“The Land of Croaking Frog” is one of the oldest settled regions in Victoria. It was originally settled by French pirates shortly after the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson (La Perouse did not give up that easily). But the settlement was short lived. In 1792, the sole prisoner of the camp, an Englishman named Vincent Bodran, escaped to join the local tribes, leaving behind a mess of finger-pointing and an influenza infection.
Bodran spent several weeks alone in the bush, and the enforced water and berries diet led to his own case of influenza clearing up before he met the local natives and joined their tribe. Behind him at the pirate camp, the French had split into two factions, each blaming the other for the escape of Bodran and the disease outbreak. Tensions rose as taunting turned to fisticuffs, and then to dueling. By the time Bodran first met members of the Boon Wurrung people, there was only one survivor at the camp, and he was deathly ill.
This survivor, Claude Murmagne, was unable to leave, as the sloop that the pirates used as their main transport was too large to crew with just one man. Instead, with his throat permanently damaged by the ravages of the disease, he was forced to live out his days at the camp, haunting the local swamp as a hunter and gatherer, and giving rise, thanks to Bodran’s sense of human, the legend of the Croaking Frog.
Suburbs near Tootgarook: