The greatest Australian survival story never told – until now.
William Buckley was an English soldier who fought against Napoleon’s army more than 200 years ago. Convicted of stealing two pieces of cloth, he was sentenced to death and then shortly after had that sentence commuted to life. He was transported to Australia in 1803 and within months escaped from the very first penal colony set up in Port Phillip Bay.
Everyone thought he was dead until one winter’s day in 1835 he suddenly reappeared dressed in kangaroo skins, carrying a spear and with a wild mane of long hair and a huge beard. It took the first white settlers in Melbourne some time to understand him because after three decades in the wild he had forgotten the English language.
But slowly his story began to unfold, an astonishing tale of how he had been adopted by an Indigenous tribe. They believed he was the ghost of a warrior who had just died. They took him in, fed him and began to teach him their customs and their laws. He learned how to hunt and live off the land. He watched their battles with other tribes and saw a generation grow up to become old.
No other white person has ever been immersed in Aboriginal culture like Buckley. No other person in recorded history has spent more time with Indigenous people. But it turns out Buckley’s greatest battle of survival took place when he returned to so called white civilisation.
Buckley’s Chance showcases a profound journey at a turning point in history where cultures clash, bitter rivals go to war and the body count mounts.
Meet the author, Walkley-award winning journalist Garry Linnell, for the Canberra launch of Buckley’s Chance
Tickets: $15 (includes a complimentary glass of wine or juice)
Garry Linnell has been editorial director at Fairfax, editor of the Daily Telegraph and is a Walkley Award winner. He’s a fan of legends and wanted William Buckley’s legendary story to be fully told.