The Buffalo and Crocodile Hunters of the Northern Territory

Buffalo Cover JPG

©   Caroline Gaden

ISBN 978 0 9872474 2 1 (for the Smashwords Edition)

‘Cover’ photo taken at Yelllow Water Wetlands, Cooinda.

WARNING This work contains newspaper articles from the 1900’s to the 1960’s which include comments about Indigenous people that today are considered to be most offensive. The articles are included as they give us some idea of the attitudes of the time and the appalling conditions many of those people had to endure.



On a visit to Kakadu in 2014 we bought a book called Gagudju Man by Bill Neidjie, an Aboriginal elder who fought so hard for his beloved land to be saved and become the Kakadu National Park. His grandsons were two of the Rangers who enthralled us with their guided tours and encouraged us to read their grandfather’s book. This is one story by Bill Neidjie.[1]

He can’t move his country

This earth I never damage.

I look after.

Fire is nothing, just clean up.

When you burn, new grass come up.

That mean animal soon.

Might be goose, long-neck turtle, goanna, possum.

Burn him off, new grass coming up, new life all over.

I don’t know about white European way.

We, Aborigine, burn.

Make things grow.

Tree grow, every night he grow.

Daylight he stop.

Just about dark, he start again.

Just about morning, I look.

I say ‘Oh nice tree this.’

When you sleep, tree growing like other trees, they got lots of blood.

Rotten tree, you got to burn him.

Use him to cook.

He finished up, cook or roast in coals, White man cook in oven, from university that.

Aborigine didn’t know that before.

Now all this coming up with Toyota.

First people come to us, they started and run our life…. quick.

They bring drink.

First they should ask about fish, cave, dreaming, but they rush in.

They make school.  Teach.

Now Aborigine losing it, losing everything.

Nearly all dead my people, my old people gone.

Those first people was too quick, wasn’t Aborigine fault.

Still Aborigine all around 1929,

1952, 1953 few left but…

1970 to 1979 … gone

Only me, Robin Gaden and Felix Holmes.

Next day we asked the Aboriginal Ranger, another one of Bill Neidjie’s grandsons, ‘Who was Robin Gaden?’ and explained our surname was Gaden too. He told us Robin Gaden used to be a buffalo hunter and butcher in the Territory in the 1950’s. He looked at Bob and said ‘You must be cousin!’

This is a quest to find Robin Gaden and also to discover more about the buffalo hunters and their families along the way.  I first found mention of a Gaden family at Brock’s Creek, a place about half way between Pine Creek and Adelaide River on the railway line between Alice Springs and Darwin.[2]

In his memoir of pre-war flying days, the legendary Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton recalled an incident when he was called to a patient at Golden Dyke mine, 10 km to the west of Grove Hill, where the Gaden family had a butchers shop, [3] the nearest landing ground being at Burnside, a cattle station near Brocks Creek which was 30 miles from the mine.   Apparently the road was atrocious and the doctor was very worried about the pain and increased risk to his patient if he had to be taken the 30 miles in the back of a truck – the man had broken his leg below the knee and also suffered a broken thigh in a rock fall.

“Was there anywhere a landing ground could be improvised?” Paul ‘The Yank’ Bynoe advised he could fix it. “Where”? “At Gaden’s five miles from here”. “What length can you get it?” “About 200 yards as near as dammit.” “How long will it take you?” “Half a day.” And sure enough next day, when they carried the patient by stretcher to the Gaden’s and made him comfortable at their house, the airstrip was duly in full construction mode with a dozen men felling trees, digging out stumps, ‘The Yank’ racing up and down on his tractor smoothing the surface and Mrs Gaden and her children working as hard as the men in providing a generous supply of refreshments. The runway was duly finished, the patient was loaded in the Moth and the little plane needed every yard of that airstrip to take off, but the miner was safely delivered an hour later to Darwin.[4]

Brock’s Creek was home to an annual horse race meeting each Christmas. The main race was the Buffalo Mug, a remarkable piece made from buffalo horn taken from a large bull, the horn had been polished jet black and was silver mounted… a distinctive trophy of which the winner could be proud…. and Gaden was one of several buffalo hunters who claimed to have shot the bull from which it was made. [5]

In 1928 Mrs H Gaden owned a horse called O’Henry (formerly Taffie) who handicapper LC Huppatz had given 11 stone 10 lbs to carry in the Pine Creek Cup… and Mrs Gaden’s horse O’Henry was the winner of the Buffalo Mug donated by Messrs RH Bowman and F Smith from a field of 6 horses.[6]

From contemporary newspaper articles and books there appears to have been three Gaden brothers in the Northern Territory, Frederick Hazel, Jack (John) and Murray with their wives and families. Jack and Hazel were, according to these local newspapers, well known buffalo hunters in the 1930’s and comments in the newspaper suggest they were not Indigenous.

So just who were these Gaden’s and was there any connection to our line?

William Hart Gaden

Our ancestor was William Hart Gaden whose family were from the Poole in Dorset but then moved to Newfoundland. William Hart Gaden and his wife Eliza Burton had three daughters (Maria, Cecilia and Tryphena) but also five sons to continue the Gaden surname, William [Harry] Henry (1833-1917), Thomas Brocklebank (1835-1919), Roger Taylor Burton (1836-1912), Robert Wakeham (1838-1899) and Edward Ainsworth (1841-1909). At this stage of research, none of these lines appears to have produced our buffalo hunters. [7]


John Gaden

A search of the Birth Records for the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia also failed to find our buffalo hunters, but they were finally discovered closer to home in New South Wales.

The three brothers and their siblings all came from the west and north-west of NSW. In each case the birth records for the children listed the parents as John Gaden and Ann or Annie [8]:-

1879  (23700/1879) Un-named (but listed as Mary A when she died 1879 (9563/1879)

1880  (26963/1880) John Alfred, born Wentworth (died 1880 – 10870/1880)

1881  (27975/1881) Ethel Maria, born Wentworth

1883  (31349/1883) Blanche A, born Wentworth

1884  (32952/1884) Murray William, born Wentworth

1887  (36273/1887) Mary A, born Milparinka

1888  (37565/1888) John, born Milparinka

1891  (34611/1891) Neil, born Tibooburra

1892  (35141/1892) Hazel Frederick, born Tibooburra

1897  (26566/1893) Hugh F, born Tibooburra

All the children were born closer to South Australia than to Sydney, so it is not surprising that a marriage was found for Ann and John Gaden, not in NSW, but in South Australia.

John was listed a contractor and Ann was the daughter of Mr Joseph Salmon of Mannum (east of Adelaide). They were married on 24 January 1879 by the Rev RW Holden at St John’s Church, Mr Pleasant.[9] The Registration number was 118/259, District Talunga.[10] The marriage was recorded only in the newspapers of South Australia, suggesting John Gaden had no family in the other States.[11]

We know from the following court case that John Gaden was living in Tibooburra in 1890:-

At Tibooburra Police Court, before Mr. E. L. Maitland, P M., John Langton was charged with attempting to burn down a shed at Tibooburra, the property of John Gaden. The accused states that he thought the property belonged to Chinaman, and he had threatened to kill them all before he left Tibooburra. He was committed for trial at the Circuit Court, to be held at Broken Hill on 14th October. [12]

And the Gaden’s were still in the area at Yalpunga in 1905 as they were part of the group who were fund raising for the Tibooburra Hospital

Ball at Yalpunga.

On the evening of the 27th ult. a dance was held in aid of the Tibooburra Hospital, resulting in about £12 being collected. Mr Jno. McLennan, of Naryilco Station, presented a beautiful hand-made stock whip and handle which was raffled and realised £3, bringing the total- amount for the Hospital up to about £15. Dancing was kept up till day-break. At midnight a first-class supper was provided gratuitously by Mr John Gaden. Among the ladies present were noticed : Mrs Hugh Downs (Tibooburra). Mrs L. Robinson (Tibooburra). Mrs J. Gaden (Yalpunga.) Mrs F. Hagan (Yalpunga.) Mrs R S. Morrison (Yalpunga). Mrs W. Cape (Yalpunga). Mrs Hogan (Little Dingera). Mrs Hugh Bell (Yalpunga). Miss Dow??? (Tibooburra.) Miss Dolly Edwards (Tibooburra).   Miss Tugg (Yalpunga). Miss Bell Yalpunga).[13]

As an appropriately aged John Gaden is not found on our own family tree, the question arises “Where did this John Gaden come from and can we find Robin?”

Research for a “John Gaden” in newspapers from 1860 to 1920 revealed two mentions of a John Gaden in Victoria in 1910 and Queensland in 1912.


The funeral of the late Mr. John Gaden took place yesterday, the cortege moving from his late residence, “Cullen House,” Mollison-street. His remains were interred in the Bendigo Cemetery. The coffin was borne to the grave by Messrs W. Yeo, J. C. Greaves, J. Davis, and A. Dempster. The hymn “Rock of Ages” was sung at the graveside. The Rev. T. S. B. Woodfull conducted the burial service.  [14]



WINTON, November 9.

At the Land Commissioner’s Court today before Mr J J Byers five blocks under occupation license on Kynuna, were opened to homestead selection. For portion 1, parish of Salmond, 33,066 acres, rent two pence per acre, there were two applications, M W Gaden and John Gaden, junr, and the ballot was won by the former.[15]

It is likely that the M W Gaden was in fact Murray William, brother of John junior.

A search of West Australian Birth Death and Marriage records (BDMs) reveals no John Gaden, only two men called Robert Gaden, Robert A born 1920 in Fremantle and Robert K born 1927 in Northam and a death of a John Gadenne in 1946 … there does not appear to be a connection.


Was our John a convict? If so there were three possible men called John Gadden or Gaddenne or Gadon in the Convict Records. [16]

John Gadden, convicted at the Surrey Quarter Sessions, sentenced to 7 years, transported on “Chapman” arrived 6 December 1824 to Van Diemen’s Land.

John Gaddenne, convicted at Wiltshire Assizes, sentenced to life, transported on “Hooley” arrived 25 March 1835 to NSW.

John Gadon, convicted Devon Assizes, sentenced to life, transported on “Strathfieldsaye” arrived 11 October 1836 to NSW.

John Gadon who was transported on “Strathfieldsaye” was the only one of these men who appears to have earned his tickets of leave. He was given his Ticket of Leave Passport on 23 April 1845, was granted his Ticket of Leave by the Hartley Bench on 22 June 1846 (Number 46/623) [17]and he was awarded a Conditional Pardon on 1 February 1849. [18] Then he would have been free to move freely and could leave NSW if he wished.

But if it is that John Gaden/Gadon, it is a long time from his convict days to getting married … thirty years … which is probably too long to be realistic, so an extensive search was done for “John Gaden” (and its variants) in the Birth registers from 1800-1880 of all states except the Northern Territory (which has no historical indexes online). This was to no avail.

Was our John Gaden a remittance man? These men were sent overseas and supported by their family, sometimes to escape the shadow of an older brother, sometimes to seek their fortune on the gold fields, sometimes to ‘check out’ a new place for the family to potentially follow them and other times for the sheer adventure of travelling to an exciting frontier country.[19]

It could well be that John Gaden was one of the many free settlers who migrated to the Colony but, as yet, this line of research has not been pursued.



We already knew of an Otto Gaden in South Australia. In 1868 Carl Otto Gaden and many others were reported as being one of  The Following Gentlemen have consented to act as a committee in the various Electoral Districts for the return on Mr John Riddoch to the ensuing Parliament. [20]

Like our Gaden line he also had descendents still in that state as well as in northern NSW… could he be the ancestor of these Territorians? Did he have any descendents called John? A search of the Birth Death and Marriage records for SA found Hans Carl Otto Gaden marrying Margaretha Elenora Charlotte Begung in 1857 and children included Eduard Carl Johann in 1855 (died 1856) and Carl Heinrich in 1857.

Carl Heinrich went on to marry Ann Matilda Unger in 1884 and the children were Alma Charlotte (1886), Adolph Carl Leonard (1888), Albert Edward (1891-1906), Hanna Mildred (1893), Herbert Edgar (1896) and Otto Carl (1904-1956), presumably named after his grandfather.

In 1933 Otto Carl Gaden married Gladys Harmer Patzel and appears not to have had any children in SA. Another couple was Hans Adolf Gaden who married Dulcie Eunice Jolly in 1935… these two sadly lost 2 small children in 1939, Dorothea Magdalena and John Christian.

There was also found an Adolph Heinrich (Henry) Alexander Gaden (died 1955) who married Annie Elizabeth Sharp in 1890 and their children included Effie Dorothea (1893-1952), Charlotte (1892-1926), Alexander George (1894-1954) and Agnes Jean (born 1897, who married Edward Bodey in 1931). [21]

Alexander George enlisted in the Great War on 11 September 1915. He was 22 years old and a colt breaker from Penola Road, Mount Gambier. His Regimental Number was 820 in the Australian Remount Unit 1, Squadron 3, who embarked from Melbourne on the transport ship A67 Orsova on 12 November 1915. He returned to Australia on 13 October 1918. [22]

It appears that the family initially used German names but there was a subsequent move to anglicise them, no doubt due to the influences of the wars.


At this stage of the research an appropriately aged John Gaden has not been discovered in the BDM records to work out the Gaden grandparents of our family of interest, although I have been told anecdotally that the buffalo hunters’ line was via Otto Gaden.[23]


So there it rests for the moment.

What follows is the story of the Gaden men and their family, friends and acquaintances who became hunters of both buffalo and crocodiles in the Northern Territory.



Water buffalo came to Australia via Timor and other islands of Indonesia in the early to mid 1800’s. It is thought they owe their presence in the Northern Territory largely due to Captain Maurice Barlow, the first Commander of Fort Dundas in 1824, a garrison located there in response to the aggressive activities of the Dutch who were great traders and colonisers of the Dutch East Indies. Port Essington, Fort Wellington and Melville Island were settled as military outposts meant to be self sufficient in food. Timor ponies, Bali cattle (bentang) and water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) were the chosen livestock.[24] Barlow sent ships to bring back water buffalo from Timor with a French trader bringing in the first couple and then a few more on subsequent voyages.[25] The establishment of the settlements proved difficult, there was sickness, rations ran short and there was trouble with the local indigenous population leading to loss of animals during raids. Many buffalo ran away and formed the nucleus of the wild population in the area.[26] Ludwig Leichhardt came across them in 1845 on his desperate journey to reach Port Essington having long been given up for dead.

                    IMG_2516-2   IMG_5872             

The photographs of buffalo were taken in 2014, the animal in the water was in Kakadu National Park and the two animals together were in Limmen National Park. Could they be descendents of those animals seen by Leichhardt? [27]


Leichhardt had left Sydney in 1844 in the steamer “Sovereign” for Brisbane; he had with him Calvert, Roper, Murphy, Phillips, and Harry Broome, an aboriginal. The party later on was joined by Gilbert a naturalist, and one coloured man, a native. They left Jimbour on the Darling Downs, on October 1st, 1844. Continuing north-west through poor, scrubby country, on October 9th they encamped on what was named the Limmen Bight River on account of its debouching into Limmen Bight, and about the 19th, the Roper was discovered and named after a member of the expedition…..

The South Alligator River was eventually reached, and the same north-west course, continued through rocky country, which lamed their two remaining bullocks. When they reached what Leichhardt considered the East Alligator River over some extensive plain country in which large numbers of geese and ducks were seen, they were full of hope on meeting some friendly natives, who could speak a few words of English, evidently visitors to the settlement towards which our way-worn explorers were trying to find their road. Many tracks of buffaloes were seen, and one was shot, and made a welcome change from their usual fare. Eventually they reached Port Essington, where Captain Macarthur gave them a kindly welcome, and after a month’s rest they left in the “Heroine,” arriving in Sydney March 29th, 1846. [28]

AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson described the animals in 1889:

They are ungainly savage-looking brutes having a dull bluish coloured hide and enormous horns. They have little affinity to domestic cattle and will not interbreed with them. They are almost hairless and the hide is enormously thick.  The eat, thrive on any kind of green thing – grass, reeds, rushes, bamboos, water lilies, even mangrove leaves, all come alike to the buffaloes. The country is too sour and washy for cattle, but these animals are well suited by it. They are built very much like pigs, being tremendously deep in the body and broad in the back with short powerful legs. They stand high as a bullock and are much more solid.[29]

The original few animals multiplied up on what was for them the perfect hinterland environment. Warburton was told by an Aboriginal man that the country was full of these beasts they called “Annaborro’.[30]

Buffalo have been the main grazing animals on the sub-coastal plains and river basins between Darwin and Arnhem Land since the 1880’s. In the early 1960’s, an estimated population of 150,000 to 200,000 buffalos was living in the plains and nearby areas.

They became feral, causing significant environmental damage. Buffalo are also found in the Top End. As a result, they were hunted in the Top End from the early 1880 until 1900 and collected 100,000 hides.[31] The shooting continued until 1980.

The program to eradicate both Brucellosis and Tuberculosis saw a huge culling program to reduce buffalo herds to a fraction of the numbers that were found in the 1980’s. When the campaign finally declared the Northern Territory was free of the disease in 1997, buffalo numbers were small but have since recovered with an estimated 150,000 animals across northern Australia in 2008 with large herds to the east of the Kakadu National Park in Western Arnhem Land and migratory group are sometimes found in the Park.[32] There are modern hunting safaris conducted as buffalo horns, which can measure up to a record of 3.1 m (10 ft) tip-to-tip, are prized hunting trophies.[33]



From the 1880’s to the 1950’s buffalo hunting, pearling, mining, timber-getting and collecting trépangs (known as bêche-der-mer, sea cucumbers or sea slugs) were the industries of the north. The Alligator River area was the home of the buffalo hunters. By 1885 Commander F Carrington was exploring rivers for possible waterways and good pastoral land. He thought the buffalo would be economically viable for their hides and horns. A trader by the name of EO Robinson took a lease on Melville Island knowing buffalo hides had a good market. He took as a partner Joe Cooper, an excellent horseman, who shot over 6000 buffalo in five years.[34] It was not long before Robinson commenced the buffalo industry on the Adelaide River close to Darwin.

The buffalo were also found on the flood plains of the Wildman and the South, West and East Alligator Rivers, covering what we now call the Kakadu National Park and into Arnhem Land. During the wet season hunting usually stopped as the country was underwater. People moved either to Darwin or inland to the settlements along the rail line. The North Australia Railway was an important link for these people living inland, with the train doing the regular return trip from Darwin south to Birdum where the north line terminated from 1929 until WWII when it was moved north a few miles to Larrimah, between Daly Waters and Mataranka. [35] A number of these settlements are mentioned in this account including Pine Creek, Brocks Creek, Burrundie and Batchelor.

Among the most famous of these buffalo hunters was Paddy Cahill who went to the Territory in 1883 with legendary drover Nat Buchanan [36] and subsequently pioneered the technique of shooting from horseback.[37] He worked the area from 1885. His horse St Lawrence was legendary.[38] In 1906 he established his station at Oenpelli and in 1912 he hosted Baldwin Spencer, who was a professor of Biology at the University of Melbourne and had been appointed the Chief Protector of Aborigines for the Northern Territory.  Spencer wrote

Living far out in these wilds Paddy Cahill is, and needs to be, a man of great resourcefulness… Oenpelli… consists of a small house with detached kitchen built of stringy bark, and sundry out houses. The land all around is cleared and a large garden slopes down to the lagoon nearly a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad. On the far side luxuriant flats stretch back to a series of picturesque rocky ranges running away for miles north and south.  It is really a beautiful place especially in the early morning when the ranges, catching the soft pink light, rise out of the mists that lie along the flats and valley, and again at evening when they are richly coloured with intense purples, blues, greens and reds. It is a very small household just Paddy Cahill and Mrs Cahill with their niece Miss Mudford who lives with them, both of the latter just as keen on bush life as is Cahill himself and both of them never so much at home as when they are on horseback exploring country miles round the homestead.[39]

Cahill was an old man when Carl Warburton went to the Territory in the early 1920’s and he was no longer shooting. [40]

Other pioneers mentioned by Tom Cole were Jim Moles who was killed by a buffalo bull at Cannon Hill (in what is now Kakadu National Park), Cecil Freer of Point Stuart, Barney Flynn who was speared by Aboriginal people at Bamboo Creek, Fred Hardy who was killed following a fall at the picnic races at Adelaide River from a horse Goodparla King he bought from Cole, Harry Hardy his brother, and George Hunter who wrestled a buffalo bull and lived to tell the tale… many of these pioneers were known by Cole who had the distinction of breaking in his own shooting horses.[41]

These men were greatly assisted by the local indigenous people. Men like Bill Neidjie’s father, Ngadambala played a major role in assisting buffalo hunters but young Bill and his friend Toby didn’t stay long, saying we used to run away from them buffalo hunters. We were too young.  [42]

According to Douglas Lockwood, the Aboriginal men were often paid in tobaccoespecially if the Mission decided to withdraw the drug, but it was also in exchange for women.[42a]

The Hardy’s place was ‘Annaburroo’, an obvious adaptation of the local indigenous word ‘annaburra’ for the animal. He was one of the men who planned a tourism industry, with buffalo hunters arriving on The Ghan train and then transported by coach for a week of sport on the Mary River catchment area, a huge floodplain in the ‘wet’ and home to hundreds of buffalo.

Following service in the First World War some returned servicemen moved around from one job to another, for example Herb Pierssené worked out of Broome on pearling luggers before coming to the Top End of the Territory in the mid 1920’s. For a time he worked for the Gaden family, shooting buffalo on Kapalga (West Alligator River area) and Marrakai (Mary River area). It was here he met Eunice Aitken who was a cousin and companion to Hazel Gaden’s wife Ada and they were married in Darwin in 1929. [43]

Carl Warburton was another who went north after the Great War with his friend Lawrence Whittaker, wanting to catch buffalo in the Cannon Hill area of Kakadu. (Cannon Hill is just north of Ubirr and so named as there were three large hills which formed a triangle and on the top of one was a large flat rock which was surmounted by another rock, for all the world resembling a cannon.) [44]

IMG_4988The photographs were taken from the top of Ubirr Lookout (Kakadu) showing sandstone escarpments and outliers of resistant rock and the undulating lowlands of woodland and grassland, the vast plains grazed by the buffalo herds.Ubirr lookout


Warburton met Fred Smith of Kapalga, a crude bush village of paperbark huts which was the former Anglican mission station established by AH Lennox and AM Gathercole in 1901 and abandoned in 1903. [45] Smith was a man critical to the success of their venture who gave advice and assistance when Warburton subsequently stayed with him at Kapalga. [46] Fred Smith was another who had headed north as a drover following the same route as Nat Buchanan but under ‘different leadership’.[47]

Seventeen year old Tom Cole arrived in Australia in 1923 and spent some years working as a drover and horse breaker before taking up buffalo shooting. When he was 25 years old, in December 1931, he wrote to his mother I have just spent a very enjoyable Christmas with a good bush family – a chap named Hazel Gaden, a buffalo shooter who shoots at Marrakia [sic]. He continues that he will probably go buffalo shooting next year and he would need to get a load of 250 hides into Darwin by April.[48] He took up a lease of 100 square miles of country on the West Alligator River advising he had signed up agents to take 200 hides at 4½ pence per pound and he hoped to clear £200. All rations including the salt to treat the hides had to be sent by lugger up the rivers; Cole sent 3 tons of salt and over half a ton of rations and had to find £11. 15s per ton for freight alone.[49]

It was calculated by Warburton that in a three month dry season Fred Smith shot up to 3000 buffalo, the Hardy brothers Harry and Frank/Fred of Burrundie, Adelaide River [50] accounted for 2000, the Vestey’s shooters of Marrakai station between the Adelaide and Mary Rivers a further 2000 [51] and half a dozen smaller parties getting 1000 each, [52]a staggering 13,000 head. Tom Cole thought Gaden’s operation was the biggest producer on the coast.[53]

Warburton commented that young buffalo meat was ‘as tasty as anything which came from a bullock[54] and Cole remarked ‘the meat was dark red in colour, darker than ordinary meat with white fat‘ and he thought it was excellent, ‘there was nothing rank or gamey about it‘ but perhaps a ‘little richer than ordinary bullock.’ [55]

However despite these favourable comments, in general buffalos were hunted for their hides and horns but not their meat which was generally considered tough and unpleasant to eat.

Commenting upon the frequently referred to allegations of waste in connection with the shooting of buffaloes in the Northern Territory for their hides and horns alone, Mr. Fred Smith, the well-known buffalo shooter, (and Mr. Jack Barry, now droving, but at one time engaged in bison shooting) point out that beef from the mud buffalo species which comprise the present Northern Territory herds does not possess the nutritive qualities which commend it as suitable for human consumption. The meat turns black and hard, and the fat sticks in one’s teeth and requires the strenuous use of a toothbrush or toothpick to remove it. The fat of the meat also hardens in the frying pan very shortly after the pan is removed from the fire. As for salting it down, the two Territorians referred to said that the meat was in so little favor even among the aboriginals, that no effort in this direction was likely to find sufficient recompense for the time and labor involved in fact the game would not be worth its salt. As for boiling down the carcases for meat extract it would be impossible to profitably employ a portable plant in the muddy country which the buffaloes frequent, just as it would be to collect the meat for salting down at distances varying up to twenty miles from where one lot of buffaloes are shot to where the next lot are encountered. Moreover these buffaloes are often shot in boggy ground, the aboriginals usually standing in from nine to eighteen inches of water sometimes while removing the hides from the animals, and it would be impossible to extricate the carcase meat from this mud in a state fit for human consumption. The problem of utilising buffalo to any further commercial purpose than at present is difficult one under existing conditions. As a matter of fact only the hides are of commercial value at present. Over fifteen hundred buffalo horns from this district have been lying in Sydney since the war started waiting for a buyer. Reference to the possibility of yarding herds of adult animals is generally negatived by the varied experiences of shooters in the past, all of which go to emphasise its futility and anyone attempting to achieve the feat is sure to acknowledge, that he is up against a proposition which is best left alone, as the adult buffalo has a strenuous objection to being yarded, and puts up a vicious protest which is generally successful. This of course does not apply to isolated very young animals, with which it is possible to do something, but the adult buffalo, like the adult aboriginal, is incapable of being brought within confines of discipline and good behaviour, which would comply with the desires of those who deem that the existence of these herds should be turned to better commercial advantage, affording food and employment in greater ratio than at present. ‘Though the flesh of the buffalo is not worthy of flattering testimonials, the tallow is said to be particularly good, and possibly some means might be yet devised to obtain this product. The buffaloes are said to be remarkably free from disease, a fact vouched for by several post-mortems conducted by an expert meat inspector connected with Vestey’s meat- works. The species of mud buffalo found in the Northern Territory has four stomachs as against two found in cattle.[56]

In those early days buffalo hunting offered quick returns when hides fetched up to £1 each but post war the prices slumped so Warburton’s timing was wrong if he expected to make his fortune! In 1922 the harvest of hides was thought to be 800, just a tenth of the peak during the war years. After Warburton left in the mid 1920’s, the industry expanded with a growing export market to places like Turkey where the leather was used in upholstery, handbags and industrial belting. Hide production was at its peak in the late 1930’s, with 16,500 hides exported just before the commencement of World War II ended the industry. Post war saw a brief flurry of activity but the market collapsed completely in 1956-57, with the animals subsequently shot only for meat, not hides.[57]

It was an incredibly dangerous occupation as horseback was the only way to get close enough to shoot the animal efficiently. This is what Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton had to say about it….

