The View From Mount Clarence

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

Mokare’s Mob – Part 3

 Mokare and Captain Collet Barker

Our impression of life with the Aborigines at the garrison prior to the arrival of Captain Collet Barker can be compared to Scott Nind’s watercolours. From them we get a sense of place and time, but the landscapes Nind painted are unpeopled and vacant. In contrast, from the opening entry of Barker’s journal the story of day to day activity at the garrison explodes into life. In an instant we’re dropped smack-bang into the middle of a busy and highly unusual cross-cultural affair.

Nind - View of KGS Settlement from Mnt ClAbove: Another of Scot Nind’s technically accomplished watercolours from garrison era Albany. This view looks south-west from the lower slopes of Mount Clarence over the garrison and its cultivated surrounds to the harbour and Torndirrup National Park beyond. Image; View of Frederick Town, King Georges Sound, at the expiration of the first year of its settlement, Feby 7th 1828. Courtesy, Mitchell, Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Though co-authored and the preface written by the recently deceased Professor John Mulvaney, West Australian historian Neville Green is largely responsible for the book Commandant of Solitude which comprises Barker’s transcribed journals, last detail from the sequence of military commanders at the King George Sound garrison.

Green’s rescuing of Barker’s barely legible KGS journal is the most vital act of restoration Aboriginal /European relations at Albany will ever know, and amongst the very most valuable across all Australia. This is not just because of the insight and detail Barker’s entries provide, nor the unique circumstances which prevailed at Albany at the time, but because all other official documents relating to Barker’s tenure were lost. In fact, also missing is the opening month of the hand written journal.

Barker’s writing breathes descriptive life into the story of Mokare’s Mob, detailing closely observed interaction between people he not only identifies by name, sex and time of life, but gives personality to through their behaviour; what they actually say and do. Albany is extremely fortunate to have had Collet Barker come to reside upon its shores. Because of him, our largely retarded sense of historical value is immeasurably enhanced, not only across the racial divide within Western Australia, but across the country as a whole.

Equally, without Neville Green’s tenacious will to commence reconstruction of the Aboriginal world around the time of first settlement in Western Australia, we are unlikely to be anywhere near the level of understanding we have today. Someone had to begin the reconstruction process and in Western Australia Green can be mostly thanked for that. His publications, of which there are (I think) eleven, are an invaluable resource, in fact as important as the collected works of Daisy Bates to the business of identifying early Aboriginal people and their movements.  Unlike Bates, Green didn’t record the names himself but he was the first to recognise the value of gathering and ordering those that had been by officials.

As part of that work, in 1973 Green started the very difficult business of deciphering Barker’s notes and it was this, along with Nind’s Description, which largely informed William Ferguson’s 1987 luminant piece Mokare’s Domaine. It wasn’t until 1992 when Commandant of Solitude appeared, providing commentary on the journal entries as well as background on Barker’s English family origins, his upbringing and influences as well as his combat experiences in the 39th Regiment prior to arrival in Australia where he was first stationed at Raffles Bay (predating Darwin) and then King George’s Sound.

Barker’s life ended tragically on March 29th, 1831, just a few weeks after leaving the garrison aboard Isabella, making his sixteen months spent at Albany, including handover to civilian rule, all the more poignant.


Commandant of Solitude - Book CoverAbove: Cover of John Mulvaney and Neville Green’s rare and treasured Commandant of Solitude, published in a once only run by Melbourne University Press in 1992. The eighth title to be published in the Foundation Series under MUP’s prestigious Miegunyah Press label, used copies of the hardback trade for upwards of A$100, while preserved unused copies, of which there are very few, are valued at around A$1500 each.


Most of what we know about what went on at the garrison during the leaderships of Lockyer, Wakefield and Sleeman comes from official reports and enclosures sent by mail to the New South Wales Colonial Secretary, and from what was sent back from Sydney by way of orders from that office. For reasons unknown, none of that kind of documentation relating to Barker’s tenure now exists.  Somewhere along the line it was lost. Barker’s records are unedited personal impressions not intended to be read by anyone else. They were the basis for what became his (subsequently lost) official reports, his personal letters to family and friends, and possibly an intended publication of his overall regimental experiences. That Barker’s notes only exist in raw form is what separates his impressions of the goings on at ‘King George’ from all others.

Collet Barker arrived at King George Sound aboard the Governor Philip on 29th November, 1829, but the writing we have from him doesn’t commence until 18th January, 1830; more than seven weeks later.

Doubly lucky, the first we get to know of Mokare during Barker’s time comes from Thomas Braidwood Wilson, another Colonial Surgeon, who arrived with Barker on the Governor Phillips and ended up staying a month.

Sanctioned by Barker, who took over command of the garrison the day after and therefore stayed behind, Wilson embarked on a hastily organised expedition intending to explore north and west of Albany (in the direction of the Swan River) using Mokare as sole Aboriginal guide. Although other members of the expedition party were long known to Mokare, the team set out just three days after Wilson and Barker had come ashore and is therefore clear example of the trust Mokare held in the military leadership by that time.

Wilson wrote up the experience as chapters 16 to 19 in Narrative of a Voyage Around the World. (Free to download or read online.) In Wilson’s account of the ten day trek he presents himself as outright leader and in complete control, though admits to some dissention occurring from day five. The upset came about because the outward length of the excursion was not only longer than anyone on it had been led to believe, including Mokare, but had ventured far from the security of Mokare’s home fires.

