|271A. THIRD MAN The.|
|"We left Harry and Mick at the camp, just in case Coote should arrive while we away".|
|Blakeley, F. Dream Millions. 66. Illbilla 9/8/30.|
The above photograph, opposite page 37 of 'Lasseter's Last Ride', was taken by Phillip Taylor at Ai Ai Creek on 10/8/30. The photo is titled, 'THE COMPANY'S HOPES CRASHED WITH THE GOLDEN QUEST', which is a fairly accurate summation of the Company's fortunes. The photograph has implications for the accuracy of Sullivan's Diary and may be yet another lapse in Blakeley's recollection of events as set out in 'Dream Millions'.
Blakeley had arranged with Coote to wait for three days at Illbilla pending the return of the pilot from Ai Ai Creek flying the Golden Quest, "On the third day I was nearly mad. I cursed and cursed those arrangements I made with Coote". Anticipating the worst the Thornycroft was prepared for a hurried return to Ai Ai Creek on the afternoon of 9/8/30, at sunset the arrangement with Coote lapsed and Blakeley, Sutherland and Taylor immediately returned over the outward track. "We left Harry and Mick at the camp", in case Coote should return during the search.
On closer examination Blakeley's reason for leaving Lasseter and Micky at Illbilla is flawed, it would make no difference to the pilot if he returned to a temporarily deserted camp, well aware of the arrangements, he would expect the men to be out searching for him and to return within a few days. On the other hand It would be sensible to leave two men at the camp to guard the supply dump although no Aboriginals had been sighted to that time. It is also worth remembering that Lasseter was afraid of the Aboriginals and Micky more so, at Illbilla he was trespassing on Luridja land and the punishment for that crime was death! Perhaps not the soundest choice in guards if that were the case.
So according to Blakeley three men left Illbilla to search for Coote and arrived at the crash scene mid afternoon, 10/8/30. That being so there should only be two men in the photograph with Taylor behind the camera, therefore who is the third man?. The tall slim Sutherland is easily identified, on the right leaning against the plane with the solidly built Blakeley in the centre, right hand on hip. The third man on the left looks like Lasseter, being much shorter in statue than Blakeley and with a shadow line along the cheek, very similar to that shown in the photograph of Lasseter at Pantas Well. It could well be Lasseter and there may be a straightforward explanation.
Given Blakeley's hopeless record of events it is very likely that he has confused the first rescue trip in search of Coote with a later journey over the same track in search of Fred Colson who was several days overdue when the Expedition returned to Illbilla from Mount Marjorie on 27/8/30, "Old Man Worry had taken a firm hold of me, for Freddy was now four or five days overdue". On the second trip to the east in search of Colson, Blakeley includes Lasseter and Micky in the crew and when the Thornycroft arrived at Ai Ai Creek, "Harry went over and had a look at the marks where the plane had crashed". After a tea break the men continued east to camp on The Derwent River where Colson arrived later in the evening.
While Blakeley was procrastinating at Illbilla, Paul Johns arrived at the camp, sometime towards the end of August and it is during this interlude that Blakeley, "made a bargain with him to stay about here a while. In two or three weeks' time I would know whether we could get through to our position and if we could not, I thought I might hire him and his camels to carry on". At this point in time there should be eight men at Illbilla, five men from C.A.G.E. and Johns with his two Aboriginal guides, more than enough men to mount a rescue mission and guard the camp.
The following sequence of events is suggested as a plausible alternative. The first trek east in search of Coote and expecting the worst, may have been a case of 'all hands on deck', including Lasseter and Micky. As no Aboriginals had been sighted in the vicinity of Illbilla, it would be a reasonable risk to leave the supplies unguarded, besides Lasseter and especially Micky would have been quite reluctant to remain at the camp. If this is so then the third man in the photograph would be Lasseter. It is on the second trip in search of Colson that Lasseter, perhaps at his request, remained at Illbilla, very likely in the company of Paul Johns, which would have been a convenient arrangement for both men. Of course in the greater scheme of things it makes little difference if Lasseter travelled with the rest of the men on both rescue missions, it would explain the presence of the third man in the photograph. Nothing, except the lack of a daily log book, explains Blakeley's erratic memory.
© R.Ross. 1999-2006