Site Name Abner Range (Gulf) Malakoff Creek
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group
Colony SA
Present State/Territory NT
Police District
Coordinates (imprecise to approx. 250m) -16.800,135.883,0
Date Between 1 Jan 1886 and 31 Dec 1886
Attack Time "First light" - before dawn
Aboriginal People Killed 64
Aboriginal People Killed Notes Men, women & children.
Non-Aboriginal People Killed 1
Non-Aboriginal People Killed Notes Ted Lenehan, a stockman on McArthur River Station.
Attacker Category Constable + native police and stockmen.
Attacker Details Constable William Curtis and five native police, QLD Aboriginal tracker, Tommy Campbell + station manager, Tom Lynott, Charley Gaunt and 14 stockmen.
Motive Lenehan was 'hunting blacks' in March 1886 when he was killed (speared.) His body was dismembered in a practice performed by the Ngarnji tribe ‘for particularly violent men, to prevent their spirit from continuing to perform evil deeds.’
Type Of Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Spears & firearms
Notes
Narrative After Lenehan’s death, Sir John Cockburn, minister for the Northern Territory in the Downer government, ordered Constable William Curtis and five native police based at the Roper River to investigate. They met with the station manager, Tom Lynott, and 15 stockmen, including the notorious Tommy Campbell. Aboriginal stockmen from Queensland, whose tracking skills were highly valuable, were also present. Six years later (1892), a massacre occurred on top of the Abner Range, 100km from where Lenehan had been killed, where the party of 22 went after about “70 or 80 fleeing Aboriginals.” The fleeing group went to the top of the Abner Range, thinking the horses would not be able to reach the top. The horsemen did find a way to the top and followed the tracks left behind to an Aboriginal camp. Roberts: “The men, in pairs, formed a half-circle around the sleeping camp – some of them as close as 20 metres. On the far side of the camp was a sheer, 150-metre drop. The numerous small fires were evidence of a large number of people. Curtis said he would fire first, as soon as it was light enough to see. Shooting sleeping victims at first light was a standard method. Exhausted, the occupants of the camp slept soundly. But, at times, according to Gaunt, “we could hear a piccaninny cry and the lubra crooning to it.” When it was finally light enough to see, an Aboriginal man sat up and stretched his arms. ‘Smith fired and the police boy with me fired at the sitting Abo. The black bounced off the ground and fell over into the fire, stone dead. Then pandemonium started. Blacks were rushing to all points only to be driven back with a deadly fire … One big Abo, over six feet, rushed toward the boy and I. I dropped him in his tracks with a well-directed shot. Later on, when we went through the camp to count the dead and despatch the wounded, I walked over to this big Abo and was astonished to find, instead of a buck, that it was a splendidly built young lubra about, I should judge, sixteen or eighteen years of age. The bullet had struck her on the bridge of the nose and penetrated to the brain. She never knew what hit her … When the melee was over we counted fifty-two dead and mortally wounded. For mercy’s sake, we despatched the wounded. Twelve more we found at the foot of the cliff fearfully mangled.’ Below the cliff was the head of a creek, which Tom Lynott named Malakoff Creek, after a bloody battle during the siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War. When a camp was attacked in daylight, the whites were usually mounted and, unless the country was open and flat, it was often possible for a number of occupants to escape. In some cases they watched in horror, unseen, as whites dispatched the wounded. Adults and children received a bullet to the brain, while babies – whether injured or not – were held by the ankles “just like goanna”, their skulls smashed against trees or rocks. A crying baby left behind when Garrwa people fled a camp on the Robinson River was thrown onto the hot coals of a cooking fire, still crying.”
Sources Roberts 2009; O'Brien and Adams 1999: 7; NTTG, April 24 1886; Costello 1930: 164, 167; Northern Standard, June 1 1934; Bottoms 2013: 156-8.
Corroboration Rating ***