As an aside, but importantly, it is through Wilson’s account that we come to accept it was Mokare who went with Wakefield to the Porongurups five months earlier.

We also gain insight as to how optimistic but limited Wilson’s attempts at conversing with Mokare were as Wilson one night drilled him for an Aboriginal sense of God and the afterlife. But Mokare was on edge, aware of potential attack from the Will’s men.

Whether it was that Mokare had got into an enemy’s country, we did not know; but he was particularly on the alert during the night. Some noise, not sufficient to arouse any other of the party, made him start up, seize his musket, and level it at something, which he afterwards said was a to-ort (a dog).


Before proceeding on our journey, we took a slight repast; and, while in the act of doing so, Mokare sprang on his legs, seized his musket, and ran forward, making a hideous noise. We soon perceived the cause of this conduct: a native was advancing towards us…


The native was alone so intended (probably) to discover on behalf of others who it was moving through their country. The exchange illustrates Mokare’s precarious and highly insecure relationship with the Aborigines of the Mount Barker area. We also get to see how Mokare bent his speech as he moved between European and Aboriginal worlds.

He and Mokare entered into an animated conversation. The stranger, in relating his story, did it in a sort of recitative, far from being disagreeable. Mokare, who, at first, talked in the tone that he had acquired from us, soon relapsed into the same recitativo, which, it would appear, is their natural way of communicating with each other.


So, while alert to the dangers, we commence to thinking Mokare was not afraid to travel toward and into Willmen territory when in company and armed with a musket.


Bella Kelly 3Above: Borderland between Menang and Willmen country. A view of the Stirling Ranges from near Mnt Barker by Bella Kelly, a descendant of Mokare’s close relative Coolbun. Image: Landscape (with mountains) c 1960, watercolour and gouache on paper, City of Albany Collection, Photo: Bo Wong © Estate of Bella Kelly


About a month after this enlightening episode Barker’s journal commences and the entries are immediately illuminating. Beginning January 18th, 1829, we are made privy to Barker’s day by day experience which I have tried to summarise below in monthly portions.


January 1830

On opening, we discover 20 or 30 Aborigines had assembled at the garrison from differing directions, obtained some minimal biscuit rations, then left, as if on some grand outing, north toward an important gathering site. They are expected to be gone for some time, a week perhaps, yet two days later Mokare is back at the garrison hauling in the fish net with the soldiers. Barker reveals the day after that Mokare knows the movements of his fellow Aborigines through the smoke he sees (from Mount Clarence), telling Barker the men will be in from Wills country in a couple of days.

Contrary to Wilson’s experience, this is an alternative picture of Mokare, one of him avoiding all-Aboriginal contact with the Willmen tribe. To my interpretation, this suggests he knows he’s much more at risk.

It is mid-January, season of burning, so plentiful for wallaby and also time when the inland families make toward the coast. Mokare learns from his returning mob there is soon to be a big gathering at Woolyongup, near King River, and tells Barker. On January 23rd Barker says all the blacks went away towards it, yet once again Mokare two days later is back at the garrison.

Mokare returned alone very tired & said he would not go again into the bush with black fellows. He would only go with me. He probably found the rain uncomfortable last night.


Barker is only eight weeks at the garrison so perhaps not fully aware of how long Mokare has been battling his enemies. Collectively, from what we know to this point, we might think it isn’t so much the rain that discomforts Mokare as it is the idea of taking a spear in the neck, but there is something else at play here. Mokare’s official expedition membership will have provided him with arms, food and blankets where-as time in the bush among his own mob meant existing by traditional means, so in all probability it wasn’t just the threat against him that determined his actions.

Four years of more-or-less constant interaction with the garrison must surely have affected Mokare, though his apparent penchant for the garrison may be more about succour than comfort alone. Mokare’s desire for food and shelter looks to be as much about the state of his health as anything else, and Barker knows it.

Additionally, baring in mind we don’t join with his thoughts until January 18th, Barker’s writing quickly reveals his preoccupation with trying to comprehend the conflict between the Albany Aborigines and those from north of the Porongurups.

Superficially, Barker sees the battle as rife, an uncontained tit-for-tat struggle between two groups, highlighting the far greater association between them than Mokare’s Mob and others to the east or west. To Barker, the Willmen conflict presents as an open-ended sequence of vengeance spearings, many of which reportedly end in death. He is dismayed by it. From the outset Barker expresses disapproval and seeks to alter the behaviour.

Over the years many who have taken interest in this subject have absorbed a generalised view that the conflict was one between the Menang tribe or language group and their neighbouring northern group commonly referred to as the Willmen. But this isn’t the case. The conflict was as Scot Nind earlier concluded, more between two extended families or clans. One that happened to be based at King George’s Sound and the other inland approximately forty miles, whose heartland could probably be described as the Gordon River area.  

The conflict didn’t mean Mokare’s Mob didn’t interact positively with others living north of them, nor did it mean tribesmen from the north didn’t move freely in and around King George Sound. What the conflict gave the Aborigines was an enemy, someone to blame their bad luck on, someone to exorcise their superstitions upon, someone to seek revenge upon, a target which permitted maintenance of traditional warrior culture among mostly young and unmarried men.

Violence was not just practised on the acknowledged enemy, however. Lesser flare-ups occurred between smaller, localised groups and between individuals. No less than in any other human culture. (Think U.S. gun laws today.)

