The View From Mount Clarence

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

The Friendly Frontier Vrs The Not-So-Friendly Frontier

Originally Published 25 April 2014:

Albany Noongars Manyat and Gyallipert meet Yagan, leader of the Swan River Noongars, at Lake Monger, Perth, in 1833. The painting 'Yagan' is by the outstanding indigenous artist Julie Dowling. Julie Dowling Insight and Review
Albany Noongars Manyat and Gyallipert meet Yagan, leader of the Swan River Noongars, at Lake Monger, Perth, in 1833. The painting ‘Yagan’ is by the outstanding indigenous artist Julie Dowling. 

It’s well known that Albany’s indigenous engaged positively with the European newcomers from the time of permanent arrival (despite the hick-up) until about 1840. During the first decade as a free settlement relations between Albany’s two races continued in the same vein as that established by Lockyer, Nind, Barker, Nakinah and Mokare. This was for two reasons. First, the person of Alexander Collie could not have been more appropriate to the period of immediate post military reign. His compassion and humanity (as with Nind and Barker) transcended his position as leading official of the new, self-appointed regime. Had it been anyone else relations will probably have deteriorated sooner. The second reason was because hardly anyone came to King George’s Sound anyway.

Stirling had sold the idea of the Swan River Colony on the basis it would be convict free. He wanted to establish a utopian society without a criminal labour base. This appealed to the moneyed settlers because it alleviated fears and  inspired optimism, but it meant the settlers needed to bring labour with them, and they weren’t able to do that in anywhere near the numbers required. This meant the cost of labour very quickly became prohibitive and very little got done.

However, while nothing was getting done along the Swan River (and even less at Albany) settlers still arrived from 1829 with the expectation they would. Within two years things began to get niggly as the Whadjuk Noongars of the Swan River found themselves not only less welcome on large portions of their own land but aggressively dissuaded from going near it. This led to conflict and the emergence of Yagan as leader of the indigenous resistance.

Yagan was wanted for murder and arrested but escaped summary execution by a settler named Robert Lyon who argued the Noongar case for defending their land against invasion. John Septimus Roe, in the absence of James Stirling (who was in England receiving his Knighthood while drumming up more sales – he returned on the James Pattison with Taylor, Belches, Sherrat, et al) supported the argument and spared Yagan’s life. Yagan and his co-accused spent time imprisoned on Carnac Island but escaped  after a period and were not persued. Yagan quickly regained his status amongst both communities as leader of the Noongars and was asked by other settlers recognising the importance of trying to smooth a way forward if he would meet with some Noongars from Albany who had, up till that time, engaged in a much more positive experience.

Portrait of Yagan by George Cruikshank
Portrait of Yagan by George Cruikshank

The meeting’s organiser was Robert Dale, a soldier who had been assigned to Roe’s Surveyor General’s Department and who had spent time in Albany where he drew the famous Panoramic View of King George’s Sound with accompanying descriptive pamphlet promoting the area to prospective settlers. Dale hoped the meeting of Gyallipert and Manyat, the Albany Noongars, would help Yagan to embrace an attitude of tolerance but Yagan could only see things worsening for the Noongar and reacted defensively. Ultimately he, his father Midgegooroo and brother Domjum, were all killed and the resistance along the Swan River effectively put down.

But south of the Swan River (and east too, at York) things did not settle. Thomas Peel, another extraordinarily ambitious settler, had been granted 250,000 acres around the Murray River, between Pinjarra and the coast. Relations between Peel’s settlers and the Noongar of that area, the Binjareb, deteriorated as the pattern of forceful dispossession continued. The Binjareb fought in the traditional manner by first demanding compensation (food), then taking it when it was not willingly given. When punished for stealing (publicly flogged) they resorted to a form of warfare by spearing settlers and/or their livestock.


Back at the Swan River, just 40 miles to the north, Sir James Stirling finally returned to learn from from his Surveyor General of Yagan’s demise and the now escalating problem along the Murray River. The Peel settler’s wanted to move from the coast (Mandurah) upriver to a place where the land was more fertile (Pinjarra). Stirling decided to take decisive action and together with Roe and a contingent of soldiers headed for Pinjarra where they intended to establish a small garrison to protect the settlers. In the process they surprised the Binjareb who reacted menacingly and the order was given to open fire. Unarmed, John Septimus Roe sat on his horse from a safe distance and watched the Pinjarra massacre play out before him. Two soldiers were wounded (one dying a fortnight later) while twenty to thirty native men, women and children died.

The Noongar View on Pinjarra

The Mandurah Community Museum View on Pinjarra


Pinjarra is a defining moment in All Noongar relations with the Swan River Colony. It is a watershed, the point at which the newcomers asserted themselves with a devastating show of superior weaponry.
Pinjarra is a defining moment in All-Noongar relations with the Swan River Colony. It is a watershed, the point at which the newcomers asserted themselves with a devastating show of superior weaponry.


Now, relative to where I’m going with the collection of stories OUTDONE, we need to go back to the love story of Patrick Taylor and Mary Yates Bussell.

When Taylor disembarked the James Pattison in June 1834 he set about making Albany his place of living. Mary, however, went with her mother to join her brothers and other members of the Bussell family at a group settlement they were forming at a place known as The Vasse.  By 1836, the Bussells had left their original place of living on the Blackwood River near Augusta and fully settled at a homestead they called Cattle Chosen. Reports of what had happened at the Swan River and at Pinjarra reached the Bussells by way of their communications with the Capital, as they reached the Vasse Noongars by way of their own overland means. The Vasse, or more specifically, Cattle Chosen, was isolated and the brothers, who had endured extremely tough beginnings, were desperate not to lose their grip on what was becoming not only a socially precarious existence but increasingly, a financial one as well. The Bussells were going broke.

