Billy Jagar, King of the Barron
Yirrganydji elder, Billy Jagar (1870-1930), was given two King-plates to recognise his leadership. The first one was presented to him by the Queensland government in 1898 and proclaimed him ‘King of Barron’. The second plate was presented by the Protector of Aborigines on Empire Day, 24 May 1906.
Jagar died in a fringe camp in Cairns in 1930 and the King-plates disappeared. During WWII the 1898 plate was acquired by US Staff-Sergeant Douglas Campbell while he was stationed in Fiji. Campbell took it home to North Dakota and hung on the wall in his living room.
Campbell’s daughters, Margaret and Laura were curious about the origins of the plate and on Reconciliation Day, May 2005 they returned it to Cairns. The plate was presented to Jagar’s great-grand daughter, Jeanette Singleton. In 2007 a headstone for Jagar was placed at Martyn Street Cemetery.
From: ABC Hindsight website
When the Aboriginal leader Billy Jagar died in a fringe camp in Cairns in 1930, his King Plate also disappeared, presumed lost forever until, 60 years later, two American sisters became curious about the crescent shaped brass object that had hung in the family lounge room throughout their childhood.
The Long Journey of Billy Jagar’s King Plate traces the threads of Billy Jagar’s short life, a mere 65 years. It spanned a brutal and turbulent time for Aboriginal people in the Far North, from first contact and conflict, through dispossession and segregation in missions and town camps.
The program also charts the strange turn of events which led to the return of the King Plate, from one side of the world to the other. Today it is in the possession of Billy Jagar’s descendants in Cairns.
Headstone unveiled for 19th century Aboriginal leader
From: ABC News website
12 July 2007
About 100 people have gathered at a Cairns cemetery, in far north Queensland, to see the unveiling of a headstone for 19th century Aboriginal leader, King Billy Jagar.
Born in 1870 the Irukandji elder led his tribe in a time when European settlement between Port Douglas and Cairns began to encroach on traditional life.
In 1898 the Queensland Government gave King Billy the first of two breastplates to recognise his leadership.
This morning, his descendants unveiled a headstone for him at the old Cairns cemetery. His great-granddaughter, Jeannette Singleton, says it is an emotional time for her family. “It’s important to have a physical recognition like that for future generations,” she said. One of King Billy’s breastplates was placed near the headstone for the ceremony. The family is still searching for the other one.
The Long Journey of Billy Jagar’s King Plate
From: ABC Radio website
Presenter: Karen Dorante
This week Speaking Out continues the story of Billy Jagar, an Yirriganydji man in Far North Queensland who was bestowed a King Plate in 1896.
When Billy Jagar died in Cairns in 1930, his King Plate also disappeared – presumed lost forever – until, 60 years later, two American sisters got curious about the object that had hung in the family lounge room throughout their childhood.
The Long Journey of Billy Jagar’s King Plate is a special two part feature, produced for Speaking Out by Suzanne Gibson, through ABC Radio’s Regional Production Fund.
Traditional Yirrganydji life
Here on the banks of the Barron are shell middens and other evidence of Aboriginal occupation. One of the first descriptions of traditional life was made by Sub-inspector Robert Johnstone in 1876;
…as we entered the inlet they paddled away in their canoes and hid themselves in the small salt-water creeks. The outrigger canoes were beautifully formed from a trunk of a red cedar.