Buffalo hunting as practised in the Territory, is both interesting and exciting and calls for considerable skill and courage…. buffalo must be skinned immediately it is killed otherwise the hide is ruined; for in the blazing tropical sun decomposition sets in very rapidly. As they can be shot faster than skinned a special technique is adopted. A sawn off rifle is used, held in one hand like a pistol. The hunter, mounted on a special trained horse, pursues the herd at full speed across uneven ground which is often full of treacherous holes. Overtaking it and singling out his mark he gallops up almost alongside the fleeing buffalo. This is the time of supreme danger – rider and horse must be ready to act in a split second should the buffalo swerve. And if a horse puts a hoof in a hole and falls they can expect no mercy from the cruel horns. At the right moment the hunter aims at point blank range and shoots his quarry in the spine. The beast drops, paralysed, to be dispatched when the skinning party comes along.[58]

The photographs from the Northern Territory Library show shot buffalo with paralysed hind legs. 33356 Buffalo down JPG(Image 33356 and 32427)32427JPG

ShotBufwith PeopleJPG(Image 33430)

It was not a matter of marksmanship, but horsemanship. The men and their horses needed an affinity with each other. They had to go to full gallop from a standing start. The man held the reins in his left hand, rifle in the right and when he was 10 yards to the nearest bull the shooter set himself for the kill. He dropped his reins and the trained horse knew the rest was up to itself.[59] The horse knew he had to stay alongside the buffalo until the rider fired his shot into the spine, then the horse immediately swerved to one side so he was not brought down by a falling animal.[60] The race immediately went on with the horse not changing its stride as it went after the next buffalo which had to be shot before they reached the safety of the timber belts.

The horses had to be sure footed in the pitted, boggy, uncertain ground which was covered with hoofmarks and wallows from the wet season;[61] they needed a heightened stock sense, being especially aware of a sideways flick of those backward pointing horns; having lightening fast reactions was essential. [62] The horse had to be fearless; Cole remarked one day that his brown shooting horse is getting frightened of buffalo as too many bulls are charging.[63] The technique was dangerous for both man and horse and Warburton describes one sickening episode where their horse Wark-Wark was injured by a wounded buffalo saying there was ‘no more terrible cry than the scream of a mortally wounded horse’.[64] Cole reported that one day a wounded bull charged their pack horses and caught Bangle breaking her stifle joint.[65]

The buffalo had to be shot in the coupling, where the spine meets to pelvis, so the hind quarters were immobilised. Thus the buffalos were left alive, but partly paralysed and most likely in pain, waiting for the skinners who soon came along and killed them and removed the hide.

Once the skin was removed, very often the carcasses were left to rot, as according to Warburton there were always ample supplies of game birds to be shot as ‘tucker’ for the camp workers and also utilised by the local Aboriginal people who were employed in stalking the animals and preparing the hides. Their payment was other provisions like tobacco, flour and tea.[66] But as Tom Cole found, it was very likely that stores were stolen from the camps by the indigenous people he had working for him who would disappear quietly in the night or whilst he was away.

Tom Cole tying a hide onto a horseTom Cole, buf skin on horseJPG

The hides were folded in a square and tied onto a bareback horse with ropes; the hides could weigh up to one hundred pounds so the horse would only carry one, or two smaller hides back to camp. Here the hides were washed and scrubbed clean in the river or billabong and then salted and stacked one on top of the other for about six days to allow excess moisture to drain off. The undissolved salt was then shaken off and the hide hung over rails to dry to a point where they were folded and stacked for transport.  The hides were sold on a price per pound weight.[67]

 27448 Buff camp JPG

 Photographs from the Northern Territory Library show a buffalo hunter’s campBuff camp 2 jpg

 Photographs from the Northern Territory Library show buffalo hides drying

Hides drying ground JPG

Hides dryingJPG


The GADEN family members who are part of this story include brothers Neil, Hugh, Murray William, John (also known as Jack) and Hazel Frederick Gaden. Their parents were John and Ann. The family lived in the Tibooburra area in 1905 but by 1912 they had moved to the Kynuna area of Queensland. This was a town on the Diamantina River near Winton.

In November 1912 the Land Commissioners’ Court was held when the Kynuna blocks were thrown open, for homestead selection. There were five lots in all which attracted a good deal of attention. For portion 1, parish of Salmon, 23,066 acres, the annual rent of which was 2d per acre, there were only two applicants, M W. Gaden and John Gaden junr. The former won on the ballot. John Gaden senior and Neil Gaydon [sic] were in the ballot for another lot but neither was successful. [68]


Neil Gaden

Sadly Neil was destined to be killed in the Great War. He enlisted in Brisbane on 2 September 1915 and was in the 31st Battalion, ‘A’ Company, Regimental number 333. He was listed as being born in Tibooburra to John and Ann Gaden now of Kynuna via Winton in Queensland. Neil was single, a selector at Kynuna, aged 25, weighed 116 lbs, was 5′ 7″ tall. Embarkation was from Melbourne on board HMAT A62 Wandilla on 9 November 1915 and his embarkation Roll Number was 23/48/1. HMAT Wandilla and HMAT A41 Bakara carried the men from the 31st Battalion to Suez. He saw war service in Egypt and on the Western Front.

On 19 February 1916 Neil was admitted to the No 8 Field Ambulance Serapeum with influenza and was discharged 3 days later and rejoined his unit. They moved from Alexandria to Marseilles in June 1916.

Initially thought to have been wounded in action, it was later confirmed that Private Neil Gaden was killed in action on 19-20 July 1916.

Pte JR Donaldson reported Just as we went over the parapet in the attack Gaden was shot down and killed. I saw him lying dead against the parapet and I took his rifle and equipment and left them in the trench behind. He was never buried, he is out there still.

Pte FH Frost reported he was killed at Fleurbaix on July 19th as he was going over the parapet into the charge. I was close to him at the time. The last we saw of his body it was lying out in No Man’s Land. I know nothing of a burial.

Neil Gaden is commemorated at Fromelles (Panel 3, VC Corner) and on Panel 118 of the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. [69]

Probate of the will of Neil Gaden late of Kynuna, selector, a private in the AIF, deceased, was granted by the Registrar Mr JP Quinn at the Supreme Court House on Thursday to Annie Gaden, the sole executrix named in the will. (Messrs Hobbs, Wilson and Ryan, as town agents for Mr H T Weedon solicitor for executrix Personalty sworn under £3120. [70]


Hugh Frederick Gaden

Little is known of Hugh, he appears to have worked as a stockman in the Kuridala area (about 65 miles from Cloncurry on the back road to Boulia). Did he also work in the mine which fed the town?

The Hampden copper deposit (the future site of Kuridala) was acquired by a Melbourne syndicate in 1897, and by 1905 world copper prices had climbed sufficiently to warrant exploitation. The railway system reached Cloncurry in 1908 and a 70 km southwards extension was needed to carry Hampden’s copper to Cloncurry. Funds from the mining syndicate and the government paid for the extension line, which opened in 1910. The mining township was named Gulatten, then Friezland, but anti-German sentiment during World War I prompted a further change. Kuridala was chosen, an Aboriginal word thought to describe the eagle hawk.


As early as 1913 Friezland had 1500 people. There were six hotels, an ice works, a printery, several storekeepers and trades people, a hospital, Anglican and Presbyterian churches, a school of arts and a primary school. Wartime demand kept world copper prices elevated and the town buoyant, reaching its zenith in 1918. At this time Kuridala’s school had a daily attendance of 280 children. Chinese market gardeners kept the town supplied with fresh victuals, while the smelters worked around the clock, lighting up the night sky.


In 1920 world copper prices collapsed, extinguishing the smelters and Kuridala’s prospects. By the following year the population had halved to 774. Pugh’s Directory records that five hotels were still afloat in 1924, but decline was unabated and the end inevitable. The hospital, picture theatre and court house were pulled down and erected in the new mining town at Mount Isa, the ice works following close behind. The 1933 census counted just 64 people in 1933, mostly tributors who mined high-grade ore.[71]

Hugh most probably was the drover named Gaden who often took horses and stock along the stock routes between Kynuna and Cloncurry, for example in March 1927 there was listed a Stock Movement of 240 sheep 16 horses Cloncurry to Kynuna with Gaden.[72]

In 1919 Hugh Gaden of Kuridala was groomsman at the wedding of Robert Hazard and Florence Walsh [73]

In 1934 he died at Canobie Station as a single man and was buried in the Cloncurry cemetery. [74]

The death occurred on Canobie Station on Monday last of Hugh Gaden, a single man, 37 years of age. Deceased was employed on Iffley Station where he suffered the injury, and was on his way to Cloncurry to seek medical aid when he passed away suddenly. The body was conveyed to Cloncurry, where the deceased was accorded a Masonic funeral. The Gaden family were well known in the Mackinlay and Kynuna districts, having owned pastoral properties in that locality some years ago.[75]

The Queensland Gulf town of Normanton is 400 km from Cloncurry. As the crow flies both Canobie and Iffley Stations are to the east of the now main road, with Iffley closer to Normanton (about 130 km). To travel from Iffley south west means crossing the Saxby, Flinders and Cloncurry Rivers to get to Canobie which is about 140 km from Cloncurry. It was a long way for Hugh to try and travel by horseback to Cloncurry for medical assistance. His death record shows his parents as being John Gaden and Ann Salmon. [76]

His mother Ann died the following year, in 1935.[77] There was also John Henry Gaden who had died in 1930, the son of John Henry Gaden and Margaret Conidehr. [78] Was this person, John Henry junior, the husband of Ann Salmon and father of our buffalo hunters?


Murray William Gaden

Murray William Gaden was the oldest of the Gaden brothers. In 1912 he rode several horses in the Kynuna Race Club meeting

The annual race meeting of the Kynuna Amateur Race Club was held on Friday, the 6th July. From the time the horses came out of the paddock, until a few days before the races, the weather was showery, and it was thought the races would be postponed, but splendid weather resulted, end the day of the meeting was perfect, there being a large attendance.

It was a seven race meeting with Murray Gaden riding in six of the seven. The horses also ran more than one race; he rode Caprice in three races and Pupa in two.  Murray managed six placings but no winners.

FLYING HANDICAP, Six furlongs, T. M. Gilmore’s Caprice, Mr M. Gaden 3rd.

TRIAL STAKES HANDICAP, Five furlongs, J. Langdon’s Pupa, Mr M. Gaden 2nd.

HACK RACE, Four furlongs, J. Langdon’s Pupa, Mr M. Gaden 2nd.

KYNUNA HANDICAP, Seven furlongs, T. M. Gilmore’s Caprice, Mr M. Gaden 2nd.

SHORTS HANDICAP, Four furlongs,   T. M. Gilmore’s Gift, Mr M. Gaden 2nd.

CONSOLATION- HANDICAP, Five furlongs, T. M. Gilmore’s Caprice, Mr M. Gaden 2nd. [79]

Murray married Sarah Gertrude Allen in Queensland in 1914.[80]  He spent time in America, birthplace of Sarah, and on his return to Australian he appeared to have been a manager on various properties. In 1927 he was at Dajarra, Queensland (on the road between Boulia and Mount Isa) when he thanked the staff at the Lister hospital for their care of his wife.

THANKS. I wish to thank Dr. Ross, Matron   and nursing staff of the Lister Hospital for their kindness to Mrs. Gaden during her illness. M. W. GADEN, Dajarra.  [81]

Lister Hospital appears to be the place now known as Osler House in Sturt Street, Townsville which was run as a hospital by Dr Gordon Ross, who had rented the premises from 1914 and purchased them in 1918. Dr Ross was prominent in northern medical circles. He was founder of the Lister Hospital, the forerunner of the present Mater Misericordia Hospital, and had been superintendent of the Townsville General Hospital.[82]

In 1929 Mr. Murray Gaden was managing the Mount Litchfield Station on behalf of the Northern Agency.[83]

During that year it was reported Mr Murray Gaden is in town fresh from his brother’s buffalo, shooting camp. He reports a successful season.[84]

In 1930 he became overseer of Delemere Station, one of the properties along the Victoria River.

Mr. Murray Gaden has taken over the management of Delemere Station for the Vestey interests.[85]

He was also working at the adjacent Willaroo Station when he was injured in March 1931:-

Reports come from Willaroo Station of two serious accidents on that station during the last few weeks. Mr. Murray Gaden was thrown from a horse early in February receiving nasty injuries including several broken ribs and is slowly recovering. [86]

Was Gaden a manager, an overseer or just a visitor … was he helping with the annual muster at Willaroo? This property, also called Willeroo, was originally pioneered by the Squatting Company ‘Stuckey, Cooper and Galloway’. These men were from the Lake George area near Canberra and were neighbours to the family of our ancestor William Balcombe, the first Colonial Treasurer of NSW. Stuckey became a subsequent connection with our Gaden family when a Stuckey descendent married a Gaden. The company abandoned the station in the late 1890’s after their manager Sid Scott had been murdered by men from the local Wadaman/Wardman/Wardaman Aboriginal tribe.[87]

Murray Gaden was obviously not a well man; later in 1931 he travelled by train and was admitted to Darwin hospital.

The mixed train from the Katherine reached Darwin last Saturday on schedule time. Included in the number of passengers to reach Darwin were Mr. and Mrs. Murray Gaden, from Willeroo Station, Mr. Gaden later being admitted to the Darwin Hospital.[88]

He died in March 1932, his death notice suggesting he had no children.


A phone message was received by Mrs. J. Gaden, who resides at the 2½ Mile, Darwin, stating that Mr. Murray Gaden had died, but no details are available. It is presumed the cause of death was kidney disease, for which he had been treated in the Darwin Hospital prior to last Christmas, but it is not known whether death occurred at Willeroo or Victoria River Downs Hospital. The late Mr. Gaden, who was the oldest of a big family, was reared in Mt. Elliott, Western Queensland, where his father had a butchering business. He afterwards had a selection outside of Kynuna. He was a well-known figure, in western Queensland particularly in the Cloncurry district. After he was married he visited the United States, his wife’s birthplace and remained there for some time. In January 1929 he reached Darwin in the “Malabar,” and joined his brother Hazel in the buffalo shooting camps. Later on he secured a position as overseer on Delemere, which position he filled at the time of his death. Of a quiet disposition, he made many friends in the Territory who will regret to hear of his passing. He leaves a wife and two married brothers Messrs. Hazel and Jack Gaden-in the Territory, to whom we extend our sincere sympathy. [89]

Murray’s wife Sarah died in March 1970 aged 82, so she was born about 1888. She was buried in the Private portion of Winton Cemetery in Queensland, Row S plot 189 and her gravestone reads

In loving memory of Sarah G. Gaden wife of Murray W. Gaden died 5th March 1970 RIP[90] So So Sarah was a widow for a long time, close to 38 years.

The Gaden family connection to Kynuna and Winton continued. This was where Emma Frances Lockyer married Alfred Gladstone Gaden in 1923. Alfred and Emma had 2 children, Frances Jean (Peggy) and son John. [91] Emma died 9 July 1930 aged 33 years and was buried at Kynuna, Queensland. [92]

MRS. GADEN PASSES; Genuine sympathy was expressed locally when it became known that Mrs. A. G.  Gaden had passed away after a brief illness at the Kynuna Hospital, aged 33. Well known in Winton district, previous to her marriage, as Miss Cis. Lockyer, the late Mrs. Gaden leaves a young family of two and a husband and mother to mourn her loss. Dr. A. J. May the flying medico from Cloncurry hastened by aeroplane to assist Dr. Hungerford, of the Kynuna Hospital to attend to the sufferer. The late Mrs. Gaden’s mother is Mrs. P. Robertson, of  Bellkate. [93]

Alfred and Emma’s daughter Peggy went on to marry Corporal Vivian Garrett (Service number QX55803 of the 26 Australian Infantry Battalion) in Townsville on 26 August 1944.[94]

Meanwhile Alfred Gladstone remarried and he and his new wife had an interest in horse racing. He was subject to bankruptcy proceedings from 1952-1954 and, according to the newspaper reports of the court case, horse racing played its part…both as an owner and gambler.

RACEHORSES AND GAMBLING BLAMED FOR BANKRUPTCY – FORMER GARAGE OWNER AND TANK SINKER Alfred Gladstone Gaden (56), a tank sinker, of Longreach, was examined in the Longreach Court, yesterday, after he had been declared bankrupt by the Commissioner of Taxation.[95]

One cemetery index entry suggests Alfred was a son of John Gaden and Ann ‘Solmen’ , whose first son had been called Alfred but had died as an infant. It is possible that this Alfred was another later son but this has to be confirmed by a reliable source.[96]



John Gaden married Dorothy Brierly in Queensland in 1918. [97] Better known as Jack, he was an acclaimed buffalo and crocodile hunter.

Hazel Frederick Gaden married Ada Mary Smith (born Normanton on 23 September 1895) in Queensland in 1920.[98] Ada was the daughter of Alfred Edward Smith and Mary Anne Danvers.[99] Following their marriage they travelled by boat to Darwin, to a live at Kopalgo (also called Kapalga) homestead built by her father in 1880’s.[100]

By 1923 Hazel and Ada had a couple of children and a new house to live in. CJ Kirkland wrote a long article about the difficulties faced in travelling by boat to their home and he describes their house and its construction by Yorkie Mick.

A Trip to the Alligator Rivers (By C. J. Kirkland.)

We left Darwin at 8 p.m. on the evening of March 28th in the double ended lugger Willie, my objective being Oenpelli Station, on the East Alligator, to wind up the affairs of the late P Cahill, Supt. of Oenpelli and Protector of Aborigines, who died recently in Sydney. The Willie is a small boat of 81/2 tons register, and she was in bad form to face the rough weather to be expected outside at this season of the year. The boat was packed with stores and furniture being taken down by the new owner of Kapalgoo Station, Mr Gaden, who is also owner of the lugger Willie ; there were also several passengers and crew, to wit : Jimmy Rotumah, the well known South Sea Islander, in charge, 4 native blacks as crew, Mr and Mrs Gaden, Miss Madge Gaden, 2 years and 5 months old, and Master Gaden, 5 weeks old, a native woman attendant on Mrs Gaden, Mr A McKay, an old time drover station manager and Territory resident, and the writer. The boat was so crowded there was scarcely room to stretch oneself and yawn

On clearing East Point we ran into a nasty lumpy sea, the result of the fresh westerly winds blowing for days previously, and I felt sorry for Mrs Gaden, who is a poor sailor ; she was ill throughout until we reached calm water in the river.

At daylight next morning we were running through the Vernon Passage, and during forenoon we rounded Cape Hotham and headed down Van Die- man Gulf, Despite the wind astern the heat on the shelterless deck was intense, whilst the dreary low lying coast along which we were steering was depressing. Black storm clouds gathered ahead, and we lowered the lug foresail. After a brief interval we were enveloped, and for half-an- hour there was a turmoil of thunder, lightning, wind and rain. Fortunately only the edge of the squall struck us. The deluge cooled things, but we were all well drenched. The breeze sprang up again from the west, and at dark we were passing Point Stewart, some miles distant. The night was dark, the sky to S.W and W. and E. being hidden by a thick pall of black clouds, whilst occasional distant flashes of lightning indicated heavy rain in that quarter. The wind freshened after sundown, and about 9 p.m the skipper, who was getting anxious as to his exact position and the whereabouts of Field and Barron Islands, off the mouth of the South Alligator, lowered and secured his foresail. This reduced   the speed, but the wind was strong and equally and we still made good headway. About midnight, as no soundings were to be got with a 20 fathom lead line, the skipper concluded   we had been set too far out into the Gulf by some current, and brought his boat round on a course which would bring us nearer the south coast of the Gulf. The moment the boat was put on this new course we realised the wildness of the night and the steep and dangerous character of the sea. Portion of a sea fell into the jib and the, rotten old sail carried away. The sail was roughly repaired and replaced, but carried away again twice within the hour, after which all effort to reset the sail was abandoned and we lay to under the reefed mainsail for the rest of the night. I have had some little experience in pearling luggers, but have never seen so steep and dangerous a sea. How the boat surmounted some of these toppling waves, which reared up continuously from out the obscurity of the night and for a moment seemed to hang right over the deck, is a marvel. There is no doubt these sharp ended whaleboat-fashioned luggers are good sea boats, if not over comfortable nor roomy. Jimmy opined that the steepness of the sea was probably due to a strong current setting up against the wind. However, a good deal of water found its way aboard, and Mrs Gaden, who was lying on the deck aft, sheltering her recently born infant as best she could, was literally bathed in the wash from the waves throughout the night. But she never murmured. The pump had to be manned twice during the night to clear the vessel of water which had found its way below, although, she is considered to be as a rule, a tight boat Then the pump broke down. At the first gleam of daylight Field Island was sighted not many miles away long, low & thickly covered with scrub. It had been an anxious night, for the old skipper particularly; he admitted that anything might have happened; and there was the undercurrent of anxiety throughout as to the whereabouts of the dangerous reefs which stretch out like long fingers from Field Island. Giving these reefs a good offing we rounded the east end of Field Island about 2 o’clock, and found ourselves in comparatively calm water in a noble estuary which is sheltered from any N.W. weather by Field and Barron Islands. At 3 p.m. the flood tide began to make and we entered the mouth of the river proper. This river is grand, wide and clear of all obstructes, and the water beep enough to float a big liner right up to the lauding place, some 36 or 40 miles upstream. Whole sail was kept on the boat, and when the wind headed us in the numerous bends there was ample room to beat until we got another fair wind lead. With the strong tide helping us we made good way. Occasionally open plains could be seen stretching back from the river, but for the most part all view of the hinterland was hidden by a fringe of timber. About 9 p.m. the flood tide was at the full and we anchored. The stream was so wide that we were not much troubled by mosquitoes. At 4 a.m the tide began to make again, and at 8 a.m on Saturday morning we dropped anchor close alongside the landing place-merely a cleared space at top of the bank. We saw no alligators, but shortly before we reached the landing an old bull buffalo appeared on the eastern bank, and after gazing at us for a few minutes gave his head a shake and turned tail, and went off at a lumbering gallop into the plain. We saw also many flocks of geese and ducks on the wing, and the margin of the stream was alive with cranes, ibis, and other feathered life.

No time was lost. The dingy, hoisted inboard, was quickly cleared of coops of fowls, ducks, swags, and cooking utensils, &c’., and, dumped over the side, was soon engaged in conveying loads of stuff across the few yards of water intervening between boat and shore, after first conveying Mr Gaden and his family ashore. By noon the boat was cleared, and it was marvellous to see how much material had been packed into so confined a space. A dozen or more natives soon appeared on the bank, and as the cargo was landed it was carried on the heads of these natives across half a mile of swamp, with water in places up to one’s knees. From the edge of the swamp a buckboard and two horses carried the stuff on to the station, situated some four hundred yards further on, the homestead being hidden from view from the river by a low ironstone ridge and a belt of timber. The total distance of homestead from the river is 3/4 of a mile.

About noon I walked up to the homestead and stayed there till the following afternoon on the invitation of Mr and Mrs Gaden, Mrs Gaden was glad to be once more on terra firma, and was busy trying to get her new home into some kind of order. The five weeks old infant voyager had apparently thriven on his recent stormy baptism as a traveller and was being nursed and petted by the native home servants, one of whose best traits is their love for children. Shortly after my arrival I was introduced to a character widely known throughout the Territory backblocks. He is an elderly man with clever blue grey eyes, close cropped white hair, and a strong square clean shaven face. He has been and is now, probably, a man of great physical strength and iron constitution. He is generally known as Yorkie Mick, although that is not his name. He boasts that he has never worn a shirt for years, and that for the past 30 years he has worked hard in nearly every part of the Territory as a miner, prospector; station hand, &c. He scoffs at the contention that white men cannot live and work in this tropical part of Australia. His body and face are tanned and scarred by long exposure to all kinds of weather. Strangely enough he has never visited Darwin. That is a pleasure to come.

During the Gadens’ 7 or 8 weeks of absence in Darwin Yorkie Mick, assisted only by blacks, has built an entirely new homestead, and as an example of what can be done in the bush by a bush genius unafraid of toil, I will try briefly to describe it. Speaking roughly the ground area, including the kitchen, is about 50ft. x 50 ft. The whole building, except for a few nails-and fencing wire, is built entirely of round bush timber and sheets of stringy bark. It is surprisingly neat in appearance, and during my brief stay there not a leak was discoverable during several heavy showers. Compared with the ordinary town residence of wood and gal iron this bush home is delightfully cool. All the material used, including white ant beds for the flooring, was obtained in the bush close at hand; therefore the cost of the whole structure is infinitesimal if compared with a house of equal size built of costly imported material. Rafters, about 4 in. diameter, across which are laid small sapling battens about 2 in. diameter, and spaced about 1 ft. apart, support the roof, the bark being kept in place by outriders of timber laid transversely and laced together with fencing wire. The walls are 10 ft. high. The wall plates and posts are of 6 in timber, with a plentiful supply of arsenic in each post hole to discourage white ants. The bark walls are kept rigid by 4 trans- verse battens inside and outside. Around the foot of the walls is a 2 ft strip of gal iron to keep the bark from off the ground. Two partitions give three good sized rooms in the house proper. There is a 14 foot verandah back and front, the bark projecting 2 ft beyond the posts to carry off storm water. Portion of the back verandah   is enclosed and used as a storeroom At the rear, abutting on the back verandah, is a kitchen about 20 x 20 feet, with a huge 10 ft square fireplace where the only gal. iron in the structure is use. At the junction of the kitchen with the back verandah there   is a 26 ft. trough or gillier fashioned from one solid tree trunk hollowed out canon fashion. This carries off all storm water very effectively

At the rear of the house there is quite a big garden, stretching down to the edge of a lagoon of permanent water situated about 100 yards distant This garden, as well as a smaller space in front of the house which Mrs Gaden intends to beautify with flowers and ornamental shrubs, is enclosed by a substantial 6 ft 6 in barbed wire and fowl-proof fence . [101]

At this time it seems that farming was on the Gaden’s agenda with maize being grown and cattle grazing also part of the enterprise.

