Collie after Mokare
(Continued from Part 4A)
Cultural impasse aside, it’s important to stay close to our intended purpose of trying to determine the ultimate role played by Mokare in leading the Albany Aborigines into non-violent intercourse with the incoming European presence. The question is not whether Mokare and the succession of incomer leaders were inseparable friends, but what was the outcome of their association?
To that end, we can say in the wake of Mokare’s death and Collie’s continued presence at the settlement, relations remained intact; the foundation being strong enough to survive without its key protagonist. As the new administration sought to more fully exploit Aboriginal knowledge, Nakinah assented by leading two important local expeditions of discovery, both of which lay the groundwork for continued, indeed improved, cross-cultural cooperation.
Above: Development of the settlement and friendly Aboriginal relations at Albany are certainly in evidence, but from the summer of 1831/32 Governor Stirling’s administration cleverly arrested the Swan River Colony’s flagging appeal both locally and abroad through managed exaggeration of conditions down on the South Coast. Image: Panel from Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River, by Ensign Robert Dale, 1832. This version from S.P. Loha Foundation, Rare Book Collection.
Commercial interest asserted itself during the summer of 1831/32 at King George Sound and the profit-driven motives of the incomers came to dominate cross-cultural relations. As the mortality rate among Mokare’s Mob continued to weaken their position, the younger generation, much influenced by the provision of biscuit and flour, sustained settler progress. The joint effect of this and the continuing consternation of their unaltered surrounding bretheren worked a curious spell on the Albany Aborigines, elevating the status they perceived of themselves across all Noongar country while driving them deeper into all-round isolation.
By the time Mokare’s inherent illness had devitalised him to the extent he was unable to survive 1831’s winter flu epidemic, the full-time relationship between his mob and the incomers was pushing five years. The Aborigines had been accommodating towards and largely beneficial of the occupation, a handful of them much more so due to their willingness to positively engage. This elite few, as we have slowly been able to determine, comprised the following individuals:
- Mokare and his brothers, namely; Nakinah, Waiter, Taragon and Yallapoli. Also his sister Mullet and husband (from King River) Nulloch.
- Mokare’s close relatives, namely; Coolbun, Dr Uredale and Maragnan, whose kallas neighboured to the west. These were either older step-brothers or uncles of Mokare. Dr Uredale’s sons Talwin and Tatan are also part of this group.
- Mokare’s other relatives, namely; Wannewar, Tallicatwale, Metyalpin, Tallimamundy, Gyallipert, Numal, Tringole, Botup, Moolungul and one or two others who stayed close enough to the garrison during Barker’s and Collie’s time to feature in their writing. These were contemporaries of Mokare, their degree of familial association more distant. The men were generally between twenty and forty or fifty years old and not necessarily centered on Princess Royal Harbour (or King George Sound), but they were part of what Collie called Mongalan’s people, the King George Sound tribe, their attachments to the locality strong enough for their presence to register.
One Aboriginal name missing here is Manyat who came to prominence in April 1832 when Moolungul, a rogue member of Mokare’s Mob whose kalla was at Mount Barker, came in to the settlement to avenge the death of a Wills relative. A few months later, when Collie wanted to go inland again and found Nakinah not well enough to make the journey, Manyat volunteered.
Before we get to him however (and a cousin of Nakinah’s named Melinn), we should establish what was happening at Albany during the period of Stirling and Roe’s extended visit over the summer months. This was a time of fervent activity and high hopes on the part of the Swan River Colony’s leading officials, each of them super-determined to prevent their colonial enterprise from falling into ruin.
James Stirling’s Vision of the South Coast
As 1831 progressed, stories of the Swan River‘s continuing failure to provide along with those of land finds down south spread widely across New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, to the point it was reckoned by the collective Australian press Albany would emerge as lead settlement or else the entire venture might fail altogether. Back in London too, where there was never whole-hearted committment, similar opinion was beginning to gain traction.
Stirling, through his employment of the Sulphur and the 63rd Regiment’s command, had been searching high and low for solutions. The situation was desperate and time was beginning to run out, but all along, because of the scale of the territory they had to play with, there was reason for the administration to remain hopeful.
Stirling realised early he had to look beyond the Swan. Collie and Preston’s southerly investigations in the latter months of 1829 revealed both the River Murray and Leschenault areas, which were encouraging enough to be seized upon and quickly, though prematurely, offered up to settlers. Planting the Bussell family at Augusta in April 1830 was reckless but gave a toehold on the South Coast as Striling waited for the NSW presence to vacate King George Sound, while Ensign Dale’s discovery of the Avon Valley six months later was a genuine shot in the arm. On the cliff face the administration was reaching for anything that offered some kind of grip, but with the abject failure of Thomas Peel’s grand settlement shadowing all, disappointment haunted hope at every turn.
Above: Excerpt from The Australian newspaper (Sydney), 5th August 1831, in which the editor’s suggest the attributes of King George Sound had become more favourable than anywhere else in the Swan River Colony.
Adding to Stirling’s woes too was the emerging problem of the Perth Aborigines. There were difficulties now as resistence to the settler occupation grew. Early in 1831 a child had disappeared and William Gaze, a farm labourer, had been killed. Violence ensued as anger spread among the soldiers and younger male settlers living between Perth and Fremantle, and when a powerful looking Noongar known as Yagan, son of the already well known agitator Midgegooroo, was identified as leading protagonist, Stirling’s heart will have sunk.
There was dissent among the labourers, the colony was on the verge of both social disorder and economic expiration. Stirling knew he needed help and began to realise the amount of it required could only come from England. HMS Sulphur was nearing the end of her three year term at the Swan and would soon be recalled. Stirling began to think of going back too and while promoting his colony to as many interested parties as he could, plead with the Colonial Secretary for additional military and financial resources.
Before he could do that though, he needed to arm himself with positive detail. There was too much negativity surrounding the Swan River to argue solely for its defence. To have any chance of success he had to show the canvas was wider, the picture much bigger and brighter. He needed to focus on progress and what was still to come. In order to re-instill favour and to garner new interest it was essential to promote well beyond the disproven fertility of the Swan River. The distraction he needed was a partner settlement, an exciting alternative, an offering based on an entirely different set of self-supporting parameters. Somewhere within realistic distance, somewhere reachable by land and sea, a locality which would segment off and give focus to the most viable portion of that vast unwieldy land mass known as Western Australia.
The place, he knew all along, was the strategic post of the original New South Wales garrison down on the South Coast, the harbour he had been waiting to be vacated. Wool had always been the business to be in and Captain Bannister’s overland expedition had indictaed swathes of fine grazing country between Perth and Albany. The attraction was clear, dissatisfied grantees would transfer their interests to the interior and soon more investors would come. Linking the two places was key. Stirling was troubled by the failures at Perth’s end but hope was to be found at the other, resonating through the grand title of King George’s Sound.
The last card up Stirling’s sleeve wasn’t an ace, but it was royal. If he played it right he had a fair to middling chance of winning the hand.
Thinking forward, he would go to the Sound again, draw up its plans, head back to England singing its praises and return with a boatload of settlers to populate it. The Swan River would have to look after itself for the time being, for the greater good attention was to focus on the untarnished virtues of the South Coast where the Aborigines were known to be friendly and the economy would first of all stem from the sea.
So it was he let it be known at the Swan he’d be spending most of the summer down south.
Until January 1832 the name Albany did not exist in Western Australia. Before then the locality was known across the colonies as King George (or King George’s) Sound, though Major Lockyer had titled his garrison there Frederickstown, a name which never made it beyond the N.S.W. government and military correpsondence. However, in keeping with the Frederickstown theme (Frederick was Duke of York and Albany) and of course reflecting his Scottish heritage -which influenced many of those he was to bring back as original settlers- Stirling decided to call the source of his rekindled enthusiasm Albany, even though the title of Albany was redundant at the time.
From 1st January, 1832, Stirling applied the name in all official correspondence. (R.Stephens in The West Australian, 13 November 1937)
Albany promised much by way of maritime opportunity. The outer harbour was world class and well described on all the major shipping charts of the day. In addition, the American sealing and whaling fleets had it marked as a stock visitation point on their Southern Ocean cruises. Whaling was an enterprise everyone at the Swan River Colony was talking about but no-one had the equipment and expertise to commence with, nor the available finance to employ others to go about it for them. Stirling’s earlier attempt to entice Captain Ramsey, via Ramsey’s eastern contacts and influence, into the whaling game at Albany is evidence of his thinking, and it was largely the South Coast Fishery which was on he and Roe’s minds as they fleshed out and weighed up future options for those they hoped would come to populate the first fifty or so blocks of the newly surveyed townsite.
Stirling had already decided to direct a certain kind of settler to Albany. For the time being, those whose interests weren’t agricultural held more appeal. Digory Geake, for example, was in the service industry as hotelier, and John Morley was essentially interested in building and government administration positions. Next to come was the trader George Cheyne who we already know never held more than a rudimentary interest in farming. (See George Cheyne and the South Coast Fishery)
There was also a small unregistered sealing community based at Albany which included the ex-convicts James Newell Snr and William Thacker.
