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Night of Terror - The unknown Koori Hero

This Post is published 169 years to the day after the tragic event.

(The days also line up. Friday, the 25th of June).


Who was he?

And how did he become to be involved with one of 

the greatest tragedies in Australian history?

Firstly, Yarri doesn't quite factor into the rest of the Famous After Death series. While his story has been passed down, it's still barely known outside of the area in which it took place.

Secondly, he was well known after the event but it took twenty years before he and his friend Jackey were given a commerative breast plate. He treasured this plate, which hung about the neck, until he died. 

Yarri's story deserves to known. It should be taught in schools. 

The Story

Let's go back to the town of Gundagai, in rural New South Wales, close to the Victorian border. A time when the population was a fraction of what it is now. A time when most indigenous and non indigenous peoples lived close together and in relative peace. *

When travellers began to realise the need for  a settlement between Sydney and Melbourne, the lower hills around the Murrumbidgee was chosen. Murrumbidgee means big water in the Wiradjuri language. The fact the Europeans knew and adopted these words demonstrates the relationships that did exist between the two peoplesThe indigenous people had been living in the area for centuries, perhaps thousands of years and knew that it flooded periodically and occasionally in a huge way. It's literally at the bottom of a valley. They warned the settlers not to move there. 

In those days, living by a river provided water for sustenance. Drinking, cleaning etc. Behind them were steep hills. One was called Mount Parnassus. Not a mountain in the traditional sense but certainly a huge inconvenience to place a settlement there. Like the harbour and Paramatta river in Sydney, the Yarra in Melbourne and the Thames in England, it was common sense to build settlements by bodies of water. And so they did. You can see how small the river was. Hardly a threat. Right?

However, small floods would occur so people built lofts in their houses, just in case.

Taken from the North of the river. The Old Mill. Still standing today

In 1844, there was a larger than normal flood which swamped many homes. The people finally realised that living so close to the river was not wise. They requested to be able to move. However, the NSW State Government would not allocate further allotments, nor offer compensation if they did move. Facing a huge financial loss to a people already doing it tough, they stayed. Most lived in shacks and wooden houses and just didn't have the financial means.

Following a long, dusty drought, it finally rained. And rained. After three weeks of heavy rain, in 1852, the river had swollen and surrounded the 250 people in the township of Gundagai. 

But then the rain stopped and the sun came out. Not understanding how water is captured in surrounding hills and its method of draining downwards, the people thought the worst was over. Yet, they were still cut off and some wanted out. 

On Friday morning, the 25th of June, some people attempted to get out by means of a punt. It was a disaster and several people, a woman and children, drowned. 

A local Aboriginal man, Yarri, in his thin bark canoe, began to rescue people, one at a time. The canoe was small. By that night, the river was suddenly rising at a rate of one metre per hour. People scrambled to their rooftops but it was not high enough. 

Yarri in the background, near the Mill

Another Koori man, Jackey, began doing his bit to rescue people too. There were two other indigenous men working hard to save people also. People screamed. Cattle drowned. Whole families were being washed off their roofs and from tree trunks, into the gigantic, fast paced swell. Some could swim, Many could not. In actuality, it didn't matter if they could swim. The river, especially in the darkness, was just too powerful. Often in floods, its not the water that kills people but the debris.

During the course of the night, Yarri rescued a staggering 49 people, one at a time. Imagine how long that took? Jackey rescued 20. (It's unknown how many the other two men rescued). 

In one terrible incident, there were 26 people atop of Lindley Rose's Inn. Mrs. Lindley, her four children and 21 others. The water kept rising until it swamped them all. Only the mail coach driver, Johnny Clinch, survived.

To put a human face to the tragedy, many single labourers were killed. Plus entire families. Here is the names of one  family. 

Richard Hunt, saddler, 56. His wife, Sarah, 35. Emily, 11 Richard, 9. Caroline, 5. John, 3.

There are many amazing stories in this horrific night. Many deaths. Estimated at 80 dead but with only a third of bodies found, the real number is unknown. (With various travelers on the road, it was impossible to determine the actual numbers). Yet, it could have been worse without the incredible efforts of Yarri and Jackey.

After that, the town was moved up the hill to its present location. The old Mill was left standing and is still there today. Only two other buildings survived the night. It's one of Australia's most incredible disasters. It's worthy of a movie at least. To my knowledge, not even a book exists. Children know about PharLap, a 1920's race horse, but not of Yarri and the Gundagai flood disaster.

These photos are from many years later, after the bridge was built, yet show the width of the floods that continue to occur. The old town was in the middle of that. Imagine the horror.

There is a small booklet put out by the Gundagai Historical Society. If you contact the Tourist Information Centre in Gundagai they may be able to arrange a copy for you. It's only 20 pages but it does contain first hand accounts. Much of the information comes from survivors and was published in newspapers.

