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Paddy Cahill of Oenpelli

Paddy Cahill of Oenpelli by John Mulvaney
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Winner of the 2005 Northern Territory Chief Minister’s History Award. An energetic ‘frontiersman’, Paddy Cahill joined pioneer Nat Buchanan’s famous 1883 cattle drive, moving 20,000 head of cattle from Australia’s Central Queensland to Northern Territory and he was known throughout the 1890’s as one of Darwin’s ‘characters’.

In 1909 Cahill settled at Oenpelli, on the East Alligator River. He pioneered tropical horticulture, agriculture and butter production and established positive race relations with the Aborigines upon who he relied for labour.

Following the visit from anthropologist Baldwin Spencer to Oenpelli in 1912, Cahill became a Protector of Aborigines. His frequent and detailed correspondence with Spencer assisted Spencer’s 1914 publication Native Tribes of the Northern Territory. He further helped Spencer’s work by collecting words, stories, art and artefacts for him.

While Cahill’s initial attitudes towards Indigenous people are questionable by today’s standards, his values and perceptions changed significantly over time and he worked hard on behalf of Aboriginal people, especially with dietary and medical support.

Paddy was a good story teller. This biography recounts his lively story and includes his informative letters and newspaper articles. Both provide insights into frontier conditions, Aboriginal culture and the problems of health and displacement.

Aboriginal Studies Press; November 2004
232 pages; ISBN 9780855755201
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Title: Paddy Cahill of Oenpelli
Author: John Mulvaney


Introduction vii
Acknowledgements xi
Illustrations xiii
Abbreviations xiv
Measurements xv
Terminology xv
Part I Biography
1. ‘A man of great resourcefulness’ 3
2. Jack of all trades 19
3. A pastoralist marries 24
4. Oenpelli 35
5. Pioneering life outback 44
6. The Protector 49
7. The Darwin rebellion 65
8. ‘A great deal to like in the Natives’ 72
Part II Cahill’s letters to Baldwin Spencer
1912 81
1913 82
1914 92
1915 105
1916 109
1917 119
1918 125
1919–20 130
1921 13
Appendix 1 In the NT buffalo country 1898–99 139
Appendix 2 A trip to Point Farewell 1901 156
Appendix 3 Letters of Joe Cooper and Solomon 164
Notes 170
Bibliography 196
Index 208