The economic premise for Stirling’s South Coast project was timber, ship yards, dockside services and fishing for whales, while its secondary purpose, allied to the mild climate, was genteel living; more specifically, convalescence for the ailing British based in India. All this and more, including the still all-consuming quest for quality farmland, was being discussed aboard HMS Sulphur as she returned to the Sound the first week in November 1831, en-route to Hobart, with the Stirling family and others aboard. (CO18/9 f111 – Staham-Drew, James Stirling, Pg 205)
There is scant mention of it but in the Spring of 1831 HMS Sulphur made a voyage to Madras, India. Having been gone some months and her pending recall to Britain looming anyway, Stirling brought a smaller vessel into colonial service. This schooner, which he called Ellen (after his wife), was probably intended to bring him to Albany, but in the end Sulphur returned in time and Stirling, probably influenced by the extent of Cheyne’s chattels, decided he would sail on her. Also helping with that decision was the fortuitous presence of a convalescing British Colonel by the name of James Hanson who came aboard Sulphur at Madras and who was on a round trip to Van Diemen’s Land.
Ellen, under Lieutenant Preston, and Sulphur, under Captain Dance, left the Swan River in tandem, the smaller boat arriving at King George Sound on November 6th. , due to bad weather, not making into the inner harbour until the 12th (ref; 1. Hanson Pamphlet and 2. Statham Drew, James Stirling, Pg 201).
Stirling’s plans for Albany got off to an unexpectedly good start. Colonel Hanson, probably being known to him through his wife Ellen’s family connections to the British East India Company -which had always featured in Stirling’s colonial scheme- was amenable to hospitality and spent time with the family at Perth and then Albany. Convinced by the Swan River’s suitability to the Governor’s ambition, Hanson accepted Stirling’s offer of a fifty acre grant at Albany (Hanson Street, Lake Seppings) in a deal which reqired him to promote the colony among the East India Company cogniscenti at Madras, Calcutta and (probably) Bombay.
Hanson did just that, writing a glowing review, printing it in pamphlet form and distributing it privately among his friends and colleagues. The review was particularly complimentary of King George Sound. Inevitably, copies made their way back to the Swan where its content was picked up by The Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal and published by them in January 1833, a little over twelve months after Hanson’s visit. The extent of the Hanson Stirling agreement is also evidenced in the surveys J.S. Roe carried out at Albany that summer, most notably the setting down of plans for a secondary settlement on the Kalgan River, 15 miles north of Princess Royal Harbour. A place Roe marked as Wyndham.
Above: From late 1831, Wyndham, a supplementary townsite adjacent to King George Sound, featured prominently in the plans James Stirling had for Albany and the South Coast. Image: Cut from the map Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre, Surveyor General, published in London by John Arrowsmith on May 31st, 1833. Courtesy of Trove, the National Library of Australia
Stirling’s plans to bring British Indian investment to Albany are apparent in a map of the colony he had published while in in London in 1833. The map, entitled Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre, Surveyor General was printed by John Arrowsmith at the end of May, just fifteen months after his inspired summer on the South Coast. It shows the intended supplementary townsite fifteen miles north of Albany, the locality having been set aside after Roe made an initial survey there in mid-January 1832 in the company of Alexander Collie.
The Wyndham settlement was on the way to reality twice, but failed on both occasions. After the map was published a Quaker group called Social Emigrants floated a scheme to recruit investors and buy the townsite. In full knowedge of the failings at the Swan caused by the exaggeration of fertile land claims, Stirling still sanctioned the project which touted ‘an abundance of fertile land at King George Sound . . . in as great proportion as usually exists in such extensive territories.’ (Garden; pg 49, PGWAJ; 12.10.1833 & 19.10.1833). But Britain’s appetite for the not-so-long-ago highly-fancied Swan River proposition had waned. All that negative press had taken its toll and the flotation failed.
The second, much more devastating failure, occurred in March 1834 in the wake of Hanson’s publicity when an emigration venture centred at Calcutta actually took up the challenge, recruited the barque Mercury and loaded it with workers and supplies to commence the build at Wyndham. Sadly, Mercury sailed out into the Bay of Bengal and went missing, never to be heard of again (Perth Gazette, 5 April 1834). Most of those behind the scheme were lost in the tragedy, perhaps foremost among a string of setbacks that dogged Albany’s development in the first decade. (Perth Gazette, 5 July 1834).
Colonel Hanson never returned to Albany and the East India Company interest died out. Hanson’s grant was resumed after the failure but his document survives today, adding to our knowledge of what was taking place at Albany during this most pressing of times.
Stirling’s intentions for Albany can’t be downplayed as not only did he apportion land to Wyndham but to other immediate localities he named Collingwood, Green Valley and Hamilton, also Lower Kalgan (later known as Candyup) and the islands of the Sound which he claimed for quarantine and defence purposes. Each of these places was demarcated very soon after he returned from his December expedition to the northward and westward of the town.
Above: Stirling quickly allocated townlands around Albany where he thought settlers were most likely to congregate, allocating himself 45,000 acres of prime farmland while he was at it. Image: Screen shot taken from pge 685 of the Colonial Accounts and Papers, Vol 5, 1838. Available as a free ebook.
Another measure of Stirling’s intent was the presence not only of the Surveyor General John Septimus Roe but also Roe’s chief assistants at the Surveyors Dept, Henry Ommaney and Ensign Robert Dale. Ommaney didn’t leave a significant legacy (one way or the other) but Dale was the young darling of the Stirling Administration, at just twenty years of age already having discovered the Avon Valley after Roe had seconded him from the 63rd Regiment into his department two years earlier. In fact, Dale was only just back from leading the first settlers over the Darling Scarpe to the Avon Valley at York when he hopped aboard Ellen and sailed down to Albany.
Dale was to go on and leave an enduring but problematic portrait of his time at Albany through the drawing of a remarkable panorama from the summit of Mount Clarence.
Raphael Clint, another of Roe’s assistants, had been at Albany since April surveying the land around the old military compound and the Farm at Strawberry Hill, but not a lot else apparently. First settlers Digory Geake and John Morley had bought plots off his surveys by the time the summer arrived.
As mentioned, George and Grizel Cheyne, small entourage and much by way of inventory, also came ashore at this time. The Cheyne’s had been at the Swan River since June, plenty long enough to be convinced by Stirling of his plans for the South Coast and therefore of the clear merchanting opportunity which existed at the Sound. Cheyne looks to have bided his time a little, taking advantage of the administration’s gathering and decision-making at Albany before launching into a plethora of purchases during 1832 and 1833.
For those few first settlers it was a time of great energy and optimism. Chance to establish and consolidate at the forefront of development. For the administrators, it was a second shot at establishing their discredited colony, and of gaining the riches its success so vividly promised.
Stirling’s vision of the South Coast as one primarily influenced by the sea didn’t diminish the need to search out whatever favourable farmland there may have been inland. That fundamental colonial requirement not only remained but hopes for it had been bouyed by Captain Bannister’s overland trek twelve months earlier. Bannister’s report of well watered swathes of park-like grasslands north of Mount Barker and of good country west of Albany in the vicinity of Wilson’s Hay River, motivated Stirling to allow displeased grantees to exchange their unwanted lots for new ones along the road he now intended to cut from Albany all the way back to Perth.
In his mind of course was the 100, 000 acres he had been sanctioned for himself. Stirling was just as motivated by the potential for his own gains as he was by the clamouring of unhappy settlers. He had grants on the Swan, at York and Leschenault. The first thing he would do at Albany was go take a look at all the good quality grazing land said to be in abundance about it and then adjust his own claim first. Afterall, there would only be so much of it of the very finest quality. Let’s not forget either, that Collie had been to Moorliup and spoken of it to Stirling, knowing it held something by way of attraction.
Examination of Country Northward and Westward of King George Sound – December 1831
So it was, in the absence of Mokare, that on December 6th Governor Stirling, Surveyor General Roe, Lieutenant Preston and three soldiers from the 63rd along with packhorses, dogs and a week’s worth of supplies were led away from the settlement towards Mount Barker by Nakinah, Nakinah’s and Mokare’s cousin Melinn (early to mid-twenties) and an unnamed teenager aged fifteen or sixteen. Roe says in his journal Wannewar was to be co-guide with Nakinah but that he failed to show on the morning and that Melinn fell in as substitute.
Note: Melinn may be Barker’s Milleen 22.11.1830 and/or Meneen 27.12.1830. (Ref; Green, Aborigines of the Albany Region.)
Outside of Albany, Mokare’s death had gone unnoticed. There are no reports of his passing in any of the Australian newspapers of this time, nor is it mentioned in any despatches other than Collie’s Anecdotes and Remarks, published retrospectively in 1834 (see Part 4a). Unless news had reached the Swan by other means beforehand, Stirling will have discovered on arrival that the native servant to Nind, Wakefield and Barker, the same man who had led every significant excursion since the occupation had commenced, and who was twice invited to visit the Swan River as representative of the Albany Aborigines but who never got to go, had not obeyed doctor’s orders and as a result was now dead and buried.
The administrators need for a guide will have been pressing and Nakinah was clearly the next best option. That Nakinah took the option up is testament to the extent of his acceptance of the continuing white presence and of his familarity with it.
Nakinah had been with Wakefield and Mokare to the Porongurups three years earlier but as far as the records show had not been on any other of the explorative excursions. Collie remarked how Nakinah had reintroduced Wannewar to him as ‘a fine fellow‘ after Mokare’s death and this is evidenced by the initial arrangement that the two would guide the investigating party. The plan was to go directly to Moorilup, or thereabouts, then turn to the west and head back southwards again where they would try to gain a view of the country Wilson, Barker and Bannister had seen around the Denmark and Hay Rivers as they fed down into Wilson’s Inlet.
