The View From Mount Clarence

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

John Bailey Pavey (1797-1882) by Campbell (Jock) Beer

John Bailey Pavey, also known as John/Jack Williams, John Andrews and John Williams Andrews was a mariner, sealer, whaler and Plantagenet pioneer. A key figure of Albany’s original criminal fringe he was a man of considerable, and dangerous, prowess. Pavey resided at or near Albany between 1834 and his death in 1882.


With Thanks
Following is a verbatim copy of Jock Beer’s 2009 family research project John Bailey Pavey. This work lifted the lid on Albany’s ‘second wave’ sealing fraternity of the mid 1830s.  It pre-dates John Robertson’s outstanding Sealed Souls narrative and compilation by more than 10 years. I have sung about Beer’s work for some time and it remains an absolutely essential element of the building literature surrounding the role of Albany’s mariner brigade subsequent to departure of the NSW military contingent and set-up of the new free settlement from April 1831. Robertson’s Sealed Souls is a compendium of the entire sealing era (both waves) as it related to the coast between Albany and Cape Arid and makes gigantic contribution to our overall understanding of what occurred during that 40-plus year period, where-as Beer’s John Bailey Pavey is entirely focussed on the life and times of this one particular character. Pavey arrived into Albany waters with a number of other sealers including the equally notorious Robert Gamble and Black Anderson, allowing Beer  to throw invaluable light on associations between all three. As John Bailey Pavey forms an integral part of the research underpinning the current Black Anderson series here at The View. . .  and is not available for purchase, Jock has given pemission for the work to be copied and presented here. A hard copy of  John Bailey Pavey by Campbell (Jock) Beer is lodged with Albany Library’s ‘Albany History Collection‘. What follows below is an unedited, word-for-word, copy.




John Bailey Pavey


Author’s note…………………………………………………………………………………………………..4
Was John Pavey a Convict?………………………………………………………………………………6
Albany ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….12
John Williams Andrews and John (Black Jack) Anderson ……………………………………15
Andrews the Land Owner…………………………………………………………………………………18
Andrews the Mariner and Trader……………………………………………………………………….20
Robbery at Albany…………………………………………………………………………………………..27
The Infamous Captain John Williams………………………………………………………………..29
The Vulcan is lost……………………………………………………………………………………………31
Brutal Murder…………………………………………………………………………………………………35
Financial Difficulty ………………………………………………………………………………………..37
A partner for John Williams……………………………………………………………………………..39
A ‘fortunate’ disaster……………………………………………………………………………………….41
Lake Nunijup…………………………………………………………………………………………………44
Edward and Fanny Harris………………………………………………………………………………..49
Martha Williams…………………………………………………………………………………………….54
A Violent End ……………………………………………………………………………………………….55
Carving up the spoils……………………………………………………………………………………..59
MAPS …………………………………………………………………………………………………………61



John Bailey Pavey

Author’s note


John Bailey Pavey, alias John Williams, alias John Williams Andrews was a larger than life character whose exploits would provide a competent adventure writer with enough material for a ripping yarn; albeit a dark one. The fourth son of James Pavey (1759–1847), a cordwainer of Romsey Hants England, John was an exceptional mariner and a tough farming pioneer, but with an obvious evil streak, honed during his early years as an assumed convict, then a sealer and later a leader of a shore-based convict whaling team.

Pavey was at Albany by 1834, just five years after the declaration of the Swan River Colony of Western Australia. It’s confidently assumed he was an escaped convict, probably from New South Wales, but how and precisely when he arrived at King Georges Sound is unknown.

John Pavey lived on the criminal fringe of the established society in early Albany. Between 1837 and 1845 he built up a substantial shore-based whaling venture that employed a number of men and, despite his reviled status in the community, he would have contributed significantly to the Albany economy during that period. This essay then, although written primarily for the interest of the descendents of James Pavey, attempts also to reveal for broader consumption the life of a Western Australian pioneer who, understandably, has hardly been noticed until now.

My own attachment to Pavey is through his younger brother Charles, who is my great great great grandfather. Charles and his wife Ann Pavey (nee Jupe) arrived at Albany in Western Australia in 1866. Their brother John, who had been farming in the Plantagenet area for about ten years prior, probably sponsored the couple’s emigration. Without John’s influence it’s very unlikely I would be here today to record his very interesting life story.

Until a few years ago, surviving descendents of James Pavey were totally unaware that they had an early Western Australian pioneer in the family tree. Apart from the remains of a cottage he built at Lake Nunijup, no family memorabilia from John Pavey’s life has survived to the current day. For this essay I have relied almost entirely on reference sources and texts held in the Western Australian Battye Library and the Western Australian State Record Office (SRO). I acknowledge the earlier research of my cousin Judith Tibbs, who discovered, amongst other associated information, that John Williams Andrews and John Pavey were one and the same person. My thanks to Jane Beer for providing editing assistance and also to William (Bruce) Beer who compiled most of the maps and also arranged printing.


Campbell (Jock) Beer
Roleystone, Western Australia
June 3, 2009






Our Pavey family has been traced back to 15241; this was the year that Symon Pavey was born at Yarcombe Devonshire England. On March 8, 1797, some nine generations later, John Bailey Pavey was christened in the Parish Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, East Wellow in Hampshire. Florence Nightingale was buried in the grounds of  the same church just over a hundred years later.



Charles Pavey, John’s younger brother, was christened on May 1, 1803, also at St. Margaret. John and Charles were two of eleven children born to James and Ruth Pavey (nee Bailey) and, as far as is known, the only two to eventually settle in Australia. Their paths there followed vastly different routes though. It was John who arrived first and then, very much later, probably encouraged his brother Charles to join him. John and Charles’ childhood years in England were spent in poverty; drifting around in Hampshire and Wiltshire where their father sought work as a shepherd or farm labourer. When there was no work it’s likely that the family returned to their own Parish in East Wellow to claim relief. The Pavey family legend that suggests “two of those Pavey boys were sent to Australia for sheep  ” would seem to have had it’s genesis in these hard times. We know that Charles certainly wasn’t, but could John Bailey have been one of the Pavey boys to be transported? No records have been found that identify and locate a man with the name John Bailey Pavey in the sixty years between February 1817, when he was released from the house of correction at Devizes in Wiltshire England, and April 1877, when he made out his will at Tenterden in Western Australia. Where could he have been for all of those years?


  • 1. Pavey Family Tree, compiled by Gordon Pavey, the Pavey family historian from the Isle of Wight, England




Was John Pavey a Convict? In January 1817 John Pavey was convicted for assault he committed at Plaitford near his home at Wellow2.  His punishment for this offence was a months gaol. A record for a subsequent crime and conviction that could have led to his transportation has not been located. If it were sheep stealing he most likely would have received a death sentence commuted to transportation for life.

As Pavey’s life in Australia is unravelled, it’s revealed he was involved in criminal activities and enterprises that would have, had she known, shocked his deeply religious mother. He employed ex-convicts and ships deserters. He was in regular conflict with the law and committed some unspeakable crimes for which he was never brought to account. He lived in the company of indigenous Australians for much of his life. His last female partner was a full blood aborigine from Portland Bay Victoria. From all this we could easily assume that at least part of the Pavey family’s convict legend is based on fact. However, none of the comprehensive convict records available for the period in question reveal details of a conviction and transportation to Van Diemens Land or New South Wales for our John Pavey. If he were convicted, then it must have been under an assumed name, perhaps John Williams, and in a different English County, where the authorities were totally unaware of his Pavey identity.

In December 1842, in a court3 in Albany Western Australia, Pavey, now known as John Williams Andrews, was fined thirty shillings for assaulting Henry Knights at Thomas Sherratt’s Albany town premises. Knights had provoked Andrews when he claimed he knew him in Hobart as John Williams, a ‘government man.’ It seems that, prior to their altercation, Knights had been reporting all about the place that Andrews was a convict. In his defence Andrews said,

I did strike Knights and would so to any one who charged me with being a convict.”

In the same 1842 Albany courtroom where he was fined for assault, Pavey implied that he was in Hobart in 1822. At that time almost ninety eight percent of the Tasmanian population were or had been convicts. When and how Pavey came to Australia is unknown, but Tasmanian archives4 show that between 1817 and 1822 twelve convicts with the name John Williams were transported to Van Diemens Land. There is no evidence to suggest that any of them were transported for sheep stealing.

The total number of convicts with the name John Williams transported to NSW between 1817 and 1822 is unconfirmed, but at least thirty from that six-year period received a certificate of freedom after 18225 . Many more convicts who used this very common alias would have escaped or were never officially granted a pardon.


  • 2. John Bailey Pavey and John Henry Williams – an unpublished paper by Gordon Pavey
  • 3. SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/009 – Complaint of Henry Knights
  • 4. Web site – Archives Office of Tasmania
  • 5. Web site – State Records of NSW




A late nineteenth century Australian study6 on aboriginal ethnology refers to John Williams Andrews as an escaped convict from Tasmania. The author does not reveal the source of his information. And disregarding an unconfirmed report by a current day family descendent suggesting that Pavey, under his other alias John Williams, was an escaped convict from New South Wales and that he admitted as much many years later, the 1842 Albany court record is the only surviving reliable evidence to expose Pavey as a convict.

We can’t be certain from where he escaped, NSW or Van Diemens Land, but it’s worth noting that Pavey’s whaleboat, the Fanny, in which we can safely presume he eventually made his way to Western Australia, was built in Van Diemens Land.

By 1834 Pavey had surfaced at Albany, now going under the name John Williams Andrews. The fact that he adopted a new alias suggests he was keen to distance himself from his former identity and make a fresh start when he arrived in Western Australia. If he had escaped he must have needed to be constantly vigilant, but with the passing of the years the risk of recognition would have diminished; and it did so to the point where he became also well known as Williams, but never Pavey. His exposure by Knights in 1842 would have been a shock and he obviously had to deny the accusation. In the assault hearing before the JP he tried to diminish Knights’ credibility by demonstrating that he lied in an associated matter.

The Tasmanian convict archives also identify one Henry Knight (No.179) who arrived at Hobart July 21, 1824 on the Phoenix(2). This convict received his conditional pardon in July 1839. Perhaps he was the same man who Williams struck at Albany in December 1842.


  • 6. The Aborigines of Victoria Vol 2 – R. Brough Smyth 1878 – Appendix E written by John
    Moore Davis.




SealersIn September 1842 a colonial lawyer and journalist William Nairne Clarke published letters7 in The Perth Gazette on his exploration of the islands along the South Western Australian coast. In these letters he identified a sealer named Williams. Fur seal skins fetched 15s. in King Georges Sound and sold in London for £2.2s. The person who has been the luckiest in sealing is one of the name of Williams, who is still resident at King Georges Sound. From first to last he has made from £1000 to £1,500, and his boat the Fanny, is well known as a remarkably fast sailing, safe boat. She was built in Van Diemens Land. We know that Williams had settled at King Georges Sound by 1834 (see Albany), but his movements in Australia between c. 1822 and 1834 are unknown. Was he sealing for all of those twelve years, and if he were, where was he based? Whenever and wherever it was that John Pavey may have absconded he could have been recruited, no questions asked, as a sealer, to work the islands of Bass Strait or New Zealand’s South Island or sub-Antarctic islands like Macquarie Island, and then later the south coast of Australia between Tasmania and King Georges Sound. The sealers8 were of various backgrounds but most were seamen who had deserted their ships on arrival at Port Jackson (NSW) or Hobart (Van Diemens Land). A second group were the ex-convicts, those who had served their time and were unable to integrate into  society. Thirdly were the petty criminals who needed to be at arms length from the law. And amongst all of these were the odd ‘bolter’ or escaped convict. The Australian newspaper’s March 9, 1826 edition contained a leading article dealing with ‘runaways’. A great deal of mischief has been produced by the people themselves, who are concerned in the trade (merchants and speculators). The equipments for sealing have seldom been properly attended to; and, in many cases the chance of meeting with hands and assistance in the (Bass) Straits has induced the owners of small craft to send out only half a crew. They have thus encouraged the escape of persons from the two Colonies, and armed them against themselves, not only giving them employment, teaching them the sealing trade, and enabling them afterwards to catch and subsist on seals to the great loss and detriment of the trade, but in facilitating their mustering in such numbers in unprotected parts of the Straits, as to be able to take a small vessel whenever they liked.


  • 7.  The Perth Gazette – October 8, 1942 – Report on lands on the coast of SW Australia – W.N. Clarke
  • 8.  Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings Jun-Sept 1990 Vol 37 Nos. 2 & 3 The Sealers of Bass Strait and the Cape Barren Island Community – Brian Plomley and Kristen Anne Henley




The most important commodity that made it possible for the sealers to exist indefinitely on the islands in the Bass Strait and elsewhere was the forced labour of predominantly Tasmanian and also some mainland Aboriginal women.

These black women, carried off in terror, and driven into subjection, often, it is said, proved loyal and devoted companions to their masters, following their varying fortunes with doglike faithfulness. They shared their hardships, served them, protected them in their quarrels and mothered their children9

Nairne Clarke’s September 1842 letters provide a good description of how the sealers worked.

The crew of a sealing boat is generally comprised of four men and a boat-steerer, and is built in the whale boat fashion, but much larger than common whale boats, with a line of canvas of about a foot in breadth all along the gunwale of the boat, for the purpose of excluding the spray of the sea in heavy weather. In these boats the hardy sealer approaches the rocks where the fur seal repose and often during a heavy swell.

The headsman prepares himself, and standing on the bow of the boat, jumps on the rock armed with either a club or a gun. The moment he jumps from the boat, “stern all” is the cry and it is instantly propelled backwards to prevent it from being dashed to pieces on the rocks.

The headsman approaches the seal, and if they are asleep, he strikes them over the nose with his club which instantly stuns them, and a few more blows puts an end to life, or if they take to alarm, and prepare to escape to the sea he and an assistant shoot them with their rifles or double barrelled guns. The boat in the meantime is kept moving about by the men at their oars to be out of reach of the surf. When the work is done the boat is again brought near the rocks and the headsman and his assistant jump in, but it is dangerous work and requires the greatest dexterity and skilful management of the oars by the men in the boat.

Clarke also wrote:

During the winter months, when not engaged in sealing, the sealers hunt kangaroos around the various bays and supply the crews of American and French whaling ships with fresh meat in exchange for flour and salt pork. The arrival of sealers in the Albany region in the early 1820’s corresponded with the depletion of stock in Bass Strait10. Crews were transported across the Great Australian Bight in small vessels and deposited on the islands with boat and supplies for eight months or more. Horrifying stories of capture and enslavement of aboriginal women and the murder of their husbands and children by marauding sealers were quite common.


  • 9. The Albany Advertiser – September 21, 1929 – South Coast Sealers – anonymous
  • 10. The Historical Archaeology of Shore Based Whaling in Western Australia 1836 – 1879 by Martin Gibbs 1995




In his ‘The Fatal Shores’ Robert Hughes suggested, that, “many sealers were galled by exile and humiliated by poor status and, therefore, hated and ill-treated Aboriginal people because they desperately needed to believe in a class inferior to themselves.”