Maize does exceptionally well on the Alligator and the Oenpelli country, and Mr Hazel Gaden produced cobs there in quantity last year as good as the best of those grown on the fertile Queensland downs. The plant will grow according to old hands equally well in some of the other parts of the Territory, but generally speaking the cob and the seed are smaller. [102]

A mob of fifty prime bullocks from Gaden’s Kapalga  station (Alligator River) changed hands last week, the purchaser being Mr. L. M. Brumby, of Pine Creek. These are the first bullocks to be sold off this property for some years. [103]

Carl Warburton had owed much of his success with his buffalo hunting enterprise to Fred Smith, a celebrated local character who was a big-hearted, genial bushman based at the former Mission Station at Kopalgo (Kapalga). Smith had provided horses, equipment and arranged for supplies to be taken to their camps and for the skins to be collected.[104] So was this Fred Smith the same Alfred Smith who was Ada Gaden’s father or was he some other relation? Is it possible there was a connection? Warburton refers to him as being unmarried when he visited Kapalga, Smith himself making the comment he was a bachelor,[105] but he could have meant widower or he could have been unmarried but fathered children. When Fred Smith died on 31 October 1921 there was no mention of a wife or family in the newspaper report of his death. Frederick Smith was buried in the Gardens Cemetery Darwin in Row 498 in an unmarked grave.[106]


The adventurous career of this buffalo hunter came to its close like that of any ordinary mortal, but many received a shock when they heard that Fred Smith’s sojourn at the hospital had been the last of him in the Territory. Heart trouble pre-vented any relieving operation but everything was done which could be done by skill and sympathetic attention on the part of Dr. Jones and the Hospital staff. The many friends who stood round the open grave yesterday afternoon were rather surprised to see the age on the coffin lid as sixty-five. It comprised a long range and quite a book could be written as his autobiography-out-back life in Queensland and the Territory under pioneering conditions. His is one of the names that will go down in the history of this land, to be even faintly remembered when selections and homesteads will transform the wild places of this northern land into a proper civilisation, and peaceful herds will take the place of the stampeding buffalos of the now unredeemed wilderness. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev. Frederick Hof, Methodist Minister, who bore tribute to the brave spirit, expressed religious faith and cheerful smile of this Territorian Nimrod.[107]

However the NT archives Territory Stories has a photograph of Neil Gaden with the caption “Neil Gaden, grandson of Fred Smith of Kapalgoo, with shot buffalo” and an article written in 1950 about the next generation of buffalo hunters advised:

The young Gadens are buffalo shooters of the third generation. Their mother’s father, Fred Smith, began shooting just after the first world war, and their father Hazel Gaden, hunted from 1922 to 1937.[108]

The Gaden family had a residence in Mitchell Street, Darwin for their visits to town and during the wet season when buffalo hunting was no longer possible. It was here that Ada’s children were born At her residence Mitchell Street, to Mr and Mrs Hazel Gaden of the Alligator Rivers, a son. Both doing well [109] and in July 1928 a daughter was born.[110]

Mrs. Gaden of the Marrakai buffalo shooting, camp, arrived in Darwin by the last train. Mr. Clarrie Wilkinson also made the journey. We understand that the season’s operations finish this week. Slightly over 3000 hides have been secured as a result of the season’s operations. Mr Hazel Gaden will now manage the Marrakai property and Mr. Murray Gaden, the Mount Litchfield: Station on behalf of the Northern Agency.[111]


Mrs Hazel Gaden and family accompanied by Miss Eunice Aitkins arrived in town last week. Mr Gaden has abandoned buffalo shooting for a while and is now managing Marrakai station for N.A.L. Ltd.[112]

However it was at Kopalgo that Ada broke her wrist on New Year’s eve on the last day of 1925 [113] and it was here that she

raised five of her seven children and followed her husband Hazel on his buffalo shooting trails throughout the Alligator River region. Ada and her children moved to Darwin so the children could be educated and in 1942 during the Second World War they suffered the turmoil of evacuation and returned to the Territory as soon as the military authorities allowed them.

She was always helping her Aboriginal and European friends and seldom a day went by that there was not somebody enjoying Ada’s hospitality at their home where St John’s College now stands. Ada never set time limits for her visitors and she on occasions assisted with marriage ceremonies held at the house where some of the mission girls were married in her garden and she made the wedding frock, provide a wedding cake and assist in organising a church wedding with a reception when the girls asked.

Their house was used as a base for receiving medical treatment by visiting Aborigines from the bush when they were in Darwin and Ada with her knowledge of Aboriginal language picked up during her buffalo shooting days helped provide a communication link between medical practitioners and their patients.[114]

Hazel Gaden’s first name raised some eyebrows with Tom Cole commenting

Gaden’s Christian name was Hazel, which seemed unusual. I believe he had a brother called Gladys too, perhaps their mother had a longing for daughters…. a bit tough on boys, I thought, especially bush kids. However they seemed to live with it all right I rarely heard it commented on and Hazel was well thought of. [115]

It appears that initially Jack and Hazel Gaden worked separate buffalo hunting camps, but later mention of a “Gaden Bros” suggested they may possibly have been in business together. They worked in the Top End of the Northern Territory on the flood plains of the Wildman and Alligator rivers in or adjacent to what today is known as Kakadu National Park and Arnhem land.

There seems to have been good cooperation between the various buffalo hunting camps, Cole reports Gaden taking some of his ammunition which would be later replaced, use of horses when there was a problem, Gaden a friend of mine often works my horses when he is short and I often work his, or care of them when there was a need to go into Darwin. They would help each other when their vehicles needed repair or unloading and often when food was running short when the supply ships were running late, for example he sent ‘Spider’ to Gaden’s camp for two sacks of flour in October 1932. [116]

The land was controlled by the Government but divided into areas which were leased to the buffalo hunters for the hunting season. There was only one instance of poaching reported by Cole in July 1938, when he wrote Some poaching going on on the boundary. Think it is Vegas’ camp getting in. The next day Bill Black came across with me. Saw buffalo carcases on the plains. Black and I rode till dark and struck Vegas’ main camp on the Alligator River. The confrontation resulted in Crossed the river and had a showdown with Vegas. Returned to my camp. Black went back to his.[117]

As well as organising the camps for the hunters and skinners, they used a variety of vessels to send the hides for further processing. Luggers were traditional wooden sailing boats often used by those collecting sea cucumbers (trépangs) and were used to travel up the tidal rivers in the dry season when buffalo hunting took place.

Hazel Gaden obviously owned his own vessels which he used for shipping the hides, with mixed success.

The lugger “Willie” belonging to Hazel Gaden buffalo hunter, and formerly the property of Campbell,   trépanger who was murdered by aboriginals, was wrecked on a reef at Wildman River, near Cecil Freer’s trépang station, at Point Stuart.  Two hundred buffalo hides were jettisoned. A party left Darwin to endeavour to raise the lugger. [118]


The lugger “Emerald” arrived in port at mid-day yesterday from the Wildman River, property of Mr Hazel Gaden. The vessel brought buffalo hides and other cargo and returns with salt and station stores. [119]

Mr. Hazel Gaden’s lugger “The Emerald” cleared port this morning for Wildman River, after being delayed for some time, owing to the illness of some of the members of the crew.[120]


Report has been received of the loss of Hazel Gaden’s lugger “Emerald” at White Stone landing, Adelaide River on July 23rd. The lugger was loading with hides, 40 of which had been placed on board the previous evening. At daylight next morning the boat sank at her moorings without an opportunity to save anything below deck. The total loss is estimated at £300. Mr. Gaden had that morning received a motor lorry and was going to cut a road through from Adelaide River to the railway line, a distance of about 50 miles. He will do the carting with the lorry, and the lugger “St. Francis” will take the loading which was waiting for the “Emerald.” About two years ago Mr. Gaden lost the lugger “Willie” off Point Stewart with a full load onboard. [121]


The Mission lugger “St. Francis” returned from Adelaide River on Wednesday with 325 buffalo hides on board for shipment south. This is the second consignment for the season from the shooting plant of Hazel Gaden and party who have been shooting for the last three seasons at Marrakai station.[122]

And he used them to travel to and from the camps to Darwin –

Mr H Gaden arrived in town on Wednesday morning by lugger from the Alligator River. [123]

– where he obviously enjoyed the social life of the local hostelries.

Darwin Police Court…Before V.L. Lampe Esq, S.M. on Tuesday, Claude John Cashman was charged with having a bar open during the time in which the sale of liquor was prohibited, to wit, 10.45 p m on November 8th. Fined £5 and costs. Frank Cook and Hazel Gaden, charged with being on the premises during prohibited hours-dismissed.[124]

However he also made use of cars when suitable

Mr. H. Gaden, who is buffalo shooting on the Adelaide River, arrived in town on Tuesday last by car on a business visit. [125]

Hazel and Ada had seven children and at one time the middle child Eileen suffered a bad cut to her arm


Eileen the little daughter of Mr and Mrs Hazel Gaden met with a severe accident on Wednesday last when playing at a friend’s house. The little girl was running along carrying a glass when she tripped and fell smashing the glass which inflicted a severe cut in her arm. A tourniquet was at once applied to check the bleeding and the child hurried to the doctor who ordered her removal to the hospital for treatment. On inquiring this morning we were told that the little patient is making favorable progress.[126]


Hunting Safaris

During the period between the two World Wars, it appears that hunting safaris were organised for paying guests who were after game birds, crocodiles and buffalo, with Hazel Gaden providing men, horses and the camp for the visitors in 1931.

“ACRES OF DUCKS” Adelaide River, July 12.

The members of the Commonwealth Railways Big Game Expedition, including experienced, world sportsmen, state the Mary River district just visited is more prolific of wild life than any other part of the globe. It would hardly be possible to exaggerate the abundance of game on the fresh-water billabongs spread over probably 3000 square miles of country. As one member of the party accurately put it, there are acres of wild ducks of all kinds, also geese, pelicans and stately egret cranes.

In the wet or summer months the Mary River overflows the billabongs and gains access to the sea. That water is now rapidly drying, leaving many extensive plains bordered by forests of tall paper bark trees.

It is estimated that there are probably 30,000 buffaloes in this locality. Mr. Hazel Gaden and other professional shooters are engaged in shooting, buffaloes for their hides. Mr. Gaden directed the shooting operations for the expedition, making available his entire plant, including 20 horses and nine aborigines.

Mr. Gaden is a leading figure in the buffalo industry, having shot last year more than 4800 head for hides, which are skipped to Mediterranean ports. The average weight per hide is about 72 lb dry weight, and the price ranges from 6d to 7d per lb.

Crocodile shooting is the sport most favoured, and two monster heads obtained as trophies are being aired for later dispatch to Melbourne. N.Q. Register.[127]



Members of the Commonwealth Railways Big Game Expedition, which includes world-experienced sportsmen, state that the Mary River district just visited is more prolific of wildlife than any other part of the globe. It would hardly be possible to exaggerate the abundance of game on the freshwater billabongs, spread   over probably 3000 miles of country. As one member of the party accurately put it, there are acres of wild ducks of all kinds; also geese, pelicans and stately egret cranes. From Alligator Head, on Mary River, 10 miles of forest fringe are visible in one grand panorama. Crocodile snouts skim the nearby water. Clouds of feathered game fly over head, and pack the river banks, and in the distance herds of sleek black buffaloes emerge from the forests, making for pastures on the plains. It is estimated that there are probably 30,000 buffaloes in this locality. Mr. Hazel Gaden and other professional shooters are engaged here in the industry of shooting buffaloes, with the assistance of white hunters and aboriginal skinners.[128]

Tom Cole reported that Gaden’s operation was bigger than both that of the Hardy brothers and that of Marrakai owned by Vesteys. He remarked

Gaden’s camp was probably the biggest producer on the coast. It appeared to be well run. There were the usual humpies with timber framework covered by paperbark. There were several hundred hides stacked and covered by paperbark too.[129]

In June 1932

At the Adelaide River the traveller met Mr. Hazel Gaden who is buffalo shooting on that river, and was shown a pair of buffalo horns measuring 11 feet 4 Inches from tip to tip. Mr. Gaden is also crocodile shooting and recently sent 50 cured crocodile skins to Melbourne which he sold at a satisfactory figure. He now has a further order for 150 skins, the purchasers stating that if the consignment arrives in good order they are prepared to take 200 a month. When Mr. Gaden was asked if he could supply that number the reply was that he could as many thousands.[130]

Later, in November 1932

The ”Maroubra” with 700 odd buffalo hides reached port from the Alligator River.’ Mr. Jack Gaden with over 300 hides was the biggest shipper. The balance of the shipment came from Mr. Tom Cole and Mr. N A. Rindberg.[131]

While the family was living at Adelaide River, Margaret (known as Madge), the oldest daughter of Hazel and Ada Gaden, entered a poem about her home in the Darwin Literary and Arts Society’s Competition and her winning poem was subsequently published in the local newspaper, no doubt a real thrill for a thirteen year old.


Out on a winding track,

A little homestead stands,

‘Bove it shine Austral skies,

Round it sweep cattle lands.

Across the rough dry plain

I see the buffaloes go.

Because there’s been no rain,

They go where rivers flow.

Across the river bridge,

The train from Darwin goes,

And through the rocky Gorge,

The Adelaide lazily flows.

And mounted on his steed,

A stalwart stockman rides,

His shady sombrero,

A suntanned face well hides.

He rides ‘neath scorching sun,

To plains beyond the hills,

For he would muster herds,

Before the Creek-bed fills.

For when torrential rains,

Pour down from angry skies,

The stockman’s out-bush track,

‘Neath rushing water lies.

The verdant green of for’st,

The charm of jungle dell,

‘Neath ferns and swaying palms,

I b’lieve the fairies dwell.

The golden wattle trees.

In all their glory stand,

Australia’s emblem flow’r,

She’s queen of our bright land.[132]

During the wet season, when buffalo hunting was not possible, Jack Gaden kept his team of horses at the Batchelor Demonstration Farm. This was a Government run farm which was meant to demonstrate good agricultural practice but the Government had declared it a failure much to the wrath of one local journalist, Fred Thompson who wrote:

Yet, in spite of all this, proof can be and has already been produced to the contrary in every direction. At the present time, and for many years past, there is a family of 16 persons living at Stapleton, nine miles south from Batchelor farm, most of them born in the Northern Territory. This farm is almost self supporting. Salt is the only commodity on their dining table of six or seven course meals that is not produced on the farm. Sugar is grown and manufactured into the finished article. Butter is sent to the market. Rice is grown and converted into flour, from which bread is made which surpasses in quality our customary wheaten loaf. Dried fruits from home grown products are stored for consumption when- ever required. Beef, pork, and poultry comes off their own land. Jams, pickles, chutney are also household products. Both tea and coffee are grown successfully upon this intensely productive area.

The £30,000 Government demonstration farm at Batchelor, the most costly venture of the Commonwealth in agriculture in the Northern Territory, has been leased to J. Gaden for £142 for the improvements and 5/- a week rent. The price covers 2553 acres of land at the farm all buildings and the leasehold of 48 square miles of adjoining territory.

However the Government response was:

The farm was established in 1912 in land chosen, because it was typical of the bulk of the land in the North, to demonstrate the possibilities of agriculture in the Territory. The costly bloodstock and Clydesdales imported from New Zealand were killed by buffalo flies and other pests or bogged and suffocated during the wet season. Prize pigs went bush. Sheep were killed by grass seeds. Dairy cattle died of heat in hot weather, while some were taken by crocodiles. White ants ate the stables and machinery sheds, barns and some of the crops, except for small isolated patches of not more than a few acres. There was insufficient soil above the iron stone base to grow anything. Wheat and lucerne failed, oats and rice and barley were tried without success. Pineapples and maize grew luxuriantly. Tropical fruit and pumpkins flourished with irrigation, but the only result of the farm was a demonstration it was impossible to grow any useful marketable produce on that type of land economically. After it had been condemned many times by directors of agriculture in the North, the farm was finally abandoned in 1928. Since then it has, gone to ruin. In its heyday, more than 40 white men and 200 aborigines were employed.

The farm now will be used by Gaden to pasture his horses during the wet season, when he is unable to shoot buffalo.  [133]




Jack Gaden was soon centre of attention for another reason, the murder of three people and attempted murder of two others by a local Indigenous man in his Buffalo Camp. Tom Cole reported he heard of the tragedy when Freer’s boat, the Venture arrived with some startling news from Darwin. Jack Gaden, Bill Jennings and Harry Stewart had been hunting on the Mary River when Gaden and Jennings had been shot by a boy named ‘Butcher’ Knight. Harry Stewart’s dog had been shot when the gunman missed Stewart himself. Cole was upset by the news as he’d met them a number of times and Jennings in particular he thought to have been a good all-round bushman and good horseman.[134] Cole heard that Butcher had also blown off half of Jack Gaden’s hand and, concerned for the safety of another friend, he wired the Administrator to send someone to Kapalga by launch as Dave Cameron is there on his own. Butcher will make straight for Kapalga as this is his country.[135]

The following reports taken from newspapers of the day show language and attitudes which would be considered appalling and very unacceptable these days. Much of the same information is covered in different reports, but they each seem to have a snippet of something different.


Madman With Shotgun

AMOK IN HUNTERS’ CAMP Two Other Persons Injured

DARWIN, Saturday – An aborigine named Butcher was taking part in a corroboree with other blacks at Mary River, about 45 miles east of Adelaide River, when he ran amok, shot and killed William Jennings, aged 26 years; killed a lubra, and wounded another lubra. He then shot a buffalo-hunter, Jack Gaden, in the hand, and escaped to the bush with a shotgun and cartridges.

Gaden arrived at Adelaide River to-day with the news, and Constable Littlejohn left Brock’s Creek for the scene of the shooting.

William Jennings was a boxer. He had been unemployed for a long time before joining Jack Gaden as a buffalo-hunter and horse breaker.

Gaden said that the party was sleeping at a place known as Corroboree Camp. He was aroused at 4 a.m. by a rifle-shot. Other shots sounded, and he found Jennings dead beside him, shot through the heart. The second shot went through Gaden’s hand at the wrist. After shooting Gaden and Jennings Butcher shot the lubras in the aboriginal camp near-by. One lubra was shot through the chest. Her dog sprang to protect her, and Butcher shot the animal, the shot going through the dog and striking another lubra in the thigh.

Butcher had been working for Gaden for the last two years. He was known as a bad character, but he had been on the best behaviour lately. He was formerly a police boy.[136]




Superintendent Stretton on Saturday morning reported that Mr Jack Gaden, the well-known buffalo shooter arrived at Adelaide River 3 a.m., that morning and telephoned the police to the effect that an aboriginal known as Butcher had run amok with a shot gun and had shot William Jennings in the chest. Jennings was dead.

Butcher had also shot a lubra dead and wounded another lubra. Jack Gaden was shot in the hand.

This occurred about 45 miles east of Adelaide River where some aboriginals from the Mary River district were holding a corrobaree at four o’clock on Friday morning June first.

Butcher went into the bush taking with him the rifle and a number of cartridges.

Jack Gaden is living at the former state demonstration farm at Batchelor siding which he is now leasing.

Jennings was formerly well know in Darwin being a prominent member of the indigent unemployed and later was breaking in horses for Jack Gaden. He took part in local boxing tournaments.

Mounted Constable W. C. Littlejohn stationed at Brocks Creek has been instructed to go out and investigate the circumstances surrounding this tragedy and bury the bodies.

Shortly after the arrival of the weekly mixed train at Darwin on Saturday afternoon, June 2nd Jack Gaden stated, speaking in reference to the double tragedy, that the occupants of the buffalo shooting camp were all sleeping quietly, when they were startled and awakened by the sound of rifle shots. Upon investigation they found that William Jennings had been shot dead with a wound in the chest. Two lubras in the aboriginal camp had also been shot, one fatally, the other being shot through the thigh.

Butcher, the aboriginal who ran amok, was for many years of sad repute, and is understood to have been incarcerated in Fanny Bay gaol upon more than one occasion. Recently, however, he appeared to have turned from his evil ways, and had become a reformed character. He was at one time a police boy and tracker. There was seemingly not the slightest provocation for the attack, which, therefore, could not have been resultant from any vindictive ill feeling towards any of the victims. The occupants of the buffalo shooting camp had at all times followed their occupation in perfect concord with each other. Jack Gaden states that Bill Jennings was the best mate he had ever had in his life. Butcher is reputed to be an excellent shot with a rifle. Other settlers and bushmen resident in the locality of the Mary River assert that they will shoot to kill if Butcher hoves in sight, as they are not running any risks.

Deceased was only 26 years of age. He is a native of Tenterfield, New South Wales, an only son, with six sisters. He had been breaking in horses for Jack Gaden, and was afterwards engaged in the general work of the camp.[137]


TERRITORY NATIVE RUNS AMOK   Kills White Man And Lubra And Injures Two Others

ESCAPES BUSH           DARWIN, June 3.

Blood-crazed by a wild corroboree of uncivilised blacks at Mr. Jack Gaden’s buffalo shooting camp on the Mary River, an Oenpelli native named Butcher ran amok with a shotgun, or a rifle, at 4 am. on Friday. He shot dead Gaden’s partner, Mr. William Jennings, of Darwin, and a lubra in the camp, shattered Mr. Gaden’s hand with another shot when Mr. Gaden tackled the demented aborigine, wounded another lubra with a fourth shot and, when Mr. Gaden’s working aborigines sprang to arms, escaped into the bush with a shotgun and a plentiful supply of cartridges. Mounted-Constable W. C. Littlejohn, of Brock’s Creek, left at 9 am. yesterday with police trackers to hunt for the savage. The first news of the tragedy reached Darwin at 3 am. yesterday when Mr Gaden, weak from loss of blood after an agonising 45 mile ride from the Mary to the Adelaide River, assisted by his aboriginal buffalo shooters, telephoned to the police. He gave only a brief outline of the tragedy before he was taken into his home at Batchelor Farm, 10 miles from the Adelaide River He was brought to Darwin by today’s train and taken to the hospital. Mr. Gaden said that Butcher was employed by him in the camp and lost his reason when the corroboree was continued all night and until the early hours of the morning. He shot Jennings through the chest at close range killing him instantly. Last wet season Mr. Gaden and Mr. Jennings investigated the possibilities of founding a new industry in the north from crocodile skins They were so pleased with the result of two months’ work on the Alligator River, where they killed 120 crocodiles for a   return of about 30/- each from the skins that they planned to abandon   buffalo shooting after this year and concentrate on crocodiles.

Mr. Gaden’s Story Of Attack

Mr. Gaden said today that outback residents were thoroughly alarmed at the wave of murders of white men in the north by aborigines and the growing arrogance of the natives towards the whites. Speaking or the attack by the demented man, Mr. Gaden said he and his partner, Jennings and Harry Stewart, a dingo trapper from Darwin, were camped at Mary River for several days before the shooting. On Thursday they sent Butcher to recruit boys from an aborigine’s camp a little distance down the river. Butcher stayed with the tribe for a corroboree and that night two lubras came to the camp for protection from him. Early on Friday morning he was awakened by two shots almost simultaneously, then saw Butcher running from Jennings’s sleeping net. He was armed with a gun. “There was another report,” he added, and I fell back from a numbing blow in my right arm. I was momentarily dazed, but saw Butcher standing between Stewart and me and the big tree where we had stacked our rifles, ammunition and gear. Knowing by then that Butcher was amok I thought it was the end because neither of us could reach his rifle without passing him. However, he turned round and bolted. We found Jennings lying just as if he were asleep. Butcher’s first shot, aimed from three feet or so outside his net, had killed him instantly. The lubra was shot just above the heart, within three seconds of the killing of Jennings.

Butcher Was Jealous

“My explanation is that Butcher was jealous of Jennings. He had no reason to be because Jennings never had any anything to do with the gins. Butcher has been buffalo shooting with me for year and though a bit queer gave trouble only once about a year ago when he made a murderous attack on me near the Adelaide River. I fought him off, and gave him the biggest thrashing of his life. After that Butcher was so good, and was such an expert shot and hard worker that I kept him on. I believe he went suddenly mad to kill.” At times in recent years Butcher has been a police tracker and boy. Three weeks ago he was working for Mounted- Constable Littlejohn, who is now chasing him.[138]

At the time it appeared to be quite usual for the indigenous men to have different women as their partners, Cole reported that Three of the boys and the half-caste ‘Yorky Billy’ are ‘married’. Two of the boys I’ve had in my camps for the last two years and each season they’ve turned up ‘married’ to a different lubra.[139]


Yorky Billy 57478 Yorky Billy JPG



Darwin. June 6

The police here are still in the dark regarding the whereabouts of Butcher, the aboriginal, who ran amok at Mr. Jack Gaden’s buffalo-shooting camp on Friday morning and shot dead Mr. William Jennings and a lubra, and wounded Mr. Gaden and a lubra. The native is being pursued by Constable Littlejohn from whom no word has been received since he set out on Saturday.

