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

Menindee, 19 December 1860.

Original item held at the State Library of Victoria, SLV MS13071, Box 2082/1f (1-4).
Dispatches sent by members of the Victorian Exploring Expedition to the Exploration Committee.
Wright's dispatches, December 1860-June 1861.
Manuscript, handwritten in ink on blue foolscap paper, 33 pages.


Brought down to Melbourne by W.O. Hodgkinson, who arrived on Monday, 31 December 1860. The despatches were considered at a Special meeting of the Exploration Committee held that day.
Present: Barkly, Stawell (chair), McCoy, Watson, Eades, Wilkie, Gillbee, Iffla, Cadell, Elliott and Macadam (Secretary).

Depot Camp,
Pamamoroo Creek,
Darling River,
December 19th, 1860.

To the Gentlemen of the Exploration Committee.

I have the honor to inform you that, pursuant to a previous understanding with Mr Burke, it was my intention to rejoin that gentleman, with the members of the party and stores at present in this camp.

I delayed starting merely because the camels (9) left behind by Mr Burke were too few in number and too inferior in carrying powers to carry out a really

The Exploration Committee




serviceable quantity of provisions. Of horses but seven were left at the depot, and of them four are dead, one just dispatched on urgent business, and the remaining two are too poor to be available.

When Lyons, the trooper, McPherson, saddler to the expedition, and an Aboriginal started some time back with four of our horses to take on despatches brought by Lyons, and represented as urgent, to Mr Burke, I supposed they would overtake that gentleman at a spot some four hundred miles from here, where Mr Burke stated to me his intention of remaining




some days, and that they would return with all the horses of the advance party, so as to enable me to get out with the stores at the depot.

I regret, however, to have to inform you that the Aboriginal returned to the depot camp yesterday, on foot, greatly exhausted, and that he brought with him a piece of paper, signed by Lyons and McPherson, and imploring immediate assistance to rescue them from imminent starvation.

I have of course lost no time in sending out a small party to relieve them, accompanied by the native who brought




to me the intelligence of their sad position.

It must be evident, therefore, to the gentlemen of the Committee, that Mr Burke has not received the despatches ; and that if this season is to be taken advantage of, I can no longer rely upon any horses from the advance party.

As I have every reason to believe that Mr Burke has pushed on from Cooper's Creek, relying upon finding the depot stores at that watercourse upon his return, there is room for the most serious apprehensions as to the safety of himself




and party, should he find that he has miscalculated.

In short, it is my duty to point out to the Committee the necessity of the depot stores being at once conveyed to the front.

With the carriage at my disposal it is impossible to effect this, and as I shall require ten horses additional. I feel it requisite to dispatch Mr Hodgkinson, storekeeper to the party, to wait upon you and furnish a detailed statement of affairs.

I estimate the expenditure




necessary at £250 for ten horses and accoutrements, and I have to request that the Committee, if disposed to sanction the outlay, will be good enough to forward me, by Mr Hodgkinson an authority for purchasing all I may deem absolutely necessary, with full particulars as to my modes of payment, &c.

I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
W Wright


The Exploration Commitee replied to Wright on the 31 December 1860.


December 31st [1861].


Your despatch of the 19th instant, forwarded per Mr Hodgkinson, was laid before a meeting of the members of the Exploration Committee held this day, when the following resolutions were carried unanimously:

1. That a letter be forwarded to Mr Wright, informing him that his appointment as third in command of the Victorian Expedition, by Mr Burke, has been approved of and confirmed by this committee.

2. That Mr Wright, third officer of the Victorian Expedition, be empowered to procure a number of horses (not more than ten), and the necessary accoutrements; and also one hundred and fifty (say 150) sheep, and be authorized to draw on the treasurer, the Honourable David E Wilkie, MD., MLC., for an amount not exceeding four hundred (say 400) pounds sterling, for their purchase, and other necessary incidental expenses.

I have further to inform you that Mr Hodgkinson, who returns as the bearer of this despatch, will hand you an order from Mr Superintendent Foster, of Swan Hill, to obtain from trooper Lyons the despatches for the leader, now in the possession of that officer, and which it is desired you should hand to Mr Burke.

It is hoped by the committee, that trooper Lyons and saddler Macpherson have safely returned to the camp, and you will kindly report as to the manner in which the former has endeavoured to carry out the duty committed to his charge.

The medal for Dick, the aboriginal guide, bearing a suitable inscription, is forwarded with this despatch, and the committee leave in your hands the bestowal of such additional reward as you may deem proper–not exceeding five guineas (say 5 pounds 5 shillings.)

Captain Cadell informed the committee to-day that his store at Menindie would be at your service for depositing any articles you may find it inconvenient to remove to Cooper's Creek at present.

You will endeavour to secure, if possible, twelve pommel pack-saddles, now arrived, it is believed, on the Darling. These were forwarded via Adelaide, and will no doubt be of great use to the main party.

The committee desire that on your meeting with Mr Burke, you will show him, and deposit with him, this despatch, as also a copy of yours of the 19th instant, together with copies of all despatches you may forward to the committee during Mr Burke's absence; and the committee expect that you will communicate under such circumstances as frequently as possible.

Mr Hodgkinson bears letters for the leader and Mr Wills.

In conclusion, it is hoped that your endeavours to remove the stores from your present depot to Cooper's Creek will be early and successfully accomplished.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
John Macadam, MD,

Mr Wright, third in command, temporary depot, Ptorarmora Creek, Darling River, New South Wales.

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