Private Terence Sheridan

In the absence of Western Australian Exploration Private Terence Sheridan would be only a footnote in the history of exploration in Western Australia. He was described as a ‘servant’ of Ensign Robert Dale but more correctly he was a ‘batman’ or orderly. Sheridan accompanied Dale on eight explorations:

  • Mr Robert Dale’s 1st First Excursion to Trace the Helena River, in October, 1829.
  • Mr Robert Dale’s excursion to trace the Helena River, December 1829.
  • Ensign Robert Dale’s expedition to trace the Swan River, 7 to 22 April 1830.
  • Robert Dale’s expedition to explore the ‘interior of this Country to the Eastward of Darling Mountains.’
  • Ensign Robert Dale’s examination an opening in the Mountains ESE from Perth, 15 to 17 June 1830.
  • Mr Dale’s second Journal of an expedition whilst Exploring the country Eastward of Darlings Range.
  • Ensign Robert Dale on an expedition to examine the country 40 miles to the northward of Swan River, 30 November to 6 December 1830.
  • An Excursion undertaken to North and South of Mt Bakewell.

G.F. Moore observed Sheridan’s behaviour and eccentricities on the September 1831 trip north and south of Mount Bakewell:

9 September 1831.
…. It was here I first took notice of Mr Dale’s servant “Sheridan” a soldier. He was afterwards a great source of amusement. Well Sheridan How did you pass last night? – Why Sir I just lay on that ‘dentical spot all night beside the fire rain or no rain for I thought I might as well keep one side dry any way – the side that was “in under me” – Morning or evening – wet or dry – busy or idle, Sheridan whistled or sung without ceasing. It was his duty to wheel a perambulator (an instrument for measuring the distance) and off he started with it this morning singing with Stentorian voice the old drum- beat “Tither rõw dõw dõw dõw Tither ither rõw dõw Tither ither rõw dõw dõw.”

A fortnight later Moore continued his observations of Sheridan:

22 September 1831.
… come to a long deep & narrow lake of fresh water – 4 miles long – 80 or 100 yards wide – amazing quantity of ducks on it. Sheridan’s mode of calculation was quite Irish, 1000 Sir? Why 1000 would not be missed out of them.

Sheridan’s efforts allayed their thirst:

4 October 1831.
Tuesday morning, … we hastened our preparations, but had scarcely commenced breakfast when they began to come in numbers so we packed up & proceeded. Dale (having a servant to arrange for him) had got his breakfast. I had swallowed half of mine. Thompson had scarcely tasted his & Sheridan had got none …

Towards evg anxious about water find none – halt near sunset, council of war My proposal to look for water rejected – very dull – our horses knocked up & ourselves provokingly thirsty. Sheridan takes his gun & runs to look comes back laughing with intelligence that there is a shallow swamp with water not 100 yards off – how droll if we had gone without it all night – have a fine dinner of ducks – sleep on the ground & sleep well on blackboy rushes strewed thickly under – cloak & canvas over.

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Kim Epton
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