The View From Mount Clarence

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

A short history of Aboriginal relations along the South Coast through the story of the Albany Aborigine Norngern and his King George Town contemporaries

Tommy King was Norngern, and Norn was Wandinyilmernong.


This is a modified version of a piece submitted to Vol. 33 of  the academic journal Studies in Western Australian History during 2019. The edition, called ‘Albany: an antipodean Arcadia‘ edited by Malcom Traille and Harry Freemantle, carries a range of works from writers in some way dedicated to Albany and Albany’s place in Western Australia’s history.

Being the first work submitted by The View under the strictures of  the university system, and coming from a medium designed for modern consumption via the internet, the piece was overly-lengthy and unweildy by comparison as it strived to meet the full breadth of the title under which it was submitted; ‘Aspects of European-Aboriginal Interaction in 19th Century Albany’. I took that to mean a 100 year history, which meant summarising everything these pages had compiled to date, and then some. The invitation came early in July, 2018, but the work wasn’t submitted until over 12 months later, so it wasn’t that The View was doing nothing that year, rather it was occupied elsewhere.

Having considered that submission it seems reasonable to revisit and modify, building in the charms available to an internet version. However, below is not the same piece. The very many references needed for an academic submission are not detailed here and elements of the text by way of order, cull, addition and modification are made without reference to the original. For the original (and much more on historical Albany), readers should invest in the journal itself, copies of which may be obtained here.

Warning:  The names of many deceased  Aboriginal persons are described below. The View From Mount Clarence is the work of an Irish/Australian  writer concerned with the history of racial integration across Western Australia’s South West. Although of interest and importance to the Indigenous community, the primary intention of this site is to inform non-indigenous West Australian’s of their shared history by exposing the actions of both groups via the stories that make-up our collective past. 


Norngern: King George Man


Above: Daisy Bates never met Norngern, but she knew who he was. To the Albany settlers Norngern (aka Wandinyilmernong) was known as Tommy King, one of the King George boys born into the new settler presence at his family’s antediluvian stamping ground. Norn grew up between the traditional world of his elders and the new one brought by the European invasion. Spending the vast majority of his life in the area of the town, he wrestled the change which took place, resisting it to greater effect than his best known contemporaries, all but one of whom he outlived. By old age Norn had become a curiosity or relic, last link to the past world of the South Coast Aborigine, while also a maligned figure of defiance and resilience, irksome reminder to the town of the great imposition it had leveled upon his people. Source: Southern Districts Photographs, Daisy Bates Archive, University of Adelaide.



While Albany has been foremost in development along the South Coast, commencement of the region’s cross-cultural history was not at King George Sound but Middle Island, off Cape Arid. From the outset it is clear the two places represent the western and eastern boundaries of a history that is centred at Albany, or at least was administered from there, but cannot be disassociated from an island outpost and corresponding mainland point from which it was reached by small boat mariners at large in the 1820s.

That coast stretches some 650km, large portion of the fringe described by Daisy Bates as belonging to the Bibbulmun Waddangur or coastal families, better known among these pages as the Shell People. Around King George Sound, the Shell People belonged to the Menang language group. As far as Albany is concerned, upon this coast and its associated river systems almost everything of cross-cultural significance occurred.

Two acts of abduction can be seen to represent both the physical and temporal starting points of our inclusive history. Symbolically, that the Aboriginal victims were both women captured and liberated by the new colonial presence, this beginning demonstrates the conflicting attitudes towards the Aborigines which existed within the original settler group, which persisted, and may be said to have widened over the remainder of the century, to the point where the century closed on the back of a cultural nadir still buried today. There has always been non-Indigenous persons interested in and supportive of the South Coast’s Aboriginal people, it’s just that they were outnumbered by those who saw and experienced them as ‘a problem’. In 1881 responsibility for that problem was handed over to angry settler representatives east of Albany by a judiciary slapped raw in the face by their own incompetence. The result is what we still furtively refer to as, ‘what happened at Cocanarup’.

Known among Albany’s 19th Century settlers as Tommy King, Norngern (or Wandinyil) witnessed the transition of Albany from makeshift shelter for the outside maritime world to fully fledged, federalised Australian town. One of few long-term survivors, Norn’s endurance brought him through periods of protest, incarceration, grief and statesmanship, notwithstanding ongoing discrimination at the hands of both first and second generation colonists. Norn’s life through the story of colonial arrogation inland and along his people’s shores not only exposes the extreme settler response to Aboriginal recalcitrance but provides insight to the range, resilience and unshakable resolve of the South Coast’s regenerative Indigenous community.


Agreeable and Disagreeable Presences

Matthew Flinders interacted on intimate terms with Albany’s Aborigines over a three-week period at King George Sound during 1801. A visit of pivotal importance to the Menang, among others it is likely the point at which their language incorporated the English words ‘King and George’.  But even so, it was the wreck of the sealing ship Belinda at Middle Island more than 20 years later which saw the first documented habitation along the coast and with it the first known land-based excursions of interracial consequence. Thomas River, home to an ancient and significant Noongar camping site, lies adjacent to Middle Island. For six months the Aborigines of Thomas River observed the movements of, and to some extent interacted with, Belinda’s crew.

Notably, second in charge of Belinda was John Hassell, later to establish at Albany, Kendenup and Jerramungup, the latter location originally accessed from the coast at Doubtful Island Bay using the services of legendary boatman, sealer and lighthouse-keeper, Bob Gamble. The entire crew of Belinda, which may well have included Gamble (under the alias Robert Campbell), were rescued in December, 1824.

Early sealing gangs had graduated westwards from Bass Strait. By the 1820’s South Australia’s Kangaroo Island had become a well-known haunt for crews and their native women, usually stolen from Northern Tasmania, Southern Victoria and around South Australia’s Cape Jervis. It is no surprise then that when Major Lockyer arrived at the Sound to establish a New South Wales convict outpost there, among the first things he discovered was a lone sealer secreted on a small island just around the corner from Bald Head. The man was coveting two stolen Noongar women; one local, the other a nine-year-old taken from the Thomas River area. Major Lockyer’s legacy at Albany is anchored to his handling of the crisis which faced him when the Menang delivered payback for the act of abduction by spearing the Amity’s ironmonger within hours of the crew setting foot on their kalla. Lockyer’s calm defused a potentially explosive situation which might have changed the proceeding dynamic altogether. Instead, his positive example set in train a reciprocal relationship managed on local terms by a trio of Albany’s best-known Aboriginal sons; Mokare, Nakina and Manyat. (See Mokare’s Mob series for elaboration)


Above: It was probably the generation preceeding Mokare’s which incorporated the English language words King and George into their vocabulary, so impressed were they with the whiteman’s means and the interest shown in their place of living. An image of Mokare’s and Nakina’s father, Patyet, helps make up this collection of individual portraits comprising family members. Mokare’s profile, now an icon within the body of early settlement imagery, is bottom right. Sketched by the Frenchman Louis de Sainson in 1826 (coloured and published in 1833), the artwork makes vital contribution toward our understanding of Albany’s pre-eminent native family. Image: This copy from Trove.


Familiarity with the term King George and its application to their kalla became indelibly stamped upon Albany’s Aborigines during the N.S.W. military era as they and the newcomers worked through language differences to reach modicums of understanding. Aboriginal accommodation of the foreign presence was determined by the military sharing their obvious stored food supplies, which included alcohol, and advanced means of acquiring fresh fish and game. As with the spear, the gun served as both hunting tool and weapon; the latter fortuitously for the Aborigines as means of defence against rival tribesmen. These rivals were the northern (Wills) men from the Gordon River area, and the Cockatoo or White Cockatoo men to the east of the Stirling Ranges, both part of the wider Koreng language group whose dialects, at least, were influenced more by inland populations than coastal. Bounded by the sea, the South Coast’s Shell People lived in a comparatively resource-rich environment which had been visited over time by whitemen in ships. These factors probably encouraged an adventurousness among the coastal families which was eschewed by the inland tribes. An adventurousness Daisy Bates described, relative to ancient practises, as decadence.

Continuous presence of the whitemen was useful to the Menang of this time, but still remained a challenge. Beyond the sphere of the military camp the extraordinary intricacies of daily Aboriginal life, maintained largely by the women, went on as usual. They crafted beautiful, high quality hunting and gathering tools for sourcing fresh seasonal food. They lived in small branch and bush shelters and transferred fire by means of smoking Banksia cones, while maintaining refined senses of spiritual association between each other and with the dead, who they sensed lived on around them in other life forms -including the newcomers- and through the geography of the land. Their natural relationship with the surrounding world having evolved over millennia to a position far distant from that of the European economic paradigm; which is otherwise to say that while the Menang could see inherent advantages in associating with the newcomers, the two groups derived their respective livings via conflicting means.

About the time of Major Lockyer’s arrival Norngern was born at Albany, though the settlement would come to know him as Tommy King. Norn’s anglicised surname was most likely derived from the modified Aboriginal name for the locality. Tommy understood the word by way of noun and adjective, maintaining a life-long assertion he was natural inheritor to all the land upon which Albany was built, thereby making him not only a son of the place but its chieftain, or king. To his own Tommy went by various traditional names. These were Wandinyil(mernong), Nyerjalan and Norngern.

Norn for short.

Another notable indigenous figure of this time was Nebinyan, whose father had met Matthew Flinders, and to whom Norn had given his daughter to betroth. When interviewed by Daisy Bates while at Katanning in 1907, Nebinyan said Norn was born at Kingilyiling (Albany), his father’s name being Melgan and mother’s Marilinch. Nebinyan uses the Koreng (northern) suffix ‘ing’  to describe Kingilyil. Had be been thinking in Menang parlance at the time he would have said Kingilup, or something similar, but Nebinyan was at Katanning when he gave Daisy Bates this information and Katanning is not part of Menang country.

Nebinyan was born at Oyster Harbour but his father’s people, being coastal, were centred eastwards at Two People’s Bay. Nebinyan was a burley, barrel-chested man who mixed freely and on good terms with the visitors to his coast, especially during the shore and bay whaling era which extended from the late 1830s through the late 1870s. Yet Nebinyan ended his days inland at Katanning, chosing to bind with the remnants of his wider family after the effects of settlement shredded their menage and disrupted their ways of living.

According to the information Nebinyan gave Daisy Bates, Tommy’s father was also born at Albany, while his mother at a camp along the Hay River near Mount Barker, a place known to the Aborigines as Wurungatup (aka Orrangadak). One school of thought holds that Tommy’s mother was also known as Mullet, a woman named by Captain Collet Barker as sister to Mokare and Nakina. Barker said Mullet’s camp was adjacent to the military farm, later called Barmup by the Aborigines. There are many references to the Aborigines who congregated at Barmup. In one of Sir Richard Spencer’s letters he mentions giving rations to an elderly widow and three young children who he said were starving. Norngern didn’t recall that but in old age did recount helping Sir Richard plant a Norfolk Pine there. The pine (if it is the same one) was probably planted in 1833 or ’34 and stands tall like a tower at The Old Farm today.


King George Sound becomes King George Town

By the mid-1830s the N.S.W. military era at Albany was over, though a British Army security detail remained. This group’s culture of heavy alcohol consumption brought potency to the growing public house presence in the main waterfont area.  Both Mokare and Nakina had passed-on and their generally welcoming attitude continued by Manyat, the sequence eventually giving rise to Albany being regarded among historians as ‘The Friendly Frontier’.  Dead as well were the most documented of the European protagonists of that period, Captain Collet Barker and Dr Alexander Collie. This collective represented the first leadership at Albany, a generally co-operative unit that contrasted with the bloody conflict along the Swan River, but only on account of the small number of settlers who came to Albany. The effect of colonisation  along the South Coast ultimately was the same, it just got off on a better footing due to the slowness of pace.


