Michael Dillon, Film maker
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Artist Les Sprague tells us that although most of the Burke and Wills camels were imported from the Indian sub-continent, six camels had previously been owned by a Melbourne theatrical troupe.
These camels had had parts in a play and perhaps this explains why their camels were particularly temperamental.
They had been purchased from the Victorian theatrical entrepreneur George Coppin who had used them in his exotic menagerie at Cremorne Gardens. For further information see Burke and Wills Web and Burke and Wills - Terra Incognita
-Camels are extraordinary creatures and Burke and Wills relied on them, absolutely, to get them through some difficult times. They weren't always very effective. Part of this may have been because of the fractious nature of some of these camels.
George Coppin was an impresario. And he-- At his Cremorne Gardens theatre complex, he had some camels in a play that he called, "The Demons of the Desert." So these camels had a walk-on part in his production of this play. And so they were thespians. And the exploring party paid $50-- 50 pounds each for six of these camels, and they joined a motley crew of camels that had been gathered together for the Burke and Wills Expedition.
I sometimes wonder whether the problems they had with camels were caused by one or some of these six highly strung actors who had bit parts in a play in Melbourne or Adelaide or wherever it was.
And they weren't used to the wide open spaces, and as a consequence they proved to be very hard to handle. One of them actually picked Ludwig Becker up by the seat of his pants and shook him. Other camels have been known to inflict life threatening and even fatal damage to people in that way.