Sealers with their catch11

Major Edmund Lockyer, who arrived in King Georges Sound late in 1826 to establish a New South Wales military outpost, recorded in his journal12-:

The lawless manner in which these sealing gangs are ranging about requires some immediate measures to control them. From what I have learnt and witnessed, they are a complete set of pirates going from island to island along the southern coast of New Holland from Rottnest Island to Bass Straight having their chief resort of den at Kangaroo Island making occasional descents on the main and carry off by force females and no doubt when resisted carry their point by superior effect of the fire arms with which they are armed, besides which each man has a large knife and a steal along by his side. Being left by vessels on these islands with sometimes a month or two provisions at most, and do not call for them again for eight, ten, fourteen months and sometimes longer. From the nauseous food these people make use of, and the miserable life they lead, it is no wonder that they become actually savages. The great sense of villainy where to use the term of one of them, a great number of graves are to be seen and where some desperate characters are, many of them runaways from Sydney and Van Diemens Land.


  • 11.  This photo (Ref: 1 / 2-100388-G) and the cover page print (Ref: B-K 662-221) are from the Timeframes collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington New Zealand.
  • 12.  Journal of Major Lockyer: commander of the expedition sent from Sydney in 1826 to found a settlement at King Georges Sound, Western Australia – Edmund Lockyer




Lockyer’s journal note brings Kangaroo Island into focus. Could our John Williams have spent time on the Island? Cumpston (1970)13 actually referred to Williams as a leader of a ‘Kangaroo Island gang’, but some of the associated information he records is so wrong that we suspect he is confusing our John Williams with others of that name – at least two – known to have resided on the Island.

Cumpston also wrote,

Despite the many stories to the contrary, it is doubtful whether Kangaroo Island was ever the home of runaway prisoners who would have had to make a 400 mile voyage from Bass Strait and would require a sound whaleboat equipped with sails and other gear. It was a journey that could only be undertaken by a seaman and preferably not alone.

Cumpston does not take into account those few escapees, perhaps including John Williams, who had been on the run for many years and who had accumulated enough knowledge, experience and resources to confidently make long sea journeys alone and independent of a master sealing vessel.

Despite not knowing precisely where Pavey sealed in the years prior to his arrival at Albany, we can be sure that he lived a very rough and violent life, plying his trade and surviving on the isolated islands of southern Australia; no different from the other sealers of his era. His mercilessness is confirmed by later stories.


  • 13.  Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 – J. S. Cumpston







Clarke’s 1842 sealing story does not indicate when Pavey commenced using King Georges Sound as headquarters for his sealing activities. It’s assumed he arrived after 1831; the year Albany was proclaimed and placed under the administration of the Colonial Secretary who was located at the Swan River settlement. The first confirmation that Pavey was at Albany is found in an 1883 historical report in The Albany Mail newspaper15. His name is not recorded as Pavey nor Williams, but as Andrews.

In March 1834, John Williams Andrews sells flour at £27 per ton, then considered a low price; there was only a small quantity.

The Thistle, a 57-ton brigantine schooner, had left Launceston with Thomas Henty and his son Edward on December 8, 1833 for a voyage stopping at Portland Bay, Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln, King Georges Sound, Augusta and finally Fremantle, which was reached on January 26, 183416. On the voyage between Port Lincoln and King Georges Sound, the Thistle left two boats and sealing crews on the coast to the east of the Sound to occupy themselves until picked up on the return journey17. The Thistle sailed from Fremantle 9th March and would have been expected back at King Georges Sound on 12th March, about the same time Andrews was in port. Being there at that time is most likely just a coincidence, but could Andrews have been a member of one of Thistle’s sealing crews?


  • 14. Watercolour by Duncan Cooper. Held in the National Library of Australia’s Pictures Collection.
  • 15. The Albany Mail – February 14, 1883 – “Albany Past and Present” – G.E. EgertonWarburton
  • 16. The Perth Gazette – February 1, 1834 17 Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 – Cumpston (1970




Later that year, Edward Henty sailed the Thistle from Launceston to establish the first permanent settlement in Victoria at Portland Bay. In June 1834, Sir Richard Spencer, the Albany Government Resident, writing to the Colonial Secretary at the Swan River Colony, recorded the following18
Two men who have established themselves here have a whaleboat for the purpose of sealing and have been very successful – they returned today with 190 sealskins having left as many on the coast for want of salt.

There were several sealers based in King Georges Sound by 1834. As he owned a whaleboat, perhaps one of the successful sealers identified by Spencer was our John Williams Andrews. The other man could have been the sealer John Harris, a part New Zealand Maori? Harris and his aboriginal partner Towser may have been with Andrews when he arrived at King Georges Sound. See Edward and Fanny Harris. Towser is known19 to have earlier lived on Kangaroo Island.

On October 2, 1834 John Andrews wrote to Spencer as follows20
Will you be pleased to apply to his Excellency the Governor in Court to grant me a lease to be renewed annually of Coffin Island.

I am your obedient servant.
Signed John Williams Andrews
Owner of the whaleboat Fanny of Albany


In November the Colonial Secretary wrote to Andrews confirming the Governor’s approval of an annual lease21. Coffin Island is near Two Peoples Bay, east of King Georges Sound. Mathew Flinders named it in 1801 in honour of his patron Admiral Coffin of the British Naval Office. Andrews would have used the island as a sealing base. It’s uncertain how long he retained the lease, but a few years later an American whaler, coincidently named Francis Coffin, was using the island as a bay whaling station. The 1836 Plantagenet census22 lists 160 people residing in Albany; nine of them are seamen, most likely all sealers. Recorded in the census was John Williams, single, born in London, aged 31, a builder and owner of a whaleboat. On the face of it, he is not the sealer John Williams Andrews nor, it seems, John Bailey Pavey, shoemaker born at East Wellow in 1797. The journalist William Nairne Clarke’s 1841 report, identifying Williams as the owner of the Fanny, and the October 1834 letter of application by Andrews to Spencer, when read together, clearly show that Williams and Andrews are one and the same person. The link with the name Pavey is not made until many years later when Williams/Andrews made out his will.


  • 18.  Life and Work of Sir Richard Spencer – Gay Souness – 1960
  • 19.  Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 – Cumpston (1970)
  • 20.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36 v35/6
  • 21.  SRO – Correspondence from Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 49 v9/51
  • 22.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36 v45/114 -116




Williams’ Fanny is not to be confused with another Fanny that sailed from the Tamar (Launceston) for King Georges Sound and the Swan River on January 20, 1834 with a cargo of rum, tobacco, sherry, slops (cloth off cuts), crockery, rope, tea and tea trays, porter (brown beer) and hair brooms. It was owned and sailed by another of Thomas Henty’s sons, Stephen George Henty, and arrived at King Georges Sound on February 13, 183423. The Henty’s Fanny was registered in Launceston Tasmania in 1834 but had been built at Cockle Bay Sydney (Darling Harbour today) in 1826/27. It was a 26-ton cutter24, 37’x12’8″x 5′ and probably much larger than Andrews’ boat. Toward the end of 1834 Henty sold the Fanny to Anthony Curtis. Curtis was a notable Western Australian mariner and trader in the years between 1830 and 185325. He used the Fanny as a coastal trader until 1836, when he replaced it with the Lady Stirling.


  • 23. The Perth Gazette – February 22, 1834
  • 24. Tasmanian Shipwrecks Vol 1- 1797 – 1899 – Graeme Broxam and Michael Nash
  • 25. Early Days – Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society – Vol VI Pt. 4 – ‘Anthony Curtis Merchant & Trader 1830-1853’




John Williams Andrews and John (Black Jack) Anderson


There were several other sealers working out of King Georges Sound at the same time as John Williams Andrews. They included Robert Gamble, Solomon Aspinal, Isaac Winterbourne and his boss John (Black Jack) Anderson.  As you might expect, sealers, all of whom lived on the fringe of society, had a lot in common and had regular dealings with one another, business or otherwise. Gamble and Aspinal were partners with Andrews from time to time. Later, Gamble settled permanently on Bald Island, thirty kilometres east of the Sound, with his Aboriginal women and children. All sealers were rogues and savages, but none more so than John William (Black Jack) Anderson.

Anderson has been painted as Australia’s most notorious pirate and made famous by recently published novels ‘Skins’ (Sarah Hay) and ‘Black Jack Anderson’ (Elaine Forrestal). Headquartered mainly on Middle Island in the Archipelago of the Recherche, a group of islands off the coast near Esperance Western Australia, the African American sealer and whaler is reputed to have raided and stolen from ships passing along the south coast during the period 1827 to 1836. His and Andrews’ paths crossed from time to time.

On March 16, 1836 John Williams Andrews brought a complaint26 of stealing against John Anderson. He informed the Justice of the Peace at Albany, Sir Richard Spencer, that Anderson had stolen flour, cooking implements and a pouch of 35 Spanish dollars, from his campsite on Michaelmus Island, located in King Georges Sound about fifteen kilometres east of Princess Royal Harbour. In his defence Anderson suggested that he was only recovering property that Andrews had previously stolen from him; specifically two aboriginal women, one taken from Middle Island and the other from Doubtful Island. In his complaint Williams had failed to mention anything about women being taken. Anderson also accused Andrews of having stolen from him, fur skins and 500 percussion caps from Middle Island and anchor and cable from Thistle Cove, materials salvaged from the wreck of the Mountaineer that had sunk in the Cove in March 1835. Having dealt previously with another complaint of stealing against Anderson, Justice Spencer seems to have placed less weight on Black Jack’s story and found in Andrews favour. He imposed a restraining order on Anderson and his associates, Thomas Symers and James Newel (assumed to be the father of Andersons’ partner Dorothea), preventing them from,

interfering with or meddling with or injuring any goods or chattels or any property whatsoever belong to John Williams Andrews, particularly such as Andrews may from time to time deposit or leave on any uninhabited island off the coast of Western Australia…..’

Should Anderson default on these conditions, he would be liable to pay a penalty of £20 to the Crown. His associates’ penalty was £5.



  • 26.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/002 – complaint by John Williams Andrews




Nine months after Andrews and Anderson’s altercation, Anderson, who was much despised by some of the sealers in his party, had his brains blown out while sleeping off a drunken binge on Mondrain Island. His aboriginal partner was clubbed to death. Robert Gamble, who helped bury the bodies, reported the murders to the Albany authorities three months after the event27. By then it seems that all involved in the killings had left the Colony.

Many of the resident low life sealers appeared in the Albany Court on a fairly regular basis, be it for assault, usually as a consequence of a drunken binge, or petty theft, or stealing oil and skins from one another. The Albany Justices of the Peace had a busy time trying to maintain law and order in the early years of the Colony. Between 1834 and 1855 Andrews appears frequently in the Plaints Court, at least once or twice a year, as either a complainant or a witness or an accused.

In December 1838 Andrews was accused of stealing a cask containing thirty gallons of oil from Diggony Geake, but avoided a conviction28. Not so for stealing a lamp from John Robertson29 in May 1839. He pleaded to JP George Cheyne (a fellow mariner) that he had only borrowed the lamp, as he needed it for the binnacle on his cutter the Lively; without it he could not go to sea. A binnacle is a stand of non-magnetic material built in the hull of a ship for housing the compass and fitted with lights by which the compass can be read at night. Cheyne was unsympathetic and penalised Andrews, requiring him to pay restitution to Robertson of 5s and meet the costs of constables and witnesses totalling £1.

In November 1838 Andrews brought a complaint to the Court30 that brings into focus his association with the local aborigines. His statement read as follows.

When I was returning to the settlement of Albany from the direction of Middleton Bay I met three natives known as Mopey, Paddy and Nemigold, with two native women who formerly were in the habit of accompanying the sealers on the boat that I own, and used to form one of the crew on board. I had some conversation with the women when I first met them, but after they had left and proceeded on their way in the bush ahead, 200 yards, the aforesaid three natives continued in my company until within a short distance of Mr. Richard Spencer’s house where the native named Nemigold struck me a blow with his woomera or throwing stick and at the same time the native named Mopey wrenched my Fowling piece (gun) from my hand and ran into the bush with it, after which I pursued him and recovered the piece. At the time that the scuffle with the aforesaid three natives occurred two spears were either thrown at me or thrust at me as each of my sleeves were penetrated in two places with a spear.


  • 27.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/003 – statement by Robert Gamble
  • 28.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/004 – complaint by Diggony Geake
  • 29.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/005 – complaint by Robertson
  • 30.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/004 – complaint by John Williams Andrews




  • In Court, the natives denied assaulting Andrews and said he had come to their hut and asked the women to go to the settlement with him. Mopey agreed that he took Andrews’ gun. The JP, who knew Andrews well enough, gaoled Mopey for ten days for trying to take the gun, but took little notice of the assault accusation. If he had, the natives might have found themselves in more trouble. Andrews had regular dealings with local aborigines and as a consequence there were other incidents that ended up before a Justice of the Peace. In December 1841 the native Towlit filed a complaint31 against Andrews for not paying him the 12 shillings promised for 12 kangaroos he speared at Two Peoples Bay. The Court ordered Andrews to pay Towlit three shillings each for the animals. And in November 1842 Andrews employed the native Namicut to join him and carry provisions to the Hay River where Andrews was to execute a warrant for the arrest of a man who had stolen from him earlier in the year (see Robbery at Albany). Having got to the Hay River Road, Namicut ran off with the provisions and Andrews’ gun and returned to Albany. He was apprehended and gaoled for one month. This minimal penalty was a result of Andrews, perhaps surprisingly, pleading for the Court to be lenient32



  • 31.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/008 – complaint by Towlit
  • 32.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/009 – complaint by John Williams Andrews




Andrews the Land Owner


A crown-grant document33 dated August 25, 1834 records John Williams Andrews as the assignee for Albany town lot S28. This was a large lot on the northern side of Stirling Terrace, and extending through to Frederick Street. A memorial34 dated February 25, 1840 registers Andrew’s sale of lot S28 to the carpenter John Sinclair for £5. This is a very improbable price for land on this street at that time. By 1861 lot S28, in a prime location, was on the market for £1,400. Perhaps Andrews was in debt to Sinclair, who later was to be his competitor for a whaling station lease at Torbay.

In 1835 John Williams sought35 a crown grant of Albany town lot B24 (about 0.4 acres). The property was located on the south side of Stirling Terrace and in those days was bounded by the ocean, in particular Princess Royal Harbour (‘B’ was for beach). In May 1837, shortly after the land was surveyed, Williams sold36 the lot for £145 to Thomas Brooker Sherratt, a leading Albany businessman. In January 1840 Sherratt on sold37 the lot for £150 to Captain George Grey, who had been appointed the Resident Magistrate in 1839. Grey later became, in turn, Governor of South Australia, Cape Colony South Africa and New Zealand.