It is believed that three whites, as well as the constable, are engaged in the man hunt. One is Harry Stewart, the Darwin dingo trapper, who was in Mr. Gaden’s camp at the time of the shooting, and the other two are young mining engineers from Pine Creek, who voluntarily joined the hunt yesterday. The police are preparing plans for a wider search for Butcher, and it is likely that additional mounted constables will be sent out to the Alligator River country within a day or two.[140]

On 7 June a lady by the name of Enid Leopold from Newcastle NSW wrote to the Minister of the Interior that in the previous Saturday’s Newcastle Sun she had read that William Jennings had been killed by an Aborigine. She wanted to advise that she was his sister. He was 26 years old and had been away a number of years. Both their parents were dead and before he went north he had lived with their grandparents Mr and Mrs J Rogers of Dulwich Hill. Enid wanted details of her brother’s death and was anxious for any news.[141]




Reading like a chapter from an adventure story by a highly imaginative writer, the tale of the trailing and capture by Constable W. C. Littlejohn, of Butcher, the Oenpelli aboriginal who ran amok at Jack Gaden’s buffalo-shooting camp on June 1, is one of the most colourful episodes in police history. Not only was the action swift and the danger of a bullet imminent all the time, but the chase for the elusive and cunning aboriginal led through backwaters and swamps teeming with hundreds of crocodiles, through miles of high bamboo forests and across plains, where herds of wild buffalo stampeded in terror at the sight of the police horsemen. Butcher defied his would-be captors for a week, doubling and redoubling continuously through the swamps, and bamboos… and keeping tantalisingly just out of sight of the pursuers. Then Constable Littlejohn matched his wits against Butcher’s cunning, and trapped him in dramatic fashion at night. This story was told by Constable Littlejohn when he arrived in Darwin last night with Butcher safely handcuffed to his black-tracker. Constable Littlejohn was on the scene of the double murder 24 hours after it was reported to the police in Darwin. Without waiting to catch and shoe his own horses at his station at Brock’s Creek, he stopped  the Saturday train, bundled a few saddles and packs on board and,   with four police boys, rushed to the buffalo-shooter’s camp from the Adelaide River, that afternoon, in a motor truck, hoping to follow the tracks of Butcher before they be- came stale. On Gaden’s horses he followed the tracks north and then lost them. Butcher broke for the open sun-baked plains to cover up his flight. Knowing that his only chance of sighting Butcher was near water, Constable Littlejohn pressed on to the few permanent watering places and picked up Butcher’s tracks a day later. Then began a game of hide-and-seek in the bamboos and the buffalo country. It lasted a week. Butcher was always just a little ahead of the police, gaining time by doubling on his tracks, dodging on to hard ground, where his tracks were lost, and wading through crocodile swamps, where the police horses floundered belly-deep in mud, and delayed pursuit. Pressed for food, and having no time to hunt it because of the relentless pursuit, Butcher gradually made his way back south and east to the camp of Hazel Gaden, brother of Jack Gaden, whom he had wounded, apparently planning to steal a supply there. Knowing that Butcher for the past week had never been far out of sight, and guessing the object of his move towards Gaden’s camp Constable Littlejohn set a trap for him, on Saturday night. He pitched camp as usual at Gaden’s, but at dark sent his trackers crawling outwards for 50 yards or so to watch all approaches. At 11 p.m. Butcher rose to the bait. Sneaking close to the camp to forage, for food, he sent a stick hurtling into the apparently sleeping camp. Knowing it was only a ruse on (Butcher’s part to see whether the camp was awake, the hidden trackers did not move, although their horses champed restlessly. The quietness deceived Butcher, who a few minutes later crawled right into the arms of the waiting men. He fought madly until Constable Littlejohn dashed up and quietened him and snapped a pair of handcuffs on his wrists. Following Butcher’s tracks backwards for 300 yards, Constable Littlejohn discovered the .303 rifle which Butcher took from Gaden’s camp after the shooting. On their way back to Darwin the police party was twice delayed through motor car break- downs, which held them up for 24 hours. This morning Butcher was formally charged with having murdered William Jennings on June 1. Later he appeared in the police court, and on the application of Constable Koop was remanded until June 28, pending an inquest.[142]

It wasn’t long before Butcher was charged with a third murder when the injured Aboriginal woman Ruby died from her injuries.

THIRD VICTIM DIES Gaden’s Camp Tragedy DARWIN, June 18. The second lubra who was wounded when the aboriginal, Butcher, ran amok at Gaden’s buffalo-shooting camp on the Mary River on June 1, died in Darwin Hospital yesterday. This is the third death, the others having been William Jennings and a lubra.[143]



The aboriginal Butcher, formerly police tracker, who fatally shot William, Jennings, and an aboriginal lubra, at the buffalo shooting camp of Jack Gaden on the Mary Rivet on Friday, June 1st besides wounding Jack Gaden and another aboriginal lubra, was brought into Darwin in a large motor lorry belonging to the aboriginal compound on Tuesday afternoon, about 5-45.

Mounted Constable Eric McNab went out on a lorry to the 22 Mile where Constable Littlejohn, of Brocks Creek, who captured Butcher, was stuck up owing to a breakdown of the motor truck on which he was conveying Butcher and some other aboriginals. Butcher was brought before the police court on Wednesday morning and remanded.

The Coroner (Mr. V. L. Lampe) will proceed to the scene of the tragedies and hold an inquest. Butcher a former police tracker, was charged on Wednesday with the murder of William Jennings at a corroboree camp on June 1st. Police Prosecutor Koop asked for an adjournment until Thursday June 28th. It would be necessary in the meantime for the Coroner to visit the scene of the tragedy and hold an inquest. The adjournment was granted.

The police are extremely reticent except for vouchsafing the information that Butcher was arrested at 11 o’clock on Saturday night, June 2nd, near the buffalo shooting camp of Hazel Gaden, a brother of Jack Gaden, who was shot in the right wrist by Butcher, smashing his fingers.[144]



Ruby, the aboriginal lubra shot in the thigh by Butcher, former police tracker, at Corroboree Creek buffalo shooting camp of Jack Gaden, on June 1st, died in the Darwin Hospital yesterday. This makes the third victim consequent upon Butcher running amok, William Jennings and a lubra known as Copper being the other two. Jack Gaden who was shot through the wrist, smashing his fingers, is still under treatment.[145]



The adjourned inquest into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of William Jennings and the lubra Copper, at Corroboree Camp Mary River, was opened at the Court House this morning and further adjourned until June 28, owing to Jack Gaden, who was shot in the hand being unfit to give evidence. The inquest into lubra Ruby’s death at the Darwin Hospital was similarly adjourned![146]


THANKS-Mr. Jack Gaden wishes to thank Dr. Fothergill and Matron and Nursing Staff of the Darwin Hospital for their unfailing care and attention to him whilst a patient in the institution.[147]


On 3 August 1934, the trial was reported. It appears from “By Mr Foster”, “By Mr Harris” and “By a Juror” that these men were asking questions of the witnesses.


An aboriginal, known as Butcher, was, charged at the Supreme Court, criminal jurisdiction, before Judge Wells and Jury, on Wednesday morning, August 1st, with the murder of William Jennings at Corroboree Camp, the buffalo shooting camp of Mr. Jack Gaden, at Mary River, early on the morning of June 1st.

The following jurors were empanelled: W. A. Pott, H. R. Marchant, Cornelius Maloney, A. L. Quelch, J. T Malone, L. G. Nichols, Tom Oliver Morgan, J. A. Porter, T. H. Pierssene , (foreman), H. J. Mepham, R. T. Riley, D. Presley.


Mounted Constable Littlejohn, sworn, stated: I went to Batchelor and there saw Harry Stewart and proceeded to Corroboree Camp. It was in disorder. There was a mosquito net rigged near a big paperbark tree. There were two bodies there. One was that of William Jennings. There was a hole in Jennings between the heart and the middle of the chest. The lubra was about 18 inches from Jennings and had a large hole in the left breast. There was also a larger hole in the lubra’s back. I buried the bodies. I made a search, and found five empty shells. I then searched for Butcher. Five days afterwards I camped near Hazel Gaden’s camp and arrested Butcher crawling into the camp at 11 p.m. I said to him ‘Do you know me?’ ‘He said ‘Yes’. I said ‘I do not want to hear you. You listen. I’m going to arrest you on a charge of murdering William Jennings! He said ‘I know’ I said: ‘Shut up’. He said ‘I’m sorry I shot my old boss Bill Jennings.’ Next morning I proceeded to a spot about 350 yards away and there saw a rifle and swag. I said to accused ‘This your swag?’ He said: ‘Yes’. I said: ‘Rifle?’ He said: ‘Yes’. I also found a belt with 15 .303 cartridges.


I then went to Corroboree Camp. While examining the camp Butcher came over to me and said ‘No good you look two bullets; I been only fire one.’ That was at the tree where Jennings was shot. The bullet was found approximately six inches from the side of the net where the lubra was lying and half an inch under the ground. Butcher described to me how he fired the shot showing how he crouched down to get the two bodies in line. At a later date I viewed the body and saw where one of Jennings’ ribs had been broken. The bullet had been fired from a .303 rifle. Owing to the way the bodies were lying I should say one bullet killed both Jennings and the lubra. The bullet holes were all in line. I have known Butcher about four months. He thoroughly understands English.


By Mr. Foster: The body of Jennings was dressed in a dark singlet and trousers. That of the lubra had on a dress. There was a rug also a camp sheet in the net. Both were lying on the camp sheet. The lubra had evidently moved after being shot. That was the only net in the camp when I reached there. There were trees on one side. Butcher was camped about 15 feet from Jennings. Directly opposite Butcher there was another camp 36 feet away, and another grass bed between the tree and Jennings. In another direction there was another camp.


By Mr. Harris: Butcher would be about 10 feet from the net when he fired when he showed me how he had shot Jennings.


John Gaden, sworn, stated: I am a buffalo shooter. I remember the early morning of 1st June. I was camped at Corroboree Camp. William Jennings, Harry Stewart, the lubras Copper and Ruby and the boy Butcher, were also there. I went to bed before dark. The mosquitoes were very bad. Copper slept with Jennings as she said she was frightened of Butcher.


Jennings got up for a drink of water about 8 o’clock and I told him the lubra Copper could have my camp sheet. He said ‘She is under my net I went off to sleep again. I was awakened by three rifle shots. The third one hit me in the wrist and came out through my hand. I heard Stewart call out. I said ‘What’s the matter?’ He said “It is Butcher; he has gone mad.” Butcher was standing about 15 or 20 yards away near the tree to which Jennings had his net tied. He stood there for about half a minute, and then disappeared. I gave Stewart a cartridge and he fired into Butcher’s net, but he had gone. I then bathed my arm. Before doing so I looked and saw Jennings and the lubra were dead.

In 2014 the Wildman River Mosquitoes were still plentiful and viciousMossies

Sunset on Wildman River at Four Mile Hole 2014Copy of Wildman River


I have been buffalo shooting about three years. The rifle produced is mine. Jennings and Butcher both used it. The lubras were from the Brinken tribe, a different tribe to that to which Butcher belonged. Both lubras were afraid of Butcher. The afternoon before I stopped home to do some cooking while Jennings, Stewart, the two lubras and Butcher went down to the river. Jennings speared a fish and gave it to Butcher to bring to camp. On arrival back Butcher told me the two lubras had refused to carry the fish. He was excited. He later wanted to take a rifle saying he wished to shoot an alligator early in the morning, but I refused to let him have it.

By Mr. Foster: Butcher was a good boy. He wanted Copper for his lubra. Ruby was Harry Stewart’s lubra. Copper was not Jennings’ lubra. She, I believe had a boy on the Daly. She worked in the camp last year and came out again this year with her sister. She did not often sleep with Jennings. She never on any occasion slept with me. Jennings never tried to stop Copper from sleeping with Butcher.

I was at Kapalgo Station about last Xmas with Jennings and Butcher. We did not take Copper from Butcher there. I did not tell Butcher not to take Copper. I did not hear Jennings tell him such a thing. Butcher did not have a lubra. Both lubras could have got under one net if Jennings had slept with Stewart. As far as I know Butcher and Jennings were the best of friends. I cannot explain the shooting.

By a Juror: Butcher was with me for two seasons. There was no ill feeling between Butcher and I.

Harry Stewart, dingo trapper, sworn, corroborated the previous witness’ evidence. The morning prior to the shooting I said to Jennings ‘Why don’t you let Copper sleep in your net; she was up all night killing mosquitoes;’ That morning I was awakened by a rifle shot. Then I heard another. I looked out and saw flame from a rifle. Butcher was standing near the paper bark tree. He fired at me and killed my dog. I got up and ran at Butcher. He turned round and ran away.

I saw Jack Gaden getting out of his net. Gaden said: What’s up? I said it was Butcher. Gaden said: He got me in the hand. I picked up a rifle but there was no cartridge in it. Butcher was then about five yards away near his mosquito net. Gaden went to a box and gave me a cartridge. I put it in the rifle and fired a shot into Butcher’s net. I did not know where Butcher was. I sang out to Jennings and got no answer. I heard Copper crying softly for about a couple of seconds. Soon afterwards, I had a look and both appeared to be dead. I then got water and bathed Gaden’s hand.


The lubra had no time for Butcher. Butcher wanted the lubra to sleep with him. Butcher wanted Gaden or Jennings to make Copper sleep with him, but she wouldn’t. I was with M.C. Littlejohn and heard him caution Butcher. Butcher said he was sorry he killed his old boss. Butcher is the best educated nigger I have ever seen.


By Mr. Foster The nearest trees were low stunted tee trees about 30 yards away. Ruby was with me. I slept with her. Jennings slept with Copper for two nights only. The mosquitoes were so bad I would have had my dog in the net only for the fear of it breaking it. I suggested to Jennings to take Copper into his net. As far as I know Butcher was not jealous of Jennings. Butcher was good with horses and for shooting buffaloes but otherwise he was no good. Butcher and Jennings were good friends. There was never anything said between them about Copper. I explain the shooting by saying Butcher is a bad nigger. When I asked Butcher after his arrest why he did the shooting he said it was over a hiding he got at Kapalgo last year.

This was the case for the Crown.


Mr. Foster said he did not intend to call any evidence and addressed the jury, asking the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter on the ground of provocation because Jennings had taken Butcher’s lubra.


Mr. Harris in a brief reply said the killing of Jennings could only be murder because there was no evidence to show that the lubra had ever belonged to Butcher. All the evidence was to the contrary. Apart from that such a plea only held good where a married man came home and found another man with his wife and acted in passion right on the spur of the moment.

His Honor directed the jury on the law and said there was no provocation to warrant the jury returning a verdict of manslaughter.


After the jury had been asked to retire to consider their verdict the Foreman of the jury (Mr. Pierssene) requested that Butcher be placed in the witness box and His Honour adjourned the court until 2 o’clock.


Butcher said he had been 13 years in Darwin – and at Bathurst Island. I worked for John Gaden and William Jennings last year. They went to Kapalgo Station and while there fought me. They fight me over gin. They took two lubras away from me. John Gaden had Ruby; Jennings had Copper. Gaden cut my hand with a sharp bar. Jennings caught me by the neck and threw me to the ground. I went to Brocks Creek to find Mr. Don. I came back with Presley’s horses to Darwin, returning to Brocks Greek. Mr Don wanted me to join the police. I stayed with Mr. Don about three months. While at Darwin I went in and saw inspector Stretton then went back to Batchelor.


I went to Corroboree Camp, Mary River, in June. Jennings hunted me away from the gin Copper. He and John Gaden hunted me.   I went into the camp at night. Then I lost my head and got the rifle and fired. The last shot I fired I held the rifle behind me and pulled the trigger. I then ran away into the paperbark bush and came back later and got my swag. I saw Jennings and the lubra were dead and I got the rifle and shoved it away in a paperbark tree. That night I been cry for William Jennings. I shot Jennings because he hunted me away from the lubra Copper.


By Mr. Harris: I came into the camp at night and waited till daylight. I got the rifle from beside a Paperbark tree.


By His Honor: Jennings hunted me away from the lubra Copper two days prior to the shooting.


M.C. Littlejohn said Butcher told him at Corroboree Camp how he went to bed and lay awake for some time thinking about it and in the morning at daylight, got up got the rifle and shot Jennings.

His Honor pointed out to the Jury that the added evidence was immaterial on the point of provocation.


The jury, after a few minutes retirement returned with a verdict of guilty of murder and sentence of death was passed on the prisoner after Mr. Foster had pleaded for a gaol sentence, which the Judge refused to accede to pointing out if there was provision for degrees of murder this must be murder in the first degree.[148]

So the evidence given and subsequent letters suggest that Ruby and Harry Stewart were in a long-term relationship, one thought to have lasted about seven years,[149] so it is most likely that Harry would be grieving for Ruby. The newspaper reported stated that John Gaden had been with Ruby at Kopalgo but it appears this was an error and it is likely that Harry Stewart was fond enough of Ruby to make sure her reputation remained undamaged.

It has been pointed out to us that a mistake occurred in the report of the Butcher murder trial. In Butcher‘s account of the fight at Kapalgo Station it is stated, “John Gaden had Ruby.” What Butcher said was Minnie and not Ruby, the latter we are informed never being near Kapalgo.[150]

The newspaper reports elicited a strong response from a Perth woman writing a letter to the Editor of the Darwin based Northern Standard

Sir.-In reading through your report of the evidence of the Gaden Jennings buffalo hunting case, I notice the humane (?) generous (?) and thoughtful (?) action of the white men in sharing their mosquito nets with the two native women. Why, may I ask could not the women have had one net and the men the other? Is it because the mosquitoes in the North are so fierce and ferocious that these poor defenceless women needed the personal protection of the white men? It will be interesting to notice whether the Northern Territory Government will appreciate their humane (?) action or whether they will apply the amended ordinance Clause 53 subclause C which was amended in order to convict white men who co-habit with native women.-

Yours etc., M. G. JONES. Morgans W.A. 2/8/1934.[151]

The letter from Mrs or Miss Jones elicited equally strong response from some men leading to interesting exchanges in the newspapers of the day, albeit with the protracted communication time-frame of that era.


Sir, Would you kindly allow me space in your paper to answer a paragraph relating to the shooting that occurred in Gaden’s buffalo shooting camp. Well, sir, in the first place it shows the ignorance of M.G. Jones to the ways of the blacks in the N.T. If she had read, the evidence impartially she would have seen that the two lubras belonged to the Brinken tribe, and were miles away from their country and their countrymen to protect them from the Alligator River boy that wanted one of them.

The lubras were frightened to camp on their own on account of the nigger (and the result proved they had good reason to be). If we had made the lubras sleep in the one mosquito net they would have rigged it right alongside ours. Would the thickness of mosquito   netting between us and the two lubras have stopped the morals of M. G. Jones from being shocked? It would only have given the nigger the opportunity to sneak up in the night, which would have started a row that would have meant getting rid of the boy or lubras.

In my opinion it is a low down contemptible trick to bring up about the white man and the two lubras who, if they did do any wrong, they did not deserve the penalty of death.

If the association for the protection of native races and other so cities would send up unbiased representatives to study the native problem in general instead of standing- between convicted murderers and their just sentences (making the country unsafe for whites and others because the nigger knows he can murder at will and with the help of the church and societies get away with a few years in Fanny Bay Gaol which is a good home for niggers) they may then be in a position to criticise what we in the North should do.

Now, sir, we come to the part of M.G. Jones letter where she is watching with interest what action the Government will take. If M.G. Jones and the ones who put this problem from a woman’s point of view would come up here and bring their women friends to help open up this country there would not be any need to have an ordinance to convict men cohabiting with native women.-

Yours etc., H STEWART.[152]



(To the Editor)

Sir,-Summing up this question of aboriginal justice – cause and effect – it strikes many people forcibly that those who cohabit or otherwise consort, with aboriginals year after year are their most deadly enemies. These are invariably composed of so-called protectors, squatters, and other factions inheriting extreme predatory instincts to enslave the black and his gin for their own selfish ends. They are further stimulated by in- creasing friction among the different factions for possession of the disinherited, to such an extent that it has become a huge scandal. Not only is the savage prohibited by enactment (prohibited areas) to prevent them walk about their native health but he can be arrested on any old trumped up charge by whites calling the bluff into operation that earns ridiculous terms in jail, if he is not hanged by the neck. It is not now considered legitimate business to hang them as it is now realised it is is more profitable for authority to break their spirit first and let them out to die after. This calling the bluff by alleged protectors, squatters, and other factions is now lawfully established, as Abos have long been recognised as fair game by champions of so-called civilisation to be shot. “All the same as kangaroo and dingo” The above is taken from the London press, in which it is stated that the Congo atrocities have nothing on Australia. Corrupt administration of justice appears to be responsible as a blacks evidence cannot be applied to a white but is readily accepted for blacks, hence the anomaly-‘heads I win and tails you lose’. Calling the bluff not only ensures a trip to the briny but a plentiful supply of alleged criminals that promises to become in the near future a serious menace to the taxpayer who foots the bill. Many of these squatters – ground parrots – are now wailing huge crocodile tears that their menial serf has vanished and there are no more blacks to play with. They are not unlike another faction when the demand is greater than the supply they go off to new fields where more trouble arises. I don’t know if H. Stew- art will agree with the above phrase of the black burden but I do know if there were more Mrs. Jones’s and clause 52 strictly applied, exit Stewart & Co., like red sharks. As regards his other concoction about Brinkin and Alligator natives he had better put that in his pipe and smoke it. It will take something more drastic than the proverbial bar of soap to eradicate the many dark stains that surrounds the white conquerors of a vanishing race.




Sir,-Would you kindly allow me space in your paper to answer the letter by H. Stewart. The circumstantial evidence was that the two lubras did belong to Butcher. Even if the natives were of different tribes, Butcher could have got possession of his wives by fighting for them in accordance with native custom. Every native woman has a man to protect her, and no tribe would willingly allow two women of one tribe to be included in a ”buffalo shooting out-fit” with a man of another tribe unless they belonged to him. If, on the other hand, we accept Mr. Stewart’s statement that the lubras did not belong to Butcher, then what were these white men doing with the two women? Where then were their husbands? What were the women doing miles away from their tribe alone and unprotected? Did they hang on to the mosquito nets and get carried along? Was it worth while getting miles away from their tribe to get protection from the bulldog mosquitoes?

If Butcher were a white man and the lubras, white women, Butcher would have been lauded for his action and the headlines in our papers would have been “White Man’s Gallant Fight To protect Two Women From Evil Black Men’ but Butcher happens to be black so has not any right to justice. No white man would be expected to stand what Butcher has been imprisoned for. It is a wicked falsehood to say he had no provocation when he had both his wives taken from him and himself hammered within an inch of his life. He had long standing provocation aggravated by assault. Is it a judicial crime to expect any man black or white to put up with such doings?

Stewart has admitted his guilt. What about Clause 53 sub-clause C? Is it only so much ”window dressing” to cut a good figure before the League of Nations and the Eastern and Western hemispheres generally? Is the real policy of Australia still to be the extermination of the unhappy native race, and the leaving of unfortunate native women at the mercy of evil white men? We speak of “the absorption” of the native race and the breeding out of color! We shall be better able to evaluate this policy when another race applies it to ourselves as ”the absorption of the white race” and ‘the breeding out of white people’.

Mr. Stewart suggests that the women of the South are to blame for the degrading of their dark sisters. This is not so. How many women have refused to go to the North on account of the privations? Women will go to the ends of the earth with men of character, but would anyone expect women with ideals to do this for a betrayer of women and deserter of little children? This type of man prefers cheap wives he can cast aside at will and thus shirk the responsibility of his children. What does Mr. Stewart expect women of the south to do? Advertise in the matrimonial columns of the papers as follows? “Courageous young ladies of the South are willing to meet her  pioneers of the North and immolate themselves on the altar of altruism. Fond of children, therefore, half-caste-step-children not objected to (but as a precaution allow them to add) ”bridegroom must be sober on wedding day and harems must cease from that date. Yours etc., M G. JONES Perth, WA [154]


(To the Editor.)

Sir,-Would you please allow me space in your paper to answer the letter by M. G. Jones. As Mrs Jones, according to her letter, seems to be biased and will not take the word of two white men against the word of a convicted murderer, I will deal with the evidence given by Butcher in his own defence and try to prove that there was no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, to prove that the two lubras belonged to Butcher and that Mrs Jones has enlarged out of her own imagination on the lies the nigger gave in his own defence.

As Mrs Jones says in her letter that the two lubras belonged to Butcher I will deal with the lubras separately. -Ruby I have known for about 7 years; since she was a girl of about 14 years old. For the first 3 years she was on and off in my camp and she was with me all the time for about 4 years, up to the time of her death; during which time no blacks had any say in anything she did, or did anyone else, who was in the camp when the shooting took place. The only time she was in a camp where Butcher was, was the couple of weeks it took us to go out to the Mary River, during which time, never once did she speak to Butcher, which would have had to be spoken in English as they did not understand each other’s language. Also never once throughout the trial did Butcher claim that the lubra Ruby belonged to him, or did he mention her name in his evidence, or did he give any reason for firing the shot that killed her.

The lubra Copper had a boy called Charlie, a Brinken, who is at present in Darwin. She was camped at Rum Jungle with her sister, when Jack Gaden gave her a job to go out with us to the Mary River. That was before Butcher came from Darwin to go with us. There was also evidence given by Mounted Constable Littlejohn, with whom Butcher worked until about a month prior to the shooting, that Butcher had no lubras.

Yes, Mrs Jones, I am not frightened to admit my guilt for a thing which under the same conditions, everything being the same and   I knowing the circumstances as I do, I would probably do again and I   would be pleased that she was a “cheap wife that could be cast aside at will” if she turned out a woman who did not have principle enough to refrain from manufacturing lies about innocent people who were murdered to satisfy the blood lust of a nigger.

If Mrs Jones is interested enough in the truth there are plenty of niggers in Darwin of both the Brinkin and Alligator River tribes who know the facts, who could be interviewed on behalf of Mrs Jones.

There are also plenty of whites I could name but as Mrs Jones does not place much reliance in what a white man says it would probably be a waste of time.-

Yours Truly, H. STEWART.[155]



Dear Sir,-It may be bad form for me to butt in on an argument that doesn’t concern me, but I feel justified in correcting some of the erratic statements made by Mrs, M G. Jones. The evidence showed that not only did the lubra not belong to Butcher but was afraid of him also. As for every native woman having a man to protect her, this may be so in remote places where tribal laws are in force. But the natives in question, like many other sophisticated and “civilised” natives, were as free from tribal laws as a sheep is from feathers.

Their association with the white men was evidently not against their own inclinations. What were these white men doing with the two women? “Judge not lest thou shalt be judged!” Lubras are employed in all buffalo camps, and miles from their native heath. Where then were their husbands? What husbands? What were the women doing miles away from their tribe alone and unprotected? What are numerous other natives doing away from their tribes, and what protection do they need? They are as able to protect themselves as anybody else. If Butcher was receiving ill-treatment he could have flitted off, “as flit the swallows-” A feat most natives are capable of under the best of treatment.

Before anybody in the south at tempts to criticise the morals of the bushmen of the North, they should set their own affairs in order, so that we would not read so much about white girls of tender years being raped and murdered. “Man knows no law when woman beckons” is a proverb that has been proved throughout history from Cleopatra to Pocahontas and ‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains’ etc.

In all parts of the world, and from “China to Peru” white men have fallen for native women. A deplorable state of affairs perhaps but who knows of an effective remedy?-

Yours etc., ANDREW JAMES WRIGHT.[156]



Sir,- I desire to congratulate M.G. Jones, Perth, W A., on  her lucid reply to H. Stewart’s de- fence of tactics displayed by him at the Buffalo shooting joint. As blacks are invariably long suffering, circumstantial evidence again points to extreme provocation with the usual assault and battery, a sure sign of deficient mentality or tact on the part of whites. Whether the two lubras did or did not belong to Butcher is quite immaterial, the fact remains that these whites were with them. It must be remembered the average black is a very shrewd observer of white tactics and decorum, which seems to throw a lurid glare on the judiciary and more especially on the jury of 12 men good and true who declared a verdict of guilty. As to clause 53 -sub clause C that is probably hibernating at Geneva as a safeguard in the event of further evil reports from London.