Barker may have despaired at the extent of the spearing and how individual targets were not just men but women, children and the elderly too, but it’s unlikely he understood how deeply Aboriginal methods of violence were ingrained in Noongar culture.

On the one hand, Mokare and his younger brother Taragon seemed to understand Europeans didn’t like the idea of vengeance killings, and sympathised with the view it was wrong, or at least damaging, while on the other it is clear the Aborigines saw those actions as matters of justice and honour, both of which related to their sense of spiritual well-being.

Putting a halt to ritualised spearing was never going to be easy.


February 1830

In February, Mokare accompanies Barker on a follow-up exploration of the Hay and Denmark Rivers, the narrative of which Barker sent to his friend T.B. Wilson by letter. This expedition notably excludes Willmen country, focussing on land north west of Albany, toward what was later named Lake Muir and the Blackwood River.


March 1830

Early in March Mokare’s brother Taragon suffers a slow death from snake bite. Once again it is Coolbun, brother of the local mulgarradock (medicine man) Dr Uredale, who threatens the whites with his spear. But also once again, the payback killing is physically directed at the Albany Aborigine’s northern enemies, those reiterated through Barker’s notes as always having their ‘belly full’.

Crucially, we note that Mokare has now lost two of his younger brothers while the military are in situ and that on both occasions it is Coolbun who displays the most violent reaction toward the settlers. This reaction reflects two things. First, the closeness of relationship between Coolbun and Mokare’s immediate family. Second, the suspicion or unease he feels toward the incomers.

Importantly, as Taragon was not speared the death was once again attributed to magic, the actions of one of the Will’s tribe’s powerful mulgarradocks, two of which we later learn live in the region of the Gordon River.

Mid-March (13th) we learn Coolbun has speared Wallangoli, who belonged to ‘Will’s country’, in revenge for Taragon’s death. Once again it is Coolbun who is aggressor. This actionwas going to prompt retaliation so key family members sought safety at Bald Head. These family members were named as Coolbun, Dr Uredale (Coolbun’s own-brother), Talwyn and Taton (Dr Uredale’s sons) and Waiter (Mokare’s other own-brother). Barker notes that all these belonged to a territory called Cormo. A week later we learn Mokare, Nakinah, Wapere (Nakinah’s son) and Perityat, were also all at Cormo, once again reaffirming the very close kinship and territorial links between the families of Coolbun and Mokare.

Later in March Barker spent time fishing for salmon with Mokare, some prisoners escaped and the Aborigines, though knowing of their whereabouts and incentivised to return them, failed to do so.


Bella Kelly - PorongurupsAbove: View of the Porongurups by Bella Kelly. Early 1970s, watercolour and gouache, held in private ocllection. The Porongurup Range is an isolated outcrop of  rugged hills in upper Menang country close to the higher reaches of the Kalgan River. Populated by huge granite stands and a precipitous Karri forest, its unique often mystically described blend of elevated stone and timber has inspired spiritual belonging in people since time immemorial. Image courtesy Bella Kelly Retrospective Website.


April 1830

In April, Coolbun’s wife had a baby and we learn of the etiquette surrounding Aboriginal births. (Note, this baby, a boy, may be Waylup, apical patriarche of the Colbung family.)

Also in April, the conflict mounts and we learn of men, women and children dying. Barker becomes more familiar with different people, identifying them by name and what part they play in the conflict. We also see how the garrison is used as protection by Mokare’s Mob and how Barker withholds food as a means of attempting to bend Aboriginal action away from the fight.

Day by day we build a picture of who is who, where their fires are, who these individuals are more aligned to (Wills or Menang) and also, importantly, the frequency of use of Mokare’s sister Mullet’s camp (called Yaramal) which is close to where the farm is (Old Farm) by others.

The conflict dominates Barker’s entries and because of it we also begin to see how organised the fighting is, who is targeted and how arrangements for the event are pre-determined. Barker is almost overrun by the activity, the garrison is like a base for blacks and whites alike, as much engaged in supporting provision of food as physical protection.


May 1830

In early May things die down and Barker turns his attention to learning.  He mentions Aboriginal seasons, cultural practises and beliefs, recording the dreamtime origin story of Arregain and Moenang, along with the initiation rites of the mulgarradocks.

Notably, Barker tells the Aborigines not to rely so much on the garrison for food though he will reward them with biscuit if they return runaway prisoners.

The warring Wills men are then talked of again and importantly we learn of the coastal connection between the King George’s Sound families and those camped eastward all the way to the mouth of the Pallinup River, east of Cape Riche (80 miles). Barker learns the Wills are to battle the coastal men who have come to the Sound in support. The fight is to be staged on a flat near to Yaramal, the farm. The coastal Aborigines propose the soldiers join them in battle, bringing their flintlocks, but Barker refuses. The fight, in the end, does not appear to have taken place.

Later, Mokare tells Barker the fires around Palerongup (mouth of the Pallinup River), 9 days walk to the east, are abandoned in winter, the families moving inland to the wooded area of Cojinerup (Stirling Ranges).


June 1930

On the opening day of June Barker asks Mokare about first arrival of white people at King George’s Sound.

1 June: Much hail & rain. Potatoes cut for planting. Conversation with Mokare about 1st arrival of White People here. He said black fellows knew nothing about them or their reasons for coming & were suspicious of them. When they found they had no ill intentions, but on the contrary were kind & friendly, they readily became friends (“shook hands”) with them & would always continue so. . .