Seeking a permanent base in Albany, John Williams purchased38 town-building allotment S107 in October 1841. Located in York Street, Williams paid the farmer Richard Fenton £85 for the lot. In the memorial associated with the transfer of ownership of lot S107 the names John Williams and John Williams Andrews are interchanged, confirming beyond any doubt that they are one and the same person. It’s presumed Williams built a house on lot S107, which was located near the Albany Hotel. He was known to also live from time to time in a house on the adjoining lot that was owned by his business associate James Cooper39. However, as a sealer and whaler, we know he was itinerant and probably lived rough most of the time. Apart from the various islands and bays along the south coast, he may have even squatted on beach land on Hanover Bay at Point Frederick near the Albany gaol, close to where he could have moored his whaling boat. Later, in association with his female companion, he purchased a block of land (B37) near here.



  • 33.  SRO – CONS 5000/410 34.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 1 No. 1113
  • 35.  SRO – Lot B24 assigned to George Smythe January 21, 1835, ruled through and John Williams added – CONS 5000/410
  • 36.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 1 No. 978
  • 37.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 1 No. 1082
  • 38.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 2 No. 264
  • 39.  SRO – Petty Debts Court Albany – CONS348/136 – John Williams Andrews claim against Thomas Symers January 1844.







Andrews the Mariner and Trader


Along with his sealing activities Andrews was involved in trading from when he first arrived in King George’s Sound selling flour at £27 per ton. By 1837 he appears to have established himself as a liquor trader in the Albany community. In association with importer Henry Hawson he was assessed to pay £220 duty on 600 gallons of rum and 24 dozen bottles of foreign brandy (50 gallons), shipped by the Champion from the Swan River in March of that year40
During 1838-9 John Andrews was the master of a vessel, the Lively. William Jenkins, a former foreman of a shipbuilding yard in England, built the 32-ton Lively at Torbay41. It was a large cutter, 38.5’x14.9’x7.2′, of colonial timber, usually called mahogany (could be karri or jarrah), large stands of which grew within a few hundred metres of the Torbay mooring site adjacent to Migo Island, west of Albany42
The March 23, 1839 edition of The Perth Gazette contained a bold front-page advertisement.

For Port Leschenault,  the Vasse, Port Augusta, and King George’s Sound
The fast-sailing, newly built colonial cutter the LIVELY, J.W.Andrews,
Commander, will sail for the above ports on Wednesday next – For freight or
passage, apply to the Captain on board; or, to Mr. John Mason, Hay-street, Perth
TERMS – Passage without the attendance of a servant, £2 10s; with ditto, £3.
Freight, £3 per ton. Passengers to furnish their own provisions.

Fremantle shipping records published in The Perth Gazette for 1839 indicate some of Andrews’/Williams’ movements.

March 13th Arrival – Lively – Captain Williams from King Georges Sound. Passenger Mr. And Mrs. Mason and family. Cargo 14 tons of oil and sundry packages for Mr. Mason

March 31st Departure – Lively for the out ports Leschenault and King Georges Sound. Passengers Mr. and Mrs. Knight and family.

This is likely Stephen Knight and his wife, not Henry Knights, Andrews’ accuser three years later. August

17th Arrival – Lively has been whaling at Two Peoples Bay

September 15th Arrival – Lively under Captain Williams from King Georges Sound

On the 21st September a hurricane bore down on those ships at anchor in the roadstead (‘sea road’) at Fremantle. The Calledonia, Thomas Symers’ ship, and the Shepherd were driven onto a sand bank. The Lively was able to ride out the storm 43


  • 40.  SRO – Customs and Revenue 1834 – 1839 – ACC 346/190
  • 41.  Ships Registered in Fremantle Before 1900 – Ronald Parsons
  • 42.  The Perth Gazette – April 14, 1838 – report on a survey at Torbay mentions timber up to 100
    feet without a branch, within a quarter of a mile from the shore.
  • 43.  The Perth Gazette – September 28, 1839




Nancy McDermott, daughter of Augusta pioneer James Turner, recorded in her diary44
August 27, 1839 – yesterday the cutter Lively, navigated by Captain Williams came in. (to Augusta on the Blackwood River)

Journalist, lawyer and explorer W. N. Clarke had actually first met John Williams at King Georges Sound in March 1840. In a letter to the Colonial Secretary at the Swan River Colony he provides an incite into Williams’ knowledge of southern waters and by deduction his obvious skill as a mariner45
I have been told by Williams the sealer who is intimately acquainted with the coast to the eastward that there are numbers of wild cattle all around Doubtful Island Bay, and that the Americans (whalers) have hunted and shot several of them. He also states that a large freshwater river (presumably the Fitzgerald) disembogues itself into Doubtful Island Bay, on the banks of which the land is exceedingly good, and of great extent. Further to the eastward of Doubtful Island Bay, he states, a harbour exists superior to King Georges Sound, completely land-locked from every wind, with fine land and pasturage all around and plenty of fresh water. I have no reason to doubt Williams’ assertions as he has offered to show me these places, if he could have the use of a small vessel and whale boat, or even to take the journey by land, with proper assistance from Government.

The ‘land-locked from every wind’ harbour identified by Williams appears to be Esperance Bay, protected in the south by the islands of the Archipelago of the Recherche.

In 1841 Clarke mounted an expedition to explore Nornalup, a coastal area out west from Albany, and the inlets and rivers that together were referred to by John Williams as the ‘Deep River of the Sealers.46’ During the expedition, Clarke’s and Williams’ paths crossed at Chatham Island, about thirty kilometres west of the Nornalup Inlet sea passage. Clarke records in his diary for March 7th – Sunday – Williams called at the island today in his boat, the Fanny, on his way to Leschenault – reported having found fine land and a large river at Parry’s Inlet47

In 1842 the Lively was sighted laying at Sealers Cove, located inside Nornalup Inlet. The reporter was surprised that such a large boat had been able to get over the bar at the mouth of the inlet. But Andrews was not the culprit. He had sold the Lively to his liquor-trading partner H. C. Hawson on December 23, 1839 48


  • 44.  Early Days – Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society – Vol L Pt. 4 p17 – “Augusta in 1833” – Ann Elizabeth Turner
  • 45.  Battye Library – Research Note 44
  • 46.  In praise of a national park: the origins and history of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park – Lee & Geoff Fernie
  • 47.  The Inquirer – September 1, 1841 – Journal of W.N. Clarke – Nornalup expedition
  • 48. Shipping Arrivals and Departures in South Australia 1627 – 1850 – Robert Sexton







Between 1830 and 1880 Albany was the centre for much whaling activity. Many of the whalers were from America, operating from the east coast out of places like New Bedford Massachusetts. In c.1839 the Resident Magistrate at King Georges Sound, George Grey, outlined some of the problems for the administration caused by the visits of the whalers49
They collect in their vicinity a number of individuals who gain their sustenance by sealing along the coast and by tonguing and by rendering various acts of assistance to the vessels in return for which services they obtain tobacco and other prohibited articles and these are smuggled into the settlement.

By as early as 1837 John Williams Andrews became involved in shore-based whaling. His initial foray into this new enterprise involved the scavenging of carcases of whales killed by American pelagic whalers, the practice being called tonguing. Rowing a whaleboat out into the bays, the discarded carcase, usually being feasted on by sharks, would be attached to the boat and towed back to the shore where the lips, tongue, cheeks and eyes and anything else of value that could be, was rendered down to oil50
Whalebone was also collected as an additional saleable resource.


  • 49.  Early Days – Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society – Vol VII Pt. 1 p33 –
    “American Whalers in Western Australian Waters” – I.D. Heppingstone
  • 50.  The history of the whalers on the south coast of New Holland from 1800-1888 – Rod Dickson




In the beginning Andrews employed fellow sealers, like Robert Gamble and Thomas South, to help him with the collection of carcases. They operated along a broad stretch of the south coast, headquartered at places like Doubtful Island Bay and Two Peoples Bay. Andrews used his boats the Fanny and the Lively (1838 and 1839 only) to tow the whale carcasses to shore. For such a minimal investment, tonguing provided a very good return. For example, during December 1842 and January 1843 Andrews’ tonguing operation in Two Peoples Bay produced 35 barrels of oil from three whale carcases51
It seems that Andrews, at least early on, had a good relationship with the American whalers. Not only did he salvage their discarded whale carcasses, but he also engaged them to carry his oil along the coast. In 1842 the Palladium (Captain Prentis) was a ship in point52
As his whaling business developed Andrews employed more and more men, many of whom had a dubious background. Payment was usually a fixed percentage share of the total catch, and based on experience and position in the crew. Andrews was obviously a hard and demanding employer. Despite written employment agreements, he had no hesitation in dismissing any man who “could not pull a good oar in a boat” nor did he suffer those who refused to work in the rain on Coffin Island53
With money coming in Andrews decided to step up his operation. Early in 1843 he commissioned Solomon Cook to build him a small schooner that he named the Vulcan. Cook was an American shipwright deserter (Mayflower 1840)54. He later became a well-known pioneering engineer and builder and was responsible for many construction and engineering projects in Western Australia. Notably, in 1849 he built the first traffic bridge over the Canning River near Perth. As well as an engineer Cook was an early Albany entrepreneur and traded in whale oil and seal and kangaroo skins55. He and Andrews appear to have been informal partners in a shore-based fishery at Two Peoples Bay.

An interesting coincidence that may have confused some historians is that a John Williams Andrews was apprenticed to Solomon Cook. He was actually the son of Walter Boyd Andrews of the Swan River Colony, who also had a daughter named Mary Williams Andrews56. We could comfortably assume that the mother’s maiden name was Williams. Tragically, Richard Spencer, a friend, accidentally shot57 young John Williams Andrews dead in May 1847. Andrews was only 13 years old.51 The history of the whalers on the south coast of New Holland from 1800-1888 – Rod Dickson 52 SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/009 – deposition by Thomas South in
relation to the hearing of John Williams Andrews charged with taking oil belonging to the said Thomas South.


  • 53.  SRO – Petty Debts Court Albany – CONS 348/135 – former employees claiming unpaid wages from Andrews and Solomon Cook.
  • 54.  They Kept the State Afloat. The Boat And Ship Builders of Western Australia 1829 – 1929 – Rod Dickson
  • 55.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Petty Court Debts – CONS 348/137 – Andrews v. Edward Spencer to recover promissory note of £10 – June 1849
  • 56.  The Dictionary of Western Australians – Volume 1 – Early Settlers 1829-1850 – Erickson 57.  Solomon Cook 1813-1871 – Greta Kuchling




The Vulcan was built on the right bank of the Kalgan River above Oyster Harbour near Albany58; its size is uncertain as records vary between 33 and 39 tons. As a small schooner she carried up to twenty crew and passengers.


With a ship of sizeable proportions Andrews was now able to become more involved in the classic method of shore-based whaling, which involved the taking of live whales. The Vulcan would have been used in support and also occasionally as a launching platform for whaleboats, extending the range of the shore station at Two Peoples Bay. Gibbs describes the whaling process59
A lookout would be maintained on a nearby headland, watching for a sign of the migrating humpback or right whales. On signal, the men would immediately launch the five or eight man whaleboats, always kept in readiness.

The headsman would steer the boat until it was within close proximity to the whale. He would then pass the steering oar to the boatsteerer and move forward into position at the bow of the boat. The headsman would then throw or ‘place’ the harpoon, normally referred to as the iron, when the whale was finally within range.


  • 58.  The Albany Maritime Heritage Survey 1627-1994 – Wolfe
  • 59.  The Historical Archaeology of Shore Based Whaling in Western Australia 1836 – 1879 Martin Gibbs 1995




If struck, the whale would normally panic, seeking to flee by swimming away or sounding (diving). The whaleboats were usually pulled along in their wake, on what has been referred to as the ‘Nantucket sleigh ride.’ Once exhausted the whale would surface and the headsman would use a long killing lance to probe within the whale’s body, hoping to puncture the heart or other vital organs.

There are a number of references to whales ‘spouting blood’ prior to their final demise, which might take several hours. After the whale was dead, the rear flukes would be cut off to reduce drag and lines attached from the whale to one or more boats for the long haul home. This could take all day and extend far into the night.

The whale carcass would be brought into the shallows and would then be flensed, with the blubber ‘peeled’ from the body. The blubber would then be reduced into small pieces and thrown into a large iron cauldron called a ‘trypot’ that was set up in a brickwork furnace. The oil was bailed out into large copper coolers and once cool was casked up for storage and shipment to market. The blubber residue was used to feed the furnace fire.

Now with greater independence, Andrews became concerned about competition from foreign whalers and sought Government protection for his operation60. Phillips, the Government Resident at Albany, provided him with a letter, which he was to show to foreign whalers61:

To all whom it may concern,

A boat whaling party having been fitted out at King Georges Sound for Bay Whaling in Two Peoples Bay. Notice is hereby given to all Foreign Vessels interfering with the said establishment and whaling party or occupying the said fishing ground within three miles of the coast will make their vessel liable to seizure for a breach of the law.

Given under my hand and seal of Office the seventh day of June 1843.

J. Phillips
Government Resident

During 1843 and 1844 Andrews, with the Vulcan and three other boats and 30 men, operated his shore-based whaling venture at Two Peoples Bay. Many of his men, “the major part of them being British subjects” were ex-convicts and deserters. Away from the settlement of Albany they were a law unto themselves. In September 1843 one James Daniels had the temerity to complain to an Albany JP that one of Andrews party had removed a quantity of timber belonging to him and hidden it away in huts the whalers occupied in Two Peoples Bay62. Authorities did nothing about this. Andrews appears to have been a regular scavenger of other people’s unguarded


  • 60.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/111/152
  • 61.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/119/98
  • 62.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/010 – Complaint by James Daniels




The logistics of managing a large workforce would have been very demanding for Andrews. This was demonstrated in May 1843, when, to feed his men, he purchased sheep and cattle from the Symers farm located at the mouth of the Kalgan River where it enters Oyster Harbour. Andrews likely had many dealings with Captain Thomas Lyell Symers who had arrived at Albany in his own ship the Caledonia in 1835. Symers was a wealthy trader and brought much needed capital into the fledgling community. In the earlier years he would have purchased many of Andrew’s seal skins and later he certainly traded with Andrews for whale oil and bone.63

Another associate of Andrews, James Cooper, had a slaughtering licence64 for use on his block down on Stirling Terrace (lot B42). Andrews stayed65 in Cooper’s house in York Street (lot S106) when up in town from Two Peoples Bay on business. This presumes that lodgers must have occupied Andrew’s house next door.

A Government Resident report66 indicates that the Vulcan fished whale oil to the value of £133 in June 1844 and was by far the most significant producer of the three enterprises operating in the Albany region. Andrews shipped the six tons of whale oil and 500 lbs of whalebone direct to Port Adelaide in the Vulcan.

Later in the year, on November 8, 1844, the Vulcan is confirmed67 to have berthed at Port Adelaide at the conclusion of a whaling voyage. The vessel was carrying whalebone and 10 ton of whale oil and 9 passengers68. Having the Vulcan, Andrews’ market was not confined to Albany or Fremantle. With his own ship he was likely a regular traveller between King Georges Sound and South Australia, not only selling his whale oil and sealskins, but also Middle Island salt.

