The View From Mount Clarence

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

The Garrison Years (and shortly after)

Originally published 12 April 2014:

The fourth story in the OUTDONE collection, When Patrick Taylor Met Charles Darwin, is set in March, 1836, nine full years after the Amity’s arrival. By this time the New South Wales colonial outpost Major Lockyer had called Frederickstown had been usurped by the newly formed Swan River Colony, a business venture established by the monumentally ambitious Scottish Naval Officer, James Stirling.

 

Colour Lithograph reproduction of an etching on woven paper, with some hand colour retouching
A westward look at Frederickstown, on the north shore of Princess Royal Harbour. Colour Lithograph reproduction of an etching on woven paper, with some hand colour retouching, made by Major Lockyer prior to April 1827

The fourth story in the OUTDONE collection, When Patrick Taylor Met Charles Darwin, is set in March, 1836, nine full years after the Amity’s arrival. By this time the New South Wales colonial outpost Major Lockyer had called Frederickstown had been usurped by the newly formed Swan River Colony, a business venture established by the monumentally ambitious Scottish Naval Officer, James Stirling.

I’m anxious to get on with providing the detail to that story but can’t unless I lay some further matting first. The garrison years don’t feature in the OUTDONE stories but they do inform them. Those years are specific to a period when the European presence was impermanent. The newcomers occupying the north shore of Princess Royal Harbour were under orders to maintain good relations with the native inhabitants and this they were able to do because they had no ambitions or commercial motivations to exploit the land or native people who lived upon it.

Stirling had set up the Swan River Colony headquarters at Fremantle and Perth in 1829 and sent down a contingent of his own soldiers to take over from the objected-to convict depot at King George’s Sound two years later. The military establishment changed hands officially on 7 March 1831 and the garrison had its name changed nine months later, after Stirling had spent the summer there with his Surveyor-General, the then 35-year-old John Septimus Roe. Stirling and Roe pondered the position and layout of the now free settlement, eventually calling it Albany, but the identity of King George’s Sound as the wider-known place persisted.

 

A view of Frederickstown looking south to the harbour shore. By Dr Isaac Nind, 7th February 1828
A view of Frederickstown looking south to the harbour shore. By Dr Isaac Nind, 7th February 1828

 

By good fortune, during the garrison years two men in particular not only helped maintain positive relations but developed them to a point which gave rise to the settlement on the sound becoming known as ‘The Friendly Frontier’. These were the Amity’s surgeon, Dr Isaac Nind, who was present at the garrison until October 1829, a period of almost three years; and Captain Collet Barker who arrived in December 1828 and stayed until the changing of  hands in March 1831. Both these men left detailed records of their experiences with the local Menang Noongar people, some of whom they developed very close relationships with.

The Menang at that time were led by two brothers who I have mentioned before; Nakinah and Mokare. Nakinah is regarded as the actual leader of the native group but his brother Mokare became the better known. Mokare is now an iconic local identity whose figure stands as a monument to peaceful cross-cultural relations at Albany.

Mokare Statue Albany
The Mokare statue at Albany
Mokare_plaque
The plaque mounted below Mokare’s figure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nind became close friends with Mokare and his brother Nakinah as well as many others. He wrote a detailed paper titled ‘Description of the Natives of King George’s Sound and Adjoining Country‘ which was presented to the Royal Geographical Society in London in 1831. Eighteen months prior to that, however, back at the garrison, Nind was going through something of a psychological breakdown which ended in his being transferred/sent back to the New South Wales command at Sydney as unfit to serve. Nind’s meltdown has been the source of some conjecture in recent years because of reference made to one of the native children at Frederickstown around the same time by the second close associate of the Albany Aborigines, Captain Collet Barker. In his journal, Barker refers to meeting ‘Tulicatwaly, his wife and little Nindaroli’, while out walking in Januray 1830.

Commandant of Solitude - CoverCaptain Collet Barker kept intimate journals of  his time at the garrison,  the examination of which resulted in the 1992 publication Commandant of Solitude by Mulvaney & Green; now a collectors item. An image of the cover sits to the right. Barker’s experience is perhaps best related by an excerpt from a review of Shaking Hands On The Fringe, the book by Dr Tiffany Shellam I mentioned on the opening TVFMC post. The review comes from the Australian National University Press. . .

