A short history of Aboriginal relations at the Swan River through the story of John Henry Monger and his closest associates.
Above: Gone to the grave. The name of John Henry Monger (the elder) has long been associated with the birth of Benil, also known as John Jack Mungar Bennell, patriarch of the well known Noongar Bennell and Garlett families of today. Image: taken from Classified Advertisements, The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, Friday 3 September 1869.
Warning: This post is concerned with Indigenous family history and carries the names of many deceased persons. The intention is to neither prove nor disprove existing theories or beliefs, only to throw light upon a subject of interest to many indigenous and non-indigenous families alike. The View From Mount Clarence is the work of a non-indigenous writer and researcher on the subject of racial integration in South-West Western Australia.
For Aileen, Glenys and Darren Quartermaine-Garlett and all descendants of
John Henry Monger, the Elder, 1800-1867
In recent months I’ve been drawn back into family matters. When I say family, I mean extended family, and in this case the extention is wide and far. But that’s the beauty of it and one of the reasons I decided to get involved. The other is because the matter at hand is distressing and it’s not nice to find people in distress.
A relative of mine has been told she belongs to a family she doesn’t know. For the purposes of the Single Noongar Claim, a Perth woman through and through has been told by the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) that she’s from the Avon Valley. She’s been told she belongs to an old and very well known Ballardong family with roots buried deep in the days of first settlement at York. She holds nothing against that family, of course, she just doesn’t understand or agree with the judgement. Her whole life she’s been told stories of her grandparents, great grandparents and beyond living along the Swan. My Aunt says her people were the 19th Century Perth personalities Tommy Dower and Fanny Balbuk, not the York patriarchs Benil, Mungarlit and Kikit.
Since involving myself in the conversation I’ve found it impossible not to be gripped. This is because both Tommy Dower and Fanny Balbuk hold legendary status in the Indigenous history of Perth while Bennell, Garlett and Kickett commenced new Noongar families whose genesis lay in their association with the most powerful of early settler families. Not only was the Bennell/Garlett association begun more or less at the outset of settlement, the paths of this Ballardong family’s following generations entwined with the Kickett’s to weave in and out of the State’s deciding history. At one point their threads were tied tightly to the likes of none other than Sir John Forrest, perhaps the greatest white West Australian ever to have lived.
Through the emotional turmoil of an ordinary Noongar family attempting to resolve their ancestral mysteries today we are drawn backwards in time to when the State’s most driven colonists relied on and appreciated Aboriginal assistance in order to explore and understand the environment in which they had come to live, but whose society could not and would not accept them as equals. Indeed, there had been war -or at least ‘a period when a mortal feud. . . existed between some of the settlers and the Aborigines.’ First at Perth, then eastwards at York and southwards down the scarp and coastal plain as far as the Vasse River.(Chauncy in Brough; The Aborigines of Victoria; 1878; Appendix: Pg 277).
But just as there has always been people of European origin willing to work with and support the Indigenous there were always Aborigines who saw beyond the injustice and sought to accomodate and work with the newcomers, choosing to try and adapt rather than fight the imposition. This is evident through Nakinah and Mokare in the Noongar leadership at Albany as much as Yellagonga’s initial gesture of acceptance at Perth. Yagan, on the other hand, chose resistance and has since become a symbol for it, a proud and defiant hero who stood up to disenfranchisement, who against all odds chose to fight and, inevitably, to die doing so.
Struggle is defined by defiance. It is war against imposition, defiance and acceptance being the opposing forces of change, and every true struggle births its heros. Yagan’s story is as singular as any in world history, standing tall among the many fatal conflicts which characterise the rebellious habit of mankind. His legend will never diminish.
But this story is mostly about the former group, those who were exposed to kindly acts by the settlers and who thereby chose to try and adapt. As curiosity would have it, the longest surviving of the five known Aborigines to accompany John and Alexander Forrest on their monumentally depredacious explorations was a man whose father hailed from Pinjarra and who was a nephew of one of Western Australia’s best known Aboriginal ancestors, Winjan. This Aborigine was also said to have been a grandson of Yellagonga and therefore attached to families between Perth and south of Mandurah. This Aborigine, whose traditional name was Nguyart, was called Tommy by the Forrest brothers, later becoming known about Perth as King Tommy. This, who my relative says was her great grandfather, was Tommy Dower.
Above: Tommy Dower, Aboriginal name Nguyart (1845-1895), was longest surviving of the five Aborigines who acted as guides and advisors to the Forrest brothers. This image is cut from a portrait of Alexander Forrest’s North West W.A. expedition of 1879 which revealed the riches of the Kimberly region. Dower subsequently became an outspoken critic of colonial government, achieving an envious degree of notoriety through the newspapers of the day. Image: Courtesy State Library of Western Australia. Call No. 66571PD
The other Aborigines prominent in the Forrest expeditions were from York, or the York area, and Leschenault (Bunbury) where the Forrest brothers grew up. These were Tommy Windich, Tommy Pierre, Billy Noongale Kickett and Jimmy Mongaro. Through their personal and family histories we see the interlinking of Noongar families from Gingin in the north, to the Avon Valley in the east to Bunbury in the south. All of this area, as far as the Aborigines at the time of British settlement are concerned, looks to have comprised a single body of people and, by way of my assessment anyway, might be described as those of the scarp and western coastal plain.
And therein lies the SWALSC predicament. Under the circumstances presented by colonisation, how do you address such a thing as diaspora; the dispersion and spread of people from their original homeland fires over a period of more than two hundred years? As we saw through the Interlude Series (Part-8 in particular) there is no way to accurately define, by border or classification, an intermingling and ever-shifting population. It’s like trying to catch air in your hand.
In an everyday house in Perth’s middle suburbs today lives a Whadjuk woman whose role it has been to maintain her family history, who has shared it with her brothers, sisters and cousins, with her sons and daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchidren, only to be told that by way of government records none of it is true, that she belongs to another country and another set of memories entirely. According to SWALSC her ancestry is not what she she knows it to be.
This is the distress I speak of and why it is important to try and resolve, to at least give creedence to. Distress caused by the two-hundred year transition from traditional Aborigine to modern-day Noongar. The initial restyling of untroubled hunter-gatherer into unwanted menace; through exclusion from traditional places of gathering, via the ration depots, missions and institutions, to the slums of Bassendean and East Perth then out into rudimentary housing scattered across today’s less salubrious suburbs. The trauma and accompanying social consequences of moving from a single all-embracing known-world into two, neither of which equates to any kind of whole; having brought with it all manner of hopelessness and abandon, of deprivation and abuse.
The journey has been a torment, an enormous struggle, and remains far from over. If you’re Indigenous and reading this, you’ll know all about it. If you’re not, stop a moment and pause to consider. Take time to think about what people mean these days when they use the term ‘white privilege’.
Equally, it is just as important to understand that the anthropological task being carried out by SWALSC is vast and incredibly intricate and as such remains a work in progress. SWALSC’s job isn’t to resolve matters of family differences, there are some issues far too complex and buried in time to ever be satisfactorily resolved. SWALSC’s job is to rule according to evidence, whether that evidence is accurate or not. As far as SWALSC is concerned, the accuracy of documentary evidence isn’t their concern. Their concern is only that it exists.
Thank goodness for Bates meeting with Fanny Balbuk then, who, among a great deal of information imparted to Bates, said she had an ‘uncle’ named Beenan and that she knew the first three halfcastes born along the Swan River, the first at Perth being Toondale who, she said, was fathered by a Mr Mews. (See Notebook 20, part of the Daisy Bates Digital Archive at the University of Adelaide.)
For most comprising the older Noongar generations today, the idea government records are accurate is almost laughable. Would be completely if the clues they offered weren’t so vital and if so much didn’t depend on them. It’s the combining of these earliest records with the works of Armstrong, Bates, Tindale, Laves and other linguists and anthropologists who saw the value in knowing who was who, that there is some chance of accurately linking back to those Apical Ancestors.
My removed Aunt isn’t alone in this. There are many who for one reason or another consider themselves to have been attached to lines of heritage erroneously designated by SWALSC. As a result, all these people, despite the lives lived before them, feel they are being cheated or at least denied their real history. The question therefore must be addressed, when is an Apical Ancestor not an Apical Ancestor, and how can irreconcilable decisions be altered?
Above: Map of the South West Native Title Settlement Agreement Areas (PDF 933Kb) courtesy Govt of W.A. Land, Approvals and Native Title Unit. There are fourteen less broad language based divisions within the South West Noongar Boodja (country), however in accordance with the Native Title Act of 1993, the region has been geographically carved into six Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs). In geographical terms the Perth or Whadjuk area is the smallest; by dollar value the richest. However, as with most things related to Aboriginal classification the reality is different. Historically, boundaries may have existed but they were endlessly permeable. In my opinion, when it comes to the families of the Gnaarla Karla, Whadjuk, Ballardong and Yued ILUAs, they are more like two groups than four.
Before starting there are a few people who need to be thanked. Undertakings such as this take a great deal of time and rely to a signicant degree on input and support. Roz Butterworth of Boorloo Boodja helped with research on Fanny Balbuk and Frank Armstrong’s Native Institute, Aileen Walsh of Indigenous Genealogies provided guidance on the interpretation of the Daisy Bates archive, Murray James Jackamarra helped in untangling Fanny Balbuk’s contemporary and ancestral relations at Perth, also indentifying Toondale and Mary Dixon as first born children of European/Aboriginal unions along the Swan River, while Aileen, Glenys and Darren Quartermaine-Garlett furnished me with various documents relating to their descendancy through the Bennell/Garlett and Kickett lines. Many others including Debbie Miles at West Australian Pioneers and Settlers and Patrick Bynder at Sandgropers – A History have contributed by way of discussion and shared stories, for which I am also very grateful.
As of December 2017, there is an Apical Ancestor named by SWALSC as representing both the Whadjuk (Perth) and Ballardong (Central Wheatbelt) ILUAs. This is Benil, perhaps better known as John ‘Jack’ Mungar Bennell. To be fully accurate, the Whadjuk claim lists ‘John Bennell’ while the Ballardong document differs slightly by citing the (unknown) ‘mother of John Bennell’.
That descendants of Benil/John Bennell can claim title to both the Whadjuk and Ballardong registrations is divisive, suspected by many as a conspiracy of greed. Especially as there are no other Apical Ancestors who do the same. One of the main purposes of this investigation is to help shed some historical light on the issue and hopefuly contribute to better understanding and a more positive outcome.
The association between the Wesleyan influenced settler J.H. Monger (the Elder) and John ‘Jack’ Mongar Bennell (Benil/John Bennell) is equally unproven as it is impossible to dismiss. J.H. Monger the Elder’s association with Lake Monger, Mt Eliza, York and surrounding districts during the worst of times, and Benil’s own assertion he was born deep into Ballardong country at Hastings, just south of the Avon Valley near Brookton, ties together. However, the year, even decade, of Benil’s birth along with the identity of his mother and her origins remains a crucial Batesean mystery. Batesean because it was Daisy Bates who recorded Benil’s own story directly, yet avoided detailing his ancestry, the first pieces of information she would have sought. The question everyone wants an answer to is, did Benil really not know his own parentage? And if not, why not?
J.H. Monger, Mt Eliza & The West Perth Wetlands, and Yagan & Yellagonga
In the year 1828, the British Government being anxious, for political reasons, to establish a colony on the West side of Australia, issued public notices, offering large tracts of land, on certain conditions, to any who would proceed to, and settle on, that district before the end of the year 1830. (From George Fletcher Moore’s Diary of Ten Years of an Early Settler of Western Australia. Published 1884)
To tell this story properly we need to go all the way back to July 1829, when Captain Frederick Irwin and Commander James Stirling brought their inaugerating colonial entourage upriver from Fremantle to pitch their tents at the foot of Mt Eliza, smack bang in the middle of a kalla lived upon by the family of a mysterious man named Yellagonga, half-brother of the soon-to-be more famous Yagan, and patriarche of the north of the river kin who went under the name of the Mooroo.
On the slopes immediately above the Swan, near the present site of Government House, the chief camp was placed. An area had first to be cleared to permit of the erection of tents and other buildings. The old stillness of Mount Eliza and the Swan River was now broken by the sounds of the woodman’s axe and the click of hammers. The natives, after some days, drew near, but offered no molestation, and allowed these usurpers of their domains to establish themselves in all peacefulness. They looked with surprise at the energetic efforts of the white men, and were astonished when they observed the buildings go up. (W.B. Kimberely, History of Western Australia, Ch 6.)
We begin in July 1829 because this is when Yellagonga wisely and peaceably gave up, at least for the time being, the obvious strategic advantages of his main camp at Goodinup, the eastern facing foot of Mt Eliza. The camp was set around some crystal-clear fresh water springs which, soon after the Land and Surveys Dept (now known as Landgate) came into being, gave rise to the name Spring Street. The location afforded wide views along the foreshore toward Heirisson Island and their associated mud flats where the Aborigines, those coming from the south and east, had forded the river since time immemorial. Professor Sylvia Hallam, wrote of the area;
Heirisson Island separates the Swan River into two strands immediately east of the ridge on which Perth city centre was laid out. This west-east ridge commanded ‘the flats’, the shallows either side of Heirisson Island, the lowest crossing point on the river (except for the hazardous rocky bar at the mouth of the estuary in Fremantle) and was thus an important node in the Aboriginal communication and settlement systems. The ridge also commanded along its northern flank the subsistence resources of the line of lakes and swamps running east from Lake Monger through the low land north of the present railway to drain into the Swan along Claise Brook; and along its southern flank lay the rich fishing grounds in the shallows fringing Perth Water. Thus the Perth ridge was crucial to the Aboriginal group, ‘Yalagonga’s Tribe’, whose holdings centred there.
Aboriginal Women as Providers: The 1830s on The Swan by Sylvia J. Hallam, from Australian National University on-line Press files.
Above: An early view (c.1870) looking south west over Perth Foreshore and Mounts Bay toward Point Lewis (Mt Eliza) and Point Belches (south side), with Melville Water and the Canning River beyond. Notice how tight the waterline sits to the foot of Mt Eliza. 20th Century reclamation has dramatically increased the land area of Mounts Bay. Image: courtesy State Library of Western Australia b2525063_1
Yellagonga in his wisdom is said to have observed the incomers then retreated to Galup (Bates -Goobabalup), a body of freshwater soon to be known by the settlers as Monger’s Lake, a few miles to the north-west. We do not have much detail as to Yellagonga’s state of mind when he did this, only the knowledge that he conceded without aggression. The information being contained in the writing of a most curious settler by the name of Robert Menli Lyon, and of another named Francis Armstrong, a young Noongar language interpretor employed by the government of the day. About seventy years after this pair, the same story was recounted by Daisy Bates through her association with who she identitfied as the last surviving Perth full-blood Aborigines, Joobaitch (m) and the recently much-publicised Fanny Balbuk (f).
Seventy years was all it took to destroy the previously untroubled existence of most of South-west Western Australia’s traditional Aborigines. Going on two-hundred years post-first settlement, we are still only beginning to come to terms with what happened.
Above: Excerpts from the Perth Gazette & West Australian Journal, 20 April 1833. The information, written by Robert Menli Lyon, was published in a series of editions of the Perth Gazette in March 1833. On-line resource: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article642121.
The usurping of Yellagonga’s strategically vital living place was, I think, an act of war. Even though Yellagonga withdrew without so much as a spear being raised in anger, the invasion was an affront to his southern clansmen who after a period of consultation and observation decided to let their feelings be known. After that, the fighting began.
To understand this we have to re-interpret the only written records there are; those of the incoming force. Apart from the official reports and private writing of certain individuals, without whom vital ‘white’ glimpses of the Aboriginal world of the time would have been lost, we must view this past through the settler communication medium of the day, the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, (PG&WAJ) mouthpiece of the colonial elite.
Robert Menli Lyon’s Aboriginal education took him more than three years to acquire, though much was gained from a single month-long stint on Carnac Island with the by then incarcerated Yagan. Once confident, Lyon publicised his findings in the just established newspaper (first edition 5th Jan 1833) through a series of articles entitled ‘A Glance at the Manners and Language of Aboriginal Inhabitants of Western Australia’. The series commencing 30th March, 1833.
From that written knowledge and the history passed down orally through the survivng Whadjuk families, we have come to understand that the Swan River was called Derbal Yerrigan and at the time was lived upon and about by four separate family groups. These were the menages of Yellagonga (whose actions reveal him to have been a gentle man naturally inclined toward peace), Weeip (who some of the settlers also felt well disposed toward), Munday and Midgegooroo.
Yagan was the son of Midgegooroo, he reigned with Midgegooroo but only briefly outlived him.
Without introducing Lyon’s acquired knowledge at this early juncture it would be very difficult for me to proceed with any clarity. To build a primary picture of the place in time we want to investigate we need to know who the Aborigines we are talking about were (their identities) and how they were organised. With this knowledge, it is possible to comprehend the situation facing both colonists and Aborigines of the time. Without it, vagary and confusion would make for a very difficult read.
Imagine then the world of bafflement and perplexity the settlers walked into, and lived among for at least the first three years, as they struggled to acquaint themselves with the greater Swan River tribe. To most settlers, the Aborigines were so alien, so opposing to their sensibilities, especially the women, they were simply unable to deal with their presence. Imagine the settler’s fear of these ‘savages’, and with their technology and intent, the potential for injury that anxiety was bound to inflict.