Above: Captain Collett Barker’s journal and private notes were collected and transcribed, largely by maverick West Australian historian Neville Green, into the book Commandant of Solitude. Barker’s invaluable writing tells of his time at Raffles Bay near modern day Darwin and at King George Sound where he met and lived with and alongside Mokare and his moort (family), prior to and during establishment of the Swan River Colony. Dr Alexander Collie (right) was successor to Barker, and first leading official of the free settlement. Despite the romanticised vision of this painting, Collie was an ailing Colonial medic suffering from lung disease. A lone, unwell and overweight servant of the Navy, he was part of the HMS Sulphur crew which escorted Stirling’s settlement entourage to the Swan River in 1829. Much has been made of Collie’s dying wish to be buried alongside Mokare as it reflects some solidarity with the plight the Menang were facing with regard to exploitation, but there isn’t much to show beyond their leadership duties Collie and Mokare were friends. Collie certainly didn’t admit to it and no one knows what Mokare really thought, suffice to say in the absence of an exclusive settler cemetary, the Menang respected Collie’s wish. Source: These versions from


Menang children born at Albany during this time came to identify with the term King George town. Between the slow arrival of free settlers and their parent’s relationship with them, the children’s playground began to take on a much modified form, both visible and invisible. Records from the military era show that death tended to come upon the Albany Aborigines in waves. Men, women and children perished in alarming numbers from contagion, including those of dietary and sexually transmitted nature, passed to them by the newcomers. This pattern proliferated as time progressed, causing terrible disruption to Menang tribal continuity. The disruption began at Albany then spread throughout the lower South West.

Though he survived the military era, Mokare was noted to be sick more or less from the start. He is reckoned to have been just 31 years old when a lung infection ended his life at Dr Collie’s quarters at the old military compound at Parade Street. This is the European assessment anyway. To most of the Aborigines at the time, Mokare had been ‘sung’, his demise brought about by the magic of a rival Mulgarradoc (a tribal doctor) unhappy with his association with the Europeans.  This rival  medicine man was perceived to be from a near eastern tribe called the White Cockatoo.  Albany’s Mulgarradoc of the Mokare/Nakina era was Doctor Uredale, brother to Coolbun whose kalla neighboured Mokare’s at Torndirrup, just across the harbour. Through the experiences of the military doctor during Barker’s time, Isaac Scott Nind, along with Collie himself, we see that Albany’s Aborigines tended to hold European medical men in high regard aswell.

For the few hopeful settlers arriving at Albany from the early 1830s, exploration of the Hay and Kalgan River catchments was primary accomplishment of the cross-cultural partnerships, the fruit of which was a continued alliance. That is, an alliance between the political leadership of the Aborigines and procession of newcomer officials based on trade. Essentially, food and technology for access and support. This was so much the case, succeeding Resident Magistrate (RM) Richard Spencer, who combined the roles of head of profit-motivated settler family and leading government official, moved his farm beyond the cobalt deficient coastal grasses which took heavy toll on his prize Merino sheep, to Chorkerup and then Ongerup, both fresh-watered grasslands inland along the Hay River, commonly home to the extended families of Mullet, Mokare and Nakina. (See ‘The Hay River Brigade‘ for elaboration.)


Above:  Coastal feed was nutrient deficient along the entirety of Australia’s southern littoral, so upriver grasslands were sought. Early Albany’s relationhship with their Indigenous people was founded upon exploration of the Kalgan and Hay Rivers which the leadership knew were the homelands of Mokare’s moort. Negotiating the Menang’s extended range was tricky as relations were not automatically friendly in the outer zones, but the settlers were demanding. With difficulty, this resulted in the Frankland, Gordon and Pallinup Rivers being brought into the fold. The relationship between these waterways and both the settlers and Aborigines cannot be disassociated. Wherever the waterways revealed resource rich land the settlers found the Aborigines already there. Regardless, settlers took the place names as means of Aboriginal identification, then brought their sheep and shepherds and moved in anyway. Image: Bonzle Map Project, courtesy Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia.

Just prior to arrival of the Spencer family, Nakina had taken lead role. At this time King George Sound had become main focus of Governor Stirling’s campaign to save the Swan River Colony from ruin. With a return visit to Britain on the horizon, Stirling and his favoured protégé (the privileged, young and talented) Ensign Dale, conspired to market the beauty, temperate climate and friendly nature of Aboriginal Albany as antidote to the ruinous reputation the Swan River had gained. Over-subscription, lack of resources, rows over land divisions, and what had become death-dealing Aboriginal relations largely through resistance put up by the Whadjuk objector Yagan, were almost polar opposite to Albany’s experience. When Nakina disappeared into the bush during 1832, never to return, Manyat and Gyallipert journeyed to Perth at the behest of Colonial management in order to try placate Yagan, but this didn’t work as the Menang representatives quickly realised the power of the Swan River man and gravity of the Whadjuk situation.

In the meantime, Dale went on to produce a resounding artwork. His Panoramic View of King George Sound, later modified to include Aboriginal figures interacting with the military on a friendly basis, made visual what was difficult to verbalise. The Aboriginal figures, of which there are numerous, included Nakina wearing an ambassadorial style military coat, which he had in fact been given and which he did wear. Albany was in a good place, but by this time the interracial feud at Perth had reached its extreme. Yagan had been ambushed at Upper Swan, his head severed and smoked, then taken as trophy back to Britain by Lieutenant Irwin and Ensign Dale. When complete, in an effort to profit personally, Dale exhibited both his Panorama and Yagan’s head as advertisement for the colony. The general conveyance being that most Aborigines at the Swan River were tamed, and those who weren’t, well . . .


Above: Over the summer of 1831/2 James Stirling moved his offices to Albany where he formulated plans to restore the colony’s reputation using the South Coast’s most enviable characteristics; a world class harbour, genteel climate, whaling and pastoral industry opportunity, along with the most cooperative cross-cultural relations so-far known in Australia. In this portion of Ensign Robert Dale’s epic Panoramic View of King George Sound Nakina is wearing a Royal Navy uniform actually given to him while (presumably) his deceased brother, Mokare, shakes hands with a soldier. The work was created at Albany in 1832 but added to and embellished in London during 1833/4. Source: Drawn from the open internet, this copy Australian Art Auction Records. (See ‘James Stirling’s Vision of the South Coast’ in Mokare’s Mob Part 4b for elaboration.)


The James Pattison Influx and Boys as Bobbys

At the same time and also in Britain, Sir James Stirling sought increased government aid and a badly needed contingent of new settlers. Successful on both counts, the Governor had his wife’s brothers charter the former convict-ship James Pattison and cajoled aboard it his latest cohort, setting sail in January 1834. Among those who disembarked at Albany were Patrick Taylor Esq and a young carpenter from London’s home counties, James Dunn. Not a lot is known of Dunn’s English heritage but Patrick Taylor was the orphaned son of a wealthy Jamaican slave trader. Also aboard, but who disembarked at Fremantle, was Mary Yates Bussell, sister to the Bussell brothers of the Vasse River. Taylor later married Mary Bussell at Perth. Importantly, Patrick Taylor’s father had two families; one with a slave mistress named Polly Graham, the children of which he brought back to Britain to be educated, and one with Patrick’s mother, Scotswoman Mary McCall.  Patrick himself, upon deciding to settle at Albany, bought multiple town locations, one being on the waterfront near the later site of the Town Jetty, another being John Morley’s cottage on Duke Street (Patrick Taylor’s Cottage) where he formed a servant/master relationship with a young Menang man known only as William. Taylor’s relationship with William was akin to an adoption, and the two travelled to the Vasse and Swan Rivers during Taylor’s 1837 courtship. Tragically, young William was lost to a tribal killing at the hands of two West Coast Aborigines on Garden Island as the pair were making their way back to the Vasse River aboard the Colonial schooner Champion.

Result of lack of labour at Albany was positive interaction between settlers like Taylor and local Aboriginal boys who appear satisfied to have served as ‘Bobbys’, even if just for a period. Application of the term Bobby looks to have been given to indigenous employees engaged by settlers in the capacity of personal servant. Boys acquiring the name Bobby was far from universal as many were given English names or else anglicised versions of their originals, but it was repeated practise among settlers across Australia and did take hold to a degree at Albany; perhaps by those whose attitude toward personal relationships was more ambivalent. Based on close association and because he had been given an English first name, William would likely have become known as William Taylor, rather than Taylor’s Bobby, had he survived, but the pattern remains. Over time, others identified in the archives were Neil’s Bobby, Gordon’s Bobby, Candyup Bobby (aka Blind Bobby) and Cape Riche Bobby. Norn did not become Spencer’s Bobby, while two of his friends, Wylie and Lindol, kept anglicised versions of their original.

Employment of Aboriginal people is regarded a main contributor to the breakdown of the traditional way of life. What is not generally considered however is the coercion involved. Settlers needed Aboriginal help to explore and establish in new localities. Once businessmen began to arrive at Albany and push outwards, help was not so easily gained. Of course, evidence of direct pressure or force is hard to come by in settler written accounts (as these are all that exist), but the assignment of native constables along with the absconding from service law as applied to the Aborigines is enough to perceive the kind of reverse-incentive they were subject to. This becomes clearer as the history unfolds.

Patrick Taylor explored the Hay and Kalgan Rivers with another Albany Aborigine, the prominent Kartrull, (aka Cartool, aka Handsome), sketched in 1852 by Assistant Surveyor Phillip Chauncy and said by Chauncy to have been six feet tall. In 1835 Kartrull helped lead an overland party to Perth which included Patrick Taylor (and likely young William too). Two years later Kartrull journeyed to Perth with other Albany Aborigines, ostensibly to offer a mail service but secretly to avenge the death of William. This is example of the Menang making use of the new economy while concentrating efforts on not letting the death of their clansmen go unnoticed. It may also reflect the closeness of the Menang and select group of Albany settlers at the time. Katrull went on various expeditions with Taylor prior to Taylor’s marriage.


Above: What went on at Perth and along the Swan River was quite opposite to the Albany experience. Caught quite brilliantly by the outstanding West Australian artist Julie Dowling this artwork reflects the tensions of visiting Menang men and the settlers at an organised meeting with Yagan. The Whadjuk leader and his father had been in a constant state of argument with the Swan River settlers and authorities since they returned from their tribal lands south of the river sometime in the spring or summer of 1829 to find the Perth foreshore not only built upon and populated by unwelcoming whitemen but their neighbouring tribesmen, the Mooroo, pushed back to Lake Monger. Upon further investigation Yagan found the same to be true from Fremantle to Guildford and beyond. Umbrage taken to this treatment led to battles between the Whadjuk (Swan River Aborigines) and settlers, led by Yagan and Midgegooroo, the end point becoming Governor Stirling’s decision to ‘show force’ at Pinjarra in the autumn of 1834. In the lead up to that low point Manyat and Gyallipert, perhaps the two most prominent Albany Aborigines within the post Mokare/Nakina leadership group, were sailed to Perth and brought by Dr Collie to meet Yagan at Lake Monger in an effort by the authorities to show Yagan that war was not necessary. While the meeting went smoothly, the Menang men left quietly and without suggestion they could bring about change. For elaboration see Apical Argument; a short history of Aboriginal relations at Perth through the story of John Henry Monger and his closest associates. Image: This copy from Art Gallery Western Australia.



 Foreign Labour, Languor and Pestilence

After the James Pattison influx RM Spencer started running into problems. By the mid-1830s local Aboriginal identification with the new economy had been established, but as the years advanced it was redirected toward imported Chinese and Indian labour. Aid in the form of delivering written messages, minding and locating horses and supplying water, wood and sometimes fresh game, had been paid for in kind (food) and as it dried up contributed toward Aboriginal deprivation, fostering resentment. This reallocation of employment can be attributed to the reluctance of the settlers to truly bind with the Indigenous group. The daily attendance requirement of the Europeans was an issue, as was committment to cultural practises, particularly that of regular movement, by the Aborigines. Simply put, the two cultures were unable to merge and the Europeans, dedicated above all else to economic pursuit, began to neglect the Aborigines in favour of more conditioned Indian and Chinese labour, while (certainly at Albany) beginning to realise the need for convict labour was probably essential to stimulation of the lagging new economy. Thus, Sir Richard Spencer’s understanding of the unwritten social contract the town held with its Aborigines, that is the implicit trade-off of resources for welcome built by the military’s acceptance, led him to evolve the business of defrayal-by-means-of-food-supply into a more time-friendly bi-monthly agreement. This distribution of rations brought larger numbers of Aborigines into the town, mostly from the west side, giving the misleading impression Albany’s local indigenous population was expanding. The settlers did not like this. Nor did they like Spencer’s habit of dishing out government sinecures to his sons while collecting taxes from everybody else.

