‘A truly remarkable account drawing upon a version Pelletier gave when he eventually returned to his native France and also on anthropological studies of the Daintree people.’ Piers Akerman, Daily Telegraph, Sydney ‘An unforgettable tale of transformation and upheaval.’ Stuart McLean, Daily Telegraph, Sydney
A young boy abandoned in an alien landscape thousands of miles from home is adopted by local people and becomes one of them, welcomed into their community, marrying a wife and raising a child. After seventeen years, he is stolen back to his ‘real’ life, where he has another family, but dreams constantly of what he has left behind.
This is the remarkable true story of a French cabin boy Narcisse Pelletier who, after disembarking from his ship the Saint-Paul with the rest of its crew in search of drinking water, found himself separated from his shipmates and in the end abandoned on the north coast of Queensland, Australia. Narcisse was adopted by an Aboriginal group who welcomed him as one of their own for seventeen years, during which time he had a family of his own.
In 1875, though, he was kidnapped by the brig John Bell and was returned eventually to his family in Saint-Gilles, France, where he became a lighthouse keeper. Robert Macklin makes skilful use of Narcisse’s own memoir Chez les sauvages along with new research to tell this extraordinary story.
Robert is a Queenslander so knows the terrain and the people of the area in which Narcisse was left behind. Through Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute, he has arranged to meet descendants of the people who took the French cabin boy in and who know the stories of his time in Australia. Robert has also had access to a great deal of material on the early history of the Cape through the Australian National Library. He has drawn on the significant resources of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra on Aboriginal culture and history in Queensland and the Cape. In addition, he has made use of Narcisse Pelletier’s own writings, including his account of his time in Australia, as well as several contemporaneous accounts of the Kennedy expedition to the area, including one from a member of the party. The author has made several trips to Cape York and one to Saint-Gilles and Saint-Nazaire in France.