All abos are what we call married before they are born, that is to say every expectant mother has a man, otherwise a godfather to protect mother and child according to native custom. Why did these boosted Christians select Corroboree Camp for connubial bliss? Was a native religious ceremony being held, offering a bigger choice, or were the blacks at Batchelor run down on the boys of the bulldog breed mosquitoes? Vicious Dame Rumour sayeth naught. Had this boy’s predatory instincts begged the survivors also it would still have been fair and above board according to our tenets that can be proved abundantly. Who so base as be a slave who would fill a coward’s grave?

Had Butcher been a white man undoubtedly the press would have hailed him as a pioneer hero of renown, protecting his brace of white women from black savages. Unfortunately this black was of the disinherited despised and rejected race with no claim to legal rights, justice, or future prospects, bar chains and slavery. Had this black with the alleged blood lust rung the change over on Stewart it would have saved further washing up of dirty linen. Now for Mr. Stewart’s final rally in defence of his class, shifting onus on to white women for degrading and deserting their black sisters and alleged to be the cause of traducers deserting their helpless progeny that did not ask to come, but were brought here. It is now imperative for the women of Darwin and the territory to accept this challenge to vindicate their sincerity for better protection of black sisters from humbugging attentions of married and single pioneer heroes.

It has been contended for years that past juries at aboriginals’ trials have been a failure because of that everlasting mysterious fellow feeling that characterises their verdicts. That they should have been superseded by women jurors, and sent back to their pot hunting avocations years ago appears to be the only logical solution of this black question. That it would be a decided advantage too if the judiciary were included as it would tend to check further the extermination of a now helpless people. Furthermore that if womenfolk are deemed eligible to vote they are equally eligible and competent to sit as jurors and dispense justice at native courts. Now that the gauntlet has been thrown down by Mr. Stewart, and picked up by M. G. Jones, who gives a lead off, it behoves the women folk of Darwin and Territory to vindicate their honor for the better protection of native races. That all heroes whether they be afflicted with gin lust in their anxiety to breed out the colour be compelled to shoulder responsibilities attached to their deserted helpless half-caste children forthwith and not the taxpayer.  “R. M. BAKER.”[157]

Meanwhile the vigorous letter writer Harry Stewart was himself taken to court… was this a result of the publicity and exchange of letters? Or was it the testimony to Mr Foster which advised that Ruby and Harry Stewart were in a relationship? It had been Harry’s dog which had sprung to Ruby’s defence and was subsequently shot by Butcher.[158]  A letter of complaint had been sent by The Australian Aborigines Amelioration Association to the Minister for the Interior in December 1934 [159] so pressure may have been applied to the local constabulary by the Minister.


At the Police Court on Wednesday afternoon, Harry Stewart, formerly dingo trapper, was fined £7/10/0 in default one month’s imprisonment for consorting with an aboriginal lubra. Mary, who gave evidence to the effect that Stewart got very jealous if she visited other camps. She was at Stewart’s camp mostly during the daytime but some- times at night.

Stewart giving evidence in a previous case said several aboriginals frequented the camp and would not go away when told to do so, and only the police could hunt them. If the lubra came to his camp and made herself useful she was welcome to boil the billy and make coffee.

Police Prosecutor Koop stated Stewart had been consorting regularly with the lubra Mary at Frog Hollow during the past two months. [160]



Sir,-Since R. M. Baker has come to the assistance of Mrs. M. G. Jones in upholding the murder of a white man by a native for   alleged alienation of affections, it would be interesting to know whether either or both of these people are acquainted with circumstances of not. It seems not.

If they are not misguided themselves they are at least misguiding others by creating a false atmosphere, unwittingly or otherwise, in their enthusiasm to uplift the downtrodden blacks.

If these worthy people wish to do something for the morals of   the unfortunate abo then let them, pay a surprise visit to a place quite a few people know of, and not far from a mission station at that, where mass prostitution has been carried on for years, not quite so noticeable now as when the pearling industry boomed.

The young lubras sponsored by their ‘better halves’ took to the game like ducks to water, and not from mere necessity, as is sometimes the case with unfortunates of a superior race.

The Asiatic cream of pearling luggers, who are of a reputedly clean race by the way, do not have to set foot on shore to indulge in misconduct, as the “dusky maids of the forrest” are brought out to them in canoe loads.

Not very long ago a mission lugger was mistaken in the dark for a pearling lugger, the missionary on board was hailed from a canoe “Do you want a Bride for the night?

The same disposition occurs, more or less, amongst aboriginals over the Territory, not so   much, perhaps, among the more primitive myalls, but even these people are amenable to “reason” if a suitable bargain offers.

Misconduct is not limited to the Territory nor to Australia if press news is to be credited. It is unfortunate and seemingly unpreventable that “Married men deceive their wives, and single men lead double lives.

Jennings may have been guilty, according to the ethics of some, and not of others of misconduct anything but unnatural. That the affair was interracial was merely incidental to circumstance. Jennings being of a pleasant and unselfish disposition was fairly popular in Darwin and other parts of the Territory. He had had a considerable amount of experience among blacks and was hardly of a type capable of flogging a man within “an inch of his life” and taking his wives.

As a drowning man clutches the proverbial straw, so does the murderer snatch for any old excuse as being better than none at all. If murder is to be excused on grounds of flimsy and fabricated provocation then it behoves everyone who values his hide to be on the quiver at all times.

Popular gossip in the locality had it, that a certain person was afraid to leave his home while Butcher was at large, on account of an old score existing between the two.

The kind of protection some people try to enforce on the native, is a protection he does not himself appreciate, nor can be taught to appreciate during this generation or the next.-

Yours etc., ANDREW JAMES WRIGHT. [161]



Sir, — Unfortunately having loitered by way of a refresher, as it were, I delayed replying to A. J. Wright, who butts in, again accusing M. A. Jones and self of having backed the wrong horse. It is some consolation to know there are still some fools who have a little courage left to bet on the field at the game of heads I win, and tails you lose. Of   course, as usual, he tunes in on the stereotyped blackman’s moralities, but like all his class never blames himself — always blames the other fellow. He holds forth about the average black and his gin taking to the game of prostitution like a duck to water, nothing about the approbation of his own colour who are responsible. I certainly decline to further truck with this unpalatable subject of black morality that adds no lustre or nodding plumes to the white man’s crest. As to experiences attached to himself and Jennings, I fail to understand, unless it be illicit experiences like many more who claim that honour, but is purely assumption. At various times for over half a century I have come in contact with blacks here and in the Pacific Islands, and I don’t claim to know them now, because their environment is vastly different to ours. Furthermore, I have never seen   much wrong with their morality — they are quite all right if used with tact and left severely alone, but that is just what the white will not do. Whether in the Eastern or Western Hemispheres where ever a white man has poked his nose among coloured people, his three main assets are prominently identified as poverty, degradation, and extermination. Enough said!

“R M. BAKER.”  [162]

Jack Gaden lost another Aboriginal employee when his man Nipper was murdered by another indigenous man called Jack who had obviously wanted to take Nipper’s woman away with him.


Mounted Constable W. C. Littlejohn, stationed at Brocks Creek arrived in Darwin on Tuesday night by motor vehicle bringing in Jack, who is alleged to have murdered another aboriginal; Nipper, near the Finniss River, about 50 miles from Darwin, about the end of August. He also brought witnesses, including Nipper’s lubra, Mary. Nipper was employed by the Caretaker of Batchelor Farm, now under lease to Mr. Jack Gaden, buffalo shooter. Jack on several occasions is alleged to have enticed Mary away. Finally he followed Nipper and is alleged to have speared him.[163]


Buffalo hunting could only occur when the ground was dry enough for the horses, so it was about 5 months long. The end of the wet season was usually in March but they had to wait for the country to dry. The long spear grass, about 10 feet high had to be burned off when it was sufficiently dry in May and the firing induced lush green growth. The shooting horses were brought in from their break and were put onto hard feed and shod. The Aboriginal helpers returned from their walkabout, the saddlery was repaired, rifles oiled, stores and ammunition purchased, the camps were put into order and when it was dry enough buffalo shooting could begin. As an area was shot out they would move to another camp on their lease… Kapalga country had six camps. [164] When the wet set in again the  buffalo shooting ended and crocodile hunting commenced.

The crocodile is a revered totem for some Indigenous people so the men who hunted crocodiles were from clans or tribes for whom this was not the case. One of the Dreamtime stories is that the crocodile is a close companion of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades in the Milky Way). As the  result of a curse they lived as water girls. Each month at full moon the crocodile begins to tear strips from the moon man until he has completely devoured him. The moon man is then reborn and the cycle begins again.[165]

Gaden and Jennings had been the first to take crocodile hunting on commercially using skinned buffalo carcases as the perfect bait. In those days there was no such thing as night time spotlight shooting; the Gaden and Jennings boys got them by spearing.[166] Spears or harpoons were made from lengths of steel rod which were heated over a fire and hit to shape a point with barbs … traditional blacksmithing skills! The point was attached to a rope and also lashed to a long pole so it would stay in place but would come away when plunged into a crocodiles back. It was essential that the water in the billabong was perfectly still with no breeze to ruffle the surface.

The hunter would pole his small craft into the water when he would start thrashing the water surface, very soon a line of bubbles would appear on the surface indicating something moving along the muddy bottom. That something was a crocodile. Then the bubbles stopped. This was the sign to hold the pointed end of the spear over the water as the boat glided over the bubbles. At the point the bubbles stopped the harpoon was driven down into the water with all the harpooners’ strength. A mighty swirl as the rope played out, more than half into the water. The boat was poled to the water’s edge and then began a tug of war between the speared crocodile and the excited men on the banks. The crocodile was quickly despatched with a bullet to the head.[167]

People were also taken. Cole reported when his Aboriginal workers were going on a walkabout they had to swim over the river taking all their goods and chattels with them. It had to be just when the tide turned so all the cargo of food, spears and equipment was fastened to logs tied with vines and pushed across with the children on logs, the men pushed the logs and the women came behind. One day Charlie’s wife Maudie, the camp cook, was taken by a crocodile. It clasped her in its forefeet as it swam over the top of her and disappeared; when it reappeared she was held in its jaws and then it dived and was not seen for 3 days.

The group believed the crocodile had been ‘sung’ and it was meant to have taken Charlie, not his wife;  he was a powerful man at the corroboree and an adjacent ‘stone-country’ tribe had wanted him dead, but something had gone wrong and Maudie was taken by mistake.[168]

IMG_5100Photograph of estuarine crocodile with front legs outstretched in hunting mode, Cahill’s Crossing, 2014.


Tom Cole was another who thought it was a viable business. He used the convention of referring to what today we call the smaller (4-5 feet long) Johnstone River or fresh water crocodiles (freshies) as ‘crocodiles’ and the larger (20 feet long) Crocodylus porosus, the salt water crocodiles (salties) as alligators. The name is a corruption of El Lagarto which is Spanish for lizard. When the followers of Herodatus came across the animals in the Nile they called then Krokodeilos because of their similarity to the lizards of their homeland. [169]

Crocodiles were initially killed to prevent attacks when camps were set up and the women were at risk when going down for drinking and cooking water or for washing.[170] There was also a problem for the pack horses which had to cross through the water or when stock came to drink in the waterhole. Cole reported the loss of one mare Bangle which was mauled by a crocodile in the Wildman River. She was badly torn about the head and neck and he had to shoot her. Very upset, he set a trap for the offending crocodile. [171] (These days crocodiles are protected and not hunted, so numbers have increased dramatically. Cattle which live in crocodile county quickly learn never to take a long drink in one place, they walk along the bank grabbing a quick drink from the side of their mouth as they kept moving, and cows teach their calves to do the same.[172])

Cole wrote to his mother that he

had a go at alligators this year and hoped to get a good few but owing to all the delays I couldn’t get at them properly. I sent 51 skins away. The work isn’t so hard and I don’t require such a large camp so running expenses aren’t a quarter so high.[173]

Stott, another buffalo shooter working in the territory found, like Gaden and Jennings, that income from crocodile skins was a useful addition to income from the buffalo hides.

Mr. Stott, one of the best shooters that the Territory has seen has just completed his buffalo shooting season ending in no less than 1700 hides for the season. He is now engaged on the capture and skinning of 60 crocodiles, 40 of which are ready for the market, 29 of that lot coming out of one waterhole.[174]

The stories of hunting the fearsome crocodiles reached as far south as Tasmania and as far west as Perth.

Pioneers of Industry Laugh at Big Risks. DARWIN (N.T.) Monday.

From buffalo shooting, which they consider rather a tame way of earning a living, Messrs. Jack Gaden and W. Jennings, of Darwin, have turned to crocodile hunting, to make money during the wet season, when they can no longer hunt buffalo.

So now, instead of risking their lives in breakneck gallops after buffalo herds, shooting the beasts from horseback on the run, and chancing a charge from a wounded animal or a broken neck should their horses stumble into a buffalo wallow, these two men spend their days on a crazy paper bark raft in the middle of the West Alligator River, prodding the muddy depths for 15 ft. monsters,

Though the crocodile or ” ‘gator,”   as it is called in the north, is more dreaded than any other living creature north of the 28th parallel,- the idea of danger does not seem to have occurred to Mr Gaden.

Croc loading (6)33509

Crocodiles being loaded onto the ship Maroubra (NT Library image 33509)



“It is just as tame as buffalo shooting,” he said to-day. “The only bit of excitement we had was when one bad-tempered brute snapped about three feet off the corner of our raft in one bite. We shot him a few seconds later.”

The West Alligator River, on the boundary of Arnhem Land, is literally alive with, crocodiles ranging from 10 to 20 feet in length. The method Mr. Gaden uses to capture the brutes  whose hides will later appear as women’s handbags and shoes- is to harpoon them from the raft and then shoot them with .303 rifles when they rush to the surface. Unless their aim is accurate they run the risk of being dragged into the water by the wild rush of the wounded crocodiles, and their attempts to escape from the harpoon rope.120 IN MONTH. In the month they were hunting the two men captured 120 crocodiles. For the future of the industry these men are pioneering on a big scale in the Northern Territory. Much will depend upon the prices the hides realise. Mr. Gaden is also sending to Sydney several gallons of oil taken from the fat in the tails of the crocodiles. He believes this may be of commercial value, as each crocodile yields four gallons of oil. Another sideline is the sale of teeth, which bring threepence each.[175]


Both Crocodiles and buffalo inhabited the same river area and it was not unknown for crocodiles to take birds, animals and people who came into their territories… cattle and horses were taken and there was one gripping account of a crocodile attacking a buffalo:


Buffalo v Crocodile.

He was a young bull buffalo, sleek, fat, and mighty, arrogant as a dictator. At every movement of his body, silky muscles played under the mud-crusted hide, and rippled off into nothing at the rump. His long, curved horns, that could disembowel a horse with a sweeping up-slash, shook slowly from side to side as the massive head, lifted and the nostrils sniffed at the breeze that, redolent of mud and rotting grasses, came in across the river. Nothing foreign came to his nostrils and he moved on, squelching through a wallow, adding a new coat of mud to the grasses at the edge. The weight of it drooped them mournfully. He had come far from his usual stamping ground. The little herd hadn’t cared where he had gone, if they thought of it at all. He had no clear idea why he had left them: perhaps it was wanderlust, but he   didn’t stop to analyse his motives. He made along the pad to the river.   The day was hot and moist, and his tongue lolled out, festooned with films of trailing saliva, like a working bullock’s. He moved slowly to where the water licked at the mud and reeds. He plodded through the black glue-pot, sinking inches deep, his   hooves coming out with a sucking pop.   Taking a few tentative steps into the river, he stood up to his knees; his eyes roving up and down the river, his nostrils quivering to trap any crocodile scent.

But the old bull crocodile crouching in the reeds and water was wise enough to keep his body well covered, leaving exposed only the tips of his snout. Perhaps, in a way, the bull croc’s intention was tinged with mania: never before had he attacked the great buffalo that came to the river. He hadn’t deemed it necessary, for he would match his life with that of the buffalo, and, both of them being savage, mighty, and powerful, only a hair’s-breadth of luck would turn the battle against one or the other. On the other hand, perhaps the crocodile was cantankerous, looking for trouble: his domestic affairs might not have been quite to his liking. At any rate, he lay in the reeds, fighting mad watching for a favourable opportunity to close his jaws round the buffalo’s snout.

The buffalo, splashing like a boy, went down on his haunches and squatted in the water, his sleek rump just awash. Now and then he cooled his sniffing nose. Under water, the croc, edged nearer, ready to snap. The bull’s head touched the water — and the murderous jaws of the croc struck at the buffalo’s snout with a sound like a hand-clap. A snuffling bellow of pain and surprise rumbled deep in the buffalo’s throat and burst from the thick lips in a roar of primordial savagery. The crocodile, as yet unhurt, made no sound, and sunk its teeth deeper into the bull’s nose. The buffalo’s fore-feet splayed out as the heavy shoulders pulled back in an effort to lift the crocodile from the water into a vertical position from which the buffalo would push him backward, thus breaking the agonising grip on his nose.

The croc’s feet hooked into the mud, and neither of them now moved, each one’s magnificent strength holding that of the other. Now and then the lashing back of their tails spoiled the tableau. Choking roars hung on the still air, frightening the birds that chattered and fooled in and out the grasses. The buffalo swung his head from side to side, heedless now of the frightful pain. He was not now peaceful, calm, unhurried. He was primitive savagery and mighty fighting strength. His shoulders swung the croc’s head from side to side, notwithstanding the heavy drag of the body. The reptile’s teeth slipped a little, scoring deep and wide. Blood gushed from the buffalo’s lacerated nose, tinting the water. The crocodile pulled back, his body arched like a bow, his hide rippling under the glide of the muscles. He gained perhaps a foot of ground in his effort to drag the buffalo into deeper water.

Then the land animal’s even strength asserted itself, and the battle became still and tense. The saurian tail slashed the coffee coloured water into froth and foam, red capped with the buffalo’s blood. The bull’s legs found purchase on the slippery bottom, and his shoulders hunched as if his back were broken. Muscles pulled backward, and slowly the croc, came with them, losing his gained ground. Again the buffalo heaved, lifting the crocodile clean out of the water. This was the buffalo’s chance. He moved back a clear yard, dragging the great lizard with him, into the shallows at the water’s edge. His flanks heaved to the pumping of blowing lungs, and his head dropped lower under the crocodile’s weight and the persuasion of the whipping tail. The croc’s hind legs sank into the six-inch depth of the water, and gripped the bottom. With the purchase, he forced the bull’s head down, taking a great pounding from plunging fore-feet that thudded like drum beats on his body. As yet the buffalo was not in a position to use his raking horns with any effect, and this the croc knew, and therefore was unmindful of the hoof-beats. He knew he could ignore them, but the spreading horns struck for keeps, sure and fast.

Maddened by his inability to use his horns, the buffalo went berserk, swinging, the reptilian head to and fro, rearing on his hind legs, and punching with his fore-feet. The croc’s teeth slipped again, and the buffalo up-flung his head in a burst of incredible strength. The saurian’s teeth slipped a second time, gripped on a lip, and then came out. Almost laughing at his success, the land animal plunged forward, like a cat pouncing with both feet on to a mouse. His fore-hooves wiped out one of the crocodile’s eyes in a red, ugly smear. Maddened, it drove forward and slashed, at the buffalo’s throat. The hide opened as clean as a knife-cut. Again the croc, struck, but the buffalo moved back ward and missed the blow’s full power. Then he lowered his arrogant head, charged, slashed, and heaved. The lifting power was unbelievable, and the body of the lizard came out of the water, his side a long, red line. But the tough hide had taken the horn, and the slash had not gone vitally deep. His movements now slower, the saurian backed way, yet with no thought of retiring.

It was now a fight to a ghastly, bloody finish, without quarter. He gently moved his head, seeking another nose grip. The buffalo, wary of the reptile’s intention, kept his nose high, and edged forward, waiting for a chance for a raking rip to the crocodile’s belly. He wanted no more than one chance. He wouldn’t need more. Both of them now searched for an opening, almost sparring, like two wrestlers. The croc kept his belly well flat. The buffalo came closer, temptingly dropped his nose a little —and fooled the croc into striking. To do so, he had to rise out of the water, for the buffalo’s snout was held just close, enough for temptation alone.

The shaggy head went down, the reptilian jaws snapped with a futile clap, and the buffalo‘s left horn drove forward, deep into the croc’s lifted belly. The buffalo flirted his head in a quick, upward movement, and the saurian’s belly opened as it it had been fitted with a zipper. It coughed, choked, and sank into the churned, shallow water, and was pounded into the mud under the buffalo’s kneading hooves. All movement ceased long before the last hoof punch, and the bull buffalo raised his head proudly, peered at the crocodile, and, bloody, slashed, and torn, moved   on up the pad, his kingdom unchallenged.— By R. C. Gold, in ‘Walkabout.’  [176]


The Gaden’s spent Christmas 1935 in Darwin.

Included in the number of passengers to reach Darwin by the mixed train on Saturday last were … and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Gaden from Batchelor Siding.[177]

In April 1936 Tom Cole was badly injured in a fall from a horse and the injury was compounded by it coinciding with Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton’s flight to China to visit his bereaved mother. [178] Cole was going to be weeks out of the saddle but had contracts for buffalo hides, so he was delighted to be able to pass the work onto Hazel Gaden who he contracted to shoot 500 head.[179]

Subsequently Cole caught up with Gaden and Arthur McKercher who had been shooting with him. They met at a camp at Red Lily on the West Alligator River where Gaden had accumulated 450 of the 500 hides. Gaden then left Cole and took his team of men to shoot for his brother [180] and McKercher stayed with Cole … he’d been shooting for Vestey’s at Marrakai.[181] Jack Gaden had left a truck at Gypsy Spring, when the radiator had blown up and he had borrowed a couple of tons of Cole’s salt for the crocodiles he was shooting down the Wildman; it was decided that Cole keep the truck and they called it square.

In June that year Cole reported the mounted Police patrol called into Kapalga and extracted two guineas each off Sam Mini, Hazel Gaden and myself for aboriginal licences.[182]

By the end of 1936 Coles had a final hide tally of 1796 (including the Gaden contract).

A few months later the papers reported

Mr Jack Gaden, who is doing exceptionally well at buffalo shooting this season, has purchased the large truck from the Koolpinyah Kool Stores Company for use at his camp. This will be replaced by the company with a new truck of the same type to arrive by the “Marella” due here on or about the 17th instant.[183]


Later that month

The coastal vessel “Maroubra” put into port on Saturday morning last with a load of buffalo hides from the camp of Mr. Jack Gaden. These were discharged on Monday last and now await shipment for a southern destination.[184]

And a month later, in October, his own ship arrived dockside

On Thursday afternoon Mr. Jack Gaden’s vessel “Chantress” was alongside the jetty discharging a load of buffalo hides. [185]

IMG_7254-ChantressJPGUnloading sacks of salt from Chantress at Kapalga landing, South Alligator River

According to Cole, Hazel Gaden was also a part owner of the vessel[186] but soon there was a newspaper report advising the ship was lost

It is reported that the lugger “Chantress,” which was recently purchased by Mr. Jack Gaden from Mr. Robinson, has been wrecked in Shoal Bay near Gun Point. Details of the vessel’s loss and sinking were unavailable when we went to press. The boat was returning with a cargo of about 200 hides from the Wildman River, and was in charge of Mr. Jack Ah Mat.[187]

Apparently the skipper dumped 200 hides of Gaden’s and beached the vessel. [188]

IMG_7254-HAzelgaden truck jpg← Hazel Gaden loading buffalo hides onto a truck



Tom Cole, Hazel Gaden and Fred Morris at Gypsy Springs near Kapalga 1936. In the foreground are metal water bags for the dry season. These three photographs are taken from the book by Tom Coles “Riding the Wildman Plains”.

As the wet season approached, the Gaden family made the decision to remain at their established Alligator River camp and some of the children, Eileen and Frank, joined them, travelling by the “Maroubra” which took out provisions and brought back buffalo hides.[189]

Did young Madge join the family for Christmas? She was listed as at the Convent School in Darwin and had scored very well in the half yearly Elementary Typewriting examination with 99.5 per cent [190] but in fact Madge was a patient of the Lazaret or Leper colony off the mainland.

By the end of January 1937 the children Miss Eileen and Master Frank Gaden were passengers on the train, travelling from their home in Grove Hill to Darwin[191] so school was resuming for the new year.

Tom Cole mentioned the rail journey to and from Darwin:

The train, Leaping Lena, was never late; it always came around mid day on Friday, stayed for an hour then battled on to Pine Creek. By then the sun was getting low, so it stayed the night. The next day it tooted and farted its way to Darwin, collapsing at the station at about three in the afternoon. It had every reason to be exhausted – it had struggled up hill and down dale to Birdum and back, a bit over 600 miles in four days.[192]

In March 1937 Cole wrote to tell his mother of the cyclone which had hit Darwin a few weeks before, advising her that it wrecked the place properly. The power had failed and the wind hit at 100 mph, roofing iron was blown off,  trees were uprooted as were the windmills attached to the wells which were the water supplies for all the houses and he reported the scenes of chaos and desolation in the morning were indescribable.[193]

Tragedy struck Hazel Gaden and his family again early in 1937. He was included in the number of passengers to reach Darwin by the mixed train on Saturday last [194] and the reason became obvious when it was announced

Many local residents were greatly shocked over the week-end when it became known that Mr Hazel Gaden, the well-known buffalo shooter, had been taken to the Leprosarium, a victim of the dread disease. Mr. Gaden had been ill for some months and came to Darwin by last Saturday’s train and submitted himself for examination by Dr. Kirkland. Mr. Gaden is a married man, with a wife and five children, the oldest being about 15 years and the youngest about eight months.[195]



Leprosy has afflicted humans for a long time. It is a bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It was the very first bacterium that caused a human disease to be discovered in 1873. It existed in ancient China, India and Egypt as far back as 6000 BC. It was probably brought back to Europe by Alexander The Great, around the 4th Century BC. It was brought to the New World by explorers in the sixteenth century, and then later was introduced to Australia and the Pacific Islands.

It turns out that leprosy does not seem to be as highly contagious as was once thought. In fact, most people who are exposed to the bacterium will never get the disease. While it is still not exactly clear how the disease is spread, it is thought to be from human-to-human by respiratory droplets, but probably not through intact skin. Leprosy affects the skin, the nerves and the lining of the upper respiratory tract. It can take a long time after exposure to develop leprosy, even up to 50 years. The average incubation period is around 5-10 years.

Leprosy was first observed in the Northern Territory in 1882; soon after, cases of the disease were noted among Aborigines. However, for many years no action was taken in respect of Aboriginal sufferers. In the late 1920’s the government adopted a policy designed to confine all Northern Territory lepers, and it was resolved to establish a leprosarium on Channel Island (in Darwin Harbour), which had been the site of the Commonwealth’s only Northern Territory quarantine station since 1914.

