© Catherine Lee
Winner 2010 'Rolf Boldrewood Literary Award', Dubbo NSW.
From the country out near Bathurst from the Wiradjuri tribe
rose a warrior and leader whom to greatness they ascribe.
He’s remembered as a patriot — engraved upon his shrine
is ‘Last Chief of Aborigines’. His name was Windradyne.
He was powerful and handsome, and was known throughout the land,
with his curly hair held back in place with firm, distinctive band.
He’d a long beard plaited carefully and sectioned into three;
he was muscular, broad shouldered, known for strength and loyalty.
All the Wiradjuri Kooris were such well-proportioned men
who were hunters and great warriors, respected way back then.
But the leader was in no dispute, the others he’d outshine —
there was nobody who ever measured up to Windradyne.
In the early eighteen hundreds the invaders had increased,
so the Waradjuri’s former peaceful way of life had ceased.
The aggression of the settlers seemed to ominously grow—
even poisoning or shooting was the common status quo.
When his family was massacred, and right before his eyes,
it was more than Windradyne could take—he vowed to mobilise.
He resolved to take no more of white man’s cruelty, and swore
he would take his vengeance coldly, under Waradjuri law.
But when Windradyne set out to help some members of his clan,
he was captured, though six soldiers had to fight to quell the man;
till a beating with a musket took him down in forceful style—
he was chained and carted off to Bathurst prison for a while.
He was kept in chains despite the protests of a decent few—
in the meantime, incidents of white man’s brutal carnage grew.
Under settler’s law the natives had no rights or any say,
and this festered in the captured man the whites called ‘Saturday’.
As a consequence, when Windradyne was finally released
his initial plan was vengeance, on the murderers at least.
So he asked his tribe to gather—their instructions he’d assign
if they rallied round their leader, the respected Windradyne.
All the settlers were astonished that a black man would attack,
and resolved no matter what the cost that they’d be fighting back.
They demanded some assistance from the military men,
to defend against ‘wild natives’ every ‘blameless’ citizen.
So the Redcoats were despatched to give support and to abet
and to take the pris’ners in, for lessons they’d not soon forget.
After violent eruptions Martial Law was put in place,
and the settlers had free rein to murder, torture and debase.
Bearing witness to the slaughter of his people, Windradyne
hoped to bring it to an end—a mutual armistice define.
So he went to Parramatta for the Gov’nor’s annual feast,
in the hope agreement could be reached and enmity decreased.
The arrival of this leader caused disturbance that was loud,
but he walked amongst that gathering of people, tall and proud.
With survivors of his tribe he’d marched determinedly for days,
and they entered with great dignity, their wary eyes ablaze.
He had written ‘peace’ upon his hat, and offered them a truce;
he requested future friendship and an end to the abuse,
and despite the vicious killings and the homes that they’d destroyed,
the impressive chieftain ‘Saturday’ stepped up to bridge the void.
On the banks of the Macquarie back in eighteen-thirty-five,
he was injured in a fight and took a wound he’d not survive.
He was treated back in Bathurst, but the longing to be free
saw him tear off all the dressings and return to family.
Then he camped awhile on ‘Brucedale’ but despite this peaceful scene,
he succumbed to an infection which had grown into gangrene.
So the mighty Koori warrior was gently laid to rest
on the property that welcomed him as its eternal guest.
He was seated facing sunrise on his long beloved ground,
and they wrapped him in his possum coat with weapons all around.
Many Kooris gathered there to mourn—carved trees to mark his grave—
a memorial of honour for their leader strong and brave.
Now the local Wiradjuri still revere his resting place,
where they’ve planted trees in diamond pattern, giving him some space.
And his mem’ry lives forever in the Wiradjuri soul;
a reminder of a time when strength and valour was their role.
And perhaps within their weary hearts he walks among them still,
with his powerful resistance yet his peaceful force of will.
They can hold with pride their heritage, and none can undermine
nor deny their time of glory in the days of Windradyne.
For despite the changing times and though they feel all hope is gone,
deep within them dwells a potent spirit they can call upon.
In their history there’s none whose name compares—no feats outshine
those of legendary Wiradjuri leader, Windradyne.