Tuesday, 2 April 2013

3. Francis Barallier 1773-1857

In 1802, Governor King commissioned a French “emissary”, Francis Barallier, to cross the Blue Mountains via the Cox’s River route, using two Aboriginal guides: Gogy and and Bungin. Barallier made his base camp at Nattai and proceeded inland. As they progressed, Barallier’s diary noted Gogy’s agitation and growing unease as the party ventured further into Gundungarra country. Finally they met a substantial gathering of Gundungarra people, purportedly led by a “chief” (Elder) called Goondel.

In his diary, Barallier made careful notes of his observations. In this context it is worth remembering George Caley’s testament that coastal Aborigines greatly feared these ‘Mountain Men’. Barallier observed one very significant difference in their appearance to the coastal Eora: they wore heavy possum cloaks, which they valued highly, preferring to keep them rather than take the iron axes proffered by the explorer. We might infer that Goondel and his band valued warmth and comfort above hunting and chopping. They seemed to have an abundance of the usual provisions, and Barallier watched them roast a ‘native dog’ (Dingo).

Barallier passed on gifts and good wishes from the Governor to Goondel, who appeared satisfied with the transactions, and with Barallier and Bungin themselves. So much so, that he was prepared to offer his daughter to Bungin for the purpose of marriage if he came to stay with his own band. But Gogy dreaded what was in store for him. Apparently he had killed a Gundungarra woman (Goondel’s sister?) sometime previously, and he was terrified of his fate. He begged Barallier to release him from his role as guide, so he could rapidly return to safety. At the same time, Bungin asked leave to marry Goondel’s daughter. Barallier consented to both requests.

A strange corollary of this situation was that Bungin soon returned to the explorer’s camp, saying that Goondel’s daughter did not want to go through with the marriage, and that she had taken off with Goondel in hot pursuit. What this did to relations with white people, Barallier was uncertain, but his decision was to proceed westwards with sufficient care so as to avoid the Gundungarra Elder.

Barallier passed by the location of what is now the ghost town of Yerranderie and ended his sojourn on the Bindook Highlands. He was significantly closer to the edge of the Great Dividing Range than Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson were some 11 years later, but his achievement was largely ignored by Governor King. Later, Barallier’s route was to become the Colong-Oberon stock route, along which a road once took traffic from Camden to Oberon, prior to the flooding of the Burragorang Valley by Warragamba Dam.

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