The island site was thought most suitable to enforce isolation and discourage escape, and the leprosarium was established in 1930. At first the institution was staffed by a married couple as curator and matron, but in 1942 Catholic nuns, then a Catholic brother, went to the island and they staffed it until its closure in 1955. Buildings were makeshift, fresh water was always scarce, food was seldom fresh, and medical treatment was non-existent or erratic and always ineffective until the early 1950’s.

443 leprosy sufferers were recorded as having been admitted to Channel Island; at least 142 died on the island and were buried there. Some escaped to the mainland; others transferred to the East Arm Leprosarium in 1955. A very small number were allowed to leave the island. The average population on the island was about 100 at any one time, mostly but not entirely Aborigines, and including many Aborigines sent to Channel Island from Western Australia.

In 1955 the Channel Island Leprosarium was closed and all inmates were moved to the East Arm Settlement on the mainland. [196]

Hazel Gaden’s family obviously had no funds to tide them over and their Buffalo shooting business could not survive without the chief participant. Was Gaden Bros. an official Company, did Jack make any financial contribution to his brother’s family?


A fund has been sponsored by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor J. H. Brogan, to provide a sum of money to be handed to Mrs. Hazel Gaden, who, with seven children, has been left to life’s tender mercies through the tragedy of her husband, Mr. Hazel Gaden, being admitted to the Leprosarium, a victim of the age-old dread disease. Mr. Gaden has been a friend to many in his day, in the real sense of the term, and we feel sure the populace will rally to his wife’s assistance in her hour of dire need. An advertisement in this Issue gives the names of all officers pledged to the fund, and to whom donations may be forwarded or handed.[197]


THE MRS. HAZEL GADEN FUND – A fund is now open, sponsored by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor J. H. Brogan, to provide funds for Mrs. Hazel Gaden and her seven children, who are left in dire straits owing to her husband, Mr. Hazel Gaden, being admitted to the Leprosarium, a victim of the dread disease.

OFFICERS: President – His Worship the Mayor, Councillor J. H. Brogan, Secretary – F. S. Austin Esquire, Smith Street, Darwin, Treasurer – B. A. Clezy, Esquire, Manager E. S. and A. Bank, Darwin, Auditor – S. O’Brien Esq., Commonwealth Government Auditor, Darwin.

All contributions, however small, will be received by the above named officers, an official receipt issued, and the amount placed forthwith in the Trust Account with the E-S. and A. Bank, Darwin. [198]

So Hazel Gaden joined his daughter Madge on the Channel Island Lazaret, a place where she was admitted in the early 1930’s. In 1937 Madge was interviewed by a newspaper journalist


“All I want now is a piano,” said 16-year-old Madge Gaden; when interviewed by Mr. J. Simmonds, Darwin representative of the Sydney “Telegraph.” Madge is a brilliant pianist and her desire to keep up her studies was of tantamount importance. When her interviewer promised to get her one within a week she smiled and said “Don’t be silly” –

‘And now in response to an appeal made by the “Telegraph,” the well known firm of Nicholson’s Ltd., piano manufacturers and importers, have intimated their intention to forward by next boat a brand new imported piano of high class for the use of the Leprosarium. Burns Philp and Co., shipping-agents, have undertaken to freight it free of charge to Darwin and the Government have agreed to forego duty on the piano.

Last night the news was flashed across to the matron of the Lazaret by morse code.

When acquainted of the fact Madge said she was thrilled to death at the news. “You have to be in some trouble to find but what wonderful people there are in the world,” she added. “I am a happy girl tonight.’

She intends to not only play the piano but to teach the youngsters at the station to play. She hopes that they will soon have community singing and dancing.

Reared and educated in the Convent since early childhood, except for short visits to her parents out at Grove Hill, Madge had planned to enter the Convent for training as a Nun. She has, however, shown great fortitude, and has apparently decided to make the best of it. She and her father, Mr. Hazel Gaden, now, occupy the building used as a clinic and Madge is of great assistance to her father.

Dr. Cumpston, director general of Health for Australia, when appraised of the facts of the girl’s case by the “Telegraph” said there; was every possibility of an early recovery.[199]

And less than a month later the piano arrived.

Mr. F. S. Austin announces the arrival of another consignment of Demountable Typewriters on the “Merkur.” Included in the cargo consigned to Darwin is the piano donated to Miss Madge Gaden by Nicholson’s Ltd. This will be released as soon as possible and transported to the Leprosarium in a punt. A day when the sea is calm will be chosen. [200]

Madge’s story proved inspirational for others who offered financial assistance.



By a recent mail Mr. G. J. Pigott Special Magistrate, received a letter containing £ 1 from. Perth, Western   Australia, from a person signing himself “A Sympathiser.”

In forwarding the sum the donor made the: following stipulation: “I   would be much obliged if you would kindly send the enclosed bank note for £1 to the Matron of the Leper Hospital for the young white girl lately sent to the island hospital. The money is to purchase some music or book, or anything the girl would like. If you find it more convenient, would you purchase some-thing for the patient that she desires and send it when a launch is available.”

Mr. L. H. A. Giles has forwarded us an official receipt for the amount and states the money has been placed in trust and will be used in the manner desired by the donor.[201]

Meanwhile Madge’s father Hazel was alerting people to conditions on the island by contacting the local newspaper


(To the Editor)

Sir,-Would you kindly publish this letter in the columns of your paper? For some past bags in which our meat has been sent over have been in a disgraceful condition. I pointed this out to the curator’ about two months ago when the meat was covered with oats and he made enquiries and said the Health Department supplied the bags. Since then, not only has the meat been covered with oats and the like, but it has been dirty as well. Yesterday it was found covered with wheat. What was in the-bags before that could be anything.

I have been here over seven months, and am still waiting for a bed! The first two nights here I slept on a canvas stretcher with a blanket and sheet under me. At that time I was very down in health, so weak, in fact, that I was unable to leave my bed. The curator saw I had no mattress, and told me there was one at his place, but did not like to give it to me as it had been lying on the verandah and exposed to all weathers. He assured me though that it was perfectly clean, and I took it. I had been told there were beds and bedding ordered, and were expected over soon – they haven’t come yet.

Still, I am very well off when I consider the lot of some of the half cast boys. A few haven’t even a mattress to lie on, let alone a bed, and the poor chaps have to sleep on the floor Somehow, this does not seem right for sick people. There does not seem much chance of any one being cured here. People with clean smears are forced to mix with bad cases, there being non-such things as separation. It would be far better if a place was built on the main land for clean cases, so as to give them a fair chance of being discharged.

In the dim and distant future we hope to have the electric light installed. This has been a leprosarium for six years, and as yet we have to depend on the old hurricane lamp.

Yours etc.

H GADEN. [202]

(Madge was in the Leprosarium for 8 years before she was pronounced cured on her 19th birthday in 1941 when she pledged to remain there to help other sufferers.[203])

Meanwhile the buffalo shooting was progressing without Hazel Gaden but another hunter, Tom Cole announcing that he proposed

to operate a dude ranch in the South Alligator River district. The ranch will be the first of its type in Australia. An official of the Tourist Bureau, who inspected the proposed site, was greatly impressed with the scheme. The ranch will be run for the purpose of catering for tourists in search of sport. Great herds of buffalo inhabit the district and the river was said to abound with aquatic sport, including alligators. A shot from a gun would make the sky black with wild ducks and geese which invested the river in thousands.[204]

A month later

Mrs Gaden and three children took the mixed train from Darwin for Grove Hill. [205]

By October 1937

Mr. and Mrs. Jack Gaden are in town from their buffalo shooting camp, having had a very successful season. They intend returning to the camp for a couple of months. [206]

And a month later

The coastal vessel “Maroubra” put into port at midnight on Thursday after doing the monthly trip to Cape Don lighthouse, picking up 400 buffalo hides from the camp of Mr Jack Gaden on the banks of the Wildman River, and lifting 12,000 feet of cypress pine, from the saw milling plant of Mr. R. Cooper.[207]

When the vessel sailed again Jack Gaden and his wife returned to their Wildman River home

The coastal vessel “Maroubra” clears the harbour to-morrow evening for the camp of Mr. Jack Gaden on the Wildman River. Mrs. Gaden, who has been in town for some weeks, is an intending passenger by the vessel and will remain throughout the wet season at their new permanent home which they have established near the coast. [208]

On 3 December 1937 Tom Cole, also settled in for the wet season, was asked to go to the assistance of Jack Gaden who was very sick with malaria so he dosed him with quinine and there was some improvement overnight. On 11 December 1937 Tom Cole, was woken at midnight by a boy with a letter from one of Jack Gaden’s men advising his boss was seriously ill and could Cole get a message through to the Flying Doctor?  This they managed to do by sending boys across the East Alligator River on a couple of barrels lashed together so they could get to Oenpelli where there was a radio. It was 12 months before Cole saw Gaden again and he said ‘obviously the operation was successful‘.[209] So was it a recurrence of the malaria from the week before or did he need surgery for something like appendicitis?

IMG_7252Aboriginal boys crossing the East Alligator River on barrels, going to Oenpelli mission  40 miles away to radio for a doctor – Jack Gaden was seriously ill. Taken from Tom Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains.

There is little mention of the Gaden family in the newspapers for the next few months; presumably Jack was recovering from his illness.

In those days both men and horses endured ‘bush doctoring’ … Cole reported when an Aboriginal man called McGinty was in Gaden’s camp when he was badly horned by a buffalo, his horse had fallen and the wounded bull attacked him and threw him some distance, piercing his stomach. No medical attention was available and he could not be transported and he recovered in a few weeks. Horses tossed by the buffaloes were usually too badly injured but he reported one incident where they pushed the intact intestines back into the horses abdominal cavity, stitched him up and he also survived. [210]

In April 1938 there was some controversy when:

A charge against E. J. Collins for assault on John Gaden at Adelaide River was withdrawn. Mr. Newell, who appeared for Gaden, said the assault had arisen from a dispute over money matters. The debt had now been discharged, and the men reconciled. The withdrawal was allowed. [211]



The outbreak of war saw the virtual end of the buffalo hide industry. Tom Cole wrote in his diary of 26 August 1939

Mediterranean closed to shipping. This means the end of the hide market as all the buffalo hides go there.[212]

And two days later he reported the hide market had collapsed. However he managed to secure two more contracts, one for 200 hides at a very poor price and one for 300 hides at just four pence per pound.

Cole was not conscripted into the Army. He owned a property producing beef cattle so this was a ‘reserved occupation’ as much meat was needed to feed the troops and the arriving American personnel. However Major Jim Thyer asked him to call into the Larrakeyah barracks and when he left he had volunteered to become MRO3 which meant he was Military Reporting Officer Number 3 attached to the Intelligence section of the 7th Military District, one of Australia’s Silent Guardians.[213] So he was one of the people keeping an eye out for any indication that an invasion may be underway. The coast of northern Australia was swarming with Japanese men working on pearling luggers and they were reputed to have better maps than the locals.



Following the outbreak of WWII the civilians were in the main evacuated from Darwin but the leprosarium was forgotten and Madge Gaden saw the Japanese attack first hand as subsequently reported in the Australian Women’s Weekly. A photograph showed Madge Gaden and her thirteen-year-old sister, Eileen. Madge was wearing a frock, made by herself, of lilac linen with sprays of wattle embroidered on the yoke.

Leper colony heroine tends Darwin wounded

Cares for seamen from blazing ship

From Merton Woods, our Darwin correspondent

How beautiful Madge Gaden lived up to her reputation as heroine of Darwin leper colony in the ruthless bombings of the first Japanese air raids on the Australian mainland is now revealed in a delayed message.

When she was pronounced cured of leprosy on her 19th birthday last year, after eight years in the colony, she announced her intention of devoting herself to alleviating the sufferings of lepers, and she was still at the colony when the raids began.

While the raiders continued their onslaught, Madge tended the wounded seamen who had reached Channel Island, where the leper colony is situated, after their blazing ship ran aground. Madge told her story at Pine Creek, the tiny township 150 miles south of Darwin, where she is now staying with her mother and sisters.

Now completely cured of the dread disease, leprosy, but wisely continuing with preventive treatment, this girl who has been practically isolated from civilisation for eight years is as charming and talented as she is attractive.

Her story of the first Jap raid was that she had a grandstand view of the whole bombing from the safety of a hill on Channel Island, which was not attacked.

“With my father, the curator, Mr. John Jones, and five other white patients in the colony, I went to the highest point of the island and watched the big Japanese bombers go over,” she said.

“We could hear the roar of bursting bombs and see flames and debris leap far into the air.

Natives go bush

“All the native patients in the colony were terrified by the raid, and immediately hid in the bush. That night they were given rations and willingly went bush by crossing to the mainland at low tide.

“I saw the Japanese dive-bomb the ships in Darwin Harbor. One ship, blazing fiercely, was steered towards Channel Island and ran aground in a mangrove swamp nearby.

“A number of the crew got away from the ship in a motor launch and landed near our shelter-shed.

“Two of the crew were suffering from bullet wounds-one a major in the last war and the other a boy of about 19, who was badly hit in the knee.

“While the Japanese were flying high over Darwin to make their second raid, Mr. Jones, some of the crew who had brought a first-aid kit ashore, and I tended the wounded.

“After the raids a naval launch came out and took the wounded away.”Meanwhile the captain of the   ship and several of the crew had run aground in a launch in the mangroves, and did not get out until next day.

“After the native patients went bush it was decided to evacuate Channel Island. But we could not leave as we had no petrol for our launch.”

In the tremendous confusion in Darwin after the raids we were somehow forgotten. Finally, Mr. Jones and my father rowed out to the ship, which had now burnt it- self out, and found some petrol on board.

“On the day after the raid we all went to the quarantine station at another point in Darwin Harbor. I was anxious to get to Darwin to see what damage the bombing had caused, but was told it was not safe for me in Darwin.

“I arrived at the quarantine station in a white dress, and soon afterwards the ‘alert’ sounded. I was standing by a slit trench when someone yelled out, ‘Take off that dress.’ I shouted back, ‘I’ve got practically nothing on underneath it!’ ‘Well, leave it on but get out of sight,’ came the answer.

“No bombers came over, and as soon as the ‘all clear’ sounded I was forced to wear a khaki shirt and trousers. But I soon got tired of this dull attire, and changed into a blue dress with a white collar and white belt.

“I had just made myself neat when Jap fighters began to machine gun Darwin. This time I was made to take off the white collar and belt and to go into a slit trench. There was a few inches of water in the bottom, and it was full of mosquitoes and ants. I was mud from head to foot when I emerged.

Driven from the colony that has been her home for eight years, well educated and self-possessed Madge Gaden cannot at this uncertain stage make plans for her future. But she is almost certain that her days in the leper colony are over.

When asked what calling she would like to follow she revealed intimate glimpses of her life among Darwin’s lepers. She confided that she had written a large part of a full-length novel which she had intended to enter in The Australian Women’s Weekly Novel Competition.

“I filled up several school books on a typewriter that a well-wisher sent me,” she said. “Unfortunately, in the rush to leave the colony, I burned these, along with most of my other possessions.”

Madge said the plot of her book centred round a girl born 20 years ago in the Never-Never. Because of her isolation the girl’s only play-mates were piccaninnies, and as she grew up she absorbed much of the lore and mental outlook of her native playmates.

The story then switched to the girl’s schooldays, and dealt with the conflict in her outlook and that of other white children who had had more settled lives.

Madge said she had not reached the romantic section of her book, but had intended the girl to fall in love with “the right type of man.” Asked if she herself had ever thought of “the right man,” Madge said she had had many proposals of marriage from eligible young men who had visited her after first making her acquaintance as a penfriend.

“They were all very nice, but somehow the ‘right one’ was not among them,” she said.

Madge said that her convent education before going into the leper colony and tuition from Mr. and Mrs. Jones while there made her feel the equal of any young woman in any social sphere.

“I know a lot of big words,” she said. “One soldier to whom I write complains he has to use a dictionary to understand my letters! I have taught myself to write French, although I cannot speak it and correspond with several people in French.

Shorthand-typing: “I also taught myself to do short hand and touch-typing.

“Mr. Jones instructed me to operate a Morse Code Aldiss lamp, and before the Japs came into the war I often talked by lamp to bored soldiers at camps around Darwin.

“If they were bored I was not. I always found plenty to occupy me in the colony.”

I asked how she would feel if the progress of the war forced her to move from the solitude of the Northern Territory bush to the bustle of Sydney or Melbourne.

“I am certain I can adapt myself to any environment,” Madge said. “If the right man you were talking about came along to-morrow and asked me to go to a big city in Australia or abroad. I would do so without apprehension.” [214]

In 1944 Madge Gaden “formerly inmate of Channel Island” was evacuated from Darwin and moved into the Little Bay Lazaret in Sydney. [215]



Madge’s brother Neil Frederick enlisted in the Australian Army. On the Nominal Roll he was noted as having been born in Darwin on 21 February 1923. On 28 March 1942, he enlisted at Adelaide River when he was 19 years old, giving his mother Ada as next of kin. His service number was D422 and he was part of the 9 Army Troop Company RAE when discharged on 9 February 1945.[216]

Younger brother Frank also enlisted on 17 September 1942 at Armadale, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. Francis (Frank) Danvers Gaden gave his date of birth as 1 September 1924 and his next of kin was mother Ada. His service number was VX130994 (V502001) and he was posted at the ATTD (Army Transport or Trades Training Depot) when discharged on 20 January 1944.

He then appears to have re-enlisted as Francis Danders in Caulfield giving father Hazel as his next of kin and a different birth date of 6 June 1926 and he was serving with the War Graves Maintenance Unit 7MD (Military District) DET on discharge on 23 July 1946.[217] Despite the differences it is strongly suspected to be the same person as Danvers was the maiden name of Frank’s maternal grandmother. [218]

Harry Stewart was at Barrow Creek where he enlisted in the Army, giving his birth date as 12 June 1903. In reality it was 1902 so when he enlisted he would have been just 5 weeks away from his 40th birthday and therefore not eligible. His Service Number was S111375 and he was based at Banka Banka as a convoy driver working on the transport of goods along the north-south route until his discharge on 9 April 1946.[219]  No doubt the whole family were overjoyed when the war ended and they could all return to their homes in the Northern Territory.

It appears that after the war Frank Gaden took up droving and is seen here with John Stacey.[220]

DroversPhotograph 27998 from Northern Territory Stories

In December 1946 Jack Gaden died in hospital after a heart attack so it would have been a sad Christmas for the family. He was buried in the Gardens Cemetery, Darwin in Row 1183.[221]


Buffalo Hunter Passes

Mr. Jack Gaden, well-known N.T. buffalo hunter, died in Darwin Hospital last Saturday night following heart attack. Mr. Gaden, who is survived by his wife, previously owned Jindare station. Just before the war Mr. Gaden figured prominently in a triple murder case, when a native named Butcher killed two lubras and a white man.[222]


Return Thanks

MRS. JACK GADEN sincerely THANKS the doctors and nursing staff of Darwin Hospital for their kind and skilful attention; also Rev. Guy and all other kind friends for their letters of sympathy in her recent bereavement.[223]

However the Company Gaden Brothers were still in business

Gaden Bros. in town today looking very pleased with themselves after successful buffalo-shooting season. Told us they would be at it again after the “wet.” [224]

Sadly less than eighteen months after Jack’s death, his wife Dorothy also died aged 65 and her passing reignited memories of Jack being shot in 1934. She was buried in the Gardens Cemetery Darwin in Row 1199.[225]

Recalls Shooting Tragedy

The death of Mrs. Jack Gaden in the Darwin Hospital yesterday recalls a tragedy of the North. While shooting buffalo at Corroboree Creek, Jack Gaden employed an aborigine named Butcher. Angered at not being allowed to claim two lubras whom a dingo-poisoner had brought into the camp, Butcher ran amok one night, snatched a .303 from the camp, and began promiscuous shooting. His first shot killed Bill Jennings, a boxer of some note in Darwin, employed by Gaden, also a lubra named Ruby. His next shot missed the dingo- poisoner, but killed a dog, and another lubra named Copper. His third shot smashed into Jack Gaden’s hand, just missing his head. Then Butcher was away bush, with rifle and ammunition.

A man hunt followed, Butcher was arrested, and after a short trial, sentenced to death; a sentence quickly commuted to life imprisonment. Jack Gaden was lucky to escape with the loss of a finger from his hand. Possibly, the shadow of the hand had been mistaken, in the shadow of the mosquito net, for his head. Jack Gaden died about two years ago, and now his widow has followed him.[226]

The commutation was due to a letter marked secret from the Attorney General’s Department in Canberra to the Secretary, Department of Interior dated 27 August 1934. [227]

Soon the newspapers were reporting

Another visitor to the town is Mrs. Hazel Gaden, who is attending to business matters of the late Mrs. J. Gaden. She is the guest of Mrs. Jones. Mr. Neil Gaden is out buffalo shooting on Mr. R. H. Lee’s property, Esmeralda. Other shooters, Messrs. Morey and Beresford, have also gone out, and Doyle and Smeaton will be leaving shortly, they are at present getting their gear ready.  [228]

So Neil Gaden had joined his father’s business and taken up contract buffalo shooting, no doubt his time in the Army had helped his ability to shoot a moving target.

He was soon photographed with shot buffalo [229] and bringing in hides for sale in what was appears to be a former army vehicle.[230]

NeilG shot buf jpgNeilG truck jpg

Mr J Simpson brought in a load of buffalo hides from Mr Richard’s station Goodparla. Other shooters who brought hides were Neil Gaden and C Beresford. The agent for the sales of these hides is J Ah Toy, General Store, Pine Creek.[231]

It was not long before Neil lost his fellow contractor in a motor vehicle accident:

Falling from a motor truck on Tuesday night about 10 miles from Adelaide River on the Marrakai road, Jack Knight Kellett died soon afterwards. He was riding in the cabin beside the driver Mr. Roy Williams, manager of Marrakai station, and as he fell Mr. Williams endeavored to hold him. He was unsuccessful, and it is believed that the rear wheel of the truck passed over Kellett’s head. The body was brought to Darwin next day by Constable. McLean of Adelaide River and the funeral was held yesterday.

Kellett, who was better known as Jack Knight, was 60 years of age, and had been in the Territory for more than 20 years. For most of that time he has been a buffalo-shooter, and on the fatal trip was returning to Marrakai Station where he and Mr. Neil Gaden were engaged in contract shooting for the station. He was a close associate of another well known buffalo-shooter, Bill Black, who died in Darwin Hospital a couple, of months ago.[232]

Meanwhile Neil’s younger sister, named Hazel after her father, was doing well at school

Congratulations to Miss Hazel Gaden, who secured a brilliant pass in her Intermediate exam. Hazel is a Convent pupil.[233]

In July 1949 the Sydney Morning Herald introduced its readers to a story of Crocodile hunting by Tom Cole headlined Man Turns On The Crocodile

RECENTLY a man’s signet ring was found in the stomach of a Northern Australian crocodile-further evidence that the crocodile is a man-eater. On the other hand, man is even a greater menace to the crocodiles, for their skins are booming commercially.

Until comparatively recently the killing was one-sided. Crocodiles took a heavy toll of cattle, horses, and humans both black and white.

They were shot, trapped, or poisoned, but except for a few whose tails supplied the natives with a tasty dish, they rotted where they died.

But the dictates of fashion spread to Arnhem Land and not for the first lime sent adventurers headlong into the swamps and jungles to fulfill its needs.

They went as they went before and will go again-lightheartedly and carelessly-to undertake what is probably the most dangerous occupation in the world. For fashion demands her crocodile-skin bags and shoes and other accessories regard less of the cost, and sometimes the cost is high.

If a hunter “disappears,” two more   will take his place, for the game is more important than the player.

Among the first intrepid spirits to set forth were Jack Gaden and Bill Jennings. They found no easy road to fortune, and Corroboree Camp, on the Mary River, was the scene of their last croc shooting expedition.

Gaden’s decision to cease operations was influenced by the precipitate action of a native named Butcher, who shot and killed Jennings, two other natives, and blew off half of one of Gaden’s hands, the last with what could truthfully be called a lucky shot-at any rate lucky for Gaden, for Butcher had been trained to shoot crocs.

In 1933 I lost a boy who was taken while swimming a channel of the West Alligator River and in 1937 a monster took a lubra who belonged to my camp.

In those days croc, shooting was generally a sideline to buffalo shooting. Only occasionally we turned to it entirely, when the buffalo hide market was in the doldrums. We then earned our money the hard way.

We tried trapping crocodiles, but that was too slow, and as the traps were set on the banks they were often robbed by dingoes.

Shooting the monsters as they lay sunning themselves was not very successful either, for the mangroves were thick and the black mud was treacherously boggy. The report of a rifle shot frightened everything within hearing.

Then we got the natives to harpoon them, and at last met with some success.

Strangely it was not the natives themselves who first suggested this procedure. I think it was one of the Gadens who proposed it.

On the several occasions when 1 went after crocs in this way there was always great jubilation among the boys. It was generally at the end of the buffalo shooting season, and, apart from the break in the monotony of skinning buffalo bulls, these aborigines loved hunting crocodiles.

Only members of the coastal native tribes took any active part. Those from the sandstone ranges, who came down to the coastal plains only during the buffalo season, always stood well back on the bank and were contemptuously referred to by the salt-water blacks as “stone country myalls.”

The day before our Operations began, lubras busily stripped great sheets of paper bark and made a buoyant raft by lashing bundles of this bark together with vines.

The harpoon men got their gear ready, cut their shafts and lashed thirty or forty feet of rope to the steel barb.

At “picaninnie daylight”-before the first cries of the kookaburras shattered the silence-my head boy would call me and we would walk down to the lagoon together as I snapped a full magazine into my rifle.

Bamboo Charlie, already on the raft, would be poling his way out to the middle.

As he glided across the mirror-like surface he would thrash the water with the harpoon shaft, pausing every now and then to look for the tell-tale line of bubbles that rise when a croc is “below.”

Charlie’s keen eyes would be quick to spot the first silver string of beads glistening in the rays of the morning sun. One could visualise the giant down under watching and waiting until the shadow overhead had passed.

But the shadow did not pass. Poised like an ebony statue, Charlie would wait until he reached the spot where the bubbles ended. He knew that that was where the creature had stopped.

1007030962CRoc JPGThen he would strike with an uncanny instinct and eight inches of steel buried itself in the reptile’s back.

As the crocodile raced down the lagoon the rope at Charlie’s feet would snake out. He would then pole his way to the bank, where willing hands checked the first mad rush of the wounded croc.

When cunning overcame its fear, the quarry would usually lie motionless on the bottom until, with a speed that seemed incredible for one of its bulk, it would spurt to the surface, lashing the water to foam in an effort to shake itself free of the harpoon. It would dive and dive again as it slowly bled.