 

“Barely a day passed in Barker’s journal that the Aboriginal people of the region do not feature prominently (Mulvaney and Green 1992
). He wrote of an intimate relationship with some Aboriginal people, especially Mokare and his family, who became more than occasional ‘visitors to camp’, sleeping in his hut, sharing ideas, food and ceremonies. Barker came to recognise and respect the complexity and dynamism of Mokare’s world, remarking that its intricacies made it difficult for a European to comprehend. He noted that names for mountains, hills, rivers and the coastline, ‘change at short distances’, and were not always drawn from ancient mythological pre-historical times, but sometimes recalled recent events experienced by still living people (Mulvaney and Green 1992: 262). These are not people without history to Barker, but the notion of ‘history’ is unsettled in their hands.”

 

Immediately after the handover, James Stirling appointed the town’s first ever senior civil officer, Dr Alexander Collie, whose later demise and burial at Albany established the first of just a handful of key symbolic actions around which Aboriginal European relations along the South Coast can be measured. Collie helped bury Mokare at a location chosen by his brother Nakinah. Mokare had died while Collie was serving his tenure as Resident Magistrate in 1831. When Collie himself died, almost by accident at Albany in November 1835 when he was en-route to England, he asked to be buried alongside Mokare. The request was met with despite the burial site having become a sold lot on the town plan (which Roe had sanctioned).

Five years after that, the following occurred. . .

From the 2006, Memorial Park Cemetery, Albany, Western Australia, Conservation Plan

” The Colonial Secretary advised the Government Resident in Albany on 29 January 1840 that approval had been given to enclosing the Albany burial ground, and on 12 February a site on Middleton Road was gazetted as a place of public burial and marked out. This site, Lot S51 was granted to the Church of England.”

 

Prior to 1840 it appears that the only unofficial burial ground, situated on a slight hill, was the privately owned Lot S112 in York Street near the present (in 2005) Town Hall. On the opening of the new and unconsecrated burial ground at Lot S51, the remains of a number of persons were transferred to the new cemetery, including those of Dr. Alexander Collie who died in 1835.

Collie’s second burial was organised by his friend and executor, John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor General. In a letter dated 7 October 1840 to Collie’s brother, James, Roe wrote:

I have not previously apprised you that I availed myself of the opportunity which presented itself on my making a journey overland to King George’s Sound in December &January last, to have the body of my late friend your deceased brother removed to the regularly established burial ground of Albany, from its former position on the building allotment of a private individual, where it was exposed to the liability of being rudely disturbed at any time by digging foundations, wells, &c. by parties who might have been indifferent to individuals feelings….

Roe’s sentiments may be genuine but here we witness an early example of the matter-of-fact assumption of ownership by the commercially minded newcomers without sensitivity to the native burial site nor the significance of honouring Collie’s dying wish. From reading Roe’s comments above it is almost as if he has done Collie a favour by not only moving his remains from a building site but by setting them down in a place and manner more appropriate to a man of the Anglican faith. I  haven’t been able to find out if Mokare’s remains were removed to the now allotted  native  burial area of the same cemetery.

With the arrival of Dr Alexander Collie as Albany’s original Resident Magistrate in 1831, came the assistant surveyor, Rapahel Clint, who plotted out the future town so the lots could be sold.  Almost at the same time the moneyed settlers began arriving with a view (according to the sales speil delivered to them by James Stirling and his Swan River Colony founding associates) to substantially improving their fortunes.

In the five year period between March 1831 and the time Charles Darwin visited in March 1836, the settlers who caught my eye were;

  1. John Laurence Morley and his wife Mary Catherine (Bricknell)
  2. George Cheyne and his wife Grizel (Melville)
  3. Patrick Taylor and his shipboard sweetheart Mary Yates Bussell
  4. James Dunn
  5. Captain Peter Belches
  6. Captain Thomas Lyell Symers and his wife Mary (Johnstone)

 

George Cheyne c1850

The settlers vied for government positions while buying up town plots and exploring the surrounding country for the best farming land; the government positions, such as Harbour Pilot, Customs Waiter, Post Master, etc. providing an income stream while they established their businesses. The settlers quickly found however, as the occupants of the military compound had, that there wasn’t much fresh water and the quality of the ground was not suited to agriculture on a commercial scale. This was concerning but King George’s Sound had a lovely temperate climate, it’s aspect and views were striking and its quality as a harbour was seen by some as world-class. In the early days everyone knew colonial prosperity relied on the creation of demand, itself dependant on the arrival of people. Determining key selling points was the business of the day and Albany garnered these from various quarters largely because of the harbour and the Sound’s basic geographic location upon the south coast. The optimistic stayed, the less optimistic (and there were many) continued eastwards to Van Diemen’s land and New South Wales.