Mokare’s response is matter of fact. There is no mention of returned spirits or ghosts, no suggestion Mokare sees the whitemen as anything else but people the same as himself. The response seems honest as Barker doesn’t come across as hesitant or unsure. By this point, if the Menang did once perceive the settlers as incarnations of the spirit world, Mokare knows better than to let them think it. By mid-1830, three and half years into the garrison’s time at Albany, Mokare is so familiar with the white men any remnant traces of awe and wonder he might have felt have been shrugged off.

During June, Barker’s attention is drawn to the west where he journeys again for a few days with Mokare. Afterwards a man named Maragnan arrives and we learn of his association with the Augusta area. Some escaped prisoners went that way, headed toward Swan River. Barker takes a list of place names and descriptions of country from Maragnan.

Mid-month two men arrive from Will’s country, Yoomuch and Naindert, inviting the Albany men to a grand corroborree at Mooral (Moorilup) in the season of Minangal.  The envoys say the fighting is over.


1st August;  . . .  . Now little Minongal, little Moken. Minongal lasts about two and a half moons. The blacks are now a good deal together for two months…


Here we see how large gatherings are organised months in advance. The inference is that there were periods of peace, at least people working towards periods of peace, perhaps so as marriages and ceremonies could be carried out. The wider, more important business of maintaining tribal affairs weighed over disputes, though one suspects grievances were never buried too far below the surface.

Also in June, Barker learns the bible-esque Dreamtime story of the flooding at Mount Many Peaks to the east.


Bella Kelly - Morning over the StirlingsAbove: Sunrise over the Stirlings by Bella Kelly,  c 1970s, acrylic on board. Collection of Trevor Garland. Image courtesy of Bella Kelly Retrospecive website.


July 1830

In July Barker discovers the Albany Aborigines have knowledge of people’s movements from long distances away, maybe a hundred miles, if those movements threatened or breached Menang country.  The so-called bush telegraph was quick and efficient. But superstition also plays a part. Dreams of visits from foreigners (Aboriginal men from far away) had been had and thought not to bode well. Fear of the unknown.

This month Barker also discovers rarely caught wild dog is considered a great treat when roasted in the skin.

Regarding relations at the garrison, Barker refused Nakinah food one night because he didn’t want him to become too reliant on the garrison. This is Barker’s second direct action on the matter, the first being in May when he asked Mokare to tell everyone not to rely on the garrison for food, that they had also to get it themselves. Here we see example of the Aboriginal difficulty with knowing food was available and being denied it.

As the relationship developed, differing concepts of ownership and sharing were teased out and it become’s clear the Aborigines were exposed to the military’s constant reluctance when it came to food provision. Mokare and Nakina will have recognised the need to work the relationship to their benefit, where-as, perhaps, others may not have. By now we know Mokare valued the relationship as much as or more than anyone else and I find myself asking, could this have been because he was sick, because he felt so unwell most of the time? Was Mokare’s poor health the overriding reason he clung so closely to the military camp?

Barker regularly withheld food as a means of disapproving of certain behaviours, mostly revenge spearings and greed and he’s not beyond reproach for doing it. On the one-hand Barker dispenses food to win favour, then withholds it to express his dislikes. Given the frequency and amount of food he doles out over the course of his diary, the strategy comes across as almost alarmingly short-sighted.

Also in July, Coolbun, his wife and two young children one day come in to visit Dr Davis at the garrison. The Coolbuns are filled with both joy and concern for their baby boy. Coolbun’s home fire is Narinyup, south side of Princess Royal Harbour, linking the harbour entrance to the south facing coast; the place Barker earlier called Cormo.

Most significantly in June we learn of yet another fight, this time between two local groups, eventually broken up by Tallimanmundie because it was too one-sided. In discussing the fight and the merits of dexterity in avoiding spears, Mokare says he is no longer good at it because since joining with the white fellows his sight has disimproved to the extent he would be speared immediately.

To this point Barker has reported Mokare being unwell a few times and more references follow. To Barker, Mokare ails from concerning but passing minor health issues but I would aver this is first recognition Mokare gives that he is falling prey, either simply to some worsening condition or else (more likely) to Willmen magic.

Mokare knows his health is poor, and probably has been for some time, hence his early departure from the great gathering at Woolyongup six months earlier. Perhaps it is the presence of the Willmen mulgarradocks at Woolyongup gatherings that warded him off?

Also in July, Barker learns there is to be yet another gathering at Woolyongup, this time between Maragnan’s men from the west and Monguey’s from the east. Mid-month many of Mokare’s Mob (Dr Uredale, Copran, Tapatroit, Yunghite etc etc. . . ) are at Woolyongup. They return after a week. Furthermore, Mokare is unwell over four days at the end of the month. Once again, Mokare did not go to Woolyong.

Barker writes that Dr Davis considers Mokare’s liver is affected. The two have obviously conversed and his concern suggests Barker now thinks Mokare has a condition such as hepatitis or jaundice that could threaten his life.


August 1830

Early in August Barker discovers from Mokare the season is little Minongal or Little Moken. He also learns of a strongly scented wood (Sandalwood) to be found inland of Cojenerrup (Stirling Ranges, head of the Pallinup River).  Also, Waperi (Nakinah’s son) is spooked by a ghost, once again highlighting the incidence of superstition among the Aborigines. Later, there is anxiety among the Aborigines about a (probable commercial sealing) ship reportedly seen, amd a missing bull is directed back toward the settlement by an unknown Aborigine, while an unrecognised old man from Many Peaks has come to be introduced to Barker.