Middle Island is located in the Recherche Archipelago off Esperance. Andrews mined salt on the island, collecting it from the ‘pink’ lake. The salt was ninety-eight percent pure and therefore a very saleable commodity. Other than for salt mining, the island was used initially by sealers (Black Jack Anderson) and later as a base by many whalers, and particularly Andrews. There was a rumour that Andrews kept his fortune hidden somewhere on the island. Today a coastal point bears his name. This was actually named after T. C. Andrews who also mined salt on the island69, but much later, in the 1890’s. John Andrews’ infamous deeds gave him little chance to be recognised when the State’s nomenclature committee selected geographic feature names for the island.



  • 63.  Captain Symers Trader – Rhoda Glover
  • 64.  Albany Library history collection – chronology of Albany 1844
  • 65.  SRO – Petty Debts Court Albany – CONS348/136 – Claim by John William Andrews against Thomas Symers.
  • 66.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/139/35
  • 67.  South Australian Register – November 9, 1844 – Vulcan arrives from KGS with oil and 9
  • 68.  Shipping Arrivals and Departures in South Australia 1627 – 1850 – Robert Sexton
  • 69.  Battye Library – ACC 802A




Robbery at Albany


Whaling proved very profitable for Andrews and many of those with whom he associated were aware of his wealth and looked upon him with envy. In May 1842, two men conspired to rob him. Thomas Prescott, whom Andrews employed on whaling expeditions, was a pardoned convict from Van Diemens Land. He was living in Andrews’ house on York Street and sometimes slept resting his head on Andrews’ ‘treasure chest.’ Late on the night of the 23rd of May, Prescott, with the encouragement of the drunken hotel publican George Swift, stole a box of valuables from Andrews’ house while Andrews was asleep and off guard. Such was the state of law and order in the Colony, the two felons probably felt they had a good chance of getting away with the robbery of £450, a massive sum at that time. This amount, according to Andrews, was made up of 250 sovereigns (gold coins) and £200 in silver. A pair of silver clasps and important papers were also stored in the box.

An organised police force was not established in Western Australia until 1853. Prior to this, the onus was on the victim of a crime to convince a magistrate that the crime had been committed and provide proof enough for a warrant to be issued. If there were no locally appointed constable available, then the warrant had to be executed by the victim of the crime or their agent. Having initially had his suspicions about Prescott, Andrews went straight to the magistrate to make a statement. After hearing the complaint, JP Belches, although expressing a strong suspicion that Prescott was responsible, made the judgement that there was no evidence to justify his committal for trial, and dismissed the case.70

Following the hearing Swift said to Williams “if you had not been to the magistrate I would have seen you should have your money, but now you have done your worst.” Andrews told Swift that he only wanted his money back but Swift only laughed at him. Obviously Andrews must have been angered by Swift’s arrogance and resolved to see both men brought to justice and recover his money. It wasn’t until October later in the year that he’d gathered enough statements from witnesses, in particular George Weston and James Newell (the younger), both of whom heard Prescott admit to the crime, to secure a warrant for his arrest. He executed the warrant on Captain John Hassell’s farm at Kendenup where Prescott had retreated to some months earlier. Although Prescott initially resisted arrest, Andrews was able to subdue him and secure a full confession71

Thomas Prescott, labourer, and George Swift, publican, were tried at Albany in January 1843 and both found guilty of stealing 250 gold sovereigns from John Williams Andrews72. The two thieves had pleaded that there was only £150 plus a watch in the stolen box. The court seems to have decided on a figure somewhere between Andrews’ and that suggested by the accused. Both men were sentenced to ten years transportation overseas. Consigned to Van Diemens Land, they were transported on the Champion, arriving at Hobart on March 25, 1843. 73.


  • 70.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/009
  • 71.  The Perth Gazette –February 11, 1843 – Court proceedings against Swift and Prescott
  • 72.  SRO – CONS 3472/55 – Criminal Indictment – Albany General Session January 1843
  • 73.  Web site – Archives Office of Tasmania –




Adding to his penalty, Swift’s York Street premise was forfeit to the Crown, although his wife Rose was granted residency of the property for the term of her natural life after Thomas Symers interceded with the authorities on her behalf74. Rose, who kept a lodging house on the property, remarried in 1854 and again in 1866. In 1869 Charles Haslan, Rose’s third husband, was able to sell the property as the Crown withdrew it’s forfeiture demand75. Andrews must have lost a considerable sum considering the time it took to have the two thieves brought to justice. The fact that others later benefited from Swift’s estate must have been galling for him.

The convict Thomas Prescott first arrived in Van Diemens Land on the Dromedary on January 10, 1820, having received a seven-year sentence for stealing a pocket book. Released after 1827, he married convict Sarah Emery at Hobart in 1835. When Prescott was returned to Hobart in 1843 the details of his later crime were added to his original conduct record76. Of interest, he fabricated the idea that there was a £10 reward on his head and he had been apprehended in Fremantle. Prescott was pardoned for his second stint as a convict in 1851 and immediately left Van Diemens Land for the Victorian goldfields. George Swift may have died at Hobart in 1850.


  • 74 Captain Symers Trader – Rhoda Glover
  • 75.  Chronology of Albany 1869 – Robert Stephens – Albany History Collection, Albany Public Library
  • 76.  Web site – Archives Office of Tasmania –





The Infamous Captain John Williams


Since leaving England John Pavey alias Williams alias Andrews had initially struggled to survive, but through hard work and persistence he was eventually able to build up a profitable whaling business. To have such success, considering where he had come from, he must have developed a toughness and ruthlessness along the way. A darker side of Williams’ character is revealed in the following account.

Captain John Hassell was not only a farmer and grazier, but also a prominent Albany resident and businessman. During 1844 Hassell provided the finance to complete the construction of the Emma Sherratt at Torbay. To be used as a whaler, she was a ninetyfour and a half ton two masted brigantine. From time to time, John Andrews’ Vulcan was moored in Torbay at Migo Island, which, together with Two Peoples Bay, he used as a whaling base during 1844 and 1845. The island mooring site was near where the Emma Sherratt was being built. In February of 1844, needing his ship caulked, Andrews approached and encouraged the boat builder Joe Hankerson to desert from his current employment with Hassell, offering to pay him and get him away from Albany and land him near Adelaide.

Hankerson obviously liked Andrews’ proposal, for when later up at Albany he refused to return to work on the Emma Sherratt. Consequently he was tried and gaoled for breaking his employment agreement with Hassell77. Somehow he managed to escape from custody and make his way to Two Peoples Bay where the Vulcan was waiting for him. He was secretly smuggled on board the ship in the middle of the night. Some days later, after a quarrel, Andrews marooned Hankerson and an associate, Michael Hogan alias Thomas Williams, 36 miles eastward of Middle Island and about 340 miles from Albany. Hogan took 34 days to get back to the King Georges Sound settlement, quite an achievement considering Andrews had abandoned both men without provisions, expecting them to perish78. The fate of Hankerson is unknown. Despite Hogan’s revelation, the authorities did not proceed against Andrews, probably deciding that a conviction would be unlikely. Coincidently, Solomon Cook completed the building of the Emma Sherratt for Hassell in July of 1844.

Further to the Hankerson and Hogan story, the following letter79 by Phillips, the Albany Government Resident, written in April 1845 sometime after the event, casts further suspicion on Williams/Andrews’ character.

Captain Andrews employed a native at his camp at Torbay and when he sailed for Adelaide he took the native Gilbert with him. However, further to the east along the coast, Gilbert decided that he did not want to go to Adelaide and Andrews dumped him ashore on a small island and abandoned him. Gilbert almost starved to death on the small inhospitable island but was found just in time by the sealer Solomon Aspinal and returned to Albany.


  • 77.  SRO – Petty Debts Court Albany – CONS 348/136
  • 78.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/011 – Statement by Michael Hogan
  • 79.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/139/39




Solomon Aspinal had arrived in Albany in 1835 as crew on Captain Symers’ Caledonia80. He and Andrews sealed together in partnership from time to time. However, their’s was obviously a strained relationship as they regularly ran off to the Albany Justice of the Peace to accuse81 the other of breaking contracts or stealing the other’s seal skins or whale bone or anchors or oars or soap or hats or mutton bird feathers etc.

Although by now obviously very wealthy, and by deduction a significant contributor to the economy of Albany, Andrews’ name is not mentioned with the influential and highly regarded members of the community. In fact, the Albany establishment looked at his whaling group, which primarily comprised of ex-convicts and ships deserters, with both fear and disdain82

Early in 1845 the Resident Magistrate was pressured by the local community to exclude Andrews and his party from Torbay. He wrote to the Colonial Secretary83 at the Swan River:

I consider it very desirable that this island (Migo) should be occupied by a respectable person to keep J. W. Andrews with his convict party from occupying it as he did last year.

Consequently, in May 1845, Migo Island was leased to John Sinclair. Andrews was not at Albany when the decision to exclude him from Migo Island was made. He was on the eastern side of the Great Australian Bight and he was in trouble.


  • 80.  Captain Symers Trader – Rhoda Glover
  • 81.  SRO – Petty Debts Court Albany – CONS 348/136
  • 82.  Southern Haven – The Port of Albany – Donald S. Garden
  • 83.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/139/61



The Vulcan is lost


Williams must have marooned the native Gilbert on the last voyage of the Vulcan to South Australia. The Vulcan departed Port Adelaide on April 9, 1845 for its return trip to Western Australia. The ship’s Captain was heading to his whaling station on Middle Island with seventeen crewmembers, beside himself, on board84

On April 22 the vessel reached Flinders Island, located off the west coast of the Eyre Peninsular and about 300 nautical miles west-northwest from Port Adelaide and twenty nautical miles directly west of today’s coastal town of Elliston. The island was named after Matthew Flinders’ brother. It’s not to be confused with the well-known Flinders Island located off the northeast coast of Tasmania.

An Irishman, William Bryan, who had died late in 1844, had occupied Flinders Island with his female aboriginal companions and children since 182685. Bryan had operated a trading post, supplying passing whalers with various items including fresh vegetables grown on the island. The makeup of Bryan’s family was uncertain, as surviving records are conflicting. It appears he had two females, Charlotte and Fanny (better known as Sally), Charlottes’ son William Bluff and two other children, possibly fathered by Bryan with Charlotte. In 1826 Bryan had kidnapped Fanny, Charlotte and William (then one month old) and three other infants from an unknown place on the mainland, perhaps Portland Bay.

Shortly after Williams arrived at Flinders Island, severe weather drove the Vulcan onto the shore and the vessel was completely wrecked; although it seems the cargo was saved and there was no loss of life86. We can only imagine Williams’ reaction to the loss of his whaling ship, and after just two years of service. He must have been devastated, but he couldn’t dwell on his loss for too long as he and his crew were marooned with no foreseeable prospect of rescue. They soon set about building a boat that could get them off the island and back to Port Adelaide. Using materials from the wrecked ship, they constructed a 22-foot canvas-covered boat and after three weeks of toil they were ready to make to sea.

While marooned on Flinders Island the ‘infamous Captain Williams’ saw an opportunity for plunder. With William Bryan long dead and unable to protect his family and possessions, Williams proceeded to steal all the useful items on the island, such as carpentry and  blacksmith implements, then left half his crew in control of this booty and set sail for Port Adelaide87



  • 84.  Temme collection for South Australian shipwrecks held by Alexander Library – Correspondence by Charles Driver, Government Resident at Port Lincoln SA
  • 85.  South Australian State Records (DAIS) – Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence- Driver’s report on Flinders Island – GRG 24/6 File 1268/1845
  • 86.  Adelaide Observer – June 21, 1845; S.A. Register – June 18,1845
  • 87.  South Australian State Records (DAIS) – Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence- Driver’s report on Flinders Island – GRG 24/6 File 1268/1845




Williams and a crew of eight sailed the canvas-covered boat southeast to Coffin Bay where it was temporarily abandoned. Like the island near Albany, Mathew Flinders also named this bay in honour of Admiral Isaac Coffin. The men took three days to walk overland from Coffin Bay to Port Lincoln, arriving there on May 27. Williams advised the Government Resident, Charles Driver, that he intended to proceed to Adelaide to obtain another vessel and then make for his original destination, Middle Island88. He and his crew then continued to Port Adelaide in a borrowed whaleboat, arriving there on June 17 after a long fifteen-day trip.

In it’s June 21, 1845 edition, the Adelaide Observer published a very interesting account of this saga, as provided to the editor by Charles Robertson, Williams’ sailing master.

The historian has related of the early progenitors of Britons on both sides of the Tweed that they fearlessly put to sea in wicker boats covered with leather; and after the bold and skilful achievement which we are about to narrate, it will readily be admitted that the native courage, resolution, and contriving tact of the British are still equal to the most pressing emergencies. Mr. Charles Robertson, sailing master of the late schooner Vulcan, belonging to Western Australia, has just favoured us with the particulars of his own and companions’ surprising preservation after the wreck of their vessel. Mr Robertson set sail from Port Adelaide in April last, bound to a newly formed whaling station on Middle Island, in the Archipelago of the Recherche, 700 miles further west than Flinders’ Island, on which the Vulcan was unfortunately wrecked on the 22nd April. The catastrophe was irreparable as to the vessel, but not altogether hopeless for the intrepid survivors, as will be seen in the sequel. Some sails, spars, casks, and lesser stores, were saved from the wreck, and with these illadapted materials it was determined to build a boat in which to effect their escape from the uninhabited (a deliberate lie) island on which they were cast. Twenty-two feet was the length determined on, with seven feet breadth of beam, and four-and-a-half feet depth of hold. The former main gaff of the schooner supplied the keel, and upon this cask-staves were spiked down to serve for floor-timbers; stout twigs of green sheoaks being bent to the intended form of the upper works; and the stem as well as the stern post firmly lashed at their respective points of junction with the keel, as well as to the gunwales above.

The frame being completed the substitute for the shipwright’s ‘outside skin’ was next supplied in the shape of a canvas overall, firmly sewed together, fitted as scientifically as circumstances would admit of, and secured by being marled to the gunwales. Two coats of paint were then applied to the exterior, and a false keel, with false stem and stern post, to guard the fragile bark from chafing in her passage over the beach. When fairly launched and provisioned with half a bag of flour and a good allowance of water in kegs, she was found staunch, and the event proved her sea-worthy.



  • 88.  Temme collection for South Australian shipwrecks held by Alexander Library – Correspondence to Colonial Secretaries Office at Adelaide by Charles Driver, Government Resident at Port Lincoln SA




The construction of their little vessel occupied them three weeks, and during the twenty-four hours good progress, which they accomplished under a lug sail, she made very little water. The shipwrecked mariners steered for Port Adelaide, but met with strong weather, and being apprehensive that its violence might increase with the growth of the moon, they put into Coffin’s Bay, where they hauled up their boat and turned her bottom up. It may be presumed that neither their personal effects nor provisions could be very bulky or valuable; but such as they were, they buried them deep in the sand, and then lighted a large fire over the spot, as well with a view to future recognition as to put the natives off the scent.