And this they did.
At half past three in the afternoon of the second day, two and a half miles short of Mount Barker (Roe calls it by the Aboriginal name, Pwakenbak), they were joined by four Aborigines of the Wills tribe who confirmed Nakinah’s assertion there was no water to the north-east for some distance, the direction Roe wanted to take. As a result they camped the night at the foot of Mount Barker which Stirling and Roe climbed before sunset.
The next day they walked about 22 miles further to the north across what Roe described as country gently swelling in ridge and valley, covered with grass and other vegetation, and as beautiful as could be seen. Also noting (and in keeping with Mokare’s envy of the Will’s country), Kangaroo. . . very numerous. . . about the good lands. . . They camped at a lake which Roe doen’t give name to but which appears on his 1833 map as Lake Matilda just north of Moorilup.
On 9th December (presumably without the Will’s men) they turned south-west (back toward the coast) and fell in with an intermittent water course which became the Hay River. By the end of the next day they were roughy 15 miles south west of Mount Barker, Roe having noted along the way the importance of Aboriginal burning-off to their progress (otherwise impeded by heavy undergrowth) and of frequently met traces of natives and their old huts.
On the morning of December 11th at 9.00 oclock t hey;
. . . came across three natives huts, well constructed and one of them large. Six or eight spears were resting against the trees near them and we supposed the owners were inside asleep; therefore hailing by way of precaution for fear of surprising them. No one answered and we found they were out hunting, they answered our call and we were soon joined by a fine stout fellow named Yattee and afterwards by two more. . . among whom were Nylarr, father of Yattee and (another) fine stout man, Alipur.
That they had the confidence to approach this small Mount Barker group in the manner described, and that Roe gives the names of the men they encountered (as opposed to not naming the four Wills men two days previous), suggests Nakinah’s familiarity with them. In fact Nylarr could well be Barker’s Nyaren (28.4.30., 20&21&22.7.30., 12&19.12.30., 31.1.31., 1.2.31) It’s hard to know exactly where this location is but we can fairly safely say it is the upper Hay River, not far west of Pwakenbak, Mount Barker.
Yattee’s group were almost certainly members of Mokare’s Mob. Joining in, they led the expedition toward Mount Lindsay, which Yattee called Peepetup. The party progressed toward the lower Hay River, but not reaching it, covering over 20 miles that day and, evidence of the familiarity of the Aborigines to the west of Albany with the settlement there, ended up in the company of another group who stayed close, sought biscuit and called them ‘white fellows.’
By way of co-incidence, it was exactly two years previous, 11th December, 1829, when Wilson and Mokare arrived more or less at the same place, where Wilson named the river Hay.
Note: The Hay River, like the Kalgan, is just another chain of ponds linked by creeks and streams which fill during times of high water to form a continuous flow. It winds down from the Mount Barker area, only becoming a permanent body of navigable waterway (by small craft) around three miles (5km) from its mouth.
Above: Hay River only gains volume closer to its mouth at Wislon’s Inlet. This image, taken by Sugarbag1 and drawn from Panoramio, shows the river about 5 kilometers upstream, close to where Roe and Stirling’s expedition of December 1831 would have met it.
On December 12th, soon after setting off at 6.00 am, they met the Hay River again, explored its mouth and a nearby stream which Wilson had named Sleeman’s River, then, having met up with five of the local Aborigines who they had met the previous day (one a boy) they proceeded eastwards back toward Albany, separating from the Aborigines before setting up camp that afternoon.
Note: That day Roe measured their distance from Mount Hallowell (south west side of the inlet) at nine miles. In his journal Roe gives the Aboriginal name of Mt Hallowell as Koorunlup, presumably getting it from either Nakinah, Yattee or the Denmark Aborigines they met on the evening of the 12th and the next day. When Maragnan was speaking with Barker on 8 June 1830, however, he gave the Aboriginal name for Mt Hallowell as Comandyup.
On 13th December the party made their way back to the Sound, a distance Roe calculated at ‘about 15 or 16 miles’ but is closer to 25 or 30. They encountered good land toward West Cape Howe which Stirling named the Vale of Tudor and South Downs, then progressed back to Albany arriving at around 5.00pm, very much fatigued.
Above: Stirling and Roe’s December 1831 excursion northward and westward of King George Sound, guided by Nakinah and Melinn, took them as far as Lake Matilda, north of Moorilup, then southwards along the waterways feeding the Hay toward Mnt Lindsay and Wilson’s Inlet near Denmark. Image: Cut from Discoveries in Western Australia : from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. Surv. Genl., provided online by Trove, the National Library of Australia
The excursion ran smoothly and according to plan, though there was no eureka moment, no rave agricultural discovery. As for their guides, Roe doesn’t mention Nakinah or Melinn in his journal beyond the first day, indicating the pair did a serviceable job as far as the explorers were concerned.
On their return, however, there was an air of achievement and goodwill about the place. Both Ellen and Sulphur were still in port and therefore the observant Ensign Dale and impressionable Colonel Hanson too. Nakinah, who Collie had already noted was apt to wear shirt and trousers while about the settlement, was given a naval captain’s uniform as reward for his services to the party. The outfit was black but the officers of the Sulphur had trimmed the coat with red about the collar, cuffs and pockets, and sown outsized epaulettes on to the shoulders as well as a variety of brass buttons up the front. Nakinah accepted the garment and wore it about the settlement for a time afterwards, later influencing Ensign Dale to feature it in a series of drawings he was making from the summit of Mount Clarence. (Ref: Hanson Pamphlet)
Now, by my reckoning, Nakinah’s wearing of the military colours drew the attention of another Aborigine. A surprise personality heretofore unrecorded in any of the surviving material. It’s possible this person was Melinn, Nakinah’s cousin, but the name Melinn/Meleen/Meneen doesn’t appear again in the records. Instead, it is the name Manyat which Alexander Collie introduces through his Anecdotes and Remarks when speaking of the early part of 1832. Manyat, who ‘had lived for some time at the settlement’ and who, when Nakinah fell away and he took on the role of Collie’s next best Aboriginal friend, developed a penchant for wearing the military jacket.
Collie’s View on How to Manage the Albany Aborigines
Over the Christmas of 1831, from the European point of view everything was as positive at Albany as it might possibly be and it was under these conditions, opposed to those deteriorating in Perth, that Stirling requested Collie to set out for him, in the form of an official report, ‘the best plan to be adopted in order to secure a continuation of their (the Albany Aborigines) amicable conduct to the English’.
Collie came up with a 3000 word document outlining the plan, dated 24th January, 1832, which he based largely on the strategy employed by his predecessor Collet Barker (See Part 3). The document is fundementally defensive, concerned with preserving the peace rather than gaining it. Collie’s argument rests on seven principles he attributes to the native character. These being; cunning, revenge, caution, acquisitiveness, love of ease, superstition and vanity.
Much of Alexander Collie’s reputation as friend to Mokare appears to stem from the combined attributes of this document and his request to be buried alongside Mokare when he happened to die at Albany four years later, and it’s easy to see why. Collie, in the quiet of his own thoughts, considers the native position and how it is affected by the settler presence. After a watchful start, motivated by his defensive sense of their cunning and where he warns settlers to be on the lookout for infringments against their property and selves, and at the risk of losing everything never, ever to let their guard down, empathy creeps in and appears to act as general guide.
Collie doesn’t consider the aspects of Aboriginal character he identified as essentially negative, but gives them creedence where it occurs to him, noting Aboriginal willingness to learn and their propensity to experience joy at it. As he progresses, Collie concedes that lack of political awareness means the Aborigines weren’t likely to organise against them and that their natural, if naive, generosity was easily exploited. So much so that he sees clearly the usurping of (the Aborigines) ancient grounds and the group as whole being insidiously deprived.
But yet he is extraordinarily contradictory too. Collie’s warning against native cunning makes no apology for the settler deceit he accepts without question. Also, on the one hand Collie pontificates by saying government should ‘remove from the minds of our countrymen the mistaken idea that the black is so far an inferior being’, but not before having stated categorically, ‘our incalculable superiority over them.’
Collie’s document is laughable in the context of modern day thought but as a tool for understanding the person (and times) it says a great deal. Collie is motivated to experience the world through his education and religous beliefs but yet as a British colonist he is an active member of the world’s most voraciously profiteering country, and cannot separate his intellectual compassion for all peoples from his overwhelming desire to compete amongst his own and to profit accordingly. What Collie’s document shows us is how blind the colonists were to their own want. Even while pleading the native case Collie is detailing to his audience how best to strip them of their pride and place.
As Collie’s lung disease worsens and his time runs out he begins to realise the hypocrisy inherent in his ways and ultimately, when fate deals him a hand he can only interpret as divinely inspired, he is consumed by guilt and asks, in a symbolic act of human and religous conciliation, to be buried alongside the one Aborigine who pro-actively sought to make friends with him. . . (but who also happened to be buried beside his colleague Dr Lyttleton.)
For an abbreviated version of Collie’s essay (my editing) go to the bottom of this post.