Above: At the time of first settlement Aboriginal governance of the Swan River territory was presided over by four men; Yellagonga, Weeip, Munday and Midgegooroo. Image: Origin unknown, drawn from the internet public domain but believed to be after Neville Green, himself after Lyon. See ‘Survival against all odds’: The Indigenous population of metropolitan Perth, 1829–2001‘ by Neville Green. Published by AIATSIS
By the time Lyon got to publish his knowledge a great deal had already gone wrong. Stirling’s prized colonial idyll had suffered serious setbacks. Provision of home sourced food products was poor and the reputation of the river’s ability to generate crops and pastures came in for severe critcism. On top of that initial supplies rapidly dwindled as arriving ships brought people and equipment rather than essential consumables. Many settlers left while many more who might have come abandoned their plans. Though Stirling knew the colony was vast and its potential overwhelmingly untapped, within three years conditions were conducive to anarchy and rebellion. The place was on the brink of economic and social collapse.
As a matter of urgency, Stirling had opened up to settlement the Bunbury (Leschanault), Augusta and York districts. York and Augusta gained toe-holds, while Bunbury, initially, failed.
About nine months into the settlement project, the newcomers started blaming the Aborgines for blighting their difficult and apparently failing lifestyle, accusing them of abandoning their traditional practices after taking a liking to European food stuffs, and prefering to solicit sustenance by way of harassment and begging. The Aborigines, on the other hand, had found the European concepts of ownership and exclusion not only foreign but offensive. Yellagonga’s group had made way for the arrivees, given up their living places without question or disquiet, probably through a combination of awe and the natural assumption, or at least hope, the newcomers would reciprocate by sharing their knowledge and resources.
There’s no direct evidence to support the claim, but it isnt unrealistic to think the Whadjuk had heard of what had been going on down at Albany over the last two-and-a-half years, and that they anticipated a much fairer trade-off.
Yellagonga, it seems, had chosen patience over antagonism and opportunity over defence, but such was the nature of the surrounding families matters were taken out of his hands. As the settler presence revealed itself permanent, certain Whadjuk, apparently emerging from the southern coastal plain, began to take umbrage at their displacement by stealing from gardens and spearing livestock.
How much they did this out of natural character, out of protest, or out of the very real need for food is debateable, but the result was a rapid escalation in tensions and proliferation of both armed defensive action and hostile provocation on the part of the settlers.
Above: Exactly one month before Robert Menli Lyon sought to placate settler sabre-rattling, John Morgan, Colonial Storekeeper appointed Resident Magistrate at Perth in the absence of James Stirling between 1832 and 1834, advertised to the Perth settlers that he had a store of sixty rifles and abundant ammunition ready to inflict prompt and heavy punishment on the Aborigines. Image: PG&WAJ 2-Mar-1833
Looking back today it’s easy to say the two cultures were world’s apart, fundamentally incompatible, and without complete removal or capitulation by the Aborigines, which was never going to happen, wider and deeper conflict was inevitable.
Having invested everything in the new world they wanted to create, the settlers were not about to allow what they regarded a horde of savages to prevent them from bending their new found land, and all upon it, to their will. As the history of European colonisation across the world has shown, extermination of resisting native peoples was well within the mindset. The colonists talked openly of it through their newspaper conversations (PG&WAJ Article 642045 8-Jun-1833). They may not have liked doing it, would have many obstacles to overcome in the matter of its justification, but they would most certainly find a way if it meant continuing unimpeded.
The initial Perth confrontation occurred on May 3rd, 1830, after which relations steadily deteriorated. 1833 into 1834 witnessing the worst of the violence.
Weeip had made it clear. . . that his people felt cheated; they had been robbed of their tribal hunting and gathering grounds, and yet were set upon when they tried to feed themselves from the settler’s bounty. Some of his people had even been attacked and killed without provocation. Stirling knew this was true and deplored some of the actions of the settlers and soldiers. (Statham-Drew; James Stirling, UWA Press 2003, Pg 261)
Group Settlement Gone Wrong
From the winter of 1829 the first job of Surveyor General J.S. Roe was to map the land and begin dividing it into saleable lots. This was driven by the need of settlers who had arrived in earnest from August as much as by those preparing to leave Britain or who were already on their way. Stirling and Roe had much earlier formed their ideas on what the Swan had to offer. For obvious reasons there needed to be settlement at the mouth of the river where the ships would land their passengers and cargo, due to its bar the river providing access to the interior by smaller boats only. The best land however was 30 miles upriver at a place they had called Middle Swan and where the pair had ear-marked a township later to be called Guildford. Knowing this, and wanting that land for themselves, the colony’s leading officials logically concluded the administrative center for the enterprise should be midway between the two, and this is why the rising ground beneath Mt Eliza was chosen to situate the township of Perth.
Due to very strong interest in the financial prospect of a West Australian colony, from the outset Governor Stirling and Surveyor Roe were expecting a deluge of arrivees, and as surely as they were expected they came. As the riversides were surveyed grants were quickly apportioned on the basis of time of arrival and value of investment. The earlier they got there and the higher the value of goods and cash and labour and livestock they brought with them, the more land the settlers were entitled to. But settler grants were only divied out after Stirling had apportioned the best lots to himself, other administrators and other military cronies who he had already brokered deals with.
Note: As indication of their perceived value, land grants at Middle and Upper Swan were apportioned to James Stirling, Surveyor-General Roe, Secretary Peter Broun, Captain Irwin and the privileged Ensign Dale, as well as a band of highly influential settlers including William Mackie (Commissioner of the Courts), George Leake (merchant and financier), George Fletcher Moore (Advocate General), Henry Bull, William Tanner and William Brockman, as well as William Shaw (Belvoir), Spencer Trimmer (one of three brothers, see The Hay River Brigade) and Robert Menli Lyon himself. This group, with others including the Henty brothers, Michael Clarkson and Joseph Hardey, due to their wealth, influence, unreconciled grant applications and proximity to the Darling Ranges immediately to the east, sought to explore the extent of the Swan and nearby Helena Rivers in order to determine what lay beyond the enclosing scarp. This interest resulted in Ensign Dale’s discovery of the Avon Valley in 1830 and subsequent establishment of the town of York.
The dual promise of land and a convict-free population was the carrot James Stirling had so successfully held out to the moneyed families and individuals back in Britain. Many were not only seduced by it but viewed the opportunity, sight unseen and with zero consideration for any native presence, as simply too good to pass up. In the lead-up to the very first ships arriving in May 1829, two entrepreneurial minded men with ambitions as bulbous as Stirling’s own had fallen hook, line and sinker for the offer. These were Thomas Peel and Colonel Peter LaTour.
Peel and LaTour sought to finance less moneyed people willing to start a new life and to transport them out to the Swan River colony where they would be installed on a large land grant in a group scheme with enough supplies and equipment to establish their own settlement. The settlers would be contracted to work for the scheme for a given period. Both Peel and LaTour sent their ships to the colony before final binding arrangements guaranteeing their holdings along the Swan River had been made and both suffered heavy consequences as a result. The Swan and Canning Rivers were fully subscribed, only land southwards of the river along the coastal plain being offered.
Originally, Peel’s scheme, amounting to 250, 000 acres, was to be located on Midgegooroo’s Beeliar lands ranging from the mouth of the Swan at Fremantle down as far as Woodman Point, five miles (8 km) to the south. However, due to his late arrival the grant ended-up running from Woodman Point down to the Murray River just beyond Mandurah. Peel’s original personal place of living, named Clarence, is reckoned to have been set close to Woodman Point (Mt Brown – Booyeeanup; Ref- Lyon PG&WAJ Article 642121) but was later relocated to the future town-site of Mandurah. Therefore, Peel’s personnel occupied the territory not of Midgegooroo but of the next family south, identified by Lyon as belonging to the Murray River people, headed by an elder named Banyowla.
History has shown us the failure of Peel’s scheme and all that went with it, and we shall encounter much of it as we progress.
The district of Banyowla, chief of the Murray tribe, comes next; and is bounded on the West, by the sea; on the East, by the mountains; on the North by Beeliar; and, on the South, by a line parallell to his northern boundary. Banyowla possesses both banks of the Murray (river). (Lyon PG&WAJ Article 642121)
What we should note here is that while on Carnac Island during November 1832, Yagan didn’t just tell Lyon who the various territories around the Swan River belonged to, he also mentioned two more tribal leaders south of the Murray River area. “The next chief (after Banyowla) is Dygan“, Lyon wrote; “and the next to him, Beenan; whose districts probably extend as far as Cape Leeuwin”. Yagan’s tribal knowledge, if he wasn’t leading Lyon on that is, or if Lyon hadn’t quite got the interpretation right, extended all the way down the coastal plain past Leschenault (Bunbury) to the Vasse River (Busselton) and beyond.
Now to LaTour.
This entrepreneur’s chartered passenger ship was called the Lotus and when it landed its 60 passengers on October 29th, 1829, the party was directed not anywhere near the Swan at all, but almost 100 miles southwards to the newly proclaimed Leschenault Inlet region. It isn’t clear from the records I can find exactly what happened but LaTour, along with every other settler assigned land at Leshenault at this time (to the tune of 200, 000+ acres) failed to act on them. Stirling even assigned a military contingent to support the intended influx but after a period they were recalled (Kimberley, Ch 7). In any case, LaTour appears to have gone broke (early in 1831 he applied to bring out 300 convicts but was refused) and within a year the scheme had been broken up, the settlers freed from their contracts and left to fend for themselves. I don’t know if any of the group even went to the Bunbury area but LaTour’s unused grant of 103, 000 acres there was later to become basis for a second failed group settlement scheme also relevant to this story. Where LaTour’s group were to set up was ten years later called Australind and this is where the famous Forrest family came to establish themselves.
But first thing’s first.
One of LaTour’s indentured tradesmen was twenty-nine year-old John Henry Monger, variously described as an agriculturist, a sawyer, and in one family history I found, an engineer. Monger arrived with his wife Mary Bainbridge. Monger may have been put to work by the LaTour scheme as a sawyer before the scheme fell apart, it’s hard to know. Nonetheless, once it did Monger’s skill as a saw sharpner, saw miller and woodcutter looks to have been in demand and he took up work close to the busy Perth area. An 1833 newspaper reference shows he had by that time worked a partnership with William Kernot Shenton, a fellow member of the LaTour scheme who had come to own the South Perth flour mill at Point Belches where, presumably, Monger’s function was to clear the land and sell the wood. This partnership was the beginning of a long and profitable business relationship between the Monger and Shenton families, both of whom, along with others they knew, graduated toward York.
Note: W.K. Shenton was the cousin of George Shenton (Snr) the Wesleyan settler who arrived at the Swan River in January 1833. Indications and opinion suggest George Shenton financially assisted his cousin to maintain the South Perth flour mill at Point Belches after it burned down. W.K. Shenton listed as part of his inventory aboard the Lotus a complete saw mill (Battye Library Acc 36 Vol.2/159), so it may have been that Monger and Shenton were bound by some kind of existing agreement prior to arrival.
In the meantime however, Monger’s wife had fallen pregnant and delivered their first child John Henry Junior (b. 25 Jan 1831). Monger also had somehow acquired a 200 acre grant alongside the largest of the lakes north of Mt Eliza and west of the developing city area. Once again it’s hard to know how as W.B Kimberely in Ch 6 noted that according to the regualtions set out by Stirling’s administrations, ‘no grants would be made to indentured servants, nor to persons landing in the settlement at the expense of other individuals.‘ Along with Shenton and another LaTour scheme member, Louis de Mayo, it looks as if Monger probably obtained assistance to buy the land. Later records show he borrowed against it.
In any case, at the time these lakes (or swamps) extended between Claise Brook at East Perth, through the central Perth area (Goologoolup to the Aborigines, later Perth railway station) and on to Herdsman Lake. Galup or Lake Monger being adjacent to Herdsman. These wetlands, which actually extended along the coastal plain from around Cockburn all the way to Gingin, were an essential fresh water and food resource for the coastal Aborigines, including Yellagonga’s Mooroo tribe who having initially conceded Goodinup Spring on the Byerbrup ridge, congregated at Galup, their ‘capital.’ (Lyon, PG&WAJ Article 642121)
Note: Part of the southern portion of these old wetlands was the subject of mass protest during the State Government election campaign of 2017. The Beeliar Wetlands were threatened and partially damaged by commencement of the controversial Roe 8 Highway extention , a dubious freight link project ultimately defeated by public outcry.
Above: Perth’s Wetlands extending west from Claisebrook and north of Mt Eliza toward the coast were an integral part of Aboriginal life in pre-settlement times. Perhaps the two most valued bodies were Goologoolup, called by the settlers Lake Kingsford, and Galup, afterward’s called Lake Monger. This survey map from 1838, probably made by Alfred Hillman, describes ‘the road to the lakes near Mongers‘ even though by that time John Henry Monger was an established publican and hotelier at York. Image: SRO, Series S235, Item 289; high resolution on-line resource.
The terms of Monger’s land holding aren’t immediately clear as he is described in various unreferenced documents as ‘overseer‘ as well as having been ‘issued a crown grant of 200 acres‘. Nor is it certain when exactly he commenced activities there, except that it would seem to have been before the end of 1831. By that time however, Lake Monger had become scene of the first skirmish between the Aborigines and the settler’s protectors, the soldiers of the 63rd regiment.
First Arms Raised
This happened early in May 1830 after a pitched battle took place on the north western corner of Mt Eliza, where the Thomas Street entrance to Kings Park is today. The traditional European view is that tensions had been rising for some time as the Aborigines solicited food from the settlers and the settlers under increasing pressure of poor supply began to resent it. Historical records, penned by the colonists, are at pains to point out the Perth Aborigines within one year of the commencement of settlement had given up hunting and gathering and were pressuring the settlers to provide for them.
This in part is true, but what the settlers failed to appreciate (or admit to) was their intrusion upon and desecration of traditional camping grounds and sacred sites. Apart from appropriating the Goodinup vantage and spring, the failure of the settlers to appreciate the creation legend of the Waugul serpent, who birthed Derbal Yerrigan (the Swan River), was deeply offensive. Goonininup, west of Point Lewis where the old Swan Brewery was later built, just down-river from the settlers based around Spring Street, is a critical Dreaming location.
Given the circumstances, which we can all agree on, conflict was bound to occur and so it was, when a group of Aborigines approaching from the south, probably via the Heirisson Island shallows (though possibly from other more difficult crossings due west along the Swan), saw the extent of the incomer settlement, they not only baulked but became agitated.
The resulting fracas was between the settlers, who had gathered at the intrusion and ascended the slope of Mt Eliza for defensive purposes, and the apparently amassed Aborigines. Women and children among them.
Ann Hunter, in her Murdoch University doctorate thesis of 2006, gives a considered account of what happened.
Above: Midgegooroo and Yagan, who were yet to be picked out as Aboriginal leaders, were not identified in this skirmish but it seems likely they were involved. Images: Excerpts from A Different Kind of ‘Subject:’ Aboriginal Legal Status and Colonial Law in Western Australia 1829-1861. Murdoch University doctorate thesis by Ann Patrica Hunter, 2006.
Primary sources (see below) along with a prejudiced 1927 newspaper article about this battle claim one of the military officers, Ensign Robert Dale, received a spear wound and that the Aborigines made their way back south of the river, fuelling the notion it was the Beelier people (or beyond) who led the confrontation. Reflection upon this, along with the knowledge Ensign Dale later engaged with Yagan and Yagan’s remains, fosters the notion this affray likely commenced the southern led resistance and resultant legends of Midgegooroo and Yagan. Indeed, just two months after the Lake Monger exchange, in July, 1830, nineteen year-old George McKenzie, one of Peel’s immigrants working with his surveyor Mr Adam Armstrong, became the very first settler casualty when he was fatally speared at the Murray River.
(References: W.H. Mackie to Colonial Secretary, ‘Report of an affray with the natives on 3 May, 1830. SRO CSR ACC 608/1, 6th May, 1830 AND Irwin’s Statement, 18th May, 1830, SRO CSR ACC 36, Vol 6, Pg 146,)
It’s hard to know if the two incidents are related but the possibility can’t be discounted. Peel’s settlement was in disarray by this time and further clashes with the Aborigines there occurred before the end of the year.
In 1830 the governor appointed him (Dr Alexander Collie) to investigate conditions on the unfortunate Peel estate. He found there had been twenty-eight deaths and much sickness; the food was bad, water polluted and there were no nursing facilities. His finding that the manager, Thomas Peel, was generally incompetent led to government assistance and speedier release for Peel’s indentured settlers. (From ADB entry for Dr Alexander Collie.)
Anyhow, by mid 1830 we see there is a climate of frustration and fear among the Perth settler population while one of anger and resentment was growing among the Aborigines, albeit those who seemed resident south of the river. Additionally, we see the strategic importance of the eastern slope of Mt Eliza (facing Mounts Bay) to whoever held the ground, along with clear identification of Lake Monger as a place of Aboriginal refuge and resource on the north side.
It is important to note at this point that Yellagonga’s menage (his family group) never fully gave up their Goodinup spring (Mount Street/Spring Street) camping site. The records indicate a native ration depot was established around the bay from there in 1832 and even though the Aborigines were by 1833 ‘discouraged’ from entering the Perth township, the path around the foot of Mt Eliza toward Melville Water remained an essential passage. Town plans show Mount Street allotments L27 to L56 being laid out exactly there, but equally the Aborigines are known to have camped in the immediate area until at least 1835 (Perth Gazette 30 May 1835). So essential was this path and the location of Goonininup to the Aborigines that in 1834, following the Pinjarra Massacre, Stirling’s government funded a ‘Native Institution’ on the site of the old ration depot.
