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John Gilburri Fahy

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John Gilburri Fahy
BornJohn Fahy
(1814-03-21)21 March 1814
Galway, Ireland
🏳️ NationalityIrish
💼 Occupation
👪 RelativesPatrick Denis Fahy (brother)
🥚 TwitterTwitter=
label65 = 👍 Facebook

John Gilburri Fahy (1814–1885) was a runaway Irish convict who lived among the Bunya Mountains Dalla people tribe for over twelve years during the Black War for southeast Queensland, which occurred during the years 1842 to 1854.

While in jail, Fahy was recruited by explorer Augustus Charles Gregory in 1855 for the first expedition to the Northern Territory. [lower-alpha 1]

Early life[edit]

John Fahy was born in Galway, Ireland, in 1814.

Fahy joined the Irish recruits of 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot in 1834, and his regiment set sail for Cape Town, South Africa, in 1836.

In 1837, he was charged with desertion of his post[1] when he and eighteen of his fellow Irish soldier mates abandoned their post in a protest against their cruel English officers. They were all court-martialed and sentenced to life.

John Fahy arrived in Sydney in 1838 under a sentence of a transportation for life.[2] The ship was called the Clyde.[3][lower-alpha 2]

On 11 November 1840, John Fahy has been suffering as a convict for two year's and escapes from his road party.[4][lower-alpha 3]

Twelve years with the Dalla tribe[edit]

On the 24th April 1842 Fahy escaped from a road gang near Armidale.[5] Fahy smashed his masters skull in with a shovel then and placed him atop a giant anthill. Some warriors from the Kamilaroi tribe agreed who decided to take him with them to the Bunya Mountains.[1]

May 1842 saw a huge gathering of traditional tribal landowners convened at the Bunya Mountains to discuss measures to be taken in response to the murders of relatives from 9 to 10 tribes at Kilcoy.[6]

Fahy may have been introduced to the tribal chiefs at this meeting. He was indebted for having his life spared to the fact, that one of the oldest chiefs of the tribe imagined that he discovered in the features of the white stranger the likeness of his son, slain sometime before in battle, and who, according to the chief's belief in the transmigration of souls (a belief common among the aboriginals), had returned to earth it the resemblance of a white man.[7] This could possibly be Dalla people tribal chief Ubi Ubi who had recently lost a son in 1841 or Anyaburri.[2]

Fahy was initiated at the Brooloo bora ground in a ceremony somewhere around Jan 1843.[8] Gilburri comes from a Kabi word for the white-throated needletail.

He became wilder than any of the other white men. Forgetting his own language, and speaking fluently the Wakka dialect of the Darling Downs.[9]

Gilbury had been twelve years enjoying kangaroo - possum hunting, and the great carnivals held at the Bunya Mountains.[3]

Gilburri is mentioned briefly by Tom Petrie in Tom Petrie's reminiscences of early Queensland page 121:[10]

Two or three convicts in the old days, who escaped and lived afterwards with the natives-James Davis ("Duramboi"), Bracefield ("Wandi"), John Fahy ("Gilberry"), of course, knew all about it, but they are dead now. Father met the two former after their return to civilization, and he has often had a yarn with the old blacks who belonged to the tribes.[3]

Following Duramboi and Wondai.[edit]

John Fahy had heard many stories of Duramboi and Wondai while he was a convict in New England. The little kangaroo rat from Scotland had been living with the Kabi for nearly 14 years.

This is a curlew

Perhaps after hearing a short little Scottish man had survived and thrived amongst the tribes up North, John Fahy decided to go north.

Davis, whose aboriginal name was "Duramboi," lived with the natives, an old black and his gin claimed him as their dead son, reincarnated as a "white-fellow."[11]

On one occasion Duramboi wanted to take home to camp some oysters, but had nothing to carry them in. The old gin's dilly bag was hanging on a tree ; it contained the bones of a favourite dog.

Duramboi threw them out and appropriated the bag for his oysters. The old gin was furious, and said she was sure he was not her son, that he was a "kibia" or wild fellow, and urged her blackfellow to kill him. Duramboi found it out in time, and gave the man a good hiding, and they were good friends after that.[12]

Tom Petrie convinced Duramboi and Wondai to return with him to the colony. Petrie promised they would not be punished if they help assist the settlement.

