Image by John Ness Image by Samuel Calvert
Image by John Ness


James Morrill

“James Morrill, an English sailor of 22, was shipwrecked in 1846 and rescued by a clan of Birri-Gubba speaking people near to the modern Reef ports of Bowen and Cardwell. They named him Karckynjib Wombil Moony. Morrill became entangled during the 1850s and 60s in a pastoral frontier that was pushing into the Burdekin region and on to the Gulf. His hunter-gatherer range lay at the epicentre of this invasion, forcing him to experience one of northern Australia’s most intense bouts of frontier conflict. He witnessed the dispossession and murders of many of his people and the rapid destruction of their ecologies through the impact of cattle and sheep. Fearing for his life, he voluntarily rejoined European society in 1863, and was given government work in Bowen. Morrill lived and married in Bowen from where he tried to mediate on behalf of his clan. However he found himself caught in cultural cross-fire. He was suspected by many settlers of being a covert agent of Aboriginal resistance, as well as by the remnants of his own people, who were disappointed at his inability to alleviate their sufferings. He died in 1865 at the age of 41, less than three years after returning to colonial society.”

- The Reef