Above: Kennedy or Goonininup Pool, west of Point Lewis on the Swan River where the old Swan Brewery was located from the late 1870s. Most people do not realise the significance of such locations to the descendants of Perth’s traditional Aborigines, those who lived along the river for millenia prior to 19th Century British settlement. This You Tube clip, uploaded by BataviaOz in June 2014, gives some sense of the attachment which still exists today.
Later in 1830, as tensions continued to build, the first killing of a Perth settler occurred. Through this crucial event came the recognition of both Midgegooroo and Yagan as lead protagonists. Warren Kimberly (whose detail provided the basis for the above 1927 newspaper report) gives his interpretation in History of West Australia, Ch 7, first published 110 years ago.
In November and December the settlers about the Swan suffered somewhat heavily through thefts by natives. A man named Smedley detected a native stealing potatoes from Mr. A. Butler’s garden on the banks of Melville Water (south-side, Attadale). He fired at and killed him. Shortly afterwards a party of natives surrounded the house of Mr. Butler, and brutally murdered his servant, Entwistle. Two natives named Yagan and Midgegooroo seemed to head the avengers. Entwistle was killed near his doorstep before the eyes of his two sons, both mere children, who rushed into the hut from the fearful sight and hid beneath the bed. The blacks followed them but did not find them. Yagan and Midgegooroo cunningly escaped punishment from the authorities.
Kimberly was conscious of his audience and not immune to prejudice. Notice how he says the Aboriginal man was ‘shot and killed’ while the European man was ‘brutally murdered’. No thought is given here, because it wasn’t taken into consideration by the settlers even when Kimberly was writing in 1907, that the Noongar tribal response to the killing of one of their members was the killing of one of the offending members. It didn’t matter who. This cultural difference in law and approach to punishment was interpreted by the settlers as underhanded and foul, as outside the rules of fair conduct. The result of which was a vehement response from certain members of a young militia Stirling had loosely put in place a year and a half earlier; specifically, the 18th of June, 1829. Proclamation Day.
Appointed and Self-Appointed Security
In his Proclamation Speech founding-Governor James Stirling stressed that “colonists behaving in a fraudulent, cruel or felonious manner towards the Aboriginal inhabitants of this country . . . will be liable to be prosecuted and tried for the offence as if the same had been committed against any other of His Majesty’s subjects.” At the same time, anticipating “attacks of hostile native tribes”, he ordered all male colonists between the ages of 15 and 30 to enrol in a militia “to assist His Majesty’s regular troops in defence of the lives and property of the inhabitants of the territory”. (Ref: Hallbrook, Henry Princep’s Empire, ANU Press 2014, Pg 148.)
As 1830 segued into 1831, Midgegooroo and Yagan emerged leaders of an increasingly militant Aboriginal resistance. This as much reflective of Yellagonga’s peaceful disposition as of the general democracy which the Swan River Aborigines as a whole appear to have abided by. Midgegooroo’s and Yagan’s home fires may have burned south of the river but individually and in company they were roaming far and wide along and across Derbal Yerrigan. Essential Whadjuk movements and activities from Fremantle to Kelmscot to Guildford and beyond were being heavily curtailed. Their lives had been turned upside down and the effrontery caused to some of their men far too great for their pride to swallow.
Retaliation occurred not only along the Swan and Canning Rivers but continued upwards from the Murray River where Thomas Peel’s group settlement was going from bad to worse. A little later, along the establishing overland route through the scarp toward York too.
Now, among the many young men indentured to either the colonial authority or Perth settlers – mostly single men who appear to have congregated at one of a handful of public houses centred around the Barrack Street area -namely the Happy Emigrant- grew a hatred and willingness to act outside the very strict laws regarding Aboriginal treatment Stirling had laid down. This rogue militia, spawned by the Lieutenant-Governor’s duplicit Proclomation Day message, ran parallell to an official Middle Swan Yeomanry established in October 1831 and led by Edward Barrett-Lennard, which Stirling assembled in the lead-up to his summer soujorn in Albany (where concentration of his efforts was then centred) and his looming departure to England the following year. (See Mokare’s Mob Part-4b)
The elite Middle Swan citizens, who kept looking over their shoulders to the hills behind wondering was there more good land beyond, organised their security force in response to stock raids in the area and a particularly aggressive incident which occurred in November 1830, when an unidentified Noongar man was shot and killed after raising his spear in anger. Most settlers sought to drive the Aborigines away from their properties altogether while a few, George Fletcher Moore and Robert Lyon for example, not only allowed them to continue living there but recognised the additional need for some form of reconciling action. In that regard, democracy at least was able to have its say. Nonetheless, establishment of the so-called Yeomanry signalled the intent of the majority of Middle and Upper Swan settlers to deal with their Aboriginal problem by legalised force, permitting their shepherds to be armed in the process, where-as the renegade more youthful element based out of the Perth and Fremantle drinking emporeums acted surreptitiously and was only alluded to by the newspaper.
Occupying a murky position between colonial law and the secret intent of embittered settlers, this clandestine gang acted alone as well as in support of troops tracking down native offenders. (See The Inimical John McKail).
Above: Despite an army barracks being located at Upper Swan (Ellen Brook), from October 1831, due to sentiments of insecurity worsened by a lack of dedicated personnel, the Middle and Upper Swan area was policed by its own citizen’s militia, headed by Edward Barret Lennard whose property ‘St Leonard’s’ was among the largest. Image: courtesy State Library of Western Australia via George Fletcher Moore, The Millendon Memoirs, 2006, p. xiv (Hesperian Press).
Above: One of Perth’s leading rogue militia members was Thomas Hunt whose name surfaces in various reports regarding settler pursuit of native offenders. (See also The Inimical John McKail) Hunt’s life at the Swan River was plagued by mishap and tragedy. Probably brought about by alcoholism, three of his five children died before age three while none reached the age of twenty. Ref: W.A. Dictionary of Biography -H – Friends of Battye Library Version. Image: PG&WAJ 18-May-1833. Article No. 642069
So it was with this darkening background that John Henry Monger found himself along with his sole neighbour Thomas Leeder isolated and vulnerable at the far end of the West Perth Wetlands, the town of Perth fully three miles away.
Ensign Robert Dale and the road to York
Now, during all of this the talented Ensign Robert Dale, twenty year-old darling of the 63rd regiment’s Captain Irwin, and emerging favourite of both Stirling and Roe, had been commisioned with the task of finding out what lay eastwards of the Swan River, beyond the enclosing scarp.
Above: The Darling Range, or Scarp, is a line of hills to the east of the Swan Coastal Plain. What lay beyond was the source of great anticipation to early agriculturists. Image: by SeanMack at the English language Wikipedia.
Robert Dale, grand-nephew of the British Army General William Dyott, was only nineteen when he arrived at the Swan River aboard HMS Sulphur, an Ensign in the 63rd Regiment. Given what must have been his obvious capability, along with his social status, the budding Lieutenant was quickly seconded by J.S. Roe into the Land and Surveys Dept, where upon he was first asked to explore the reaches of the Helena River which emptied from the south-east into the Middle Swan, and then to try and find a path through and beyond the escarpment as part of the vital search for quality agricultural land.
Above: Ensign Robert Dale was singled out for preferential treatment by Secretary Peter Broun when applying for land at the Swan River in 1830. Image: Excerpt from Centenary of York, by Polygon (Paul Hasluck), The West Australian, 12 Sept, 1931.
Dale made multiple trips, at least seven, but his records of only four survive. These are;
- First Excursion to trace the Helena River, in October, 1829
- Mr. Dale’s Second Excursion to trace the Helena River, in December, 1829.
- Journal of an Expedition under the direction of Ensign Dale, to the Eastward of the Darling Mountains; in August, 1830
- Journal of another Expedition to the Eastward of the Darling Range, under the direction of Ensign Dale; commenced on the 25th of October, and concluded on the 7th of November, 1830.
In the first outing Dale covered 62 miles over four days (15-18 Oct), ranging on foot through Weeip’s and Munday’s territories east of the Swan toward Moordo, the Darling scarp. On day three, just before turning back Dale reports meeting ‘two. . . natives, with whom we were on friendly terms‘. Typically, Dale does not record their names.
The second Helena River excursion, also solely on foot, commenced seven or eight weeks later. This time Dale covered about 115 miles over the course of a week (7th-15th Dec), ranging upwards into the hills to the summit of what was later named Mt Dale, where the party enjoyed a spectacular though ultimately, as far as settlement was concerned, dispiriting panorama.
To get some sense of what Dale saw from his high vantage in December 1829, have a look at the below video. The scale is vast, and by way of general appearance nothing much has changed in all this time.
Above: Panoramic aerial view from Mt Dale, Mundaring, by Simon Kong Win Chang, uploaded to You-tube in June, 2017
After considering the view (and the extent of his supplies), Dale decided to turn back, noting ‘native fires’ at the foot of some hills about twenty-five miles to the east. He did not record meeting any Aborigines. It was those hills, along with positive reports from privately-funded excursions by individual settlers (Moore, Henty, Shaw, Hardey, Clarkson, Brockman), that may in fact have been the two unrecorded trips he undertook as a prelude to and in the wake of his wounding at the May 3rd Mt Eliza skirmish, which informed and encouraged Dale’s third and fourth expeditions. Given that promise, along with the ever-more pressing need to find adequate pastoral resources, these final revelatory expeditions took just a matter of weeks to organise.
The first of these final outings was made very much easier by the use of horses, the first West Australian government explorations which employed them. Pack horses meant the explorers could venture out further, for longer, bringing with them tents and swags for comfort along with provisions enough to alleviate the fear of thirst and starvation. Therefore Dale’s fifth journey over the hills penetrated 40 miles inland from Mr Brockman’s grant ‘Herne Hill’ at Middle Swan and lasted two weeks.
On this trip Dale identified the Avon Valley, roughly tracing it from a few miles north of Mt Bakewell, below which the site of York township was later designated, to about 20 miles upstream where there was confluence with another tributory. This spot was later named Beverley.
Due to the fresh water resource and fertile nature of the ground there was an obvious Aboriginal presence. The country had been firestick managed forever so in parts resembled that open park-like appearance Thomas Bannister described on his overland expedition to Albany around the same time, and which the Europeans so readily appreciated. This part of Noongar country was home to the Ballardong people. Though Dale once again met with but did not identify any of the Noongars by name, we can say from his writing that they were there in numbers, that they hid their women and children from the explorers, and perceiving no threat behaved in a friendly and peaceful manner. A recurring theme right across Noongar/settler history.
Dale also noted the presence of Sandalwood, named Dyott Hills after his great uncle General Dyott (Colonel of the 63rd regiment), found and took two dingo pups back to Perth, and on a rainy night camped under a large rock overhang, noting indigenous sunrise, hand and arm art carved or painted onto the granite walls. Six years later this cavern was described by Frank Armstrong (the ‘Interpreter’) as the ‘Mountain of the Moon.’
Above: Dale’s cavern near York was described six years later by the native interpretor Francis Armstrong as the Mountain of the Moon. Whether this information came to Armstrong through the Perth Aborigines or via Armstrong’s reluctant association with the Ballardong is difficult to know. Image: Excerpt cut from Armstrong’s ‘Manners and Habits of the Aborigines of Western Australia, published in the Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal, 29 Oct, 1836. Article 640230.
Also critical to this investigation, Dale recorded the following Aboriginal encounter a day or so later;
August 14th (1830).—Before commencing our journey this morning, we were visited by three natives, whom we recognised as having seen at Perth. This intercourse with the settlers seemed to have the effect of rendering them more familiar and even daring in their manners, for, on leaving our bivouac, and ascending a hill, they attempted to prevent our pursuing our course, on account, as we conjectured, of their women being near, but on our making a detour to the left, they joined us with apparent satisfaction. We this day accomplished fourteen miles in a westerly direction.
It comes as no surprise, but this is first recorded evidence of known Aboriginal movement between York and Perth. From it we can categorically determine that relationships existed between the Whadjuk and Ballardong peoples at this time.
Above: Robert Dale’s persistent penetrations into and beyond the Darling scarp eventually revealed the Avon River Valley (actually the upper reaches of the Swan) and a location at the foot of a large hill named Mt Bakewell, which in 1830 was marked out as a future township named York. Image: Doctored cut from Item 101 – South-West of Western Australia showing tracks of early explorers, including Bannister and Dale, 1830-1831 courtesy State Records Office of W.A.
Dale’s final exploration journey to Mount Bakewell and the land grant he subsequently gained for himself was preceded by an investigative reconaissance by another Stirling commissioned, just to make sure. This was carried out over 16 days in September that year by a Lieutenant Erskine who confirmed Dale’s reports. Erskine also reported the Aborigines there were ‘very numerous’ and ‘more friendly than he wished‘. (Kimberly; Ch 7)
Perhaps word had spread by this time that the white men visiting Ballardong country were the djanga from Derbal Yerrigan (those returned ghosts of the dead), looking for their ancestors. . .
So it was amid mounting excitement that Dale went again to the Avon Valley, this time in October with Governor Stirling accompanying. After Stirling left to go back to Perth Dale continued further east in the company of the settlers Hardey, Clarkson and the forlon Henry CamfIeld (see Love and War; Henry Camfield’s View).
Dale’s party followed the waterways, increasingly convinced the Avon and Swan were one and the same. On this occasion Dale continued eastwards from Mt Bakewell, inland to a point between what became the towns of Kellerberrin and Quairading, noting the quality of the ground in the South Tammin and Badjaling areas. Dale said the country about there was open forest land, characterised by its growth of timber, with little brushwood below. There was clear evidence of Aborignal living, on one ocassion a couple of men approaching them with spears raised while their women and children ran for cover. The men, according to Dale’s report, probably never having seen white men and horses before, bolted as soon as they thought their women were safe.
Note: for more on the efforts made by the early settlers to determine the union of the Avon and Swan Rivers, finally decided by George Fletcher Moore in January 1834, see Confirmation that Avon River flows into the Swan River by Kim Epton.
Dale returned to Perth on November 7th. Four days later a government notice appeared in the local newspaper advertising the throwing open of selected lots in the Avon Valley. Ten months later the first York settlers, led by Dale and Governor Stirling’s recently appointed ‘Colonial Stock Keeper’, Revett Henry Bland, whose job it was to establish a government farm in the district, set out from Guildford to lead the European appropriation of the Ballardong lands.
Interestingly, a curious pair of observers also made that journey. These were the newly appointed Colonial Chaplain, Reverend J.B. Wittenoom, and the current Resident Magistrate at Albany, Dr Alexander Collie.
By September the following year (1831), Dale’s excursions had led to rapid uptake of the Avon Valley allocations but, due to the logistics of accessing the area, the change which came was relatively slow. Aggressions between settlers and Ballardong Aborigines took two years to begin to boil over.
Ensign Robert Dale, just twenty-one years of age and in full flight when he became founder of the town of York, was writing himself into the history books.
Meanwhile back in Perth, or west of it at the lakes, while Yellagonga’s men travelled the length of the Swan with Yagan and his bretheren in a gathering state of war, John Henry Monger was living among the Mooroo women and children with hardly a problem in the world. Or so it seems.
Lake Monger and the Waugul Creation Story
Galup or Lake Monger was a place of great importance to the Aborigines as one of many historical excerpts on the subject points out.
. . . groups camped regularly near the lakes where fresh drinking water, and game such as wildfowl, fish, crayfish, turtles, frogs and edible reeds, were available. Kangaroos and other animals were hunted through the bushland. Contact was maintained between groups through the mandjar, or fair, held at Galup where people met to barter a wide range of goods.
(Ref: Bekle, H ‘The Wetlands Lost: Drainage of the Perth Lake Systems’, in Western Geographer, June 1981, p21 (From Town of Vincent Heritage Inventory))
Galup, at some stage in 1831, was exactly where John Henry Monger acquired his grant and began his business of felling trees and sawing wood.
Above: Land around Galup, though granted to W. Leeder and J.H. Monger was sparsely populated and largely undeveloped until at least the 1860s. Image: SRO Item 301 – Perth 18L. Plan of New Allotments in Perth Townsite bounded by Newcastle Street, Old Road to Guildford, Walcott & Palmerston Streets, Lakes Henderson, Three Island & Mongers & surrounding Lots. By William Phelps 1858 and 1860.
Importantly, the mythology of Galup links it with Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) mythology. The great serpent Waugal is said to have formed Galup by deviating from his route and rising from the ground at that point. On re-entering the ground, Waugul cut a subterranean tunnel from the Lake to Melville Water at Goonininup (west of Point Lewis) – an underground waterway which, according to tradition, still exists today. (Collard, L.; Revell, G.; Palmer, D.; Leonard, L. (1999). Noongar Placenames associated with the Goordandalup (Crawley bay) area of the Gabee Derbalor Derbal Yaragan Beloo (Swan River).)
Galup was valued for its food resources – kangaroo, emu, snakes, tortoise, mudfish, gilgies, waterbirds and their eggs. More than thirty years after first settlement Aboriginal camps were still recorded on the rising ground to the south and west areas of the lake, in the vicinity of present day Harbourne Street, Kavanagh Street and Lake Monger Drive. A bush camp, although not in its original state, was still in use in 1923, near Dodd Street and Powis Street.
