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Mullawallah (c. 1821–1896)

William Wilson, better known as "King Billy of Ercildoune," died in the Ballarat Hospital on Wednesday morning from senile decay. He was on the preceding afternoon found in a moribund condition under a hedge near Burrumbeet. For some time past the “King” had been in failing health and it was felt by the residents of Ercildoune, Burrumbeet and Learmonth, through which districts he roamed, that his days on this earth were rapidly drawing to a close. On this account the surrounding sheep farmers and agriculturists showed special kindness to “Billy,” but he preferred sleeping in the open air under a gum tree to being housed in a barn or woolshed. When found, on Tuesday under the hedge, the blackfellow was being guarded by his dog, whose whining was heard by the railway station master at Burrumbeet. Mounted Constable Perkins on being summoned to attend the dying 'ruler' offered him a small nobbler of whisky in the hope of reviving him, but the stimulant was refused by Billy, who holding up his head said 'No more drink; put me under a gum tree, please".

As it was seen, however, that the aboriginal's condition was critical, Constable Perkins placed him in the guard’s van of the Stawell to Ballarat train. As he was being removed on a stretcher to the railway station, the dog, Nero, cried piteously, and the policeman, in order to keep it from the railway station, tied it to a post and rail fence. The animal, however, broke loose from his fastenings, and as the train was about to start for Ballarat, it jumped into the guard's van and fawned at the fret of the dying black. At the hospital an official suggested that the dog should be poisoned, but Constable Perkins refused to sanction the destruction of the faithful brute, which was taken to the city police station, where it whined nearly all night for King Billy. In the morning the dog disappeared from the police station, and it has probably gone to the mia mia at Burrumbeet in search of the blackfellow.

King Billy (says the Age correspondent) was the last of the Ballarat district blacks. Ercildoune Station, the property of the late Sir Samuel Wilson, has been his headquarters for many years. Here he was at all times treated kindly by the manager, Mr. McCook and the employees, generally. He was supplied, ad lib with rations, and the huts of  the shepherds were always at his disposal. In recognition of the kindness shown him by Sir Samuel Wilson, the“King” some years ago dropped his cognomen “Mullywaliach” and assumed the surname of “ Wilson, to which was prefixed “William. He “professed” the Roman Catholic faith when last seen in the hands of the police on a charge of drunkenness, and on being asked by the sergeant in the lockup as to who had the honor of his conversion, Billy replied, “Oh, a Wesleyan minister brought me around to the church,"

The deceased was a very old man. Probably he was over 80 years of age. He himself gave his years as 65, but early pioneers are of opinion that he was a long way out in his reckoning. He was a regular attendant at race and other sports and frequently favored Melbourne Cup carnivals with his presence. Lord and Lady Hopetoun, when visiting Ercildoune, took great interest in Billy, who claimed "equality" with all titled heads and nobles. When last at Ercildoune, Lord Hopetoun presented the dusky potentate, with a sovereign and a pair of blankets. When taken ill King Billy was making preparations to visit Melbourne for the purpose of interviewing Lord Brassey in regard to the wholesale trapping of opossums, in the Burrrumbeet and adjoining district. At certain seasons he was partial to kangaroo and opossum steak, and on finding latterly that these particular kinds of game were diminishing consequent upon the operations of the trappers he resolved to put a vice-regal veto on the "sport" by “commanding” Lord Brassey to issue a proclamation.

The “King”—the last of a once numerous tribe—was buried, without pomp or ceremony. One person attended the funeral, and three individuals only were present when the sods were cast on the coffin[1].

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Citation details

'Mullawallah (c. 1821–1896)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mullywallack
  • Mr Mulla
  • King Billy
  • Wilson, William
  • Wilson, Frank
  • Mullywaliach

c. 1821
Victoria, Australia


23 September, 1896 (aged ~ 75)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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