Surviving on cassowary and botanical collecting - William Carron

I've mentioned William Carron twice before in my blog. One was a passing mention about his grave being in Grafton, the other a short note about meeting his grandson Tony Pryce, in late 2008.

Two years on, Tony arranged to meet with me again (today), this time to hand me a copy of a document with the title 'Biography of William Carron 1821-1876: Botanist and Explorer'. The A4, ring-bound volume contains a copy of the unpublished biography written by Lionel Gilbert, and a collection of photographs and notes by Tony Pryce from places Carron visited as well as some important to his life and memory.

This document and an original of the manuscript prepared by Gilbert, with some additional annotations, will be kept in the Botanic Gardens library.

Carron was one of two survivors of the 'ill-fated' Kennedy expedition to Cape York in 1848. He made it back to Sydney to become a botanical collector for Sydney's Botanic Gardens from 1866 to within months of his death. There seem to be only 50 or so of his collections remaining in the National Herbarium of New South Wales, all made during the directorial tenure of Charles Moore (1848-1896).

One chapter brought to my attenion by Tony was the 'Controversy over the Cassawary'. Gilbert asserts that Carron is the first person to write about the Australian species of Cassowary. He and the survivors of the Kennedy expedition at the time saw the cassawary on 4 November 1848.

In a letter written from his time at Sydney's Botanic Gardens, on 8 February 1867, he recalls that encounter, saying "The bird was certainly very large, and furnished the whole party with a better supper and breakfast than we had enjoyed for some months, or than poor Wall was destined to enjoy again (as he and all his companions, with the exception of myself and one other had died in six weeks after from the want of food)".

Image: William Carron from