Stone artefacts and skeletal material have been found in the vicinity, and four Aboriginal heritage sites have been registered under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act (1972).
The lake was part of a network of freshwater lakes which drained into the Swan River, and was initially referred to by European settlers as the ‘Large Lake” or “Triangle Lake”, but in 1831 it was named Monger’s Lake after John Henry Monger who received a crown grant of 200 acres on its southern shore. (Cambridge local studies)
It isn’t known specifically what happened at Monger’s Lake during 1832, the year is mostly remembered for the August departure of James Stirling to England where he set about saving the colony from reputational ruin, and the October arrest and trial of Yagan for the killing of William Gaze near Kelmscott.
In the lead-up to Gaze’s reportedly unprovoked killing, which was in-all-likelihood in retaliation for another unreported killing of one or more Aborigines in the same area, Captain Theophilus E. Ellis had been Resident Magistrate at Kelmscott. Ellis, on August 1st that year, had been appointed to the newly created positon of Superintendent of Native Tribes, a policing role Stirling put in place before his departure. Ellis’s job was to patrol the outskirts of the settled areas in an effort to prevent trouble between settlers and the Aborigines. In his diary, G.F. Moore described one of the Whadjuk, Migo, as Ellis’s servant. Migo was well known to the colonists, acting as conduit between them and the Whadjuk and Bindjareb, especially during and after Pinjarra which Ellis played a pivotal role in. Migo was also described by Moore as ‘a close friend of Munday‘.
“Ellis also arranged for the provision of food, clothing and medical care to Aborigines as required – and is known to have directly cared for sick or injured people himself” (W.A. Police Historical Society entry). Ellis established a native ration depot at Lake Monger and another at Goonininup, unwittingly linking the two places as Noongar folk lore had long since done.
Above: Captain Theophilus Ellis, appointed Superintendant of Native Tribes in August 1832, established various ration depots during his term, one of which was at Lake Monger. Image: From PG&WAJ 23 Feb 1833
Ellis failed to prevent the payback killing of William Gaze though Yagan was arrested soon after. His capture was effected on the Canning River, deep within his own and Munday’s tribal territory. With Yagan were two others, Domera (named as one of Yellagonga’s kin) and an individual of curious providence named Ningina. At the trial, Yagan was successfully defended by Robert Menli Lyon, who cleverly drew upon Scottish rebellion history and compared him to the patriot William Wallace (Braveheart), thus thwarting the authorities second legal attempt at bringing about his execution.
Lyon had gained reputation among the agriculturalists, especially the hardliners of the Middle and Upper Swan elite, as an Aboriginal sympathiser, and though well educated and politically empowered, was not liked. Through this particular episode however, we do see that the British system of justice employed at the Swan River was at least in part being dispensed fairly. The likes of Lyon and Moore, being erudite and outward men, compelling that system to stay true.
Note: In 2011 the Western Australian Historian Professor Bob Reece wrote of the curious life of Robert Lyon (aka Robert Lyon Milne), a transcript of which can be found here. The piece is useful in gaining a wider appreciation for the type of character Lyon was.
Yagan, though alive, was banished to Carnac Island with the others involved with Gaze’s death. Lyon then went to Carnac himself, agreed to under an application to study Aboriginal language, custom and culture from the prisoners. The result of this study was his before mentioned publication A Glance at the Manners and Language of Aboriginal Inhabitants of Western Australia which provided much greater understanding of the identity and social make-up of the coastal plain Aborigines north, east and south of the Swan River. Though they didn’t express it, in fact largely mistrusted it at the time (see PG&WAJ Article 642130), Lyon’s contribution was extremely valuable to the ruling authority.
After a month’s incarceration, while Lyon was still with them, Yagan, Dommera and Ningina stole a boat and rowed/sailed the three miles or so back to the mainland close to Peel’s (then deserted) original Clarence settlement. On return, Yagan didn’t hide but brazenly made his way through his traditional country, including a visit to the Fremantle Goal where he’d previously been held, as if nothing had ever happened. Because of the nature of his escape and the subsequent publication of Lyon’s acquired knowledge (easy to be read as a hasty attempt to win back establishment favour), Yagan’s heroic reputation surged and as a result (it appears) the settler administration did not seek his recapture.
Now, in January 1833, very soon after, a most significant event took place at Lake Monger. This was the organised meeting of Yagan with the Albany Aborigines Manyat and Gyallipert. The fact this meeting took place at all reflects Yagan’s acceptance of the proposal as a gesture of peace. Kudos should not be denied the settlers for this either, the initiative looking like it came from none other than Ensign Robert Dale.
Dale, who I see as the primary organiser of the meeting, had been in Albany with Stirling, Roe, Colonel Hanson and Dr Alexander Collie over the summer of 1831/32, immediately after leading the first settlers out to the Avon Valley. In-fact, Collie, who must have been on temporary leave from his duties as Resident Magistrate in Albany at the time, is recorded as having been with Dale and others on that historic founding venture.
Dale (and therefore Collie too) arrived in Albany on the Ellen, skippered by Lieutenant Preston, in early November 1831. On the back of the York discovery and establishment, that summer period down on the South Coast was monumental by way of formulating Stirling’s plans for promoting the Colony when he got back to Britain later in 1832. At the time, despite the passing of Mokare, there was a grand mood of progress and co-operation in that locality, the influence of which compelled Dale to sketch his famous Panoramic View of King George’s Sound. In January, 1832, while still in Albany, Dale made another of his expeditions. This time it was out to the Stirling Ranges with Mokare’s brother Nakinah as guide. So Dale had plenty of experience of the Albany Aborigines. Additionally, Collie, who relocated back to Perth as Colonial Surgeon late in 1832, had been exploring the Mt Barker area (Upper Hay River) with Manyat just six months earlier, and had got to know him well. Thus, after Dale corresponded with fellow 63rd Regiment Ensign, Donald McLeod, then commanding at Albany, it was Collie who met Manyat and Gyallipert off the Henty ship at Fremantle and brought them to Lake Monger (see Mokare’s Mob – Part 4b).
This meeting also looks to have been facilitated by John Henry Monger himself, as a newspaper report of the event makes clear. (PG&WAJ 19Jan1833)
Above: John Henry Monger’s relationship with Yellagonga’s people helped bring together the Albany Aborigines with Yagan. Note also the name Mundee (Munday) one of the four Swan River district Aboriginal heads. Image: Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal 19 Jan 1833
Importantly, the settlers agreed to the meeting not on land dominated by their security, such as the Perth foreshore, but by that time the somewhat mutual territory of Lake Monger. Despite the obvious difficulties, this is testament to the confidence the Aborigines, J.H. Monger and the Perth settler body still had in each other. What it shows is the hope both groups had for the improvement of relations, the settler intent being that the mostly positive experience of the Albany Aborigines, which occurred under vastly differing circumstances, would inspire the Perth Aborigines to reassess the relationship they had. (See Mokare’s Mob series)
There is also some suggestion Dale organised the transport of the Albany Aborigines to Perth in order not only to act as intermediaries but as interpreters too, which doesn’t seem illogical. Both Manyat and Gyallipert had been party to Aboriginal relations with the military leadership and then Dr Collie at Albany since Captain Collet Barker’s tenure, and probably from as early as December 1826; by then a period of six full years. (See Mokare’s Mob series)
Also, glaringly obvious is the unity and communication between the various Swan River Aboriginal groups and the singularity of Galup as a place of primary knowledge and importance. There may have been four separate family groups occupying the river and its surrounds but inter-marriage was frequent, all were known to each other and most if not all moved freely between each other’s many fires. This is a vital point that needs to be remembered with respect to the movement of people between different territories.
Above: On January 19th, 1833, Dr Alexander Collie led Manyat and Gyallipert to Lake Monger from Fremantle, where the Menang pair had been brought from Albany aboard the Henty vessell Thistle. The meeting was hosted on the settler side by John Henry Monger and was cordial and well attended by settlers and Aborigines alike. However, nothing was to come of it. The Menang experience did not compare with the Whadjuk one. Yagan’s path was firmly set and he was to continue in assertive and brilliantly defiant fashion. Image: Yagan, by the outstanding Indigenous artist Julie Dowling courtesy Art Gallery of Western Australia.
As mentioned, further verification of Lake Monger as a site of primary importance came with the co-inciding establishment of a government food depot there. Colonial policy by that time (less than four years into settlement) had conspired to greatly reduce the Aboriginal presence along the developing foreshore and generally settled areas. Settlers had been forbidden to give food to the Aborigines unless in exchange for work and, through fear of mass larceny, forbidden to give them money/cash under any circumstance. This led to growing numbers of hungry men, women and children. Strategic placement of food depots at Upper Swan, Lake Monger and Goonininup, served to salve settler guilt but also sought to keep the Aborigines out of Perth township and away from the farm houses.
Thus, Galup, already the established scene of daily living for many of Yellagonga’s family, measured more than three years later by Francis Armstrong as being 28 in number, gained in population. Though William Leeder had built a house not far from Monger’s, early survey maps and charts reveal the area to have been undeveloped and sparsely populated by settlers until at least the 1860s. Perhaps we can say here that slowly the Aborigines were reclaiming some of their valued living space, but over time this proved to be just another deception. In reality, what we begin to see here is the method by which the Aborigines were lured to locations which suited the settlers, then coralled there by means of meagre giving; a debilitating pattern which continued well into the 20th Century.
Given the preponderance of Aboriginal activity about his work place, it is perhaps no surprise then that just a few months after the famous but inconsequential Whadjuk/Menang meeting and subsequent establishment of the food depot, John Henry Monger announced through the local newspaper he was leaving the lake in order to set up at Mount Eliza. He had been at Galup for upwards of fifteen months moving among Yellagonga’s group, most of whom he surely must have come to know and trust. However, things were changing again as the colonial mouthpiece reported on February 9th that an influx of unknown Aboriginal men was causing him considerable unease.
The Natives have become so troublesome to Mr. Monger, that he has this morning applied for a sufficient military force to repel them. Their numbers in the neighbourhood of the Lake have greatly increased, by accessions from other tribes, all larger and more powerful men than those we have been accustomed to see. Mr. Monger informs us, he can only recognize three of the party, out of about forty men, as those who have been in the habit of resorting to that quarter. They have now he says taken such full possession of the place that unless they are repulsed, he must abandon it. A fine sow was speared, yesterday. It was but a few days ago, we heard Mr. Monger express every confidence in the natives, we regret to find that in this, as well as most instances, it has been abused. We gave it as our opinion, some time ago, that they must not be encouraged, which further experience has fully confirmed.
Now, this ‘influx’ is not something we should simply put down to the newly established food depot, nor news of the visit of the Albany Aborigines (who returned, this time five in number, just a couple of months later). Sure, Lake Monger was a convenient distance from town, thereby suiting the settlers as a place to corral the Aborigines by way of provisioning them, but there is much, much more to this.
Monger says the men who came in were not known to him, not even of the same physical description to those resident. What I think we are witnessing here is one of the many gatherings of ‘out-of-country’ people often referred to in anecdotal records. For example, when Lisa Jowett, delegate of the Native Title Registrar, was testing the Whadjuk Registration in 2010, she heard from various descendants who spoke about the ‘overlapping nature’ of the Whadjuk claim boundary (ILUA).
[SNC Witness #6] (deceased) states that ‘The Perth people always came back to Perth and they never forgot the Perth places’ ; he has rights to the country around Perth because his grandmother was from a Swan River family ; people had meetings and ceremonies at Success Hill reserve, with one of the last ones being held in 1946 in Perth. [SNC Witness #6] talks of the old people who would travel and camp through areas around Perth, that people would come from different areas to meet up in Perth .
Once again we find ourselves reflecting back on the near impossible nature of defining an ever shifting entity. We know that in the traditional Noongar world the sons of clan heads inherited their father’s territory (or smaller parts of it) in a general way and that the daughters were most often married into clans in neighbouring territories. These marriages enabling the women’s husbands not only to visit the country their wives came from, but to avail, within the rules of conduct, of the resources there. It sounds rather official but simply put means that tribesmen when journeying out-of-country were able to feed themselves along the way and when they got there.
Also to factor in here is the old way the Aborigines organised themselves according to moieties. We know that in Noongar country there are two primary phratries, the crow (Wordungmat) and the cockatoo (Manitchmat) and that under each were two subdivisions. Marriage laws strictly enforced cross unions, so that children benefitted from genetic variation. What we don’t appreciate fully enough is that the old Aborigines were from differing racial origins and that there were distinct physical characteristics attributable to each group, particularly the further back in time you go. Therefore, what I think put the wind up John Henry Monger was a large gathering of men of a particular subdivision. Perhaps under Wordung, they were either Ballarruck or Nagarrnook. Under Manitch, either Tondarup of Didarruck. Put another way, this appears to be clear evidence of the physical differences between the coastal dwellers and those either living well northwards (Waylo) or, more likely, inland about the heads of the rivers and beyond.
What’s most important to note here is that gatherings were not infrequent and sometimes large. Galup, or Lake Monger, being a key mythical location along the largest river in all Noongar country, was bound at some point to be the scene of one.
So John Henry Monger was driven from the lake by insecurity. Not understanding what was happening, he must have feared for the safety of himself and his family which suffered the birth and death that year of daughter Anne Elizabeth in an unexplained tragedy that was likely no more sinister than the infant mortality rate of the era. Nonetheless, Monger showed he was prepared to defend what he considered his property before giving it up, but only if that defence was supported by government and the military.
Now, to pause once more. . . The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal was the official voice of the colony. Not only of its officials, but through advertisements and letters to the editor, that of individual settlers too. The public often announced their attempts to abide by the law and to uphold cultural norms of the day (the proper way of doing things), and also, when luck, misbehaviour or the law failed them, either appealled for help or to sought compensation. Monger’s verbal stance here can probably be viewed as more political manouver within his own social environment than an actual physical threat to the Aborigines. Nonetheless, it reveals once again the colonial mindset of resorting to fullest force in order to rid themselves of a debilitating presence.
Nonetheless, with the food depot now located at Galup Monger was in a no-win situation and therefore had no choice other than to re-evaluate his options. This led him to borrow money, move close to town and diversify into the business of hospitality.
The Western Australian Dictionary of Biography lists Monger as proprietor of a licensed inn at Fremantle in 1832, though so far I’ve found no matching record, but by the Spring of 1833 while selling timber products at Mt Eliza , commuting between there and Shenton’s Flour Mill across the narrows, he temporarily got himself into the game of serving alcohol.
Above: In 1833 J.H. Monger and wife Mary suffered the death of their infant daughter Ann Elizabeth. The circumstances are not known. Image: JH Monger entry in Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians Pre-1829-1888, courtesy Friends of Battye Library.
Exactly how Monger effected the move into town is hard to determine but it seems he took out a mortgage on his 200 acres at Galup. Monger was well known among the settler community and apparently respected, so although not a wealthy individual he will have been known to that part of society which boasted such persons. Lending money at that time was risky but highly lucrative, and Monger was a capable man in need of capital.
With his mortgage money Monger acquired an allotment next to the corner of Mount and Spring Streets and built a four roomed house. He also entered into in a loose partnership (which lasted until July 1834) with W. K. Shenton who was leasing land from the government across the river. Monger’s neighbour was Thomas Mews, a Wesleyan Methodist boat builder who ran the ferry service between Mounts Bay and Point Belches. Mews had two daughters of note, one who married another of the LaTour scheme settlers, an Italian by the name of Louis de Mayo, and another, Mary, who in 1836 married a man who had become friend to the Swan River Aborigines. This was another Wesleyan Methodist, the Noongar interpretor and moral agent, Francis (Frank) Fraser Armstrong, whose father, Adam Pearson Armstrong, played an integral role in Thomas Peel’s failed scheme. Young Frank spent time on the Murray (Ravenswood) and in Fremantle, but also in his late teens at the Swan River where his father moved them after splitting from Peel’s employ. The Armstrong’s had a cottage on Melville Water called Dalkeith (named after their original place of living in Scotland).
By process of elimination, Thomas Mews or one of his sons -most likely Thomas Jnr (b. 23.10.1816)- was the man Fanny Balbuk cited when she named Mews as father to Toondale, first half-caste to be born in the Peth area. For future reference we should also note that Balbuk names Mary Dixon as the first Fremantle halfcaste.
Above: In an interview extended over many days Fanny Balbuk revealed to Daisy Bates who she thought were the first half-castes of the York and Swan River districts. Image: Excerpt from Notebook 20, part of the Daisy Bates Digital Archive at the University of Adelaide.
Frank Armstrong was sixteen when he arrived at the Swan River. There is some confusion that his father was Captain (sometimes Lieutenant) Armstrong of the 21st Regiment who features prominently in the Murray River cross-cultural conflict, but they are very different men. In any case, Armstrong was strongly influenced by the issue of Aboriginal relations at the time and eventually, upon the demise of Captain Ellis at Pinjarra in October 1834, not only assumed management of the ration depot at Goonininup but developed it by way of government reparation for the Pinjarra put-down into what was in December that year termed The Native Institution.
Thus, the social relationships John Henry Monger appears to have been fostering during his early years in Perth were not those of an anti-Aboriginal kind. Monger’s associates, so it appears, were Christian-minded settlers concerned enough about the troubled cross-cultural situation to involve themselves with the search for practical solutions. Albeit religious ones, but perhaps also out of genuine familial concern. Let’s not forget about Toondale, ‘Mew’s father’.
