|184. MORMON PASTOR the.|
|" Lasseter eventually made his way to America where he rejoined the Mormon church,".|
|Fred Blakeley, People Magazine, 09/02/1955.|
1938 was a significant year in Lasseter lore, Fred Blakeley's first book Hard Liberty was published with moderate success and his mostly complete manuscript to Dream Millions was soundly rejected by publishers and newspapers alike; also rumours had become widespread in central Australia and Sydney that all was not as it seemed with Lasseter's death and burial in the Petermann Ranges, and Bob Buck had profited handsomely from an insurance fraud. In November the following year, the author, Frank Clune, drinking mate and confidant to Ion Idriess investigated "this insidious furphy" first hand, he travelled to the 'Centre as a member of another Cutlack/Hummerston expedition in search of Lasseter's Reef.
Clune had been commissioned by Smiths Weekly, to enquire into the sinister whisper, "Lasseter ain't dead at all! It was only a stunt to collect insurance", Clune appointed himself furphy diviner for the duration of his investigations, an ironic title while associated with Cutlack who made a tolerable living from well gilded furphies, nevertheless Clune focussed on the Lasseter rumour.
First he interviewed V. G. Carrington, Government Resident at the time of Lasseter's death, and well aware of the rumours regarding Lasseter's resurrection and quite unfussed by the implications. As far as he was concerned Buck's written statement and Lasseter's notes and other belongings that Buck had recovered were sufficient to identify Lasseter; also Lasseter's death had been expected, as early as Feb 1931, The Barrier Miner feared that Lasseter "may have died in the far interior", and of course the obvious, there were no other white prospectors in the Petermann Ranges at the time of Lasseter's death, Carrington added that he," would rather believe the body was there than have it investigated through an unsupported statement.~That settled the matter from the official point of view", and quite satisfied Clune.
He then interviewed Bob Buck, who was out mustering cattle on his new property Renners Rocks, Buck was accompanied by his uncle, Allan Breaden, then 86 years old, easing introductions with a couple of bottles of beer and after the usual small talk about property size and cattle numbers, Clune asked a blunt question, "how much did you collect out of Lasseter's insurance?". Buck replied with a grin, acknowledging the widespread rumour but he did not wear the accusation lightly, in a somewhat agitated manner Buck recounted his search for Lasseter and the hardships endured, "had to boil me flaming hopple straps into jelly for tucker" how the Luritcha showed him the body, recovering the dental plate and papers, fencing the grave. Allowing for time and imagination, Buck's story was factual enough, he finished with "why can't they let the poor flaming cow rest in peace" Clune sympathised and noted, "the heedless malice of idle tongues".
300 miles further west, at Ayers Rock, Clune found unexpected confirmation of Buck's story, he spent 18 days in the company of the Cutlack expeditions camel man and camp guard, Koorinjaminny, usually known as Mulga Mick. Koorinjaminny was a member of the tribe that found Lasseter after his camels had bolted somewhere south of Lake Amadeus, and with the help of a 200 word Luritja to English dictionary, Clune assembled Koorinjaminny's account of Lasseter's troubles and death, now nine years after the event the story had become well rehearsed and with a growing number of participants. Koorinjaminny recalled that Lasseter was nearly blind and suffering acute dysentery but always writing in his book, he had been piggybacked to Shaw Creek where he died and had been buried Blackfella fashion, on his side in a knee deep grave, the grave then fenced and 'poor old man' properly mourned, Whitefella fashion. Unfortunately a great deal of Koorinjaminny's recollection (and perhaps Clune's interpretation) is an amalgam of Albrecht, Buck and Idriess, "But I'm satisfied that his story is dinkum, and that Old Man Lasseter really does lie-buried-out where the dead men lie".
