The Haunted Swamp: The Mystery of the Hexham Bunyip

“Down in Australia” Sheet music depiction of the “Bunyip” (Courtesy of Gionni Di Gravio, OAM)


This work is conducted in memory and respectfully honours the First Australian People,
the Aboriginal People of this land.

In May 2016 the University Archives in Cultural Collections took possession of a set of notebook diaries of William John Turton, local cabinet maker, engineer and business man. Born at the Wheatsheaf Inn, at Hexham in 1856, he spent his youth in Sydney, undertaking his apprenticeship as a patternmaker. He returned to Hexham, taking up work in the railways in the locomotive department, and as a train driver. Leaving the railways, he joined the Harbours and Rivers Department, working at the Dyke and later at Walsh Island, as a patternmaker. He retired in 1910, after 20 years’ service, spending the rest of his life in the region until his death in 1930. His diaries date from 1872 to 1909 and record daily life in the Hunter. He was celebrated as the inventor of a sematrope, (or heliograph), a form of wireless communication using sunlight and mirrors to transmit messages in Morse code, invented in 1875 when he was a sapper in the N.S.W. Volunteer Engineer Corps. He is also known as the person, who, along with his grandfather, John Hannell, of tracking down the mysterious creature the Bunyip that haunted the Hexham Swamps.

Hexham (Burraghihnbihng) as it appears in Joseph Cross/Henry Dangar 1828 Map.


The current location (2020) of the Hexham Swamps (Burraghihnbihng) compared with as it appeared in Joseph Cross/Henry Dangar 1828 Map.

The Hexham Swamps are known to the Aboriginal people of this land as Burraghihnbihng.  In one of the earliest mentions of the the Bunyip in print, published in 1847, the writer says:

“At the Hunter’s River the reports of the natives would lead us to classify it with the carnivorous species. In this locality it is called Yaa-hoo, and is described as having much resemblance in form to the human figure, but with frightful features – the feet like those of a man, but reversed or turned backwards.”

Such a description closely fits another local spiritual being, a monster known as Puttikan, described by the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld in his first London Missionary Society Report for the Aboriginal Mission, December 1825 (in Gunson, 1974 p.194) as:

“resembling a man but taller in stature; with arms, legs, face, and hair, very long on the head, but the feet are placed contrarily to the face being behind; and the body hairy, like an animal. The flesh is so hard in all parts of the body that it is impenetrable, except just between the legs, where a spear may penetrate, but at no other part. He is fierce, devouring men, and often pursuing the Aborigines in the mountains”

Puttikan was believed to have inhabited the Sugarloaf Mountain. His purpose it seemed was to check whether young men had a tooth missing (a sign of initiation), and if not to take them away and eat them; a warning story for youth not to be out in areas unless they were properly educated in Aboriginal lore and custom.

The “Bunyip” as a term appears to have entered the Australian imagination as a “wonderful discovery of a new animal” in 1845 in the Geelong District of Victoria, where the remains of a supposed Bunyip, amounting to a fragment of a knee joint, was identified by an Aboriginal. The unidentified individual said that such as creature had devoured his mother at the Barwon Lakes. He even drew a sketch of it that was also identified as a “Bunyip” by another Aboriginal man by the name of Mumbowran, who also showed “the deep wounds on his chest made by the claws of the animal”, and described the animal as uniting the characteristics of a bird and of an alligator. Could his marks have been the result of tribal scarring practices?

According to contemportary news reports, the Bunyip was known under a variety of names and descriptions.

“In this locality it is called Yaa-hoo, and is described as having much resemblance in form to the human figure, but with frightful features —the feet like those of a man, but reversed or turned backwards.”

“the blacks picture its haunts and habits as purely aquatic. It is a fact. well known to residents and others near that river that the aborigines will not readily venture into the deep and dark pools which remain when its bed is partially dried up.”

“the aborigines far and wide describe the creature as inhabiting the waters. From their account it has a head and neck like an Emu, with a long and flowing mane feeding on crayfish (with which the river abounds) and occasionally on a stray blackfellow ; that it inhabits the darkest and deepest parts of the river, and in some of the lake’s and lagoons that longest retain water.”