Spencer’s autocratic style led to arguments and the decision by settler George Cheyne to relocate outside the town’s jurisdiction, eighty odd miles eastwards at Cape Riche. A decision part inspired by a locally organised 1835 boat trip to Doubtful Island Bay. Accompanied by Manyat, the excursion was motivated by the exiting Henty family and by what Mary Bussell-Taylor called whaling ‘mania’.  From 1836 American whaling ships started visiting the waters around Albany in rising numbers leading to sizable increases in provisions supply and hospitality. Settlers began growing more vegetables and procuring more meat, while the Aborigines enjoyed the spin-off of summer visits to long established coastal landmarks where bay whalers hunted close to shore where trade and feasts could be had. Back in town, the number of public houses increased, among their number the notorious Ship Inn located at the foot of what became the Town Jetty. Initiated by Sergeant Philip Baker of the 21st Regiment, the Ship Inn was quizzically acquired by former colonial carpenter John McKail after McKail had been evicted from Perth for shooting dead the son of Yellagonga, gentleman Elder of the Mooroo tribe. McKail’s presence became as ineluctable at Albany as it had been in Perth. He was a dominating personality whose youthful selfishness and belligerence eventually gave way to maturity and family-like benevolence. (See ‘The Inimical John McKail’ in In Search of Ngurabirding Part 4a)

In the meantime, in lieu of alternate employment for the Albany Aborigines, probably even in spite of it, a noxious kind of idleness appears to have taken hold as more and more whaling crews spilled upon the shore. Men of mixed origins thirsty for liquor and hungry for flesh exacerbated a disturbing degree of alcoholism and prostitution among young Norn’s elders, some or much of it forced upon the women by their husbands. Venereal disease began to permeate the group more than ever and a new wave of sickness and death occurred. It did not happen overnight, but as Norn moved through his shadowy teenage years, the course of an otherwise prosperous 1840s took its toll on girls his own age. Behind the otherwise motivated scenes of industry about the Albany waterfront there was an obscene party going on.

Albany’s survivalist sealing fraternity, influential contingent of this profligate crowd, caroused at the Ship Inn, a number of them keeping their business and ‘island wives’ on the unregulated offshore while dwelling upon the criminal fringe when on it. These men included the so-called pirate Black Jack Anderson, the multi-alias John Williams Andrews, part Maori John Harris, and perhaps the most dangerous survivor of them all, the otherwise humble Bob Gamble. The mixed-race Noongar and non-Noongar children of these men were let roam around the town, which was dangerous. Tribal child killings among the Menang did occur.

Moral import among the colonial leadership instigated a short-lived plan to begin a school for Aboriginal children, ironically fronted by McKail though only accepted on terms he be given a second position as Post Master as well. The outcome of the immorality corrupting the foreshore was desire to keep the Aborigines away, as much out of sympathy for the spiking mortality rate as for aesthetic reasons. Public drunkenness was designated intolerable by any offender but among the Aborigines the crackdown was harsh and led to additional restrictions. The effect of tightening settler imposition as the 1840s came on is evident through the pages. The picture is of a town slowly gaining in density, expanding around a shrinking band of Aborigines prone to introduced vice, now forced to wear shirt and trousers and no longer permitted to carry spears and boomerangs. The same family group who had always called the shores of Princess Royal Harbour their home.


Above: Albany’s Menang maaman (men), traditionally dressed in kangaroo skin cloaks and carrying spears and spear throwers, were banned from entering the built area from the 1840s. This led to old camping sites at Centennial Oval and Deadman’s Lake becoming preferred gathering places for the group whose main place of living had always been the southern shores of the inner harbour. Some of the men in this photograph were King George Boys during the 1830s and 1840s, Norn himself (in his mid-to-late 40s) is reckoned to be second from right. Growing up at Albany under the new settler regime they found themselves navigating between the shocked world of their elders and the exclusive, distancing world of the settlers. The official letters of RM Phillips display recognition of the predicament Albany’s Menang were in at this time and of his attempts to help. Image: Gustave Riemer photograph from 1877, colourised. This version courtesy Boorloo Boodja website, 16 July, 2020



The sight of a functioning anchorage, the steady import of sheep and cattle, of herds and flocks mustered by men on horseback through the streets, was becoming common. Buildings springing up, tracks broadening into roads, horses and wagons and their white European owners evermore assuming the place as theirs. The Albany Aborigines were humoured; guns were pointed at them when they became frustrated and angry. Fences were erected to keep them away from areas they had always walked over or drawn water from. Traps were laid to maim them if they sought to take from a prized vegetable patch or market garden. At the same time a great many barrels of flour and rice, tea and sugar, salted pork, tobacco and liquor were rolled off the ships and into the commissariat, merchant stores and houses, away from them. This exclusion coinciding with the mass hunting of their traditional game supply, kangaroo, by roaming gangs of men and dogs, creating stinking heaps of stripped carcasses and stockpiles of skins. Also, the stockpiling of potatoes, onions and wool too, not for local consumption, but for export.

Economic exclusion on the part of rampant Empire building went unregarded in the Noongar boodja as it did in other corners of the world. Comparisons with the Irish famines of the same period can be drawn.

Over the winter of 1843 thirty-two local Aborigines were reported having died from maladies which had ‘flown to the lungs’. Not only were sickness and death rife, old family structures and belief systems were being disrupted by the birth of children whose fathers increasingly were not just European, but jumpship seamen of widely varying origins. The sensations of loss and disorientation must have not only been dispiriting to the remnants of Mokare’s moort, but distressing and angering. Yet the Albany town Aborigines did not rise up. Did not once resort to violence against the settler authority. Mokare’s statesmanship had welcomed the foreigners on grounds that demanded payment in kind, but as determined by the original colonial leadership in Sydney, agreement to those terms was only ever implied. Thus, in order to help RM Phillips was forced to go on bended knee to his own hierarchy in search of whatever resources he could get. The Phillips Letter Book shows many communications running to-and-fro requesting provisions for the sick and needy among the King George tribe, and of the Colonial Office’s frowning, hip-holding wish for those rations to be contained.


I much fear the progress of the Malady which has for the last Year or two been prevalent among the Aborigines, has not been materially arrested except by death. Thirty two of both sexes died during the last Winter in and immediately about Albany, the disease apparently having flown to the lungs. (Excerpt -Thomas Yule, Acting Protector of Aborigines – York/Albany District –  to Colonial Secretary – 24th April, 1844)



Inheritence, The Grey Effect, Pastoralism & Whaling

From the late 1830s the number of babies born to Albany’s original settlers began to rise. Soon to contribute were three carpenters who married domestic servants. Two of these women were the Jenkins sisters, part of the Spencer family indentured labour. The men were Thomas Gillam, John McKail and McKail’s friend and work partner (recently maimed in an incident involving McKail), the afore-mentioned James Dunn.

In July of 1839, Sir Richard Spencer suffered a stroke and died. Around the same time Governor John Hutt took over from Stirling, introducing more protectionist policies towards the Aborigines where-as Stirling, through his sanctioning of Pinjarra, had proved punitive action and submission to be his measures. Also at this time, Rottnest Island was opened up as prison for Aboriginal people, wherever in the settled districts they came from (and unsupported had to get back to).

Spencer’s successor at Albany was Captain George Grey, an army man whose contribution to the local alliance, on account of his short-lived tenure, was minimal. Grey employed Aboriginal labour to support his living and working arrangements and while at Albany formulated a strategy on how to assimilate Australia’s Aborigines into the new European culture. This document proposed separating children from their traditional way of life by removing them to boarding schools, becoming source material for later nation-wide application. Yes, George Grey was the first to officially propose child/parent separation among the Indigenous and he did so from Albany. Grey was also highly concerned with the number of mixed-race children born to the sealing community active between Albany and Cape Arid, taking legal steps to prevent them acquiring ownership of the islands by dint of birth right. Examination of Grey’s legal work during this time reveals not only the compulsion government held over maintenance of terra nullius, but their identification of children born to Aboriginal women and men considered dregs of the colonial citizenry, as a new and troublesome sub-class. A subclass good for labour, but considered by way of inevitable conduct to become a blight on society

During his short stint, Grey worked hard to recruit new settlers to the town, quickly marrying Spencer’s daughter Eliza-Lucy in the meantime. Then he left, soon after reappearing in South Australia as governor. Grey had welcomed the droving entrepreneur Edward John Eyre to Albany from Adelaide in 1840, at which time Eyre was introduced to two teenage Aboriginal boys, Wylie and Lindol, both of whom sailed back to Adelaide aboard Minerva with Eyre’s returning party. It isn’t known how closely these two boys were related to Norn, as genealogies for neither have been found, but they were King George Boys and certainly contemporaries. Lindol was brought into the mounted police at Adelaide and drilled as a soldier, then employed by Grey as his orderly when Grey arrived. Perhaps having been previously employed by Grey at Albany. Wylie, as the story goes, joined Eyre at Fowlers Bay where they set out upon their near-disastrous cross-Nullabor ordeal. Eyre later said he brought Wylie with him because he knew the boy could speak the native language all along the coast. This was proven at Rossiter Bay, east of Esperance, where Wylie found himself in conversation with local Aborigines. Cape Arid and the Thomas River being less than 40 miles away.  (See Campbell Taylor and the Cape Arid Connection Part 2 for elaboration.

Above: Wylie was well liked around Albany. Having been one of the King George Boys who grew up with the new settler presence, not knowing life as any different, he was a bright personality and became famous on the back of assisting Eyre across the Nullabor when he was about 16 years old, after Eyre’s party fractured violently mid-expedition due to stresses caused by deprivation, doubt and dangerous personality clashes.  Source: Engraving from a drawing by Robert Neil  published in Waterless Horizons by Malcom Urens  and Robert Stephens


The Danger Zone

When Army man George Egerton-Warburton arrived, also in 1840, and quickly married the deceased Spencer’s youngest daughter Augusta, Major Lockyer’s long-established Aboriginal alliance was called upon once more, this time permitting unchallenged settlement at Norn’s mother’s birthplace, Warungatup, a beautiful shady nook along the Hay River in the shadow of Pwakkenbak –  Mnt Barker. This site now boasts the historic St Werburgh’s homestead and church. George Egerton-Warburton, in conjunction with fellow Lieutenant Charles Armstrong, established the Kojonup barracks which were staffed from Albany to protect the overland mail run to Perth, a by-product of which was introduction of sly grog and subsequent heavy alcohol consumption in that locality. In the process of carrying out his work, Warburton doubled as pastoralist and mooched his farm holdings northwards to where the Gordon River bleeds into the Frankland, taking up at an important meeting place between the Aborigines of the westward Blackwood River and beyond, and those of the Frankland and Gordon River areas. This place was called Yerriminup. Armstrong died suddenly in 1838, leaving an Aboriginal daughter behind (Jane) while Warburton transferred back to Albany in 1852 where he took up at the convict hiring depot, allowing him first access to the many men who were to aid pastoral expansion in the following decades. The Spencer/Warburton/Armstrong association with Mokare’s moort is fundamental to the onset of miscegenation in the Mount Barker and Gordon River areas.


Above: Yerriminup Pool, by Yerriminup Hill, was an important Noongar meeting place set at the heads of the Frankland and Gordon Rivers. Aboriginal families with connections north, south, east and west, provided guidance into unexplored country, opening up pastoral opportunities to the settlers who gave food, tobacco and alcohol in return. Mixed race children born to these settlers were often neglected, but there is suggestion some may have been taken-in by the Camfield School for Aboriginal Children opened at Albany in the mid 1850s. Image: Cut from Kojonup 02; Kojonup and Hay 8 Tally – 1876 available at the State Records Office digitised archive.


