Eric “Nugget” Mumbler was born at Kempsey in about 1916 to Harold Mumbler from the NSW south coast and Jane Drew of Pelican Island on the lower reaches of the Macleay River.
Eric was living at Kempsey in September 1937 when he married Helen Donovan who also had ties to the south coast and Nambucca Heads. The couple raised a family of at least five children.[ref]Marriage Certificate of Eric Mumbler and Helen Maud Donovan 1937/015804.[/ref]
By the late 1930s, he was working as the tracker at Bulga in the Hunter Valley. In October 1940, he investigated the suspected abduction of a 17 year old girl at Dangarfield by a young man armed with a rifle. Mumbler tracked the couple “unerringly for miles over mountainous country between Aberdeen and Muswellbrook”, taking note of “a slightly turned stone there, and a crushed piece of grass there.”[ref]Macleay Chronicle 23 October 1940: 2[/ref] Despite his skill and effort, the couple evaded Mumbler before appearing at Muswellbrook Police Station after two days in the bush; the man was charged with firing shots at the girl’s father.[ref]Daily Telegraph 13 October 1940: 6[/ref]
Mumbler also accompanied Bulga police on their regular patrols. They rode pack horses to help with crossing the hilly country. He tracked stray cattle and had a hand in arresting several stock rustlers.[ref]Macleay Chronicle 23 October 1940: 2[/ref] Mumbler probably looked after the pack horses back at the station.
A talented sportsman, Mumbler played cricket for several teams in the Hunter: he often topped the batting averages and one team gave him a bike to ride to Saturday matches.[ref]See Macleay River Chronicle 23 October 1940: 2 & Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate 2 December 1943: 6[/ref] He continued his sporting career after moving to Sydney in the mid-1940, playing first grade cricket for Glebe and joining the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League team in their inaugural 1945 season.[ref]Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate 2 September 1944: 8; Mitchell Library ON 388/Box 061/Item 126.[/ref]
Pathfinders acknowledges Harold “Uncle Blue” Smith for sharing his memories of Eric Mumbler. He recalled that Mumbler was a talented horseman, as were many other Aboriginal men who grew up along the Macleay River.
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There were over 200 NSW police stations that employed Aboriginal trackers between 1862 and 1973. Many were concentrated in the central-west and north-west of the state, the agricultural and pastoral heartland of NSW. This is because one of the main jobs of trackers was to pursue sheep, cattle and horse thieves. Trackers sometimes lived in small huts out the back...Learn More ►
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