    • The Murrumbigee blacks = Katenaipai
    • Watta Watta tribe = Kyenprate
    • Yabala Tabala tribe (Edward River) =  Tunatbah
    • Rurla Burula tribe = Dongus
    • Blacks of the Great Carangamite lake (Portland District) = Bunyip
  • At Port Phillip the existence of large amphibious animal inhabiting rivers of the colony called by different tribes Bunyip or Bunyup, Katenpai, Kayan-prati, Tumulba, Tuna pan (Ref:
Hexham Swamp. Photo Credit: ABC×9-xlarge.jpg

Locally the Bunyip makes a reappearance in a report in the Newcastle Sun, 17 January 1924 through a facetious reference to a correspondent who “recently discovered a bunyip at Hexham.” But we are not sure who the writer was referring to.

On the 25 March 1925, a story appeared on page 3 of the The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate under the title of “Hunting the Bunyip of Hexham Swamp.”

It appears that three men, Sam Millgate, Bill Wallace and Billy Parkes, back in 1879 swore they heard, during an evening’s wild duck hunt in the Hexham Swamps, what resembled the “roar of a lion” and were terrified by the appearance of a creature with “eyes like golden orbs in the night.” Here is the story in full.

Hunting the Bunyip of

Hexham Swamp






(By J. G. Brown ex-Sergt. of Police.)

[Transcribed from 1925 ‘Hunting the Bunyip of Hexham Swamp’, The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate (NSW : 1910 – 1954), 25 March, p. 3. , viewed 05 Jun 2020, ]

Three men declared they saw the Bunyip of Hexham Swamp in 1879, and in the following account Mr. J. G. Brown, of Croydon, tells their story and relates how he took part in an exciting hunt at night-time.

“Every word I can vouch for as true,” he says, “and there are many alive in Plattsburg who will remember the strange noise of that time.”

During the year 1879, I was employed as a miner, and had been for many years residing in Plattsburg, which is some miles distant from Hexham Swamps. Work in the mines was very slack, miners being idle for a fortnight or three weeks at a time with half or one day’s work only, and so on, for many months, consequently the men had to do many things to procure sufficient food to feed their families.

Some owned boats, which were housed at the head of Ironbark Creek, a tributary to the Hunter River, where they would go and spend their time fishing, the catch being carefully salted, smoked and cured, whilst others would go to Hexham Swamps for the purpose of shooting wild duck and other water fowl and so help to provide food.

This is what happened three well known miners (men as brave as ever stepped in shoe leather, who would not hesitate to descend into a mine full of foul air or black damp, or falling roof, to attempt the rescue of a comrade in danger) in connection with the alleged visit of Bunyip to Hexham Swamps at that time, but I will first roughly describe the Hexham Swamp and the method generally used to secure good bags by shooting wild duck.

Struck Speechless.

On this particular evening the three men — Sam Milgate, Bill Wallace and Billy Parkes — all old residents of Plattsburg, had been concealed, waiting during the afternoon until about 8.30 p.m., but as no ducks happened along they were preparing to return to their homes. While saying unkindly things about the absence of the ducks, without warning, a tremendous roar, like that of a lion, but very much more powerful, coming from one throat, rang out in the still night.

They looked in the direction from where the sound came, and they subsequently stated that all they saw were two golden orbs, about the size of soup plates, at a distance of twenty yards.

The loudness of that roar and the sight of those golden orbs entirely took their speech and the power of their arms away. They looked at each other, blankly and stupidly, quite unable to utter a word or to lift their guns to their shoulders and fire. They simply walked to their homes, a distance of about two miles, without exchanging one word on the way, or wishing the other good-night, when parting.

What Was It?

It was some days later that Wallace and Milgate met at the pit top on their way to work. Both men glared at the other for nearly a minute, without speaking. Then Wallace was heard to say, “My God, Sam, what was it?”

Sam replied, “Don’t know. I wouldn’t take £100 and go there again.”

The serious look on the faces of the two men attracted the attention of others, inquiries were made, and that evening the tale of the bunyip was common talk all over the district.

Many parties were formed, some of which never reached the swamp, others returned with very exaggerated accounts of their experiences and bravery; others again were unable to hear the slightest sound on their visit to the swamp.

Beating up the Bunyip.

