Narcisse Pelletier

Narcisse Pelletier, born 1st January 1844 -18 September 1894 in France. He was a sailor who at the age of 14 was abandoned by his ship on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.

The ship, left Marseilles with Narcisse the cabin boy on board to sail to Bombay, unload his cargo of wine and sail on to Hong Kong to pick up 317 Chinese labourers bound for Australian goldmines.

A shortage of rations meant that they had to take a quicker and more dangerous route, which unfortunately caused the ship to run aground on reef. The Captain, crew and emigrants reached the tiny waterless Heron Island. A party was sent to nearby Rossel Island in search of water, but as they landed were attacked by the islanders. Only Pelletier and another apprentice managed to escape and get back to Heron Island.

In the dead of night, the captain and his remaining crew boarded a longboat in such a hurry that they left behind their provisions and weapons as well as the poor migrant workers. During their 12 day arduous journey they ate seabirds, drank sea water and their own wee!

Their boat landed on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula, where they found water. This time when they set sail they left behind Pelletier, who was extremely unwell after both the journey and the fight at Rossel Island. He was found by three Aboriginal women, whose group took him in, adopted him and gave him the new name of ‘Amglo’. He lived for the next 17 years with the Uutaalnganu tribe, learning Kuuku Ya’u language, their ways and traditions.

On the 11th April 1875 a boat arrived at the island to find water, here they met Narcisse amongst the aboriginal men. He was responsible for bartering with the ship’s crew, who spoke English, which he did not speak, nor did he remember much French. Poor Pelletier was ‘rescued’ against his will by the Captain and had to leave his island home and adopted family. He went back to France, got a job as a lighthouse keeper, married Louise Desirée Mabilou and lived near the entrance of the harbour at Saint-Nazaire. He died on the 28th September 1894 aged 50.