James Morrill (or Morrell) was one of a number of Europeans who lived for varying periods with Aboriginal people in Queensland. Unlike many others, however, Morrill was a shipwrecked mariner and not an escaped convict. The barque Peruvian bound from Sydney to China was wrecked on Horseshoe Reef off the coast of North Queensland on 27 February 1846. Morrill, the carpenter’s mate, was one of five people who managed to reach the mainland near Cape Bowling Green. All but Morrill were dead within two years. He continued to live with local Aboriginal people for a further 15 years until suddenly presenting himself before two astonished pastoral workers at a newly-formed outstation.
Morrill was lionised by Brisbane society before being appointed to the Department of Customs at Bowen. With his knowledge of Aboriginal languages Morrill played a prominent role in the establishment of Cardwell in 1864 and in April the following year was in command of the Ariel which delivered the first cargo of bonded goods to the new settlement of Townsville. His health shattered by the privations he underwent while living among the Aboriginal people, Morrill died at Bowen in October 1865.
OM74-92, James Morrell Papers, State Library of Queensland