5 February 2021

The Murder of Wimbah - the first person to find gold at Bulong

Wimbah, who was better known as Tiger, was an Aboriginal from the North-west who was famous during his lifetime for being an intelligent, loyal servant of Mr Jack Moher. Moher claimed that Tiger was a 'genius' at gold-specking. The Coolgardie Pioneer claimed he was the first to find gold at Bulong (originally known as I.O.U.), 34 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie. (22 October 1898, p19). Moher also claimed he discovered well-known patches in the Kimberley, Murchison and other fields due to his keen eye. He was murdered by local Pindinnie Aboriginals on the 15 October 1898.

Tiger had been with Moher for over nine years, accompanying him on expeditions in the North-west and the unexplored regions of the goldfields. He was invaluable to them during these expeditions into hostile country, as he provided advice on the routes to travel, was a good shot, and he knew when conflict was inevitable.

Three months prior to his death, Messrs Whitford and Co, butchers of Menzies, wanted to bring a mob of cattle from Ashburton to Menzies. They wanted Tigers assistance and Moher agreed. They were successful, and while camped three miles east of Menzies, he was discovered murdered.

Johnny Rowe, an Aboriginal assistant of Whitford and Co, reported the murder to Sergeant Duncan of Menzies. He stated that he was found dead in the bush near the Kensington Hotel and that he was murdered by 'blacks'. Sergeant Duncan and Constable Hoy immediately set out with Rowe and found his body lying 20 yards off the track to the Vindicator mine. Sergeant Duncan examined the body for some time before finding a small slit in the back of his waist-coat. After removing his garments, they found a small wound with congealed blood.

Satisfied a murder had occurred, he returned to Menzies to fetch Dr Corlis, Warden Owen and native trackers. After examining the body, Dr Corlis determined that the injury may have been caused by a spear and he had haemorrhaged internally. They moved his body to the police station in Menzies and the trackers began their work.

They tracked Tiger's route back to his campfire where he was making a boomerang. There was a billy can on the ashes of a fire that had burned out, tracks of an Aboriginal man, and twenty yards out there were traces of eight other people's tracks. The evidence indicated that he was stooping over his work (not sitting) while waiting for his billy to boil when he was speared. As soon as he was struck, he ran towards the Kensington Hotel. He was headed off by another Aboriginal at the spot he died. This Aboriginal removed his spear and joined the others. They headed off towards the Four-Mile in a south-westerly direction. Parts of a broken woomera were found at the scene.

It was reported that he may have been murdered as he had been living with a Pindannie woman for some years, without permission from her tribe. Three years after living with her, he ran into Mahon's office in Coolgardie asking for firearms, as he was being pursued by Pindinnie Aboriginals wanting revenge. These firearms were given and he warned them off. Some believe they finally caught up with him and murdered him years later.

Another explanation given, that was deemed to be more plausible, was in relation to the mysterious death of John McInnes, three weeks prior to Tiger's death. Tiger found his body and due to the evidence surrounding the body, he confidently claimed that Pindinnie Aboriginals murdered him. The method of the burial in Pindinnie country, traces of Aboriginal fires, weapons and instruments provided the evidence against them.

Tiger was last seen that morning by Mr Snowdowne of the Kensington Hotel passing by with the sheep he was minding. Shortly after, he witnessed Pindinnie Aboriginals following his tracks, but he didn't take enough notice of them to be able to identify them. The trackers were also unable to locate them, so they were never found.

Tiger was buried in the Menzies Cemetery, the burial expenses met by Whitford & Co.

This story is compiled from newspaper reports of the time, so the account may not be accurate and is biased to their opinions of the time. Please let me know if you have anything to add to this story.



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