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Death of James Ossian McPherson
This story was provided by Edna MacPherson Sabato


Introduction to MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY,
Into the DEATH of James Ossian McPHERSON
alias Robert BLAKE
Died 13th February, 1911

James McPHERSON, the Bushranger, known as The Wild Scotchman, came to Australia as a boy of 13 years.  So much has been written about him, I won’t go into further details, except to say he must have known, before he left Scotland, about another James McPHERSON, who, in the 1700s, translated the Ossian Poems, about which, also, a lot has already been written.

James McPHERSON named his first-born son – James Ossian McPHERSON.  He was born at Cambridge Downs, Hughenden, 10th May 1882.  He died in Cooktown Hospital, 13th February, 1911, aged 29.

Cause of Death:-- “Spear thrust to (Right) chest – Haemorrhage to  (Right) Lung.”

I imagine James Ossian McPHERSON used an alias, to try to avoid explanations about his father’s notoriety.

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THE NORTH QUEENSLAND HERALD
25th February, 1911
KOOLBURRA STATION TRAGEDY

DEATH OF ROBERT BLAKE, (13th February, 1911).
MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY.

A magisterial inquiry was held at Cooktown on February 14, into the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert Blake, who died at the Cooktown Hospital on February 13, after being speared on February 7 by an aboriginal named Albert (says the “Cairns Post”).  The inquiry was held before Mr. A. Treggar, P.M., and the witnesses were examined by Sergeant Bodman.

Charles Hampton, manager of Koolburra Station, owned by Messrs. Munro, Gordon and Co., Cairns, and situated about 40 miles west of the Laura township, deposed that: on Tuesday, 7th, inst, he had in his employ a man known as Robert Blake.  Witness and Blake were absent from the station that day.  The Chinaman cook was left at the station.  When they got home at 3 p.m. they found a black gin named Nelly at the station with the cook.  Witness said to Nelly, “Which way you been come?”  She replied, “I come longa Alice.”  By this witness understood her to mean that she referred to the Alice River, about 50 miles west of station.  Witness said, “What are you going to do?” and she replied, “I want to go longa Laura.”  She told witness she had brought a letter from Mr. Muller, who was mining at the Alice River.  She had given this letter to the cook before witness and Blake came home.  The cook gave the letter to witness, and in it Muller asked him to give the gin a fresh horse to take her to the Laura, as she was riding for her life.  The letter was signed:

“K. A. MULLER.”

Witness went down to the stockyard about 85 yards from the house, and the gin and two boys, Tommy and Jerry, followed him down.  Witness said to the gin at the yard, “You want to go to the Laura to-morrow?”  She asked witness if the river was up, and he told her that he thought the Kennedy would be a swim.  She said, “I frightened go on.  I thinkem boy been following.”  Witness said, “Do you think the boy would hurt you?”  She replied, “He been want me go back.  Suppose I no go back he spearem me.”  Witness said. “You had better wait here a day or two until the mailman comes back.”  She said “All right.”  The gin stayed at the house that night and next morning was at the branding yards with deceased, the two black boys, the Chinaman, and witness.  They went back to the house about 9 o’clock, when deceased told witness that the gin had said she saw a blackfellow in the garden.  The garden was about 100 yards from the branding yard.  Witness said. “We will take those cattle out and then go and find him.”

Witness sent Tommy, the blackboy, away for the horses.  He returned with them about half-past nine.  They took the cattle out of the yard to a paddock about a quarter of a mile up Koolburra Creek.

Witness took a revolver with him when he left the house.  He always carried one on the station.  They left the cattle there and rode down to the creek.  Witness said, “Here he is over here.”  Both of them rode up to the blackfellow and he did not get up until they were quite close to him.  When he got up he picked up his spears and his woomera.  He had a tomahawk in his belt.  The blackboy had no clothes on.  He had a belt around his waist and necklace around his neck.  Witness did not know the boy at the time.  The blackfellow then caught Blake’s horse by the bridle.  Blake had not spoken to him up to this.  Witness handed Blake his revolver, and said, “Take this, it might bluff him if he shows fight.”  When deceased took the revolver, he said to the boy “Givem spear longa boss,” and “Come on now, good fellow boy no more frightem.”

The boy then tried to take the revolver from deceased.  When he found he could not, he tried to poke a spear into deceased’s side.  Deceased caught the spear in his left hand and broke it.  The blackfellow then let go the reins.  Witness said to deceased “Shoot him.”

After letting the reins go the blackfellow poked a spear into the horse under the near eye.  The horse swerved and galloped away.  As he swerved the revolver went off.  Witness saw the blackfellow going to throw another spear, and called out to deceased “Look out!”  The spear was a broken one.  It struck deceased under the right shoulder.  The blackfellow then put another spear into his woomera.  He was running after Blake at this time.  He got behind some bushes and witness lost sight of him.  Subsequently he met deceased and the latter still had the broken spear in his back.  Deceased said, “See how far this has gone in.  I can’t pull it out.”  Witness caught hold of the spear and gave it a slight pull.  It would not come out.  Witness said to deceased, “Will I jerk it?”  He said “Yes, jerk it out.”  Witness then pulled the spear out.  Deceased said, “Where’s the nigger, I’d like to get a shot at him.”  Witness said “Never mind the nigger.  Come to the house until I fix you up.”

When witness pulled the spear out he threw it into the ground.  When they got to the house he took deceased’s shirt off, and noticed that he was bleeding from a wound under the right shoulder where the spear had gone in.  Witness poured some kerosene on the wound and then put a bandage on.  The gin came in and then witness said to her “That boy been spearem Bob.”  She said “Him savage devil that fellow.”

Witness sent the boy out for horses and they left the station for the Laura about past ten o’clock.  On the road down, deceased said, “If anything happens my name is Macpherson.”

The boy Tommy and the gin came with them.  They arrived at the Fairview Telegraph Station about 6 p.m., and stayed there for the night.  The telegraph operator then told them he had wired Cooktown to get the Laura to ask the constable there to come to meet witness.

They left Fairview at 8 o’clock next morning and when they got to Sandy Creek about nine miles from Fairview, they met a number of blackboys sent out by the Laura police to bring deceased in.  They got to the Laura about 10.30 a.m.  Deceased rode all the way.  He told the constable at Laura that he did not feel too well.

Witness got a special train from Cooktown and took deceased down there.  They arrived that evening about half-past 10.  He could not lie in a stretcher which was there to meet him, so they took him to Dr. Kortum’s in a cab, and from there to the hospital.  Witness was speaking to deceased at the hospital on Sunday 12th inst.  He seemed better.  The wardsman reported to witness next morning that deceased died that night.

Witness knew nothing about Blake.  He was also known by the name of Macpherson.  He never mentioned his friends or relatives to witness.

By the Bench:  Witness carried a revolver for shooting brumbies or wild cattle that he was unable to get.  There are very few blacks about the station and what are there are not bad.  Witness handed his revolver to deceased because he was between him and the blackboy.  When the boy tried to take the revolver from Blake and afterwards poked the spear in his side, witness tried to go to his assistance but his horse, a young one, would not go up.  He then called out to deceased to shoot the black.

After they got back to the house witness said to Blake, “You ought to have shot him when he lifted his first spear,” but Blake replied, “I thought you said, “Don’t shoot him.”

Evidence was also given by Dr. Kortum, Government medical officer, after which the inquiry was adjourned.


 

 


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