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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Buckley discovering himself to the early settlers

1869
S Calvert (engraver) and Gibbs, Shallard and Co. (printer) after O.R. Campbell

colour wood engraving on paper (backing sheet: 53.2 cm x 65.0 cm, sheet: 43.1 cm x 55.0 cm, image: 30.7 cm x 46.0 cm)

William Buckley (1780-1856), known as 'the Wild White Man', was transported for life in 1802 for receiving stolen cloth. Sent with a group of officials and convicts to establish a settlement at Port Phillip, he escaped his work party with two others in October 1803. His companions turned back, never to be seen again, but Buckley made it to the opposite side of the bay. There he was found by a band of Wathaurong people, who shared their food with him. Buckley first encountered the Aboriginal people as he was carrying a spear which he had earlier found on a burial mound. It has long been supposed that the spear led to the 198cm white man's being welcomed by the Wathaurong as the reincarnated spirit of a kinsman. Accepted into their community and culture, Buckley learnt their language and customs and lived with them for more than thirty years before giving himself up to authorities. He was pardoned by lieutenant-governor George Arthur and employed by John Batman as an interpreter and guide. In Hobart from 1837, he worked at the Immigrants' Home and at the Female Factory. With the publication of The life and adventures of William Buckley (1852), his story became the stuff of folklore.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2009

Artist and subject

O.R. Campbell (age 49 in 1869)

S Calvert (age 41 in 1869)

Gibbs, Shallard and Co.

William Buckley

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency