Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pumpkin (1850–1908)

by Mary Durack

This article was published:

Pumpkin (1850?-1908), Aboriginal stockman of the Boontamurra tribe of the Cooper Creek district, west Queensland, was about 18 in 1868 when Patrick Durack established Thylungra station on a tributary of Cooper Creek. Pumpkin at once claimed Durack as his 'brother', a relationship he honoured for the rest of his life. Strongly built and quick to learn, Pumpkin interested himself keenly in all aspects of station work. A splendid rider and stockman, he soon acquired a useful knowledge of carpentry, building, fencing and gardening. He accompanied Patsy Durack and other family members on many droving and buggy trips throughout Queensland and New South Wales.

In 1885 when Patrick Durack left Thylungra to make his home in Brisbane, he gave Pumpkin a plant of horses but on principle refused to take him from his country. On his own initiative Pumpkin followed the family to the city and persuaded them that as a childless widower his responsibility lay with the two Durack sons who were then pioneering Argyle station on the Ord River. Accordingly in April 1887 he accompanied Patrick Durack by ship from Brisbane to East Kimberley, where he assumed a many-sided pioneering task from the building of homesteads and yards to stock-tailing, droving, horse-breaking and even tracking horse thieves. Although suspicious of the local tribes and suspected by them, he learned that Mrs Durack was coming to make her home at Argyle, and managed to negotiate with them for a young wife to help her in the house. This encouraged other Aboriginals to enter station employment and Pumpkin undertook the training of a number of local boys for station work. His pupils, all of whom bore the stamp of Pumpkin's own conscientiousness, included such outstanding station natives as Argyle Charlie, Ulysses and Boxer, the last a remarkable Queensland Aboriginal whom Pumpkin adopted as a child.

Pumpkin's grave at Argyle is marked by a memorial headstone:

Here lies Pumpkin, a member of the
Boontamurra tribe of Cooper Creek, who
from boyhood served Patrick Durack of
Thylungra, W. Queensland, following
his sons to the West in 1887 and
rendering faithful service and devotion
to the day of his death in 1908.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Durack, Kings in Grass Castles (Lond, 1959)
  • M. P. Durack papers and journals, 1886-1950 (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

Mary Durack, 'Pumpkin (1850–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 28 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




1908 (aged ~ 58)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.