I thought I’d share some extra information I’ve recently chanced upon concerning one of the convict escapes featured in Tour To Hell – an ill-starred quest in 1828 by runaways in northern New South Wales to walk to their imagined Timor.

The most detailed source is an 1828 Sydney Gazette article containing the confession of William Sergison, one of the survivors. A second version emerged several years later when another survivor, John Budge, re-entered the news after he captured a bushranger. The evidence surrounding Budge’s story differs markedly from Sergison’s, claiming the runaways had resorted to cannibalism.

Until now I couldn’t trace the original source for Budge’s evidence, relying instead on a secondhand account in George Boxall’s The Story Of The Australian Bushrangers (1899). But Serendipity has struck and here it is, from the Sydney Herald, October 11th, 1841.

The upper gang of bushrangers have again been heard of; a letter received from the Peel yesterday, states they attacked Mr. M’Intyre’s dray (at Weary Creek, outside the boundaries), which they plundered of tea, clothing, &c , and destroyed a great deal; that during the robbery, the bullock driver watched his opportunity, and seized one of them, whom he managed to secure and disarm, but that while he did so the other mounted his horse and fired at the bullock driver, but missed him; that  the men belonging to the dray kept the captured robber and his horse in custody some time; but fearing that he who had escaped would bring others to the rescue of his fellow, thought it best to give up the horse again and let the fellow go, retaining his firearms in case they should be attacked. Be this as it may, they brought arms with them to the Peel, which they declared to have taken from the bushrangers.

A gentleman has this moment arrived who saw the bullock-driver (Budge) shortly after his affray with the bushrangers; he states that Budge was accompanied only by a little boy, that one bushranger stood sentry over him whilst the other ransacked the dray. Budge, watching his opportunity, knocked down the fellow who acted as sentry, and, seizing his pistol, presented it at the fellow in the dray, whom he made come down and stand beside the other; after keeping them thus for some time, without any one arriving to assist him in securing them, he was necessitated to let them go, but retained possession of their arms, consisting of two guns and four pistols, and one saddle, the property of Mr. Jolliffe, which he delivered up to the Commissioner.

It is perhaps worthy of remark that this man, Budge, has before figured as one in an adventure of a very different nature to the foregoing. Some of your readers may recollect some years since a party of men running away from Sedgenhoe, the estate of Potter Macqueen, Esq., with the avowed purpose of searching for Timour – one, it may be recollected, was eaten by his fellows, so reduced were they by want of food ; one was found starved to death; some were never heard of; and this man, Budge, who had left the others and turned back, was found some miles from where they had set out, but unable to move, and all but dead. “