Owing to their imperfect knowledge of Coffin’s Bay (which is 25 miles in depth) they landed unnecessarily far from Port Lincoln; and bending their course, by compass, due east, they came to the ranges west of Port Lincoln. Next day they steered south, and finally came in sight of the watery expanse of Sleaford Mere (a large lake about 6 miles south west of Port Lincoln), which they recognised as such; and taking a fresh departure for Port Lincoln, speedily reached that settlement. We regret to say (and we mention the circumstances with the best possible motives) that Mr. Robertson and his companions complain of inhospitable treatment on the part of the officials, whilst they thankfully acknowledge the great kindness shown them by the soldiers, who not only supplied their immediate wants, but gave them many articles of provision for their voyage to Adelaide; but their supplies being only calculated for five days, and their passage occupying fifteen, they were greatly put to their shifts, and compelled to seek sustenance on the islands which lay in their tracks (perhaps including Thistle Island). Mr. Robertson is a son of Mrs. Robertson, of 20 Howe Street, Edinburgh; and as our columns find their way over the Tweed, we deem it our duty to place within the reach of a kind parent the assurance of her son’s health and safety.

Captain James Cook holed his ship the Endeavour when it ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef on June 11, 1770. In desperation the crew rigged a ‘canvas overall’ around the hull so as to borrow enough time to make it to land before the ship took on too much water. This use of a sail to prevent a leak in a wooden hull was called fothering.

Williams is presumed to have chartered, even purchased, a whaling boat at Port Adelaide. He sailed back to Coffin Bay, collected the Vulcan’s canvas-covered boat, and sailed both vessels on to Flinders’ Island. Now in his company were Thomas Lashmar, owner of the pastoral station on Thistle Island near Port Lincoln, and his companion Henry Grey89. It appears that after leaving Port Adelaide, Williams first diverted to Thistle Island to collect Lashmar and his boat. What services he required of Lashmar are uncertain. Perhaps he hoped to sell all of the late Bryan’s implements that he had stolen.



  • 89.  Shipping Arrivals and Departures in South Australia 1627 – 1850 – Robert Sexton




Coincidently, and unfortunately for all, Lashmar and Grey also managed to lose their own boat, smashed on the shores of Flinders’ Island. The two men were now of no use to Williams, in fact they had become liabilities. The ruthless Captain Williams decided not to immediately repatriate the two men to their home island, instead he set sail for Middle Island on a sealing expedition. Sailing west, he took William Bryan’s two aboriginal women Charlotte and Fanny and two children with him,90 leaving behind two of the Vulcan’s crewmembers, Higgins and James Miles, as well as Charlottes’ son William Bluff and Lashmar and Grey.

Much later, The South Australian Register reported91 that, A striving colonist, who had undertaken the performance of certain services at Flinders Island, has been left there until fresh supplies can be sent thither, almost without the necessities of life.

The marooned men must have expected Williams to return to the island, as they waited for him for a considerable time. Eventually, in desperation, as they were likely facing starvation, the five castaways decided to leave the island in the almost unseaworthy Vulcan’s canvas-covered boat. They sailed it back to Coffin Bay where this time it was wrecked on arrival. The men walked on to Port Lincoln, arriving there September 20, 1845. 92

William Bluff, raised by the Irishman Bryan, isolated from other aborigines and other European settlers, only ever knew his aboriginal mother and his Irish stepfather, and the whalers that called at Flinders Island from time to time. He spoke and acted as any other working class Irishman might. In a later interview93 with journalist Nathaniel Hailes at Port Lincoln, when asked what he thought of his countrymen, he offered, “I don’t like Black fellows, they are a dirty, lazy set.” Bluff also said he knew the ‘island trader’ Andrews very well.

“That man Andrews is worth an immense dram of money” he said
“Where does he keep it?” I asked
“Mostly on Middle Island”
“How much do you think he is worth?”
“To be sure, I don’t rightly know. I was never towld. I daresay in all, three or four pounds!”


It was Bluff who informed the authorities that Andrews had ransacked Flinders Island for all useful implements. The Protector of Aborigines recommended to the South Australian Colonial Secretary that legal proceedings be taken against Andrews94. It appears that nothing came of this.


  • 90.  The Aborigines of Victoria Vol 2 – R. Brough Smyth – Appendix E written by John Moore
  • 91.  The South Australian Register – October 1, 1845
  • 92.  Temme collection for South Australian shipwrecks held by Alexander Library – Correspondence to Colonial Secretaries Office at Adelaide by Charles Driver, Government Resident at Port Lincoln SA
  • 93. The South Australian Register – June 6, 1878 – Recollections of a Septuagenarian
  • 94. South Australian State Records (DAIS) – CSO correspondence – 1268/1845




Brutal Murder


In December 1848 the native named Fanny, one of William Bryan’s kidnapped aboriginal women, was taken off Flinders Island on the Jane Flaxman, a small coastal passenger schooner operating out of Port Adelaide95. In Adelaide, Fanny revealed to the ethnologist John Moore Davis that while she was with Captain Williams he murdered one of his crew96

After he sailed from Flinders Island in July 1845 Williams’ and his crew spent some months sealing, probably in and around Middle Island, before returning the two aboriginal women, Charlotte and Fanny, and the two children back to their island. As the women were witnesses to a brutal murder committed during the sealing voyage, it seems odd that he would set them free. Fanny must have got to know John Williams very well while he was marooned on Flinders Island and during the sealing voyage. Perhaps they developed a close attachment to one another. See A partner for John Williams.

From the information provided by Fanny to John Moore Davis, he wrote,

Many a sad scene was enacted by them during their reckless career as sealers, and often wreckers. The navigation of these seas was then comparatively but little known, and many a good craft was lost amid the coral reefs and islands. These wrecks afforded good plunder, and in cases where a few unfortunates had escaped the disaster, their lives were ruthlessly sacrificed by the wreckers.

Fanny also said that one of Williams’ crew, Antonio, an Afro-American man, apparently used to “babble in his cups” when drunk and Williams feared he would, inadvertently disclose the details of his crew’s ‘wrecking’ activities. He decided to get rid of him at the first opportunity. Davis recorded what happened.

On one of their cruises, they came upon a seal-rookery, which could only be approached by descending the rocks from above – a great height, and a considerable part of which the man employed would have to be lowered down by a rope and then drawn up again. Antonio volunteered to perform the perilous task; descended in safety, killed a number of fur seals, skinned them, and sent up their skins, and then, at a given signal, began to ascend by the rope.

His treacherous companions, after pulling him up some distance, stopped, and then Williams began to revile him for what he had said during his maudlin moments, and after taunting him for some time – while thus hovering on the brink of eternity – with the doom they had assigned him – in order, as they said, to keep his tongue quiet – they cut the rope, and the wretched man fell some hundreds of feet into the boiling abyss beneath.


  • 95,  Shipping Arrivals and Departures in South Australia 1627 – 1850 – Robert Sexton
  • 96,  The Aborigines of Victoria Vol 2 – R. Brough Smyth 1878 – Appendix E written by John Moore Davis




Apart from Fanny’s confession, Davis described John Williams as an escaped convict from Tasmania, a most notorious scoundrel, who had for years infested the islands in the Great Australian Bight. Cumpston97 repeated this description of Williams and added that he was the leader of a Kangaroo Island gang, notorious for his devilry. His and Davis’ sources of information about Williams’ status are undisclosed. Some of the associated detail recorded by both authors in their accounts is blatantly incorrect and therefore we need to be cautious before labelling Williams as such a fiend. Nevertheless where there is smoke there must be fire.

We can’t be sure if Davis ever provided the authorities with the details of Antonio’s murder. It doesn’t appear so, as Williams was never brought to account for his crimes. Authorities were less prepared to act on the accusations of indigenous Australians, particularly females. No doubt Williams was worried though, as for a very long time after the murder of Antonio, he refused to leave the refuge of Middle Island and go into King Georges Sound for fear of finding a warrant from Adelaide waiting for him there98. Whether it was for the murder or his ‘wrecking’ activities, his abandonment of the pastoralist Lashmar or the looting of Flinders Island, Williams had good reason to fear his pursuit by the authorities.

Freda Vines used the murder story in her fictional novel ‘So Wild the Sea.’ Set in Western Australia from 1826, it is a story of castaways, convicts, sealers and desperate men, and is loosely drafted around real characters and events of that era. John Williams is not mentioned in the novel. Instead our more famous friend John (‘Black Jack’) Anderson is made out to be the murderer. Of course Anderson had been many years dead when Antonio breathed his last.



  • 97.  Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 – J. S. Cumpston (1970)
  • 98.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints CONS 348/015 – Defence by Solomon Aspinal against a charge by John Andrews of stealing




Financial Difficulty


Such was his fear of arrest, it appears that Andrews stayed away from King Georges Sound for over two years, preferring to send others to conduct his business and to stock up on supplies. When he eventually plucked up enough courage to return to Albany in ,January 1848 he was confronted with a number of problems. Creditors were lining up and he must have been annoyed to learn he couldn’t use Migo Island as a whaling base any more. The loss of both the lease and the Vulcan when combined with the earlier theft of his money must  have put a severe financial strain on his business and could have spelt the end of his whaling activities.

Captain John Hassell was an important pioneering settler and farmer in the Great Southern area of Western Australia. Between 1825 and 1835 he was a ships commander trading out of Hobart, Launceston and Sydney99. In 1838 he arrived at King Georges Sound and in the coming years amassed considerable leased land holdings where he primarily grazed sheep. The two major headquarters for his pastoral enterprises were at Kendenup and Jerramungup. His extended family managed the properties while he occasionally ‘commuted’ from Albany where he ran a very successful business importing merchandise and station supplies and arranging wool shipments to England.

As a man of considerable means Hassell is known to have financed farmers who lived and worked in the region. According to John Andrews, he had met or at least known of Hassell when he (Hassell) arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1822 as chief mate on the brig Belinda. This revelation by Andrews100 is the only clue as to his own arrival date in Australia. Both being mariners, there must be the chance that Andrews and Hassell spent time at sea together. Hassell was on board the Belinda for a sealing expedition in 1824.101. No one of the name Williams was on the voyage.

In October 1841 John Williams Andrews had purchased Albany town lot S107, located on York Street the main thoroughfare in Albany, for £85. It seems that Andrews was short of cash about two and a half years later, when in May 1844 a mortgage agreement was registered102 between John Andrews (a mariner) and John Hassell (Esq.) for £48 19s with lot S107 as security against the loan plus interest (£2 9s) to be paid on or before July 31, 1844. In February 1848, shortly after Andrews returned to Albany from Middle Island, a memorial was registered103 that transferred the ownership of lot S107 from Andrews to Hassell for the consideration of Hassell discharging the mortgage. Hassell had claimed his ‘pound of flesh’ and Andrews had lost his property. Solomon Cook was a witness to the deed. Interestingly the memorial referred to Hassell, no longer as ‘Esq.’, but as ‘master mariner’ and Andrews as still just ‘a mariner’.



  • 99.  The Hassells of Albany – C.W. Hassell
  • 100.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/009 – Complaint of Henry Knights
  • 101.  Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 – J. S. Cumpston (1970)
  • 102.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 3 No. 182
  • 103.  SRO – Deed of Memorial – Book 4 No. 164




The loss of property confirms Andrews was in financial trouble. By November 1848 he had made his way to Wyndham, a small townsite on the Kalgan River, located near the site of the current day Upper Kalgan bridge. The town had been set-aside in 1837 as a Quaker settlement but was not taken up. Andrews, who resided there in a hut on the banks of the Kalgan, was the subject of a complaint by the Albany constable for not having a licence of occupation104. Most of his wealth gone, he was now squatting illegally and making shoes for a living. Cordwaining (by a shoemaker as apposed to a cobbler, who only repairs shoes) was the family trade practiced in England by many generations of Paveys. Later, Andrews became well known as a good boot maker.

It would appear that Andrews had joined his old partner Solomon Cook who, likewise without a licence of occupation, was exercising his trade of shipbuilding, wheelwrighting and blacksmithing on the banks of the Kalgan. It is likely that it was here that the Vulcan had been built in 1843.

It is uncertain if the authorities forced Andrews to leave Wyndham. But if he were struggling, good fortune was waiting for him just over the horizon.



  • 104.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/015 – Complaint by constable James Dunn




A partner for John Williams


John Williams had likely lived in the company of Aboriginal women ever since he took to the oceans as a sealer. He is also known to have ‘kept’ young aboriginal boys105 dubiously described as apprentices, for sealing and whaling voyages and later when he left the sea to take up farming. It’s no surprise that he eventually settled down with an aboriginal partner, a woman he met while he was marooned on Flinders Island.

How she was reunited with him is unknown, but Fanny Bryan was living with John Williams in Albany by 1849. We know this, because in that year she was the recorded grantee of town lot B37.

On November 21, 1849, lot B37 was assigned under the name of Fanny Bryan. And granted on May 19, 1850. 106
Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith etc. etc. conformed a grant of lot B37 to Fanny Bryan in consideration of £10 5s and in addition the payment of one pepper corn of yearly rent on the twenty fifth day of March in each year or so soon thereafter as the same shall be lawfully demanded.

We wonder if Victoria knew that Fanny was an indigenous Australian? John Williams, who we know was in financial difficulties at the time, purchased the property in Fanny’s name so as to presumably keep it at arms length from any of his potential creditors. There must have been some underhand dealings, as an aboriginal woman receiving a crown grant at that time seems very unlikely. Lot B37, a ‘beach’ block in Stirling Terrace on Hanover Bay would have been close enough for Williams to keep an eye on any whaleboats he may still have owned. He probably built the two cottages here, both known to have survived until the 1880’s107

Captain James J. Sale (1846 – 1932), a sea captain born in Albany, recorded in his memoirs108 that Mr. John Williams, a boot maker, was living at the west end of Stirling Terrace during the 1850’s and 60’s. Much later, and after John Williams had died, lot B37 was to be the subject of disputed ownership, and the protagonists would both die before the dispute was resolved. In Albany, Fanny is described as an aboriginal of good character from Portland Bay Victoria109. Williams and Fanny became known as husband and wife, but there is no recorded marriage. On the Albany court record for her death, Fanny is recorded as Mrs. Williams. She and Williams had no (known) children.



  • 105.  SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/015 – complaint against Aspinal
  • 106.  Crown Grant No. 916 (lot B37) – Landgate, Government of Western Australia
  • 107.  Index to Colonial Secretary’s Office letters received 1880 – 1884 – L. Stawbridge
  • 108.  Battye Library – ACC 2301A – My Memories – Capt. James J. Sale
  • 109.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/437/49 – Camfield




Above: Stirling Terrace viewed from the west toward Mt. Clarence with the Pensioners quarters in the right foreground. The small cottage located beyond the fence around the quarters could be one of Williams’ houses. Hanover Bay is out of the picture, just to the right (south).