The location of Mount Manypeaks features in Barker’s Journal. How he tied it to the name the Aborigines gave it is hard to know. Matthew Flinders identified the landmark (30 miles east of Albany, between Two People’s Bay and Cheynes Beach) in 1801 and it had become well known to roaming mariners since. The frequency of mention and clear associaton between Aboriginal people at Manypeaks and Albany once again reflects the closeness of ties between the coastal dwellers.

Mid-August Mokare is unwell again and this time Barker in addition to most of the Albany Aborigines are seriously concerned. The Aborigines implore him to get up and go into the bush to cure his yony yony, which Mokare eventually does with Dr Uredale. Also, there is more discussion about spearing, this time as custom for broken marriage promises.


Bella Kelly - View through trees - late 1980sAbove: View Through Trees by Bella Kelly. Koikyennuruff, the Menang name for the Stirling Ranges, is visbile from Albany. Drawing interest from settlers from the outset, it lies on the fringe of Menang country and was safely accessible only by those whose kindship ties permitted their visiting. The range represented a boundary of sorts between the coastal and inland clans. Image: c late 1980s, acrylic on canvas board, Collection of Mt Barker Community College, this version courtesy Bella Kelly Retrospective website.


September 1830

September opens with Mokare being unwell yet again.

The Sulphur arrives from the Swan River with Major Irwin aboard (along with the westward bound runaway prisoners who were eventually captured at Bunbury). There is an unusualy good corroborree at this time, featuring around 30 participants mimicking the death of a kangaroo. Barker is probably updated on the pending handover of the garrison to the Swan River colony, something he is likely to have known about since visting Perth with Dr Wilson the previous November. The Amity also arrives into the Sound baring provisions and orders from Sydney.

Importantly, there is talk of Mokare going to the Swan River on the Sulphur but according to Barker another of the Albany Aborigine’s, Watyequart, vetoed the idea.

Meanwhile, Nakinah and some others had west been to Murrum country (Nornalup/Denmark). The weather was wet and cold and the report was that many Aborigines there weren’t well. Toward the end of the month a large number of Aborigines come in from the west with Maragnan. These were probably the west men heading to Woolyongup for the planned gathering.

Still in September and most revealing, Mokare applies for rations through Dr Davis so he can go to the bush for two or three days. There are no blankets so Barker gives him a roll of carpet and Mokare goes off. Mokare’s application indicates Barker can’t just dispense rations at will, they have to be authorised and issued through offical means. Largely, we are left to guess at the methodology and extent of Barker’s generosity in this regard. Had the official documents survived we could be certain about so much more.

Finally, before the month ends a report comes back from other Aborigines that Mokare is very sick.


October 1830

October commences with a great many Aborigines at the garrison, to whom Barker feeds plums. For a period there seems to be an abundance of plums, fresh or preserved is hard to know. Also, there are more mentions of Aborigines applying for rations and being absent without leave, implying formal arrangements for ration provision are not being met. Barker’s tone reveals he is getting a little fed up and perhaps the term ‘plums’ is used in sarcasm but the Aborigines are clearly hungry. They are making waneras and selling them to Dr Davis for two pounds of flour each. Knives also. Barker notes the knife blades are now made of broken glass sharpened to an edge they can shave with.

Barker writes more about the seasonal behaviour of the kangaroo and the lava of flying ants as food source for the Aborigines. Mokare tells him of his mob heading inland to Cojineerup for the important female initiation rite of maintye or myntte, which makes a doctor/medicine woman of the chosen one/s.  We leard than Dr Uredale’s wife, Talwyn’s mother, has died. There is much sickness among the Aborigines mid-month. Children are not afraid to come in to the garrison unaccompanied and approach Barker.

Towards the end of October Barker admits there is flu among the Aborigines and Mokare, now having also got it, complains bitterly of the effect. Barker had earlier complained of Mokare’s moaning, implying he was hypochondriac. Sickness is everywhere. Barker is unwell and vomiting himself. He issues new blankets to his men. Mokare complains to Barker, saying he feels sick when so much at the garrison and goes to Dr Uredale’s fire at Mount Melville, then away to Kings River. Barker is picqued by Mokare going to King River without telling him, feeling he’s been ‘abandoned‘.  Barker reveals at this time he has made a promise to bring Mokare to Sydney when the garrison dispands.


26 October.   . . . Mokare says a great number of the Aborigines are very sick. The reason it would seem of a number of them having gone to Cojinerup is that there are several Doctors there, one of then named Caparole is very famous. His wife Cannany (Cannangole or Parten) is also a Doctress.Dr Uredale is but a middling one, besides which he is sick himself.


Also in October, we learn the season is called Mandianary and that Wapere, Nakinah’s son, has been ‘let go’ by the soldiers and now has taken up with the prisoners. By this we see there are many relationships going on at the garrison, Mokare and Barker’s just one.

Barker considers the idea Mokare’s Mob are perhaps now policing themesleves with regard to items pilferred from the garrison, thinking those thought to be risking the relationship were being sent away. He quotes Watyequart being banished to his home fire at the Porongerups.


November 1830

First week in November Barker talks of himself and Mokare being unwell yet again. He says that Mokare was talking to himself and when questioned on it said he had been talking to the ghosts, probably hoping they would cure his sickness. The pair talk about death and burial rites.

