Cairns Post

February 16th, 1934

 

Page 6

The Hairy Man.

 

 

 

The tribe that inhabited the country about the middle Auburn River, in south-eastern Queensland, had an outstanding superstition in the hairyman, who lived in the haunted cave at the Auburn Falls – west of Bundaberg. In this instance there were no- sceptics, every member of the tribe-believed-that he was there and, like debil debil, an evildoer.

 

No white man ever saw a black approaching the eave, even in the day time and at night, they would, not camp within miles of it. Still in the remote past, some of them must have ventured sufficiently close to have heard the hairy man at work and observed the products of his activities, for those who had never-seen the-cave could give a fairly accurate description of the interior.

 

It was at flood time that the hairy man was always busy, and it was then that he made the loudest noise as he-chopped away with his tomahawk at the varied assortment of sticks in his workshop.

 

It must be conceded that there was some ground for their belief in the existence of the hairy man. The country in the vicinity had a weird appearance. The river, near the falls contained elongated and deep, dark water holes, overshadowed by frowning cliffs. Along the edge grew giant gum trees and curving tea-trees with dense foliage. Close by were masses of semi-tropical undergrowth, which in places merged into a' dense scrub. It was an ideal

place to conjure phantoms of the un-real and fantastic. The falls were more in the nature of a series of rapids thana sheer drop, and in-flood time the roar of the seething waters could be distinctly heard more than ten miles away. Beyond the cave entrance, it was enclosed by granite whirlpool, where logs and sticks brought, down by the. river, and drawn in, were rapidly swirled round and round, continuously striking against the hard rocky walls, and thus pondering the thudding sounds which the blacks said were caused, by the hairy man at work. Contact with the rock also wore away "and rounded the ends of sticks as evenly as if they had been through a, turning lathe. When the rainy season was- over, the water in the cave gradually receded, but most of the sticks, now with-oval ends, remained: So neatly done was the rounding process that it would be hard for anyone-not knowing-the circumstances to realise that it-was not the work of Stan. . .

 

 

BELIEF STARTED BY WHITES.

The blacks also believed that if the sticks operated on by the hairy man were removed from the eave, they would' eventually 'find their way back again. Strange as it might appear, the belief in the haunted eave, the hairy man, and the migratory sticks was shared by some of the early white pioneers.  An instance of savage tradition influencing' civilised culture. As late as some 20 years ago a gathering of about SOO blacks could be seen at a corroboree at Hawkwood Station, out a far distant from the falls, but they have since dwindled. At that time I knew a black rather past middle age, known to the whites as Chapman. He claimed to be the rightful chief of the tribe. He could speak English well. Since then Chapman, and most of the grey beards of that time, have gone the way of their ancestors.

 

The last time I saw Chapman was in the hush. As the day was hot, we both

dismounted and rested for a time in the shade. The conversation turned on the hairy man. I told him there was no hairy man, that I had examined the eave and found no one there. She replied that he was always there at nights I inquired if he had ever seen or heard the hairy man. His answer was the negative, but he averred-that the hairy man was there all the same. He then, got a shorty thick stick, and began tapping the ground with it at the same time explaining that the brands he made were next to those produced by the hairy- man when at work. I informed him that I intended visiting at night and would thus prove to him that there was no hairy man. He at once seemed concerned and implored fine not to do so. If I did, that, some serious 'evil would be sure to overtake me. After a time the conversation turned' upon other matters; but I could see that he was ill at ease. Before leaving I promised him that X would not visit the cave by night.

On another occasion, whilst riding out after cattle, I met an aged black whom I knew. His long, flowing beard, heavy, moustache, and the straggly hair were quite white. He was walking very fast and looked tired and despondent. I pulled up and-asked him where he was going. He replied that he did not know, but he wanted to get as far away from the falls as he could-that the hairy man was, very angry and making a "big fellow noise”. We would then be about four or five miles from, the falls, and as the breeze was from that direction the thunderous roar was very pronounced.

 

 

A HAPPY SUPERSTITION.

Superstitions as a rule ' are devoid of meaning, and rarely lead to any beneficial results. The Auburn River, however, can supply at least one exception. As every bushman knows, brush turkey is- excellent eating-fine flavored and tender. The flesh is known -to be peculiarly, nutritious and needless' to say, the bird was much prized by the blacks as the acme, of delicacy. But it was taboo to the young men. They dared not eat it. They were taught young--that if they ate even a morsel of it, some occult evil would insidiously; overtake them. The brush« turkey was specially reserved for the old men of the tribe. This was a wise provision, and as the

bird was plentiful in the neighbouring scrub it sustained the waning energies of the aged and prolonged their Iives. It was also a pleasing contrast to the ways of some of the South Sea islanders, who, though far more, civilised, had the iniquitous, habit of knocking- their- aged on the head when the latter were no longer able to produce the food they required.

Only two or three years, ago, a young civilised Tracie, who was employed as stockman on a neighbouring cattle station, took sick; Burning his nines and after he recovered he told his comrades that the trouble was caused through his having eaten brush turkey, and that he should have known better than to have done so.

Flies will not enter one large English jam factory, although 15,000 tons of jam are stored there in unsealed jars, because the windows; axe fitted with-amber glass, which, cats, out the

 

 

 

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