The arrival of Fanny in Albany seems to have signalled the end of Williams’ whaling and sealing days. His retirement from the sea also coincided with the arrival of the first P&O mail steamers at King Georges Sound. With the gold rush in Victoria, the population became mobile and many more people were moving through Albany. Was Williams tempted to follow the diggers to Ballarat?



  • 110.  Provided by the Albany Library from their history collection




A ‘fortunate’ disaster


There was one last high seas adventure left for John Williams and as a consequence he didn’t need to bother seeking his fortune in the Victorian goldfields.

In September 1850, during a gale, the schooner Harlequin en-route to Singapore from Adelaide was driven ashore about eight kilometres west of West Cape Howe. Three lives were lost. Without food and water, the seven survivors, including the Captain, took four days to trek overland to Albany. They recalled the trauma of their ordeal and the story was later printed in the Perth press.111

The cook attempted to save his life by grasping the dress of Mrs. Walsh (the captain’s wife), who had gained a small rock; and as his efforts threatened her life, and could not save his own, his hold was broken off by one of the sailors, and he sank…….having reached a small ledge of rocks, over which the sea was breaking, they discovered the body of the dead sailor, and as Mrs. Walsh had but her night clothing, his trousers were taken from him and given to her…… to gain dry land the party had to ascend an almost perpendicular rock of some height; one of the sailors contrived to reach the summit, and made fast a rope, by means of which the rest of the crew ascended, and finally hauled up the Captain’s wife.

The 138-ton schooner carried a cargo of copper, mined in South Australia and loaded at Port Adelaide. There were 937 cakes, 1009 tiles and 116 ingots of copper, altogether thirty tons and worth £2000. The ships owner thought salvage was impossible and so the wreck was sold at auction to a Mr. John Williams and a Mr. James Cooper for £45112. Cooper, a prominent businessman, was Williams’ long time business associate and also a neighbour, owning the property directly across the road in Stirling Terrace. He also owned the lot adjoining Williams’ former property in York Street. The Perth press reported.113

A few days after (the auction) the purchasers went out, and in one day got out of the water and landed safely one ton of copper. They found only two feet of water above it, and it appeared evident that in the summer the whole of the cargo would be high and dry. They saw all the copper, thirty tons, and are only waiting for fine weather, when they confidently hope to recover the whole of the copper worth £2,000 and the sheet lead, chain, anchors, etc. worth £100 more.

Williams, an experienced scavenger who knew this stretch of coast very well, must have confidently bid for the salvage rights, despite knowing that the limestone at the base of the cliff was rugged and sharp and extracting the metal from the sea would be an extremely difficult task, even in calm conditions.


  • 111.  Unfinished Voyages Western Australian Shipwrecks 1622 – 1850 – Graeme Henderson
  • 112.  The Inquirer – October 9, 1850
  • 113.  The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News – November 1, 1850




Through his associations with local aborigines Williams was able to recruit very cheap labour. When the conditions were right, his aboriginal workforce, mainly women, would have first moved the salvaged materials to Bornholm Beach, about a half a mile east of where the ship went ashore against the vertical cliff. From the beach the women would have hauled the metal through a steep sandy gully up to the top of the ridge where bullock teams waited to cart the salvage to Albany. Later, local residents knew this locality as ‘copper gulch’114.

Although the recovery of the copper proceeded smoothly, the business of disposing of it seems to have been more complicated. Twelve months after the Harlequin went down, Andrews was in dispute with a third party, James Corvett. There was a formal agreement between Corvett, Andrews and Cooper, but Andrews was not happy with it and in trying to forcibly recover the agreement document from Corvett, he assaulted him. He was charged115 and found guilty of a minor offence, and fined 1/-. The outcome of the dispute is unknown, but we can be certain that Andrews would have eventually claimed his share of the fortune from the sale of the copper.

For a few years after the Harlequin went down, despite their new wealth, nothing much changed for Andrews and Fanny Bryan. They continued to reside in their cottage in Stirling Terrace with Andrews relying on his shoe making skills to make a living. They
also took in lodgers116. Andrews’ brushes with the authorities didn’t stop though. In May 1854, his kangaroo dog named Bendle attacked and savaged a thirteen-year-old lad who was passing the house. Andrews escaped penalty but apparently offered no remorse and allowed the dog to continue to roam wild117

Thomas Brooker Sherratt was a pioneer merchant and early postmaster in Albany. He took up whaling as an extension to his merchandising business. Toward the end of his life his mental state deteriorated to the extent that his family tried to keep him locked away, because when free he was constantly in trouble. One incident involved John Andrews, when in February 1854 Sherratt assaulted him in Stirling Terrace. In his complaint118, Andrews said,

He struck me on the face and then followed me along the Terrace saying he would have his revenge and that he could not make it any worse.”

What revenge Sherratt was seeking we cannot know, but no doubt, as a whaler, he knew Williams well enough. They had business dealings in previous years. Andrews sold him land in Stirling Terrace in 1837. Sherratt was summoned and pleaded guilty to assault and was fined £5.



  • 114.  Maritime Albany Remembered: Les Douglas et al – Gordon Marshall
  • 115.  SRO – Albany Local Court – Plaints – Cons 348/018 – Warrant of arrest for John Andrews
  • 116.  SRO – Albany Local Court – Plaints – Cons 348/021 – Witness statement by John Williams in a case of robbery by George Reid – July 1854
  • 117.  SRO – Albany Local Court – Plaints – Cons 348/021 – Complaint by boy’s father, William Doulby
  • 118.  SRO – Albany Local Court – Plaints – Cons 348/021 – Complaint by John Williams




Eventually Andrews decided to try his hand at another calling and, presumably using what remained of the small fortune he made from the sale of his share of the copper from the Harlequin, he took up sheep farming on land around Lake Nunijup (various
other spellings, but meaning place of snakes), adjacent to the upper Kent River, 15 kilometres west of Tenterden and about 80 kilometres north-west of Albany. He did retain his Stirling Terrace property as his Albany headquarters and afterwards was seen in town from time to time.

At nearly sixty years of age we can’t be certain why Andrews decided to leave the relative comfort of Albany for the isolation and hardness of the bush. Perhaps he was still worried his past might catch up with him and decided to disappear from public view. More likely, having abandoned the sea, he felt the pastoral industry would provide him with a path to greater wealth.




Lake Nunijup


How, why and precisely when Andrews found his way to Lake Nunijup is unknown. A local history publication119 suggests that John Williams was squatting at Nunijup as early as 1835. This appears unlikely, as he was very focused on sealing and coastal trading at that time and wouldn’t have ventured too far inland from Albany, although he did pursue the thief Prescott to Hassell’s farm at Kendenup in 1842.

The same local history publication also recorded that Jack Williams (alias John W. Andrews) arrived at Albany on the Buffalo in September 1833. The Buffalo carried Sir Richard Spencer, his family and servants, and agricultural labourers120. Spencer had been appointed Government Resident for Albany and had travelled from England via Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. Also on board the Buffalo were 179 female convicts with 25 children, all bound for Sydney. No one of the name Andrews, Williams or Pavey was with Spencer’s party121. If he were on the ship, Andrews would have to have been a member of the ship’s crew. There are no records of desertions by crewmembers in the well-documented travel journal for the 1833 voyage of the Buffalo122. The fact that local knowledge suggested Andrews was on the Buffalo, implies that when he arrived at Lake Nunijup he put about a story to cover up his criminal past and his escape as a convict, which was likely heavily rumoured in and around Albany.

John Williams is also mentioned and identified as the first settler at Lake Nunijup in a recently published account of the history of the Kent River district123. There is a reference to an altercation between Williams and Noongar aborigines in 1847. The ‘first settler’ description may be correct, but the rest of the associated story is a case of mistaken identity, event, place and date by the author. See Appendix.

Williams likely first arrived at Lake Nunijup after 1854. He took up a lease holding – No. 9030 – of about 5000 acres centred on the lake124. The rent was £7-10s per annum125. Lake Nunijup is a fresh water lake of about 80 acres in area and was used then for washing sheep before they were sheared.

In June 1857 Williams applied for a crown grant of 10-acres adjoining Lake Nunijup126

Grant is a misnomer as by 1832 sale of unoccupied crown lands for cash by auction had been introduced127. First owners were still called grantees though. Williams’ land was not surveyed until June 1865 and he received a freehold title for Hay Location 2 in July 1868, nine years after he paid for it128. This sort of delay was not unusual in these early days because there were too few surveyors to cope with the demand.


  • 119.  Nunijup – possibly by Mrs. P. Golder with help from Mr. F. Beech
  • 120.  Albany – A Panorama of the Sound – Donald S. Garden 1977
  • 121.  SRO – Passengers on the Buffalo – ACC 36/35/270 – Also Perth Gazette – October 12, 1883
  • 122.  HMS Buffalo – Robert Sexton
  • 123.  A Sense of Ownership. The Story of the Kent River – Susan Groom
  • 124.  SRO – Public Plan – Plantagenet and Hay 130 Chain (1870) – CONS 4925 C No. 506633
  • 125.  SRO – Customs and Revenue Albany (1858 – 1865) – ACC 346/188
  • 126.  SRO – District Register of Fee Simple Lands (1830 – 1890) – CONS 5000/669
  • 127.  SRO – CONS 5000/419 – 427 128 SRO – Applications for Title (1855 – 1883) – CONS 5000/655 & 656





In March 1865 Williams applied129 for an additional 67.5 acres adjoining Lake Nunijup. Plantagenet Location 141 was surveyed together with Hay Location 2. Prior to his application Williams had built a mud brick and shingle roof house on the bank of the lake, not in Location 2, but in the northwest corner of the proposed Location 141, which explains, in part, why he had applied for the additional land. The structure survives today, but for many years has been vacant and crumbling.


In January 1870 Williams applied for another forty acres. Plantagenet Location 161 is a short distance to the northwest of Location 141, adjoining a lagoon. The price of land was unchanged at 10/- per acre. Later, when his land came under the Transfer of Land Act, the three parcels, Hay Location 2 and Plantagenet Locations 141 and 161 were described on the same certificate of title, volume137 folio110130. The combined freehold lands were better known as the ‘Lake Rose’ farm. The modern address of the property, today integrated with broader farming acreage, is 526 Stockyard Road Martagallup.


  • 129.  SRO – CONS 5000/34/2- applications to purchase crown lands (Plantagenet)
  • 130.  SRO – Land index to Memorials – ACC 1803






Williams acquired three other pastoral leases – Nos. A1000, 7232 and A270 – that took his lease holdings from 5,000 to 28,000 acres. The leases centred on Lake Martagallup and Lake Nukennullup131. A few incidents suggest that Williams may have been stretched to manage such a large property. In April 1864 two of his bulls that were running at large attacked William Stringer who was passing through Nunijup with his bullock team. Stringer was committed for trial for shooting the bulls but was found not guilty132. Ten months later, after another incident, Williams was prosecuted for allowing a bull to run at large without a keeper.



  • 131.  SRO – Public Plan – Plantagenet and Hay 130 Chain (1870) – CONS 4925 C No. 506633
  • 132.  SRO – Police Occurrence Book (Nov 1863 – June 1866) – Cons 364/01




And in May 1868 Mr. A. Hassell obtained a summons for Williams for “that he did allow a bull his property to roam at large on the evening of Monday the 4th inst at a place known as the Bull Swamp”. It appears that the matter was settled out of court133

Despite these problems, Williams, after just ten years on the land, most likely using the fortune made on the salvage of the Harlequin, had re-invented himself as a successful farmer and grazier. At the old age of 70 years, this was an exceptional feat. Knowing his seafaring background, some of the locals referred to Williams as ‘Captain’. He was supposed to have kept his ‘treasure’ in a huge chest at Lake Nunijup. It’s rumoured that it still lies buried somewhere on the property.

Together with his sheep grazing and shearing Williams became involved in additional farming enterprises. In particular he took up cutting timber and became known as a sawyer134. It’s presumed that he harvested timber on his lease holdings. To help him, he employed (seven) ticket of leave convicts from time to time between 1864 and 187113

In the mid nineteenth century, Lake Nunijup was located in a very isolated corner of the world. The region was slowly being opened up for agriculture but neighbours were few and widely spread. The Muir family was a ‘near’ neighbour to John Williams. Muir’s farm,  Forest Hill’ (today Pardelup prison farm), was 18 miles south of Lake Nunijup near the Hay River. Jack Williams, Fanny and Ned were recorded as visitors in the Muir’s 1871/1872 farm journals136, having travelled to the farm on horseback. Who were Fanny and Ned and who were the people who lived with John Williams on the ‘Lake Rose’ farm?



  • 133.  SRO – Police Occurrence Book (July 1866 – June 1868) – Cons 364/0
  • 134.  SRO – Customs and Revenue Albany (1858 – 1865) – issue of a timber licence to Williams for £1 – ACC 346/188
  • 135.  Battye Library – WABI reel 3 136 Battye Library – ACC 1316A2. Also – A History of the Shire of Plantagenet Western Australia (page 41) – Rhoda Glover






Note: for the lease centred on Lake Nukennullup (7232), J.W. Andrews has been ruled through and replaced with A&A Hassell. This transfer of ownership occurred eighteen months after Andrews’ death.



  • 137.  SRO – CONS 4925 C No.506633





Edward and Fanny Harris



Fanny Towser Harris is the third ‘Fanny’ in John Williams’ life, if you include his ‘safe’ whaling boat in the count.

Seven-year-old Fanny was admitted to the native school at ‘Annesfield’ Albany in November 1852138. She had a Maori father, a sealer named Harris and her mother was a full blood aboriginal named Towser (also spelt Towzer and Touzer). Towser had resided on Kangaroo Island in 1830, living with a sealer named James (Little) West. She and Harris may have been with John Williams when he first arrived at Albany c.1834. In October 1859, Anne Camfield, the principal of ‘Annesfield’ and wife of the Albany Government Resident wrote to the Colonial Secretary, as follows139

I have the honour to request you to obtain from his Excellency the Governor (if he sees fit to grant it) permission for the removal of one of the half-caste girls named Fanny, from the school. The prospects for her being well taken care of are good.

A man named John Williams Andrews but generally known as Jack Williams, has a Portland Bay native women as a wife and these people were good friends of our Fanny’s mother, and since her death have taken charge of Fanny’s little brother. They are well to do, he has sheep of his own and horses and is besides a good shoemaker. They are desirous for Fanny to come to them and though three years of her indenture are unexpired yet his Excellency may perhaps agree with me that her leaving would be an advantage in making a vacancy for some more destitute child in the school. If the Governor sanctions Fanny’s removal, some paper, which will be binding on Andrews to provide for her at least for the three years, may be sent to me for him to sign on the 23 November which is the day proposed for her to leave us to go to these friends.


John Williams was given permission to take Fanny Harris into care, ‘the Governor having no objection’. Williams and Fanny Bryan were already caring for Fanny’s younger brother John Edward Harris. He had been with them since Towser had died c. 1853.

