The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

An All-Australian Story

Originally Published 20 June 2014:

 

Australia Map 1851 - Rapkin, Marchant, Allen
Australia Map 1851: Drawn and engraved by J Rapkin. Illustrations by J. Marchant.

 

The story behind Albany’s early characters, both European and Indigenous, has as much about it as any great Australian drama. Most readers should now recognise the centrality of the Taylor’s of Candyup to this work. The experience of the Taylor’s tells an inclusive story of Albany, which in itself tells the story of the South Coast and on again as settlement of the South Coast helps tell the West Australian and All-Australian stories of how we got to where we are today.

The story behind this particular group of characters, who came together in the remote coastal setting of King George’s Sound during the 1830’s, has as much about it as any colonial history, told or untold. It is not the making of a great world power, but is every bit as compelling in its own unique way.

 

The Vasse posts  drew out because of the extent of Patrick and Mary’s involvement in the awful events at ‘Cattle Chosen’ between 1837 and 1841. I wanted to look more closely at that. We know that Patrick’s financial fall isolated him and affected his and Mary’s relationship deeply, but there can be no doubt the violence of the Vasse period influenced the remainder of their lives as well. How could it not? Mary’s brothers led an indiscriminate retaliation against the native resistance which, despite the mood of the day, they under-admitted and still managed to attract criticism. Patrick’s friend, the good christian Henry Camfield, could not condone their method, and he was led to believe there were only three of the nine lost lives Bessie declared in the house diary after the first shooting of 1837.

The Bussell sisters, Fanny and Bessie, defended the actions of their brothers and so ended Camfield’s association with the family. Did Mary defend them too? You’d have to think so. Did Patrick? My suspicion tells me probably not. He was politically allied to the Bussell brothers through the impending marriage and will have listened to Mary’s view, but my thinking is that he sided with Camfield. Patrick was not one for raising arms and shooting his way out of trouble.

As the 1840’s progressed and his own family grew, Patrick Taylor got them back to Albany and then out to Candyup, but he couldn’t completely distance them, or himself, from the Bussells of ‘Cattle Chosen.’ This is because Mary’s strength of character was drawn from the Bussell presence and she wouldn’t allow it, especially once Patrick brought them back to the South Coast in October of 1843. By this time Patrick was now trapped by marriage and fatherhood, by his isolation and by his lack of means. In order to preserve some semblance of the only lifestyle he knew, bearing in mind the assets he had bought, he required his wife and children to cater for him, but in order to have that he had also to accept association with the Bussells.

Patrick’s predicament isn’t that difficult to understand. He ended up not liking his wife and children because they were fond of Mary’s side of the family, whom he resented. They liked the Bussells because the Bussells, eventually, created their own settlement named after themselves and there was an obvious kudos to be had in associating with that. Not to mention, whenever they visited, being welcomed into an environment where they were treated as Bussell rank by the indentured families and lovingly by their own relatives. As a kid, who didn’t enjoy visiting their aunties and uncles?

To my reckoning, Patrick’s character had already displayed signs of insecurity. On board thePattison he appears to have used the death of his brother as an emotional ploy to win Mary’s affections away from competing attention. (As it turns out, the voyage wasn’t a matter of love at first sight; for Mary anyway. I’ll elaborate upon that a bit later in this post when talking about the ex-Lieutenant, Peter Belches.) Also, when he ended up in Tasmania and then sailed back to the West with Stephen Henty and Henry Camfield in 1835, Patrick later gave an unfavourable account of Van Diemen’s Land, ‘particularly as to the state of the Society.'(Capt. Alexander Cheyne Diary; Battye Library). It’s difficult to make a character judgement based on these snippets, but Patrick can come across as an aloof peremptory snob whose attitude was selfish and naive.

When his money problems emerged Patrick demanded Mary be paid out for her share of the Bussell establishment, ‘Cattle Chosen’, complaining that her cash contribution made through the £500 insurance policy her father set in place for each of the children, fully entitled her, but it was withheld and resulted in him being dismissed by the family’s head, Mary’s oldest brother, John Garrett. Patrick then had to shelter himself and his family with the Bussells at ‘Cattle Chosen’ during the 1840/43 period when his capital and income dried up, when the worst of the killings occurred and when Mary’s brother Lenox went mad. I wonder, did Patrick see that stay as a right through Mary’s dismissed share, or did he feel sheepish and beholden?