Sir Richard Spencer’s older sons recognised the Kojonup grasslands too, as did a handful of others, causing settlement to extend eastwards along the Gordon River toward Cranbrook, Kojonup, Eticup (Broomehill) and juncture with the southwards running Pallinup River near Gnowangerup, thence southwards east of the Stirling Ranges to the coast between Cape Riche and Doubtful Island Bay, from where Jerramungup was soon to be accessed via the Gairdner River. It only makes sense the sweep of Albany’s inland settlement closely matched the extended reach of its Indigenous families.

Desperate to win more wealthy investors, marketing efforts by Spencer and Grey also drew in a pair of sea-faring heavyweights. These were Thomas Lyell Symers and the calculating, if not perfidious, Captain John Hassell. Symers’ personal story is enormous but not well known, while the name John Hassell is embedded with mixed feelings in the South Coast’s collective memory. With that in mind, conflict between the King George Aborigines and those centred northwards around Cranbrook had been pre-occupation for the military era authority and good reason why the Hay River was settled well ahead of the rapturous Moorilup (Kendenup) grasslands first shown to Dr Collie by Mokare. Both George Cheyne and John Morley had been granted land at Moorilup but never so much as set a fence post there before wording-up the presumably naïve Hassell when he stopped in on a prospective visit en-route to England in 1839. Hassell, who had some knowledge of the South Coast from his 1823 visit aboard the ill-fated Belinda, bought in. This paved the way for first occupation of hunting grounds which Mokare’s family could not exercise clear dominance over, the result being interracial conflict on an entirely new level. In 1841, at Moorilup, fifteen years after the Amity sailed in, the first European in the Albany district was killed by an Aborigine. Notably, the offender was captured not by one of Hassell’s men, but by members of Mokare’s family.

In contrast, archives relating to the 1840s speak of growing settler intolerance, acts of self-determination and gross cruelty against the Aborigines.

The 1840s was a slow decade in pastoral quarters as it was retarded by the devastating curse of the so-called poison-bush, most notably discovered at Kojonup by Edward John Eyre as he drove his imported flocks toward York in 1840. The economic effect of this news travelling eastwards to Adelaide, Tasmania and New South Wales put an end to new investment for at least a decade and cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, change was in the air, accelerating in 1848 when the understandably diminished Surveyor General J.S. Roe made a chancy exploration to the South Eastward of Perth, a punishing journey over six months which took him through Katanning southwards to the coast at Cape Riche, then eastwards to the region of Cape Arid. This sapping journey, largely in search of coal for the pending introduction of steam-age infrasructure, was enough to close Roe’s career. Nonetheless, the expedition encouraged further exploration and occupation of pastoral lands eastwards of the Pallinup River as far as Esperance.

In the meantime, during 1842 R.H. Bland, first Protector of Natives based at York, was summoned because George Cheyne had become victim of an alarming theft out at Cape Riche, depleting him of upwards of 100 sheep. Lindol, who had  been returned from Adelaide by Grey for attempting to cash one of his cheques, and who had just been banished from Albany for his part in a tribal child-killing which horrified the settlers, was held responsible. Importantly, 1842 was the year Andrew Moir arrived to take up at Cape Riche. Moir was nephew of Cheyne’s wife, Grace Melville. As luck would have it, Emily Trimmer, adopted by the Cheynes after her father drowned in the Swan River, was there too and the pair came together. Two years later, the son of one of Grace Cheyne’s other sisters arrived. This was Andrew Muir and with him came his wife and six children. This was a most profitable arrangement for Cheyne as the latter half of the 1840s saw him drive relentlessly toward retirement.


Negligence, Direct Action and Imprisonment

Back in town, the number of visiting American whaling ships had spiked. As the ruinous foreshore culture washed in and then out, Albany’s Aboriginal boys of the military era were growing into the self-titled King George Men, witnesses to a world swamped with transient whalers and their ilk, or else stern restrictive citizens. RM at Albany during this time was the committed John R. Phillips who clearly understood the importance of the Hay River alliance and worked hard to maintain it.

More influenced by Europeans at an early age confident youth such as Lindol and Wylie moved between cultures but were forced to work hard to win trust. Norn, on the other hand, seems to have been less ready to join the settlers, more prepared to stand in their way. As feuding Aboriginal groups knew only too well, being connected to both sides, whether you could help it or not, carried mortal risk. Lindol took on the challenge, styling himself fully as a King George man. One story goes that he avoided arrest by Bland but later gave himself up to him, then walked himself to the Perth courts for trial. While in Albany Mr Bland made a list of Aboriginal names. Useful because it gives a sense of the numbers of known Albany Aborigines at the time (182), the list inexplicably comprised names only. Given the effort it must have taken to acquire those names it seems ludicrous not to have added the sex of each individual along with even an approximate age. For government purposes, Bland also made a list of York natives in the same uninterested, inadequate way.

Following the wave of death which broke over the winter of 1843, the maturing King George generation appears to have staged a protest the following year. On this occasion, Norn led his friends Wylie, Denin, Bobby and others on a series of food raids from stores held around town as well as the Warburton homestead at Warangatup. The raids showed the settlers how vulnerable they were and the clamour rang through the town judiciary all the way to the Governor’s office in Perth. The guilty willingly gave themselves up when the then Protector Mr Drummond was summonsed from York. Though RM Phillips was sympathetic, compulsion behind the raids was lost on the settlers and the offenders were each forced to do at least twelve months on Rottnest Island.

Norn was in and out of Albany for the rest of this decade, returning from Rottnest to be re-arrested and re-returned for theft in 1849. However, he escaped and lived on the run in the Denmark area until later that year after which he was arrested once more. In December he was sent back to prison in Perth but the record books show him as having returned to Albany once more after escaping again the following year. That Norn repeatedly escaped and made his way from Perth back to Albany reflects both his resistance to the application of the new law and the unrelenting pull of his home fires. Aboriginal attachment to inherited place was documented by the early settlers across the South West. Reverend Wollaston’s commentary on Manyat’s dying at Albany among of the most poignant.

By this time the settlement had turned the screw again and Albany’s Aborigines found themselves no longer welcome in the town at all, unless wearing European dress and on some form of business. Dispensation was granted on economic grounds so the King George Men could profit from corroborees performed for visitors arriving by ship. It was over this time when sites at Lockyer Avenue (Railways Football Club) and the west side of Mount Melville (Deadman’s Lake) look to have become preferred camps.


Above:  Like Perth Albany placed heavy restrictions on its Aborigines, only allowing them into the town to perform cultual exercises for employment purposes. The town was not big so the distance at which they were kept wasn’t great. However, the concentration of food upon the land which was sacred to them, combined with the incomprehensible notion of exclusion, made for a melancholy sight. Image: This amazing photograph is from Gustave Reimer’s 1887 visit to Albany and comes courtesy of Boorloo Boodja who carried out the colourisation process. It is hard to know exactly where it was taken but the presence of sand and coastal reeds, along with some of the women wearing traditional ochre face paint suggests a corroborree somewhere along or near the town foreshore.



Shore-based whaling and Candyup as Overland Passage to the East

The 1840s also saw the Sandalwood trade boom, adding to the Gordon River European influx. By 1846 it had progressed southward from York to the Katanning area. From there it made its way mostly down the Pallinup River where, perhaps due to the under-researched efforts of the much mentioned little understood George Maxwell, Cheyne’s unregistered, untaxed port profited to a conspicuous extent. John Hassell also looks to have profited from Maxwell’s excursions. Trade out of Albany also grew, one of its main beneficiaries being the progressive businessman John McKail.

Elsewhere and in the wake of his marriage and co-incidental loss of his sizable inheritance, Patrick Taylor moved his young family from his waterfront cottage back to the hillsides of the Lower Kalgan River upon which he had earlier built his preferred home. This place he (or perhaps the original vendor George Cheyne) called Glen Candy, but it came to be known by its Noongar derivative, Candyup. European place names evolving Noongar calques is clearly evident. Candyup, Barmup and Kingilyilling indicate the Aborigines interpreted nomenclature as applied by the newcomers and gave it their own twist; the new names stemming from familiarity and the influence those places had upon them.

At Candyup, Patrick’s family went about their business while an Aboriginal camp, long established on Mt Boyle for lookout purposes, also gained density. Taylor’s children grew up in close proximity to this camp. To his wife’s chagrin, Patrick hired various King George Men at advanced rates to run regular messages between town and Candyup as the whaling boom shifted from off-shore foreign based to small scale on-shore operations managed locally by the mariners, including the old sealers, and often in conjunction with a small group of American ship’s captains who had come to know the place well. Overland traffic which had established between Albany town, Two People’s Bay, Cheynes Beach and eastwards to Cape Riche and Doubtful Island Bay, crossed the Kalgan River close to the Taylor house.  In this blossoming industry, employment as lookouts, pulling hands and even as headsmen was won on equal pay terms by the King George men, including Norn, Nebinyan, Wylie and Lindol. Even though the Shell People present as a generally benign group, known Albany Aborigines journeying out to these seasonal camps will have given the contractors greater sense of security, especially as they graduated onto the fringes of White Cockatoo country.

By 1850 Lindol had returned from goal in Perth too and was back down on the South Coast, this time asserting himself as chief of the King George Men, at one point spending his Cheyne Beach whaling earnings on a lavish all-welcome celebration while simultaneously attempting to model tribal discipline around the European court system. Also during this time Lindol led the Albany Aborigines eastwards to meet the White Cockatoo men for an arranged fight. However, at the request of Lindol, RM Phillips allowed native constable Wylie take a gun -perhaps the one Eyre had sent him in gratitude- so that he would go with them and show the White Cockatoo how closely the King George Men were supported by the European authority and how much they considered themselves part of the new economy. No further details are known, but Lindol’s commitment to the new European presence and culture is as obvious as the original alliance between Albany’s settler leadership and its home Aborigines, particularly with regard to both group’s political interactions with outlying tribes. There was much employment and trade between the more enterprising King George Men and the sealers-turned-whalers of this period, and it was not to fall away, continuing along the coast from west of Denmark at Nornalup, all the way to Cape Arid for around thirty years.


Above: From the middle 1830s American whalers began frequenting the waters around Western Australia, mostly making their way up from the half frozen sub-Antarctic Heard Islands, to work the migrating populations of sperm whales off the North West coast. But the South Coast proved a reasonable location too and certain captains and companies of ships made it their preferred New Holland ground. Some of these captains formed partnerships with South Coast shore-based whaling companies by agreeing to buy their produce. Image: Excerpt from the log of the last whaling voyage of Barthomomew Gosnold, an aging vessel from New Bedford captained by William Poole. This ship also brought Jimmy Newhill to Albany in 1883.


Wallaston, Camfield, Coal and Convicts

Patrick Taylor was not a fan of the relentless evangelist Reverend Wollaston, who he first met at the Vasse River, but was of their mutual colleague Henry Camfield. Wollaston came to Albany upon completion of St John’s Anglican Church while Camfield arrived from Perth in 1848 to take up as RM. During Camfield’s time at the Bussell family’s Vasse River homestead, Cattle Chosen, while he was attempting to court Mary’s sister Bessie -while the Taylor family was resident there as well- Camfield observed not only the Bussell brothers fear and loathing of the local Wardandi, but their penchant for using the gun in order to salve their anxiety. A permission the Bussell’s seem to have picked up from Stirling’s sanctioning of Pinjarra. Camfield expressed his disgust at this by giving up the courtship and returning to Perth where he soon-after met and married Annie Breeze, a children’s mistress. (See Love and War: Henry Camfield’s View for elaboration.)