John Harris, a Maori sealer, was a friend of John Williams and they were probably seafarers together. When Harris left140 to return to the eastern colonies, after his son John Edward was born c. 1847, perhaps Williams made some kind of promise to take care of his (Harris’) two children. Williams later informally (no papers have been found) adopted Fanny and her brother and they became known as Fanny Towser Williams/Harris and Edward (Ned) Williams.



  • 138.  Wollaston’s Albany Journals
  • 139.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/437/49
  • 140.  Aborigines of the Albany Region 1821 – 1898 – Neville Green




John Williams appears to have failed in his duty of care to Fanny, and also his likely commitment to his friend John Harris, as in May 1865 Fanny gave birth to his (Williams’) child. The child was (possibly) stillborn and Williams failed to register the birth and death with the appropriate authorities.

Seven months later Albany police obtained warrants for the arrest of both Fanny and John Williams for killing and stealing a lamb. It was neighbours John & Albert Hassell, sons of Captain Hassell, who, on the report of their native shepherds, accused Williams and Fanny of killing and stealing one of their lambs141. This type of offence was still a very serious crime, even at the end of the transportation era.

The following extracts from the Albany Police Occurrence Book (1865/66)142 provide the best description of a sorry saga.

22 Dec 1865 – Obtained summons for John Williams Andrews for neglecting to give notice to a JP or constable of the death of an infant child born in his house at Nunijup at about the beginning of the month of June.

22 Dec –  Obtained warrant for the arrest of Fanny Williams alias Fanny Towzer Harris for killing and stealing one lamb, the property of J & A Hassell on the 15th

23 Dec – To Nunijup to arrest Fanny Williams and serve summons on J. Williams Andrews and also to bring in native witnesses in case against Fanny Williams.

26 Dec – Arrive (Albany) with Fanny Towzer Harris. Fanny was thrown from the horse taken to bring her in (at the 26 mile).

27 Dec- Obtain summons for John Williams Andrews for being in the unlawful occupation of crown lands by depasturing a flock of sheep thereon at a lagoon about 8 miles from Nunijup called Durecup, on the 15th

27 Dec –  Obtain summons for John Williams for assault of a policeman, using threatening language and using language calculated to incite a prisoner to assault and resist a policeman in the execution of his duty at Nunijup on the 24th



  • 141.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/580/6
  • 142.  SRO – Police Occurrence Book – Albany (Nov 1863 – June 1866) – CONS 364/01





28 Dec –  John Williams Andrews (not present) is sentenced to one weeks imprisonment for assaulting PC O’Keefe and fined £5 or one months imprisonment for inciting a prisoner to resist arrest. Also sentenced to one week for assaulting another policeman. Also fined £10 (or 3 months) for trespass on crown lands.

3 Jan 1866 – Charged John Williams Andrews with neglecting to give notice to the District Registrar of the birth or death of an infant child born in his house on or about the 24th May. The Board fined him £2.

3 Jan – Resident Magistrate issues warrant for the arrest of John Williams Andrews for being accessory before the fact of sheep stealing for which offence Fanny Towzer Harris has been committed for trial.

2 February 1866 – Arrives (Albany) at 5am and reports that he arrested John Williams Andrews near Kendenup yesterday. They came to the 24-mile last night where they intended to stop. After they had unsaddled their horses, Andrews mounted a horse that a native boy was riding and rode away towards Albany. Arrests Andrews again at the house of Hawson where he arrived a short time before the constable. John Hawson was Andrews’ Albany agent and likely related to Henry Hawson, his old liquor trading partner and the man to whom he sold the cutter Lively in 1839.

2 Feb – By the Bench – John Williams Andrews is committed for trial jointly with Fanny Towzer Harris for killing one sheep with intent to steal the same, the property of Hassell.

22 February –  Quarter Session – Fanny Towzer Harris is sentenced to 7 years penal servitude for sheep stealing and John Williams Andrews is acquitted of the same offence.

4 March 1866 –  By order of the Resident Magistrate, prisoner Fanny Towzer Harris is handed over to George Chipper who has been sworn as Special Constable to convey her to Perth per passengers cart. (Chipper was the Albany/Perth overland mail contractor at the time)




The Government Resident at Albany reported this case to the Colonial Secretary as follows143

This is a very lamentable case. The girl was brought up at Mr. Camfield’s Native institution. The father was a sealer, a friend of John Williams Andrews, best known as Jack Williams who took her as one in whom he was interested and as an assistant to his wife, a native women from the other colonies.

Six months ago, the girl was delivered of a stillborn child, acknowledged by Williams to be his. It was only lately that this became known.

There was a suspicion respecting the fact of the child being still born, but a charge against Williams for neglecting to register the birth, it appeared to the Bench, that it was groundless and he was fined £2, the lowest penalty. He was likewise fined £10 for unauthorised depasturing his sheep on the spot where the lamb was killed, for a considerable time.

There is no proof that he authorised the eating of the lamb, but he has admitted both in and out of court, his knowledge of, and order for the killing.

By now we are not surprised by any illegal activities undertaken by John Williams. In this case, it seems he was very lucky not to be convicted and sent to gaol for sheep stealing. Fanny, very obviously angered at being forced to take the blame, accused Williams of, on one occasion, stealing 100 sheep as well as always killing any branded stock he found amongst his own flock144. Her accusations were to no avail, as she was found guilty and initially sentenced to seven years gaol. This was reduced to three years penal servitude because, in the jury’s opinion, “she was merely the tool for her master, J.W. Andrews.” After her conviction, Fanny stood to lose all of her possessions, so she submitted the following signed statement to the Albany Resident, hoping he would intercede to prevent Andrews from taking over her property145


Albany 24th February 1866

Memorandum of property belonging to Fanny Towzer Harris at present in the possession of John Williams Andrews at Nunijup – viz Two Milk Cows – one Cow Calf – two Bull Calves – one Mare and one Foal – one Pony – and a box containing clothes and Books – the box has no lock or key to it. N.B. – a bull belonging to Fanny Towzer Harris has been sold by John Williams for £8 but the money not given her. She has never received any wages, although promised by John Williams that she should have the same as any other shepherd or sheep in lieu.



  • 143.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/580/4
  • 144.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/580/21
  • 145.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/580/29




Although it is unknown what actually happened to Fanny’s assets, we could reliably assume they remained in the hands of Andrews. After serving only twelve months as a servant in the Poor House at Mt. Eliza in Perth, Fanny was released back to Williams. The Court disregarded her plea not to be returned to him. It is clear that Williams abused his position of trust and she was probably frightened of him. Nevertheless, she was returned to Williams and not long after she had a second child by him, John Harris Williams who only survived three weeks, dying October 28, 1868. A third child, Edward Williams, died at Nunijup August 19, 1871, aged two months146

Soon after the death of her third child, Fanny Harris escaped from John Williams and ran away with the shepherd William Mason, whom she married and had a number of children with. On her death at Mount Barker in 1932 Fanny was variously identified as a Plantagenet pioneer, a Maori who had came to Australia from Mauritius and a pearl diver from the islands of northern Australia. See Appendix.

Watching all the dramas that unfolded between his sister and John Williams was Edward (Ned) Williams. John Williams educated his adopted son and trained him to become a stockman and sheep farmer. He also probably infused in him an unhealthy dose of disrespect for authority and an attitude of survival at any cost; perhaps demonstrated by John’s ongoing brushes with the law, unconcerned by his close call in February 1866.

In May 1867 Sir A.T.C. Campbell obtained a summons for John Williams Andrews for having in his possession and illegally detaining two lambs, his property147. Campbell was Andrews’ neighbour to the northwest, with his property centred on Lake Teeteenyup. He also summoned Fanny Touzer Harris as a witness. On the serving of the summons Andrews gave up the lambs to Mr Campbell who was satisfied.

And in December 1869 Albert Hassell and Andrews were again in dispute; this time over sheep148, in fact eleven sheep, not stolen but apparently ‘unlawfully obtained’ by Andrews. The Court ordered Andrews to “deliver the sheep to anyone whom Mr Hassell sends for them and who can identify them as his.”



  • 146.  Birth and death certificates – Department of the Attorney General WA
  • 147.  SRO – Police Occurrence Book – Albany (July 1866 – March 1869) – CONS 364/02
  • 148.  SRO – Police Occurrence Book – Albany (March 13, 1869 – Jan 24, 1872) – CONS 364/03




Martha Williams


Martha Williams (nee Pavey) was John Williams’ niece. She had married (a different) John Williams in England in 1864. Coincidently her husband was also a mariner. Martha, widowed, had arrived at Albany by 1872. Unconfirmed information suggests she came to Western Australia via New York in the USA, deciding to rejoin her family in Australia after her husband died. Her uncle John most likely paid for hers and her daughter Alice’s passage on a mail steamer.

Instead of moving in with her parents, Charles and Ann Pavey, who had been living in John Williams’ cottage in Stirling Terrace at Albany since 1866, Martha decided to join her uncle on the farm at Lake Nunijup, a very long way from New York. Martha was likely indebted to him, but it’s presumed John Williams was looking for an educated heir to help his adopted son Ned, who would probably struggle to manage the large estate he would inherit one day



Conflict with the authorities, associates, neighbours and partners seemed to be a part of John Williams’ life ever since he arrived in the Colony of Western Australia. His niece’s presence, at least on face value, seems to have tempered his antagonistic attitude, as his name no longer appeared in court records after her arrival on the farm. Perhaps he had mellowed in his old age.




A Violent End


John Williams made out his will in 1877149. Details in it confirm that Martha Williams, Edward Williams and Fanny Bryan were, at that time, living on the farm at Lake Nunijup with the aging mariner/farmer.

The will clearly indicates a strong bond between John Williams and Fanny Bryan. Will executors Martha Williams and Edward Williams were to provide Fanny with an annual £130 annuity from John Williams’ estate. They were to hold the estate in trust and were to wait until Fanny’s death before they could jointly take full possession of the assets. Williams’ confirmed in the will that his birth name was John Pavey. It seems he waited to almost the end of his life to reveal (in Australia) his true identity. The witnesses to his will and his confession were brothers J. F. T. Hassell and A. G. Hassell. By 1877 Captain John Hassell and his sons John and Alfred were resident in Albany. With his very substantial estate Pavey would have needed competent witnesses, and despite a probable personal loathing of them, the Hassells were two of the best-credentialed witnesses available for him.

But why would he even bother to come out on his true identity? Up until the confession recorded in the will, it was very unlikely that the Western Australian establishment (outside his close family) knew his true identity. Perhaps his intention was to dispel the rumours that he was an escaped convict. He may have feared that his assets would be forfeit to the Crown after his death if the authorities believed the rumours true. It was pointless coming clean about a convict past; in fact, even as late as the 1870’s, when he drafted his will, he risked much more than losing his assets by owning up to an unpunished criminal past. John’s brother, Charles Pavey, was a highly respected member of the Methodist Church in Albany. Perhaps John thought that by confessing his sibling relationship with Charles, he would at least bring into doubt any suspicions that may be held about him; and if he could convince the Hassells, they would be the perfect character referees, if ever required.

In fact, by helping Pavey draw up his will, the Hassells attention was drawn to the prospect of adding the Lake Rose property to there own vast farming empire. The idea of co-operating with state authorities who might want to confiscate assets left by an escaped convict, would have been the last thought entering their minds. See Carving up the Spoils.

Early on March 23, 1882, John Pavey and Martha Williams left the Lake Nunijup homestead to ride to Albany on horseback. A short distance into the journey John hit his head and cracked his skull when his horse galloped under a protruding tree branch. Knocked senseless, he died later that same day. An on-site inquest found that he had died accidentally150. The inquest was held before Mr. Albert Hassell JP, another son of Captain Hassell, and a jury of three. One of the jurymen from Mount Barker was Mr. W. Cooper, owner of the Bush Inn.


  • 149.  SRO – ACC 3436/670 and Deeds of Memorial – Book 9 Nos. 111 & 1128
  • 150.  SRO – Mount Barker Police – Letters and Report Books – ACC 427/8




An accident? By today’s standards many people would be surprised and ask why an 85- year old man was galloping a horse at the start of a long ride to Albany. Were the men of the jury surprised? Probably not, as those men would have known Pavey was a very experienced horseman and would have ridden to and from Albany several times in the previous 25 years.

There is an interesting annotation added to the report151 prepared by the investigating police sergeant for John Pavey’s accidental death. Pavey is described as ‘free.’ The definition ‘free’ used alone meant ‘not convict’ to distinguish free settlers – settlers who had arrived in the colony as free persons – from emancipists, who though free were ‘free by servitude’. Martha Williams provided the description to the police sergeant. Perhaps her shame, but more particularly her fear of seeing her uncle’s assets confiscated by the Crown, would have encouraged her to lie.

The shame felt by the Pavey family is perhaps reflected in the statutory declaration152 provided by Charles Pavey in January 1883, in support of the application for probate by John Pavey’s executor. Despite owing him much, Charles shows no gratitude and does not directly identify John Pavey as his brother, stating only that-:

John Pavey was well known to me for the last forty years and that he was commonly known by the name of John Williams and he always himself used that name, and I never knew him use the name of Pavey.

John Pavey, alias Williams, alias Andrews was buried in the garden, 30 metres from the homestead153. The burial site is in view of Lake Nunijup, just a mere drop compared to the oceans he sailed on during his sealing and whaling days. It’s rumoured there are others buried with him, more than likely William’s three children by Fanny Harris. There’s no surviving headstone (or garden) to mark where they all lie.

John – better known as Jack – Williams is remembered today as a pioneer of the upper Kent River district. Some may question whether he deserves the redemption that this positive legacy seemingly provides. Others, remembering the cruelty of the convict system in Australia and the hardness of the early pioneering years, might forgive him his excesses, at least some of them.



  • 151.  SRO – Mt Barker Occurrence and Police Letters and Reports Books – ACC 427/ 8
  • 152.  SRO – Original probate records – ACC 3436/670
  • 153. Nunijup – possibly by Mrs. P. Golder with help from Mr. F. Beech




Fanny Bryan


Fanny Bryan was John Williams’ known partner from 1849. She would have been with him the day he retired from the sea and by his side when he first moved out to Lake Nunijup to commence his farming career.

Previously she was most likely one of William Bryan’s partners on Flinders Island, but the information identifying her as such is contradictory; she may even have been one of his children. Information on Fanny’s death certificate154 implies she was born c. 1818. If that were true she would have been a child when Bryan arrived on Flinders Island in 1826. Her undertaker, the informant for her death, would have provided an estimate of her age. She could have been born much earlier than 1818.

The fact that John Williams made Fanny his prime beneficiary in his will implies a strong connection between the two. Certainly she must have been very patient with Williams, considering his relationship with Fanny Harris.

After John Williams died Fanny would have relied on executors Martha Williams and Ned Williams to provide for her. It would appear that they failed in their duty and, to make ends meet, Fanny was forced to sell what she thought was her only asset.