At that time my father was the proprietor of the Queen’s Head Hotel, Plattsburg, situated about 2½ miles from the southern edges of the swamp, and one night a party of eight friends were seated in one of the parlors, emphasised their arguments with several rounds of drinks and decided that the bunyip, or whatever it was, must be caught, dead or alive. They arranged to meet at the hotel on the following night at 7 o’clock, with guns and ammunition; then immediately proceed to the swamp, and beat it from end to end in the endeavor to find and do battle with the monster.

When the party left the hotel, about 11 o’clock, for their homes, each was capable of storming the Heights of Delhi, and taking it single-handed.

At 7 o’clock the following evening, two only, Tom and Bill Scott, arrived with a horse, spring cart, two dogs, muzzle-loading gun, etc.

It was arranged that we should move forward in open order at intervals of 12 paces, taking a northerly direction.

We had gone about 100 yards, with the dogs working splendidly just in front, when our quarry spoke about half a mile direct ahead.

What a roar! It resembled that of a lion, but the tone was half as loud again, and at that distance made the still air vibrate around us, and I should say could be heard fully two miles away. We all came to a halt without orders, and I can assure you that for half a minute I wished that I had not been one of the party. Word was passed along the line to be very careful, shoot straight with both barrels on sight.

Forward Again.

Then forward again in silence. As we reached the spot where it was estimated that the sound had come from, and, expecting to be confronted with the monster, another roar similar to the one previously, came from the right or easterly direction, 300 yards distance. So we altered our course, and made towards a clump of oak trees on slightly rising ground.

This took us nearly a half-hour, while we were passing through the trees all alert, a bit excited, but prepared to fight to the last man, a loud screech was heard come yards in front.

The Dogs Afraid.

The dogs gave a bark, and bounded off at a gallop into the shallow water, which, as we went along, gradually deepened. We hastened as fast as the conditions would allow. Then the dogs suddenly returned to us, looking backwards with their tails down, and giving vent to low angry growls, as though afraid of something. All the coaxing we could do would not induce these dogs to go forward again, and lead us to whatever had frightened them.

Just at that moment I saw some thing white in the reeds, and calling to Bill Scott, who was nearest, I levelled my gun and fired.

Immediately the white object rose up about six feet, and I was about to fire my second barrel when it fell. On going forward I discovered I had shot a large pelican, which we afterwards took home, and the skin served as a bedside mat for many years . We pushed forward for some distance, the dogs refused to follow, remaining near the trees growling angrily. As the water was then waist deep, it being 11 p.m., we made back to the horse and cart, and home.

On reaching the Queen’s Head Hotel about midnight, cold and wet to the waist, we exchanged experiences of the night’s adventures, over more of John Bull’s medicine, retiring to bed about 2 a.m.

Although it may appear strange, but after that night, the bunyip, or whatever it may have been, was not seen or heard again on Hexham Swamps up to the time of my leaving the district, ten years later.

For a very long time the party were generally, and I in particular, credited with having either destroyed or driven the monster from the swamps.

But before we could all get excited that we had a strange monster on the loose in the Hexham Swamps, William Turton wrote to the Newcastle Sun, a year before the article was published in 1924 to let everyone know that he and his grand father John Hannell solved the “mystery” of the Hexham Bunyip back in 1864. Turton writes:


Hexham Bunyip


Sixty Year Old Story

The Haunted Swamp

Mr. W. Turton, of Stockton, gives an interesting account of the Hexham bunyip:

I have been much amused to read the comments in the ‘Newcastle Sun’ re the bunyip at Hexham swamps.

I was born at Hexham in 1856 in the Wheatsheaf Inn, built and owned by the late John Hannell who, I might state, was my grandfather. I well remember a conversation on the bunyip (so called by many of the residents), but called by the Irish residents the banshea), and among those present were the late Jas. Brown, of Duckenfield Colliery, Mr Eales, of Duckenfield, F. Beaumont. Government surveyor, and others. The conversation ended in a pledge being taken to find out what the mysterious noise was.

About 1864 Mr Hannell (who was a noted duck-shooter) and others started investigating, and as he and myself were almost continuously on the swamps, it was not long before we located the ‘bunyip,’ which proved to be not a mosquito but a bird named the bittern.  After some years absence from the district I returned to Hexham in 1918 for a period of two years, and while there the bunyip and banshea were still to be heard.