On these occasions the boys with excited cries hauled the croc gradually to the bank while I slipped a shell into the breach of my rifle. The victim often lashed the water until it boiled, half rearing as the mighty jaws smashed together in rage. That was the moment for me to put the rifle to my shoulder and with a well-aimed bullet end the death struggle.

Since those days crocodile hunters have found a simpler way to get skins. They shoot almost entirely at night, using a spotlight and their tallies are high.

There are now more croc hunters along the far north coast than ever before-so many that it might be said they have established an industry.[234]


Lockwood reported that these camps worked 20 hours out of 24, for several weeks straight using a powerful spotlight to see the animals, from a powerful flat bottomed boat, searching for the dull red glow of two tell-tale eyes reflected in the beam, with the harpoon man standing erect in the bow and next to him the rifle man ready to shoot the animals once it is firmly held by the harpoon rope.[235]

A year later, in 1950, Adelaide journalist Bob Jervis wrote about the hunters of the northern swamps who told their graphic stories of the Thrills, Danger of Buffalo Shooting.

BUFFALO shooting in the Northern Territory — probably Australia’s nearest approach to the big game hunting of other continents — is in danger of extinction. It has been a NT ‘industry’ since early this century, and very little of the killing has been for sport. Last year it was a profitable ‘dry’ season occupation for at least 12 ‘plants,’ consisting of white and aboriginal shooters, horse ‘tailers’ and skinners. But three of the shooters recently warned that hunting must be suspended for some time if the bull buffaloes, which are shot for their hides, are to survive and multiply. One shooter, Gerry Randall, said that, if the industry was to be kept at all, the season must be closed for at least two years. Where there had been herds of 2,000 two years ago, shooters were lucky to see 200 now. On a 300-mile tour of the buffalo country not far from Darwin in October, he saw about 1,200 buffaloes, but considered only eight suitable for shooting. Paul Becker, another shooter, considers there is no chance of the herds becoming extinct, but prospects for shooting are definitely worsening. John Gaden, one of the most successful shooters last year; said the whole buffalo area needed about three years’ spell. That statement from a man who makes the game his livelihood for half the year should carry weight with the authorities. The future of a unique Australian industry would seem to be in their hands.

And for the NT it is an industry of considerable importance. For the year ended June 30, 1949, 14,428 buffalo bides were exported from the Territory. In the same time, only 238 cattle hides and 3,373 crocodile skins were exported. Peak year for buffalo hides was 1938, when 16549 were ex ported. In 1948, the first year after the war when figures were available, hide production was 14,903. Since 1906, when records were first kept, numbers of cattle hides shipped from Darwin has exceeded buffalo hides only five times— and then a meat works was operating in the town. Buffalo hunting is a seasonal occupation from May to the end of October, because the NT ‘wet’ season makes most roads impassable and the buffalo country waterlogged for the rest of the year.

Buffaloes are found in the plains country east of Darwin, where they wallow in the paperbark swamps. They go into the swamps at sunrise and leave at sunset, and it is then that shooting is attempted. Let John Gaden, who, with his brother Neil, shot 1,000 beasts in ten weeks at Marrakai, about 50 miles south-east of Darwin, this season, describe the methods used:— ‘Bulls three years and over   are shot. In the latter part of the year, when the plains dry up, most of the hunting is from horseback. Before this, scrub shooting is done on horseback and motor cars used at the edges of the swamps. ‘We gallop up when the herd starts, pick out a bull— identified by distinctive horns and thick neck— and follow right on his tail. When the horse’s nose is just about touching the buffalo’s tail, we swing out and shoot him with a 303 bullet in the spine. ‘The idea is for the shooter to cripple and continue his run through the herd. He then finishes off any bulls he has felled. The best run our plant has done is 29 bulls, and it averages 17 or 18 a day.

We have good reason for shooting to cripple rather than to kill outright. It is essential to skin quickly after death because the hide of a dead bull wrinkles quickly and is practically useless if left more than about an hour. The native skinners are close behind the shooter when he shoots the wounded animals, Neil and I have skinned a bull in six to seven minutes. A good skinner can average 10 minutes. ‘Green’ skins are a half to two-thirds as heavy as when dried, the average dried hide on the East Alligator River country being 80-90 lb. It is common, however, to see dry hides weighing 150 lb. At present these bring about 1/1 a lb. in Darwin. ‘Pack horses each take about two hides to camp, where the hides are thrown in water to remove wallow mud, blood and any surplus fat. They are stacked, salted and turned every day for a week. After sprays to combat blowflies and weevils, they are left to dry for another day and are ready for shipment from Darwin. I understand America and Turkey take many of our hides, which are often used for shoe making and upholstery. Frequently, when examining carcases, we find 303 bullets which have entered the hide, but have barely penetrated the flesh and have done the animal no harm. Falls are commonplace, even with horses which know the country. I had five falls this season and Neil seven, continued John. There are buffalo wallows all over the plains, and hoof imprints made during the ‘wet’ become traps when the country dries. Horses’ fetlocks are often red-raw after a run if they are not well shod.’

The young Gadens are buffalo shooters of the third generation. Their mother’s father, Fred Smith, began shooting just after the First World War, and their father Hazel Gaden, hunted from 1922 to 1937. John, now only 19, started at the age of 15. Hazel Gaden and Clarrie Wilkinson, the present manager of Marrakai station, where much of the buffalo shooting is done, hold the record for the number shot in a season— a few under 5,000 in the late ‘twenties. But the Gadens graciously bow to the fame of half-caste Charlie Witty. He joined Hazel Gaden when about 17 and, at 45, is still shooting. ‘He has probably shot more buffaloes than any other man in the world,’ said John. ‘He can shoot or skin either hand, shoot from any angle on a horse, one or two handed, or on foot. He and a black boy shot 45 buffaloes in 15 minutes one day. Another time, when after five bulls, his horse fell three times. He still bagged the bulls. This year he got 17 in a run by himself. He and two boys skinned, packed and took them to camp and salted them.’

Gerry Randall has had some ‘fun’ in his career as a shooter. Here is his description of the routine operation of crippling a bull, travelling, perhaps, at nearly 30 mph. ‘When you fire, the bull’s back legs shoot straight out backwards and down be goes. A good shooting horse will jump away to left or right as necessary immediately the rifle cracks to avoid tangling with the large horn spread of some of these bulls.’ Gerry plumps for swamp jungle shooting on foot or horseback as the most dangerous for the buffalo hunter. ‘A horse is at a disadvantage, as a buffalo can move much faster in swamp lands,’ he says. ‘I have been stalking bulls in heavy swamp jungle, and have walked within a few feet of one, much too close to risk swinging up the rifle for a shot. ‘The strategy is to continue on, feigning not to have seen him and praying he’ll rely on camouflage until the shooter can swing quickly and fire from 15 to 20 feet. Gerry has an interesting plan to utilise the thousands of carcases left to rot after skinning every year. With two partners, he hopes to get permission to build a factory on the Mary River in buffalo lands to process carcases into meat meal, bone meal and fertilisers. And what of the meat for eating? ‘Buffalo beef is the only meal the hunters eat during the sea son,’ says John Gaden. Randall asserts that, when the beast is domesticated; the beef compares more than favor ably with Territory cattle beef. And why not? The ancestors of the first NT buffaloes were introduced from the Indies in the 1830’s to provide meat supplies for the early Port Essington garrison.[236]

Sadly by the time this article had appeared in a South Australian newspaper, a motor vehicle accident, not a crocodile attack nor a fall from a horse nor a gore from a buffalo, had led to the death of Hazel’s son and Neil’s brother John in March 1950.

GADEN, John. On March 19, at Darwin hospital, result of motor accident, John, dearly beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Gaden and brother of Madge, Neil, Frank, Eileen, Hazel and Peter, aged 19 years 10 months. R.I.P.[237]

THE GADEN family wish to sincerely thank Doctor Nally, nursing staff, including ambulance driver, Constables Lionel McFarland, W. Condon, priests, Waratah football club, all kind relatives and friends for floral tributes, letters, cards, telegrams and personal expressions of sympathy in the sad loss of their dear son and brother John. Will all please accept this as our personal expression of gratitude and sincere thanks.[238]

John was buried in the Gardens Cemetery Darwin in Row 8X, the simple marble headstone now sadly broken. [239]

Gravestone jpg


Less than two months later Hazel Frederick Gaden also died; he did not reach the age of sixty. What a dreadful time for the family.


GADEN. On May 16th. At Darwin Hospital, Hazel Frederick, beloved Husband of Ada Mary Gaden and loving Father of Margaret, Neil, Frank, Eileen, John (deceased), Hazel and Peter. Aged 58 years. R.I.P.

GADEN–Mrs. Gaden and family wish to sincerely thank Rev. Fathers Henschke, Flynn and Bailey. Also all kind relatives and friends for floral tributes, telegrams, letters, cards and personal expressions of sympathy in their recent sad loss of Her Husband and their Father.

GADEN-Mrs. Gaden and Family wish to sincerely thank, the Doctors, Sisters, Nurses and Orderlies of the Darwin Hospital for their kind attention and care to her late Husband and their Father during his time in Hospital.[240]

The local newspaper reported his death


Born 58 years ago, Mr. Hazel Frederick Gaden died in the Darwin Hospital on Tuesday. Mr. Gaden lived more than 28 years in the Territory and during that time engaged in many activities including cattle work and buffalo shooting. He was also a foundation partner in the old “Ice and Cold Storage” butchery.

Mr. Gaden was buried on Wednesday and Northern Standard on behalf of Territory residents extends sympathy to his sorrowing family and relatives.[241]

Hazel Gaden was buried in the Gardens Cemetery Darwin in Row 657.[242]


It appears that John Gaden had been a land holder and no doubt things had to be sorted out legally following his death a few months earlier


Pastoral Lease No 136, Register Book Volume 1, Folio 33.

Registered Proprietor: John Gaden.

UNLESS Caveats be lodged with the undersigned on or be- fore 8th December, 1950, a provisional copy as by law directed will be issued in respect of the Title described above, which has been declared to have been lost or destroyed to the said registered proprietor.


So it was now up to Neil to carry on the business with neither the guiding hand of his father nor the support of his brother.

News from Katherine Mr. Joe Troubridge, well known jeweler of Adelaide, and Mr. Arthur Hiles of the Shell Co. have also been in Katherine. Joe, whose trip to the North proved exciting, said it was the best trip he had ever undertaken.


While on a buffalo hunt out from Adelaide River, Joe saw Buffalo-shooter Neil Gaden attacked by a wounded bull. Although slightly grazed by the bull. Neil, who had tripped, coolly raised his rifle and, using only one hand, shot the beast when it charged again. Joe was very enthusiastic about this feat. He now realises that buffalo hunting is a hazardous affair, and that near-accidents are an everyday occurrence. The party also bagged six crocodiles.[244]

And Neil returned from a holiday down south to resume shooting for the 1951 season.

Neil Gaden and Ken Pentan of DCA, Darwin, visited Katherine last weekend. Neil, well known to many here, is looking fit after his prolonged holiday when he visited southern capitals. He is anticipating another good season shooting, buffaloes, on Annaburoo this coming season.[245]

But the writing was on the wall for the demise of the industry. Jervis had already reported on the declining number, and this 1951 ‘letter to the editor’ was signed Buffalo Shooter … was it written by one of the men Jervis had interviewed or another who had formerly made a living from the killing these animals?

(To the Editor.)

The time has come when the facts on the buffalo shooting industry, should be revealed so that the public can take a hand in stopping the wholesale slaughter that goes on. Obviously the Protector and the Administrator will not take such action.

A shooter’s license states clearly that he can kill buffaloes of three years and over, but no one seems to enforce this law with the result that buffaloes are being slaughtered regardless of age or sex.

The average weight for good bull hides is around the 80 lbs. mark, yet last season hides from one station averaged only 40 lbs.

One can imagine the cows and under-grown buffaloes killed to get such a low average.

Some of the shooters are in the game for only a season or two and they want to make as much as they can with the prices so high.

If the once great herds are to be preserved and built up again, then the season should be closed for at least two or three years to allow for breeding. One way to ensure this would be to prohibit the sale of buffalo hides.


Meanwhile life continued at pace for Neil’s sisters. Earlier in 1951 Eileen became a patient in the Darwin hospital where she worked, the local newspaper reporting that her cheerful personality was missed from the switchboard.[247]

A year later, in February 1952, Eileen was married and young Hazel was a bridesmaid:

Important event of the week was the wedding of Miss Eileen Gaden to Mr. Leonard Cossons, on Saturday last. The bride’s frock was a beautiful cream lace over satin, and the bridesmaids, Miss Hazel Gaden and Misses Marie and Rae Piersenne, wore champagne taffeta trimmed with red roses, matched with lovely crinoline picture hats. Best man was Mr. Ray Blake and the groomsmen Mr. Ted Egan and Mr. Ron Smith. Bride was given away by her younger brother, Peter. The reception, which was most ably catered for by the bride’s mother, was held at the Palais, and about 350 guests attended. The happy couple left to spend their honeymoon at Lake Nash, where Constable Cossons will now be stationed.[248]

Later that year Hazel was bridesmaid at another wedding, one which united two old Darwin families, when Sheila, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Felix Spain, was married to Spurgeon, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Nichols.

The bridesmaid, Miss Hazel Gaden (another member of a very old Darwin family) wore pale yellow spotted net over satin with a matching veil of tulle, and carried a posy of maize coloured roses with satin ribbons and trimmed with for- get-me-nots.[249]

And in the last month of 1952 Hazel was again a bridesmaid to friends Kay Anthony, daughter of popular Territorians Mr. and Mrs. Bob Anthony, and Owen Cevasca at the Roman Catholic Church. This day the three bridesmaids wore contrasting coloured dresses:

Hazel Gaden was in a lemon frock, also of nylon tulle, with a red rose bouquet.[250]

Over the following months Hazel was often mentioned in ‘Diana’s Diary’, a social column in the local newspaper with all the weddings, parties, balls and other community events reported and soon there appeared mention of sister Eileen again:

Many Darwinites who will remember Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Cossons of Pine Creek (Mrs. Cossons was formerly Eileen Gaden) will be pleased to learn that they have named their new arrival John Leonard.[251]

On 12 March 1967 matriarch Ada Gaden died [252] at the age of 71 and was buried with her son John in row 8X rather than with her husband Hazel.[253] The broken headstone was photographed by John Richards. [254]

The Gaden family was honoured a year later when Darwin City Council named “Gaden Park” in their recognition. It is located at Jingili, Nightcliff, S 12° 23′, E 130° 52′.

Named after the Gaden family of the NT Jack, Hazel and Hazel’s wife, Ada Mary. The Gaden brothers were buffalo shooters of the Alligator River area in the 1920’s. Ada Gaden who died in 1967 spent much of her life in the buffalo camps where she reared her children. She lived in the area known as Kapalga today, and was the first white woman to live there and Aborigines gave a corroboree to welcome her.[255]

Gaden Park is on Freshwater Road in the suburb of Jingili. Opposite the Park is the intersection of Ada Street. The other end of Ada Street intersects with Gaden Circuit which has a second entrance from Pickford Street.[256]


At Oenpelli in 1912, Baldwin Spencer found that the men and women were known by their native names, he commented that on most stations they used adopted English ones.[257] It is understood it was very common practice for indigenous men to take their employer’s surname as very often their tribal name could have five or six syllables which were real tongue twisters and practically unpronounceable to the average bushman. Cole recalled that Agnalpullaalpunsha was abbreviated to ‘Punchy’, ‘Butcher’ Knight was Namandarrarrk [258]and Bill Neidjie was born in Alawanydajawany and possibly also known by that name,[259] Nili-Ah-Chi-Mirri was known as ‘Scissors Jesus’ and Koperaki’s son Niogo also used the name ‘Carl Warburton’.[260] This taking your employer’s name is not unlike the development of British surnames from an occupation (Baker, Carpenter) or a location (Woodland, Ford). [261]

In the Northern Territory Archives there are photographs taken in 1968 of indigenous men with the surname Gaden. There was also another Gaden discovered in hospital records. He was Paddy Marib Gaden from Meneling Station (Batchelor area) who died of Pulmonary TB aged 60 on 21 September 1960 in Darwin Hospital. Was he a brother of these two men? [262] Were they from Bill Neidjie’s Bunitj Clan? Were they fathered by one of the buffalo hunting Gaden men? Did they work for a Gaden and so take their employer’s name as their ‘working’ name rather than use their traditional name?

bone room jpgOld boning room, Jimmy’s Creek, Point Stuart Station. Left to right: Neil Gaden; Harry Gaden; German boner. Date: 1968 [263]

Mick GadenJPG

Mick Gaden sharpening a knife, Jimmy’s Creek, Point Stuart Station. Date: 1968 [264] The census advises that Mick Gaden of Jimmy Creek Abattoir was born in 1925, he was from the Gunwinggu tribe and was part of the Nangarit Group and his Aboriginal name was Najardin.[265]



My quest to learn more of a Robin Gaden, buffalo shooter and crocodile hunters of the Northern Territory was almost exhausted when I finally came across a buffalo hunter called Robin who worked for Neil Gaden. He was mentioned in a 1951 Melbourne newspaper.

The author, a mounted constable of the Northern Territory Police, tells of his debut in a thrilling sport of experts

“I hunted buffalo” says R. F. SAVAGE

BUFFALO BILL shot his last buffalo more than fifty years ago. His Australian counterparts are on the job as you read these lines. Their horseback hunting technique is identical; but the modern .303 rifle is more powerful than the old Winchester .44. The water buffalo is a bigger animal than the American bison. Whether he is tougher is a matter of opinion. According to old Territorians he’s plenty tough enough.

Among the wide variety of Australian sports there is no pastime to equal the thrill of a buffalo hunt. Most sporting followers, particularly tourists, confine their enthusiasms to the role of spectator. But recently, on a visit to a hunting camp, I proved the exception. The hunter, Neil Gaden, was surprised when I told him that I was determined to shoot a buffalo from a galloping horse. It was no trouble to him – he had been reared in a shooting camp.

Since he couldn’t talk me out of it, he agreed to take me along as his number three shooter for a day. Number two was Robin, a smart young aborigine who was nearly as proficient as his boss. Neil and Robin were both mounted on hand-fed ponies, which were in tip-top condition. I rode the “visitor’s horse”; not a bad nag, but grass fed.

The two professionals carried cut-down .303 rifles – light and powerful – the ideal weapon for one-handed shooting from a horse. My own armament was a heavy .45 automatic pistol; much more convenient than a rifle, but less powerful. We were after old bulls. Northern Territory legislation prohibits the destruction of cows, calves, or bulls under three years old.

After riding for nine miles we struck a patch of “fresh” country, and there on a distant plain saw a small mob of buffaloes. Like most wild game these animals possess a very keen sense of smell. Unfortunately we were riding down- wind. We were a mile distant, but our scent startled them into a trot. Our horses moved off at a brisk canter, rapidly shortening the buffaloes’ lead. In a few fast minutes we were less than a hundred yards behind. “Righto!” Nell shouted. “Now’s your chance, Bob. Take the big bull in the lead!”

I sooled my horse along, jumping logs and gullies, dodging trees and quickly overtaking my mobile target. Cows and calves and young bulls scattered as I rode up close. We by-passed them and headed straight after the old bull. At ten yards range I fired. The target was enormous, but I missed! Shooting from a galloping horse is no mug’s game. I fired again, and again. Dust spurted from the buffalo’s back, but he never faltered in his stride. I emptied the magazine at his spine – he galloped on unconcernedly. “Up closer!” shouted Neil from behind. I jammed another magazine into the automatic and spurred my horse up level with the buffalo’s rump. I fired twice. The firing pin clicked on a faulty cartridge. I reined back, ejected the dud, and galloped on again.

“Closer, this time!” shouted Neil, like an angry schoolmaster. So I got close. The horse’s shoulder was barely three inches from the buffalo’s flank. The pistol blasted and bucked. I could see blood seeping from several wounds on the buffalo’s back, but his spine was uninjured.

Then everything happened at once. A voice yelled “Look out!” The buffalo lunged sideways, hooking viciously at the horse with his wide horns. I reefed the left rein, leant over hard, and almost fell off as my mount side-stepped at lightning speed. The buffalo propped, and balled up. I galloped on for fifty yards with an empty gun in my hand. Neil was level with me, and handed me his rifle to finish my kill. The buffalo was not pawing the dirt or bellowing. He stood his ground with his head raised defiantly. He was liable to charge at any moment. I fired quickly, killing him instantly with a shot between the eyes.

ROBIN stuck his skinning knife into the carcase and laughingly remarked “That one little gun all the same mosquito. Makem big fella row; only killem little bit.” As Neil skinned the hide from the back he said: “Look at this, you’ve only been stinging him. Those blunt pistol bullets haven’t even bruised the bone.” He was right – the buffalo’s bone structure was too tough for my .45.

We unsaddled our horses and lit a fire for our dinner camp. The packhorse plant soon came jogging into view – they were to follow us throughout the day picking up the hides that we bagged. About 2.30 p.m. we set out again, the horses moving along smartly, refreshed by their spell. The first two bulls we sighted galloped into a belt of timber. We were closing on their heels, Nell after one, Robin the other. Both horses drew level with the buffaloes. The riders swung their rifles down with a sweeping motion that ended with a blasting report. The two buffaloes crashed to the ground, both with their spines shattered.

Just as they fell, another two broke cover, heading further into the scrub. I killed both the wounded animals quickly with a pistol bullet through the comparatively thin bone structure of their skulls. In a few seconds I drew level with Robin again. He had wounded a tough old bull, but lost him in the thick scrub.

We rode back to where he had fired the first shot, and there on the ground found splashes of fresh blood and the deep hoof prints of a galloping buffalo. Robin rode along with his eyes glued on the ground – mine were glued on the undergrowth, expecting to see a pair of horns in every bush. We saw him just as he charged. “Look out! Buffalo come!” yelled Robin as his pony bounded away. My horse had evidently been ridden by crack shots- he nonchalantly stood his ground, obviously expecting me to drop the buffalo in his tracks. I should have spurred him away, but strangely enough I shared his confidence.

I fired a rapid burst at the buffalo’s head.

He came on.

For a split second I stared at him, absolutely ‘amazed that I should miss at such short range.

I fired again – the mechanism slammed back . . . empty!

My spurs slashed the horse from shoulder to rump. He reared forward as the charging buffalo thundered past, missing his back legs by inches. Trees seemed to reach out trying to knock me out of the saddle. Branches scratched me. I clucked and dodged as my mount bolted through the scrub with the crazy bull buffalo close at its heels. We struck an open patch, and did we clock record time! The wounded buffalo wasn’t in the event. Robin was following close behind with his rifle ready. He used it. The buffalo charged no more.

AS I CANTERED back to the carcase, Robin greeted me with a huge grin. “Proper good fun, that one,” he chuckled, “All the same Hopalong Cassidy,”

“No more,” I replied. “That one cowboy bin shoot ’em properly.”

“You bin shootem properly,” he answered, “Look!”

With his skinning knife he dug out three pistol bullets: one from the buffalo’s neck, the other from its brisket, and the third about an inch under its left eye. The bullets hadn’t missed – the buffalo was just tough – and determined. [266]



The Northern Territory government was obviously trying to keep a census of the local Indigenous population. They noted:

Leaning Tree Lagoon camp, 10.10.1967 NB Ten miles north of Marakai Road on new Mt Morgan Mining Road.

It is known that there are at least ten people living at this camp -including Mickey Gaden and the two children mentioned on the Waldock’s Camp Census. However at the time of visit there were no people in the vicinity although they were definitely in residence. There is little likelihood of another visit before the wet season.

In 1968 Mickey Gaden, a  Gunwinggu man, with his wife Ruby, a Gargadju woman (both born 1925) and child Amy were listed at Jimmy Creek Abattoirs.

From the 22nd to 25th June, 1970, an inspection and survey of Aboriginal camps within the Darwin area was carried out…..

  1. One Mile DAM and Japanese Beach Area

There were 15 people living in this area. This number always varies considerably and in the main is composed of Delissaville people. At the time of inspection, the following people were present: (15 names)

This area can hardly be described as a camp, as the occupants are simply living in the mangroves without any shelter. The area is strewn with broken bottles and glass, but by nightfall, most of the occupants are in such a condition that they would probably be content to sleep on the broken glass.[267]

What a sad reflection on their treatment and the effects of alcohol on these disinherited people.

That Robin went by the surname Gaden appears to be confirmed by these same Darwin Aboriginal Population records which show the following information for McKinley Camp at Mt Bundey in 1968:

Robin Gaden, born 1930, Aboriginal name: Namarana, Group: Nabangardi, Tribe: Gargadju

Ruby Gaden, wife, born 1935, Aboriginal name: Nungandalala, Group: Nalwamut, Tribe: Gunwinggu

Sarah Gaden, child, born 1955, Aboriginal name: Murungweima, Group: Nalnarit, Tribe: Gargadju

Kevin Gaden, single male, born 1951, Aboriginal name: Gunbul, Group: Nabangardi, Tribe: Gunwinggu [268]

And in 1971 Robin Gaden was ‘ex Humpty Doo’ and listed as coming from Oenpelli with his wife at Oenpelli.

So at last I think I’ve found my Gagudju-Kakadu Man called Robin Gaden.


I started this tale with the story of Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton needing a runway cleared so he could take a man to hospital from the Gaden’s place at Brock’s Creek.

I end this tale with the story of Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton needing a runway cleared so he could take one of the Gaden men to hospital from Kapalga.

In 1937 Tom Cole wrote:

I settled in for the wet season and on December 11 a boy woke me up in the middle of the night with a letter from Cowboy Collins who had joined Jack Gaden. It seemed Gaden was seriously ill; could I get a message through to the Flying Doctor? First things first. At the crack of dawn next day I carted a couple of forty four gallon drums to the river, lashed them together and slid them into the water. I put a couple of boys aboard with a letter to Oenpelli Mission, asking them to get in touch with the Flying Doctor with their pedal radio. I watched them until they had disappeared into the mangroves. They had a forty-odd mile walk. I reckoned that with Collins and his boys we could hack an aerodrome out before Fenton arrived.

I then set off for Gaden’s camp about 20 miles away. He was in a bad way right enough, it seemed like appendicitis so we put him in the back of the truck and started back.

With twenty boys we worked all that afternoon and all night and by midday the next day reckoned we had a suitable landing (if not taking-off) ground.

My truck had taken a battering. In order to put in a short cut the axe-men would cut nearly through a tree then I would back into it with the truck, knock it over and drag it to one side. I was under my truck tightening up U bolts that held the body on when I heard Collins call out “Jesus Christ! He’s here!” I knew who he was talking about, of course.

