|201. OLD WARTS.|
|"Old "Warts" is dead. A camel party brings word that he was "boned" after Lasseter's death".|
|Idriess,Ion L. Lasseter's Last Ride. Third Edition, Page 228.|
Bob Buck found five letters and notes on Lasseter's body when he made his grim discovery at Winters Glen on 29/03/31. One of those notes read, in part, "If this is handed to a white man by an old man with wart 6 inches long on his backside treat him kindly". This note is somewhat out of context as it was found on Lasseter's body and not handed to Bob Buck by the unnamed old man. By inference the elderly Aboriginal had befriended Lasseter after his camels bolted at the end of December 1930, leaving the prospector stranded in the Petermann Ranges. With the exception of the letter addressed to Lasseter's wife, the remaining four notes were forwarded to John Bailey, the Chairman of C.A.G.E. in May, in time for Idriess to peruse the writings in Bailey's office and incorporate details in Lasseter's Last Ride. It is Idriess who names the Aboriginal 'Old Warts' and portrays him as Lasseter's saviour and benefactor.
In June 1931, Walter Gill, with Bob Buck as his guide, returned east through the Petermanns and camped at Putta Putta, just prior to breaking camp on the morning of 10/06/31, "we took ten minutes off to present 'Warty Arse' with a bag of flour". Gill records that on Bucks earlier trip, when he had discovered Lasseter's body, he was handed a note, "written weeks before, asking that the bearer be made a present of a bag of flour ~ The man who handed the note was a tall, gangling, middle aged native with a large wart-like callous on his buttock; a protuberance sufficiently eye catching to prod Buck's fertile imagination into branding him Warty Arse". Apparently the gift of a 'fifty' of flour left Old Warts quite nonplussed.
There are a number of contradictions in Gills record of events at Putta Putta, assuming the transcript of Lasseter's note is true and correct, as well as the circumstances of its finding, then Lasseter only asks that the old man be treated kindly, not specifically rewarded with a fairly useless bag of flour, a metal implement or container would have been far more valuable. And the note was found on Lasseter's body and not handed to Buck several weeks later by the old man, and there is considerable doubt that the note would have survived the several weeks prior to its delivery to Buck. It is quite likely that Buck staged the small ceremony at Putta Putta for Gills benefit and in the presence of a creditable witness. The following month Buck was in Sydney discussing the formation of the second C.A.G.E. Expedition with the Baileys and no doubt the creation of a bestseller with Idriess.
In November 1931 the third edition of Lasseter's Last Ride was published and the penultimate paragraph reads, "Lasseter is dead. Two prospectors who set out on his tracks are dead. Old 'Warts' is dead. A camel party brings word that he was 'boned' after Lasseter's death". Later that month the second C.A.G.E. Expedition returned to Alice Springs. This was the expedition, under Bob Buck's leadership, that 'discovered' Lasseter's Diary in the cave on the Hull River and later editions of Idriess's bestseller show excerpts of the diary where Lasseter makes several favourable references to his elderly Aboriginal benefactor. But in later editions of Lasseter's Last Ride 'Old Warts' has been resurrected, merely by omitting any reference to his fate in the second to last paragraph, which now reads, "Lasseter is dead. Two prospectors who set out on his tracks are dead". And the above photograph appears for the first time.
Marshall-Stoneking in his book on Harold Lasseter, 'Lasseter, in Quest of Gold', lends some dignity and status to 'Old Warts'. Through Aboriginal informants he is named Kirrinytja and was considered to be, "an extremely powerful man, and well respected" and remembered as the, "king of the Petermanns".
© R.Ross. 1999-2006
Gill, Walter. Petermann Journey. 161,162. Marshall-Stoneking, Billy. Lasseter, in Quest of Gold. 169,170. Idriess Ion. L. Lasseter's Last Ride. Third Edition,129-139,184-188,195-221,228, Lasseter's Diary.8,10,15,26,33,34,35,37,40,89. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AUSTRALIA. Central Australian Gold Synd, Assistance to Prospect. Series,A431. Control,1948/1143. B/C,68988.Page 97.