Patrick and Mary Taylor had just returned to Candyup and likely sought to school some of the Aboriginal children on Mt Boyle as they did in the 1870s. It may have been conversations around this subject which helped influence Camfield’s decision to honour his responsibility to the King George covenant in that way, as he not only agreed to Wollaston’s insistent proposal to establish a native institution but encouraged his wife to take lead role. Around this time Albany began to receive the international mail ships, large coal-fired steamers filled with immigrants and travellers, which added economic prowess to the town. Because of this there will also have been motivation to take unparented children off the streets. Wollaston advocated George Grey’s proposition that Aboriginal children should be separated from their parents and brought up without traditional influence, as did Mrs Camfield who unapologetically reported she would rather be given a native baby of six months than a child of six years. Not to say either were unsympathetic, but in the spirit of Protectionism and Christianisation this zealous pair took George Grey’s philosophy and put it into practise, thus promulgating Albany’s contribution toward the Stolen Generations.

Wollaston’s fervency marks him as a dedicated though somewhat controversial figure, one hell-bent not just on Christianisation but the Anglican version of it. Nonetheless, like Barker, Collie, Taylor, Camfield and others he was empathetic toward the evident poverty of the Aborigines and their plight. In 1855 he penned a letter under an Aboriginal pseudonym ‘Kyan Gadac’, in which the writer appeals for compensation for lost land. The letter survived but was evidently never sent. In Noongar language ‘Kyan Gadac’ can be interpreted to mean ‘having nothing’. The inference here is that Wollaston did not compose the letter entirely by himself but acted on behalf of one of the Albany Aborigines, likely the partisan Norn, who intended on ambassadorial grounds to convey the letter to Government. In essence, the letter demonstrates further protest and loosening grip of the King George Men on their original contract of exchange.

The Camfield school worked hard to force cultural direction upon its children, few of whose origins or identities were publicly disclosed. Many appear to have been either the non-Noongar mixed-race (grand)offspring of the sealers, including those of Harris and Gamble, or else local/regional mixed-race children; progeny of the Warburton, Spencer and Hassell inroads, if not via the military stations at Mnt Barker and Kojonup. But they also comprised all-Aboriginal children, some of whose mothers appear to have voluntarily parted with them. One of these children was Andrew, son of a local chief, admitted at six months in 1852 and still there six years later. One record shows an Andrew Lindahl as being at the school, suggesting he was the son of Lindol.

Of course Bessie Flowers came through Annesfield as well, proving Aboriginal children, through the filmy eyes of the Europeans, were just as capable as anybody else.

Above: Fanny Harris, daughter of the sealer/mariner John Harris and Towser, a Palawah woman stolen from the Bass Strait islands, was one of the mixed-race children taken-in during the 1850s by Anne and Henry Camfield’s school for Aboriginal children, Annesfield. Fanny Harris survived an incredible childhood ordeal to become matriarch of the Mason family today. The sealer Bob Gamble had grandchildren taken in by Annesfield. Reading the stories of hardship endured by these children as they grew into adults and fought to survive during an age when social benevolence was either strictly conditional or non-existent is tough going.  Image: Photo courtesy descendant of Fanny Harris, Brendan Bissaker.



Cape Riche, Jerramungup and the Slide Toward Intolerance

The 1850s was also characterised by convictism and the arrival of many ticket-of-leave men. As the years progressed and Albany’s reliable labour shortage lessened because of it, a number of the Camfield girls married ex-convict farmhands, commencing new lives out in the wider Mt Barker district. These marriages were encouraged by the Hutt Government who surreptitiously offered ten acres of land to the brides. Two Ticket of Leave men who participated in this scheme were John Jack Maher and James Egan who either applied to or did marry Annesfield residents the Motteran/Munderan cousins. A third expiree, Joseph Hesketh, indentured to the Taylors, married a domestic hand known only as Mary who was also employed by the Taylors. During the 1850s pastoral boom Patrick Taylor had joined the fray and taken up land behind the Stirling Ranges, and it appears this is where Mary and Hesketh set-up, though the 10 acre grant was selected on the lower Kalgan River. Another Motteran/Munderan cousin, or sister, married outside the scheme to a labourer named James Harris. After Harris died Lydia Motteran married Rueban Wheeler and took up on the Hay River. The Motteran/Munderan family appear to have their origins at Mt Barker, or thereabouts, and the girls returned to that general area to commence the first scripted mixed-race unions of the pastoral era.

Part of this group too was John Williams-Andrews, the sealer, and Fanny, the non-Noongar daughter of his friend and fellow sealer, mixed-race Maori man John Harris. Through the Camfield school we see the orchestration of racial integration. In other words, implementation of the silent Aboriginal dilution program. The Hesketh/Mary episode ended in double tragedy and the Williams-Andrews/Fanny Harris story is beyond difficult, but both are necessary reading as they bring home the awful struggle these children had no choice but to fight. For Fanny Harris things eventually worked-out and hers has become one of the most inspiring of the entire new Noongar age.

Early in the convict era the number of registered single men over the age of 21 operating in the Albany pastoral arena, mostly as isolated shepherds, quickly rose to 350. Given the concentration of sheep runs in the Gordon River area the impact this had on the Koreng and Wirlomen Aborigines, whose kallas ranged eastwards toward Jerramungup, caused wholesale disruption to their racial integrity and traditional lifestyle in a way different to that which occurred at Albany. There was no alliance or principle of understanding in this area, only occupation, coveting, coercion and punishment, despite one Jerramungup elder accused of stealing sheep indicating his people were not guilty but that visiting Aborigines from ‘far away’, from ‘another country’, were responsible. Though tensions ran high, records show incidents of violence in White Cockatoo country were still limited, something perhaps attributable to the culture of generally peaceable occupation at Albany, though it seems as much to do with the levels of accommodation conceded by the Aborigines, albeit grudgingly. To this end we might say technology won the day for the shepherds and station owners; storable food, matches, horses and guns over cunning, fleetness of foot and the spear. But underneath there was deep resentment on the part of the White Cockatoo and genuine fear on the part of the settlers. Ten years after taking up at Jerramungup, following an overland trek eastwards as far as Esperance Bay, Albert (A.Y.) Hassell returned to build rifle slots into the outside walls of his newly constructed home.

Out on the Gordon and Pallinup River frontiers, the 1850’s was pivotal to the demise of traditional Aboriginal culture along the South Coast  as it witnessed a crude merging get underway. On the one hand, the uneasy attachment of non-Aboriginal men with settler raised mixed-race orphans or else young traditional Aboriginal women of the area; on the other, the attaching of Anglicised names to full-blood identities naïve or courageous enough to entertain the forcible new inhabitancies. For these nascent new-Noongar families, life on cultural, health, social and economic grounds commenced upon a path of escalating difficulty. On the outside of both traditional Aboriginal and all-European societies, it is hard to imagine beginnings of a more preclusive kind.


Above: Albany’s Menang alliance found the going difficult from the 1850s when convict labour led to significant pastoral expansion in country presided over by inland language groups. From this time George Cheyne started to experience problems significant enough for him to start talking openly about killing set numbers of Aborigines in order to establish the kind of peace he wanted. With the precedent of ‘put downs’ across the eastern colonies as well as at Pinjarra, the Vasse River and Pilbara already set, as sheepmen began to push east of the Gairdner River, the South Coast settler collective began to slide toward the limit of its tolerance. Violence, the likes heretofore set aside, was looming in the minds of both parties. Image: Bonzle Maps Australia, self modifed.



Importantly, J.M. Roe’s 1848 discovery of the Jerramungup grasslands came courtesy of a young Aboriginal guide. Introduced to him at Cape Riche was Cheyne’s ‘Bobby’, a lad later to achieve notoriety among the Albany authorities as Cape Riche Bobby, though held in memory today as Old Bobby Roberts. ‘The native Bob’ led Roe’s expedition on a punishingly circuitous route that took them as far to the inland east as Mt Ragged (adjacent to Cape Arid), then back along the coast to Cheyne’s homestead from just east of Esperance at Cape Le Grande. Old Bobby Roberts has become a significant cross-cultural figure from White Cockatoo country. As with Lindol and Wylie, he was exposed to colonial exploitation from an early age, gaining trust and language skills. One of the Shell People (Doubtful Island Bay) with strong upriver links, by the time he was fifteen or so his confidence and familiarity was enough to allow him to move between worlds, though naïve to the enormous downside such interaction carried. Whether or not any of these boys foresaw the outcome, all three ended up forfeiting their personal sovereignty in exchange for the unrealised privilege of stepping the divide. As with Wylie, who died young and alcoholic, and Lindol, whose fate isn’t known but is likely to have been decided by the spear somewhere on the periphery of his range, for his services to the State and subsequent loyalist compulsions toward his father’s people, Old Bobby Roberts was also condemned to the lonely in-between; the troubled, mistrusted role of the roving native-constable. This was brought about when John Hassell, on news of Roe’s report, moved in using Bob Gamble to skipper a boat from Albany. Gamble looks to have gone up the Gairdner River and confirmed Maxwell’s and Roe’s assessment, whereupon Hassell immediately gave up his Katanning land quest to Elijah Quartermaine and took up 20 000 acres. In consequence, Gamble appears to have set his growing family up on the Doubtful Islands, presumably in order to protect access and benefit from the mounting interest. Hassell does not admit to employing Gamble but their association is strong. The third of Gamble’s non-Noongar children was Robert Jnr (b. 1838), likely also known as Doubtful Island Bob(by), he came to a violent end at the hands of Indigenous enemies. From around this time things at Cape Riche and Jerramungup took a turn for the worse.

Over the next few years expansion of the Cape Riche enterprise came about at the hands of Alex and Geordie Moir, brothers of the previously mentioned Andrew. The younger Moir brothers arrived in 1850, a year after Andrew Muir recognized his cousin and bride were to inherit and moved out. From here the Muir story branches west of Albany toward the Blackwood River, part housing the history of Albany’s only remaining Indigenous family to have clear links in that direction; the Colbungs, whose ancestry also traces back to before Mokare’s time. Cheyne returned to Albany from 1850, but not before developing a habit of laying strychnine which he said was in order to ‘poison the crows’, likely veiled reference to the pejorative term Jim Crow  or else to the Wordungmat moiety group which may have been understood at the time and applied to inland (as opposed to coastal) groups. The following year Cheyne also wrote to the Colonial Secretary suggesting ‘eight to ten’ Aborigines ‘be secured or shot’  in order to ‘suitably intimidate’  all others. There hadn’t been anything to write home about regarding Aboriginal interference since Lindol led the embarrassing poaching incident of 1842, despite Cheyne’s denuding of the Pallinup and Eyre River Sandalwood reserves, so something of late had gone badly wrong, and not only at the Cape. The link between hostilities, upriver settlement in White Cockatoo country and the presence of  natives who Cheyne called ‘Crows’ is stark.

From the 1850s onwards the records increasingly speak of prosecutions for ‘absconding’ under the 1823 Master and Servant Act. The act applied to all employees, where landowners employed labour under terms the Europeans understood culturally and precisely by way of language, but which the Aborigines were hardly able to comprehend.  Many Aborigines did gaol terms for leaving their jobs without permission, but these terms were often followed by stints as Native Constables (NC), particularly among those who had been generally exposed to settler influence. Across this history, the correlation between young male Aborigines groomed by settlers from an early age and those who spent time as Native Constables is high. These NC stints look to have been coerced from the men on the premise it was part of the terms of their release. Once again it was the accomplished Lindol who bucked the trend and set his own terms, making it clear to RM Phillips in 1850 he would only do the job for a shilling a day, paid daily, for his horse feed expenses to be met, and for him to receive two pairs of trousers and two shirts per year. Phillips, knowing the calibre of the man, ‘strongly’ recommended his appointment to the Colonial Secretary. This was at the time Cape Riche Bobby fell out of favour with the Moir and Hassel brothers and Lindol was sent to arrest him. In consequence, Cape Riche Bobby then became a Native Constable himself.

Whereas sporting rivalry had long spilled over to mortal feuding between certain of the King George and Gordon River families or individuals, the archives don’t reveal anything but aggressive posturing between the King George and White Cockatoo groups. Nonetheless, the White Cockatoo were a worrisome threat as their country stood midway between ‘wild’, hard-line desert influenced Aboriginal culture and the more relaxed, relatively resource-rich families of the coast and deep south-west corner. As settlement encroached inland and eastwards, pioneering sheep-men were destined to meet less tractable Aborigines inclined to hold their own. This was evident from the earliest recorded explorations.