Remember, the path from Lake Monger to Goonininup wound around the eastern flank of Mt Eliza, where Mount Street and Mounts Bay Rd were linked by Spring Street, seat of Yellagonga’s original Perth kalla. Monger may have moved away from one Aboriginal camp, but only onto a path to another. The question is, how much did he know about this and how much did it infuence his decision to live there?
Whatever the answer may have been, the Swan River Aborigines, Yellagonga’s family in particular, were never far away.
The Perth Mills, Thomas Mews and Living at the Top of Spring Street
Yellagonga’s land included the site of the capital of Perth, called by the Aborigine’s Boorloo. His favourite camping spot was on the sloping hill Byerbup, stretching down to the growing township, and in the days before settlement it had given him a commanding view of the river flats, the nearest crossing for a visiting tribe.
The main camp, or kaleep (kalla) used by this elder is now the site of the Anglican Bishop’s house in Spring Street. . . (Ref: Green, Broken Spears, pg 49)
As we know, Monger’s fellow emmigrant on the Lotus was William K. Shenton, who had brought with him a complete saw mill. As far as we can understand, Monger used that equipment then advertised its availability for lease at Lake Monger after moving to Mt Eliza. Shenton, in the meantime, assembled a flour mill at Point Belches, on the other side of the river to Mounts Bay. The land immediately behind the mill lease was held by Thomas Mews under the guise of the ferry landing site. Shenton’s original mill came into operation sometime in 1833 after licence was granted in April. From the newspaper report earlier cited we also know that Monger was in some kind of partnership with Shenton from at least November that year.
But matters at the mill did not go well and, largely on account of its exposure, was ransacked by Murray River Aborigines (the Bindjareb) within a year of gaining licence (24 Apr 1834). Shenton’s mill doesn’t appear to have recovered from that experience at all, as soon after it burned down. (Heritage Council, Old Mill – History). The second mill, the one that still stands today, came into operation during 1835.
Apart from the interest we have in the Aboriginal raid on Shenton’s mill (which we’ll come back to), it would be remiss not to note there were other mills closer to Perth city. The most important of these being Kingsford’s Mill at the bottom of Mill Street (named accordingly). Samuel Kingsford used gravity flow from the wetland above for two purposes; first to power his mill so that he could contract to crush grain and make flour, and second so that the swamp would be drained and market gardens established there instead.
Known to the Aborigines as Goologoolup, the swamp went on to assume the settler identity of Lake Kingsford, but all the while was a vital source of food, harvested mostly by Yellagonaga’s female contingent. The food comprised gilges (small freshwater crayfish), frogs, lizards and turtles, as well as ryzhome reeds. (Hallam; Aboriginal Women as Providers: The 1830s on The Swan)
Sir George Grey, who we know from his time in Albany (and marriage into the Spencer family there) took interest in the Perth Aborigines, recording their food gathering activities there over a period of about nine months, bridging the summer of 1838/9.
The season of the year in which the natives catch the greatest quantity of frogs, and freshwater shellfish is when the swamps are nearly dried up; these animals then bury themselves in holes in the mud, and the native women with their long sticks, and their long thin arms, which they plunge up to the shoulder in the slime, manage to drag them out; at all seasons however they catch some of these animals, but in summer a whole troop of native women may be seen paddling about in a swamp, slapping themselves to kill the mosquitoes and sandflies, and every now and then plunging their arms down into the mud and dragging forth their prey. I have often seen them with ten or twelve pounds weight of frogs in their bag.
Frogs are cooked on a slow fire of wood ashes, they are then held in one hand by the hind legs, and a dexterous pinch with the finger and thumb of the other, at once removes the lower portion of the intestines, the remainder of the animal is then taken at a mouthful and fairly eaten from the head to the toes.
. . . fresh water turtle are cooked by being baked, shell and all, in the hot ashes; when they are done, a single pull removes the bottom shell, and the whole animal remains in the upper one, which serves as a dish. They are generally very fat, and are really delicate and delicious eating.
(Ref: Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in North-west and Western Australia, During the Years 1837, 38 and 39…, 2 vols. London, 1841. These excerpts drawn from Hallam; Aboriginal Women as Providers. . . )
Many people have come to know something of the former importance of Goologoolup through the recently popularised stories of Fanny Balbuk, my relative’s ancestor. Balbuk is famous for storming her way through houses, fences and fields erected between Lake Kingsford and Heirisson Island during the early 1900s. So too is she famous for wailing at the sentries out front of Government House where she said one of her grandmothers had long before been buried. This was Moojurngul, who Balbuk told Bates was actually her great grandmother. (Yabban’s mother and husband to Wilya Wilya/Beeyow’ela)
So once again we come to recognise how important certain places were to the old Aborigines and how these places, treated with scant regard by the newcomers, were still revered generations later. Still are today and will be, increasingly, as time goes on. Most of the railways in Perth, and associated infrastructure, including Perth Railway Station and Horsehoe Bridge, as well as the Perth Cultural Centre and associated buildings in Northbridge, were built on reclaimed land from Goologoolup.
Three cheers for the construction of Perth’s beautiful modern city, but let’s be honest about it and not ignore the cost and damage done.
Above: Goologoolup, known to the settlers as Lake Kingsford, was drained from 1833 when Samuel Kingsford built a gutter down the slope to the riverfront where he used the weight of the run-off to power his grain mill. Image: Cut from 1838 Perth Mill Sites, Battye Library Map 3/5/27, this version scanned from Statham-Drew; James Stirling, UWA Press 2003, Pg 317)
Above: The beautiful modern city of Perth, built exactly upon the living place of Yellagonga’s Mooroo People from June 1829. Image: by self, taken April 2017
Now, as a relevant aside to this we should note that Reveley’s Mill, seen on the above map just east of Kingsford’s, failed to establish. Also, at the bottom of Spring Street, in 1837, utilising gravity flow from the hill and the fresh water provided by the spring there, came the Albion Brewery, later renamed the Stanley Brewery and then, in 1909, renamed again the Emu Brewery. Competition to this operation came from the Swan Brewery, commenced nearby (at Sherwood Court) in 1857. Together the two businesses profited and grew, even through dark times. Tragedy visited James Stokes (founder of the Albion) around 1858 and he relinquished all control, dying himself a few years after. Five years after Frederick Sherwood died, in 1879, his subsequently revitalised Swan Brewery moved to the site of Goonininup to avail of the freshwater there as well as access to transport the river provided.
Goonininup, like Lake Kingsford, was a place of Aboriginal food gathering. Daisy Bates, after spending time with the last of the old Perth Aborigines at Welshpool Reserve in the early 1900s, described a kangaroo drive in a valley leading down to a steep drop over the Kings Park cliff. Sylvia Hallam decades later concluding it ‘must have taken place in the hollow where the Pioneer women’s fountain is now placed, leading down to a sheer drop to the old Swan Brewery on the site of the 1830s Native Institution below.’
What is now King’s Park, Perth, was once a favourite place for a battue. . . The natives engaged in the hunt assembled at a certain point and from there each man took up his position at some spot. . . At a given signal some bushes in the vicinity were fired, one outlet only being left for the kangaroo, that outlet being an almost perpendicular descent in the vicinity of Mounts Bay. The maddened animals, helped by shrieks, yells, smoke and flames, rushed headlong towards the foot of the Mount. There, at various points several natives were stationed with their heavy hunting spears in readiness, and the tumbling and floundering animals were quickly and easily despatched.
Ref; Bates, Native Tribes of Wetern Australia, 1985. Pgs 244-45
By the time the Swan Brewery started adding to the buildings at Goonininup, the site had been location of Theo Ellis’s original ration station, been occupied by Frank Armstrong’s Native Institution, in 1838 was leased by Schoales and Nash, two Irishmen who erected Perth’s first steam powered mill there, sold to the de-Burgh family who leased it back to the government who in the early 1850s used the buildings as the convict hiring depot, after which, from the 1860s, the site became a tannery, then a restaurant, then the Perth Invalid’s Depot (old men’s home) between 1869 and 1880.
During the late 1980s, over one-hundred years after the brewery took occupation, Goonininup was scene of protracted demonstration by Aboriginal descendants arguing, still, that the location needed to be recognised and protected as an unequivocal site of spiritual and cutural heritage.
Need anymore be said. . .
Above: Looking across Mounts Bay through the narrows to Goonininup, site of the Perth Steam Mills from about 1838. The project was relatively short-lived but the site has remained in the hands of the government and private ownership ever since. Image: Detail from a painting by A. Taylor, Perth 1850 – from Croft’s Window, scanned from The Smith Family and the Steam Mill, a submission by William J. de-Burgh to the Journal and Proceedings of the West Australian Historical Society 10 (3) Pg 223-236.
With all of this in mind it was January 1833 when the moneyed Wesleyan George Shenton arrived at the Swan River. Shenton, who was only 22 (just a little older than the young interpreter Frank Armstrong), appears to have used his wealth to help his cousin W.K. Shenton recover the South Perth flour mill after it burned down. George Shenton was in the mill when it was raided by Calyute and his Bindjareb cohortes in April 1834, a crucial episode in the Perth war and critical to precipitation of the so-called Battle of Pinjarra.
It may also have been George Shenton, or perhaps Monger’s near neighbour Thomas Mews, who later helped Monger get out of his own predicament brought on by his leasing of the Perth Hotel and co-inciding inabilty to let-out his saw mill and 200 acres at Galup. Shenton’s office was on St George’s Terrace, next door to Leeder’s Hotel, later re-named the Palace Hotel, but Shenton lived long in the memory of the Perth Aborigines as occupying land across the river, about the mill. (Ref: Notebook 20, part of the Daisy Bates Digital Archive at the University of Adelaide)
Above: By March 1833 Monger decided he could no longer base his business at the lake. Instead he transferred to the commercial and physical safety of Mt Eliza, the acquired defensive stronghold of the colonists. His neighbor was boat builder and ferryman Thomas Mews, who owned 3000 acres across West Perth, including the seasonal water Lake Thomson, then known as Mews’ Swamp (Vincent Heritage, Pg 3). Image: Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal; 16 March, 1833- Article No. 642166
Above: John Monger was attracted by the prospect of becoming a hotelier when a To-Let notice for the Perth Hotel appeared in the local newspaper six months after his move to Mt Eliza. Monger took up the opportunity but it must have failed as the Perth Hotel was advertised for re-letting just twelve months later. Image: Classified Advertisement from the Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal, 10 Aug 1833. Article No. 641939
For three years, between the Autumnal months of 1833 and 1836, Monger lived at Lot L55 Mount Street, very close to the corner with Spring Street, traditional viewing point and watering place to Yellagonga and his family. There, in 1834, Monger’s third child, Joseph Taylor Monger, was born. During this period John Monger took out a twelve month lease on the Perth Hotel, located a few hundred yards down St George’s Terrace towards Barrack Street, epi-centre of the settler community at the time. The lease was offered by Louis de Mayo who had become proprietor under an agreement with the parents of his wife Sarah Mews. The property actually belonged to Sarah Mews’ father, Thomas.
Mews, although I can’t ascertain exactly when he gained it, also came to hold 3000 acres at the Avon Valley (W.A. Dictionary of Biography).
Monger’s tenure as proprietor of the Perth Hotel may not have been good for his pocket but it will have benefitted him in other ways. The hotel appears to have attracted a better class of settler than other drinking places centred around the Barrack Street area, home to the courts, military, hospital and general administration offices. While public houses such as The Happy Emigrant, whose proprietor was a convicted wife beater, appear to have attracted a heavy-drinking younger clientelle, the likes of John McKail, the voracious Thomas Hunt and (likely) the Velvick brothers for example, The Perth Hotel’s focus was on the legal and administrative brigade whom most of the influential settlers sought to associate with. Being a hotel, Monger’s establishment was above the status of a common public house.
Note: Captain Irwin, later Major Irwin, was commander of the 63rd Regiment and based at the barracks in the locality of both the Happy Emigrant and the Perth Hotel. Irwin’s contribution to Perth’s history goes well beyond these formative years, but at the time he had to battle to contain heavy drinking among his soldiers. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography his ‘sternness and. . . fondness for moralizing explained some of his unpopularity as an administrator: he tried to found a temperance society in Perth to combat drunkenness, and he encouraged prayer meetings among his troops.’
Regardless though, as far as Monger’s finances were concerned the period was frustrating and difficult, appearing largely as one of rearguard defensive action. Incidences of litigation and counter-litigation, attempts to sell and lease both the Lake Monger and Mt Eliza sites and a public battle to defend his name from (apparently) unscrupulous money lenders are scattered through multiple editions of the newspaper, culminating in the autumn of 1836 when his mortgagers sought to forclose and when Monger, somehow, extracated himself, packed up and walked his lot 60 miles into and over the scarp to York.
The Swan River Colony was failing. There was war with the Aborigines, it’s reputation as a place of fertility in tatters with many settlers abandoning their plans and leaving. There was very little money and no growth in the economy or population. Existing settlers battled each other through the courts as they wrestled their way into and out of any number of financial wrangles. The general mood was bordering on desperate, Governor Stirling left and stayed away for two years while his stand-in, the comparatively effete Captain Irwin, was mocked and reviled by many. It was a very trying time but Monger came through this adversity with his debts settled, eventually giving up his 200 acres at lake Monger to save his Perth house, then selling that up on the basis he was moving to the Avon Valley where the town of York had recently been gazetted and where attractive riverside lots had lately become available.(http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article640473)
Above: John Henry Monger’s unknown mortgagee/creditor, here signing himself A Friend To Fair Play, explains to the Swan River settlers through the newspaper that his client had not met his obligagtion to repay the loan against his Lake Monger property and belongings on time, and that both it and his Mount Street house were put in jeopardy because of it. In the end, an arrangement was made by which the Lake Monger property was acqired by the lender as full and final payment against it, thereby leaving the Mount Street property L55 in Monger’s name, which he subsequently sold in order to finance his move to York. The unhappy business culminated in April 1836, during which Monger appears to have spent three weeks in York and also during which his third son, Stephen, was born to wife Mary. Image: The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal – 4Jun1836 – Article 640422
Since his arrival at the Swan River, between the failure of LaTour’s scheme, the re-acquiring of Lake Monger/Galup by the Aborigines and the failure of the Perth Hotel to deliver him a profit, little had gone right for John Henry Monger.
But Monger had spent a year-and-a-half at Galup in the immediate company of Yellagonga’s family, mostly the women who gathered the edible plant and animal material from the water’s edge. When run out of Galup by the influx of unkown Aboriginal men (around the same time the Albany Aborigine’s visited and Captain Ellis introduced the ration station there) Monger said he could only identify three from Yellagonga’s family. Unwittingly veiled within this statement is vision of the Mongers formerly living peaceably at the lake among mostly Aboriginal women and children. The men mostly ranging along the river where the settlers had established their farms, and up and down the coastal plain between Gingin to the north and Mandurah to the south. Perhaps even as far inland over the scarp as the Avon Valley. We get a view of this from Yagan’s movements detailed in the many newspaper reports during the time he was active, also those recorded by George Fletcher Moore who received visits from Yagan and Yellagonga at his farm at Middle Swan, located in Weeip’s territory close to the Helena River.
The point being, Perth’s Aboriginal men moved between fires, especiallly during this time of war, while the women and children tended to stay close to the kallas secure to them, and John Henry Monger, prior to the events of January and February 1833, was comfortable where he was.
Despite his reasons for leaving the lake, along with the opportunity associating with Thomas Mews seems to have afforded, Monger chose a lot sacred to Yellagonga’s family to build his four-roomed Mount Street house. The top of Spring Street was not actually part of the town. At that time it was away from the administrative centre of Barrack Street, so considered out of town, and a place never given-up by the Perth Aborigines. Rather, they were constantly about as it was not only a traditional camping site but directly along the path between the wetlands and Goonininup.
Additionally, Monger was reported to have housed Frank Armstrong, or perhaps sold or let out his house to him, while Armstrong managed the Native Institute. (Swan River Guardian – 11May1837) Just as Albany’s Sir Richard Spencer took up farmland towards the head of the Hay River near Mount Barker, quality farmland lived upon by the relatives of Mokare whom he had maintained an important strategic alliance with (see The Hay River Brigade), Monger may have chosen to move to York, which by then had become heavily embroiled in the cross-cultural conflict, not only because he could no longer bear to deal with the Perth crisis, nor simly that it was cheap and no-one else wanted to go there, nor even because his Wesleyan friends and business associates were eyeing off the emergent agricultural opportunity, but because he had Aboriginal help too. Because he had relationships with people whose relatives lived there. People who, if he conducted himself according to traditional custom, might not only afford him protection, but lead him beyond the town itself into the as yet unsurveyed, and therfore free to squat upon southward pastures.
In order to explore that possibility, we must first go back to the war itself and see how the Perth Aborigines were influenced by those bordering Whadjuk territory, as it wasn’t only Yagan and his faher who were prepared to fight. Also, through the events which precipitated the Battle of Pinjarra and one in particular which followed, we see how the settlers not only imposed their own law, but bent it to suit themselves.
WAR: Yagan’s Demise, Pinjarra and the Bindjareb, Frank Armstrong (the interpreter) and his Native Institute, Young Gogalee’s Unwarranted End and, The Rise and Fall of Narral
The war raged to its fullest extent during 1833 and 1834, a period which also included the outward transfer of the 63rd Regiment for the inward arriving 21st, one of whose leading officers (though he wasnt drafted in till March, 1836) was Lieutenant Henry William St Pierre BUNBURY.
