The View From Mount Clarence

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

The Major’s Butterflies Beat Him Down

brig_amityMajor Lockyer and the story of the Amity anchoring in the large harbour at King George’s Sound on Christmas Day 1826 holds nothing new.  Everyone who lives at Albany knows of the replica vessel down by the shore in the so-called historical precinct, as does (practically) everyone who has ever come to play tourist.

I didn’t particularly want to add to Lockyer’s story as he only commanded the garrison for a little over three months, but it’s hard to escape his influence on the settlement he left behind.  After-all, it was his judgement that prevented disaster.  If Lockyer had not perceived something was wrong when the soldiers and crew were making their first shore excursions he could have retaliated at the spearing of his blacksmith and got the business of settlement off on a complete wrong footing. The garrison was outnumbered at the time, the Aborigines could have organised and set against them, there could have been a massacre.

But there wasn’t. Lockyer took his time and the story of the sealing gang’s raid at Oyster Harbour emerged. Through the application of authority he located Samuel Bailey on Eclispe Island and arrested him, in the process rescuing the Menang woman and the little native girl he called Fanny.

The story of poor Fanny is compelling and I couldn’t let it go. I wondered what Lockyer would have thought at the time. Not in his official capacity, because there were procedures he would have followed, but privately. Lockyer was 42 years old in the summer of 1826/7 and had a large family living in Sydney. He had plans to build a grand house in Bay Street, Wooloomooloo,  where they were all going to live.

The family comprised his eldest son, William, who was born to first wife Dorothy De Ly, then eleven others born to his true love and second wife, Sarah Morris. The oldest of these eleven he and Sarah called, Edmund Morris Lockyer.  Edmund Jnr turned 17 in 1826 and was an Army ensign. The Major arranged the selection of Edmund Jnr to form part of the garrison command and they sailed westwards on the Amity together. Edmund Jnr’s job was to manage the garrison stores.

The youngest of Lockyer’s children at the time was Louisa, who had arrived on August 13, that year.  She was twelve weeks old when the Amity left Port Jackson bound for King George’s Sound.

Amongst the Major’s other children was daughter Fanny Oceana Lockyer, born at sea in the Bay of Bengal on October 17th, 1817. She was nine at the time of the command.

Lockyer sought strength, wristed the last of the brandy, rolled his tongue in it, then sucked through his teeth fiercely so that the spirit’s fumes flared, forcing heat high into his nasal passage and hard against his throat. Swallowing, he said, ‘He’d beaten her into submission, brutalised her terribly.’ The major paused, shook his head from side to side. ‘But that’s not all,’ he said. ‘There was a little girl too, . . .  a native child he’d taken.’ The Major lifted his heel and smashed it into the floor. ‘A child, John! Who does that to a child?


The Frederickstown settlement was duly established and the Amity left it on her return journey to Sydney on Wednesday, January 24th, just short of a month after sailing in. The Major and his garrison, according to orders, were left to their own devices until HMS Success was to arrive about six weeks later.

Lockyer sent Bailey and another of the sealers, William Hook (the Māori) back to Sydney with a letter to the Governor explaining the situation. Hook was sent to give evidence against Bailey. Unfortunately, nothing else is known of their fate. Lockyer also put little Fanny on the boat, which is something I struggled with.  His journal entries seem to imply that she wasn’t recognised or wanted by the Menang men and women of Albany and that the best option was for her to go to Sydney.  I don’t know about that. Lockyer would have known through his interrogations of other members of the gang, as even d’Urville had been able to pick up, that she had been taken from the coast opposite Middle Island; D’entrecasteaux’s Cape Arid.

Cape Arid from Middle Island
Cape Arid from Middle Island

I thought surely Lockyer would have sent the men ashore at Cape Arid and given her into the custody of the natives they came across there, but perhaps through the spearing of Dineen, he wasn’t prepared to risk any of the crew?  Lockyer called the little girl Fanny, the same name as his own daughter of the same age. I think Lockyer must have struggled with this decision. Perhaps he half imagined taking little Fanny into the care of his own family when he got back to Sydney? I don’t know, but I’m certain he would have been gravely concerned for her future, one way or another.

