Buckley, William (1780-1856) (DNB00)

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BUCKLEY, WILLIAM (1780–1856), convict in Australia, was born at Morton, near Macclesfield, in 1780, and became a bricklayer. At an early age he enlisted in the Cheshire supplementary militia, and in 1799 volunteering into the 4th or king's own regiment of the line, served in Holland and in various garrisons. While at Gibraltar he, with six other soldiers, turned out with an intention of shooting Edward, duke of Kent, 24 Dec. 1802, for which offence he was sentenced to transportation, and sent out to Port Phillip, Australia. On 27 Dec. following he escaped from custody, and for thirty-two years, from that day forward, he never held intercourse with any white man. After enduring innumerable hardships, he joined one of the aboriginal tribes of Port Phillip (the district since known as Victoria), who treated him kindly, taught him their methods of taking animals, birds, and fish, instructed him in the use of the spear, boomerang, and other weapons, and provided him with kangaroo skins for his clothing. No doubt they were much impressed with his appearance, as he was gigantic in size, measuring in height nearly six feet six inches, and of good proportion. Life with the natives was not always pleasant, as many of them were cannibals, and there were constant wars among the tribes, when many persons were killed, and their relations afterwards massacred in cold blood. Buckley would willingly have returned to his imprisonment, but the settlements in Port Phillip had been abandoned, and no white men were residing in the district. One day, however, his attention was drawn to the fact that the blacks were in possession of cotton pocket-handkerchiefs. On inquiry he found that some white men were encamped not far away, and on proceeding to Indented Head, Port Phillip Bay, he found a camp which had been formed by Mr. John Bateman and a small party who had come across from Van Diemen's Land to settle in Port Phillip. This meeting with his countrymen took place 12 July 1835. Representations being made to the colonial secretary of Van Diemen's Land of the hardships Buckley had endured, and of the great use he was likely to be to the settlers in communicating with the natives, a free pardon was granted to him, dated 28 Aug. 1835, very nearly thirty-two years from the date of his landing in Australia from the convict ship. For a time he was employed by the Port Phillip Company as an interpreter, with a salary of 75l. a year. After this he entered the service of Captain William Lonsdale, who came from Sydney in September 1836, singular to say, with a detachment of the 4th, Buckley's old regiment. He also acted as a constable, and accompanied Governor Sir Richard Bourke in a short expedition he made while visiting Port Phillip in 1837. In November of this year he took part in the search for the missing settlers, Messrs. Gellibrand and Hesse, who were lost in proceeding from Geelong to Melbourne. Finding that he was not trusted as he thought he should have been, Buckley left Port Phillip 28 Dec. 1837, and passed over to Van Diemen's Land, where he was made assistant-storekeeper of the Immigrants' Home, and subsequently gatekeeper at the Female Nursery. He held the latter employment until 1852, when he was put on a pension of 12l. a year, to which the government of Victoria added an annuity of 40l. This income he enjoyed until his death, 2 Feb. 1856, which resulted from his being thrown out of a cart.

[John Morgan's Life and Adventures of William Buckley (1852), with portrait; Francis P. Labilliere's Colony of Victoria (1878), ii. 64–87.]

G. C. B.