If you live in Australia, try to get to Gundagai. There's a fantastic museum, an old jail that once housed the infamous bushranger, Captain Moonlite. A historic train station, now closed but open to visitors. And much more. It's a beautiful old town. The Old Mill is still standing and you can see the path where the original flood took place. From up on the hill looking down, you can imagine the sheer scope of that flood. (This still is taken from video I shot in April, '21)

The bridge was built years later and is now abandoned

Yarri was also honoured by the family of Fred Horsley, who in recognition of Yarri having rescued Fred, named his property, 'Yarri,' after him.   In 1952, on the centenary of the flood, the Horsley family donated a sundial in Yarri's honour. It is now in front of the town's museum. In 1980, a plaque was placed on the wall in the Museum. In 1983, a local park's name was changed to that of Yarri Park.

In 2017, a statue of Yarri, Jackey and the famous canoe was erected in the main street. 

He was acknowledged in his lifetime and celebrated since. But most Australians have never heard of him. His name should be as famous as Ned Kelly's. No single person in Australian history, or perhaps in any history, can claim to have saved the lives of so many people, with no assistance, one at a time. 

As for the man himself, he died years later, by a tree. The breast plate was found with him.

More Famous After Death.

Mill to the right. 

* A subject for another discussion. Despite some well known incidents, both peoples did live mostly in peace. There were aboriginal police forces in some areas (Melbourne) and entire towns set up as Aboriginal Protectorates. I grew up in one such town in Victoria. Sadly, it was European diseases that took the heaviest toll on indigenous populations. Disease and poor hygiene killed many European children too. A visit to any old cemetery will demonstrate that. Terrible events did take place but not to the extent some parties will have you believe today. The majority of people then and now are good. Most people want to live in peace. And they did. Good news doesn't make the news. There are millions of good stories every day. We just don't hear about them. But if you're willing to investigate, you can find them.

If you want to know more, I recommend undertaking your own research. Read history books. Grace Karsen's The Colony is an excellently researched book about the birth of Sydney, documenting skirmishes, but also wonderful interactions (eg. ex convicts and indigenous people used to party together every Friday night in the streets of The Rocks). While Europeans did take over the land, for the most part, people lived in harmony side by side. Yarri's own story is testament to those relationships. 

Yarri, Hero of Gundagai

My Books

Increase your Diversity Strength. (Go Woke before you Go Broke.)

(If easily offended, don't read. Post from 2019*).

Worried that you just don’t cut it in the modern world?

Tired of being overlooked because of your skin colour, gender or sexuality? 

Being left out of the employment quotas market?

What you need is…

Diversity Enhancement!

The New World Order can include you too. You just have to change who you are. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

       If you’re a man, wear a dress. It doesn’t cost much, and it's simple to achieve. 
       Watch people’s eyes light up, but not a word will leave their mouths. 
       No need to worry about being retrenched. Job security guaranteed!
       (Also great for nightclub cred).

Starter Package for the
Fiscally Non-Diverse

           Face painting is out. The ol' Black Face is considered racist. (White face is okay). The Next Best Thing to being black, is going brown.  You can claim you’re from any background then. Or even mixed race. In fact, you won’t have to state where you’re from at all. People will be too scared to ask. And as we know, possessing Diversity means more Power. Bathe in the Silence! 

'I am not white!'  -  New Native

Come along to our new, Enhanced Tanning Salon. You can get that all over look for that crucial job interview, or even a first date. 

Once you give up white, you'll be reeling in the big bites!

His New Street Cred.
He told his friends he had a 'Soul Sister' for a girlfriend.
His online business doubled overnight.

          Would you prefer a more permanent solution? You need the Diversity Enhancer Double Strength! You can go the whole hog and get your skin laser treated! Or if that’s too intense for you, we have special Diversity Medication you can go on. It worked for Michael Jackson. It can work for you too!

He was ahead of his time. He just went the wrong way.

While not as effective as skin alterations, you can always claim you’re 2% Indigenous/African /Indian/Native etc. Who are they to know? Many have gotten away with it. So can you! You can identify as a man or a woman too for that matter. Whatever suits the occasion. Better still, go Gender Neutral and beat the odds! It's all the craze!  

From White Shite to Future Bright! He now has a girlfriend! (His first in 19 years!)

If those situations sound a little daunting, here’s an easy one. You can claim you’re bi-sexual. It’s the most non-intrusive of all. Or just go the whole hog, as we like to say here at Diversity International, and say you’re Gay or Lesbian. Who are they to know? Will they follow you to your bedroom? Does what you get up behind closed doors impact on your job? Of course not. But stating it on your job application can put you at the front of the queue! Remarkable!

