KENNEDY, Edmund Besley Court (1818-1848)

KENNEDY, Edmund Besley Court (1818-1848)
was born in 1818 and was appointed an assistant surveyor of crown lands at Sydney in 1840. He was second in command of Sir T. L. Mitchell's (q.v.) exploration party, which started in December 1845 to endeavour to find a route to the Gulf of Carpentaria. On their return at the end of 1846 Mitchell suggested that Kennedy should be sent to explore the course of the Victoria River. It was also hoped that he might find a convenient route to the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Kennedy left Sydney about the middle of March with a party of eight men, and after following the course of the Victoria until it ran into Cooper's Creek, found that the latter ran out into marshes in South Australia. In April 1848 he took charge of another expedition which left Sydney on 29 April 1848 to explore the east side of Queensland from Rockingham Bay to Cape York. The party, which arrived at Rockingham Bay on 21 May, consisted of 13 men, 28 horses, and a flock of sheep. The intention was that it should be met by a vessel at Cape York. Difficulties began at once as it was several days before a way inland could be found, and on 15 July it was decided to abandon the carts and pack everything on the horses. About 10 August the course began to turn definitely to the north but the horses were already in bad condition. By 22 October the stock of flour was reduced to 200 pounds, several of the horses had had to be destroyed, and some of the others were so weak they could carry nothing. On 10 November they were near Weymouth Bay and it was decided that Kennedy and four other men should take seven of the remaining nine horses, proceed to Cape York, and send back help. On their way about three weeks later one of the men accidentally shot himself, another fell ill, and Kennedy and Jackey Jackey, the aboriginal member of the party, pushed on for assistance. Shortly afterwards Kennedy was speared by some aborigines, and died on a day that cannot certainly be fixed between 4 and 13 December 1848. Jackey Jackey buried him, slowly and painfully made his way to Cape York, and found the ship. An endeavour was made to find the three men of the advance party left behind, without success, and the ship then sailed down the coast to Weymouth Bay. It was found that two only had survived out of the eight, William Carron, the botanist, and one of the labourers. The others had died of starvation. In 1849 an effort was made to find the three men of Kennedy's advance party. Jackey Jackey acted as guide and some of Kennedy's papers were recovered. Nothing could be learned of the fate of the three men.
Kennedy was a brave, determined and competent explorer, who attempted what turned out to be a practically impossible task. There is a tablet to his memory in St James' Church, Sydney, which also immortalizes the devotion of Jackey Jackey the aboriginal. Of him it has been well said that in courage, prudence, resourcefulness and loyalty, he could not have been surpassed.
William Carron, Narrative of an Expedition undertaken under the Direction of the late Mr Assistant-Surveyor E. B. Kennedy; R. L. Jack, Northmost Australia, vol. I; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vol. XXVI; T. L. Mitchell, Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia; J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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