During the second week Barker takes the boat up the Kalgan as far as it will freely go. They camp on Elbow Island. Barker explores the south bank as far as King River, bringing food with him and distributing it to the Aborigines he meets along the way. The scene is idyllic, one of harmony between a peaceable white man with his entourage and bands of familiar, untroubled natives hello-ing back to him as he distributes food along the way.

A party of Aborigines comes in from Porongurups on the 22nd, including two Wills men, reporting large white cows on the banks of the Upper Kalgan. They think they must have come from the Swan River but I think were more likely let off from a ship some time previous. Mokare learns from them that the Moorilup (North Mnt Barker) men are sulky. Mokare says it’s because as usual they have eaten too much. There is a long discussion about initiation rites of young people.

Later in November Barker learns from Mokare the Dreamtime creation story of King River, Oyster Harbour and Green Island. Mokare wants to go off and bring Barker a couple of Towan, ringneck parrots, which from now begin to feature in the notes. Mokare knows Barker will soon be leaving for Sydney, saying the birds are a present for the Governor. Importantly, over the years the Aborigines had come to understand the colonial ships coming and going from Albany were moving people around Australia, maps of which had been drawn and used to illustrate not only distances and locations but also shifts in time; for example sunrise in Sydney being 3 hours ahead of sunrise at King George’s Sound. It was not unusual for a well known, adventurous Aborigine to journey by sea.

Dr Uredale is still sick.

On 26th November the first rose planted in Albany blooms. At the end of the month Tallimamunde (from Porongurups) speared Metyalpin (Denmark area) in the thigh and Mokare was compelled to intervene.


Bella Kelly - BirdsAbove:  Birds by Bella Kelly. These parrots are not disimilar to the towan or ringneck parrot Mokare searched east and west of Albany for in order to give to Captain Barker as a present for the governor of New South Wales. Image: Birds, c 1960s, watercolour, Private Collection, taken from Bella Kelly Website


December 1830

Early in December Mokare travels 24 miles east along the coast to Mount Manypeaks in order to get Barker his Ringneck Parrot. Also a large number of Aborigines who hadnt been at the garrison for some time came in and Barker once again dished out the biscuit. Barker’s notes indicate he is becoming increasingly tired and frustrated with the food for relations strategy and we bein to suspect he is perhaps more looking forward to leaving than building any greater rapport or legacy.

On December 5th Dr Uredale dies. The event is significant, drawing a strong emotional reaction, far greater than his wife’s passing. Barker noted responses of the Aborigines to the various deaths which occurred among them and it is clear the passing of Mokare’s two younger brothers and now Dr Uredale are far more evocative. Interestingly, those who die from spear wounds do not appear to be mourned in the same way as those who die from sickness, poison or accident.

Dr Uredale’s death draws interesting comments from Barker. He first says that Dr Uredale’s son, Taton, and infant daughter would go and live with Coolbun, their uncle. Coolbun was Uredale’s own or true brother (same parents). Talwyn, Dr Uredale’s elder son, was then to go into the bush with Nakinah, representing some kind of custodial responsibility on Nakinah’s part, yet more evidence of the important kinship ties between Dr Uredale and Nakinah. Barker also notes that Metyalpin, the old man speared in the thigh by Talimamunde, was to go to Comandyup and that Coolbun was to go to the north (Will’s Country).

Note:  I now think Comandyup is the place we have been calling Candyup. This is Mnt Boyle, the hill east side of Lower Kalgan, where Patrick Taylor later established his homestead, Glen Candy. From the height of Comandyup, fires could be seen well east along the coast as well as northwards, inland toward the Porungurups and Moorilup. It is the high point on the route eastwards from Albany, above the river crossing. Metyalpin was from the west side of King George Sound, he was the Denmark connection, yet was to make his way to the east of Oyster Harbour while Coolbun went inland. Contained within these movements maybe a system of protecting coastal kallas through physical presence. Metyalpin was in no condition to fight so his presence could only have been of directional or symbolic value. Coolbun’s move inland was almost certainly to seek revenge for his brother’s death.

Through the reading there emerges a pattern of behaviour between the coastal families that resembles a protective alliance against the inland families. While it is clear the Albany Aborigines also had friendly or familial ties inland up the Hay and Kalgan Rivers, it is equally clear both the source and direction of the honor spearings/killings (paybacks) Mokare’s Mob both suffer and committ do not run east or west. This, possibly, could be the binding element of the so-called Shell People alliance. That these families could not extend or be driven any further to the south meant they had to hold out against intrusion from the north.

This may also be central to the willingness of Mokare’s Mob to engage with those who began to come in from the sea, especially those in ships and in uniform who, at that time, had only ever arrived with positive intentions.

Still early in December we learn Mokare and others closely associated with the garrison are searching for newly hatched Towan because of the demand for them from the whitemen who want to cage and keep them. It causes a problem with the natives because Towan hatchlings are a seasonal delicacy and other Aborigines (Tapatroit’s family) are  eating them first, and at the garrison soldiers and prisoners are quarreling over whose bird is whose. Jealousies.

Mid-December Mokare and others go to the west Towan hunting and return with a catch. They bring Maragnan back (his father is the old man, Metyalpin), who is very sick. They report eight or nine women and a man there had recently died from colds.

