Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

by Steve Pentreath

The inspiration for Steve Pentreath's poem came from the up and coming 150th anniversary and the Burke and Wills Week in Swan Hill in September 2010, exploring the local connections to the great explorers.
© 2010

It's a mystery today, what happened to Charley Gray
On the 1860 expedition with Burke and Wills

Gray was living in Swan Hill, as a bushman he was no dill
And his job as hotel ostler would be handy

He was recruited quite informal, by Burke which was quite normal
On the word of Superintendant Henry Foster

On the punt Gray would travel, and his future would unravel
As the ill-fated expedition left Victoria

Balranald then Menindee they'd reach, setting up a camp at Coopers Creek
With Burke, Wills, King and Gray continuing on

Over rugged country they lost time, before making camp at 119
Where Burke and Wills continued their last endeavour

Seeing salt water in the creek, yet the sea they couldn't peek
Burke and Wills returned to Charley and John King

From there the four were struggling with crucial time that they were juggling
The group they'd left at Coopers Creek became impatient

Illness struck Charley first, he suffered from hunger and thirst
And resorted to taking food without permission

Depending on whose story's told, Burke treated Charley somewhat bold
And shortly after poor Charley passed away

It took hours to bury Gray, and writers say twas this delay
That caused them to miss the DIG tree campers

But today I ask the reader, how badly did the leader
Treat our illustrious Charley Gray

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix