Yuranigh, a Wiradjuri , became a guide to Major Thomas Mitchell on his expedition to central Queensland, which started in December 1845.
Along with two other Aborigines, Yuranigh, a Wiradjuri tribesman from the Molong district, joined Mitchell at Boree.
He soon proved his worth in many ways – retrieving cattle which had strayed, finding water for the group, climbing tall trees to get a better view of the country, explaining bush lore to Mitchell, and liaising between Mitchell’s group and local Aboriginal tribes.
At a time when there was much mistrust and misunderstanding between white men and Aborigines, Yuranigh’s intelligence and ability not only impressed Mitchell and ensured the expedition’s success, but endeared him to the explorer. Mitchell described Yuranigh as his ‘guide, companion, counsellor and friend’. Confidence in him was never misplaced. He well knew the character of all the white men in the party. Nothing escaped his penetrating eye and quick ear.
Mitchell wrote of his ‘guide, companion, counsellor and friend’ that ‘his intelligence and his judgment rendered him so necessary to me that he was ever at my elbow … Confidence in him was never misplaced. He well knew the character of all the white men in the party. Nothing escaped his penetrating eye and quick ear. Yuranigh was particularly clean in his person, frequently washing, and his glossy shining black hair, always well-combed, gave him an uncommonly clean and decent appearance’.
Read more about Yuranigh on the Australian Dictionary or Biography
After the expedition ended, Mitchell took Yuranigh and two other Aborigines to Sydney. It was hoped the trio would ‘work and live like white men’ but Yuranigh missed the bush. After becoming a stockman on a cattle station, he returned to his tribe near Molong.
When he died in about April 1850, local Aborigines erected carved trees at each corner of the grave as a mark of respect. Mitchell arranged for the grave to be fenced at government expense and later paid for an inscribed headstone.
In 1900 the headstone was renovated and re-erected on a base of Molong marble. The inscription reads:
To Native Courage Honesty and Fidelity. Yuranigh who accompanied the expedition of discovery into tropical Australia in 1846 lies buried here according to the rites of his countrymen and this spot was dedicated and enclosed by the Governor General’s authority in 1852.
Yuranigh’s name lives on at a lagoon, a county in Queensland and a creek near Molong.