On Christmas Day the Sulphur arrives with James Stirling and others aboard, including Colonial Surgeon at the Swan River, Dr Alexander Collie. They dine with Barker who gets all the news of the struggling Perth and Fremantle settlements, including discovery of the Avon Valley by Ensign Dale of J.S. Roe’s Survey Department. It was discussed outside of Stirling’s ear that Mokare was to go to the Swan River, but when Stirling overheard without explanation, abruptly said no. Mokare was willing, in fact, ‘very anxious to go.’ The Sulphur sailed on Boxing Day leaving news there was an overland expedition from the Swan and Canning Rivers led by Captain Bannister on its way to the Sound.

Note: Details of Stirling’s movements  and activities between September 1830 and January 1831 are very sketchy. Barker’s journal reveals he was at Albany very briefly over the Christmas of 1830. Clipped newspaper reports suggest he was away from the Swan River on various sailings with Ellen (Mrs Stirling) and his two young boys (Andrew 5 yrs and Frederick nearly 2 yrs) for four months from September. Ellen Mangles, Stirling’s 23 year-old wife, was expecting her third child, William, who was born in February 1831 and who died soon after.


At the end of December the fish traps at Oyster Harbour (King River entrance) were being used. Metyalpin had recovered from his spearing and Mokare led others to York for spears. Interestingly, John Host had thought the place named as York by Barker might well have been the actual place of York on the Avon River, but the Avon Valley, though thrown open for selection by Stirling in November, wasn’t settled in anyway until September 1831, and mention of the name York didn’t appear for another couple of years (September 1833). The York Barker mentions is only a few miles south west of the settlement.


January 1831

Early in January 1831 Barker reports the death of some sheep from an unkown poison. This is first mention of (what is not yet understood to be Gastrolobium) posion bush at the farm and more sheep are lost as the month rolls on. Metyalpin and Talimamunde made peace, brokered by Mokare and Coolbun, for the first time a gift of damper being proferred. Barker noted this with an exclamation mark. Sadly, Dr Uredale’s daughter is lost in the bush. Taylwyn (her brother) confirms her death mid-month, Barker noting he is ‘little affected.’ On the 13th Barker says Nakinah wants to go burning for wallaby at Bald Head but Coolbun must give permission as it is his place. He also notes that now Dr Uredale is dead, ‘King George‘ (Sound) belongs to Coolbun. Heretofore Barker has described Coolbun’s place as Cormo, Bald Head, south side of Princess Royal Harbour (13 March, pg 274).

This is intersting in terms of explaining the territory Barker, and later Collie, both refer to as King George Sound. It’s not clear if this means the locality of Mokare’s kalla (the shores of Princess Royal Harbour) of the area north or Mount Clarence to Oyster Harbour and across the water to the northern shores of the Sound as far as Nanarup (or beyond).

This month three prisoners escape to the eastward hoping to meet with sealers along the coast. Barker offers biscuit reward to Mokare, Nakinah and others but they ‘seem little interested.’ One of the prisoners is John Smith who was never found but who may have come back to live at Albany after the garrison left three months later. This may be the Smith who gave his name to an Aboriginal family living at Yerriminup. (See Quartermaine Country) Very good potatoes are dug up at the garrison and bread made from first wheat/corn grown at the farm, both of great interest to Mokare’s Mob. Barker wants to encourage the Albany Aborigines to learn how to cultivate the land.

At the end of January there is talk of the Wills men being not far away, looking for someone from Mokare’s Mob to spear. Wannewar ran off with Talicatwalle’s sister and is to be speared. Barker has no sympathy for Wannewar as he has speared and killed children. Wannewar is sent away and heads north to Wills country where he sleeps in trees to avoid being found and killed.


February/March 1830

This is the last month of the military occupancy at King George Sound. February opens with a number of detailed entries largely concerned with the ongoing Willmen saga. The Aborigines are at the garrison in number and the mood is high as Barker issues food while Mokare and his kin talk of battle.

Importantly,  on February 1st Barker makes mention of a place he calls Orrangaddack near Mount Barker (pge 391). He relates it to a site T.B. Wilson visited with Mokare a couple of days into their exploration in November 1829. This same place was later named in the Daisy Bates records as Warungatup, now commonly known as St Werburghs, where George Egerton-Warburton established his farm after making alliance with the Spencer family. (See In Search of Ngurabirding – Part 2; The Hay River Brigade ) Warungatup is an essential locality for the remnants of the King George Aborigines whom Alexander Collie was just a couple of months away from describing as Mongalan’s Tribe after Mongalan, also known as Mongheron or Nonglleron, Mokare’s grandfather who Barker detailed on February 4th as that very large, tall, stout man of legend, to whom Nakina was quite a child compared and who had ten wives.

We will look more closely at Warungatup when we continue Albany’s fascinating inclusive history through resumption of the In Search of Ngurabirding series.

Early in February the much troubled Bannister Expedition party finally arrived, having been guided in by the western men Marignan and Metyalpin. Barker becomes preoccupied with the new arrivals and what appears to  have transpired during their journey. He then reports on runaway prisoners deciding to take their chances locally rather than return to Sydney to serve out their time. Eight men absconded between Feb 6th and 11th, all but one are caught.

Mid month there is more talk of approaching Will’s men and expected spearings. Barker says both Mokare and Nakinah are targets, but nothing happens. The Isobella arrives from Hobart enroute to Swan River. Captain Carew who later reurns to Albany with the 63rd Regiment is aboard. Barker introduces him to Mokare’s Mob. Isobella takes Bannister and others of the troubled overland expedition when leaving.