That anxiety informed my characterisation of Lockyer as authoritarian army leader, concerned father, and regular human being. Male anxiety in general is another recurring theme throughout the story series.

In The Major’s Last Stand Lockyer orders Edmund Jnr to accompany him on a climb soon after the Amity has made its departure. . .

“They were at the height of Mount Clarence and his stomach was an insect’s nest.  To his left the coast ran away in a series of low bush-covered hills. On the other, a long finger of land tipped with a granite dome they called Bald Head extended from the west. In the sea-filled gap between the two islands loomed. Protectors and limiters, thought the Major. Keeping out the high seas while keeping in all that happened.


The ensign drew near and the Major seized the moment.


‘Just us now, Edmund,’ he said.


His son was surprisingly positive. ‘It’s like standing at the edge of the world, sir.’


‘A wild and dangerous thing,’ said the Major, ‘but magnificent, I’ll grant you that.’


They observe the panorama, then. . .

“On the way down he kicked at a stone and it went skidding over the sheetrock into a cluster of grass trees, lodging hard in the charred trunk of one. ‘I should have said it to him,’ he muttered.


‘Said what to whom, sir?’


The Major felt his ire.  ‘The ship’s master, Ensign. Who else?’


The ensign scowled. ‘We thought you’d send the girl home,’ he said. ‘To the mainland off Middle Island. No-one understood why you ordered differently.’


The Major bristled. ‘Curb your impertinence, boy,’ he snapped. ‘What do you know about her? What do you know about anything?’


As I progressed through the writing of the stories I discovered the themes I was interested in. I mentioned male anxiety above and previously explained the contrast between male sexual want and moral responsibility. Another was the relationships which exist between men, the degrees of natural persuasion they have and how this impacts politically on the people they are involved with. I was also, through my own experience, interested in father/son relationships and it was that which gave impetus to The Major’s Last Stand, not least because I was continuing my reading around the history of settlement at Albany and could see ahead some key early settlers passing over to their own, locally born, sons.

This also led me to think about Ned, the boy amongst the sealers who gave his name as Edward Edwards. There is some suggestion that Ned may have been Ned Tomlins as I indicated before. There is a document published by the Australian National University Press called Trans-Tasman stories: Australian Aborigines in New Zealand sealing and shorewhaling, by Nigel Prickett, which gives the researched detail on such men, including Ned.

Ned was just a kid when he got picked up at Kangaroo Island by William Bundy and James Everett and brought into the Hunter’s gang. His father, a white man, had drowned at Kangaroo Island in 1819 when Ned was just six. His mother was Poolrerenner, abbreviated to Bulra, a Tyrelore (Island Wife) of the Tasmanian Palawah natives. In amongst the Hunter’s forced crew was Mooney, another Palawah woman, described by d’Urville as being . . .

“. . . from Van Diemen’s Land, near Port Dalrymple, both short, stocky and not bad looking, but with very coarse features, the front part of their faces being very prominent and their complexion very dark like the natives of Sydney. I cannot judge the texture of their hair because it was close cropped. One of these women who was quite intelligent, has given M. Gaimard a large number of words from her language.”

Images of young Truganini, once regarded the last surviving fully indigenous Palawah native. Note the close cropped hair.
Images of young Truganini, once regarded the last surviving fully indigenous Palawah native. Note the close cropped hair.


Ned was half Palawah, so was able to carry something of his identity through his time with Mooney. Ned’s paternal make-up came from his father’s experience as one of the renegade sealers on Kangaroo Island.  As a kid, especially at age 13, Ned would have only been finding himself. Questions of identity may not have occurred to him. Survival, most likely, came first. But as the half-caste son of a dead man and a native woman openly traded by the leaders of the Kangaroo Island community,  it’s unlikely he will have been given special treatment.