As an interesting aside to this, Gyallipert, who went with Manyat to the Swan River to meet Yagan at the request of Robert Dale, was also known to the Bussells. As we know, the Bussell brothers arrived at the Swan River too late to get any of the really desirable land and were persuaded by Stirling to settle at Augusta instead. An incredibly brave option, by any standards. Augusta sits along a particularly dangerous stretch of coast and at the time had no non-indigenous history whatsoever. The Bussells, along with a handful of others, were asked to begin a settlement at the mouth of the Blackwood River upon sight. They agreed, despite the surrounding country being an enormous forest of gigantic otherworldly trees they would have to clear to form farmland.

As we move through the history it becomes clearer with each step that the settlers were following a pattern of habitation already established by the Indigenous. The settlers were moving rapidly, in the scheme of things, but essentially following the same paths and locating the same sites favourable to human habitation.  Once they settled, they built houses and cultivated, essentially staying in the same place for as long as it could sustain them. The Indigenous, being hunters and collectors, were not nomadic. They ranged over their estates, their kalas, using different resources as they became more or less available according to the time of year.  The settlers were bound, though many must not have realised it, to meet the same people over and over again.

In an excerpt from Cattle Chosen, the story of the Bussells written in 1929 by Edward Shann, there is mention of Gyallipert.  “In a disjointed journal of a search for cattle which had strayed from ‘The Adelphi‘, he  (Lenox Bussel, Mary’s brother) complains bitterly of his guides‘ leading him on the trail of kangaroos, to the neglect of the tracks of the cows even after they had picked these up. Evidently he fell out with ‘Wooberdung and Gallipot‘ very early, through refusing to share his damper with them.”

From the work done on the Albany Aborigines I think it’s reasonable to assume the above Gallipot is the same Gyallipert as went with Manyat, although the date of Lenox Bussell’s complaint isn’t clear. Gyallipert and his father, Maragnan, travelled between Albany and Augusta having family connections in both places, the details of which are recorded in various diaries/journals and discussed in Shaking Hands on the Fringe.

This scan, taken from Tiffany Shellam's Shaking Hands on the Fringe, shows the path between Albany and Augusta described by Maragan, Gyallipert's well-travelled father. The line which turns north toward Perth is today's touristic Bibbulmun Track.

Above: This scan, taken from Tiffany Shellam’s Shaking Hands on the Fringe, shows the path between Albany and Augusta described by Maragan, Gyallipert’s well-travelled father. The line which turns north toward Perth is today’s touristic Bibbulmun Track.


Vasse River - Bussleton Location ImageAs with the Swan and Murray Rivers the Bussell group settlement had moved into the prime living space of the natives and relations ultimately soured. By 1837, the year of Patrick and Mary’s wedding, things were turning for the worse – on two fronts.  Gaywal, the leader of the Vasse Aborigines had had enough and was beginning to torment the settlers with raids on the livestock and supply store as well as through general harassment. The settlers had very different living habits to the Noongars and valued their peace and privacy, especially at the end of the day. They didn’t like the Noongars being inside their houses unless in daylight and unless they were working; otherwise they were seen as a threat.

From the house diary, April 1837, Bessie Bussell  (Mary’s youngest sister) wrote;

” The natives really completely beset us. They nearly drive me out of my mind. I am obliged to stand about and watch them, and when I am able to return to my lawful labours I find myself thoroughly tired. Then evening comes when we used to enjoy ourselves. The noise they make puts conversation out of the question. They throw the tea over the tables that have been taken all possible pains with in the morning, and wilga† all they come near. To me now it seems sacrilege to breathe the name of a native in an hour of rest, it is so fraught with fatigue, fear and anxiety. “


Eventually, the Bussell’s could no longer cope with the infractions and did as they had seen Stirling and Roe do; meet the challenge with an overwhelming show of superior weaponry.

From the house diary two months later, Bessie continues;

” On 23rd June, however, a calf of the Chapmans was missing, and on the 27th, when Len was out searching for it, ‘Nungandung and Boobingroot peached, and said Gaywal and Kenny had speared it.‘ Next day ‘Boobingroot and Nungandung were detailed to lead the way to the culprits. Nungandung escaped and B. brought the two Chapmans, Alfred, the Corporal, Moloney and Dawson to Yulijoogarup. Kenny and Jim ran off and escaped, but 9 were killed and two wounded. No one in the house looks or speaks like themselves. “


Click here to read Shann’s  Cattle Chosen,  his interpretative work on the Bussell Family at the Vasse River.

Patrick Taylor’s Glen Candy must have been looking a pretty attractive place to the Bussells when they journeyed to Fremantle for the October wedding. Patrick and Mary sailed back to King George’s Sound in the Champion where Patrick had the house at Lower Kalgan near enough built to accommodate them. As they sailed into Pricess Royal Harbour two men contracted to build a new deep water jetty set off a cannon to welcome the newlyweds in. The cannon backfired and one of the men, James Dunn, (ship’s carpenter aboard the James Pattison and well known to both Patrick and Mary) lost the use of a hand.  I say that because James Dunn goes on to feature in this history.

Patrick and Mary commenced their married lives at Glen Candy where Mary soon fell pregnant with their first child, Mary Margaret (Maggie) born the following year. It was the beginning of an entirely new era for all concerned.

Members of the Bussell family at the Cattle Chosen Homestead in 1867. Taken from the State Library Collection.
Members of the Bussell family at the Cattle Chosen Homestead in 1867. Taken from the State Library Collection.

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