During this period, while Yagan, Midgegooroo, Weeip and others engaged the military as well as the clandestine militia, fighting for their right to firestick their kallas and revenging the rogue outfit’s unreported raids at the same time, they were pursued across Derbal Yerrigan by the militia and authorities alike. In the meantime, events to the south showed not only were the Peel settlers facing increased aggressions from the Bindjareb, but inter-Aboriginal relations across the settled districts were beginning to break down.
Feb. 20th, 1834.—We have had rather an anxious week. The natives have become troublesome again, having killed two pigs of Mr. Shaw’s, one sheep of Mr. Brockman’s, also attempted (and nearly succeeded) in spearing his shepherd, and on one occasion my old acquaintance Moley, and, in addition, stabbed Nat Shaw in the thigh with a spear. Some of us have determined not to receive them in a friendly way again till we have got some amends on the evil doers, either by their own or by our endeavours.
Meantime we are in doubt, and, to crown our anxieties, the country has been fired by the natives, and we have been obliged to use great efforts to save our houses and property. The flames are quite terrific and overwhelming when driven through rank vegetation by a strong wind. The weather has been excessively hot. My poor cattle are scarcely able to find a mouthful of food; fortunately the grant which was purchased from Mr. Wright was partially burned about two months ago, and has now nearly recovered. (G.F. Moore; Diary of Ten Years. . . Pg 211)
Last year I posted a piece called The Inimical John McKail, (part of the Ngurabirding Series) in which we looked at the early period of McKail’s West Australian life in which he appeared to be part of a group of young men who formed a rowdy and sometimes violent gang which assumed ownership over the streets of Perth during 1832. This rowdy gang comprised members of the so-called unofficial militia. There were reports of parties fighting and causing trouble between Perth and Fremantle, particularly over the summer of 1832/33. (PG 19.1.33) Among that gang, which appear to have patronised Louis de Mayo’s Perth Hotel and Thomas Dent’s Happy Emigrant, were friends or associates who became victims of Yagan. The killing of the Velvick brothers by Yagan and Midgegooroo at John Randall Phillips’ Maddington Farm early in 1833 was a turning point.
The Velvick murders tie in with other incidents relating to McKail and his contemporaries, including a drunken attack John Velvick led against a group of Asian labourers (Afghan/Pakistani or Indian origin) on Christmas Day 1832. Nine months after this brawl, for which Velvick was sentenced to three months hard labour, McKail was gaoled for leading a disturbance on Perth’s streets. The protest, involving around 40 people, saw the lighting and kicking around of an effigy in front of the 63rd Regiment’s barracks around ten o’clock on the night of September 29th. The effigy was of Captain Frederick Irwin, Commander of the 63rd Regiment and at this time Acting Governor of the colony. The archives don’t detail why McKail led the protest but the timing is telling.
Irwin had been put in charge of the colony while Stirling went to get help (and pick up his knighthood) in England. In the meantime, Captain Irwin had been ordered to transfer back to England himself, but didn’t leave until September, 1833. In the wake of the Velvick murders at Cannington at the end of April that year, Irwin ordered the capture of Midgegooroo, Yagan and Munday.
The Velvick killings were part of the war. Acted out in revenge for the death of Domjum, Yagan’s brother, at Fremantle, the targets, contrary to being being random were very likely the result of the brothers’ unsavoury character. John Velvick had already been convicted of racially motivated violent assault and was also perhaps behind a wanton attack upon the natives on the road between Perth and Fremantle just three months previous.
Interestingly, in the wake of Domjum’s killing, which the settlers legitimised on the basis he was stealing, the newspaper records with a note of alarm, anticipation of a revenge attack down in the Murray River area. This reflects, once more, the depth and breadth of communication between the Aborigines along the coastal plain and across the wider Swan River area. Fears specifically held by the Peel district settlers indicate not just the degree of tension being felt down there at the time, but the knowledge of exactly who Domjum was.
I couldn’t find anything to substantiate John McKail’s role in the citizen militia, whether he joined one of the volunteer posses which set out to track down Midgegooroo, Yagan and Munday, or not. What we do know though, is that one of those posses was led by a recent recruit to the Perth police force, Constable Thomas Hunt.
The capture and landmark execution of Midgegooroo was comparatively swift, occurring in front of the Perth lock-up just three weeks after the Velnicks had been taken out. At the time of his capture Midgegooroo was in the company of a five year-old boy, said to be his son. The child was taken away by the authorities ahead of the execution and later returned to his family. He was not named.
Seven weeks after Midgegooroo faced Irwin’s firing squad Yagan was betrayed and horribly killed (for the reward) by settlers he knew and trusted, the teenage Keats brothers, near Henry Bull’s mill at Ellen Brook, Upper Swan. His head was then severed by soldiers of the 63rd and kept among them, temporarily anyway, as a keepsake. George Fletcher Moore, who lived close by, remarked in his diary on 16th July, 1833, in a way that forever describes his relationship with the Aborigines as no more than scientific, the following stone-cold statement . . .
l6th.—On Saturday I saw at Mr Bull’s, the head of Ya-gan, which one of the men had cut off for the purpose of preserving. Possibly it may yet figure in some museum at home. I should have been glad to get it myself, as the features were not in the least changed. He must have died instantaneously. (Ref: Diary of Ten Years, Pg 206)
Contrary to the above, and to remain fair to the eventually derided, more romanticly minded Robert Menli Lyon, whose advocation of Aboriginal rights, via a circuitous route, resulted in him being expelled from the Guildford-based Agricultural Society in November, 1834, consider the following statement he made a year later. Lyon, although verbose, overly-dramatic and probably alcoholic too, was a Swan River boatman, a dreamer and soothsayer of his age.
Soon after his expulsion, Lyon left the colony never to return. (See Robert Lyon Milne by Bob Reece)
Our attachment to the place we were born comes not from where it is, or what it is like but because it is where we began. It is a fire kindled within us by the breath of nature. It burns brighter as old age feeds the flame with a thousand memories.
Do not expect the Aboriginal people to give up the mountains and seas, the rivers and lakes and the plains they have known since birth, where their ancestors have been for thousands of generations, without the bitterness of grief.
Though the grass is their bed and the trees their shelter, the country where they first beheld the sun, the moon, and the starry heavens is as dear to them as your native land with all its natural and artificial beauties, its golden spires and magnificent palaces, is to you.
Now, very soon after Yagan’s demise, before the end of July and on account of the severity of the settler retribution brought against the resistance, Munday, last remaining of the outlawed leaders, came in and proposed a truce. Irwin, aware Yagan’s death was treacherous and underhanded in nature and that the execution of Midgegooroo (which he had summarily ordered) was not universally well-received, lifted the bounty on Munday, allowing him to go free, causing significant anger among that section of the settler population hell-bent on reducing the Aboriginal resistance (or presence at large) to zero.
Two months later, on September 29th, the very night of McKail’s effigy burning protest, Irwin departed the Swan River for Britain, leaving social turmoil awash on the streets of Perth. Irwin, with Ensign Dale, lately appointed his personal assistant, accompanying him, knew he would have to explain himself both to Stirling and the colonial authorities waiting in London. (PG&WAJ – 5Oct1833). Whether Irwin knew it or not I don’t know, but Ensign Dale had packed a special cargo, an item of anthropological curiosity; the smoked head of a badly beaten Aboriginal resistance fighter. Yagan.
Above: Ensign Dale acquired Yagan’s preserved head from his fellow soldiers and brought it with him to London. Image: Hand-coloured aquatint portrait of Yagan by George Cruikshank, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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. (Ref: Wikipedia Yagan Entry, use embedded reference numbers for primary sources.)
While in London, Ensign Dale handed his panoramic sketch from the summit of Mount Clarence, Albany, to a highly-skilled engraver who could make printed copies. He also had it handsomely coloured. At this time, in order to promote the Swan River Colony it is widely conjectured that Dale also added, or had added, the human detail which is of such interest today. This detail was of the friendly intercourse between the settlers, military and Aborigines at King George Sound (Albany) and included imagery of Nakinah in his mock Captain’s uniform. (See Mokare’s Mob – Part 4b). The combination of Dale’s amicable Aboriginal relations at scenic Albany with Yagan’s severed head, as bold a statement as could be made against the ‘treacherous savages’ who were tormenting the Perth agriculturalists, served to send an overall message of positive progress at the Swan River. The result of which was Sir James Stirling returning to the colony with a new ship-load of settlers, most of whom he attempted to install at Albany, along with a steely resolve to maintain a hard-line approach toward Aboriginal relations in the greater Swan River district.
Stirling arrived back in Fremantle, after a three month stay at Albany with the passengers aboard the James Pattison, on August 19th, 1834. Before the end of October, Pinjarra had happened.
* * *
Now, to prelude the incidence of Pinjarra, we should note that on 10th August, 1833, just a few weeks after the death of Yagan, the newspaper reported after a period of what must have been complete absence, the return in reduced numbers of Aboriginal women to the streets of Perth. The shock of all that had taken place since Domjum’s death at Fremantle four months earlier clearly resulting in the retreat of the Aborigines to their more secure fires. In any case, when interviewed (questioned), the women appear to have acted as emissaries of peace, saying they wanted ‘to renew the friendly understanding with existed previously ‘ (PG&WAJ Article 641933).
Enter Francis (Frank/Franka) Armstrong, very soon to rise within the colonial establishment, at the expense of the increasingly cautiously regarded Lyon, as Native Interpretor. Armstrong was the one who interviewed the returning Aborginal women and from here on in becomes a prominent, though perhaps manipulated, player in the settlers steely resolve to further wrestle their native problem under control.
* * *
Now, with regard to who we have been calling the Murray River tribe, the Binjareb or Pindjarup, it’s important to consider there were problems with settler relations even prior to the arrival of Thomas Peel and his boatloads of sorry immigrants.
In 1997 The Murray Districts Aboriginal Association (MDAA) commissioned a work entitled The Pinjarra Massacre Site Research and Development Project – Stage 1, a thorough review of settlement in the area leading up to and beyond the awful events of October 28, 1834. That work, carried out by Natalie Contos, identified a series of incidents precipitating not only the first affray at Perth on 3 May, 1830, but critically the raid on Shenton’s flour mill at South Perth four years later. The Shenton mill raid, illustrating Perth’s vulnerability to attack from the south, fuelled settler fears which, following the killing of Hugh Nisbett at Mandurah three months later, resulted in the so-called Pinjarra Massacre.
As earlier mentioned, there appears to have been problems down in Banyowla’s territory (better described as Calyute’s, actually) almost from the outset. Even though Alexander Collie and Lieutenant Preston of HMS Sulphur encountered peaceful Aborigines on their original exploration in November 1829, by the time Peel’s settlers started wandering about looking for where they might set themselves up, just a few months later, nastiness seems to have laid itself a lasting foundation. It’s tempting to lay blame at the foot of Peel for this because his cross-cultural reputation is not good and it may easily have been his governing influence which drove many of the settlers against the Aborigines. But this cannot be proven, and just as it cannot be proven neither can the beneficial effects of the presence of Peel’s surveyor, Adam Pearson Armstrong, and his eldest son Frank, both of whom had been subject to native hostilities while attempting to establish themselves in the area.
Natalie Contos’s thorough report formed the basis of the Heritage Council of Australia’s assessment document on the Pinjarra Massacre Site. Following is my abbreviated chronology of events.
Prior to actual settlement of the Murray region, there were clashes between the Bindjareb and Europeans. In the wake of what happened at Pinjarra Stirling wrote that the ‘murders and outrages committed by the Murray or Mandurah Tribes were various’, beginning when a party of three men visiting the area was attacked by Aborigines before they had managed to communicate with them’. This may be reference to land around the Serpentine River being settled upon by Adam Armstrong and family. Armstrong was forced to abandon the project under ‘a hail of spears.’ (Ref; The Murray District of Western Australia: A History by Ronald Richards, Pg 47. Shire of Murray publication, 1978)
In July, 1830, within three months of the original Perth clash in which at least one Aborigine was killed, George McKenzie was killed by spearing. McKenzie was also part of a work party employed by Adam Armstrong. (Ref as above; Richards, 1978,Pg 47) This killing was followed later that year by an the attack on unidentifiied settlers (possibly jumpship whalers) at Clarence and Rockingham. (See Armstrong statement in PG&WAJ Article 640706, 17 Oct 1835 – Bottom of page 1)
Following the movement of Peel’s settlement from Clarence to Mandurah in September, 1830, soldiers of the 63rd badly affected Aboriginal economic and ceremonial activities when they demolished fish traps on the Murray and Serpentine Rivers (Barragup Mungah – Gibbs 2011). In apparent retaliation the Bindjareb attacked the local barracks, after which a group of settlers formed a local militia, with Peel as their commanding officer.
In February, 1832, Private George Budge was ambushed by the Bindjareb, and speared to death near Peel’s garden. The following July, Sergeant Wood of the 63rd Regiment was speared and nearly killed. The next month, the military post at Mandurah was again attacked. The post was saved by the arrival of Captain Ellis, Ensign McLeod and other soldiers from the 63rd. The following day, the Bindjareb threatened to attack Peel. Ensign McLeod was then appointed commanding officer of the Mandurah contingent, and a concerted effort was put into better defending the settlement, but the Murray River Aborigines continued to try and drive away the intruders. Captain Ellis subsequently returned with even more soldiers and the hostilities died down.
What’s lacking in the above generalised episode is information regarding settler attacks on the Aborigines. With so much of this history the information is obviously one-sided.
In August 1833, a party of about two or three hundred Aborigines gathered and camped around Peel’s settlement but nothing aggressive came of it. (Almost certainly a Barragup winter ceremony). Soon after the 63rd Regiment transferred to India, being replaced by the 21st.
Critically, it was Captain Ellis in February 1834 who made the decision to cut flour rations he had initially distributed to the Bindjareb. The ration had been instated the previous year and, as with other handouts around the settled districts, was likely interpreted as payment by the Europeans for the uptake of resources. The Bindjareb became indignant at the withdrawal and in March entered Peel’s property demanding reinstatement of the allocation. The group put a spear to the chest of Peel’s son, Fred, holding soldiers at bay through the threat.
In April, a Bindjareb party led by Calyute, then carried out the Shenton mill raid in South Perth. The link between this raid and the Bindjareb flour allocations is not only obvious but reflects how easily different Aboriginal groups communicated and penetrated each other’s country. In fact, Frank Armstrong, well connected with the Murray and Swan Aborigines by this point, later reported that the Swan Aborigines were very well aware the raid was going to take place.
Captain Ellis and his posse eventually caught Calyute, along with three others Ye(y)dong, Gummol and Wamba. Wamba was pardoned after Peel and another settler spoke on his behalf (Wamba/Jack was attached to the Hall family), but the others were taken to Perth and publicly flogged.
Interestingly, according to the newspaper report of the pursuit (see chronology below), Ellis’s party was accompanied by a number of unidentified Swan River Aborigines. Here we begin to see the effects of an alliance that had been struck between certain of the Swan River Aborigines and the settlers, an alliance that seems to me probably more about inter-tribal relations than anything else. As time moves forward from this point we begin to notice divisions between the Whadjuk Aborigines and those to the south as well as between the Whadjuk and those inland over the scarp.
In any case, Calyute appears to have been held as some kind of bond for the good behaviour of the Bindjareb until mid-June when he was given another 60 lashes, and released.
Three months later, Edward Barron, a retired 63rd Regiment Sergeant Major who had shot one of the Bindjareb in an earlier conflict, journeyed to Mandurah to buy a horse, only to discover the horse in question had broken its shackles and was roaming free. The next morning Calyute’s two sons, Monang and Unia or Ninia (was this Ningina who was on Carnac Island with Lyon and Yagan in November 1832?) came into Peel’s settlement looking for flour. Barron asked about the horse and Monang and Ninia said they knew where it might be found. The brothers agreed to search but returned claiming they couldn’t find it. Barron then asked if the brothers would look with him. According to the story, Monang and Ninia agreed on the condition Peel himself joined them, but Peel refused. Instead, nineteen year-old Hugh Nesbit, a Private in the 21st Regiment (though reported as a servant to Mr Armstrong), offered his services. (PG&WAJ 26Jul1834)
After travelling about a mile towards Lake Goegrup, growing numbers of Aborigines, including Calyute, joined the search. Barron said his suspicions had been aroused but when he was distracted by the sound of spears being loaded into their throwing sticks, knew he was in trouble. According to Barron, three spears hit Private Nesbit. Barron took a spear in his side but was able to retreat back to Peel’s settlement. Nesbit never got up.
The Perth Gazette reported a party of soldiers going out in search of Nesbit’s body, which when found had been ritually mutilated. The killing of Private Nesbit at Mandurah spiked levels of fear and outrage within both the settler and military ranks.
Captain Ellis, Superintendant of Natives, and a party of men were sent to the Murray area to hunt for Nesbit’s killers. Joined by soldiers of the 21st who were based at Mandurah, the group combed the surrounding bush for a month. With the exception of two old women none of the offending Aborigines were found. After Stirling returned to the colony from England in August, Peel lobbied him to increase military protection in the Murray River District and so it was that two months later the so-called Battle of Pinjarra occurred.
Chronology of relevant newspaper articles.
Private Jenkins of the 63rd regiment, one of the guards stationed at Carnac Island while Yagan, Ningina and Domera were there with R.M. Lyon three months earlier, is speared at Clarence by the Murray River mob. He was intended to be killed but survived – Five spears lodged while he was climbing a ladder from down a well.