Gilburri never met Duramboi in the wild as he arrived in Wide Bay around late May 1842. Duramboi returned to Brisbane in April.

In the 1862 book "Fern Vale",[13] it is mentioned that Gilburri was given "the spear of Duramboi" upon his initiation.[14]

We know that Gilburri was adopted by the mountain tribe (aka/Dalla) while Duramboi was Butchella / northern Kabi.[15] The spear may have been a gift from Mikelo who was Gilburri's closest Kabi ally.[1]

Captured by Native Police[edit]

There had been reports of a wild white man living with the Wide Bay Pine River natives dating back to 1845.[5] As the squatters invaded the Wide Bay area, Gilburri retreated into the Bunya Mountains.

In late 1853 a white woman on Kilkivan station reports to police seeing a white man "fully naked and living as a native" near the woolshed.[1]

Gilburri had been spotted at Kilkivan, Yabba Creek and finally Ubi Ubi flats where he was caught.

His full molgarra scarring indicates he was initiated as a Dalla or WakaWaka man.[5] Gilburri says he was initiated at "Brooloo" which is modern day Kenilworth area.

Lieutenant Frederick Walker of the Native Police mentions an incident that occurred near Yabba Creek.[16]

His Native police were tracking a native called "Duronburrie".[17] They try to catch this native but are unsuccessful.[5]

It is possible Walker was confused and thought Duramboi had returned to the tribe.[18]

John O'Connell Bligh who married his 1st blood cousin.

John O'Connell Bligh captured Gilburri , who had been living with the local Dalla people for over twelve years.[19] In order to arrest him, Bligh and his troopers handcuffed all the "station blacks" at Barambah pastoral station around a large gum tree to prevent him from receiving any information that the Native Police were nearby.[20]

Gilburri was with six of his tribal brothers when Bligh snuck up from behind and put a revolver to his temple. They were ready to fight but Gilburri told them to stand down.

He spoke the Wacca dialect of the Darling Downs; and his body was all ornamented with the raised 'moolgarra' scars of the tribe by whom he was adopted.[21]

Gilburri escapes the death penalty[edit]

Sub Lieutenant Bligh spent over a year pursuing Gilburri.

“John Fahy was very difficult to track as the women would cover his footprints. He was always seen accompanying some of the Mrs Shannon murderers".”

William O'Connell Bligh (Dec 1854)[22]

During his first escape attempt in Nov 21,1841 Gilburri was shot in the left knee and caused him to limp. One leg was shorter than the other.

Bligh is referring to the warriors who had been caught or killed prior to Dec 20, 1854.

(Mikelo, WakaWaka Davy, Yillbong Jemmy, Oumulli, Jacky, Dick Ben & Multugeerah had all been targeted by the Native Police )[22]

Dundalli would be hung on Jan 5, 1855. The great warrior did not believe he would hang. Dundalli thought he would be going to Cockatoo Island like Mikelo.[23]

Fahy was sent to Cockatoo Island prison in Sydney the day before Dundalli was executed on the steamer ship.

A court sketch of Dundalli from 1854

There is a strong possibility that Gilburri was able to speak with his headman Dundalli during the two weeks he was held prisoner. Dundalli had been suffering in the Brisbane goal since but was soon assigned to be an interpreter on the exploratory journey of A.C. Gregory.[24]

Maryborough incident[edit]

In early 1860, Bligh and his troopers, then stationed at Coopers Plain barracks just to the south-west of Maryborough, chased a number of Aboriginals into the town. In broad daylight and in front of the citizens of Maryborough, these Aboriginals were shot down. Several were killed and an unknown number were wounded. At one stage, Bligh requisitioned a boat in order to shoot two Aboriginals who had fled into the Mary River.

Ludwig Leichhardt is a fraud

The surviving aboriginal tribes had gathered at Maryborough to receive blankets for the winter.[25]

Bligh was specifically trying to kill Fahy. The two had a long history of bad blood after Bligh had captured Fahy back in December 1854. Bligh wanted Fahy to be hung with his tribe mate Dundalli but he was sentenced to one-year hard Labour on Cockatoo Island.[26]

The vast majority of people in Maryborough at the time supported his actions to the point where a meeting was held in the courthouse to collect money for a gift of appreciation to give to Bligh. At a ceremony later organized by the high-profile Maryborough people, Bligh has given a ceremonial sword as a reward for his actions.[27]

This incident is mentioned by Billy Barcoo and Wigton Davy during their 1885 murder trial of Billy Barlow. Both Billy and Wigton claim that the trauma from this Maryborough incident "caused their bad drinking habit" and led to the manslaughter of Billy Barlow.[28]

Gilburri also begins a long and destructive relationship with alcohol after this 1861 massacre.