I may add that every moonlight night in line weather, up to the time I was thirteen years old, I spent a good deal of time in the middle of the swamp In the water seated on a tuft of rushes shooting ducks as they came in at night to feed. We sent all of our game to Kippax Bros.’ Sydney market, for which we received a cheque fortnightly.

[HEXHAM BUNYIP Sixty Year Old Story The Haunted Swamp. The Newcastle Sun, 23 Jan 1924 p.4

So we present the Hexham Swamp Bunyip:
The Bittern
(Photo Credit: Nathan Hays)

Australasian Bittern, Hexham Swamp. Photographed by Nathan Hays (Ref:



Sources on the Bunyip, its various names and descriptions

1845 ‘WONDERFUL DISCOVERY OF A NEW ANIMAL.’, Geelong Advertiser and Squatters’ Advocate (Vic. : 1845 – 1847), 2 July, p. 2. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,

Geelong District – Fragment of knee joint found, shown to Aboriginal who said it came from a Bunyip.

The Aboriginal was asked to draw a picture, shown to another Aboriginal who deduced the same. When asked about the habitats of these creatures, one stated that his mother had been taken by one at the Barwon Lakes, within a few miles of Geelong. An aboriginal informant Mumbowran showed deep wounds on his breast made by the claws of the animal. (Could this have been tribal scarring?)

Description: The Bunyip “is represented as uniting the characteristics of a bird and of an alligator. It has a head resembling an emu with a long bill at the extremity of which is a transverse projection on each side, with serrated edges like the bone of the stingray. Its body and legs partake of the nature of the alligator. The hind legs are remarkably thick and strong, and the fore legs are much longer, but still of great strength. The extremities are furnished with long claws, but the blacks say its usual method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. When in the water it swims like a frog, and when on shore it walks on its hind legs with its head erect, in which position it measures twelve or thirteen feet in height. Its breast is said to be covered with different coloured feathers: but the probability is that the blacks have not had a sufficiently near view to ascertain whether its appearance might not arise from hair or scales. They describe it as laying eggs of double the size of the emu’s egg, of pale blue colour ; these eggs they frequently meet with, but as they are “no good for eating,” the black boys set them up for a mark, and throw stones at them.”


1847 ‘MULTUM IN PARVO.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 21 January, p. 2. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,


1847 ‘THE BUNYIP, OR KINE PRATIE.’, The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), 10 February, p. 114. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,