Clune titled his article in Smiths Weekly, Lasseter's Ghost and he wrote with an acid pen, especially directed at Centralian rumour mongers, and he made a less than subtle reference to Blakeley's manuscript, by inference the source of the rumours, "No Editor will dare print an unverified story of this kind, for a very obvious reason", Irene Green, Lasseter's widow was legally entitled to remarry and to suggest otherwise would involve expensive and embarrassing litigation. Then there were the aspersions cast on the character and motives of Buck and of all people, Victor G. Carrington, his legal representation would have been formidable, the Attorney General. Blakeley's manuscript was poisonous in more ways than one, he sequestered Dream Millions in the Mitchell Library on the condition that it not be printed in his lifetime or the lifetimes of Lasseter's immediate family, Blakeley, altruistic after the event, claimed that he "didn't want an innocent woman and children to be made the victims of Lasseter's misdeeds". There was little reaction to Clunes article, perhaps his point had been well and truly made.
Lasseter's Ghost was at peace until Feb.1955 when Blakeley broke his self imposed embargo and gave a lengthy interview to People Magazine, he considered himself free to speak as he believes the wife and children to be dead", he could not have checked too carefully, if at all, Lasseter's son, Robert, lived in the same city, about 15 miles to the north west. As expected Blakeley condemned Lasseter as a fraud and his reef a hoax, he also made the startling claim that, "Lasseter rode safely out of the desert, crossed to Western Australia and made his way to America and became a pastor in the Mormon Church". The libellous article had unintended consequences.
Blakeley was certain that Buck was complicit in Lasseter's disappearance and had been rewarded with part of the proceeds from the life insurance swindle, according to Blakeley's various writings Lasseter and Buck had met at a prearranged, yet unnamed location and then via Hermannsburg and Middleton Ponds, Buck guided Lasseter, "onto the well beaten stock route from Hermannsburg to Eucla" a couple of Blakeley's friends who lived in Eucla confirmed they had seen a traveller answering Lasseter's description, coming in from the north and continuing to the west, and as far as Blakeley was concerned that traveller continued to Perth then to America, Lasseter's arrival there confirmed by, "Mormons in Australia who told him that Lasseter was for some years a Mormon pastor in Salt Lake City, Utah." Further confirmation coming from a couple of shareholders in the Company (C.A.G.E.) who had seen Lasseter at various ports on the American west coast.
Blakeley started his vindictive crusade against Lasseter and Buck with no evidence and plenty of prejudice, he concluded that Lasseter was a Mormon because of his annoying habit of constantly singing hymns, "all set to the one tune", and as he was a bigamist, he was therefore a polygamist, ergo a Mormon, and Blakeley's intense dislike of Bob Buck was based on hearsay and concern that, "Buck and his half caste tribe", may have contaminated the Sandhill men, "he has little regard for the native laws", but it might be a matter of who got the accolades, Buck became famous overnight while Blakeley was sidelined as something of a buffoon, his ego more than bruised by the crude suggestion that Buck had cleaned up Blakeley's mess.
And for the record, Lasseter was always Church of England, He applied three times to enlist with the Australian Imperial Force and on each application, under 'Religious Denomination', wrote, "C of E". In 1942 Constable Hook, from the Northern Territory Police at Alice Springs, took an inventory of the dozen or so items in Lasseter's tin trunk that included 1 copy Wesley's Hymns, 1 Holy Bible and 1 Church of England Men's Society Necklet.
As for the unintended consequences of Blakeley's bitter pen, the following year he began a lengthy correspondence with Mrs. Nellie Edwards from Wiluna, Western Australia. Mrs Edwards convinced Blakeley that shortly after Bob Buck returned to Hermannsburg in April 1931, she had picked Lasseter up along the track from somewhere and Lasseter had boarded with her family at Wiluna for a year or so, before moving on to Perth, and Blakeley assumed from there to Utah, where he became a 'wealthy' Mormon Pastor. What followed was an unedifying piece of history that should never have happened, culminating in Lasseter's reburial in the Church of England section of the Alice Springs cemetery in 1958.
Fred Blakeley, Dream Millions, pgs 12,55. People Magazine, 09/02/1955. Frank Clune, The Fortune Hunters, pgs 45-58. Smith's Weekly Saturday 16 December 1939, page 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234597396 NTAS F68. Beverley Eley, Ion Idriess, pg 148. Murray Hubbard, The Search for Harold Lasseter, pg 63.