In the rugged mountain ranges that rise up from the fertile river plains of the Macleay and Clarence valleys on the north coast of New South Wales, a short, hairy creature the local Aborigines called Jerrawerra was once said to live.
In a letter to The Clarence and Richmond Examiner of Grafton on 31 July 1880, a correspondent familiar with the area and the local Aborigines wrote of the Jerrawerra, a creature apparently similar to the Yowie, with one distinct difference, the Jerrawerra stood only four feet high.
“This animal they called ‘Jerrawerra’ and described it as a biped; about the size of a small [Aboriginal woman], walking erect and using its hands and arms as a human being. It was very rarely seen and they did not care about going near its haunts … They further described the ‘Jerrawerra’ as living in caves, and as ready to attack them [the Aborigines] whenever they saw them.”
The Jerrawerras were also described as having a slow gait and covered with hair.
While it appeared that not many of the local Aborigines had seen the creature, every man, woman and child solemnly believed in them.
And for anyone disbelieving of the Jerrawerra, they had one simple answer – go to the Jerrawerra’s haunt and see for yourself … and then you would believe.
The squatter’s encounter with a Jerrawerra
The correspondent then recounted a conversation he had had with a squatter who was well respected in the New England district and who was well acquainted with life in the bush.
“If I were to mention his name, it would serve as a guarantee anywhere for the authenticity of his assertions. It may be inferred he had seen and knew all animals of common occurrence throughout his district, and I may add, he was not of a temperament or of habits likely to conjecture imaginary beings from an overheated brain.”
As the two men were engaged in conversation, talk soon turned to the topic of the local Aborigines. The correspondent then asked his acquaintance whether he had heard of the Jerrawerra.
The squatter replied that he had heard of them, quite often, in fact. He then added that he believed that he himself had once encountered the Jerrawerra. This encounter was related in the article.
“He was travelling … to his own place; the sun had set, and night was closing in, but there was sufficient light to observe objects at a considerable distance. His track lay through a pretty rough unfrequented country, and just about this time he had to descend a hill for about 300 or 400 yards, at the foot of which was a small creek, with tangled scrub round and about it.
“When about half way down his horse pricked his ears, and exhibited unusual signs of interest in something ahead; this caused him to look particularly in that direction, and he saw what at the moment he took to be [an Aborigine], walking among the bushes. Thinking he was stalking some animal, he kept his eyes upon him as he approached. When within about 40 yards it quickly turned round, and, after gazing with astonishment at the man and horse it rushed into tho scrub that lined the creek, and was no more visible….
“He says it was of low stature, not 4 feet high at the outside; it was not a human being, and yet resembled no Australian animal so much as human kind. He added, if it was not a ‘Jerrawerra’ he did not know what else to call it, and ever after that evening he believed there was something more in the [Aborigines'] tales other than mere fancy. He never subsequently saw it, although frequently travelling over the same country, and said it would ever be a mystery to him.”
When the squatter arrived home to his station, he related his encounter to the Aborigines there and they immediately pronounced it to be the ‘Jerrawerra’.
The creature of Cunningham’s Creek
Encounters with a similar creature had also been reported further north in the sub-tropical hinterland of the New South Wales far north coast. On 17 May 1878, the Northern Star of Lismore published An Australian Man of the Woods.
“About thirty years ago a shepherd, in W. Suttor’s employ averred that he had seen a hairy man in a scrub north of Cunningham’s Creek, but the story was treated as childish. However, he persisted till the day he died that – it walked upright – and was covered with hair — and the dogs that hunted everything else ran back from this frightened with their tails between their legs.
“A few years ago young Tim Wring, a shepherd in Mr. Price’s employ, while his pot was boiling for dinner, saw something unusual walking through the scrub about five miles from where the first shepherd reported, but Tim could give no description, as he ran home for his life to be laughed at as a dreamer.
“Later still, in the last mentioned locality, Pat Wring, a younger brother, heard his kangaroo dogs bark from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. down the inaccessible cliffs. He intended to go and help to kill what he supposed to be an old man wallaroo, as the dogs could kill any other kind of marsupial.
“Pat’s surprise may easily be imagined when his eyes looked down on a hairy monster. Standing upright, a body apparently as round as a horse, arms as round as a man’s thigh, three claws on each foot It stood, to the best of his belief, about 4 feet high. The head resembled a pig’s, but turned upwards, and he threw into the air the only dog that ventured within its reach.
“When Pat was tired of looking on, and fearing the dog would be killed, as it fell on the rock about thirty yards away each time it was thrown up, he threw about 14 lbs. weight of a stone, which struck the mark without doing any damage. The animal was at the foot of the rocks on which Pat stood, and in two springs or strides, it sprang or strode in an upright position and then commenced to climb monkey-fashion.
“Pat saw no more, as he thought it was time to run for his life; he never looked back. His heart beat so audibly that he fancied it was the quick stamping of the strange thing behind him.
“The dog died shortly after, but not a hair of the strange creature could be found, though the dog’s hair and blood was plentiful on the rocks.
“We now hear that some [timber] splitters on the flat lands north of Cherry Tree Hill have become terrified by hearing unearthly screams or sounds at night. There are three caves in the vicinity of the above; into one of these the dogs never follow the rock wallaby.”
A modern encounter with Jerrawerra
In 2006, Catherine was riding her horse through the Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains, when she came face to face with a similar creature. Was this the Jerrawerra?
“It looked sort of like a monkey, but more human,” Catherine told researchers Tim Healy and Paul Cropper. It was “smaller than a human, about four feet tall”. She described the creature’s body as “solid” and having “square shoulders”. It was very hairy, “dark brown, all tangled, like a shaggy dog that hadn’t been washed for a while”.
The creature had a “pushed in nose” and “two canine teeth that protruded over its lip”. She couldn’t see ears, because of the creature’s hair; she could see eyes, however not distinctly. It had long legs with three claws on its feet. In its hands it held something, “like a dead kangaroo, but smaller, like flesh, like it was skinned, inside out.”
This encounter sounds strikingly similar to that given by Pat Wring.
You can read more about Catherine’s experience, in which she ended up injured and being rushed to hospital, in Modern encounters with Australia’s Yowie.
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