Sandalwood, the Porongurup Combine,  Scarlet Fever, and Death Untold

Meanwhile back in Albany, John McKail continued to progress financially. Collecting Sandalwood from inland locations and exporting it to Asian ports he traded for staples which he then sold through his warehouse at Albany, thereby profiting on both legs. In 1859 McKail took a speculative punt by leasing the entire Porongurup range, later picking off prime locations and inventing means to acquire them outright. In 1860 he installed his wife’s sister’s family on the eastern flank after his fellow carpenter and business partner, Thomas Gillam, had passed away. Probably by design, James Dunn, McKail’s maimed work mate, took up 40 acres on the southern flank more or less at the same time. On the western flank McKail leased his Pilgi-Pilgi holding to dairy farmers, the ex-convict Ponton brothers. Out at the Porongurup Range the Gillam and Dunn children, most of them heading toward teenager status, combined ranks, ran their respective properties, and in subsequent years began to intermarry. But 40 acres was not a lot, and for the boys of both families, of which there were ten in all, greater opportunity was needed.

Now, from Lockyer’s time we noted cross-cultural relations carried alcoholism, respiratory and venereal disease, epidemics which had vitiated healthy reproduction rates among the King George tribe, but when the scarlet fever contagion swept over the entire southern portion of the colony from June 1860, courtesy of the Albany docked P&O steamer Salsette, the effect was very much akin to the pestilent Irish famines of the same period. Whether the numbers are precise or not, comparison between the 182 identified Aborigines of the Albany area eighteen years earlier and the 200 reported to have perished within months of the Salsette’s disembarkations, we catch more than a glimpse of the retardation, the destruction and sheer bitter misery the European invasion caused. Through all this disruption, this deprivation, suffering and death, Norngern survived. Now in his thirties, traditionally the time a man is passed down the status of elder and with it the first of his young arranged brides, Norn’s Albany Aborigines were perishing at a rate more alarming than ever. Who was left for he and his contemporaries to marry? How far could he safely travel to find a young wife, to keep those old bloodlines from impure or unlawful contamination?  As early as 1851 Lindol was reportedly living with a young relative too close for the comfort of the Albany authority. The King George Men were becoming fewer and ever more isolated. The grand tragedy, disguised as some form of metamorphic necessity, had effected another manoeuvre in its savage, poisoned sequence. So assiduous was the scarlet fever sickness, in all likelihood Patrick Taylor’s boys helped bury the dead above them on Mt Boyle.

Above: At the same time as the Sandalwood business was booming and cutters were roaming the Wheatbelt waterways from York to south of Katanning, scarlet fever, or strep throat, a dreadfully painful infection, was taking heavy toll on the indigenous population. It is hard to describe the degree of pain and misery brought upon the Aborigines of 19th Century lower Western Australia by way of disease. Falling ill is one thing, but dying in great number, untreated and in pain, is another. The imagery wasn’t captured by way of photograph but the death rate was such that entire families were decimated in a matter of months. Source: Wikimedia commons


Brothers in Arms, Old Jumbo and the Sea Road Back to Thomas River

Three years later, Norn had found a bride and started a family; it seems at Candyup. Also in 1863, the Taylors hosted Northam based brothers Edward and Andrew Dempster, an intercourse manufactured by Mary Bussell-Taylor as she sought to marry her daughters into Swan River society. The Dempster’s were in town prior to commencing an overland expedition eastwards along the coast in search of pastures they could exploit, something which inspired the Taylor boys no end. The Dempster expedition led to their naming of Israelite Bay, barren but first notable landing point east of Cape Arid. The name is believed to reference circumcised Aborigines they came across and an unwitting identification of the border country between Noongar culture and that of the resource deprived desert tribes (who also practised subincision). The Dempster’s decided upon a location west of Esperance at Fanny Cove instead, later abandoning that site for Esperance Bay, from where they later again forged a track some 250 kilometres northwards to the Fraser Range. What the Dempster brothers began to understand, as they shot dead and employed incarceration on various of the archipelago islands for offenses against their stock and supplies, was the difference in nature between the coastal Aboriginal families (members of whom they recruited as allies) and who they first described as Burdooes, eventually as Bardocs; those ‘wild’ intractable natives of the inland.

Importantly, between the necessarily rigid culture of the desert people and corrupted ‘decadent’ dwellers of the coast, ranged a lateral sub-group intermarried to both. From 1907 Daisy Bates began to identify their remnants as the Jeukwuk, people of the Wild Cherry totem, whom she said were originally centred around the Russell Range which Roe marked as the turn-back point of his 1848 expedition. From among this group came an Aborigine known in the law-courts as Dartambaum, in the Bates genealogies as Dardabum, and to the original settlers between Cape Arid and Jerramungup as Old Jumbo.

Seven years after the Dempster’s first took up, the Forrest brothers passed through the Hassell and Dempster holdings on their Nullabor traversing expedition in the opposite direction to Eyre and Wylie. This proposed telegraph-line route identified encouraging pastures as far east as Eucla, precipitating participation in the government of 1862’s intention to open-up the ‘Eastern District’ by incentivising potential pastoralists with cheap large-scale leases. Younger of the Taylor brothers, Campbell, was heavily influenced. In 1866 he and his brother undertook an expedition to the Hampton Plains, beyond Kalgoorlie, in search of Eden-like pastures believed to exist in the unknown inland. Their guide on this dangerously naïve, near fatal journey was someone the brothers knew very well. Of the Candyup Aborigines they’d grown-up with, Yunyirgyl (Ungal/Urigal) aka Dicky Bumble, was a shore-based whaler and eloquent master of mimicry. At the time of the expedition John and Campbell Taylor were 25 and 24 years respectively, while Yunyirgyl/Dicky was about 18. On account of an apparent clubbed foot, Yunyirgyl also took on the settler applied moniker Dicky Bumble or Bumblefoot.

Over the next years key pastoral leases were taken up at the Phillips River by the Dunn brothers of the Porongurups, at Fanny Cove by the nephews of Alex and Geordie Moir, at the Thomas River by Campbell Taylor -who called his enterprise Lynburn Station- and a little further east at Point Malcolm by the Ponton brothers, formerly of McKail’s Porongurup lease. Taylor’s decision to set Lynburn upon the Thomas River was driven by multiple factors. With one of his sisters now married in to the Dempster family, proximity to their ‘Esperance Bay’ operation will have been appealing. Also, those King George Men the Taylor boys had grown-up with appear to have had family links extending that far. Whaling records show that from 1870 Norn, Nebinyan (aka Boney or Bonepart, given in recognition of his time spent aboard a French whaler), Dicky Taylor and Screechowl (other Candyup Aborigines), all worked the ‘East Coast’ shore-based whaling enterprise at Cape Arid. The question begging, who led who back to the Thomas River?

One observer claimed that by 1870 Albany’s extended King George tribe was half the number it used to be. Also by then, coastal transport between Cape Arid and King George Sound was a localised half-century practise maintained by whaling, sealing and Sandalwood cutting gangs, making access and return fairly reliable. At least for those connected to the town’s maritime brigade. For those who weren’t, the new Eastern District offer was still appealing and from the local pastoral arena, (and as far as NSW), men, women and children set out from Albany along the coast by foot, driving stock before them over many hundreds of miles in order to take up isolated parcels of barely sustainable grasslands in areas where the Aborigines were not only less familiar with the white presence, but highly defensive of their precious water sources. Vestiges of these much troubled, inordinately difficult endeavours still linger at various of the cross-Nullabor stopping points today.

Now, for every location desired by the newcomers of course there was already an Aboriginal name. New generation pastoralists such as the Dunn, Moir, Ponton and Kennedy brothers appear to have understood but not fully appreciated the implications of this, whereas Campbell Taylor, it seems, did. Taylor realised the practicality of employing Albany Aborigines during the whaling off-season at a location near enough to a prominent pre-existing Aboriginal camp. The trade-off will have been obvious, but of vital interest to the unmarried King George Men were women young and distant enough to keep traditional bloodlines alive. With coastal transport they had means of visiting healthy distant relatives which did not require months of overland travel by foot, despite being fraught with continuous settler interference. At risk of sexual exploitation by non-Indigenous men, Albany’s surviving Shell People could maintain opportunity to give away what few daughters they had while seeking to recruit young wives themselves. An age-old practice, only now under the constraints of heavily reduced numbers and a relentless new economy.

Above: While settlers used whaleboats and coastal cutters as transport between Albany and the harbours and homesteads of their regional sheep stations, they were forced to search inland for pastures rich enough in cobalt to prevent their livestock from falling sick. These incursions into the lands occupied by Aborigines eventually described as ‘Bardocs’, whose culture was significantly different to the coastal groups and wholly intolerant of their water resources beiing usurped, resulted in clashes that took far more lives than reported. By way of simplification, between the Bardooc desert groups and more relaxed coastal groups lived the Jeeukwuk, or people of the wild cherry totem, whose fate it was to balance living between extremes. Source: Google Earth map self modified.


Charlie Knapp and the Cape Arid Connection

Essential to this history is the story of a literate sailor named Charles Knapp who arrived at the Albany convict hiring depot in 1865 after being posted from the road gangs working around Perth. Knapp was dark skinned, sufficiently so to be wrongly described as Aboriginal. Known to the Taylors at Candyup, Charley Knapp worked around Albany and Mt Barker as a sawyer, servant, farm hand and labourer for five years before gaining his ticket of freedom and taking up amongst the shore-based whalers at Cheynes Beach over the winters of 1871 and 1872. Before disappearing from the records Knapp left his name among the Shell People at Thomas River where he looks to have fathered multiple children, two with a locally born young full-blood woman named Jakbam. These children were Johnny and Minnie Knapp, significant ancestral figures across the southern Noongar boodja.

Of notable interest, the Bates genealogies indicate Norngern and Jakbam had the same father. This highlights the extent of Shell People family connections, but more immediate is the question, why did Tommy’s father leave Albany? According to records relating to  the birth of Johnny and Minnie Knapp, and the reckoning she was probably no older than sixteen by the time she bore them, it would have been around 1860 when Jakbam was conceived; correlating to the time of the scarlet fever disaster. Once again we catch sight of the closeness of Aboriginal relations, even across lengthy distances, bearing out the controversial colonial claim that true Aboriginality was destined to die out. The King George Men faced a crisis of survival and coastal transport between important camps, provided at the expense of labour, gave them added means of maintaining family continuity. To that end, the coast between King George Sound and Cape Arid might be described as a single country, a trail of traditional camping sites subject to maritime exploitation. All of this during a period when Aboriginal populations centred around those camps were both ravaged and rescued by the same portent. The picture is chaotic and desperate for the Shell People while opportunistic for the settlers. As with Lockyer’s liberation of the abducted women, the very force decimating Aboriginal communities was also throwing them a lifeline.

Surviving volumes of Mary Bussell-Taylor’s diaries tell of daily life at the Candyup homestead during the 1870s, and of the interaction between her family and the King George Men, including Norn. Among the many references to Campbell commuting between Thomas River and Albany, sometimes by boat, sometimes overland with local Aborigines and other white men, Mary writes of ‘her native girls’ Kitty and Emma, who the Taylors sought to bring up along European lines. Sadly, in 1877, fourteen-year-old Emma King is recorded as having been buried at Albany Memorial Cemetery. Presumably Norn’s daughter (lately betrothed to Nebinyan), Emma was born the same year as the Dempster brothers were entertained at Candyup. Unfortunately, Bates only provides Norn’s wife’s name, Nyin Nyin, and nothing else. We don’t know her lineage, her geographic origins or when she died. What we do know, however, is that Emma had two brothers who also died, and that Tommy later took a second partner. Norngern, aka Tommy King, king survivor of the King George Men,  not only outlived the mother of his children, but his children themselves.