From the Aboriginal perspective the Christmas period of 1831 was also a time of heightened social intercourse, and Collie’s eyes were wide open to it. In his Anecdotes and Remarks (Part 5) he notes a gathering at the Sound of between 50 and 60, more than he had seen there before, saying they hailed from the Murrum (west), Wills (north) and White Cockatoo (north east) countries, but of a distance only between 20 and 30 miles. To my mind this was the clan, Mongalan’s people, Mokare’s Mob, the Albany Aborigines, a common group linked to others, as all Aboriginal groups were, by kinhip. There was fishing, firing of the bush for wallaby, corroborrees and the inevitable social aggressions and edginess which the settlers sought to contain by insisting the carrying of spears not be allowed within the region of the houses.
Through all of this Nakinah (probably) wore his motley uniform, assuming the role of Governor of the Aborigines at his kalla, a place where the whitemen had come to live, a place growing in reputation throughout the surrounding Aboriginal world. The image, superficially anyway, is one of the Aborigine accommodating and entertaining the settler presence, allowing it by way of the security and resources it brought, parlaying with it for the novelty and adventure of the experience, yet not trusting it implicitly, as the incomers did not trust them, and not giving of themselves too freely as the settler reserve was all too clear in itself.
The image is one of cultural incongruity, yet of mutual, guarded acceptance where the Aborigine is willing to allow and engage in return for profit (food, tools, clothes and blankets) while the settler is compelled to bargain sparingly in the knowledge his master plan, the juggenaut of colonial expansion, was an altogether unstoppable force.
Above: Nakinah wearing the eldritch uniform fashioned for him by the officers of HMS Sulphur while at King George Sound during December 1831. Image: Detail cut from Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River by Robert Dale. Note: The human detail which makes such a vital contribution to Dale’s landscape may have been added in London late in 1833 when it was realised Aboriginal relations at Albany could add to renewed marketing efforts of the Swan River Colony across Britain.
Adding to the unprecedented numbers of both black and white at the Sound, very soon after their upriver return Stirling and Roe were met by expected seafaring visitors, Stephen and John Henty. The brothers dropped anchor in their privately owned schooner Thistle on 16th December and made immediately for a meeting with the Governor. At this meeting Stirling will have heard the latest from Perth, part of which will have been of the continued problems with the Aborigines at Upper Swan (Guildford) and possibly too of the brutal killing of the indentured farm labourer Erin Entwhistle at the hands of Yagan.
The Hentys were a serious thorn in Stirling’s side. One of the most demanding settler families to arrive at the Swan, the value of their initial investment entitled them to over 80,000 acres which they had deliberated upon, hankered over, reluctantly accepted in mixed parcels and then sought to renege upon since arriving on the Caroline (with Henry Camfield) just over two years earlier. Like many others they were just not satisfied. As mentioned, Stirling had already agreed to allow settlers exchange certain grants for land he intended opening up along Bannister’s overland route between Perth and Albany (and the Henty’s had 60,000 unwanted acres), but by this time the family was pulling out altogether and Stirling appears to have been fed up with their bickering.
As they were heading east to Van Diemen’s Land, the Henty brothers, Stephen (20) and John (18), called in at Albany on the basis Stirling had told them of his plans for the place and also, once again, that there was plenty of good land to be found. But when they applied for land on the west side of Princess Royal Harbour Stirling told them it was to be retained as Crown property and directed them to the Lower King River instead.
In the week leading up to Christmas, Stephen Henty explored the country north of the King River. Collie is sometimes mentioned as going on this trip but Stephen Henty doesn’t record him in his account of the excursion, nor does he mention an Aboriginal guide. Alexander Collie’s Henty excursion took place with brother John and Manyat five months later at the end of May, after all the officials had left. Stephen Henty says he asked for help from Stirling but was reluctantly given just one soldier from the settlement to accompany him and that he went instead with two passengers from the Thistle, covering about 110 miles over six days.
Upon return Stephen Henty confirmed an allocation of just 300 acres at the mouth of King River at a place still listed today as Point Henty. This was done on the basis he and his brothers would operate a shipping service between Launceston and the West Coast for the forseeable future. Then he upped-anchor, leaving brother John alone with Numal, Nulloch and the other King River Aborigines, and headed off for Van Diemen’s Land. (See Marney Bassett’s, The Henty’s, Pg 200).
Curiously, it had also been on the 16th of December that Stirling, as part of his on-going 100, 000 acre selection process, pencilled in 45,000 for himself. 10, 000 acres were due west of the Sound toward Torbay, pretty much where Stephen Henty had been denied; 25,000 north of Wilsons Inlet along the Hay River and 10, 000 additional at Moorilup. (Statham-Drew, James Stirling, Pg 202). Having already seen most of what was on offer, Stirling not only jumped in before Stephen Henty had a chance but appears to have deliberately discouraged him.
Above: It wasn’t until 1840 when a detailed map of the Moorilup grants was produced but from it we can see some of the break-up following the Stirling Roe investigation during December 1831. Stirling allocated himself 45, 000 acres in the wider Albany district (10, 000 at Moorilup) on the same day the Henty brothers visited him at King George Sound with 60, 000 acres in want of exchange. Stirling seems to have discouraged the Henty brothers and apportioned what he thought was good to himself. Also evident in the map is the distribution of other parcels to Stirling’s officials, in this case allocated to family members. Note Collie’s 5,000 acres under the names of his brothers and the large 12,000 acre swathe originally granted to George Cheyne but here shown as belonging to John Hassell after Cheyne’s long awaited sale. Image: Cut from Alfred Hillman’s July 1840 Survey of the Moorilup District
Stirling was back in Perth on 1st February, 1832, having sailed with his family in Ellen, so it was some time before this, possibly in November aboard the Sulphur, or in tandem with Stephen Henty aboard Thistle late in December, that he and Roe made an excursion eastwards along the coast as far Doubtful Island Bay, naming nearby Bremer Bay at the same time. It was important to familiarise themselves with the many bays and coves along the way, as the business of whaling and sealing was high on their minds. They couldn’t act upon it themselves, but knowledge of the coast and locations such as Two People’s Bay and Doubtful Island Bay (which had gained reputation over the years), was important if they were going to sell their prospects to whoever was in a positon to exploit them. There are no records I can find of the voyage so its hard to know exactly who went along. Quite possibly Henry Ommaney and George Cheyne as these two later vied for ownership of Cape Riche with Cheyne eventually winning-out (see George Cheyne and the quest for Cape Riche)
In January, before Stirling left, there were two notable settler excursions out of Albany.
On the 16th, Collie took Surveyor Roe up the Kalgan River, past the point of his near drowning as a 21 year-old lieutenant in waiting on the Mermaid (see King George’s Sound, Oyster Harbour and John Septimus Roe – Part 2), where the surveyors attention focusssed on the left bank (east side), north of Mount Boyle. The team afterwards laid out the proposed Wyndham townsite there on the basis the river was navigable to that point, there was fresh water, plenty of forest for building material and the flatter ground much more suited to construction and town planning.
As result of this news, Geake and Cheyne bought large plots of land on higher ground, marginally to the south, which gave commanding views from King George Sound over Oyster Harbour, west towards the King River and around to the north and east where the Porongurup and Stirling Ranges rose in the distance. The land Geake and Cheyne bought, (866 acres and 1000 acres spread across the river, respectively) soon became known as Candyup. Cheyne also bought multiple lots in Albany Town and at Middleton Beach.
The second expedition set out on January 21st.
Ensign Dale went with Raphael Clint and three soldiers on a seven day excursion to the Stirling Ranges (Aboriginal name Koi-kyen-u-ruff). The intention was to try and locate two types of grain the Albany Aborigines had spoken of to the various white leaders over the years. These were a kind of wheat they called Quannet (Nind’s bread) and a rice-like grain they called Kuik (Nind’s Kioc), which, with commercial settlement now in train was something of economic import to the administration. Perhaps with this in mind, Nakinah once again volunteered to act as guide.
During the trip we are introduced to more Wills men but this time also others belonging to the White Cockatoo tribe whose territory the Stirling’s apparently was. Dale gives the name of a White Cockatoo man who showed them water at the foot of Mnt Toolbrenup, second highest peak of the range. This was Armie, who is not mentioned again in any of the literature. Dale reported that he could get no sense from the Wills or White Cockatoo men regarding the existence of the grains and the expedition, to that end, was a failure. Shellam, in Shaking Hands On The Fringe, suggests Nakinah bribed the Europeans into taking them on a journey he knew would result in failure because of some perhaps pressing issue he wanted to discuss with the Aborigines out that way and which he only wanted to do under the protection of fire arms, something Mokare was apt to do as well. This may have been the case but it seems to me that Nakinah had an alternative motive too, that of profiting from the excursion in the same way he profited from the Moorilup/Hay River expedition by way of the Naval uniform.
Whether Nakinah was aware of the adminsitration’s jokey decoration of the uniform, and whether he wore it with genuine pride or not, I don’t know, but I’m prepared to claim his interest in the Koi-kyen-u-ruff guide role was commercially reciprocal. That is, he was not unaware of the commercial motivations of the explorers, and every bit as aware as Mokare had been of using the white presence for the purposes of gain.
The Albany Aborigine’s understood the economics of knowledge and though they did not own property in the same way Europeans did, clearly understood their custodial role as rightful grounds keepers. The deal they struck with the incomers was not compliance to the European way of things, but to the sharing of resources. There was always that trade-off.
Once again, John Host’s vision of the Aborigines only partially regarding the white presence at Albany and not imagining it beyond being subsumed by their own way of doing things, resonates. The Aborigines didn’t have a master plan, they didn’t have a plan at all. At this time the local Aboriginal world was merely dealing with an anomally, a curiosity, a toy a few of their members had found and were playing with to their advantage. As far as Mokare’s Mob were concerned, the Europeans had a store of powerful resources and the price of their acceptance was sharing it.
