Legends of the Glass House Mountains

The Glass House Mountains region hold great significance to Aboriginal people of south-east Queensland. Close to traditional pathways, the individual peaks hold significant meaning and cultural importance to the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi peoples with the mountains continuing to hold special spiritual significance.

With recent dating of artefacts of the First Australians being pushed back over 65,000 years, there is plenty of scope for stories of the dreamtime to be passed down through generations. There are two legends that apply to this area, one with a background in fact (rising sea levels) and family custom, this version probably has its origin with the Kabi Kabi or Gubbi Gubbi people and has been documented in many publications. The other, which is a little more remote in relevance is the legend of Ngungun which is more difficult to associate with the area. There are a number of variations to this legend, but the theme is basically the same in all of them.

Legend of the Glass House Mountains

The most well-known of the legends is the Legend of the Glass House Mountains that was well within the time span of our first inhabitants when at the completion of the last ice age some 10,000 years ago the seas suddenly rose to cut off the land bridge to New Guinea. (levels rose some 150 metres). In addition, early settlers who associated with local aboriginal people found them as kind and good-natured people, for the most part easy going but sometimes aroused to sudden anger. This two-fold nature of people considerate to each other, with husbands being kind to their wives, fathers indulgent to their children, yet prone to a quick retribution if disobeyed, is reflected in this story gleaned by Mrs Gwen Trundle in the Gwen Trundle papers of the mid 1800’s located in the John Oxley Library, South Brisbane.

“Tibrogargan the father, and Beerwah the mother had many children. There was Coonowrin who was the eldest, Beerburrum, the Tunbubudla twins, Coochin, Ngungun, Tibberoowuccum, Elimbah, Micketeebumulgrai, the little plump Round Mountain and Wild Horse who was always wandering off to paddle in the sea.

One day, Tibrogargan saw that the sea was rising. He called for his eldest son to go and help his mother while he himself gathered up his other children to take them to the safety of the mountains in the west. But Coonowrin disobeyed his father and ran off by himself to play. This made Tibrogargan so angry that he struck his son a great blow with his nulla nulla, dislocating his neck. After the sea had subsided and the family had come back to the plains, the other children teased Coonowrin because of his crooked neck. As a result, Coonowrin went to ask for his father’s forgiveness, but Tibrogargan was so filled with shame at his son’s behaviour, that he merely wept and his tears flowed out to the sea. Coonowrin then went to his mother, but she also wept as did the other children as he went to them in turn and there have been many streams flowing out to sea ever since. Then Tibrogargan called out to his son and asked him why he had not helped his mother when told to, and Coonowrin replied that as she was the biggest of them all, he thought she should have been able to look after herself. Tibrogargan was so filled with shame at this answer, that he turned his back on Coonowrin, vowing he would never look on his son again.

Beerwah, whose great size was because she was pregnant once more wept even more for the disgrace of her son. Beerwah is still large and heavy with child as it takes a long time for a mountain to be born. There are still many streams flowing across the plains beneath the mountains as Tibrogargan gazes forever away from his son and out to sea.”

The Aboriginal story tellers say this is the face of the ‘Turrawan’, the great man whose name was Brocalpin. Normally Brocalpin’s secret abode was Mt. Beerwah where he vowed that he would place a curse on anybody who climbed his mountain. In more recent times the explorer Andrew Petrie, ignoring the warnings of his guide Jimmy, became the first European to climb the mountain and shortly after lost his sight. The fact that Petrie lost his sight due to a condition called Sandy Blight, and its subsequent poor medical treatment did nothing to dispel the strength of the danger of the curse. The story goes that the ‘Turrawan’ then changed his place of abode to Tibrogargan and it is the face of Brocalpin you now see petrified in rock and forever looking out to sea.