R.M.Lyon writes to the newspaper after spending time with Yagan, Dommera and Nangina, at Carnac island. Speaks of rivers to the north and east, mentions Yellagonga’s tribe being fired on at the Swan and robbed of their fish, another of the renegade militia attacks uninvestigated by the newspaper.
The so-called Preston Point Grand Encounter (East Fremantle on the river) – An angry settler gathering mounted on rumour that Yagan had spreared Mr and Mrs Weavel. Reflects tensions and mob mentality. Also, rebuke of Lyons ‘Glance at the Manners‘ article, citing unprovoked native aggressions and behaviour counter to British standards (theft, stealth and assassination), includes reference to the early (pre-newspaper) attacks in the Murray River district.
Panic over the mistaken report of the disappearance of the Stone brothers, plus continuation of Lyon’s territories, place names and general Noongar topography drawn from his Carnac Island experience.
Attack on Clarkson’s livestock, Peninsula Farm (Maylands) and planning of an agriculturalists meeting at Guildford. Captain Ellis retrieves Clarksons stock but a cow and calf are killed. (Clarkson also had a property at Fremantle.)
Pusuit of natives after Velvick brothers killing by Yagan and Midgegooroo. Refers to death of Domjum, Yagan’s brother, at Fremantle in late April and fears down at the Murray River of revenge attacks there. The Velvick killings seen as revenge for Domjum’s death. Thomas Hunt’s volunteer party goes towards the Murray River, Ellis’s to Galup/Lake Monger. Hunt shoots one dead, tells of an ambush that endangered all eight of his posse. Midgegooroo is captured by Ellis, however, along with his five year old son (unnamed). Mr Hardey also there. Constable Jeffers the hero. Yagan expected not to be taken alive. Thoughts what to do with Midgegooroo.
Court reports. Mr A. Butler (of Attadale) challenges Mackie on account of being accused of being drunk at Monger’s Perth Hotel. W.K. Shenton gives evidence, says by way of passing that natives were active about his flour mill at the time.
Report of Yagan meeting G.F. Moore at Moore’s farm, Millendon (near Henley Brook soldiers barracks, Upper Swan), in the company of Weeip, Munday and Migo. Yagan says two were shot during Domjum raid, so he killed two (the Velnick brothers). Moore also states Yagan had two sons, Narral (aged about 9) and Willem (aged about 11), who were travelling with him.
Peel arrives in town saying 200 Aborigines had gathered at the Murray. Stirling sends troops, Ellis and Norcott go with the three Albany Aborigines who happen also to be in town. ( Barragup winter gathering)
Mr Hall reports the natives gathered at the Murray are agreeable and well known, a more southerly group apparently, language more like the Albany tribe (apparent interaction between them and the Albany trio). Also, critically, there is an affray at York, the first reported, in which settlers shoot at Aborigines trying to spear and drive off stock.
‘Young’ Midgegooroo (Billy?) returned to his mother after separation when captured with is father, who was executed.
Natives tell Peel and Captain Byrne they have found wild cattle at the Murray. Sixteen miles upriver, they are found in good pastures. Natives appear friendly and to welcome settler activity (Armstrong/Hall? influence). Government says they are Java cattle and belong to them. Preston and assistant surveyor George Smythe had been to that part of the Murray before (apparently.)
W. Ledgard, a Peel settler, writes of a Murray native living with him for ten days who spoke of a huge amphibuus beast; myth. The intercourse is friendly.
More on the Murray River cattle find, plus Mollydobbin is arrested at Middle Swan for spearing a sheep, is brought to meet Armstrong but put in prison first, escapes the next morning. Goes back to Guilford.
Native caught stealing wheat at Guildford flogged at Perth, PLUS raid on Shenton’s mill reported. Swan River natives had told Frank Armstrong they were going to do this. Six men of the 21st Regiment with Captain Ellis along with some of the Guildford Aborigines go in pursuit. About 980lbs of flour have been destroyed or stolen. (First evidence of settler/native alliance against the Binjareb.)
George Shenton’s account of the robbery. Capture of four men, one is Calyute.
Punishment of Weydong, Gummal, Wamba/Jack (Mr Hall’s long-term servant) and Calyute (60 lashes knotted rope). Also, grain robbery at Mr Burgess’s (Upper Swan)
Description of capture of Calyute and others at Mandurah.
News that Calyute was being visited by natives while held at the Perth gaol. They were conversing through the bars/wall.
Nesbit and Barron attacked by Bindjareb. Nesbit is killed.
Description of death of Nesbit, Mr Armstrong’s servant. Body mutilated.
Description of Ellis and Norcott’s search for the killers of Nesbit, Calyute cited.
Return of Weeip from Murchison bound search for shipwreck survivors, no furher news from the Murray
Attack on Layman and Keelum by southern natives (40 miles down from the Murray) including by Mout, a one-eyed Aborigine implicated in the Nesbit killing.
Description of the Battle of Pinjarra
Reinforcements sent to the Murray. Captain Ellis injured and not doing so well. Is removed by boat to his house at Perth.
Death and funeral of Captain Ellis
Follow-up to the massacre, description of mass graves. Calyute survives, has speared two men from the Swan River tribe in payback for losing one of his women at Pinjarra. Shows he blamed Swan River tribe for it. Canning River to be visited by the remnants of this ‘obnoxious’ tribe.
Francis (Frank) Armstrong appointed to the Native Institute as settlers seek to use Pinjarra to forge new alliances with Swan natives and further their ‘civilisation.’ Also, rumour from Middle Swan that a lage group from the Murray were planning a reprisal attack on the soldiers. Five extra sent to Kelmscott in anticipation.
Migo (Munday’s righthand man (G.F. Moore)) acts as emissary from Murray Tribe saying they seek a truce. However, Narral, Gogalee and Garbel are said to have inherited Beeliar country after the death of Yagan and are now in dispute with Niniga (Ningina- Carnac Island) as he fired their country without permission. Beginning of Narral’s fatal dispute with the Clarence tribe.
* * *
‘I aver that no one circumstance of whatsoever description, throughout the whole colony, has been productive of greater benefit. The most powerful and most successfully insolent tribe in the then peopled settlement, received a shock which never has and never will be erased from their memory!’ (Reference to ‘the field of Pinjarra’ from an undated and incomplete draft in the writings of Charles Bussell. See Ch 7, Cattle Chosen, by E.O.G. Shann)
In the wake of Pinjarra, which was applauded by many among the settler community, including Charles Bussell of the more southerly Vasse River community, Stirling’s government decided it might be in their interests to devote more time to Aboriginal relations at the Swan River. This was because the Establishment, motivated by improved communication skills (language interpretation) and steeled by their recent assertion of absolute superiority, began to perceive the Whadjuk as neither unified nor automatically allied to their brethren southwards down the plain.
Re-enter Francis (Frank) Armstrong, now twenty-one years-old and emergent alternative to the tricky and now conveniently undependable Lyon. Though we have just one example of it, Armstrong had been gaining notoriety as a native speaker for some time, so much so that on December 13th, sixteen months since first being quoted as a native speaker but less than six weeks from Pinjarra, in a piece which strangely assumes its readers were already acquainted with the subject of a Native Institution, The Perth Gazette (article 641142) announced him as having been appointed to the offical position of ‘Interpreter’ under a grand new plan. The ‘experiment of civilising the natives in the neighborhood of Perth.’
The newspaper goes into extended detail regarding Armstrong’s appointment and the role of the institution which it admitted had not yet been granted lands or buildings but which it implied would be sited at the foot of Mt Eliza, the afore mentioned Goonininup.
Above: Perth’s experimental Native Institution, approved in December 1834, was put in the hands of the government appointed ‘Interpreter’ Francis Armstrong. There are no surviving government records detailing the actual location of the Institute but multiple references all point to it being west of Point Lewis at Goonininup, later site of the old Swan Brewery, and forerunner to the first Aboriginal Mission run at the Swan River by the Wesleyan couple John and Hannah Smithees. Image: cut from PG&WAJ 13 Dec 1834. Article 641142
Armstrong seems to have kept something of a low profile over his career while his life and times haven’t been chronicled in book form as yet, making assessment of him a task not easy to complete. In addition to appearing in court as official native interpreter on many occasions (one of which we will visit specifically in just a moment), Armstrong served as a police constable closely assisting the 1839 Governor Hutt appointed ‘Protector of Aborigines’, Charles Symmons, taught at the Smithees’ Wesleyan Native School (2nd incarnation of the Native Institution), and undertook two stints as observor, moral agent and assistant at Rottnest Island during its most notorious period as Aboriginal Prison in the late 1840s. Despite these roles he was and remains criticised, but equally he was almost alone in spending time with the Whadjuk of the 1830s and 1840s, doing his best to empathise, trying to understand what they thought and how they behaved.
Thanks to one very well crafted Murdoch University part-polemic I found lurking on the internet, interpreting ‘The Interpreter’ has been made easier. I’m grateful to Alan James Thompson for his 2015 degree thesis The Interpreter; The Legacy of Francis Fraser Armstrong not only for researching and assembling the details of Armstrong’s role, but for placing it in the context of both his contemporary family experience and history, as well as in context with the socio-religious political agenda of the colonists at the time.
Thompson’s thesis is one of the best at degree level I’ve read. If not outright, the best. He liberally sets out to paint Armstrong as a victim of both Estalishment manipulation and his own religious conviction, ultimately resulting in him having negative historical influence on Aboriginal welfare, which is debatable certainly but fair enough when you take the view colonialism itself was as voraciously religious as it was economic; that the settlers didn’t just seek to eradicate or re-mould Aboriginal behaviour out of desire for economic gain, but out of the misheld belief God demanded it.
Armstrong appears to have been a shy-ish character who either lacked confidence, eschewed public exposure (perhaps through fear of criticism), and/or was exploited by more experienced career opportunists about him (including his own father). This may have been due to political or financial bargaining on he and his family’s part and/or because he lacked the kind of education and scholarship so abundantly and fluently dispensed by the almost omnipresent George Fletcher Moore, but either way the nagging feeling is that Armstrong’s position was compromised and that he knew it.
As example of this, Armstrong’s work with the Aborigines provided him with clear publishing opportunities derived from his much sought-after appreciation of the Noongar language. As close an appreciation as anyone non-indigenous has probably ever had. But the Noongar language publishing opportunity was instead seized upon by the sympathetic but aggressively self-serving Captain George Grey in 1839, then in 1842 by the colony’s first Protector of Aborigines, Charles Symmons, and also in 1842 by the scarily pervasive G. F. Moore. All appear to have leaned heavily on Armstrong for detail which, it cant be denied, seems to have been willingly given. In any case, Grey, Symmons and Moore each published important accounts of Noongar language/vocabulary in which they cite Armstrong as a key source. (See article 25143563 in The West Australian; 25 April, 1936)
- “Vocabulary of the Aboriginal Language of Western Australia,” by George Grey, Esq., Perth (WA), 1839.
- “Grammar of the Language spoken by the Aborigines of Western Australia, compiled by Charles Symmons, Protector of Aborigines, from material furnished by Mr. Francis F. Armstrong, the native interpreter.” First published as an appendix in “The Western Australian Almanac,” Perth, 1842.
- “A Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language in Common Use amongst the Aborigines of Western Australia, with copious meanings, embodying much interesting information regarding the habits, manners and customs of the natives and the natural history of the country,” by George Fletcher Moore, Advocate-General of Western Australia. London, 1842.
Disappointingly, between his compromised appointment, marriage and family responsibilities, his missionary zeal and aspiration to earn a decent living, Armstrong was either too busy or too despondent to devote time to his own writing. This is a genuine shame as the combination of his experience, knowledge and empathy had the capacity to leave a truly revealing story behind. By way of his associaton with the colonial elite as much as his genuine Aboriginal experience, Armstrong could really have lit bright upon our understanding of the entire period.
Instead, what we learn most from Armstrong comes through his Aboriginal name collections, including a vital list of Yellagonga’s moort (family) during 1836, and his Manners and Habits of the Aborigines of Western Australia, a broad but very brief account of his understanding of how the Swan River Aborigines thought and behaved, penned around the same time. It is a piece in which Armstrong appears to have felt compelled to reveal to the colonists the nature of the Aborigines and what it is they were facing in attempting to alter tribal belief systems and practices. Armstrong’s Manners and Habits was published in the official newspaper over three successive issues late in 1836, two years into the Native Institution experiment, during a period of intense scrutiny and criticism.
Above: Frank Armstrong’s list of 28 persons comprising the family of Yellagonga, notice the names Domera and Nignana, the two men imprisoned with Yagan on Carnac Island and with whom Robert Menli Lyon spent time. For later reference also note the very last name, Doonmoorit (possibly Toondale). Image: From the State Records Office, Ref; Acc 36 CSR 1837 v58;f163. This image taken from Neville Green’s ‘Survival against all odds’: The Indigenous population of metropolitan Perth, 1829–2001′ Contributed to the 2009 AIATSIS National Indigenous Studies Conference ‘Perspectives on Urban Life: Connections and reconnections’.
Now, it was exactly during this period when a second newspaper appeared on the colonial scene, an apparently dissenting, or at least alternative voice called The Swan River Guardian. Not only was Armstrong criticised in the Perth Gazette, but in the Guardian by Luis Giustiniani, lately recruited by Captain Irwin in his quest to Christianise the ‘gross heathen darkness’ of the Aborigines (Thomspon; The Interpreter, Murdoch Degree Thesis, 2015).
One of, if not the main reason for the criticism was the prevalence of inter-tribal violence in Perth. A little further on we’ll see how the Bindjareb/Whadjuk conflict came into being, but is was the manifestation of this, which wasn’t understood at the time, that caused the settlers to take such a reproachful view of Armstrong’s role and of the Institution itself.
Giustiniani’s arrival marked a split in the dominant Protestant fellowship at the colony, dividing it between the prevailing Anglicans and emergent Wesleyan Methodists, led largely by the ‘Tranby ‘ settlers the Hardey brothers, and latterly supported by Armstrong’s contemporary, friend and part-time employer, the pharmacist and businessman, George Shenton Snr.
Armstrong, Monger and Mews were all strongly influenced by the Wesleyan movement.
Above: The dissident Christian recruit, Luis Giustiniani, used the short-lived alternative newspaper the Swan River Guardian to criticise Frank Armstrong in his role as head of the Native Institution, suggesting Armstrong was not even living at the Institute but at John Henry Monger’s house L55 on Mounts Bay Road. By this time Monger had packed up and moved to York, so perhaps had either let out or sold his house to Armstrong. Image: cut from Correspondece – The Institution for the Instruction of the Natives featurred in the Swan River Guardian, article 214041695, dated 11-May-1837.
Giustiniani subsequently became A Much Maligned Man, whose life and times we will fall in with a little more in Part 2 as we move into the York district and Monger’s activities there.
* * *
Anyhow, in summarising Manners and Habits, Armstrong lights upon an array of subjects comprised of the following;
Inability to comprehend the existence of a deity.
Inability to comprehend the concept of guilt and punishment beyond this life.
Belief in a future or co-existing spiritual state.
Return of spirits in the form of the newcomers – both white and coloured men – who they call Djanga.
Treatment of the settlers by the Aborigines considered positive.
Firm belief in evil spirits and sourcerers.
Awe of the Meetagong, embrace of the evil spirit.
Bad health superstition of the Woroonngul or Gogoomit (Cuckoo).
Waugul Creation Story, including its eggs (stones). Note: This is relevant to the desecration of sacred sites by the first settlers, particularly at Currie Bay (now Matilda Bay).
Belief in spiritual (magic) power to heal and injure and also to influence weather. (Boil-yuk and Markalbeenung)
Belief in power to bring on death by spiritual (magic) force (Mor-reek).
Other minor superstitions.
Compulsion to avenge the death of relatives.
Unlucky country to pass over (near Mr Trigg’s lime kiln. Karinup?)
Ensign Dale’s Mountain of the Moon cavern at York.
Origin of the Aboriginal race born from birds (emus and crows).
Deep sleep or dreaming as return to place of spiritual origin (over the sea).
Difference in origin of coastal people (rivers and plains) from inland people (mountains/scarp). Refers to local topography and language. Inland language is oldest, Preferred and dominates culturally.
Garden Island created by Waugul.
Visit of white men in a boat on the Swan River before settlement. (Armstrong is convinced this was Stirling’s initial scouting party off HMS Success in 1827, but reference to two black men in the boat suggests the group were a sealing gang who had voyaged northwards from the south coast. (See Campbell Taylor and Cape Arid Connection – Part 3a)
Initial fear of large sailing ships as monsters come to devour them.
Foreign black men once arrived with knives on northern coast.
Lack of structured heirarchy or command among the tribes/families.
Conflicts/wars between families, not tribes.
Concept of ownership and acquisition (attitude toward theft).
Land as inheritable property. Includes Yellagonga’s territory with reference to Nandaree, Elal, Yellagonga, Bogaberry, Mellup and Bonberry. Also, Munday, Warang, Miago and Moorunga (refering to land extending eastwards into the scarp).
Retaliatory bloodshed (pay-back). The prevalence and importance of the spearing ritual as sole mode of redress to injury and offence. Punishment the object, not death.
Marriage laws and forcible subjugation of women (sisters, mothers and wives). Includes inheritance of wives from deceased brothers.
Non-existence of infanticide.
Child parental relations.