To this end, I think Nakinah retained a degree of his aloof self and held his own in relation to being the local ‘chief’, especially in the absence of his linquistically talented younger brother. None of that was to be of lasting avail however, as come the winter of 1832 Nakinah also fell ill, went out into the bush and was never seen by the settlement officals again.
Above: Koi-kyen-u-ruff, the Stirling Ranges, features prominently across the works of Mount Barker artist Bella Kelly. Kelly is a descendant of Coolbun, close relative of Mokare and one of Mongalon’s ‘King George Tribe’ whose kalas extended as far as the upper Hay River where George Egerton-Warburton established St Werburgh’s Farm. The Aboriginal custom of firing the land (burning off) gave rise to a park-like terrain greatly appreciated by the early European explorers who commented on the beauty of the landscape and ease of passage it gave. Image: Untitled, Christmas Trees by Bella Kelly, courtesy Bella Kelly.com website.
Ensign Dale’s Panoramic View of King George Sound
Now, while at Albany, Ensign Dale, just turned twenty-one, used his considerable skills and talent to fashion further favour for himself amongst the colony’s elite decision-makers by completing a series of drawings which combined formed a panorama of King George Sound as viewed from the summit of Mount Clarence.
Above: Video of Dale’s complete Panormaic View from Mount Clarence. Video: Courtesy Albany Advertsier newspaper facebook page.
To understand the importance of Dale’s Panoramic View, we need to describe it in the context of what was happening not only in Perth, but overseas too. Back in the Colonial Offices of London’s Downing Street and among Great Britain’s business community at large, talk of the Swan River Colony had shifted from fad to furore and the situation required remedying.
The length of Dale’s stay at Albany isn’t exactly known but it is assumed he and some of the other officials returned to Perth in the Ellen where they appeared no later than May. (Sulphur arrived at Albany from Van Diemen’s Land in May but not back to Fremantle until 5th June, carrying J.S Roe Esq and family, plus Henry Ommaney.) By this time Stirling’s plans to return to England were being formalised and he was due to leave aboard the Sulphur in August. Major Frederick Chidley Irwin, Commander of the 63rd, was to take over as chief executive in Stirling’s absence and it was to him that Dale was then appointed Private Assistant. For the next fifteen months (until Sept 29th, 1833) Irwin presided over deteriorating settler relations with the Perth (Beeliar) Aborigines as Yagan’s resistance encountered a local settler militia led by brothers Tom and John Velnick and a police constable named Thomas Hunt (see The Inimical John McKail for more).
During this time Yagan was first arrested for the murder of Erin Entwhistle (December 1831), William Gaze (June 1832) and then, in conjunction with his father Midgegooroo, the Velnick brothers (April, 1833), after which he was outlawed and a bounty of £30 set on his capture, dead or alive. Yagan escaped execution for the killing of William Gaze based on the Aboriginal sympathiser Robert Lyon’s defence his actions were legally justified. Based on his time at Albany the previous summer, in January 1833, prior to the death of the Velnick brothers, Ensign Dale was instrumental in bringing two Albany Aborgines, Manyat and Gyalipert, to Perth in an effort to ease tensions and diffuse the situation. The meetings went well but the hoped-for result didn’t come off. Perth’s white militia had by this time taken matters into their own hands and a number of un or under-reported incidents occurred, effectly establishing a state of war between the two. Ultimately, this conflict resulted in the savage killing of the Velnick brothers at the farm of John Randal Phillips (later Resident Magistrate at Albany) near Kelmscot. Once the bounty on Yagan’s head was set, murderous civilian possees voluntarily led by the policeman Thomas Hunt went in pursuit. This led to the capture and deaths first of Yagan’s father Midgegooroo, who was summarily executed at Irwin’s command, and then the unsavoury butchering of Yagan himself. Munday, chief of the Beloo country (between the Canning and Helena Rivers) was also outlawed but in the wake of Yagan’s death sought a truce, which Irwin, much to the disgust of the citizen militia, granted (see again The Inimical John McKail). At this time Munday gave the details of sixteen Aborigines killed by the Perth citizen militia along with others who had been maimed (see Wikipedia Midgegooroo entry).
Under a hail of drunken desisory protest during which an effigy of Irwin was burnt in front of the 63rd’s barracks by Albany’s John McKail (see one more time, The Inimcal John McKail), Irwin and Dale, taking Yagan’s smoked severed head with them, left the colony for London.
Back in Britain Stirling had been busy defending his governence to his superiors while still trying to recruit more settlers. When Irwin arrived with Dale, and Dale the young genius with the anthropological curiosity of Yagan’s head along with his impressive Panoramic View, it appears the triumvirate came up with a plan to maximise publicity for the colony. They did this first by adding human detail to Dale’s landscape, inserting visuals depicting the Christmas period they had spent in Albany two years previous. Nakinah wearing his motley uniform, Aborigine’s shaking hands and trading wallaby for wine, a fishing party returning from the shores of Princess Royal harbour, the whole a picture of harmony and agreeable integration, perfect foil to all the trouble at Perth.
The clue behind the suggestion the human detail was a late addition, comes from the inclusion of the two hunting dogs which appear to be those imported from Tasmania by Alexander Collie on the Sulphur in early May, 1832. (Ref; Collie letter 5 May 1832).
In London, Dale’s panorama panels were greeted enthusiastically and subsequently etched, printed, hand-coloured and published, serving as choice follow-up to Hanson’s pamphlet and Roe’s Map, the combination adding a great deal to Stirling’s continuing vocal efforts.
But it didn’t stop there. Wikipedia’s entry on Yagan describes the process by which Dale brought further recognition for himself and the colony at this time.
After arriving in London, Dale tried to sell the head to scientists, approaching a number of anatomists and phrenologists. His price of ₤20 failed to find a buyer, so he made an agreement with Thomas Pettigrew for the exclusive use of the head for 18 months. Pettigrew, a surgeon and antiquarian, was well known in the London social scene for holding private parties at which he unrolled and autopsied Egyptian mummies. He displayed the head on a table in front of a panoramic view of King George Sound reproduced from Dale’s sketches. For effect, the head was adorned with a fresh corded headband and feathers of the red-tailed black cockatoo.
This portrait was painted from observations of Yagan’s severed head, which had shrunk substantially during preservation by smoking. George Fletcher Moore said it bore little resemblance to the living Yagan, whose face was “plump, with a burly-headed look about it”.
Pettigrew had the head examined by a phrenologist. Examination was considered difficult because of the large fracture across the back of the head caused by the gunshot. His conclusions were consistent with contemporary European opinion of Indigenous Australians. Dale published these in a pamphlet entitled Descriptive Account of the Panoramic View &c. of King George’s Sound and the Adjacent Country, which Pettigrew encouraged his guests to buy as a souvenir of their evening. The frontispiece of the pamphlet was a hand-coloured aquatint print of Yagan’s head by the artist George Cruikshank.
Away from the colony, where the colony could only be imagined, Dale’s contribution managed to support Stirling’s motivational efforts to reinvigorate interest in his Swan River proposition. The combination of first-hand stories and supporting artworks and artefacts conveyed messages of unrelenting determination, success in over-coming the many difficult obstacles the establishment of a colony takes, partly through the ethics of persistence and sheer hard work, partly through use of the long-established colonial language of compliance by force.
Dale’s Panoramic View lent appealing imagery to the quest while Yagan’s head displayed the unalterable authority of the leadership, the combined effect of which appeared to observers to have brought about genuine accord with the heretofore untameable savage.
Between the governor’s Albany inspired braggadocio in the face of Perth’s directly opposing evidence and Dale’s generous talents, the effort conspired to pull-off the rescue. Stirling had already persuaded Sir Richard Spencer to settle at Albany and by the end of the following winter had not only secured aditional military support from the British Government but set sail on his return voyage in the luxuriously refurbished ex-convict ship James Pattison, a chartered vessel stuffed with settlers and their chattels bound, via the Cape of Good Hope, for King George Sound.
For more on Dale, his artwork and the problem inherent in his Panoramic View and accompanying description, use the following links.
- Robert Dale biographical entry in Design & Art Australia On-line.
- Dale’s descriptive accompaniment to his Panoramic View
- Contemporay West Australian artist Chris Pease’s take on Dale’s Panorama
- Robert Dale’s (dubious) Secret Agenda
Above: Section from a key panel of Dale’s Panoramic View in which Collie’s Kangaroo Dogs appear alongside Nakinah and the friendly exchange of wallaby for wine between soldiers and Aborigines. Use of colour and lansdcape style lends genuine visual appeal, something which has influenced thinking on the relationship which existed at Albany, perhaps beyond that which actually did. Image: Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River, by Ensign Robert Dale, 1832. This version from S.P. Loha Foundation, Rare Book Collection.
So Collie’s role at Albany, in the context of the town’s history, is superceded by that of Ensign Dale and Governor Stirling. His positioning there at the time was helpful to the marketing efforts back in Britain but as we have seen Collie’s lasting contribution lies in the artefacts he collected, while his story, partly written by himself, is not so much about the actual relationship he had with Mokare’s Mob, but in the exploitation he was party to and how he dealt with it during his last surviving days.