From the earliest date of our intercourse with the aborigines there has always been a traditional rumour amongst them of a creature hitherto supposed to be fabulous,and many extraordinary stories have, from time to time been current as to the conformation and habits of this animal, Speculation and enquiry have been on the rack to find out, first — whether there was any reasonable foundation for these traditional rumours, and secondly — supposing the animal to exist, to what genus or species of animals does it belong? At the Hunter’s River the reports of the natives would lead us to classify it with the carnivorous species. In this locality it is called Yaa-hoo, and is described as having much resemblance in form to the human figure, but with frightful features —the feet like those of a man, but reversed or turned backwards. In the immediate neighbourhood of the river the animal is called Wowee Wowee and the blacks picture its limits and habits as purely aquatic. It is a fact  well known to residents and others near that river that the aborigines will not readily venture into the deep and dark pools which remain when its bed is partially dried up. On the Murrumbidgee River, especially on the lower parts, rumours of the existence of this animal are more than usually rife, and there the aborigines far and wide describe the creature as inhabiting the waters. From their ac count it has a head and neck like an Emu, with a long and flowing mane— feeding on crayfish (with which the river abounds) and occasionally on a stray blackfellow ; that it inhabits the darkest and deepest parts of the river, and in some of the lake’s and lagoons that longest retain water. This account appears to be ‘nearer the mark’ than any other we have met with, and the facts and circumstances we are about to detail will settle the question as to whether such a creature ever existed or not. An animal never yet described by any naturalist “lives, moves, and has its being” at the present day, in the continent of New Holland, or, in the most sceptical point of view, it is clear that it cannot be very long since such an animal did live, in the land or water of ‘the “Terra Australia incognita.” At the station of Mr. Hobler, on Lake Paika, (situate some 25 miles below the junction of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee) it has been observed that the natives have ever evinced a strong disinclination to bathe in the lake, alleging that the Kine Pratie would attack and devour them, and some short time since two of Mr. Hobler’s servants solemnly asserted that, on looking early one morning, across the lake they espied on the other side of it, two animals which they it first supposed to be two horses,but, being puzzled about the movements of the creatures, they rode round to satisfy themselves on the subject, but, on arriving at the spot they could discover no tracks or trace of any animal whatever. If what they saw, or fancied they saw, were horses, it is probable that they would have left some traces behind them, but as no traces were found, the only conclusion to be arrived at is, either that the creatures they saw were aquatic animals and seen on the water, or that the whole was an optical delusion. Now we may easily suppose that one man’s sight and senses may be imposed on, or perverted, but that the sight and senses of two men could be simultaneously and similarly deceived in open day light, is a matter of no very easy belief. Mr. Hobler writes thus— Two Kine Praties have been seen at the same time at Paika; and that there is such a creature; we are now sure, as the skull of one, evidently recent date and, therefore, in perfect preservation; has been seen by Mr. Phelps, a settler in the neighbourhood, and Mr. Stack, brother to the Rev. Mr. Stack of Maitland— it was picked up near Waldare, and is in the possession of Mr. Fletcher. Another was picked up by one of the Adelaide travellers, who very sagaciously threw it away, but thinks he can find it again.” Mr. Hobler offered to purchase the skull of Mr. Fletcher, who well knowing the value of the prize he had got, would not so much as listen to his offer. The skull here alluded to is either in the possession of Mr. Fletcher, son of Dr. Fletcher of this town, or of Mr Gilbert, Secretary, of the Mechanics’ Institute.

It is described as being the skull of an animal of the carnivorous order, as is ascertained from the teeth, with a very large cavity for the brain, and a long protruding bill or jaw which is broken off before the molars, the lower part is altogether wanting, and so is the top of the skull. Sufficient is however left to show that it belongs to an order of animals not yet described as either of anti or post-diluvian existence. M r. Hobler also writes that he has been informed one of these creatures was lately seen at Lake Tarla, situate about eight miles from Lake Paika, making a great disturbance in the water, and that another is known to be in a smaller lake which is fast drying up, somewhere in the same heighourhood, and that a strict watch is being kept up, with the hope of taking the creature as the element so necessary to its existence recedes. The Weragerie blacks call the creature the Kine Pratie, but the Mut Muu, Watti Wattis, and other tribes have each their own names for it.— P. P. Patriot.”


1847 ‘THE APOCRYPHAL ANIMAL OF THE INTERIOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES.’, Port Phillip Gazette and Settler’s Journal (Vic. : 1845 – 1850), 17 February, p. 4. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,

“The Murrumbigee blacks assert that a large anumal, “big as him bullock”, exists in the lakes of that district; they describe it as having a thick mane of hair from the top of the head to the shoulders; four-legged, with three toes on each foot, which is webbed; and having a tail like a horse. They call it the Katenaipai; whilst by the Watta Watta tribe (who similarly describe it) it is called Kyenprate; by the Yabala Tabala tribe on the Edward River, it is known as the Tunatbah; whilst the Rurla Burula tribe called it Dongus. I (i.e., W.H. Hovell) have been informed that the blacks on the Great Carangamite lake, in the Portland District, describe a similar animal, which they call the Bunyip.”


1847 ‘THE BUNYIP.’, The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Vic. : 1845 – 1848), 20 March, p. 2. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,

Port Phillip = existence of large amphibious animal inhabiting rivers of the colony called by different tribes Bunyip or Bunyup, Katenpai, Kayan-prati, Tumulba, Tuna pan

Description: “that it is of the size of a bullock, with a head and neck like an emu’s, and a mane and tail like a horse’s. In their rude drawings of it they give it two tusks, or front teeth, curved downwards; and feet like those of a seal ; they say that it is oviparous and burrows, commencing its burrow under water, and working upwards until it is above the water level, where in a chamber, accessible only through the water, it deposits its eggs, which are as large as a bucket, enclosed in membranous skin like a turtle’s, and not in a hard shell. They say that it eats black-fellows, and all are afraid of those deep holes in the rivers which it inhabits — but its usual food is crayfish or lobsters (very abundant in the large rivers in that colony) and roots. Many other particulars are furnished by the blacks, but they do not all agree either in their drawings or details, so that much uncertainty prevails as to the existence of this wonderful animal, although many attach a considerable degree of credit to the assertions of the aborigines.”