Perhaps a bit of both.

Patrick must have reasoned they had enough money to get by on at Albany on their own from late 1843 onwards, but whatever income he did have, it wasn’t anything like he was used to.

Once in Albany, Patrick fought hard to maintain his position and dignity. They lived in the beach house (Lot 23, Lower Stirling Terrace) right up until 1848, during which time he participated in various civic activities. In 1847 he was appointed a member of the Roads Board Trust  and sought colonial aid  for the restoration of York Street after it was devastated  by winter storms the year before. He also convened a meeting to decide how the town could obtain the services of a resident clergyman. Curiously, however, when J.R. Wollaston was appointed the very next year, Patrick backed away from him and refused to go to church and very soon after moved the family out to Candyup.

 

Town Jetty 1974 Lindsay Watson (550x403)

Above: This view of the railway station, town jetty and harbour foreshore taken from Stirling Terrace in 1974 once featured a row of cottages, of which Lot 23, about where the railway carriages are here, belonged to Patrick Taylor who lived there with his family between October 1843 and late 1848 or 1849. The photo is courtesy of Lindsay Watson, Historic Albany, Western Australia. Note the whale chasers moored to the jetty. Whaling was a feature of Albany life until 1977.

 

The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston  (link courtesy Clayton Talbot Family History website) was a close friend of the Bussells, especially Mary’s mother. He ministered to the settlement at the Vasse River from his original base at Picton, baptising the four Taylor children there in 1842 and 1843. Wollaston also baptised the Taylor’s youngest daughter Fanny Jane, at Albany, on Friday, 21st July, 1848. There are many references to the Bussells in Wollaston’s writing and  he speaks highly of Patrick during the times they met at ‘Cattle Chosen’.  Wollaston’s attitude changed however and Patrick is mentioned just three times, all during 1848, in the eight years the Reverend kept his Albany journal before his death on May 3rd, 1856.

Before his avoidance of  Patrick Taylor, Wollaston  gives another insight as to what was happening. On July 12th, 1848, we learn that Fanny Bussell is in Albany and drinking tea with the Wollastons one of the nights. Fanny had come to Albany after her other sister, Bessie, had married Henry Ommanney and gone back to England in April, 1847, fifteen months earlier. This was around the time the Taylors lost their third daughter (and fifth child), Christina, aged about three years. It seems a bit strange to throw that in as if it were incidental, but there’s very little known about the circumstances of Christina’s passing. I’m certain it was a difficult period but infant mortality was high in those days, particularly during times of epidemic. Albany suffered an influenza outbreak in 1845 which is reported to have impacted terribly on the local Indigenous. Perhaps Christina suffered a similar infection.

St John's Albany - Wollaston Drawing 001 (550x451)

 

On the 29th of August, 1848, over a month after the birth and baptism of her namesake niece, Fanny Jane Taylor, Fanny Bussell was still at Albany. How much longer she stayed isn’t known. In 1851 Fanny Bussell married the unwell Henry Charles Sutherland and was living in Fremantle.
Importantly, Wollaston’s journal  also contains commentary on two local Aboriginal characters that we’re interested in.

 

Thursday, 27 July, 1848;

 

“We have an old native to clean shoes &c & as hewer of wood & drawer of water. – This Black is quite a character – for years been employed by the Commissiarat – dressed in an old tarnished military coat & cap; with medal and buttonhole, & calls himself “Captain” – his pay from us is one pound of flour per day. – Makes a point of going to Church in full uniform; but they have taken no pains to explain to the poor savage the why and wherefore-.”

 

In the same entry as this description of Manyat, Wollaston also speaks of Wylie, who he calls Waylie. I’ll talk about that more in the next post but “Captain” is Manyat, who went with Collie to disclose to him the pastures at Moorilup which by this time were called Kendenup and owned by Captain John Hassell. It’s good to get Wollaston’s picture of Manyat and see that he is colorful and still active amongst the settlers.  Wollaston refers to Manyat again in February 1853, after he has died. In this excerpt he is talking in the context of failed native institutions and the effort of trying to Europeanise, or civilise, the children.