After thirty-three months unemployed, (since the Warehouse got rid of them in favor of cheap immigrant labor), all three got jobs at WalMart! 
(Provided they wear their dresses)

Build your Diversity Strength Today.
Acceptance Awaits You Too!

Join now and get a discount on the Priceless Victim Meter! 

This advertisement was brought you by Diversity International,
building a more inclusive world for everyone
Even straight, white, conservative people. 

(jokes - you guys are fucked). 

Political Correctness: Demanding tolerance through intolerance! 

Coming soon, get your Doctorate in Wokeology!
Take the whole family to the New Woke Wally World!

The Future looks bright! 
(For some. The rest slide into darkness).

Read about The Brexit Solution (as of Nov. 19)
The Spontateous Stiffies
The Joys of Going to a Climate Change Rally
Bill Cosby's Super Cocktail Wallbanger
Smart Phone Zombies in Night of the Living Smombies.

More Satire

My Books

*This post was written in 2019. What was satire then, is policy now. 

A guy I was working with that year went for a job interview at the ABC. He's in a wheelchair. When he rolled into the interview, (his words), their eyes lit up. He knew immediately that he had the job, before a word was uttered. He thought it was hilarious. He got that job. As far as I know, he's still there. Good luck to him. It's just a small example. The point being I suppose, that the same people calling for inclusion are guilty of discrimination. The message is simple. Don't discriminate against anyone. Skill and experience should be the first consideration. 

And now for something different... The Boat People


Hope you're having a good week. 
A little politics this time, an area I usually avoid. 
(though there is a Satire piece coming next week).

Today’s game, Endless parade

The refugees streamed
The community screamed
The borders degenerated
The debates raged
The numbers increased
The solution escaped
The stress escalated
The panic dominated
The resources depleted
The system collapsed
The dissent grew
And the unwilling hosts
Played catch up
In a one sided game
With burden as victor
And suffering as the result.

The debate became tired
Interest waned
Media moved on
Allowing a myriad of ‘activities’
To reign unchecked.

Nothing so insignificant
As a tired story.

From 2015. No doubt around the refugees issue, which was world wide at the time.
What was I referring to specifically? That's the glory of poetry. You decide.

More Poetry

The Ultimate Loner
commits the Ultimate Act.

'The Great American Novel, set in Australia' (review 2021)

Amazon with ebook

Not for the feint of heart - I'm serious - Video

Weird video. A warning for cat lovers. 

A Video Clip I made for a band out of Melbourne, Australia. 
Punk/Metal/Hard Rock, however you want to describe it. Certainly a unique clip and a good song. I don't know what became of them. (more info below video). 


Cum Well Hung


The song is a play on words, with the 'Well Hung' theme. It mentions Ronald Ryan, the last man to be hanged in Australia in 1967, and Ned Kelly.

This was one of the first video clips I was associated with. The band came to me with their ideas and footage.  (I was employed as a videotape operator but I could edit and had access to equipment. All done outside of hours on the sly.)

I had creative input too of course. The swirling band footage was my idea because I thought the static vision was boring and didn't fit in with the rest.

I knew the cello player. Phaedra. She was cool. She in turn, did some work for me on my short films, Born in a Storm and Toil On, Faint Not

It screened on RAGE and I remember being very excited when I saw it go to air. I still like it.


Here's another clip I made for the band Drop City in 1997. Footage is mine. Shot on Super 8mm.

Our faded love story



Let me tell you a story.

Personal story


On a crazy whim

We decided to get married

It was over 20 years ago

And we had few friends

We tied the knot

In a field

Amongst the long grasses

With the soft rain

And shifting images of smiles and beauty

Whether it actually happened that way

Is no longer important

As I am unable to distinguish memory

From fact

But that’s how I like to

Remember it.


She’s gone now

And I’m on my way out

And whether anyone

Remembers our story

Or cares enough to find out the truth

Is not up to me

As my days are fading

With the best behind me.


I suspect

Our beautiful

And dramatic tale

Will soon disappear

Lost to that great removalist,


As others continue on their own way.


Only the self

In the Now

Seems to matter.




More Poetry

Having worked in Aged Care, and getting older myself, memory is an intangible thing. Completely unreliable and left to interpretation. I often think that the best part of our lives are through Nostalgia and not really lived. 
What are your thoughts?

Have a good week. 
Something different next time. Some crazy satire on the way.

Death of the Forests - An original video

The Forests - Life & Death

An artistic, wordless video about nature, machines, and... 
ah, you feel your own way through it. 

Made in 2018. Not shared until now. 
The new footage is mine (from the 'Hopeless Romantic' shoot).
All sfx I added to the stock footage.

Perfect Gift. Inscribed. 

Debut Novel out Now.