the continent. On returning to England he fell into bad company, was convicted of receiving stolen property and sent to jail. It was later decided that he should be transported, and in 1803 he arrived at Port Phillip as part of the expedition under Collins (q.v.) that was intended to form a settlement. While at Port Phillip Buckley escaped with three companions. One of the party was shot, but the others got away and eventually found their way to the other side of the bay. Finding it almost impossible to obtain food Buckley's two companions decided to try to return to the settlement. Buckley subsisted for some days on shellfish and water, very nearly starved to death, but eventually fell in with some aborigines who befriended him. He lived with the aborigines for about 32 years, and in July 1835 was found by Batman's (q.v.) party under J. H. Wedge (q.v.). He made himself useful to the party in their dealings with the natives and a free pardon was obtained for him. The suggestion was made that he should be appointed a protector of aborigines, but he was a man of small mentality, and though he could do useful work in connexion with the natives in the districts he had lived in, he had no knowledge that could be made use of when other tribes were concerned. In 1837 he was sent to Tasmania and given a position as a porter, and in 1841 was gate-keeper at the female factory at Hobart. About this time he married a widow with two children. He was later on given a pension of £12 a year to which an additional £40 was added by the Victorian government in 1852. He died at Hobart on 30 January 1856 and was buried in the grave-yard of St George's church.
Buckley was a huge man, about six feet six inches in height. Any little ability he may have had appears to have atrophied during his residence with the blacks. He was unable to tell much about the habits and customs of the aborigines, his most sensible saying being a suggestion that there should be no interference with their customs. He was gentle and harmless in his later days, apparently content to have found a home and sustenance. His biographer, John Morgan, endeavoured to obtain particulars of his life from Buckley, but the style of his narrative suggests that he was compelled to supply a good many gaps in it.
John Morgan, The Life and Adventures of William Buckley; James Bonwick, The Wild White Man; W. T. Pyke, Thirty Years Among the Blacks of Australia; Marcus Clarke, Stories of Australia in the Early Days; Hobart Mercury, 23 May 1907.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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