It was twelve months before I saw Jack Gaden again. Obviously the operation was successful.[269]

My mission was to find Robin Gaden, a Northern Territory buffalo hunter in the 1950s and learn more about the Gaden men who were buffalo hunters of the Northern Territory. I found brothers Jack and Hazel Gaden who were part of the industry before the outbreak of the Second World War and Hazel’s son Neil Gaden who hunted buffalo after the war with his Aboriginal off-sider Robin. I think I’ve completed my task.

When Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced it was his ‘melancholy duty’ to inform the Australian people that they were ‘at war with Germany’ it signaled the decline of shooting buffalo for their hides in the Northern Territory.

After Darwin was bombed by the Japanese, the prisoners were released from the gaol, under a general amnesty for Aboriginal prisoners. Butcher, the man who killed Bill Jennings, was among them. He subsequently worked on Mt Bundie station which was adjacent to Marrakai where he had shot Jennings and Jack Gaden.[270]



After the end of the war buffalo shooting resumed for a decade with an annual yield of 12,000 hides, somewhat below the peak of 16,500 at the peak in the late 1930’s. Hazel’s sons Neil and John were part of the industry at this time as was the indigenous man Robin who worked for the Gaden shooters. Sadly John died in 1950 and we do not know what Neil did after the collapse of the market which foundered completely in 1956-57 following the Suez Crisis. [271] By then new synthetic materials were available to make the machinery belts for which the hides had previously been used. It could also be made into fake leather which had none of the durability of the real thing but was cheaper which appealed to a wider market. This brought an end to the buffalo hide industry. [272] Buffalo were allowed to be shot for meat but only if the carcase was delivered to the meat works within an hour. They were killed in small batches and taken by truck to the works. The hide became an abattoir by-product, it was sliced into three layers, the outer layer was used for seat covering in luxury cars, the middle layer and neck hide was used in machinery belting and for windmill buckets and in saddlery and the inner layer became ladies purses and handbags.[273]

Animals have also been caught by motor vehicle, initially with a rope over the horns, flicking it between the front legs and then using the vehicle to pull the animal to a standstill. Subsequently the much safer bionic arm was developed. It was located on the front right hand side of the vehicle and opens up as the driver moves alongside the animal, the arm then clamps round the neck and shoulder of the buffalo, immobilising and holding it firmly and safely for the driver and with no injury to the buffalo which can then be slowly ‘walked’ to the pick-up vehicle.[274]

Some animals were also shot for meat to supply several Arnhem Land settlements and also for the pet meat industry.[275]

In the Northern Territory crocodile hunting was banned in the early 1970s, [276] but poaching still occurs as Darrell Lewis found on a trek through Fitzmaurice Valley in 1994 when there was not an animal to be seen despite the Conservation Rangers saying that in the previous year you could have walked from back to back on them in the waterholes. [277]

In northern Australia in the 1970’s and 1980’s there was a controversial tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication programme focusing on bovines. Australia had to become free of the two diseases to assure its place in the world-wide export market for the long term, but inevitably there was short term pain to be endured. However the plan adopted was remarkably effective in providing the solution.[278]

In some areas the buffalo were mustered and tested, sometimes the adjacent property carried buffalo which could not be mustered and all had to be shot. Buffalo were killed in their thousands, about 600,000 in all, as some of the herds spot tested had as much as 30% incidence of TB. Areas such as Arnhem Land which produced zero incidence when spot tested were never touched. [279]

Overall only a relatively few buffalo survived the cull but those which did have gradually bred up again into greater numbers.

Today, in some instances, these feral buffalo are becoming an unexpected problem in Arnhem Land where they are causing degradation of the grasslands and damage to the landscape. Here there are galleries of ancient rock art and the feral buffalo and wild cattle use some of these rock galleries for shelter. The animals can rub against delicate art works and pulverize valuable artifacts left on the ground.[280]

So far no solution has been devised but it may be that the local people can develop a Live Export Market for these animals to countries like Vietnam. In December 2014 a ship load of live buffalo became part of an export of 4500 of the animals sent to Vietnam, just a few of the estimated 140,000 animals roaming wild in Arnhem Land. There is a current study to look at sustainable management of the animals to improve the  environmental, economic and social life of the Indigenous people.[281]

On a 2014 visit to the “Window on the Wetlands” at Adelaide River we learned that the Fogg Dam Rice Project of the 1950’s had failed after a couple of years but the buildings in the area were now used for researching water buffalo. These are disease-free animals which are being managed to produce high quality meat for domestic consumption and for export interstate and overseas. Buffalo apparently become quiet very quickly when yarded and many men who work with them have great affection for them; they are highly intelligent animals and have a family structure. [282] Buffalo meat, milk and mozzarella-style cheese have now entered the gourmet market. So much so that a Victorian farmer in Gippsland has established a buffalo milking herd, receiving $2.50 per litre in comparison with 20 – 40 cents per litre for cow’s milk.[283]

So the animals are now used more for their meat and milk than their hides; they no longer roam freely, they are managed; they are slaughtered humanely; there are no more wild pursuits by horseback across the grasslands of Kakadu.

Shooting buffalo from horseback is an occupation unlikely to ever be repeated in the future, unless it is the shooting of photographs.

And the very last words come from the pen of the much loved Australian poet ‘Banjo’ Paterson:-


Out where the grey streams glide,

Sullen and deep and low,

And the alligators slide

From the mud to the depths below

Or drift on the stream like a floating death,

Where the fever comes on the South wind’s breath,

There is the buffalo.


Out on the big lagoon,

Where the Regia lilies float,

And the Nankin heron croons

With a deep ill-omened note,

In the ooze and the mud of the swamps below

Lazily wallows the buffalo,

Buried to nose and throat.


From the hunter’s gun he hides

In the jungles dark and damp,

Where the slinking dingo glides

And the flying foxes camp;

Hanging like myriad fiends in line

Where the trailing creepers twist and twine

And the sun is a sluggish lamp.


On the edge of the rolling plains

Where the coarse cane grasses swell,

Lush with the tropic rains

In the moon-tide’s drowsy spell,

Slowly the buffalo grazes through

Where the brolgas dance, and the jabiru

Stands like a sentinel.


All that the world can know

Of the wild and the weird is here,

Where the black men come and go

With their boomerang and spear,

And the wild duck darken the evening sky

As they fly to their nests in the reedbeds high

When the tropic night is near.

Buffalo head sketch jpg





Birnberg, M. (2011) What is Aboriginal Art? Marleston, South Australia, JB Publishing.

Buchanan, R, (1997) On the tracks of Old Bluey, the life story of Nat Buchanan, Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press.

Cole, T., (1999) Crocodiles and other characters, short stories by Tom Cole, Sydney, Sun-Pan Macmillan.

Cole, T., (2013) Hell West and Crooked, the memoir of a real life Crocodile Dundee, Sydney, Angus and Robertson Classics.

Cole, T., (1993) Riding the Wildman Plains, the letters and diaries of Tom Cole 1923-1943, Sydney, Pan Macmillan.

Fenton, C., (2001) Flying Doctor, Facsimile edition, Darwin, Dept Lands, Planning and Environment of Northern Territory.

Gaden, C. (2014) Balcombe, Burchell, Bonaparte, Bent Street and Beyond, the story of the First Colonial Treasurer of NSW, Armidale, self published.

Hema Map (2013) Top End and Gulf , a 4WD Explorer Map, 6th Edition.

Hoatson, D., and others, (2000) Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, Northern Territory, Canberra, Geoscience Australia.

Ingham, A.M., (2009) Wild Cattle, Wild Country, Old mates and memories from the Top End,  Canberra, Halstead Press.

Lewis, D. (2012)    A Wild History, Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier, Victoria, Monash University Publishing.

Lewis, R. (2009) An introduction to the Dreamtime,  Marleston, South Australia, Gecko Books

Lockwood, D, (1959) Crocodiles and other people, London, Cassell and Co.

Makin, J, (1999) The Big Run, the story of Victoria River Downs Station, Marleston, South Australia, Gecko Books.

Neidjie, B., (2007) Gagudju Man, Marleston, South Australia, Gecko Books.

Paterson, AB, & Lindsay, N, (1970) The Animals Noah Forgot, Melbourne, Lansdowne Press.

Spencer, Sir B, (2008) Kakadu People, compiled, edited and published by David M Welch, Australian Aboriginal Culture Series no. 3, Virginia, NT, Australia.

Stewart, A, (no date) Harry Stewart: Glimpses of a life – the Northern Territory Years and Harry Stewart: Glimpses of a life – The War Years, unpublished manuscripts.

Walsh, G., (2004) On the Wallaby, Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press.

Warburton, C., (2009)  Buffaloes: Adventures in Arnhem Land, 3rd edition edited by DA Roberts and A Parker, Marleston, South Australia, Gecko Books.


All newspaper references were from the National Library of Australia’s brilliant Trove web site: via the Advanced Search function for newspapers


The photographs from the collection of the Northern Territory Library were published with their permission. They were taken from the ‘Northern Territory Stories’ section and found online at where XXXXX is as follows:-

XXXXX          Subject                         Collection                                Reference

4119                Mick Gaden                 N& J Grice collection              PH0631/0088

8598                Boning room                N& J Grice collection              PH0631/0087

13887              Tom Cole 1                  Mayse Yonge collection                      PH0200/0401

16167              Buffalo skins               Mayse Yonge collection                      PH0200/0442

25384             Harpooned crocodile   Ted Ryko collection                PH0055/0016

25795             N Gaden with buffalo    CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0167

26485             Buffalo hides               CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0194

27117             Trucks                         CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0196

27448              Camp                           CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0178

27998              Drover  Gaden             BC Mettam collection              PH0429/0182

28065              Neil Gaden                  CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0195

28492             Tom Cole                     Clive Keetly collection                 PH0326/0001

30962              Crocodile                     CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0213

31638              N Gaden camp             CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0180

32427              Disabled buffalo          Ted Ryko collection                PH0055/0044

32927              Buffalo                            CW MacPherson collection      PH0346/0178

33356             Disabled buffalo          Turner collection                     PH0382/0072

33420              Fred Smith’s champion            Ted Ryko collection      PH0055/0026

33509              Crocodiles  Maroubra  JT &A Turner collection          PH0382/0066

57478              Yorky Billy Alderson  Douglas Lockwood collection PH0501/0758


Three other black and white images used were photographs of photographs in Tom Cole’s book Riding the Wildman Plain.

Other photographs were taken by B & C Gaden in the Northern Territory in 2014.

End notes:

[1] Bill Neidjie, (2007) Gagudju Man, Marleston, South Australia, Geckho, p18-20.

 [2] Hema Map Top End and Gulf, a 4WD Explorer Map, 6th Edition.

 [3] and  Grove Hill was on the main railway line north, 62 km north west of Pine Creek and 68 km south east of Adelaide River.

 [4] Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton, Flying Doctor, First edition, Melbourne, Georgian House, 1947, Facsimile edition 2001, Dept Lands, Planning and Environment, p 65-67. (ISBN 0 7245 0531 8, available from the Katherine Museum).

 [5] Tom Cole, Hell West and Crooked, the memoir of a real life Crocodile Dundee, Angus and Robertson Classics, Harper Collins, 2013, p. 183-9.

 [6] Northern Territory Times 18 December 1928 and 28 December 1928.

 [7] Extensive family history research by the author.

 [8] New South Wales BDM records at

[9] South Australian Advertiser, 27 January 1879.

[10] South Australian BDM records at

[11] Trove website Advanced Search facility <;

[12] Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 1890.

[13] Western Grazier (Wilcannia), 5 May 1905

[14] Bendigo Advertiser, 27 May 1910.

[15] Brisbane Courier, 11 November 1912.


[17] NSW State Records Convict Index.


65&frm=1&query= Surname:gadon;Firstname:john.


[20] Border Watch 25 April 1868 and 2 May 1868

[21] West Australian BDM records at and South Australian BDM records at


[23]Telephone conversation with Jeff Gaden of Darwin, November 2014.

 [24]Anne Marie Ingham, Wild Cattle, Wild Country, Old mates and memories from the Top End,  Halstead Press, Canberra, 2009, p. 200.

 [25] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 204-5.

 [26] Jock Makin, The Big Run, the story of Victoria River Downs Station, 1999, Gecko Books (Marlston, South Australia) p. 29.

 [27] Photographs by Bob and Caroline Gaden, Limmen NP, 8 June 2014 and road to Gunlom Falls, 15 July 2014.


 [29] AB Banjo Patterson, Buffalo Shooting in Australia, Sydney Mail, 7 January 1899.

 [30] Carl Warburton, Buffaloes: Adventures in Arnhem Land, 3rd edition edited by DA Roberts and A Parker, 2009, Gecko Books (Marlston, South Australia) p. x.

 [31] Ingham, p. 201.

 [32] Dean Hoatson and others, Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, Northern Territory, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, 2000, p 24-25.

 [33] and and

 [34] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 206-7.


 [36] Gerald Walsh, (2004) On the Wallaby, Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press, p. 64.

 [37] Hoatson, Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, p. 24 -25.

 [38] Tom Cole Crocodiles and other characters, short stories by Tom Cole, Sun Pan Macmillan, Sydney, 1992,  p. 26.

 [39]Sir Baldwin Spencer, Kakadu People, Australian Aboriginal Culture Series No. 3, edited and published by David M Welch Virginia Northern Territory, p. 46.

 [40] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. xiii and  p. 121.

 [41] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, pp. 206-7 and p. 331.

 [42] Neidjie, Gagudju Man, p.2 and p.11.

[42a] Douglas Lockwood, I the Aboriginal, Rigby Press, Sydney, 1962.


 [44] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 82.

 [45] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 249.

 [46] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 180-85.

 [47] Bobbie Buchanan, (1997) On the tracks of Old Bluey, the life story of Nat Buchanan, Central Queensland University Press, Rockhampton,  p. 83.

 [48] Tom Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, the letters and diary of Tom Cole 1923-1943, Sun Books, Sydney, 1993, p. 54.

 [49] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 59.

 [50] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 249.

 [51] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 249.

 [52] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 121.

 [53] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 222-3.

 [54] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 121 and Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 212.

 [55] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 212.

 [56] Northern Territory Times and Gazette 22 November 1919.

 [57] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 242.

 [58] Fenton, Flying Doctor,   p 145.

[59] Douglas Lockwood, Crocodiles and other people, Cassell, London, 1959 p. 35.

 [60] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 210-213.

[61] Lockwood, p.38.

 [62] Ingham, p. 201.

 [63] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plain, p. 105.

 [64] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 119.

 [65] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plain, p. 108.

 [66] Hoatson, Kakadu and Nitmiluk National Parks, p 24-25.

[67] Ingham, p. 203.

[68] The Capricornian, 23 November 1912 and Townsville Bulletin, 16 November 1912.


[70] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 13 April 1917.


[72] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 18 March 1927.

[73] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 21 March 1919.


[75] Townsville Daily Bulletin 7 December 1934.

[76] Queensland Death registration, C3992.

[77] Queensland Death registration, C4178.

[78] Queensland Death registration, B39996.

[79] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 20 July 1912.

[80] Queensland marriage registration C2234.

[81] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 15 October 1927.


[83] Northern Standard, 22 October 1929.

[84] Northern Territory Times, 18 October 1929.

[85] Northern Standard, 18 March 1930.

 [86] Northern Standard, 3 March 1931.

 [87] Caroline Gaden, Balcombe, Burchell, Bonaparte, Bent Street and Beyond, the story of Australia’s first Colonial Treasurer, self published 2014 and Darrell Lewis A Wild History, life and death on the Victoria River Frontier, Monash University Publishing, 2012., p. 210.

 [88] Northern Standard, 27 October 1931.

 [89] Northern Standard, 15 March 1932.



 [92] Queensland death registration C4019, and

[93] Longreach Leader, 17 October 1930.

[94] Dept Veteran Affairs Nominal Roll <;

[95] The Longreach Leader, 7 November 1952.


 [97] Queensland death registration C4019, and

 [98] Queensland death registration C4019, and

 [99] Queensland birth registration C1073,

 [100] Gaden.

[101] Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 21 April 1923.

[102] Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 12 February 1924.

[103] Northern Standard, 31 December 1926.

 [104] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. xii.

 [105] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 176-7.


 [107] Northern Standard, 1 November 1921.

 [108] and Advertiser (Adelaide), 11 July 1950.

 [109] Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 11 June 1926.

 [110] Northern Standard, 6 July 1928.

 [111] Northern Standard, 22 October 1929.

 [112] Northern Territory Times, 25 October 1929.

 [113] Northern Standard, 26 January 1926.

 [114] Gaden.

 [115] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 222.

 [116] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, diary entries on many pages.

 [117] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 185.

 [118] Northern Standard,   9 October 1925.

 [119] Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 26 April 1927.

 [120] Northern Standard, 24 September 1926.

 [121] Northern Standard, 1 June 1928.

 [122] Northern Standard, 21 June 1929.

 [123] Northern Standard, 11 December 1925.

 [124] Northern Standard, 18 November 1927.

 [125] Northern Standard, 12 July 1929.

 [126] Northern Territory Times, 9 January 1931.

 [127] Northern Standard, 31 July 1931.

 [128] The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advocate, 20 July 1931.

 [129] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 222-3.

 [130] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 10 June 1932.

 [131] Northern Territory Times, 25 November 1932.

 [132] Northern Standard, 19 December 1933.

 [133] Northern Standard, 19 December 1933.

 [134] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 295.

 [135] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 101.

[136] The Argus, 4 June 1934.

 [137] Northern Standard, 5 June 1934.

 [138] The Adelaide Advertiser, 4 June 1934.

 [139] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 75.

 [140] Northern Times, 13 June 1934.


 [142] Kalgoolie Miner, 14 June 1934.

 [143] Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton, 19 June 1934.

 [144] Northern Standard, 15 June 1934.

 [145] Northern Standard, 19 June 1934.

 [146] Northern Standard, 22 June 1934.

 [147] Northern Standard, 17 July 1934.

[148] Northern Standard, 3 August 1934.

[149] Alfred Stewart, “Harry Stewart: Glimpses of a Life – The Northern Territory Years“, unpublished manuscript, personal communication to the author.

[150] Alfred Stewart, personal communication to the author and Northern Standard, 7 August 1934

[151] Northern Standard, 28 August 1934.

[152] Northern Standard, 31 August 1934.

[153] Northern Standard, 7 September 1934

[154] Northern Standard, 2 November 1934.

[155] Northern Standard, 6 November 1934.

[156] Northern Standard, 6 November 1934.

[157] Northern Standard, 13 November 1934.

[158] The Argus, 4 June 1934.

[159] Alfred Stewart, “Harry Stewart: Glimpses of a Life – The Northern Territory Years“, unpublished manuscript, personal communication to the author. p 169-170.

 [160] Northern Standard, 16 November 1934.

 [161] Northern Standard, 20 November 1934.

 [162] Northern Standard, 30 November 1934.

 [163] Northern Standard, 19 October 1934.

 [164] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 26-29.

 [165] R. Lewis, (2009) An introduction to the Dreamtime,  Marleston, South Australia, Gecko Books,  p. 11. and Margo Birnberg, (2011) What is Aboriginal Art? Marleston, South Australia, JB Publishing, p.30.

 [166] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 206.

 [167] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 298-299.

 [168] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 16-18.

 [169] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 3.

 [170] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 7

 [171] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 36

[172] Colin Brett, Waterloo Station, Northern Territory, personal communication.

 [173] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 110.

 [174] Northern Standard, 22 November 1935.

 [175] Advocate (Burnie), 26 December 1933 and Western Mail (Perth, WA), 28 December 1933.

 [176] The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, 2 March 1940.

 [177] Northern Standard, 24 December 1935.


 [179] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 314.

 [180] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains p.136.

 [181] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 320.

 [182] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 134.

 [183] Northern Standard, 1 September 1936.

 [184] Northern Standard, 11 September 1936.

 [185] Northern Standard, 16 October 1936.

 [186] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p.106.

 [187] Northern Standard, 17 November 1936.

 [188] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p.152.

 [189] Northern Standard, 13 November 1936.

 [190] Northern Standard, 20 October 1936.

 [191] Northern Standard, 26 January 1937.

 [192] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 183.

 [193] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 156-8.

 [194] Northern Standard, 2 March 1937.

 [195] Northern Standard, 2 March 1937.

 [196]  and

 [197] Northern Standard, 9 March 1937.

 [198] Northern Standard, 9 March 1937.

 [199] Northern Standard, 25 March 1937.

 [200] Northern Standard, 20 April 1937.

 [201] Northern Standard, 25 May 1937.

 [202] Darwin Standard, 12 October 1937.

 [203] The Australian Women’s Weekly, 25 April 1942.

 [204] Northern Standard, 11 May 1937.

 [205] Northern Standard, 11 June 1937.

 [206] Northern Standard, 26 October 1937.

 [207] Northern Standard, 19 November 1937.

 [208] Northern Standard, 3 December 1937.

 [209] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 322-3 and Riding the Wildman Plains p. 170-2.

 [210] Cole, Crocodiles and other characters, p. 33-34.

 [211] Northern Standard, 1 April 1938.

 [212] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 202.

 [213] Cole, Riding the Wildman Plains, p. 203 and 220 and Hell West and Crooked, p. 330.

 [214] The Australian Women’s Weekly 25 April 1942.


 [216] DVA Nominal Rolls

 [217] DVA Nominal Rolls

 [218] Queensland birth registration C1073.

[219] DVA Nominal roll and Alfred Stewart, personal communication.



 [222] Northern Standard, 20 December 1946.

 [223] Northern Standard, 28 December 1946.

 [224] Northern Standard, 7 November 1947.


 [226] Northern Standard, 30 April 1948.


 [228] Centralian Advocate, 28 May 1948.



 [231] Centralian Advocate, 9 July 1948.

 [232] Northern Standard, 22 July 1949.

 [233] Northern Standard, 3 February 1950.

 [234] Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 1949.

[235] Lockwood, p. 19-21.

 [236] Adelaide Advertiser, 11 July 1950.

 [237] Northern Standard, 24 March 1950.

 [238] Northern Standard, 24 March 1950.


 [240] Northern Standard, 19 May 1950.

 [241] Northern Standard, 19 May 1950.


 [243] Northern Standard, 10 November 1950.

 [244] Northern Standard, 11 August 1950.

 [245] Northern Standard, 9 March 1951.

 [246] Northern Standard, 18 May 1951.

 [247] Northern Standard, 20 April 1951.

 [248] Northern Standard, 29 February 1952.

 [249] Northern Standard, 3 October 1952.

 [250] Northern Standard, 5 December 1952.

 [251] Northern Standard, 27 May 1954.



 [254] Grave photograph and inscription by John Richards


 [256] and–036qvv1d-12f0b1f432594ce0a6a3cbfff01da8fe

[257] Spencer, p.54.

[258] Alfred Stewart, Harry Stewart: Glimpses of Life  – the Northern Territory years, unpublished manuscript, personal communication to the author.

 [259] Neidjie, p. 9, and

 [260] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 21 and  241, and Cole, Hell West and Crooked , p. 271.






 [266] The Argus, 18 May 1951.



 [269] Cole, Hell West and Crooked, p. 323.



 [272] Ingham, p. 204.

 [273] Ingham, p. 204-5.

 [274] Ingham, p. 207-8.

 [275] Warburton, Buffaloes, p. 242.


 [277] Darrell Lewis (2012) A Wild History, Clayton, Victoria,  Monash University Publishing, p. 294.

 [278] Ingham, p. 217.

[279] Ingham., p. 216.



[282] Ingham, p. 206.


 [284] AB Banjo Paterson, illustrated by Norman Lindsay, The Animals Noah Forgot, 1970 Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, p. 48-9.

  1. Mick James says:

    Interesting story ! I’m a member of 31st Battalion Association and am interested in finding a photo of Neil Gaden, who was in 31st Bn in WW1 and was KIA at the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916. He has no known grave. I have also noted that Hazel Frederick Gaden (Neil’s younger brother) also joined the AIF in 1916 but was discharged shortly after as being unfit because of a boyhood fall (from a dray) had rendered his right arm unfit for military duties. It is interesting that he later became a noted Buffalo Shooter.

    I’m not sure if you have both the births and deaths of the family so I list them here. If you have any leads to a photo of Neil, I would be most appreciative.

    Ann Salmon

    Born in Mount Pleasant, South Australia, Australia on 20 Jun 1859 to Joseph Salmon and Lucinda White. Ann married John Gayden and had 12 children. She passed away on 29 Oct 1935 in Thargomindah, Queensland, Australia.

    Family Members

    Joseph Salmon
    Lucinda White

    John Gayden

    Mary A Gaden
    Ethel Maria Gaden
    Blanche Annie Gaden
    Murray William Gaden
    Harriet Jane Gaden
    Mary Adelaide Gaden
    John Gaden
    Neil Gaden
    Hazel Frederick Gaden
    Alfred Gladstone Gaden
    Hugh Francis Gaden
    Eileen Constance Gaden

    • cagaden says:

      Thanks Mick…. I don’t think there is a connection between our Gaden line and that of the Buffalo and Crocodile hunting Gaden’s but, inspired by Bill Neidjie’s book, ‘Kakadu Man’, I enjoyed doing the research which resulted in my work on the family…. I can think of safer ways to earn a quid!!!

  2. Marianne Simpson says:

    Hi Caroline I came across Jack Gaden in 2011, in researching the life of my mother’s half first cousin, Bill Jennings. I wrote a small book about Bill which is now in the NSW State Library, the NLA and the Darwin Library. If you are interested to read it I would be pleased to email you a copy. (I have also had contact with Alf Stewart.) sincerely, Marianne S

    • cagaden says:

      Thanks for the offer Marianne…that would be great …. email is
      I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing about the life of the crocodile and buffalo hunters… the latter must have had great faith in their horses and the former in their whole team…. what a dangerous way of life!

  3. John Cossons says:

    Hi Caroline. Just came across this. I am the genealogist in the Gaden family (Hazel and Ada were my grandparents). There is no connection with your family from my research. Feel free to contact me privately to discuss. Cheers John C

    • cagaden says:

      Hello John
      I agree… I couldn’t find a connection between our two branches either … Poole in Dorset then Newfoundland seemed to be part of our side’s history, but I still enjoyed researching the buffalo and crocodile hunting Gadens!

    • cagaden says:

      Hello John
      Recently I was contacted by a connection to Robin Gaden who confirmed he was descended from one of the Aboriginal men who worked with Hazel and his brothers and he said my story about taking the surname of their Boss was correct and they were so pleased someone had taken the time to write about it. I found the books by Clyde ‘Doc’ Fenton to be useful and interesting too.
      All the best

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