On June 27, 1883, fifteen months after her partner died, Fanny offered to sell the Albany townsite property (lot B37) in Stirling Terrace to George Pettit for £120 with a £5 deposit155. Pettit, an ex-convict and former constable from London had considerable land holdings within the Albany townsite and also surrounding districts. With his wife Dorothea (the late ‘Black Jack’ Anderson’s partner and also previously the wife of James Cooper, John Andrews’ associate), he owned the property on the other side of Stirling Terrace from lot B37, lot S43, and was also the proprietor of the Cambridge Brewery, located in Albany156. The building on lot S43 is today listed on the State ,register of heritage places of Western Australia.

After interviewing Fanny and assessing the value of the property to be more than £400 the Resident Magistrate R. C. Loftie refused to witness the Deed of Conveyance presented to him by Pettit157. Knowing Pettit’s convict background Loftie warned that if he proceeded against Fanny and won, any agreement subsequently made would be fraudulent. Despite this warning, Pettit was able to soon after have the deed registered.

One month later and before the ink on the first memorial of agreement to sell was dry, Fanny offered to sell lot B37 again, this time to J. M. Ward for £300 but now only requiring a £1 deposit158. Poor Fanny, who by now was known to be ‘fond of liquor’, probably alone and not knowing how to survive without John Williams, was making her own arrangements for a cash flow.



  • 154.  Death certificate – Department of the Attorney General WA
  • 155.  SRO – Deed of Memorial Book 9 No. 257
  • 156.  Heritage Council of WA – Register of Heritage Places assessment document for Kooka’s restaurant in Stirling Terrace Albany
  • 157.  Index to Colonial Secretary’s Office letters received 1880 – 1884 – L. Stawbridge
  • 158.  SRO – Deed of Memorial, Book 9 No. 261




Fanny died of bronchitis on August 20, 1883 just ten days after the second memorial was registered159

Charles and Ann Pavey, John Williams’ brother and sister in law, had been living on lot B37 in one of the cottages and renting out the other since 1866, the year they arrived in Albany from England. Fanny had actually gifted the property to them. Soon after Fanny’s death Charles Pavey applied to be registered as proprietor in fee simple for the property. His claim was based on adverse possession. He had been paying the rates on the property for over seventeen years. Pavey’s claim was eventually successful and he was registered160 as the owner, but one month after his own death. Fanny’s ownership was in effect forfeit and Pettit and Ward lost any money that they had paid out to her prior to her death.

Fanny was the beneficiary of a generous annuity from John Williams’ estate and her death came just days after she duped someone into buying the Albany townsite property she had already ‘sold’ just one month earlier. On face value, a destitute alcoholic aboriginal woman dying of bronchitis has a sadly familiar ring about it, but considering the timing and her association with Williams’ estate, there must be some suspicion about her death. Certainly Pettit and Ward later fought very hard to get their hands on the Stirling Terrace property. The extended dispute could have contributed to the demise of Charles Pavey.

Fanny’s death came just five days after that of Captain John Hassell, John Williams’ not so benevolent financer. Fanny is buried in the old Middleton Beach Road cemetery, north side, site number 421. Her unmarked gravesite contrasts with that of Captain Hassell’s which is covered with a bold headstone.



  • 159.  Albany Court House records – Albany Library
  • 160.  Landgate, Government of Western Australia – Certificate of Title Vol X1X Fol 223




Carving up the spoils


Shortly after his adoptive father died, Edward Williams married his adopted cousin Martha Williams. The marriage was a brief and turbulent partnership, as the two executors fought over how to manage and dispose of John Pavey’s estate.

In October 1883, just two months after Fanny Bryan died, Martha seems to have got her way and the entire Nunijup property, leases, freehold lots, house, barn, stock and working implements were put up for auction161. Brothers Albert and Alfred Hassell jointly purchased the property for £1250. The sale was subject to provision of a fiveyear lease of the property to Ned Williams.

Within six months of the sale of ‘Lake Rose,’ the Hassells summoned Edward Williams to the Supreme Court in Perth for non-delivery of stock they had bought at the auction. Williams failed to show at the Perth court, so the Magistrate wrote and asked the Government Resident at Albany to advise on reasonable damages162. It’s presumed that not long after this Williams may have had to forfeit his lease, because by 1885 John Parsons had moved on to the property119.

By February 1884 Martha and Edward had moved to Albany where they (more likely Martha alone) proceeded to squander the proceeds from the sale of their benefactor’s assets. In the period between March 18 and April 8, 1884 Edward placed the following same notice in four editions of The Albany Mail newspaper.

I will not be responsible for any debts incurred by my wife Martha Williams, on or after this date.”

By the end of the year they were bankrupt when all of their furniture and a house and land owned by Edward in Albany was sold under writ from the Supreme Court of Western Australia. When the bailiff entered the property on December 10, 1884 to collect the furniture, Martha confronted him with a revolver and said163

I will give the contents of this (the revolver) to you or anyone else who attempts to enter this house.”

For this threatening act she was charged to appear in the local court where she received a 40s. fine with 11s. 6d costs, in default one month’s imprisonment. It appears Martha’s uncle had taught her well enough on how to deal with the authorities.

The couple separated soon after they became bankrupt and Martha eventually moved away from Albany to live in Northam with her new partner James Fagan, who was her daughter Alice’s brother-in-law. Martha Williams died penniless at Subiaco in 1921.


  • 161.  The Albany Mail – October 16, 1883 (Advertising auction of Lake Rose farm) and 23/10/1883 (Details of sale of Lake Rose farm)
  • 162.  The Albany Mail – April 8, 1884 & June 3, 1884
  • 163.  The Albany Mail – December 16, 1884




Edward moved back to the bush, becoming a farm labourer at Kendenup. He seems to have spent time at Lake Nunijup as well, for at some point he was in the employ of the purchasers of his Lake Rose farm. He appeared in court in October 1886 charged with deserting from the services of Messrs A & A Hassell. He was ordered to return to work and pay court costs of 15s 8d164. Later he was a caretaker of ‘Boyacup’, a 3,600-acre pastoral station, located eighteen miles west of Cranbrook165

Early in 1906, police carried Ned into Albany and he died at the town hospital on January 31, 1906. He is buried in the Catholic section of the old Albany cemetery on Middleton Beach Road166. His gravesite is unmarked.

Two months after Edward Williams’ death, police made enquiries at Cranbrook and Nunijup in relation to his estate167. The legend of John Williams Andrews’ great wealth obviously persisted many years after his death. It was assumed that Edward had inherited his stepfather’s treasure and as a consequence there had been an inference of foul play in relation to his apparent premature death.

The police investigation revealed that Ned had left a will, bequeathing all his property to Mrs. J. Parsons, wife of the then owner of the Lake Rose farm. According to Mrs. Parsons, Ned’s assets comprised of only a horse bridle and saddle, gun, tent and three dogs. There were no papers or other valuables. Even though nominated as both beneficiary and executrix by Ned, Mrs. Parsons chose not to seek probate, as she believed the cost would exceed the value of the estate (£10). Later, according to the police report, Mrs. Parsons refused to sign a renunciation form or hand over the will to the Curator and maintained her insistence on not seeking probate. However, she was willing to pay for Williams’ funeral expenses and retain his assets in her care.

We know that Ned, helped along by his wife Martha, had lost John Williams Andrews’ entire fortune; but could the old sea dog’s ‘treasure chest’ still lie buried somewhere on the Lake Rose farm?



  • 164.  The Albany Mail – October 2, 1886
  • 165.  The Cyclopedia of Western Australia – J.S. Battye – Vol 2 p779
  • 166.  Albany Court House records – Albany Library
  • 167.  SRO – Mount Barker Police Occurrence and Letter Books 1905 – 1910 – ACC 427/5 & 7



















1. The Wrong John Williams

In ‘A Sense of Ownership, the Story of the Kent River’ the author describes an altercation between Noongars and John Williams, the first settler at Lake Nunijup. In fact, the altercation had nothing to do with our John Williams, rather another man with the same name, who, late in 1849 (not 1847, as recorded by the author), was working as a shepherd for Captain John Hassell on Hassell’s very isolated Jacup/Twertup pastoral leases on the Fitzgerald River about 150 miles east of Albany.

The story of the altercation with the aborigines is worth repeating here as it illustrates some key elements of early colonial life, particularly relationships between settlers and aborigines, the isolation of the Australian bush and the power of employers over those workers who signed employment contracts.

In late November 1849 there were four shepherds grazing sheep on Captain Hassell’s leases. One of them, John Williams, rushed back to Albany to report that local aborigines were intimidating him and the other shepherds, and had taken off with twenty-two sheep and most of his rifle ammunition.

The Perth newspaper recorded168 Williams’ deposition, made under oath to the Albany constabulary, as follows.

On the Saturday (1st December) evening we agreed to put the sheep together and to come in (to Albany) and make a report of the natives. On Sunday the report was written and on the Monday evening, about 7 o’clock I started to come in. I crossed over the river and I said to McDonald, “I cannot see natives, but I can smell them”. Before I had parted two or three minutes, I heard John McDonald cry out “murder, murder, oh my God”. I did not dare to return, knowing there were many natives and I had not any ammunition save three rounds.

About three hours after this I heard the natives in pursuit of me, and they threw a shower of spears at me as I was laying down in the scrub, and on this I jumped up and ran through the scrub which was very thick and I turned around and I saw a native with my gun in his hand, and another with my knapsack in his hand. They were about 25 or 30 yards off, and I had every reason to believe that all the other party were murdered.

The natives were making smokes all the way down to the coast, which I understand to be calling the natives together.

The story of how he escaped from this situation is not printed in the newspaper. It seems though that Williams arrived in Albany ten days after he was attacked, unharmed.


  • 168.  The Independent Journal (Perth Gazette) – January 4, 1850




The morning after Williams’ statement was taken a party of men, including the Government Resident Phillips, six constables and Captain Hassell immediately set out for the Fitzgerald River to deal with, what seemed to be, a serious outrage by the natives. About two days out from Albany, they met the shepherds and the remainder of their flocks. It seems that the natives had not injured or attacked them but by threat had driven them away and taken possession of their huts and a ton of flour and three bags of sugar.

When Phillips’ party returned to Albany, Williams was charged with uttering a falsehood under oath and gaoled. Soon after, he escaped169 and remained at large for two months. When re-captured he was gaoled for three months with hard labour for breaking his employment agreement170 with Captain Hassell. The other shepherd McDonald was in gaol on the same charge. Poor McDonald had been accidentally shot by a member of Phillips’ rescue party and was in a critical way171 when he was returned to Albany; only shortly after to be gaoled. In June 1850 Williams, who made an attempt on his own life while in gaol, was released into arranged employment with lodgings and provisions. But he ‘took off’ straight away. It was the opinion of some that shame deterred him from remaining in the Albany district and that he went to some other part of the colony172

Obviously Williams exaggerated the incident with the aborigines, trying to justify his return to Albany. Was he frightened or had he had enough of the isolation?

In May 1983, my land surveying duties had me placed close to the Fitzgerald Inlet at the eastern end of the Fitzgerald River. By road I was just four hours from Albany with the last 15 kilometres demanding four-wheel driving for one hour. I felt a great sense of isolation in this place, with no one for many miles around. It’s hard to imagine that in 1849 people would have agreed to be placed in (then) far greater isolation, surrounded by many hungry and possibly aggressive aborigines, and Albany, a ten day walk away, as the only place of retreat. No wonder employers needed the threat of prosecution and gaol for employees to prevent them from deserting their posts.

While at the Inlet I discovered the stone ruins of an old shepherds hut and recorded the location in my field book, C. J. Beer 100, which is now archived at Landgate Midland WA.



  • 169.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/189/309&310
  • 170.  Albany Courthouse Plaints – CONS 348/17 – John Williams marks employment agreement
  • 171.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/189/296
  • 172.  SRO – Correspondence with Colonial Secretary’s Office – ACC 36/202/7,10,63&102




2. Fanny Mason

In 1871 William Mason, a freed convict from the eastern colonies173, was working on John Hassell’s Yeriminup lease on the Frankland River north west of Lake Nunijup. Based on his father’s profession, a Professor of Minerals174, one would expect Mason to be an educated man. No doubt he was literate. He married Fanny Williams (Harris), described as an educated woman of Maori descent, at the Registrars Office at Albany in January 1872.

By 1880 William and Fanny had taken up ten acres on Martagallup (spelt Mortigallup in most old records) swamp, which is about ten kilometres east of Lake Nunijup, and grew fruit and vegetables and watered sheep there. They built a mud and slops house adjacent to the swamp. It’s reputed that the Mason’s periodically supplemented their income by possum trapping, at which they were very successful. William and Fanny had eight (known) children175
Annie b. c. 1872 (her birth is not recorded on the WA Pioneer Index)
Arthur b. 1874
Randall b. 1876
Henry (better known as Harry) b. 1879
William b. 1880
Ellen (better known as Nellie) b. 1882
Phillip b. 1886
Fanny (better known as Frances) b. 1889

The Masons became very well known identities in the Tenterden area. Their wooden house at Lake Martagallup, obviously now much improved from the original structure, has been dismantled and reconstructed as an attachment to the museum precinct at
Mount Barker. William Mason’s place and date of death is unconfirmed. It was possibly at Claremont in 1929, aged 99.

Fanny Mason, who is recognised locally as a pioneering woman of the Plantagenet district, died at Martagallup on September 15, 1932. She is buried at the Mount Barker cemetery, C of E plot 163 (no headstone). Burial records refer to her as a native of Mauritius176



  • 173.  The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians Vol 3 K-Q – Erickson (1988)
  • 174.  Marriage certificate – Department of the Attorney General WA
  • 175.  Web site – WA Pioneer Index –
  • 176.  Plantagenet (Mount Barker) Shire cemetery records




There was an obituary printed in the September 29, 1932 edition of the Mount Barker and Denmark Record.

Mrs. Fanny Mason, an old and respected resident of Martagallup was called to her eternal reward early on Thursday Sept. 15 when she died at her residence at Martagallup. Mrs. Mason was 89 years of age. She came to Albany 87 years ago from the old country eventually taking up residence at Martagallup where she has lived ever since. Four sons served in the Great War and one, Harry (actually Henry) was killed in action, while William, Arthur and Randall returned. One grandson was also killed in action.

The funeral took place on Saturday September 17 at Mt. Barker and was attended by a large circle of friends. The chief mourners were Mr. & Mrs. Hutchison (son in law and daughter), Mrs. F. Ratcliffe (daughter) and Mr. Randall Mason (son). The remains were interred in the Anglican portion of the Mt. Barker cemetery.

Lionel Vaughan Oborne, an old Martagallup settler, referred to Mrs. Mason in narratives he wrote in 1975177, as a ‘dark women, originally a pearl diver from the islands north of Australia.’

We can only assume that Fanny’s children must have spread the false rumours and innuendo about her heritage. It appears that most, if not all of them eventually moved away from the Plantagenet area, probably after the end of WW1. The four boys who served were Henry, Randall, Arthur and William. All four were in their mid or late thirties and single when they enlisted in 1915. Henry was killed in Belgium178



  • 177.  Battye Library – ACC 3319A
  • 178.  Web site -AIF Roll of Honour –








  • 179.  Original photo held by the Plantagenet Historical Society at Mount Barker



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