Gwen Chessel notes in her biography of Collie; ‘The friendship he had enjoyed with Mokare had not been replaced by that of any other member of the Minang. In fact, the people were keeping themselves ‘very much aloof. . .’
Chessel is guilty of perpetuating the myth Collie and Mokare were great friends but yet there is nothing in her book that shows this. The chapter on Mokare is bereft. Conscious of this she says that the depth of their relationship was only evidenced when Collie died at Albany and requested he be buried next to Mokare, but yet there is no further detail, nor does she point out that Collie’s place of burial was not just the same as Mokare’s. It was also the gravesite of Dr Uredale’s son Talwin and the half-caste boy Charlie Brown (possibly Nindaroli), and of the white settlement doctor J.B. Lyttleton who replaced Collie when he moved back to Perth in March 1833.
Mokare and Collie were not known to each other for very long and it was Mokare, as he had done with Barker, Davis, Wakefield and Nind, who drove the relationship. Mokare was the one who presented at the settlement and chose which of the white men he would spend most time with. Mokare was the one who stayed the nights and learned the language, who gave confidence to his kin to join him at the garrison so to remind the white presence where they were and whose place it was, and to extract from them their rent.
Nakinah stepped in to act as guide when needed over the Christmas of 1831, but from the time Mokare passed away he was no longer resident in Collie’s house. Once Mokare died it was as Collie himself said, the Albany Aborigines were . . . ‘only visiting one or two individual houses on which occasions they are amicable and not so intrusive as heretofore.’
Collie was on the outside once Mokare passed away and it’s evident through his anecdotes and remarks that he missed Mokare’s input. It’s like going back to Nind’s paintings again, the landscapes show the place but not what’s happening. The difference between Collie’s knowledge before and after Mokare’s death is like reading about the settlement with and without Barker’s notes. With them we had intimate detail. Without, no more than a pale overview.
Now, we know that Collie was ambitious but in the eyes of the Colonial decision-makers not a first choice candidate. He wanted the job of Colonial Surgeon at the Swan River but was only appointed Ship’s Surgeon aboard Sulphur, and we know that when offered the job as Resident Magistrate at Albany it was only after Bannister had turned the position down. Collie had done all he could to endear himself to Stirling and eventually his reward came when the Colonial Surgeon at Perth, Charles Simmons, died. This was in October, 1831, just before Stirling left for Albany, so Collie was informed by Stirling of his appointment from early November, but also that he would have to wait until it was approved back in London, and for someone else to arrive at Albany in his place, before he could take it up.
Thus, from November 1831 Collie was waiting to leave Albany. However, because no one could be found to take-up his own position (as had happened with Scot Nind previously), he didn’t get to go until the following October or November, almost a year later. This accounts for Collie’s abject boredom. We know very little of what occurred at the Sound from Autumn 1832 until the Spring of 1833 when Sir Richard Spencer and family arrived, except (apart from the Manyat and Gyallipert’s inspired visits to the Swan River) from a settlement point of view it wasn’t much. Reading into this there is suggestion Collie became depressed during the winter. All the while we have to remember that he was sick, spitting blood and struggling with his breath, and that he feared his time on earth was limited. In a letter to his brother George penned in July, 1832, in which he described his ennui, Collie also lamented his wait for the Perth move in the face of his irrepairable poor health.
If I sit at my desk one fourth part of my working time for three days together I am knocked up. My asthma and cough will not leave me. Nevertheless and notwithstanding all I am ten times better for a hundred reasons than being cooped up aboard ship, and if I were more sanguine might enjoy in anticipation the good fortune that is to come. I can enjoy nothing till I get it. Time will tell, it is true, but my time, and yours, too, my dear George, are drawing to a close.
Collie only had so long left. He wanted to enjoy his job, status and social intercourse at Perth while maximising the gains he could make from his time in the colony. But he had to wait. In the six months between the departure of the last of the Perth officials after their 1831/2 summer sojourn, and around November when he sailed back to the Swan, Collie collected botanical specimens and Aboriginal artefacts at Albany while developing a curious interest in the Upper Hay River.
After the final departure of HMS Sulphur from King George Sound around the second week in May, Collie was left alone once more to run the tiny settlement as sole official. During this time he decided to go back to Moorilup, or thereabouts, ostensibly for the purposes of helping determine the best route in the direction of the Swan River as overland communications between the two places was top of the agenda.
Collie knew Stirling was headed for London and needed to be armed with as much positive information as was available so wrote to him on 31st July advising of that expedition and of a follow-up journey to the same general area five or six weeks later. But was this the real purpose of Collie’s endeavour and of the urgency to let Stirling know before he left for London on August 12th?
The first of these two excursions was made in the company of John Henty and Manyat and is much celebrated for the way Collie recorded Manyat’s involvement. The second amounts to a single paragraph in which Collie speaks only of a fertile valley he visited, giving no detail as to who his guide was.
It’s clear Collie was excited by the valley’s prospects as farmland and perhaps just wanted to keep the Governor’s enthusiasm for the region high, but it is just as likely Collie was inspecting land for his own purposes, land he perhaps wanted granted to himself.
Collie had sought Nakinah to act as guide and interpretor on the initial ten day trek which led them sixty-five miles into the interior, but being unwell Nakinah declined. Collie writes about this in Anecdotes and Remarks (PG 18.8.34) stating that Manyat came forward as volunteer. Soon after their return Collie says all the Aborigines, except Manyat, left the settlement to go to the bush, Nakinah amongst them. This is last mention of Nakinah by Collie and we learn through Dale’s commentary on his Panoramic View that Mokare’s elder brother and head of the Albany Aborigines, ‘had been so far reclaimed from his former mode of life, as to live almost entirely at the settlement; but his wandering propensities at last prevailed, and he rejoined his companions in the woods, where he shortly afterwards died.‘
Collie describes Manyat in the same segement of his Anecdotes and Remarks as having ‘lived at the settlement for sometime’. Manyat, Collie tells us, came to the fore early in April 1832 when a group of Wills men arrived and went amongst Mokare’s Mob looking for someone to spear. On the surface of things this is just another example of the many different Aborigines involved in the continuous cycle of death and revenge spearings occuring, but on closer reading it tells its own story. After-all, Collie would not have made mention of who was who if those people werent of some significance.
Collie says there was a disturbance at Mt Melville caused by the appearance of a rival group threatening the elderly and young of Mokare’s Mob gathered there. There is much commotion and it is Manyat and Waiter (Nakinah’s last surviving brother) who come to the settlement looking for arms and protection. The cause of the commotion is Moolungul, one of Mongalon’s tribe, who has comes down from his ground ‘three or four miles on this side of Mount Barker’ to avenge the death of his friend Yoong-it. Moolungul and Yoong-it (Yunghitte) are names which Barker recorded too and we can see that Yoongit is a Wills man with strong connections to Mokare’s Mob; In fact, Barker tells us (31.1.31), Yoongit’s wife was Mokare’s Aunt.
So we begin to see here the nature of the groups we are concerned with and how the dynamic works. Albany is deep Mongolan country, being coastal it has borders with other Shell groups to the east and west. Mongolan country extends as far as Mt Barker where it merges with Wills country. Here relationship loyalties are compromised by dual proximity. Barker talks about discussions between Mokare’s Mob and the Wills men as to who was to be speared next in the Yandert dispute (see Green; Aborigines of the Albany Region, Pg 70). In these discussions Yoongit is mentioned as an emissary of the Wills tribe, someone strongly connected to both groups. Yoongit is a Wills man but his wife belongs to the Mongolan. Moolungul is Mongolan but yet he is compelled to avenge the death of his Wills friend, and there-in lies the source and complexity of interclan warfare. Who is friend and who is foe up on the borderlands, and when someone from outside your kalla comes in, regardless of their familiarity and right to access, what is their ultimate motive?
But as far as Collie is concerned there is more to this. As he precisely notes, Moolungul’s grounds lie three or four miles on this side of Mt Barker and Moolungul is Mongolan. Not only that too, but Yoongit, to whom Mokare’s Aunt was betrothed, is now dead. Does this spell trouble at Mt Barker or does it spell opportunity? After all, this Mt Barker locality is on the Upper Hay River where each of the explorers has noted the quality of the land and Collie is very speficic when telling Stirling about it.
In the middle of July, I traced a valley where there is a rapid mountain stream, (I think the Hay) from a mile west of Mount Barker, to N. 307° E. (true) from Mount Clarence, distant twenty-two miles and a half, and found on its sides, as well as on the sides of the valleys entering it, which also contained streams of water, a considerable extent of good soil,—of excellent young grass shooting up where that of the former year had been burnt, and in some places, a thick covering of old grass. A herd of fourteen horned cattle were pasturing on the verdant slopes, and appeared by their traces to have passed the summer there. Their high condition testified in favour of their feed.
In telling the stories of Manyat and Moolungul via his Anecdotes and Remarks, along with his official letters to the Governor, we begin to see how Collie’s knowledge of Mokare’s Mob motivated his thinking regarding the best farmland places to occupy. Knowledge that was subsequently passed on and, as I have been suggesting for some time, presents as evidence of the unwritten alliance which existed between the settlement’s consecutive leadership and Mokare’s Mob. (See the The Hay River Brigade for more.)