John Moir, John Dunn and the Phillips River Crisis

Now, in the meantime, John Dunn, second eldest of the Porongurup based brothers, had founded Cocanarup Station along the Phillips River and headquartered it at the top end, near to where Ravensthorpe is today. By 1874, however, due to a relationship breakdown with his fiancé Henrietta Gillam, Dunn left the station to his brothers and headed east along the coast on an escapist expedition of his own, not returning until 1877 when news reached him in Port Augusta, S.A., that his friend and fellow pioneer pastoralist Johnny Moir had been murdered by Aborigines at Fanny Cove. One of the killers was shot on the run, the other, Tampin, was lengthily pursued but got away. Eighteen months later, after John Dunn had once again left the colony, this time pursued by Henrietta with a second child in tow, Campbell Taylor recognised Tampin while camping at the Oldfield River and arrested him. Because he had no English, when the preliminary hearing was held in Albany, Tampin was granted an interpreter by the name of Tommy King (Aboriginal name, Norngern). It didn’t save Tampin though, he was soon after hung before all staff and prisoners at Rottnest Island. Then came the death of John Dunn himself, also at the hands of the Aborigines. Dunn returned to Cocanarup sometime in 1879 or 1880 from where he was lured to his killing one afternoon by Old Jumbo, aka Dartambaum, that well-known member of the Wild Cherry totem whose children had gravitated toward the more accommodating Shell People and their association with the white men.

Demonstrating once again the closeness of relations between the Aborigines and settlers, Dartambaum had previously been tribally married to a full-blood woman from the Russell Range area who had subsequently taken up with the Ponton brothers. This woman, likely known as Naidi, appears to have acquired the European identity of Stephen Ponton’s deceased wife Anne Ryan. One of Naidi/Anna Ryan’s daughters was Topsy Whitehand who went on to partner one of the main figures of Western Nullabor settlement, Henry Dimer. Dimer was a German origin jump-ship sailor harboured by Campbell Taylor near Albany, then put to work well out of sight at Lynburn Station. There are many members of the Dimer family today. In any event, according to oral legend, when news reached Jumbo that his young granddaughter Karabee had been raped at Cocanarup Station, steps were quickly taken to bring together a retributive party and John Dunn, whether guilty or not, soon after died of blood loss caused by a coarse wound to the neck. Tribal law in the Bardoc borderlands had been administered.  But unofficial settler law wasn’t far behind. John Dunn’s death wasn’t reported at Albany until ten days afterward and stories persist of an angry rampage carried out by his brothers in the days and months afterwards.

The truth behind John Dunn’s killing will never be fully known, although background to both his and John Moir’s deaths can be traced to the deleterious activities of the Dempster brothers, particularly at Fraser Range, along with the presence of a Dunn brother’s outstation in Bardoc country inland of the Ravensthorpe Ranges, on-going frustration by the bordering desert tribes at the corruption of coastal Aborigines, and the sexually exploitative and outright cruel and brutal treatment of Aboriginal women by shepherds, labourers and land-owners alike. It is important not to understate this last point. Newspaper accounts detail disturbing abuses, including awful degrees of child cruelty at the hands of the newcomers, and of condoning court outcomes. One case in particular occurred at Fanny Cove mid-time between the killings of John Moir and John Dunn. The history paints a picture of social acquiescence on the part of the overwhelmed Shell People, of vexation and anger on the part of the onlooking middle-ground (Jeukwuk/Wild Cherry) families, and outright resistance by the assertive desert based (Bardoc) group. Today’s racial tensions at Kalgoorlie likely trace back beyond the goldrush to this period.

Left: John James Dunn (1848-1880) was second eldest of ten Dunn siblings, all born at Albany to early settlers James Dunn and Elizabeth Henderson. John Dunn was twelve years old when the family moved from Albany town out to Woodburn, a 40 acre holding at the Porongurups where they lived in near proximity to the Gillam family who had taken up at Bolganup. The two families became very close and the children intermarried. John had at least one child with Henrietta Gillam outside of marriage and while the couple were said to be engaged, in six years there were no attempts to bring the ceremony forward. From 1872 John Dunn founded Cocanarup Station on the Phillips River basing a homestead near Ravensthorpe and the shearing and shed facilities at the coast near modern-day Hopetoun. Dunn was killed in a planned attack by Aborigines unhappy with his, and/or his brothers treatment of Aboriginal women, including Karbee, the grandaughter of Dartambaum, Old Jumbo. The murder was not reported at Albany until 10 days later, despite their being telegraph facilities at Esperance and Bremer Bay. Eventually, an Aborigine by the name of Yungala/Yandawalla was charged with the murder but the case collapsed before Attorney General Alexander Onslow at the Supreme Court, Perth, in October, 1881. This led to highly agressive defensive action (retributive) being taken by settlers between Cape Riche and Eucla who felt they were left unprotected and forced to take matters into their own hands. The entire episode, which lasted in the region of six years, has been described as an ‘open season’ and is now collectively known as the Cocanarup Massacre. Source: Marian Brockway, The Dunns of Cocanarup. See also, Cocanarup and the Aborigines category (Interlude Series) at TVFMC for complete coverage.



R.C. Loftie and the Great Blind Eye

Albany was different though, wasn’t it? Albany was the seat of alliance and friendly relations, still home to the remaining King George Men. Also, seat of the police authority which now controlled outstations at Mt Barker, Kojonup, Eticup, Bremer Bay and Esperance. Home too, to the regional supremo, the South Coast’s ruling Resident Magistrate. By 1880 this position had passed from Henry Camfield thru a couple of ex-Perth Police Commissioners -the royally attached Alexander Cockburn-Campbell and (criminally neglectful) Augustus Hare, to another removed gentleman of the Irish old school, the ordinarily meticulous Rowley Crozier Loftie. It was Loftie who presided over the preliminary hearing of John Dunn’s murderer. After the dismissal of Jumbo as culprit, responsibility for impaling the dowak through Dunn’s carotid artery was reckoned to lie with a young coastal man named Yungala (aka Yandawalla).  Loftie wrapped up the hearing in quick time and sent Yungala to Perth for a Supreme Court trial scheduled for September, 1881, on the expectation he would meet the same fate as Tampin. But this was not to be, for the Attorney General in Perth was the newly appointed Alexander Onslow, who threw the case out based on unreliable literal evidence provided solely by Dartambaum. John Dunn was dead, his family and fellow pastoralists outraged, Yungala and Dartambaum both free while Loftie and the police were left with the equivalent of egg on their faces. The newspapers were full of it. From Albany, something had to be done. Those unreliable, recalcitrant eastern Aborigines and the influence they were under from the encroaching desert tribes needed to be brought into line, the problem solved ‘at a local level’. The eastern colonies had commenced it decades earlier, Stirling took his opportunity at Pinjarra, and Cheyne had already actively campaigned for it at Cape Riche, so why not now invoke the massacre precedent out at the Phillips River and beyond?

Subsequent to the death of John Dunn, what happened at Cocanarup still reverberates heavily today. Disturbing evidence suggests John Dunn’s brothers along with other ‘associated’ men led a shooting of dozens upon dozens of Indigenous souls. An ‘open season’ countenanced and/or carried out by a coterie of landowners, employees and officials whose authority was based at Albany. There is no documentation supporting this claim and it has never been officially admitted, but the killings at Cocanarup (and others as far east as Eucla) live on in the memory of the Southern Noongar collective.  Cocanarup is memorialised today by a plaque, display boards and walk trail at the site.  The reprisal killings surrounding the death of John Dunn and acquittal of Yungala amounted to an approximate six-year war not dissimilar to what took place at the Swan River and, via the use of the terrorist strychnine poisoning tactic, constitutes the South Coast’s best kept historical secret. Yes, there was a massacre. And yes, it’s epicentre was near to Ravensthorpe. It just didn’t happen all at one time and all at the same place. The South Coast, administered from Albany, was not unlike most of colonial Australia. We took a seat at the table of war against recalcitrant Aborigines with a view to eliminating them altogether, and we played our part.


The Worst of Times

In 1882 Campbell Taylor by-passed RM Loftie and wrote directly to the Colonial Secretary in Perth, complaining of finding three disturbingly injured Aborigines lying by the road near to Candyup. One was a young girl of 19, another “frightfully burnt about the belly and privates”, the third dying of starvation and thirst. Taylor complained that the police made light of the situation. Taylor is also noted for protecting some of the Thomas River Aborigines from cruelty perpetrated by non-indigenous workers bent on taking advantage of young girls. Equally, Ethyl Hassel, wife of Albert, who lived at Jerramungup Station between 1878 and 1886 during the course of the Cocanarup conflict, took special interest in the Aborigines who lived where her husband had built their home, making every effort to record customs, legends and the intricacies of daily Aboriginal life. Sara Meagher, who wrote the introduction to Ethyl’s published manuscript, said it was ‘obvious’ the author had ‘a real concern for their welfare’. What motivated Mrs Hassell to these lengths? Was she simply anthropologically minded, or did she see what was happening and take what steps she could to preserve their memory?

As the goldrush and resultant railway and immigrant influx followed, Cocanarup (and elsewhere) can be reckoned to have had seismic repercussions. For the violence and disease ravaged Aboriginal families there was an increased fear of the settler along with greater division between their mixed-race offspring and those committed to retaining unaltered tradition; a long-lasting undermining issue fostered by those preclusive social conditions. In the settler world, defensive attitudes hardened into even greater disdain. Language used to describe new-Noongar people publicly descended. From this period newspapers which once referred to ‘the natives’ now referred to ‘blacks’, ‘niggers’ and ‘coons’, while stories and opinion pieces steadily became less restrained in their ridicule and mockery. Colonial Western Australia was done being polite. It was time to more widely cast and close the administrative net, introduce even stricter controls and take over fully. The round-up got underway with introduction of the Aborigines Acts of 1895 and 1905. Its effects felt in Albany as they were all over the settled districts.


Statesmanship, Death and the End of an Era

By 1890 Norn was in his sixties and by account one of only six remaining of the original King George tribe. His father an old man still out at the Thomas River. On the occasion of the inauguration of parliamentary government in W.A. and proclamation of the constitution, Norn and his second wife Jenny brought a petition to the still in-situ RM, Mr R. C. Loftie. The petition was highly fashioned in the regal language of the day, possibly penned by Henry Lawson who spent five months in Albany that year. Lawson had met and written (most probably) about Norn using the pseudonym William Rex to describe his leading of Aboriginal cultural displays to sea-going tourists. Lawson’s alcohol fuelled irony and penchant for subtle though caustic taunt is evident in the script which, like Wollaston’s earlier unsent letter, asks for payment in kind. All the land which would have fallen to Norn as chief custodian by this time had been given over to a constitution which didn’t even recognise him, except as part of the flora and fauna.

Norn’s final years in Albany were spent mixing with Jenny and  his life-long friends Nebinyan, Wabinyet, Dicky Bumble and Dickey’s partner, his step-sister, Jakbam, who had left Cape Arid for Albany most likely when her son Johnny had been charged for absconding from service by Taylor’s mid-1890’s station manager. Johnny Knapp did time in Albany gaol, afterwards making a stealing, sentenced to a further six months then coerced into the role of Black Tracker (NC) on account of his youth being spent in the company of the Taylors and their European employees. Afterwards Johnny Knapp walked back to Cape Arid, spending the rest of his life working quietly on farms along the coast between Esperance and Cape Riche. Lengthily at Chillinup.