Monday, 21st February, 1853;

 

. . .  Our adult natives can never be weaned from their bush habits & wild licence nor kept from them without force.  The attempt will always end in desertion & disappointment. They may come when hungry for a meal of flour, but when  filled they are off again.

We had an old native at the Sound “Manyan” – who for many years had been trained as a servant in the Commissariat department and to whom the Deputy Assistant Commisary General gave a scarlet uniform in which he used to appear at Church. When he sickened he threw this aside, |& with no other covering than a dirty kangaroo skin retired into the bush to die. . .
Natives are exceedingly attached to the district (however wide) in which they were born, natural enough, & the whole of that district even a hundred miles square, is their Home.”

 

Wollaston - John RamsdenManyat, when the time came, cast off his acquired accoutrements of the settler world, a world which had come to take over and change beyond recognition his original place and way of living, and he went back to what he trusted and knew. Wollaston’s comments seem to recognise and accept that but they also reflect the compulsion he and many other settlers felt about changing the Aborigines. There were various attempts at running native schools, the one Wollaston is referring to above being the Wesleyan Native Institution at York. Wollaston, at the time of this writing, was engaged with Henry and Ann Camfield in setting up Annsfield, the Albany School for Natives.

 

Opposite: The Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston,  1791-1856, spent his last eight years as archdeacon based at Albany. Hard working, he was unshakably dedicated but institutional. A Saint in the eyes of his Church.

 

 

I’ll go into more about Ann Camfield and her prize student Bessie Cameron (nee Flowers) in a later post, but the evolution of the Native Institution -and Annsfield is a prime example- represents the settler belief in their moral right to separate Aboriginal children from their mothers in the name of a perceived greater good. The practice, once set in play, became insidious, seeking ever increased control until it’s power pervaded government thinking and corrupted it to the point of implementing and instituting a lengthy regime of abuse. In this way, the Reverend John Ramsden Wollaston, dedicated servant of God and his Anglican Church, helped create what later became known as the Stolen Generations.
Like I said, this is an Australian story and the story of this particular group of first settlers, who just happened to gather at Albany, has as much about as any the country at large has ever told.

Henry Camfield arrived at Albany to take up the post of Resident Magistrate more or less at the same time as Wollaston got his appointment. Patrick Taylor held that Henry Camfield and he shared similar views on the Church and, apparently, this bond helped keep their friendship alive. But while the Camfield and Wollaston husband and wife teams got on very well together, Patrick appears not to have been interested in himself and Mary joining the party. Ann Camfield, with much input from Wollaston, established the Albany School for Natives in 1852, a thing the Taylors seem to have admired and perhaps borrowed from with their own approach out at Candyup.

In town, the Taylors were bound to social conformity and had little obvious association with the local Indigenous, but out at Candyup things were different. There was room for relationships to develop, and they did.

 

Wylie possibly - Arthur Onlsow 1858
An unknown Albany Aborigine. The picture was taken in February 1858 by Arthur Onslow and comes courtesy here of my own copy of ‘Old Albany’, the photograph collection published by John Dowson.

 

The man above looks worried, concerned and unsure about the consequences of having his likeness taken. In 1852, Philip Chauncy took images from his sketch book, gave them attitude, inked them up and enlarged them. The digital images below do some justice to his final rendering. I wonder, is the man above one of those below?  Take a close look at the image of Wylie. I’d be a lot more enthusiastic about claiming it to be Wylie, except one newspaper report says he died in 1855. Three years before this image was taken.

Dedum, Denim, Wylie - Chauncy

Chauncy Phillip, Albany Natives - KARTRULL 1852 (139x165)

Above: Around 1844,  Assistant Surveyor Philip Chauncy make sketches of some Albany Aborigines in his note book. Around 1852, they were inked up and enlarged to create the these images. For more on these men and other Albany Aborigines of the period go to Campbell Taylor and the Cape Arid Connection – Part 2

 

It’s impossible to know now, but these men were as familiar around Albany as Manyat was to Reverend Wollaston. Katrull, aka Jack Hardy or Jack Handsome, was regularly at the Taylor house at Candyup. Others were too, amongst them Urigal or Urecape known as Dickey Bumble, and Nyjeran also known as Wandinyil or Norngern, whose English name was Tommy King; men whose Aboriginal names have now being successfully attached to their English aliases. There were many others too. I’ll go into that a little more when the time comes but for now we should return to Patrick’s involvement, or lack there-of, with Albany society post 1843.