William Turton Diaries


A5438 (i)(a) Notebook (vellum approx 11.5cm x 18cm) containing diary entries, recipes, notes and various jottings. “William J. Turton Sydney”, 1872-1898

A5438 (i)(b) Notebook (black, approx 7.5cm x 14.5 cm) Notebook Diary, 1889-1891.

A5438 (i)(c) Notebook (cloth, approx. 10cm x 16cm) William Turton Diary, Accounts 1890-1893

A5438 (i)(d) Diary (black, approx. 8cm x 12cm) “W. J. Turton” included recorded experience of 1893 flood, 1891-1893.

A5438 (i)(e) Diary/Notebook (Marbled Notebook approx 7cm x 12 cm) “W. J. Turton Hexham”, 1900-1901

A5438 (i)(f) Notebook (black, approx 7.5cm x 12.5cm) “Dyke Pattern Shop”, 1907-1909.




Mr William J. Turton (born 1856 – Died 2 May 1930)
Ref: SMH 3 May 1930 p.19


Mr. William John Turton died at his residence in Stockton yesterday, at the age of 74 years. He was a well-known engineer throughout New South Wales and was the constructor of the first heliograph made in Australia. Mrs.Turton, three sons, and seven daughters survive him.


Mr William J. Turton (born 1856 – Died 2 May 1930)
Ref: NMH 3 May 1930 p.4


Mr. William John Turton, who died at his residence, Mitchell-street, Stockton on Thursday night  after a long illness, was 74 years of age. He was born at the old Wheatsheaf Hotel, on the Maitland-road, Hexham, in 1856. As a boy he went to Sydney to live, and after serving his apprenticeship as a patternmaker at Chapman’s engineering works, he returned to Hexham, and resided a number of years with the late Mr. John Hannell, for whom he built two yachts and other smaller crafts, which were seen on the Hunter River. In 1881 he joined the railway service in the locomotive department, and was engaged as a driver on the Western line to Bathurst. Leaving the railway, Mr. Turton went on the land at Hexham; and later joined the Harbours and Rivers Department, working at the Dyke and later at Walsh Island, as a patternmaker. He retired in 1910, after 20 years’ service. In his early life Mr. Turton took an active part in the volunteer engineer corps, and assisted to construct the first heliograph, now used extensively by the military. He had a good retentive memory, and was able to recall many incidents in connection with early Newcastle History. He is survived by his widow, seven daughters (Mesdames A Smythe, J. Murphy, J. Webster, A Ross, and T. Houston. Misses Amy and Evelyn Turton), and three sons (Willian, Albert and Roy). The funeral will take place from St Paul’s Church of England, Stockton, this afternoon.


Mr William J. Turton (born 1856 – Died 2 May 1930)
Ref: NMH 2 May 1930 p.7 Ref:

Stockton Pioneer

Late Mr. W. Turton

Stockton lost one of its pioneers by the death of Mr. William Turton last night.

Born at Hexham in 1856, the late Mr.Turton at an early age joined the railway service as a cleaner, and worked himself up to the position of a mail train driver. For many years he was engaged on the Western line, with his home station at Bathurst. Retiring from the Railway Department, Mr. Turton went on the land for a few years, and then joined the Public Works Department as a foreman when the Department’s repair shops were situated at the end of the Dyke.

On the opening of Walsh Island, Mr. Turton was transferred to the island, where he was employed as a foreman pattern–maker, until he retired from the Department six years ago.

Mr. Turton is survived by his widow, three sons (Mr. William Turton, of the Public Works Department. Newcastle; Mr. Albert Turton, of Sydney, and Mr. Roy Turton, of Stockton), and five daughters, Mesdames Smyth, Murphy, Ross, Webster, Houston, and Misses Amy and Evelyn Turton.

The interment will take place tomorrow afternoon in the Church of England section of Sandgate cemetery.


