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The Origin of the Narran Lake

Old Byamee said to his two young wives, Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee, "I have stuck a white feather between the hind legs of a bee, and I am going to let the bee go and then follow the bee to its nest, that I may get honey. While I go for the honey, you two go out and get frogs and yams, then meet me at Coorigel Spring, where we will camp, because the water there is sweet and clear."

Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee, took their goolays and yam sticks, and went out as Old Byamee told them. Having gone far, and dug out many yams and frogs, Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee were tired when they reached Coorigel, and seeing the cool, fresh water, they longed to bathe.


Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee built a bough shade first, where they left their goolays holding their food, and the yams and frogs which they had found. When their camp was ready for the coming of Byamee, who having wooed his wives with a nullah-nullah, (a club or heavy headed weapon) kept them obedient by fear of the same weapon, Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee went to the spring to bathe.

Gladly they plunged in, having first divested them selves of their goomillahs, (young girl's dress, consisting of waist strings made of opossum's sinews with strands of woven opossum's hair, hanging about a foot square in front) which they were still young enough to wear, and which they left on the ground near the spring. They were enjoying the cool rest that the water gave their hot, tired limbs, when they were seized and swallowed by two kurreahs (alligators).

  Having swallowed the girls, the kurreahs dived into an opening in the side of the spring, which was the entrance to an underground watercourse leading to the Narran River. The kurreahs went through the passage, taking all the water from the spring with them into the Narran, whose course they also dried as they went along.

In the meantime Byamee, who did not know the fate of his wives, was honey hunting. Byamee had followed the bee with the white feather on it for some distance, until the bee flew on to some budtha flowers, and would move no further.

Byamee said, "Something has happened, or the bee would not stay here and refuse to be moved on towards its nest. I must go to Coorigel Spring and see if my wives are safe. Something terrible has surely happened."


Byamee turned in haste towards the spring. When Byamee reached the spring, he saw the bough shed his wives had made, he saw the yams his wives had dug from the ground, and he saw the frogs, but he did not see Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee. He called aloud for his wives, but Byamee received no answer.

Byamee went towards the spring; on the edge of the spring he saw his wives' goomillahs. Byamee looked into the spring and, seeing it dry, he said, "This is the work of the kurreahs; they have opened the underground passage and gone with my wives to the river. The opening the passage has dried the spring. I know where the passage joins the Narran, and I will swiftly go there."

Arming himself with spears and woggarahs Byamee started in pursuit. He soon reached the deep hole where the underground channel of the Coorigel joined the Narran. There he saw something that he had never seen before, the deep hole was dry. Byamee said: "The kurreahs have emptied the holes as they went along, taking the water with them, but I know the deep holes of the river. I will not follow the bend, thus trebling the distance I have to go, but I will cut across from big hole to big hole, and by so doing I may yet get ahead of the kurreahs."


Byamee moved swiftly, making short cuts from big hole to big hole, and his track is still marked by the morilla ridges (pebbly ridges) that stretch down the Narran, pointing in towards the deep holes. Byamee found every hole that he came to dry, until at last he reached the end of the Narran.

The hole at the end of the Narran was quite wet and muddy, and Byamee knew that he was near his enemies. Soon Byamee saw the kurreahs. Byamee managed to get a little way ahead of the kurreahs, unseen. Byamee hid himself behind a big dheal tree (the sacred tree of the Noongahburrahs, only used for putting on the graves of the dead.)

As the kurreahs came near they separated, one turning to go in another direction. Quickly Byamee hurled one spear after another, wounding both kurreahs, who writhed with pain and lashed their tails furiously, making great hollows in the ground, which the water they had brought with them quickly filled.


Thinking that the kurreahs might again escape him, Byamee drove the kurreahs from the water with his spears, and then, at close quarters, he killed them with his woggarahs. At flood time ever afterwards, the Narran flowed into the hollow which the kurreahs had made in their writhings.

When Byamee saw that the kurreahs were quite dead, he cut the kurreahs open and took out the bodies of his wives. Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee were covered with wet slime, and seemed quite lifeless; but Byamee carried the bodies of his wives and laid them on two nests of red ants.

Byamee he sat down at some little distance and watched. The ants quickly covered the bodies of his wives, and rapidly cleaned the wet slime from the bodies of his wives. Soon Byamee noticed the muscles of his wives twitching. "Ah" he said, "there is life, they feel the sting of the ants."


Almost as he spoke there came a sound like a thunder clap, but the sound seemed to come from the ears of his wives. As the echo was dying away, his wives slowly rose to their feet. For a moment Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee stood apart, a dazed expression on their faces.

Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee then clung together, shaking as if stricken with a deadly fear. Byamee came to Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee and explained how they had been rescued from the kurreahs by him. Byamee counselled Birrahgnooloo and Cunnunbeillee to beware of bathing in the deep holes of the Narran, lest such holes be the haunt of kurreahs.


Byamee asked his wives to look at the water at Boogira, and Byamee said, "Soon the black swans will find their way here, and the pelicans and the ducks. Where there was dry land and stones in the past, in the future there will be water and water fowl. Henceforth; when the Narran runs it will run into this hole, and by the spreading of its waters a big lake will be made."

What Byamee said has come to pass, as the Narran Lake shows, with its large sheet of water, spreading for miles, and the home of thousands of wild fowl.


Collected in 1897 by Mrs. K. Langloh Parker.