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2 corrections, most recently by Rhonda.M - Show corrections

A BIT OF EARLY GIPPSLAND HISTORY. STORY OF THE WRECK OF THE BRITANNIA. ON THE NINETY MILE BEACH IN 1841. THE ROMANCE OF THE WHITE WOMAN SURVIVOR. (From the "Bairnsdale Advertiser")   In the year 1841, two years after Angus McMillan, the explorer, had made his entry into Gippsland from across the New South Wales border, a vessel called the Britannia was alleged to have been wrecked on the Ninety Mile Beach, when on the voyage from England to Sydney. There were two women on board - the captain's wife and a young lady passenger. The latter was coming out to be married a Mr Frazer, at Sydney. She had a presentiment, in sailing along the coast, that the vessel would be wrecked before reaching Sydney, and   communicated her fears to the captain. She was the sole survivor of the disaster, and fell into the hands of the blacks, with whom she lived for years, being frequently seen with them. Some three years later the story of a white woman saved from a wreck being held captive by the Gippsland blacks reached the Government at Melbourne, which was represented by Mr Latrobe, and he directed that Captain Dana, of the border police, Mr C. J. Tyers, commissioner of Crown lands and police magistrate, and others make a diligent search of the district, with a view of rescuing the white woman from her captors. The district was scoured, it is recorded, as far east as the Snowy River without any trace of the object of the search being   discovered. The result of this expedition was not regarded as very satisfactory by some of the residents of Melbourne. Possibly they had heard how Mr Frazer,   on learning of the fate of his fiancee, had come over from Sydney, and, with the pilot at Fort Albert (Mr Fermaner) and another man, sailed along the coast and made their way to Lake Wellington, where they actually saw, it was alleged, the white captive with some blacks. To lure her away from her captors one of the patty (Sandy Frazer, a namesake of the Sydney man), commenced playing the bagpipes, whereupon Mr Fermaner "saw the woman stand still." She had " long flowing hair." But the blacks   succeeded in getting off with her.   These and other reports doubtless influenced the Melbourne people to take action, and a public meeting was held on September 2nd, 1846, at the Royal Hotel, at which it was resolved that "as no effective measures have been taken by the Government to   ascertain the positive truth or otherwise of the rumors, it becomes the   duty of the inhabitants of Port Phillip to take upon themselves that very essential duty." Mr Westgarth was of opinion that there was no truth in the rumors. Mr. Cavenagh thought otherwise, for he had been told by a friend that he had seen the name, "Annie Macpherson," carved upon   several trees in a part of the country not previously visited by Europeans, while Alderman Greaves vouched that a settler in Pt. Albert district had been told by a black boy that he had played with the children of a white woman, who had been compelled to live with a native chief. This evidence was clearly not very conclusive. It was rather of the secondary and hearsay variety. But there was room for doubt. A   committee was formed with Mr G. Caven as chairman, and Mr John Macdonald as secretary, and funds were raised sufficient to equip a party, who, under C. J. de Villiers, left for Gippsland on October 20. In the " Argus" of   January, 26, 1847, de Villiers, writing from Eagle Point, Lake King, on New Year's Day, reports to the committee that his operations are hampered by the unfriendliness of the blacks, who had, he complains, been made hostile by Captain Diana's conduct towards them on the Snowy River. Early in February De Villiers was back in   Melbourne, having accomplished nothing, though he assured the committee that the white woman was with the   Warrigals, and by patience and good   management would be recovered without bloodshed. A month later, on March 6, 1847, the Government despatched a second expedition, public feeling having been aroused. This expedition sailed from Williamstown in the schooner Elizabeth (Captain Taylor) for Port Albert,   from which place they made their way to Eagle Point, where Mr Commissioner Tyers received them hospitably   at his house. This appears to have been adopted as the base of the operations, and from there they made excursions along the lakes to interview the blacks and gather what information they could concerning the object   of their search. Amongst others, the great chief Bungalene is met with, who is supposed to have taken the white woman as one of his wives. But in spite of presents and promises he cunningly evaded all attempts to extract information as to her whereabouts. To soothe the savage breast   of Bungalene and his swarthy tribe, one of the party "played some fine pibrochs and Highland reels for their amusement until a very late hour, which pleased the gentlemen very much." But even the softening strains of bagpipes failed to extract a clue which would lead to where the woman was hidden. At last, after much parlelying and many disappointments,   a definite promise was made that the white woman would be restored, and on the appointed day there was brought into camp and handed over to the party a white woman indeed, but one carved in wood, and bearing a trident in her hand. The natives had long ago found on the beach the figurehead of the Britannia wreck, and had     carried it about with them as the   incarnation of one of their deities. Here was a disillusionment indeed. Yet it did not shake the belief of the historian of the expedition, for he affirms that "Bungalene" would have given up the white woman, but that he was afraid she would tell about the murder of the vessel's crew, which undoubtedly had been committed by him and others of the brutal tribe."

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