 

Early Settlement and its Strain on Mental Health

 

During the middle 1840’s, Patrick tried to involve himself more in the town’s running but ultimately moved the family back out to Candyup and turned his back. Donald Garden inAlbany; A Panorama of the Sound (pg 100) summarised him as follows:

“Taylor became something of a recluse and could not be drawn from his seclusion to participate in the life of the community. He turned down offers to become a member of the Legislative Council, a Road Trustee, a Magistrate, and Chairman of Quarter Sessions. Probably about the end of the 1840’s he retired to Candyup where he lived until his death in 1877, a recluse, anti-social and increasingly tyrannical toward his family. Mary Taylor’s diary describes the years of misery she suffered with this very difficult man.”

 

Garden may have leapt at a convenient conclusion there. Patrick did represent the Roads Board, for a while, and while Mary’s diary is damning it only covers a three-year period between 1872 and 1875. The evidence leading up to Patrick’s Candyup seclusion does suggest a cutting off, but there isn’t much public detail about what happened out at Candyup in the twenty-five year intervening period. Patrick did retreat into himself and clearly formed resentments against more successful people and families, but judgement as to the nature of the man tends to have been perpetuated hastily and without any great measure of revision.

Patrick’s decision to isolate himself resonated with me on a personal level and I wondered what it must have been like for men in those days to struggle with their mental health. While Patrick doesn’t look to have become entirely unhinged it seems to me his isolation may have acted as a preventative in that regard.

Wollaston berated Patrick in his journal in August, 1848 (which is how , in fact, we know Patrick lived at the beach house -The Wollaston Journals, Vol III, Pg 92, 22.7.1848 “I was at Tea at Mr Taylor’s on the Beach. .  . “-) by calling him “a great hypochondriac“. Wollaston complained of Patrick not coming to church because “. . . he fancies he isn’t well enough, though he goes about his garden and works a great deal in the house, having no servant.

Wollaston makes it sounds as if Patrick is already living alone, but Patrick is strapped for cash, busying himself, keeping his head down and trying not to worry. His confidence is shot, his health problems/fears (perhaps psychosomatic) have returned as he has a family of four children (one recently deceased) and another child due, for which he must now also somehow provide. His background is one of wealth. He doesn’t know how to take on the infant colony and its bullying protagonists without that, and win, and his presence at Church, which bore its own monetary cost let’s not forget, would have demanded ever greater involvement in the town’s social as well as civic affairs, for which he just didn’t have the vitality or inclination. It’s sad to say, but circumstances conspired to outdo him. These days there’s enough awareness of mental ill-health to accept that not everyone is big enough, strong enough, smart enough or just plain tough enough to see their way through a string of negative life-changing events, but back then, I gather, sufferers were written-off and hidden away.

 

Mental health
Mental fragility wasn’t uncommon in the harsh social environment of colonial Western Australia. Lenox Bussell did not recover from his deterioration and died aged 36.

I’ve spent a little bit of time on this because Patrick’s depressive tendency wasn’t the worst case going around. Mary’s middle brother, Lenox,  wasn’t able to cope with the shift from regiment to the chaos of first settlement at Augusta and the Vasse River. Lenox was born in 1809 and 23 years of age when he arrived on the Cygnet with Fanny and Bessie in January, 1833, a couple of years after the his brother’s first arrived. Twelve years later, aged 36 and having gone mad, he died. Lenox was third eldest son and had gone into the Navy. Along with his next eldest brother William, (who went to medical school, never left England and also died young and without ready explanation) he didn’t always play by the family rules and spent more of the family firm’s money than he should have. Nevertheless, they affectionately called Lenox ‘The Admiral’ when he left the Navy and he went out to the Swan River Colony in the second of the family’s three outward sailings as happy and expectant as anyone else. By the time the trouble started at the Vasse in 1837 however, he was in poor nervous health. By March, 1841 “Poor Lenox,” was “very ill” and in need of constant care. He died at the Vasse a week after his mother, in July 1845.  Of course nothing is written of his misadventures, just the sorry conclusion that he had gone insane.