Death of Alice Turton 16 April 1919
Ref: NMH 17 April 1919 p.4

Miss Alice Turton died suddenly yesterday afternoon at the establishment of The Hustler’s, where she was employed as a shop assistant. The deceased had carried out her duties as usual during the morning, and after lunch she returned to ‘her place at the counter seemingly in the best of health. She had just taken off her hat, when she collapsed. She was carried to the balcony, and Mr. A. B. McKenzle, one of the principals of the firm, called in the services of Dr. W. Nickson, who, on arrival, pronounced life extinct. The late Miss Turton was a daughter of Mr. William J. Turton, of Mitchell-street, Stockton, and was about 19 years of age. The matter was reported, to Mr. C. Hibble, the district coroner, who requested Dr. John Harris, Government Medical Officer, to make an examination. Subsequently Dr. Harris informed the coroner that ‘the examination showed death to be due to status lymnphaticus, which is a very obscure and rare condition of the lymphatic glands, which cannot be diagnosed during life. and which is liable to cause death with startling suddenness. The coroner dispensed with an inquest. The funeral will take place this afternoon.

Inventor of the first Heliograph
Ref: 21 July 1925 p 8


Newcastle Man’s Work


Many inventions that play important parts in 20th century wartime equipment had accidental origins from obscure sources.

Few people know the origin of the heliograph, and fewer still that an old resident of Newcastle played an important part in giving to the armies of the world this indispensable means of communication.

Though the value of heliograph for many powers might be assessed in millions, the two men responsible did not get a penny for their labors, nor any great official recognition, if any at all.

Colonel Parrott, a veteran of the Zulu War and ex-lieutenant of the N.S.W. Volunteer Engineer Corps, who conceived the idea, has disappeared, and ex-Sapper W. J. Turton, who assisted In the experiments and made the first heliograph, is now an old man, spending the rest of his days in peaceful seclusion at his home in Stockton.

References to tho invention of the heliograph, or sematrope, as it was called then, are contained in a letter of congratulation to Turton from Parrott, and a newspaper paragraph, published a few years after the sematrope was universally adopted by the fighting forces of tho world.

Parrott’s letter, faded but still legible, has been framed by Mr. Turton, and occupies a conspicuous position in his home. It reads:—

Sapper W. J. Turton,
I am Instructed to inform you that, by a resolution of tho committee of this corps, their  praises are unanimously recorded to you for the voluntary service you rendered in the construction of the sematrope, which has now been handed over for the use of the corps.
N.S.W. Volunteer Engineer Corps.

The newspaper paragraph makes sarcastrlc reference to the attitude of the Government towards Parrott. It reads:— .

‘Lieutenant Parrott (now Colonel), who is down with sunstroke in Suaklm, is one of the best scientific men New South Wales has produced. He is the inventor of the system of sun disc signals, which received great praise from the British scientific press and met with immediate adoption In European military circles.

It was Parrott’s system which was successfully used in connection with the distressed garrison at Ekowe, besieged by the Zulus.

By the way, Parrot, who is an expert surveyor, has never hit it with the Government departments.

The sematrope is the same as the present instrument, except that the heliograph stands on a higher tripod and has an improved shutter control.

The history of the heliograph dates back to 1875, when Sapper Turton was a member of Lieut. Parrott’s corps, which had one of its periodical training camps near Middle Head, not far from Sydney, that year.

In civilian life Parrott was a surveyor with an inventive strain of mind, and Turton was an apprentice at Chapman and Co.’s iron foundry in George-street, Sydney.

Turton learned from his friend that while working with his theodolite, the sun shining, on the Ions and reflecting the light some distance away, had given him the idea that signalling by this method might be possible.

At that time, flag signalling was the only method used by the military forces of the world.

The first experiment was carried out the next day, when Parrott stationed himself several hundred yards away from his subordinate, and they conveyed messages in code to each other by means of mirrors, using pieces of cardboard to shut off the sun’s rays and so differentiate between dots and dashes. Night experiments were made with a lamp, and a shutter. After several practices the scheme was pronounced a success, and plans were drawn up by Parrott for the first heliograph.

Convex mirrors, with ‘sight’ holes in tho centres were used. The scintillating effect of the sun’s rays was provided by shutters, which exposed and covered the glass at the will of the signaller.

