Ben Singleton and Aboriginals explore the Bantagran ranges

25 April to 14 May. Ben Singleton is reared among Aborigines at Richmond Hill and finds that friendship towards The Branch natives enables him to cross the Hawkesbury/Hunter ranges. Accompanied by Bantagran, a young English-speaking Aboriginal man from Windsor, they set out from Singleton’s Mill to forge a second access through the rugged Blue Mountains to Bathurst. Bantagran not only saves the lives of party members but opens an invaluable dialogue between Singleton and elders of Hunter Valley tribesmen. They cross the Colo River and spend a night on a steep height where Bantagran finds a spring. By Bantagran’s steady guidance, they follow a high ridge along the Mellong Range. Determined to strike west for Bathurst, Singleton’s party find they can not avoid travelling northward. They come to a mountain which Bantagran calls Koori Koodji. While camping for the night they hear sounds of voices and sticks breaking. Boulders crash towards their fire. They take up positions guns cocked, uncertain of their enemies. Bantagran looks after himself. They spend a tense night. Next day after rounding Koorie Koodji, they find another huge mountain, Koorie Att-ai, blocking their westward path. They fall in with more than 200 intensely curious Aboriginal people dressed in possum skin cloaks against the night’s cold rain. Singleton allows Bantagran to take over.

“I know these people now”, Bantagran says. “They are Wonj-arua people. This is not my country. We just left Darkinang country. But I speak the language”. He steps forward and begins to speak to the men who have spears with them. But for Bantagran, they might be dead. Two men reply and Bantagran then brings five clan leaders to Singleton: one speaks some English. He is introduced as Mu:pi (“Mawby” in Singleton’s original account). He confirms really wild country lies westward. Mu:Pi points dramatically north-east: “Better land that way. Over there you find a river. West country, that is no good”. He advises the river is two days away, and so wide that they cannot swim “across’im. We do not drink from ‘im”. Singleton is excited to hear it is tidal surrounded by good land. Singleton abandons the idea of crossing the mountains in view of what Mu:pi reports. A dash to this large river seems risky. They return to Wheeny Creek Mill and Singleton reports to Governor Macquarie. Bantagran is thus the first Aboriginal to describe the river to a local landholder, John Howe who subsequently organises two official trips to find it. He includes Bantagran in the first and Singleton in the second. They find the river flats on 17 March 1820, and so the site of a new town, Singleton, is (St) Patrick’s Plains. (Horner, Bantagran and the Hunter River).