The Legend of Ngungun

This legend does not have the same connection to local knowledge and history but has been around for a long time. Its original publication is also a mystery and is reprinted as first found as ‘Legend of the Dreamtime’ (by Songman) When you near the mountain called Ngungun and if it’s a clear starry night, turn your back to the peak and look to the southern sky. You will notice two faint patches on the dark backdrop. White men see these as hazy wisps of mist and know that they are great star islands far out in space that they call the Magellanic Clouds, but not so long-ago aboriginal people saw them as holes in the sky and their songmen told this tale of ancient times.

Long, long ago about these parts there lived a young girl named Bulguroo who had been given in marriage to Ngooloo-Ngooloo, the thunder man. This fat unpleasant old man was always grumbling and fault finding and life was hard for Bulguroo. He already had two grumpy old wives, Yurgoo the wind and Diguroo the lightning. Living in this same tribal group was a young man called Wongo. He was a very successful hunter and a favourite of the old women of the tribe, as he was skilled in hunting the emu and brought back plenty of its meat. This food was denied to the young women but prized by the old ones, as they believed that sucking the marrow from the bones would restore their youth.

Wongo had not been given a woman by the tribal elders and one day when returning from a hunt he saw Bulguroo digging yams and desired her. Bulguroo had often wished that her man was a great hunter and had secretly admired Wongo, and so it was not very long before they became lovers. Now if this was discovered by the elders it meant death as they belonged to different totem groups that were forbidden each other, but regardless of this risk they met often in a little cave half way up Ngungun mountain. But Jidigindi the wagtail who loved to gossip and tell camp scandal had seen them, and very soon the story of their meetings got back to old Ngooloo-Ngooloo, who thereafter kept a close watch on his young wife. But as time went by he became less watchful, or appeared so, and one-night Bulguroo thinking it was safe left the camp saying she had a headache and when she was out of sight of her husband made her way to the cave where she had arranged to meet Wongo. Actually Ngooloo-Ngooloo had been expecting this and when she had been gone for a little while called his two old wives and quietly followed her. It was hard for him to be silent for long and when he reached the mouth of the cave his rage overcame him. He gave a great roar, and Diguroo flashed a bright light so that the cave and the guilty lovers were exposed to his view. In the moment of darkness that followed the lovers tried to escape by dashing out of the cave. Bulguroo ran up the mountain but when she reached the top she was caught by Yurgoo who hurled her over the cliff, and Wongo who was following her was seized by Diguroo and taken up into the sky and pushed into a deep hole to await his punishment at the hands of Ngooloo-Ngooloo.

Now Diguroo thought she had Wongo safely imprisoned, but in the excitement, she had forgotten Milgay, the old woman who polishes the stars. Milgay had seen how Wongo had been kind to old women so she showed him another hole through which he was able to escape. After a long journey among the stars, Wongo found his way back to Ngungun, but search as he would he could find no trace of Boolguroo. He asked Tunghalt the possum, and Wunti the dingo, but they went about their business and would not answer him. But one day when Jidigindi was flitting through the trees he saw him searching, and feeling sorry for all the trouble that had been caused led him to a spring of clear cool water that had appeared at the spot where her broken body had fallen after being flung over the cliff.

Today if you care to share a legend, if you are romantic or young at heart you may visit this place. You will see the cliff and the spring of water at its base and climb to the lover’s cave. Then if the old magic touches you, return to the bottom of the mountain, and as evening hides the sun and Milgay comes out to polish the stars – turn your back to Ngungun and look to the southern sky. There you will see two holes, one where Wongo was thrown in, and the other where he escaped to seek his lost love. Author’s note: The Magellanic Clouds were recorded by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1519. They are best seen when the Southern Cross is low in the southern sky and the bottom star (acrux) is pointing north-east. Follow the long axis of the cross 4.5 times from acrux and you will be at the South Celestial Pole. Then continue another two lengths of the axis and you will be bisecting the smaller of the two clouds, the SMC. Then look back towards the horizon another two lengths and you should see the larger of the clouds, the LMC. Because the movement of the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds are circumpolar, from the latitude of the Sunshine Coast, the Cross may be difficult to observe when deep in the southern sky and pointing due north.