Mokare and Dr Alexander Collie (1793-1835)
And so to Dr Collie himself, Albany’s original ailing academic.
Doctor, botanist and casual explorer, by the early 1830s Collie had become a reknown natural history collector as well. His naval experience aboard HMS Blossom cruising the coasts of the Americas, including the Pacific Islands and far north, prior to his arrival in West Australia in 1829, bolstered his enthusiasm for collecting as well as his reputation for it among the scientific institutions back in Britain.
At the Swan River, Collie, whose health was fundementally compromised by lung disease, was based aboard the colony’s loaned naval vessel HMS Sulphur, effectively a troop ship, which had accompanied the Parmelia out to Western Australia on an approximate three year term, and upon which, somewhat ironically, the suffering Aberdeenshire graduate held the position of Ship’s Surgeon.
Collie attended the officials and associated military contingent of the 63rd Regiment whose job it was to support the colony’s lieutenant governor. Stirling used the Sulphur as a means of security, for procuring personnel and supplies, and for familiarising himself with the south-west corner as the need for more and better agricultural land increased. Thus, for nearly two years Collie coasted between Albany and the Swan River as often as Stirling saw fit for the ship’s use, which was intermittent but not infrequent.
Collie stayed busy during the lay-offs, profiting both directly and indirectly from his collections as (in tandem with Lieutenant Preston, also of the Sulphur) he combined them with smaller scale overland exploration initiatives to York and Pinjarra, along with coastal excursions south to Leschenault and the Vasse River (Bunbury and Bussleton) and then north to the Murchison (Geraldton) in search of the mouth of the Avon River which no one had yet realised was a branch of the Swan.
Collie’s ill-health was the equivalent of Mokare’s, both suffering and dying young at Albany, the difference being that Collie understood the benefits of containment, warmth and sustenance whereas Mokare, though much reduced, was still first and foremost a man of physical exertion and the outdoors. Collie’s witnessing of the sick and dying Aborigines at Albany, along with the understanding he was not only presiding over but monetarily gaining from the usurping of their lands, led him to an apologetic end in which he sought to ease his guilt by requesting burial in the same place as Mokare. A redemptive act of lasting symbolic importance, perhaps, but not one of consequence.
Most of the items comprising the Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja exhibition were sourced by Dr Collie during his time at Albany which commenced twenty-two months after his arrival at Fremantle.
Above: Dr Alexander Collie was attached to the pioneer vessel of the Swan River Colony, HMS Sulphur, as Ship’s Surgeon. When not ashore collecting and exploring, Collie lived aboard the vessel as part of a small permament crew from time of arrival in June 1829 until it delivered him to Albany mid-April, 1831. Image: Scale model of HMS Sulphur made by Craig Mitchell. Photo by Brett Green, taken from HSGalleries website.