If you ever find yourself in Roper Bar, Northern Territory, drive down the caravan park, climb over the fence at the far end and walk into the bush a hundred metres or so. There you’ll find the grave of John Urquhart. I took this photo in July, when I was researching the new book.
John was a stockman from the Diamantina River and a self-taught veterinarian who saved countless cattle on the Durack drive and was a good mate of Charlie Gaunt. Mary Durack wrote in Kings in Grass Castles that John shot himself while delirious with fever but I haven’t found any other source to back that up.
In writing Whistler’s Bones I decided to leave the exact cause of his death up to the reader, though malaria and strong spirits undoubtedly played their part. You’ll find the story of John’s death in Chapter Twenty-three, as Charlie and the rest of the crew are marooned by floodwaters at McMinns Bluff, near Roper Bar.