 

Telling that his illness came on during the time of the war, I think. He was lucky to have a family to care for him.

The subject of broken and abject figures is easily continued through a closer look at someone else relevant to these pages; Thomas Brooker Sherrat. Sherratt also came out with his family on the James Pattison and also decided to settle at Albany.

Sherratt baptism record (550x406)

Left: The baptism record of T. B. Sherratt’s older brother James. Sherratt’s mother is recorded as Sarah Sherratt “who resides with William Russell at  the Stone Cottage upon the Hill above the late Admiral Byron’s house” near Guildford, Surrey. Thomas Brooker Sherratt arrived at King George’s Sound  with his wife and family expectant and not short of capital, but he did not fare well, suffering a persecution complex and eventual mental breakdown and confinement.

On arrival, Sherratt bought prominent sites off the town plan, three on lower York Street corners, including both sides right on the harbour foreshore. He also bought two large blocks cornering Duke Street and Parade Street. These were the prime locations and perhaps through this action we might see the beginning of the rivalry between Sherratt and George Cheyne which saw Cheyne openly and aggressively compete against him way out at Doubtful Island Bay for the fishery there in 1837.

In 1836 Sherratt built an octagon shaped building on the eastern of his Parade Street sites and made it a place of worship. Clearly a public building, or at least designed to draw public attention, it looks to me indication of a man not only endowed with the capital  to involve himself in the development of the town but one inspired to bring it about. There was no place of worship for the dominant Protestant community, so Sherratt not only built one but occupied the pulpit as well. Not everyone would do such a thing, present themselves as a spiritual as well as business and social leader.

The Octagon. Sherratt's Private Church 001 (550x380)On the surface of it, Sherratt’s construction of the Octagon looks an essentially generous christian act, which in the beginning was met with a popular response by the town, but with the apparent quick dwindling of the congregation and the benefit of hindsight, it looks delusional. Garden (pgs 52-3, 63-5, 90,101-2)  devotes some discussion to Thomas Brooker Sherrat and I can see why.

Opposite: Sherratt’s Octagon chapel in a state of ruin. It was demolished in 1895. Photo unattributed, taken from John Dowson’s, Old Albany.

Sherratt was manic. He bought his town sites and had his hotel and general store up and running within two years of arrival. He then formed his whaling venture, built his chapel and preached from it, and participated (by proxy) in the Hillman/Harris first ever cart journey to Perth along with Patrick Taylor and Kartrull. He involved himself  in arguments with officials, including one over the location of the town jetty, and was quick to try and settle private disputes in court. He started building a ship in 1838 (the Chance), which sunk more or less on launch in 1842  (the same year his wife died) and immediately commissioned another (the Emma Sherratt) which only brought him more heart-ache and expense. He added to his six children through the birth of  four locally born before his wife, Amelia, died in the wake of their last  arrival (also Amelia). Sherratt literally wrote hundreds of (Garden says, raving and incoherent) letters and was well known to the Albany and Perth newspapers.

 

Sherratt Blocks x 5 (550x283)

Above: Thomas Brooker Sherratt held five prime sites on the Albany Town Plan. Again, this is Chauncy’s 1851 sheet. John Dowson, in Old Albany, says Sherratt was a member of King George III’s  Household Staff but that John Septimus Roe described him as a “low contemptible fellow”. Sherratt looks to have had an unrealistic and unadaptable sense of what to expect from the colony and its founding settlers, his indignation at both ultimately driving him insane.

 

Sherratt’s actions remind me of a madcap wizard waving his wand and casting spells, impatiently trying to zap into being all the things that were needed to bring about his wants. Sherrat involved himself in everything that looked as if it might turn a profit or win him custom, to the point where he became dizzy with the expenditure and angry, indignant and disbelieving of the returns. Where as Patrick was conservative with his money, to the point where it was simply swindled from him by those who controlled it, Sherratt went on a spending spree that time and again resulted in little or no reward. In the end, both lost their minds and their wealth. Sherratt’s mechanism was explosive, he became a ranting lunatic held indoors by his family. Patrick’s episode was almost the opposite, he imploded, went silent, depressive and close minded instead.

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