‘Mistevret, mate!’ The shout went up from within the leading boat. It was the boy sealer, Ned, sitting midway on the landward side. ‘Keep her bloody out more,’ he called. ‘Ya too close.’


James Everett, the steerer, pulled the sail tighter and leaned against his paddle so that the boat swerved to the seaward, water gushing in over the gunnels, then righted with its nose edged five degrees or more towards the deep. The crew rode the movement expertly, leading the angered steerer to shout back. ‘I’ll do as I see fit ya cheeky bastard. Another word from you and I’ll send you to meet your father. The Lord rest his clammy soul.’


I felt for Ned but was pleased to read that he went on to make his way to New Zealand to become,  ‘. . . one of the best whalers that ever stepped into a boat’. He died  after a drunken fight in Mahia, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, around 1853, aged 40 years.

Ned didn’t just appeal to me because he was a boy, it was because he represented in some kind of way, the Noongar kid I knew as a kid. For a start, Harry was about 14 when we drifted apart.

Harry and his sister had been taken into foster care by our neighbours because of the risk they would be taken from their mother by the State.  Harry’s mother was living at the Aboriginal Reserve on the western flank of Mnt Melville at the time.  With hindsight I saw Harry’s existence as the same precarious kind as Ned’s, which contrasted with my own as the safe son of a middle-class professional.  There was something romantic in that, from my perspective, but I didn’t entertain it beyond allowing Major Lockyer to feel something for the character of Ned.

The Major watched as the boy’s toe dug at a split in one of the planks. He watched it pry a splinter loose, noticed the pale skin of the boy’s soles and the way his ankles darkened. Then he looked up to the see the remainder of him, rigid and trembling.


‘It’s alright lad,’ he said again, thinking of the native women he had rescued from Eclipse Island. How downcast the older one had looked as she stepped ashore, even as she returned into the arms of her family. How beaten and broken she was. And then the girl, little Fanny, not known by the local tribe, left standing naked, crying ‘Ballinup, Ballinup,’ as if they were supposed to know what it meant; a ragged dishevelled doll no one wanted.


The two officers waited for the boy to compose himself. The Major watched him toy with the splinter. The boy folded it over and back, wriggled it, so determined to wrestle the thing free neither the Major nor Captain Wakefield expected him to speak.




The Major looked up. ‘I’m sorry Ned. What did you say?’


‘I said, Junnerah. That’s my native’s name, Mayja Lockya, sir. What my mother called me.’


‘Oh,’ said the Major.


The boy seemed to recover. ‘I don’t know my father, Mayja Lockya, sir. I don’t know his name. Might be Edwards, might not be.’ The boy wiped his eyes and nose along the length of his arm.


‘That’s alright Ned,’ he said. ‘Just tell us what you do know.’


Lockyer resigned within a week of returning from King Georges Sound. He applied for a land grant and received two and half thousand acres on the Wollondilly River, southwest of Sydney which he called Lockyersleigh and where he began a failed post-military career in commerce and the pastoral industry.   He died in a chair in the front room of his Wooloomooloo house in 1860, aged 76.  King George’s Sound was Lockyer’s last army command.


The first half of Major Edmund Lockyer's life was successful and eventful. The second, less so.
The first half of Major Edmund Lockyer’s life was successful and eventful. The second, less so.

The Major looked around, became conscious of the hills and the harbour, of the isolation of that remarkable port. The characters beginning to people it were large and precarious and he could see that great changes were coming. Those flurries of unease, those overbearing senses of awe and angst that had dogged his tenure, that had eaten away at his relationship with his son, somehow seemed to ease. Staring at the boy, he decided he would resign. It was time to let go.


He nodded, straightened and said, ‘Good for you, Ned. Good for you,’ then he walked off toward the shore, shouting; ‘Private Liggins, fetch the pilots, the wind looks good. Let’s get that ship in before dark.’

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