But we get a little ahead of ourselves here. Late in May Collie and young John Henty, still on the lookout for prime real estate opportunities on behalf of his family, make a ten day excursion as far as Lake Matilda and then eastwards to the north-western edge of the Stirling Ranges. Collie appears to enjoy this trek better than any other he has been on. Not necessarily because of any discovery he makes, but because he engages with Manyat in a way that delights him. So much so we could say that if Collie had written about Mokare in similar terms we might be able to declare more easily a reciprocal friendship between them. The difference here is that the party doesn’t encounter any other Aborigines, at all, and Manyat, clearly in territory he has never been to before, revels in the experience. Collie calls it Mayat’s Sole Delight, and Tiffany Shellam, having based an entire chapter on it in Shaking Hands on the Fringe, finds it has major influence on the book as a whole.
Manyat’s disposition is different to Mokare and Nakinah’s. Perhaps he is naive to the dangers his tribesmen perceived or perhaps he is just drunk on the joy of it, the abundance of food and drink the party bring with them contributing heartily. In any case, Collie paints the picture of a man inspired by matching his understanding of what lay beyond his kalla and domaine with the reality of visiting it first hand. Being a botanist, Collie is delighted himself at the way Manyat is interested in trees and plants, particularly the quondong bush, as much as the physical geography they encounter. Collie is captured by the way Manyat recorded the experience in his memory and replays it to his friends and family when they get back, highlighting the confidence and notoriety Manyat gained as a result.
Because of Collie’s contribution here, from this point on in the literature we become more attuned to the value the Aborigines placed on being well-travelled. Mokare was talked about as being invited to leave Albany aboard ship at least three times but on each occasion didn’t go, but within six months of his first outing Manyat (together with Gyallipert) requested to go to Perth to visit the tribes there. They sailed in another of the Henty boats, Thistle, when Stephen Henty returned from Launceston to pick up John in November. Shellam notes the Aboriginal voyage was sanctioned by Donald McLeod of the 63rd, who had taken over as lead official at the Sound by that time. The Thistle arrived at Fremantle on January 19th (PG&WAJ 19.1.33) but in a different column of the same paper we are told Collie took Mayat and Gyallipert to Lake Monger the day before. (PG&WAJ 19.1.33) In any case, the pair returned to Albany with Major Irwin in the Ellen the following month only to team up with five or six others and come back again on the return sailing; Gyallipert on that occasion disembarking at Augusta saying he’d meet them all up there in due course.
This is the great liberation which appears to have taken place in the wake of Nakinah’s death. For a period of six years, from the time Manyat enters the scene in June 1832 until July 1838 when a group delivered mail from Albany to Perth on foot, travelling well beyond the bounds of Mokare’s Domaine became popular with the Albany Aborigines.
After that, things changed.
Above: In hope of effecting better inter-racial relations at the Swan River, in January 1833 Alexander Collie, since relocated to Perth, met Manyat and Gyallipert off the Henty vessel Thistle from King george Sound and took them to Lake Monger to meet Yagan. Image: Yagan by Julie Dowling, this copy courtesy the Art Gallery of Western Australia
It isn’t clear exactly how and when Collie left Albany but he was back in Perth and active as Colonial Surgeon by 12th January, 1833. Collie built and furnished a house, spending £500 on the whole. The address was 36 St George’s Terrace, corner Pier Street, directly opposite the government domain, where St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church now stands.
He practised as Colonial Surgeon from the government dispensary, one of four small buildings attached to the council chambers (completed 1830 as temporary government house), located a block to the west of his home. Collie also conducted a private practise though complained it was worth only £100 a year. Alexander Collie’s state of health fluctuated but being ‘broken winded‘ he never fancied he’d find a bride locally. His letters indicate periods of bouyant mental health, usually in the cooler winter months, but by the middle of 1835, when he was called to assess the fatal gunshot wound John McKail had inflicted on the boy Goggalee at Kings Park, he was failing. (PG&WAJ 30.5.1835, also see The Inimical John McKail)
End-stage lung disease isn’t pretty. It’s characterised by flare-ups and there is a noticeable, gradual worsening of the sufferer’s breathing. After each flare-up, lung function doesn’t recover to the level it was before and breathing becomes more difficult. Exertion, even small changes in position, talking or eating, can put you out of breath. It can also become uncomfortable to breathe lying down, so people end-up sitting or propped up almost all the time. Reduced lung function causes a knock-on effect as low levels of oxygen in the blood begin to cripple the body’s other organs, vitally the heart. This in turn causes swelling in the legs, fluid retention called ‘dropsy’ during Collie’s time.
Collie’s breathing probably began to seriously tighten around May, 1835. For weeks on end he will have struggled, at times become panicky because of it, as his legs also began to bloat. Three months later he announced to Governor Stirling he could no longer work and had decided to go home, in fact was leaving on HMS Zebra scheduled for departure in October. Collie made a will, calling on Surveyor General John Septimus Roe to act as one of two executors. His constant struggle for breath at a time when nebulisers and tranquilisers weren’t known will have caused great anxiety and depression, despite him knowing very well what was in store. On November 4th, HMS Zebra, whose sailing went via Van Diemen’s Land and Sydney, pulled in at King George Sound where the near-unconscious Collie was rowed ashore. He was taken to the house of George and Grizzel Cheyne where he lasted another four days.
On November 11th he was buried at the grave site where four years previous he and Nakinah had laid to rest Mokare, Talwin and Charlie Brown and where, just five months prior to his own death, his replacement as Surgeon at Albany, J.B. Lyttleton, had also been buried. Further evidence of the esteem the doctors at Albany were held in by Mokare’s Mob and, indeed, of the very curious run of ill-health they seemed to encounter.
The only reference to Collie requesting he be buried alongside Mokare comes from a letter Ellen Stirling (the Governor’s wife) wrote to Collie’s closest friend, Richard Scholl. Scholl was Purser aboard the Sulphur when they sailed out together in 1829 and had also been drafted into Stirling’s Administration. In her letter Ellen Stirling says to Scholl, ‘He died at Mr Cheyne’s house in November and left as his last request that he should be buried next to Mokare, the native. . . ‘
No mention of the word friend.
Ellen Stirling will have heard the story from her husband who arrived at Albany on 21st November, ten days after the burial. Stirling was back down south again with Roe and others, doing his best, among other things, to further progress the Perth/Albany road. Nonetheless, I think we can take it that Ellen Stirling’s stating of Collie’s last request is accurate. He was known as a sympathiser of the Aborigines and his legacy shows it. It’s open to interpretation, but Collie didn’t just ask to be buried in the same place as Mokare, Talwin, Lyttleton, et al but, as Ellen Stirling put it, ‘beside Mokare.’
I’m still at pains to concede that Collie genuinely considered Mokare his friend though. I think the evidence shows he valued Mokare’s position and contribution, as he did Nakinah’s, as he did almost all the Aborigines at the Sound, but being Mokare’s close friend isn’t borne out. From the writing left behind it’s clear Collie was far more enchanted with Manyat than Mokare.
Collie found himself rowed ashore at Albany, the place where he had composed and delivered to Stirling, at Striling’s request, the best plan to be adopted in order to secure a continuation of their (the Albany Aborigines) amicable conduct to the English’, a document which fundamentally betrayed the very people he admitted were being insidiously deprived.
Collie didn’t get to enjoy any of the wealth he gained while working at the Swan River Colony. His time ran out as he knew it would and when, by accident, he found he was back in Albany where Mokare had befriended him, I suspect he threw his eyes to the heavens as he laboured to gain what little air he could and thought he’d better go out in solidarity than isolation, though the chances are he will have been buried in the same place anyway.
Above: George Paul Chalmers RSA, Posthumous ‘Portrait of Alexander Collie (1793–1835)’ 1869, oil on panel. This digital version darwn from the official Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja brochure.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh on Collie? Just because he never stated in writing that he regarded Mokare a friend doesn’t mean he didn’t. When Collie set out his thoughts on how best to maintain positive relations between the Albany Aborigines and the settlers he revealed much of his humanist self. He was philanthropic rather than altrusistic, prepared to stand up for Aboriginal rights while not quite being able to dismiss the opportunity to profit from their deprivation. A colonist with a conscience, but a colonist all the same.
In closing here, there is one more nugget of information about Collie which needs elucidation. When back at Perth around Christmas time 1832, Collie’s stint as Colonial Surgeon saw him play a role in the transfer of the Colonial Hospital, a tent or marquee erected at Cathederal Avenue, midway between his house and the Colonial Dispensary, to rooms in a house privately owned by George Embleton, once the indentured servant of Dr John Wately, a settler who had drowned in the Swan River in 1830. However Embleton came to be owner of the building, and where it was exactly, it was Collie who leased it from him in 1833.
There were two military hospitals on the Swan River, one at Fremantle the other comprising around a quarter of the army military depot on the corner of St George’s Terrace and Barrack Street. The military doctor was William Lane Milligan. Collie was appointed Colonial Surgeon almost a year before he could take up the position and during this time the military and civilian responsibilities were combined, Dr Milligan being overseer. From what I can make out, until Collie arrived and established the civilian hospital in the Embleton Building, everyone was treated at the newly built permanent military hospital within the military depot.
A story which I haven’t found first-hand but appears to be in a document titled George Embleton lease and conditions of same, (C.S.O. Records Vol. 28) tells of how Collie’s civilian hospital was only open to men, women having to be billeted out to private residences. However, in a poorly transcribed on-line history posted by the Royal Perth Hospital Heritage Society we learn (amongst a great deal of other important but garbled information) that Collie, ‘went against this trend by admitting a woman with a spear wound, not a popular move which did not go down very well as she was also an Aborigine.’ (See History of Royal Perth Hospital by Bolton & Joske for more).