On February 25th Barker writes that Mokare was speaking of the settlers coming and that some of his countrymen were talking of settling with them. This appears to be further bargaining by Mokare as Barker states Mokare’s condition that those who do take up with the whites must have a shirt and trousers. As the month draws to a close and the expected departure of the military nears there is further discussion about the changes and what will happen. Mokare says the Aborigines are anxious but that after a time will probably come to work for the whites. Barker asks Mokare to tell his people not to all come at once, to come slowly as the settlers arrive.

Thus, it is absolutely clear Mokare and the Albany Aborigines understand the future they are facing into. The white presence is permanent. What they were almost certainly not prepared for was the ill-discipline and drunkness of the replacement soldiers which accompanied the change.

Barker’s journal effectively ends on February 28. There are a number of late March entries which are concerned with the 39th Regiment leaving the garrison and arrival by the Isobella of the 63rd under Lieutenant William Carew.  Barker left King George Sound on March 26th, making for a six day transition. During this time the Aborigines gave a corroborree but the soldiers of both regiments, particularly Barker’s 39th,  drank themselves stupid, Barker writing that the whole detachment that night had become unhinged.

This is first mention of open drunkeness by the soldiers and we know from previous posts (In Search of Ngurabirding Parts 4a & 4b) that the 21st Regiment which replaced the 63rd two years later were notorious for the same behaviour. Heavy consumption of alcohol at Albany was introduced to the Aborigines by the 63rd and 21st respectively.

Alexander Collie, Albany’s first Resident Magistrate arrived aboard the Sulphur mid-April, about two and half weeks after Barker left. I wonder what Mokare’s Mob made of that time?



Over the course of Barker’s journal the picture of Mokare’s Mob, who we are now able to call the King George (Sound) tribe, Shellam’s King Ya-nup, ameliorates. Clarity and definition sharpen and we are able to make sense of what’s really been happening.

By February 1831 the garrison has become a central gathering place for a clan whose kallas extend eastwards to Mnt Manypeaks, westwards to Nornalup and inland to the upper reaches of the Hay and Kalgan Rivers, in the immediate Albany area consisting of five or six small family groups (8 persons on average). Beyond these fenestrated boundaries there are more ties but the territory outside is not their stronghold. Because of the social organisation of the Aborigines it is mostly the paternal leaders of these localised family groups, and their sons, who Barker has been introducing us to, and because of the military nature of the settlement the subject of discussion has almost always been fighting.

Barker triumphs in the confidence the Aborigines have found in him, offering food while dispensing his own brand of moral guidance. Because of his anthropological, religious and careerist interests, Barker only partially reveals what’s actually been going on. John Host’s vision of the Aborigines swarming over the garrison seeking to exploit and subsume it suddenly becomes very real. Barker is overrun, he has no choice but to allow the Aborigines the reign they demand. Barker and the Aborigines know the military presence at Albany is coming to an end. How much the Aborigines comprehend of the long term changes which are to come is very hard to determine but the military have been highly sucessfully infiltrated, and from multiple points of view cunningly conquered.

Barker feigns command at Albany but it is the Aborigines who control their own actions.

Not so fast though. The Aborigines have come to dominate proceedings at the garrison because the military has nothing else to do only be there, occupying space. Barker’s priority has been to protect his personnel, soldiers and convicts alike, and following on from the previous leadership has more-or-less successfully wrapped-up the mission. The Swan River Colony at Fremantle, Perth and Guildford has been up and running a year and a half. Unless something goes seriously awry in February the NSW Government’s job is done. Its geo-political aim of retaining Western Australia within Britain’s colonial empire and transitioning it peacefully into localised management is on the verge of completion. No wonder Barker is triumphant, no wonder the mood is celebratory. Everyone, for the time being, is happy.

But we can’t just leave it there either. Four full years and two months have gone by since Lockyer arrived to rescue the marooned Aborigines from Michaelmas Island. Mokare, ailing for at least the last twelve months, emerges the great friend of the white leadership, his brother Nakinah demonstrating his position as custodian of the land by remaining comparatively aloof. Over this time the Albany Aborigines have enjoyed their association with the soldiers and convicts but loosened their grip on traditional living, so much so there’s talk of further changes by coming in to live among the settlers. Through his final journal entries Barker puts it to us that the Aborigines understand the economic relationship of work and reward, the way of the whiteman implicit in that reckoning.

What we have to understand here is the knowledge Mokare has of European technology and power. His final discussions with Barker, though still bargaining, reveals the extent of his dilemma. Mokare’s adventure with the uniformed whitemen is over, now he and his kin must negotiate a new path with a different kind of white leadership. The Albany Aborigines are vulnerable once more. Subject to ongoing hostilities with their northern foes, weakened by introduced disease and an insidious reliance on a new  and poorly understood economy, one whose valuation of them was about to change, they must have questioned their power. Facing great uncertainty, Mokare’s Mob had no choice but to turn toward the future and adapt once more.


Barker's Knoll MapcartaAbove: Collet Barker died at a place now known as Barker’s Knoll near the mouth of the Murray River, South Australia. He was alone and targetted by Kaurna Aborigines who appear to have taken revenge for attacks made on them by sealers living on nearby Kangaroo Island. Barker’s death occurred just over a month after he left King George Sound on the Isabella, during which time he identified the Sturt and Onkaparinga Rivers, which inspired later location of the city of Adelaide


Part 4, Mokare and Dr Collie, follows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *