Two kilometres west of the Queensland town of Beaudesert, beside the racecourse, lies the Il-bogan lagoon, a narrow winding billabong, covered in hyacinth. The lagoon is rumoured to be the home of a bunyip, a creature that hides in its murky depths and appears only occasionally to scare passers-by.
The lagoon is also featured in the story of the two dingoes, Burrajahnee and Inneroogun (Burrajan and Ninerung), who chased a kangaroo from Mount Widgee to Ilbogan. The kangaroo jumped into the lagoon and turned into a Warrajum, the rainbow serpent, who can appear in whatever form he chooses.
The Il-bogan lagoon is said to be linked by an underground passage to another lagoon named Bungropin, or ‘the place of parrots’, by the Mununjali. The lagoon now lies on the property of Bromelton House and it was here in 1850 that the first sighting was reported.
The house was then owned by Thomas Murray-Prior and a women staying at the house claimed she had seen a ‘living animal of extraordinary shape and dimensions’ while she was walking near the lagoon.
On the 9th of February 1850 the following description appeared in the Moreton Bay Courier:
‘The head appeared to be elongated and flattened, like the bill of a platypus. The body, from the place where it joined the head, to about five feet backward, seemed like that of a gigantic eel, being of about the ordinary thickness of a man's body. Beyond this it was of much larger apparent size, having the appearance of being coiled into innumerable folds. Beyond those coils was what seemed to be the tail of the animal, which had somewhat the shape of the tail of a fish, but is described as having the semi-transparent appearance of a bladder. The head, which was small and narrow in proportion to the size of the body, was furnished with what seemed to be two horns, which were quite white. Under the circumstances it was, of course, difficult to judge accurately of the whole length of the animal, but, by comparison with other objects, it is supposed that the parts visible above the water must have been thirty feet in extent.’
This extraordinary creature would certainly have had the space to live in the Bungropin billabong, which runs for 1.5km and is 30m at its deepest point. The paper went on to explain that the lagoon ‘has long enjoyed the reputation of being the home of a monster answering the above imperfect description, and which is stated to have been seen more than once by men on the station.’
This sighting inspired Thomas Murray-Prior’s daughter, Rosa Campbell Praed to write a short story titled ‘The Bunyip’ in 1891 telling of the local legend.
The bunyip was once again mentioned in the newspaper in 1927 when the Brisbane Courier wrote about the local racetrack. The story referred to the Il-bogan lagoon as a prime fishing spot, but also warned of an incident ‘when a huge serpent-like water monster was alleged to have been seen, by a party of bathers.’ Their story was later corroborated by the Mununjali people who described the creature as a “big fella bunyip”.
‘Firm in their belief that the lagoon was haunted, the [A]boriginals were loathe to approach its precincts for a considerable period there-after; in fact, the alleged presence of the monster had the effect of dampening the ardour of all who were in the habit of enjoying a customary week-end dip.’
In the first episode of Shadow Trackers, Hunter Page-Lochard returns to his home town of Beaudesert to examine the local legend. His uncle and local guide, Bevan Page helps to uncover the Mununjali story of the bunyip.
Bevan told NITV that it was great to have Hunter and Zac in Beaudesert and to share what he knew about the country and the history.
He explained that it was even more important to him to share the story because "with people passing on you've got to let them know."
"That's the way we do it. It was told to me by my grandmother and to my mother: 'Don't swim here!'"
When asked whether people we still scared to venture into the lagoons, he replied "No, you don't see people swimming", and if the stories are anything to go by it might just be for the best.