Johnny Campbell aka Stinkabed[edit]


  1. If Gilburri was not specially selected for this expidetion he may have hung with his tribal brother Dundalli .
  2. Every passenger on board this ship contracted scurvy
  3. Fahy spends two weeks in the surrounding bush in a crash course on survival. When caught he received 70 lashings.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "WATER POLICE COURT". The Sydney Morning Herald. XXXV (5474). New South Wales, Australia. 30 December 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 7 September 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "IN THE EARLY DAYS". The Brisbane Courier. XLIX (10, 887). Queensland, Australia. 5 December 1892. p. 2. Retrieved 7 September 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Munro, Colin (2011). Fern Vale ; or the Queensland Squatter. Boolarong Press. pp. 311–320. ISBN 978-1-921920-15-8. Search this book on
  4. "The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) - 30 Dec 1854 - p5". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-18. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Wild White Men". The Bathurst Times. New South Wales, Australia. 30 December 1913. p. 1. Retrieved 7 September 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. Connors 2005b, pp. 109,113.
  7. "No title". Empire (1239). New South Wales, Australia. 29 December 1854. p. 4. Retrieved 7 September 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. Connors, Libby (2015). Warrior: A legendary leader's dramatic life and violent death on the colonial frontier. Allen & Unwin. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-760-11048-2. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) Search this book on
  9. "Sacred Redheads Among The Wild White Men - The Land (Sydney, NSW : 1911 - 1954) - 7 Jun 1935". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  10. Petrie, Constance Campbell; Petrie, Tom (1992). Tom Petrie's reminiscences of early Queensland (4th ed.). St Lucia, QLD : Angus & Robertson / University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-2383-9. Search this book on
  11. Connors, Libby (2008). "Sentencing on a colonial frontier: Judge Therry's decisions at Moreton Bay". Legal History. 12: 81–97. ISSN 1833-7155.
  12. "The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) - 27 Jan 1917 - p41". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  13. Munro, Colin (1862). Fern Vale, or, the Queensland squatter. Vol. 2. Charleston, S.C. : BiblioBazaar. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-559-85837-6. Search this book on
  14. Munro, Colin (1862). Fern Vale, or, the Queensland squatter. Vol. 2. Charleston, S.C. : BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-0-559-85837-6. Search this book on
  15. "The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) - 27 Jan 1917 - p41". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  16. "THE Moreton Bay Courier. - SATURDAY, AUGUST 4, THE NORTHERN EXPEDITION. - The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861) - 4 Aug 1855". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  17. Blanch, Ken (2015-05-06). White Lies, Black Blood: The Awful Killing of Kipper Billy. Seagle Crime Stories. ISBN 978-0-9943101-2-5. Search this book on
  18. "The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861) - 14 Feb 1861 - p4". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  19. "DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE". The Moreton Bay Courier. IX (445). Queensland, Australia. 23 December 1854. p. 2. Retrieved 21 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. "MARYBOROUGH'S EARLIEST DAYS". Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay And Burnett Advertiser (10, 733). Queensland, Australia. 5 June 1907. p. 3. Retrieved 21 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. "Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900 - 1954) - 9 Feb 1908 - p7". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Local Intelligence. - Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) - 9 Jan 1855". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  23. Connors, Libby (2008). "Sentencing on a Colonial Frontier: Judge Therry's Decisions at Moreton Bay". Legal History. 12 (1): 81.
  24. "The Northern Expedition". The Moreton Bay Courier. X (477). Queensland, Australia. 4 August 1855. p. 2. Retrieved July 27, 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. "Correspondence relation to Aboriginies 1859 to 1866" (PDF). Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-19. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  26. Cryle, Denis (1989). The Press in Colonial Queensland. St Lucia: UQP. Search this book on
  27. "MARYBOROUGH". The Moreton Bay Courier. XIV (830). Queensland, Australia. 21 February 1860. p. 4. Retrieved 21 September 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. "The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) - 1 Oct 1885 - p6". Trove. Retrieved 2019-12-19.

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