Stories in Jiwarli 13

Today’s post presents a personal reminiscence story in Jiwarli with English translation, told and explained to me by Jack Butler on 18th May 1985. There is information about the Jiwarli spelling here.

Halley’s comet

This story dates from the 19th or 20th April 1910 when Jack was living at Glen Florrie Station (see map below) and at nine years old had already begun riding horses and doing yard work on the station. One night, he saw what he describes as a star with a long tail cross the sky. It was so bright that kangaroos could be seen crawling on the hills near the station. According to Jack, the white stockmen said the light was so intense that they could count the sheep in a mob they were looking after. What Jack describes is the passage of Halley’s comet 75 years previously. As Elizabeth Howell reported on in September 2017, “[t]he comet’s pass in 1910 was particularly spectacular, as the comet flew by about 13.9 million miles (22.4 million kilometers) from Earth, which is about one-fifteenth the distance between Earth and the sun”.

Photograph of Halley’s comet 21st April 1910, from Harvard University’s Southern Hemisphere Station in Peru (, accessed 2020-07-26)

Ngunhaburra gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu. Ngurnubarndidhu ngadha gumbaja. Yananyjarni barlirringu mimburndadhu mayangga. Maajaru ngunhiba. Barrundhu nhanyanyja gundhardijaga bardara ngula. Ngunha bardaradhu wardandu gundhardidhu nyirnda jirndinggarru ngurndiniya. Gumbaja jurunggagundirru nhanyangu madhangu warrgalarriyawu barlungga yirrara. Jirrilmarringurru gumbaja ngurrunyjarri. Nhaanha ngunha ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru warndija. Nganggarnu. Gumbaja ngunhiba jurunggagundirru gardajula nhanyangu gurrbirliyi madhangu barlungga warrgalarriyawu babarla. Gumbaja ngurnubarndibadhu ngurrunyjarri julyunyjarri gurlganyurringu. Nhaanha ngunhabadhu. Nhaanha ngunhaba ngandhurrarla. Guwardi maarru murlgurrinyja. Bayalbarru ngunhaba. Gayanura ngunhaba gardajula. Yanyjala gardajula gurninyjarru ngurrunyjarri. Aa wandhawurru ngunhabadhu yananyja gundhardijaga bardara.


I was there after that. After that I was there. I came back to the house at Glenn Florrie. The boss was there. Then I saw a star with a tail there. The tail of the star was here in the sky in the east. You could see the hill kangaroos crawling on top of the hill as if it were daytime. The old men were afraid. They said: “What is that for us? This is the first time it appeared”. They didn’t know. You could see in the night as if it were day the kangaroos crawling on the hill towards the water. After that the old grey-haired men thought: “What is that? What is that to us? This is the first time it turned up”. That was it. That was on just one night. On another night the old men looked for it. “Oh where has that star with a tail gone?” they asked.

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