The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Buckley, William

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Buckley, William, known as the " Wild White Man," was a native of Macclesfield, England, where he was born about 1780. He was originally a bricklayer, but entered the Cheshire Militia, and subsequently the Fourth or King's Own Regiment of the Line. For some act of mutiny, or, as other authorities state, for receiving stolen goods, he was sentenced to transportation, and was sent to Australia by H.M.S. Calcutta, with the convict party which landed at Port Phillip (afterwards Victoria) under Collins in 1803. Whilst engaged in forming what proved an abortive settlement, Buckley and two convict comrades escaped into the bush, a third being shot in the attempt to do so. The escapees only mustered a trifling supply of rations—a gun, some tin pots and a kettle, and were soon worn out with fatigue and hunger, and the fear of being murdered by the Blacks. From Swan Island they took a view of the Calcutta, and so tired were they of their newly acquired freedom that they signalled their late taskmasters, with a view of returning to bondage rather than endure any longer the isolation and terrors of their lot. They could not, however, make themselves observed, and Buckley's two comrades decided to skirt along the shore with the view of regaining the Calcutta from the spot where they had made their escape. They both, however, perished, whether by hunger or otherwise is not known. Buckley, thus left alone, was, Blair states, preserved by a lucky accident working on the superstitions of the natives. A chief of one of the aboriginal tribes had been buried near Buckley's temporary hut, a piece of a spear being left by his sorrowing subjects to mark the grave. Buckley appropriated the fragment, and meeting some members of the tribe, whilst carrying it in his hand, they joyfully hailed him as their dead chief returned to life in a new guise. He was well cared for, learnt the language of his new associates, and married a black woman. He lived with the natives in all the freedom of bush life till July 12th, 1835, when he was discovered by Batman, the founder of Melbourne. He acted as interpreter and peacemaker between his fellow countrymen and his native associates. A free pardon being subsequently given him, he went to live in Hobart Town, Tasmania, where he married a white woman. When he grew old the Governments of Victoria and Tasmania gave him a modest allowance of a pound a week. He died at Hobart Town on Feb. 2nd, 1856. Buckley was a man of gigantic stature, and proportionately strong. He had nearly forgotten his own language when Batman discovered him, but he gradually recovered its full use after his return to English associations.