Letter defends Eliza Fraser's story
THE MAN who carried Eliza Fraser to her rescue boat and brought her back to Moreton Bay settlement after being shipwrecked and held by Aborigines on Fraser Island has come to her aide once again.
A letter that Lieutenant Otter of the Royal Navy penned in 1836 to Moreton Bay Penal Settlement Commandant Fyans, reveals Eliza Fraser had “suffered dreadfully from the cruelty of the natives”, proving she was more than just “hit” as Butchulla elders told the Chronicle last week.
Maryborough Family Heritage Institute president Kay Gassan said Lt Otter’s letter, published in the 1998 edition of A History of Maryborough 1842-1997, was as close to the truth as anyone could get.
“He was there at the time,” Ms Gassan said. “His letter is an official account and he had no reason to exaggerate the facts.”
Lt Otter wrote: “We had not been there more than half an hour when (convict) Graham appeared with four natives and gave us the gratifying intelligence that he had succeeded, and that Mrs Fraser was waiting close at hand for a cloak to cover her, as she had been stripped by the natives from the very first as well as the rest.
“She came to us in a few minutes after and though dreadfully debilitated and crippled from the sufferings she had undergone, she insisted on starting instantly for the tents, which indeed it became prudent to do as there were nearly 300 natives assembled in a camp about nine miles off, many of whom had been very unwilling to give her up.
“We accordingly proceeded on our return and managed by occasionally carrying her to reach the boats about 3 o’clock the following morning.”
Butchulla elders last week described Eliza Fraser as a liar and are questioning why their ancestral island homeland of k’gari is not returned to its original Butchulla name.
“What would Australians prefer?” elder Mackie Burns asked.
“To have the world’s largest sand island named after a liar, or paradise, which is what k’gari means?”
Elder Fancis Gala said at the very most Mrs Fraser, who was shipwrecked with her husband and 17 men from the brig, the Stirling Castle on May 21, 1836, might have been “hit”.
Another Maryborough historian, who did not wish to be named, said a later account written by Mrs Fraser revealed that while her story was certainly true, it had also been embellished ... but she said the English woman should be shown some compassion.
“Who could blame her if she tried to profit from her ordeal? She was destitute and desperately needed money.”
Meanwhile, Lt Otter’s letter proved Mrs Fraser’s claim that her captain husband had been speared to death by local Aboriginals to be incorrect.
Lt Otter’s original letter is held by Archives Office of New South Wales.