Those who stayed got busy building and exploring the nearby King and  French (Kalgan) Rivers as well as the coastline east and west, looking for decent farmland which they could claim for themselves on the basis of their economic contributions to the colony. They then sought grants for more on the basis they had discovered the areas and opened them up for the government to profit from by way of sale. The eagerness for this was understandable but it must also be said that the colony’s founder established a culture of greed in this regard by allocating vast tracts of the best land to himself and other leading officials. It also marked a dramatic end to the non-commercial presence of the first European contingent at Albany and therefore the beginnings of an entirely new era in native/settler relations.

Also, not all the arriving settlers were moneyed. Some, such as James Dunn, arrived with nothing but their skills and had no choice but to set to work immediately doing whatever they could to find a place for themselves within the fledgling community.

Now, back to Noongar/Settler relations and the so-called ‘Friendly Frontier’. In the opening post in this series I pasted an image of a book called ‘Shaking Hands On The Fringe’ by Tiffany Shellam. In the book Dr Shellam  takes an important revisionary step in moving on from the language of established cross-cultural historical writing. She takes the statue of Mokare, icon of the friendly Menang people during the time of the garrison, and sets it as an outdated symbol of colonial superiority.

Shaking Hands on the Fringe - cover
A revisionary and wise new direction.

While the statue is meant to represent a gesture of reconciliation by the ruling post-colonial administration of modern day Albany she says it still represents the placing of Aboriginal Australia within the context of the then British Australia. That is, the statue is not something that represents Aboriginal Albany in an Aboriginal context, but in an unchanged  colonial context of having been subjugated. What she does with Shaking Hands On The Fringe is look at first contact and the garrison years at Albany not through the eyes of the Europeans but, as best anyone is able, through the eyes of the local Menang Aborigines themselves. That alone is one of the ‘one small steps for man. . . ‘ moments in the process of addressing the very local past at Albany and by implication, beyond. In a way, reading Shaking Hands On The Fringe gave me an element of moral confidence to go ahead and try and speak as a native for the natives in my stories.

Much later on in this process I went back to Shaking Hands On The Fringe because I couldn’t find any list of the native families at Albany during the garrison and pre-garrison years. There might be one, but from where I sit it isn’t easy to find.  After many hours of sifting through documents and genealogies I wanted to see if I could find any obvious connections between some of the drawings of the early Albany Noongars (who Dr Shellam refers to as the King Ya-nup) and the names that had been referred to in the journals and writings of both the key garrison based persons as well as those who had visited and made drawings or studies of other kinds.

From the information, drawn from Flinders, De Sainson, King, Lockyer, Wakefield, Barker, Nind, Collie, Wilson and others, I could determine five identifiable families (probably related).  These families made up Dr Shellham’s King Ya-nup tribe, along with a group of other individuals who were almost certainly close relations. The list below is not definitive and needs more work to ascertain the true relationships between individuals, but it is a beginning in the endeavor to throw greater light on the Aboriginal families who spent most of their time in and around the place they knew as Kinjarling or Kingilyiling at the time of first settlement. It is essential to include them because they are every bit as significant as the European settlers named above.

1st Family:

  • Mongheran. His son,
  • Patyet. His family,
  • Nakinah (m), his son, Wapere
  • Mokare (m)
  • Waiter/Waiternet (m)
  • Yallapoli (m)  aka Mollian
  • Taragon (m) died of snake bite. His death caused a big fight.
  • Mullet (f) her husband a King River man called Nulloch

2nd Family:

  • Coolbun (m)
  • Dr Uredale (m), his son,
  • Talwyn/Tatan.
  • Dr Uredale died 6 Dec 1830 at Duck Pond Hill, near Tondirrup.

3rd Family

  • Wannewar (m)
  • Patyet (m) (not the same Patyet as Nakinah’s father)
  • Numal (m)
  • Mirilyan (f)

4th Family

  • Tulicatwale (m) with wife and little Nindaroli (possibly child of Isaac Nind) Barker 18 Jan 1830
  • Tringoli (m)
  • Monway (m)

5th Family

  • Maragnan. His son,
  • Gyallipert/Tetalipert/Tichtipert/ChalipertMaragnan & Gyallipert look like they were connected to the Augusta area
  • Metyalpin (m)


Other individuals not described as related (but almost certainly are)

  1. Manyat (m), went to Swan River with Gyallipert to meet Yellagonga
  2. Yetitole
  3. Watyaquart
  4. Talimamundelived to north east
  5. Copran
  6. Wallangolispeared in response to Taragon’s death. He survived.
  7. Moopey/Mopey
  8. Ionen/Eyenan/Ayennan
  9. Mangril (PP King’s, Jack)
  10. Nylarr.  He was the father of Yattee

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