In 1900, the year of the referendum on Federation, Norn’s mia, constructed just outside Albany town on the Perth Road, was deliberately burnt down by a fourteen-year-old boy. Eastwards at Cape Arid, while travelling to Esperance to vote in the referendum, Campbell Taylor was badly injured in a buggy accident on the track from Thomas River. It took two weeks to get him to hospital in Albany, a rescue necessarily effected by sea, where he died upon arrival. Taylor and his wife Charlotte Gresham were childless. Campbell’s older brother John had pre-deceased him, fathering just one daughter, thus the Taylor family name ended at Albany. Two years later Charlotte sold Lynburn, her final rations return noting she had brought back to Candyup the last of Norn’s aged relatives, his father having died of dysentery in March 1899.  Jakbam and Yunyirgyl worked for Ednie Hassell at Warriups (midway between Many Peaks and Cape Riche) in the earliest years of the new century. Norngern died somewhere unknown about Albany around 1907. Nebinyan had left for Katanning some time earlier where remnants of many of the South Coast families had come to gather. Others, more closely attached to the White Cockatoo and from as far away as Eucla, had graduated westwards to locate at Gnowangerup. Daisy Bates made it to Albany in May 1908 after hearing all about Norn from Nebinyan, but was too late. Instead she met Jakbam and Yunyirgyl, who gave her their own genealogies and an important South Coast Noongar word list.


Above: (Believed to be) Norgern sitting crosslegged with a woomera resting against his arm in front of a makeshift mia on the outskirts of Albany town sometime around the turn of the 20th Century. He was in his 70s and alone, among the very last surving Aborigines of the first settlement period. Norngern, Wandinyilmernong, aka Tommy King, stood proud and defiant to the very end. Source:  Unknown

15 responses to “A short history of Aboriginal relations along the South Coast through the story of the Albany Aborigine Norngern and his King George Town contemporaries”

  1. johnlamerand Avatar

    interesting recounting of history, thank you. I am also interested in accounts of French settlement near Little River (near Albany)… also what do you feel about the Wagyl Kaip claims in the region?

    1. Avatar

      I don’t know much of the Little River to be honest, not without going looking anyway, other than it empties into Wilson Inlet at Denmark and the local walkway there forms part of the Bibbulmun Way. It’s been a while since I was out at Ocean Beach. I think Denmark sits somewhere on its own between the extremes of Australian modernity and rusticity, by way of visual appeal at least, but mention of it is rare enough in these pages. The time is coming when attention will turn west of Albany and follow the paths to Walpole, Augusta and Manjimup, but the pre-occupation to date has been with what occured to the east. As for the Wagyl Kaip claims I stay well away from political issues, suffice to say I support the Noongar claim as I support all Indigenous dispossesion claims across Australia. The role of these pages is to discuss history and how we got to where we are now, rather than to get embroiled in current issues. Best wishes, Ciaran

  2. Lee-Anne Avatar

    Hi Cairan,

    I have read here that you have said that Fanny Harris daughter of John Harris and Towser is the mother of the Harris family, and as far as i am aware this is not true.

    Fanny is the mother of the Mason Family.

    There are two Harris families.

    One has Tim Harris and Caroline Lowe/Mullaney (Caroline of the Vasse) as their patriarch and matriarch. We are not entirely sure who Tim’s father was. We have been told Ebenezer Harris, but i have from SWALSC Abby Harris. It is said that his father was African or African American. We have not found any evidence via dna either way. Tim’s mother was Nylangood or Ellen Angood and his grandmother Dulgong.

    I have speculated that John Harris is Tims father but that has not yet been proven one way or the other. It appears we do not have dna matches with the Mason family so i would think not.

    The other Harris family are originally from Williams and then moved to Morawa.
    The father of this Harris family is convict William Harris/Paulet although we have yet to connect this via dna. We suspect his name was not originally Harris but are still researching this.
    The mother of this family was Muttleane, or Madeline Campbell, who was the daughter of the local headman, Campile at Williams.

    I am descended from Tim and Carolines daughter Annie, and William and Muttleane’s son Arthur.

    If you have found evidence that shows that Fanny is the matriarch of the Harris family, would it be possible for you to share this with us? We are always open to looking at things that we may have missed.

    Kind regards

    1. Avatar

      Hi Lee-Anne, many apologies for the delay in getting back to you and to your email to me from some time ago. You are quite correct about Fanny Harris and the Masons. I had written Harris family instead of Mason family, which is a mistake. I have corrected it now. I know these kind of things are troubling for family researchers because they suggest the possibility of something different but it was just a straight up typo. I meant to say Mason but said Harris instead. John Harris, the Maori sealer who was in Albany and who had two children with Towzer, is said to have gone back to New Zealand. Fanny was a survivor and a very strong woman. Quite an extraordinary tale that the Masons I’m sure are all rightly proud of.

    2. quindalupwardandi Avatar

      Hi Leeanne , I am a descendant of Tim and Carolines daughter Rosie. I have the same information as you. I am at a dead end about Tims parentage as well. Would love to chat via email if your keen? , I have a copy of Tims death certificate that was filed and filled out by Rosie if this helps

      1. Chantal Avatar

        I am a descendant of Timothy’s daughter Clara. I’m so intrigued by his life and who his parentage is. All signs have so far been Ebenezer and Nylangood. I’d love to be in contact with other people who are researching him. I can be contacted at

        1. Karwil Avatar

          We know from DNA that Ebenezer Harris was not Timothy’s father. his descendants have had dna tests done and there are no matches. Those family trees going around were done at a time when there was less access to records and are therefore wrong.

  3. Sandy Avatar

    Hi Ciaran,
    My husband and I are very interested in the story of Fanny Harris/Mason as my husband David is related to Fanny. You wrote that Fanny’s story is beyond difficult but necessary reading and one of the most inspiring of the entire new Noongar age. We would love to learn more about her life and was hoping you could steer us in the right direction. If you have any ideas as to where we could read her story we would be very grateful.
    Thank you.

    1. Avatar

      Hi Sandy, you need to read around this subject a lot in order to piece together the kind of lives people like Fanny Towser Harris lived. I will email you directly and include some downloads.

      First, read the piece on the life and times of John Bailey Pavey (1797-1882), a sealer about Albany from 1834 who went by the aliases John/Jack Williams, John Andrews and John Williams Andrews. Pavey and John Harris worked together around Albany and almost certainly knew each other from earlier times at Kangaroo Isand, Tasmania and the islands of Bass Strait closer to Melbourne and Launceston. The website Bass Strait People cites Towser as Tinnermuck, a Palawah woman from Port Dalrymple who was either captured or traded and brought to Kangaroo Island, where she is said to have lived with a sealer named James ‘Little’ West. From there she became attached to John Harris the (part) Maori sealer who brought her to the Albany region around 1834. There is a good chance Harris and Towser were part of two sealing gangs brought to the area of King George Sound by the Henty brothers. John/Jack Pavey, alias Williams/Andrews may also have been part of this group but he had his own boat, so perhaps he arrived independently, or perhaps Harris and Towser formed part of his crew in the first place. This level of detail is hard to properly determine.

      Albany’s local economy started taking hold around this time, especially as the influx of American and French whalers brought people and business to the area. Between summer sealing stints along the coast between Albany and Cape Arid (Middle Island) and the winter bay whaling practises of the Franch and Americans there was good work to be had for a man with a boat. Harris and Pavey/Williams/Andrews were also associated with two other prominent sealers Black Anderson and Bob Gamble, and a host of others whose identities and actions remain vague. As Albany slowly progressed economically, Pavey/Williams started to make good money.

      Pavey/Williams/Andrews had a woman known as Fanny Bryan who was a mainland Aborigine either from the Melbourne area or else South Australia. They formed a life long bond, of sorts, with Fanny staying at Albany until her death in the 1880s as an off-shoot (disregarded) member of the wider Pavey family who aslo came to live at Albany. Black Anderson had women but their identities aren’t clear. They may have been mainland or Palawah Tasmanian, both maybe. Gamble had Eliza Nowen who was from Melbourne area. It is difficult and very time consuming to piece this and their movements together because the women may have been traded or moved between boats according to who was doing what and who owed who how much. Also, it’s important to understand that it wasn’t safe for non-Noongar women to be on the mainland as they would have been unrecognised and therefore open to attack either for that reason or as a function of payback for earlier transgressions carried out by the sealers. Although John Pavey/Williams kept close association with Fanny Bryan right up to his death. In fact, Fanny Bryan lived in Albany in a house owned by Pavey.

      In any case, Towser had at least three children to Harris. Fanny and her brother Edward were effectively orphaned in town, as was their sister Rebecca who died in infancy and is buried at Albany’s Middleton Road cemetary. Sometime around 1842 Aborigines at Albany killed a boy named Cardid (aka Billy), an event which horrified the settlers. We don’t know why this happened, probably as a form of payback, but the main culprit was Lindol, a very well known English-speaking Menang figure at Albany at this time. It isn’t known who Cardid’s parents were but there is some suggestion that because he was alone he may have been one of the mixed-race sealers children who were let roam around Albany and whom became of sufficient notice that a school was set up to try and organise and educate them. That school later materialised in another location over a decade later as the Camfield school/orphanage which took in Fanny and Edward. So when I spoke earlier about the life of Fanny Towser and how it was beyond difficult, this is the kind of beginnings she and her brother had no choice but to endure. Towser was not known at Albany, although she is buried on the mainland. It seems she lived on the islands, as Eliza Nowen did, the whole time. So her children were likely street orphans at Albany while Harris worked and spent his free time between the town and wherever Towser herself was left. Bald Island most likely.

      After some years at the Camfield school, during which Pavey’s woman Fanny Bryan starts to live in town, and John Harris for some reason returned eastward and Towser herself died, Pavey came looking for young Fanny at the school. She was still just a girl. The school signed her out to Pavey/Williams and he, having made plenty of money as a salvager, took her to the Kojonup area (lake Nunijup) where he had acquired land. This was the mid 1850s now. There Fanny had three children to Pavey, none of whom survived. It isn’t known why and it is up to the individual to ponder the circumstances. Fanny was charged with sheep stealing (a lamb) and sent to a Perth institution for a year, then released back into Pavey/Willaims ‘care’. She finally escaped after meeting the shepherd Willliam Mason, where at last she found peace and love and was able to start the Mason family to which your husband belongs.

      Her hardships were unreal. Abandonment, cold, hunger, abject poverty, captivity, isolation and all forms of abuse, all as a child and young adult. She didn’t know here father or mother and did not know her origins, I think disguising her Aboriginality as Moari and even as Mauritian, either to avoid the stigma of the day or out of fear of being recognised as out of country. At least at the Camfield school she will have had some respite from all that, but under Pavey/William her life looks like a day to day battle for sanity and survival. Her strength seems to me nothing short of amazing.

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes,


      1. Kirsty Chambers Avatar
        Kirsty Chambers

        Hi Ciaran,
        I am a descendant of Fanny Harris/Mason. We had brief contact a few years ago when I was very early into my research. I have collected some information over the years, mostly from Aboriginal research units in Perth, although they still have Towser as being from Portland Victoria rather than VDL. I have given them this feedback and sent evidence of this. It seems you have a lot of information and I was wondering if there was anything i was missing. I’m also heading to Tasmania in a couple of months, have you researched much into Towser?

        Kind Regards
        Kirsty Chambers

        1. Avatar

          Hi Kirsty, I will be taking a close look at Towser again in the coming months as part of the deep dive into the sealers and their stolen women. It’s interesting to note that Towser is still attached to Portland as this suggests the strength of the connection with that place. I too believe she is very likely Palawa, but Portland played a big role for sealers and whalers and its possible she got to W.A. from some kind of relationship with that place. In any case, I don’t have any more direct information to offer at the moment but will probably do some more rigorous searching when I get down to it. best wishes for now, Ciaran

          1. Kirsty Chambers Avatar
            Kirsty Chambers

            Hi Ciaran,

            Thank you for your reply. I contacted a historian in Tasmania who was able to confirm that Towser was a Palawa woman from VDL. Do you have a direct email I could have as I can send you the information they emailed to me.

            Kind Regards

            Kirsty Chambers

  4. Kerry Mason Avatar
    Kerry Mason

    Hi Kristy and Ciaran,

    I am also a descendent of Fanny Harris/Mason and would love further information on Towser too. Are you able to provide me with this information too please?

    Kerry Mason

  5. Penny Ferguson Avatar
    Penny Ferguson

    Hi Ciaran,

    I am a descendant of Billy Colbung (son of Waylup) and also of King Eddie Womber. I have several questions I would like to ask if you would be willing you share your email.


    Penny Ferguson

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