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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jackey Jackey (?–1854)

by Edgar Beale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Jackey Jackey (d.1854), Aboriginal guide, was a member of a tribe of the Merton district near Muswellbrook. He was probably little more than a boy when at short notice in April 1848 he was selected to accompany the explorer Edmund Kennedy on his expedition in Cape York Peninsula. He soon acquired a reputation for hard work, sagacity and superb bushcraft; as privation and disaster gradually overcame the party he steadily emerged as one of its strongest members. The worse conditions became the more it seemed that he could be relied on. Finally a rear party was left at Weymouth Bay; Jackey and Kennedy pressed on towards Cape York, first with three others, then alone, only to find that they were trapped by the mangroves and swamps of the Escape River within a few miles of the waiting supply ship. There blacks attacked them and Kennedy was killed; still in danger Jackey buried him and then made his own escape. With heroic tenacity he made his way at last to the supply ship, reaching it about a fortnight later on 23 December 1848. Though completely exhausted, he could not rest the first night of his return, but grieved for his dead master.

The deep rapport between Kennedy and Jackey was again demonstrated in May 1849 when under Captain T. Beckford Simpson Jackey served as guide on another expedition to trace any other survivors and find Kennedy's body. They were unsuccessful, but Simpson praised Jackey's skill, modesty, respectful manner and touching devotion to Kennedy's memory. Ominously, however, he referred to Jackey's one weakness: his 'fondness for ardent spirits'.

On his return Jackey was widely honoured by a silver breast-plate presented by Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy, by a government gratuity, and by drinks stood for him by an admiring public. By 1850 he was back with his tribe 'naked, with the exception of his old blanket round him'; he later drifted about aimlessly until, in the early days of 1854 when thirty miles (48 km) from Albury on an overlanding journey, he fell drunkenly into the camp fire and was burned to death.

One authentic portrait of him survives, a lithograph made in 1849 by Charles Rodius (copy in Mitchell Library), which shows his youth, his sensitive intelligence, and some degree of his suffering.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Carron, Narrative of an Expedition: Undertaken Under the Direction of the Late Mr. Assistant Surveyor E.B. Kennedy, for the Exploration of the Country Lying Between Rockingham Bay and Cape York (Syd, 1849)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Feb 1854
  • Col Sec 52/7614 (State Records New South Wales)
  • T. B. Simpson log book (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Edgar Beale, 'Jackey Jackey (?–1854)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]


New South Wales, Australia



Cultural Heritage