So back in Perth, the Not-So-Friendly Frontier, when relations between the settlers and Aborigines were rapidly breaking down, when that private militia which John McKail and his buddies seem to have been a part grew out of the clientelle down at The Happy Immigrant Hotel, just around the corner on Barrack Street, and acting Governor Fred Irwin was trying his best to keep the peace, Collie looks to have turned activist and made a stand.
He wasn’t the only one though, as Dr Milligan was reported to have treated Aboriginal women (including the wife of Munday) at the military hospital in March of that year too, (PG&WAJ 16.3.1833).
Ultimately, what we take away from the investigation into Collie during the final years of his life is that he was a friend to the Aborigines and that regardless of his actual relationship with Mokare (which we can only surmise), the powerfully symbolic gesture of requesting he be buried next to him remains as valid as it ever has been. Perhaps even more so, now we know as much of the truth as there is.
* * * * *
Below is my abbreviated version (1750 words) of Collie’s proposal to Stirling regarding the continuation of amicable conduct between the Albany Aborigines and local settlers
The full document, REPORT FROM THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINES (BRITISH SETTLEMENTS); WITH THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE, APPENDIX AND INDEX, Printed 26 June 1837 can be found at the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
To go directly to Collie’s report within the document use this link or cut and paste the following URL into your browser.
COPY of a REPORT from Dr. Collie, His Majesty’s Resident at King George’s Sound, to Governor Sir James Stirling. King George’s Sound, 24 January, 1832.
IN stating, in conformity with the wishes of your Excellency, I am happy to give my strongest recommendation to the general principle so successfully pursued by the late and much lamented Captain Barker; this was to observe an uniformly kind and steady demeanour towards the (natives), with occasional and well-timed gratuities of provisions and other articles of essential benefit to them.
I consider the ruling principles (of the natives) appear to be cunning, revenge, caution, acquisitiveness, love of ease, superstition and vanity.
. . . cunning leads to lying and deception, and therefore is it required to be constantly on guard against unforeseen and unsuspected pillage, surprise and attack.
. . . constant preparation to prevent trespass, aggression or violence, is essential in preserving the friendly intercourse that has been happily established. The wild savage must be expected to take advantage of the weak, unprotected or unprepared.
This ought to be engraven on the heart of every settler in Western Australia; (who) should be made fully aware that the blood that might be shed, the human lives lost, the flocks destroyed, the crops and habitations demolished, and himself and brother settlers reduced from prosperity to poverty through inattention to this precaution, would raise an enormous mass of guilt that nothing could remove.
Revenge urges the savages to instant resentment of any conceived affront. . . , unrestrained by cautiousness, which at other times forbids them from exposing their persons to the least danger, prompts them to approach under cover and inflict (a) fatal wound on their unsuspecting victim. Their acquisitiveness, aided by caution and cunning, renders them formidable aggressors.
Vanity is perhaps a beneficial quality. They boast of the learning obtained from the white people; (it) affords them delight, the recollection of astonishment, wonder and envy it excited gives them an ecstacy of pleasure. Their vanity prompts them to procure the learned, admired and envied, and this may be advantageously cultivated if their love of ease, or perhaps more properly slothfulness, be not too powerful to counteract (it).
. . . love of ease prevent(s) active and continued hostility, (and is) a drawback to forming themselves into associations, or attaching themselves to anything like civilized society. At any moment they can obtain the necessaries of life in the wilds of their own country with less trouble than at the house of the settler; (and) at that moment they will be ready to desert those who may have been considering themselves as their protectors and benefactors without applying for permission to depart.
Their superstition I know to be extreme, (it) may be the means of ensuring their respect for our incalculable superiority over them, and fear of incurring our dire displeasure and awful vengeance. . . . it will lead them to adopt the doctrines of the Christian faith.
I would humbly suggest that in the change of authorities and individuals that is liable to take place (here), it is highly important that no marked change should be experienced by the natives. The reasons for uniformity of treatment are obvious; alienated feelings would deprive the tie of gratitude.
. . . a public record should be left, in addition to more personal information, of the customs, manners (and) individual disposition of such natives as frequent the settlement.
(Referring to Mokare) It would be advisable to retain one of the natives who has the greatest influence in the tribe, who is the most intelligent, and best disposed towards us. . . . afford every encouragement to the fittest candidate. This person ought to be the medium through whom all inferior punishments should be awarded, and through whom occasional donations should be made or rewards bestowed. He will act as interpreter and guide to expeditions into the interior.
. . . the native (is) ready to perform certain services for a slight remuneration in victuals, tools, clothing, etc., and the (colonist) will be too glad to avail himself of the smallest assistance at so cheap a rate. . . . during this service the natives have opportunities of committing acts of petty theft, which require to be guarded against and highly disapproved of, if not punished, when detected;
. . . were mutual interchange of labour and reward not admitted the native would have little inducement to visit.
There can be little objection to countenancing this intercourse; the abuses to be avoided as much as possible. . . encouraging such (natives) known to be of good or tolerable character, observing the strictest justice in all dealings with them, the utmost punctuality in performing promises, the greatest equanimity and forbearance in remonstrating on impropriety of conduct, and the greatest caution and temper in imposing slight punishments.
The native ought to be considered as much under the protection of our laws as the colonist himself. The colonist, in order to preserve a right understanding with the natives, in order to act to them as a man of civilization, morality and religion, and in order to insure his own and family’s tranquillity, success and safety, must constantly bear in mind the facts that it is he who is the primary -intruder, that it is he who is usurping the ancient grounds, the undoubted property of the aborigines, who are entitled to every international law, to a full compensation, to entire satisfaction, for what they are so insidiously deprived of.
The colonist must also dispel the illusion that he is entitle(d) to look for protection. He must dissipate the idea it is just to neglect conciliatory measure(s). . . . constant kindness will confer security of the lives of the colonists, the protection of their flocks, herds, crops and houses. . . . it is requisite to be mindful we are all men, that the hue of the skin gives no preference of the white over the black, however much we may fancy this effeminate and sickly hot-bed colour, the swarthy savage prides himself, and with greater semblance of reason, on his healthful and manly darkness.
. . . remove from the minds of our countrymen the mistaken idea that the black is so far an inferior being. Christian benevolence should be most strenuously enforced. . . . the mistaken idea of undeserving kindness (is) the never-failing source of difference, disturbance and quarrel.
On the other hand, disappointment (in such natives) as enter their service makes the employer in a short time dismiss the adopted domestic, sometimes without the clothing that has been given. Were this change of clothing merely uncomfortable it would be little deserving of notice, but its baneful influence in laying the foundation of organic disease has often had a fatal termination. When the colonist, therefore, gives European clothing, he should keep the native dress that he thus supersedes till his servant may want it again for the bush.
Every (native) who presents himself should be taken on trial for some days without change of dress; for many who do not like (being) the servant of another will soon find their new situation so irksome that both will readily agree to a separation.
(Referring to the passing of Mokare) When the natives’ health has suffered, it is only the severity of the pain that makes him wish for relief. . . . all is hope that he will speedily be well. His sole idea is that a dose of medicine, one single application, must be successful without the aid of confinement or restraint. The settler who has allowed the invalid a place at his fire is chagrined at his imprudence . . . the same exposures (are) repeated, consequent relapses (re)occur until all chance of recovery be lost, the settler (is) constrained to be witnesses to the meanings, waitings and ravings for days and nights, and ultimately of the death of the miserable object of their unavailing care.
It would be laudable to establish an institution for such cases, an asylum for the sick native, where he might, in some measure, be compelled to be cured.
. . . one precaution foremost to demand attention (is) the introduction of the custom and habit of indulging in ardent spirits, which I sincerely hope will continue to be as successful in succeeding years as it has been since the formation of the settlement. The beverage which the natives have been happily taught to prefer, is the agreeable and innocuous tea, and few of them will drink spirits when offered, and none to excess.
. . . it will also be requisite to conciliate and gain the goodwill of distant tribes. They are not unfrequently at enmity with the tribe of the Sound, who do not seem at ease when a
number of strangers come in, and they are more importunate and dishonest with us. . . . it is desirable their visits be confined to certain periods at which they might receive encouragement to cultivate our friendship . . . a full feast of tea, biscuit, rice, or such like, and a donation of small tomahawks, knives and blankets; the most appropriate time (being) about Christmas, or the month of May, as at those seasons (they) approach the vicinity of King George’s Sound.
. . . marks of favour and reward should be bestowed on those who render essential service, also those who visit the settlement for the first time, or from such a distance as to render it unlikely their visit will be repeated within the year.
Should any of the hostile tribes solicit an alliance offensive and defensive, it should not be granted; by affording protection to one we compromise the other . . . by non-interference we preserve the goodwill of both. . . . under all circumstances we should endeavour to prevent any hostile acts being committed at our own places of habitation.
It will be several years (until) the Aborigines become cultivators of the soil, or induced to remain permanently in fixed places of abode. I am well aware of the obstacles innate in the savages of Australia to making this first, grand and leading step on the way to their civilization, but here (at King George Sound) the primary preparation is more perfect.
. . . steady and uniform endeavour shall be most effectual (in) promoting and preserving the amity, goodwill and security on both sides, the paramount importance of which I have humbly endeavoured to demonstrate.
I have, &c.
(signed) A, Collie, Resident