Turton realised the value of the Invention, and  endeavored to induce his friend to patent it, but Parrott declined, saying that everythlng that, he did was for the benefit of the corps.

A claim to the invention was made by an Imperial officer on service in India, but this was discountenanced by Major Pratt, of the Royal Engineer Corps, at a dinner given in Sydney to non-commissioned officers of the force on the way to annex Fiji to the  British Empire.

Major Pratt said that he had seen plans of Parrott’s invention at the Chatham Naval Institute (England) six months before the other officer made his claim.

Mr. Turton, who Is a native, of Hexham, has lived in the Newcastle district all his life.


Later Newspaper Mentions of the “Hexham Bunyip”


1948 ‘TO-DAY’S TOPICS’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 17 February, p. 2. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,

Once upon a time there was a bunyip in Hexham Swamp. The story is told in the “Sunday News” of March 15, 1925, a copy of which is held by Mr. R. Martin, of Hobart-road, New Lambton.

The article was written by J. G. Brown, ex-sergeant of police, who lived at Plattsburg in 1879, the year the bunyip made its debut.

It all began, he said, when three miners -“men as brave as ever stepped in shoe leather”- went shooting ducks in the swamp at night. In Mr. Brown’s words, “they heard a tremendous roar, like that of a lion, but very much more powerful. They looked in the direction from which the sound came and saw only two golden orbs, about the size of soup plates.”

The men were so awed that they parted without wishing each other goodnight.

When Mr. Brown and party subsequently went out on a bunyip hunt, they heard it roar several times, but shot only a pelican. The bunyip was not heard of again.


1948 ‘Bunyip Story “No Myth”‘, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 21 February, p. 2. ,viewed 05 Jun 2020,

Bunyip Story
“No Myth”

THE story of the “bunyip” in Hexham swamp in “To-day’s Topics” on Tuesday is no fiction, according to Mr. Arthur Gough.

Mr. Gough, who lives with his granddaughter, Mrs. Mills, of Mayfield-street, Cessnock, said he heard it frequently at intervals over 20 years.

“I have heard it many times roar something like a lion,” he says. “It was an awful noise. ‘I never saw it; I don’t think anyone did. I would very much have’liked to have seen it.”

“So you were not afraid of it?” he was asked.

“Not at all,” he said. “With a good gun, what was there to be afraid of? Other duck shooters on the Hexham swamps were afraid of it, and that made it good for me. Times were often bad in the mines 65 to 70 years ago, and I would sometimes get a bag of 40 plump ducks. There was a ready sale for those we could not eat ourselves.

“The nearest I ever got to the bunyip was about 200 yards. You could hear its roar over a long dtistance. When I had reached home at Wallsend after a night’s duck shooting in the moonlight,” I had called my wife’s attention to the noise.”

Mr. Gough said he always believed it was a sea lion which came up to the swamp in the breeding season along one of the blind creeks from the Hunter River.

Before his retirement from the mines, Mr. Gough was a deputy for many years in Pelton colliery.


1948 ‘Letters to Editor’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 27 February, p. 4. , viewed 05 Jun 2020,

Letters to Editor

I support Mr. Arthur Gough’s report of the swamp “Bunyip.” An amimal of similar description has frequented Shortland Swamp since 1943. I have never seen it, but the noise it makes is like a lion’s roar.

It was repeatedly heard before the last heavy rain, before the swamp became full. There were two roars and sometimes three, but positively not more than three at a time.

It probably has made its way back to the Hunter River. As it would have to pass through a water pipe under a road, it cannot be such a monster.-((Mrs) L. JONES, Shortland.


Other names of Bunyip like creatures:

BOROYIROG (See WAUWARAN)  – Lake Monster Habitat

“There is another resort for these fish near an island in Lake Macquarie named boroyirog, from the cliffs of which if stones be thrown down into the sea beneath, the ti-tree bark floats up, and then the monster is seen gradually arising from the deep; if any natives are at hand, he overturns their canoe, swallows the crew alive, and then the entire canoe, after which he descends to his resort in the depths below!”


Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist, Chair of the Hunter Living Histories
The Truth Is Out There
16 June 2020


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