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by Edwin James Welch

Edwin James Welch, The Tragedy of Cooper's Creek
ML:MSS 314/225 filed at A1928 (ML CY1115) n.d, c. 190-?, Angus & Robertson Collection.
State Library of New South Wales

Chapter XVIII

Cost of the expeditions

There was little indeed to show as an equivalent for the enormous cost of all the expeditions mentioned in the foregoing narrative, apart from the general knowledge which had been obtained of the interior, and some few descriptive accounts of country suitable for stock raising. Much of this, however, was known before, from the admirable reports of Sturt, Mitchell, Stuart and the Gregorys, to say nothing of the private explorers who had travelled in the same directions in search of new pastures. But when the costly nature of the original expedition is added to the expenditure subsequently incurred in the fitting out, on a generous basis, of the four Search parties, headed respectively by Howitt, McKinlay, Landsborough and Walker, and Howitt's second journey to bring in the bodies, it becomes evident that a large sum of money must have been required to cover the outlay. In addition to the above, there must also be considered the charter of the Firefly, the up-keep of the Victoria, unspecified incidentals, and lest, though not the least of these, the public funeral. The total amount, as estimated at the time, was never officially announced, but it was generally believed to be close on to £60,000, of which amount the enterprising little colony of Victoria paid by far the largest share, and had little in the shape of reward beyond the credit of having been the prime mover and instigator of the whole scheme, and the honor of having been the first to show the way across the continent.

Victoria has also the permanent reminders of the brave men who won this for her. A few miles from Melbourne, on the Sydney Road, stands a cairn of rough stones in the Royal Park, to mark the spot from which Burke and his companions started, full of hope and determination to accomplish the task entrusted to them, cheered on their way by the kindly wishes and hearty farewells of the dense crowd gathered to witness their departure. At a short distance, probably not more than a quarter of a mile, stands the granite block which covers the remains of the two leaders, in the General Cemetery. Substituting the plural for the singular in the last line of one verse of Adam Lindsay Gordon's touching poem to the memory of Burke, every student of history, in any part of the world, will agree with him in saying:

Few who have heard their death-knell roll
From the cannon's lips where they faced the foe,
Have fallen as stout and steady of soul
As those dead men gone where we all must go.

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