Historical abundance of food resources (lack of scarcity).
Disregard for numeracy and corresponding mystification of time.
Care for the sick and elderly.
Obscene use of language when angry alongside greater regard for decency.
Apparent disregard for cause of battles/conflicts.
Death as cause of family fueds.
Killing as manful. He who has killed is Boo-goore. He who has killed plenty are Boo-goore Wardagaduk. Yagan, Calyute, Calyute’s brother and Warang are Boo-goore Wardagaduk. (Partially substantiated by Balbuk who told Bates Wardagaduk alone meant ‘a big man or woman respected in his tribe who the people will listen to – a well-known person both within and beyond his own country. He will stop fights and keep the peace. A woman can be wardagatuk too and is of importance in her tribe‘. See Excerpt from Notebook 20, part of the Daisy Bates Digital Archive at the University of Adelaide.)
Spearing by day, ritual and rarely mortal. Attack by night/stealth has deadly intent.
Quality of spears, very best from a few miles south of the Murray. Highly valued.
Families in retreat (under attack) fall back on swamp lands or lands of neighbours where relatives will help. Yagan’s family retreated to Weeip’s country when pursued.
Swan River families in regular communication with at least ten surrounding groups.
When retreating groups cover between 30 and 40 miles in a day. Ordinarily when on the move, much lower and will not exceed 15.
Disregard for cultivating plants. Inherent understanding of edible and inedible plants.
No tradition of family migrations, but occasional visits to neighboring families.
Custom of visiting families by invitation where food is superabundant.
General range of men no more than 80 or 90 miles from home fires.
Five seasons to the year.
Singular numeracy does not extend beyond three. Beyond is Boula or Moorgal, meaning plenty.
No concept of age by years.
Sickness and injury practices (medicine) and the importance of the sourcerer. Note: Armstrong uses the term sourcerer where as in Albany the military had come to understand the medicine men as Mulgarradocks. Armstrong notes the power of the ‘sourcerer’s’ prognosis on the mind of the sufferer.
Funeral and burial practises.
Art of engraving throwing sticks, includes depiction of battle at Pinjarra.
Disregard for watercraft.
Fishtraps – appears to describe Barragup on the Murray/Serpentine.
Spearfishing for cobbler.
Superiority of northern groups in use of the spear, except when fishing.
Attuned nature of the senses to the environment. Extraordinary degrees of sight and hearing.
Tracking and orientation skills.
Disregard for improvement of shelter and clothing.
Tools and carrying equipment (bags). Singularity of the kile-ee (boomerang) as unique hunting device.
Disregard for ornaments and trinkets.
Feeble and unsteady attempts at gardening under tuition (close to Armstrong’s house)
Disregard for domestication of animals (emu and kangaroo), except the wild dog.
Belief in practise of cannibalism by northern tribes.
Sociability and fondness for conversation.
Summer gatherings and cultural expression. Includes reference to ‘lyric genious’ described as competitive spontaneous rhyme chants similar to today’s rap and slam poetry.
Nasal boring (piercing) as naming ritual and right of passage.
Family group size and population estimates. No groups larger than 40, total Swan and Canning River numbers around 700.
Payback killings as matter of honor rather than group size control/managment.
Realisation of permanency of settlers giving rise to hostile feelings.
Ambivalence of some until alarming scarcity of food raised shackles.
Yagan and Midgegooroo viewed as mischief-makers.
Native attitude toward settlers altered toward positive due to new reliance on settlers for food, due to removal/destruction of pre-existing resources.
Supply of traditional items (bags, cloaks) now drawn from visiting groups.
Settler difficulty of relating to Aboriginal idiosyncracies. Differences in thought patterns.
Cunning dissemination of false information in return for food.
* * *
Frank Armstrong’s obituary suggests he was a quiet man, retiring and far from outspoken, while Alan Thompson’s thesis reveals him more interested in reshaping Aboriginal behaviour than genuinely concerned with their welfare, but think now of what Armstrong could have left behind if he had taken the time to weave what he knew into the story of the four main Swan River groups; Beeloo, Belliar, Mooroo and those of Weeip’s Helena River territory. Imagine the depth of insight he could have provided with regard to the motivations and reactions of Yagan, Midgegooroo, Yellaonga, Weeip, Munday and Calyute as they manifested their resistance, as they fought inter-familial battles on traditional payback grounds as well as for loyalty and unity against the invaders; as they chose their victims in the ‘mortal fued’ against Hunt’s renegade militia in the knowledge settler technology was not only vastly superior but their intention to win terrifying in its resolve. If there was one white writer on Noongar history who could have painted a balanced picture, even inadvertently, it would have been Armstrong. But Armstrong, like all the others, bar Daisy Bates and Jesse Hammond (Winjan’s People) perhaps, failed to realise that value. Even in his retirement years, when he appeared to have the time to reflect and consider, Armstrong neither recounted his memories and thoughts to those he knew, so that they might make some record of it, nor set it down himself.
Above: Frank Armstrong’s Native Institute, 1834-1838, was not built on the brewery site itself but at the site of Goonininup (Kennedy) Spring which the Perth Invalid Depot later occupied. Without documentary confirmation, Armstrong appears to have lived at this location Image: Swan Brewery and Perth Invalids Home, Mounts Bay Road, Perth, C1880; Origin unknown. Date unknown. Drawn from the Internet.
Now, one of Frank Armstrong’s tasks as interpreter was to act for a group of Aboriginal youths who had been attacked and shot at by the ex-colonial carpenter, twenty-seven year-old John McKail. The incident which ocurred at Mt Eliza on the night of 26th May, 1835, seven weeks after McKail’s house on Mill Street had been seized and sold from under him for failing to pay court costs, resulted in the death of Gogalee, the seventeen year-old son of Yellagonga. (See The Inimical John McKail, part of the Search for Ngurabirding series, for full details.)
McKail appears to have been living either in rented accomodation or a makeshift hut not far from John Henry Monger’s house on Mount Street, when it is said he returned from ‘a friend’s house‘ to discover a native running away from his place with flour stolen from inside. McKail, who had already advertised his intention to leave the colony, was infuriated and chased after the thief, entering a bush hut where about seven Aboriginal boys and youths were sleeping. McKail pointed the gun and ‘accidently‘ shot Gogalee who died most likely from infection of his wounds at Armstrong’s house/Institution five days later. (PG&WAJ 6 Jun 1835) Narral (variously described as Yagan’s son, brother and nephew), for whom Armstrong acted as interpreter, gave evidence at the hearing, saying he received a shrapnel wound to the lip when the gun was fired. (PG&WAJ 30 May 1835)
Important to note too is that McKail, subsequent to the gun going off, ran to the aid of none other than Constable Thomas Hunt who conspired to abet his story. McKail sought back-up from Mrs Monger and Robert Moore, who he said had seen natives at his house, but McKail lied when he said he saw someone running off with his flour, as the theft was later determined to have taken place before sunset/dark. McKail, it appears, came home (drunk?) from his night out at Barnett and Gallop’s house (friends he cited as having been with – were they also members of the unofficial militia?) to find his house/hut robbed. He then returned to borrrow Gallop’s loaded gun, then went to the bush hut he knew to be nearby, where the ‘accident’ happened.
Above: Gogalee’s bush hut (near Ambrose’s house) is clear evidence Yellagonga’s family had not given up the Goodinup kalla by mid-1835, six years into the settler occupation. Image: Representation of the Mt Eliza and town of Perth layout respective to the death of Gogalee at Mt Eliza, 26th May, 1835. Self-doctored cut from digital Item 296, 1845, courtesy State Records Office of Western Australia.
Gogalee’s death sent the Perth settler community into a spin, particularly the Middle and Upper Swan elite. Pinjarra had occurred just seven months earlier, Armstrong’s Institute was in its infancy, and Gogalee, not an outlawed native warrior, was not only innocent but son of the ruling Yellagonga. Tensions were already high with regard to violence but this was different, it wasn’t so much a question of whether McKail -or someone else- would die for taking the life of Gogalee, but what were the legal implications of trying McKail for such a crime.
Through Armstrong, Gogalee and Narral made complaint to the Commissioner of the Criminal Court who had no choice but to commit McKail to trial. But could the colonists let a settler be charged with murder on Aboriginal evidence alone, and what were they to do even if they they thought he was guilty? In the first place, would a Grand Jury find it in themselves to convict a fellow settler? Doubtful, but even if so, on Aboriginal trust would they then be able to bring themselves to hang one of their own?
Honest crown law as the colonists themseves had set out, would demand exactly that course of action. The matter was extremely serious as George Fletcher Moore shows when he worried into his diary just a few days prior to the scheduled July 1st Quarter Session of the Criminal Court. A hearing to be presided over by his neighbour, law and colonial government colleague, his close friend, also the cousin and business associate of Captain Frederick Irwin, William Henry Mackie.
Above: George Fletcher Moore, Advocate General of the Swan River Colony from 1834, advised Stirling’s government in the case of John McKail who had killed by manslaughter or murder, Gogalee, son of Yellagonga. Fearing the Grand Jury would acquit McKail or else they may have to hang one of their own, Moore assisted in the recommendation McKail not be tried at all, but given a conditional pardon instead. Image: Excerpt from Diary of Ten Years. . . by G.F. Moore – Sunday, June 28th, 1835. Page 271.
On 11th July The Perth Gazette and West Australian Journal reported that the Quarter Sessions held ten days earlier at the Anglican Church of St James (Perth’s original rush-thatched church built by Captain Irwin’s 63rd Regiment) had issued John McKail with a conditional pardon.
Mackie and Moore as the colony’s leading legal officials decided it was in their best interests to adapt British law ‘to local conditions and for simplification’. (ADB Mackie) Their grounds for issuing McKail’s pardon they claimed, was their fear the Grand Jury would not convict McKail and that this would leave him open to retaliatory action (spearing) by the Aborigines. In reality, what Mackie, Moore, Stirling et al were worried about was permitting Aboriginal evidence in court because, they felt, it couldn’t be trusted. In fairmess to Moore, in later years he was involved in attempting to introduce an Aboriginal Evidence Act, but the precedent set by the McKail/Gogalee case lasted for many years. (See Ann Patricia Hunter – A different kind of ‘subject’: Aboriginal legal status and colonial law in Western Australia 1829-1861 – Murdoch University Doctorate Thesis Submission 2006)
Moving on. . .
Those Aboriginal boys named as inside the bush hut when McKail arrived were Gogalee, Narral, Dower (Da’r) and Dutermerry. Armstrong also named Donar as helping to carry Gogalee to his house. Others subsequently named (blamed) by Gogalee and Narral as party to the theft of McKail’s flour -but who were not in the bush hut at the time of the shooting – were Dobbin (aka Nour-dung or Woombunga), Wi-up, Mulligo, Wirap and U-gat (Yoogat).
Of all those names only Dutermerry’s appears in Armstrong’s 1836 list of Yellagonga’s moort.
Once again we see very clearly the interaction and free movement of Aboriginal people (mostly male) across Derbal Yerrigan. The town of Perth, growing steadily upon Yellagonga’s prime lands, was the subject of intense interest up and down the Swan Coastal Plain and inland too. The Swan and Canning Rivers had kallas inherited by the sons of their fathers all over them, and there were rules as to how that land was accessed and managed, but in practise it seems to me to have been all one place and all one tribe.
Those who lived north, beyond the scarp, however, whom the settlers were learning via Mr Armstrong to be the Waylo or Mountain Men, were different.
In the same 6th June article discussing Gogalee’s unwarranted and untimely death The Perth Gazette noted; ‘The screams of the women, which were heard at the back of Perth on Thursday, were occasioned by the arrival of a party of the Mountain, or Waylo men, who speared two children, in atonement for some offence committed by the tribe who frequents this neighbourhood. This affray (the only law the Aborigines recognise, retaliation being the principle upon which it is founded) will divert their minds for a time from the grave of Goggalee.’
The Whadjuk on this evidence were coastal and river people, not what Daisy Bates and other evidence calls inland or mountain people. But yet, when Daisy Bates spent time with Fanny Balbuk and Joobytch at Maamba Reserve around 1895, Fanny Balbuk told her the women of her great-grandmother’s generation all came from well over the scarp, from land near Beverley. One of these women, Windan, is named in Armstrong’s 1836 list of Yellagonga’s tribe, as well as being a name given by Fanny Balbuk as the mother of Yellagonga.
We are finally nearing the end of this short history and will in Part 2 follow the path to York, Beverley and the Avon districts, but before we do we should wrap-up with the story of ‘Old Narral’, brother of Yagan and father of ‘Young Narral’. It was Young Narral who was with his cousin Gogalee when McKail took Gogalee’s life.
The story of Old Narral’s downfall not only elaborates upon the complicated and dangerous world of male relations within the wider Whadjuk community at the time, but highlights the friction and strife which had steadily deepened between the Whadjuk and Bindjareb clans. Additionally, it helps bring home the truth behind those old maternal ties Fanny Balkuk told Daisy Bates about 6o years later.
Thanks to research conducted by Murray Jackamarra, we can make some clarifications as to the identity of Old Narral and his son, John Naral, the nine year old boy George Fletcher Moore called Narah in his diary, mistakenly describing he and Willem as Yagan’s sons during the height of the 1833 troubles. (4th May, 1833)
Murray Jackamarra’s research revealed a death certificate, showing John Naral, born at the Swan River, as the son of Narral and Jigat.
Jigat, according to the Bate’s genealogies, was Fanny Balbuk’s Aunt, her mother’s sister. Making old Narral an uncle in-law.
Now, it’s important to distinguish between the female Jigat and male Gigat. There was a man named Gigat living at the same time who was Balbuk’s true (own) uncle, brother to her father Koondebung/Goondebung. Bates says Gigat’s country was north of her father’s, closer towards Gingin. She also describes other family relations whose lands lay beyond New Norcia where the barrier scarp fades.
What we begin to pick up on here is the paternal inheritence of the coastal plain. Weeip, Munday, Migo, Yellagonga, Midgegooroo & Yagan and Banyowla (Wilya-Wilya – Bates) & Calyute’s paternal descent was the same. They all inherited lands down the coastal plain. Daisy Bates said it on numerous occasions, the coastal people were all one people. She called them Wadarndee.
Above: Daisy Bates concluded paternal descent extended down the western coastal plain from about Geraldton all the way to the Vasse River. The Swan River people as far as the scarp were Wardarndee. On the other hand, their maternal lines, according to lore imparted by Fanny Balkuk, also to Daisy Bates, ran eastwards over the scarp into the Avon Valley. These people were described in the newspaper as the Waylo or Mountain Men and were probably those men ‘of a different physical description’ who gathered at Lake Monger around the time J.H. Monger decided to leave. Image: Cut from typed version of Daisy Bates’ notes from interviews with fanny Balbuk. (Notebook 20, part of the Daisy Bates Digital Archive at the University of Adelaide)
Because she didn’t know, when Bates took her notes from Balbuk, she didn’t distinguish between Narral the father, and Naral the son. Thus we find apparent contradictions. The Narral we are discussing here was not the boy who was with Yagan at George Fletcher Moore’s place. The Narral we are discussing here is his father. Yagan’s brother.
So, Narral’s claim to the wider Whadjuk district, through his actions, stems from his pedigree, along with his father Midgegooroo and brother Yagan’s influence as Boo-goore Wardagaduks. Following Pinjarra and the earlier deaths of Midgegooroo and Yagan, Narral emerges as warrior heir to Derbal Yerrigan, or at least the coastapl plain immediately south of the river.
There was a useful though erroneous and heavily dramatised retrospective on Narral’s story carried in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal on Saturday 13 July, 1839, which we’ll look at, but as prelude to it we need to understand three things. First, in the wake of Hugh Nesbit’s death in Bindjareb country, a number of ‘Swan River‘ Aborgines accompanied Captain Ellis in his pursit of the killers. Second, in the wake of Pinjarra Calyute speared two Perth women in revenge for the death of those he deemed necessary to be avenged. It is to be presumed these women were either married in to the Binjareb, or else they were attacked at home on Narral’s lands. It isn’t clear. What is clear, is that Calyute blamed the Aborigines living directly north of his kalla for what happened at Pinjarra.
Third, as early as March 1835, a month ahead of Gogalee’s death at the hands of John McKail, Narral was thought to have played a role in one of the most notorious Aboriginal clashes to have taken place in the early settlement days, a bitter battle between the Binjareb and Whadjuk.
Taking issue with Ningina, who the paper claims belonged to the Clarence or Cockburn Sound tribe, for trespass firing on Narral’s Beeliar country, the two groups came to clash at Perth during March 1836 after Migo had arranged a supposedly conciliatory gathering of the Bindjareb and Whadjuk there in order to once and for all settle affairs following Pinjarra.
As far as the settlers were concerned the gathering was to be a celebratory, or at least conciliatory, corrobora. It was to be a cultural exchange, a dance. Instead, they were horrified at what transpired.
But the settlers had forgotten another street fight back in December 1834, fifteen months earlier, and in any case weren’t familiar with the Aboriginal tradition of settling their own grievances at larger tribal gatherings by carrying out retributive punishments, including killings. The gathering, little did the settlers anticipate, was always going to result in affray. (PG&WAJ – 28Mar1836)
We should note here too that the Ningina Narral took issue with, if they are the same person, was also on Carnac Island with Yagan and Domera after the killing of William Gaze at Canning. Ningina was also named by Francis Armstrong the following year as a member of Yellagonga’s moort, which runs counter to him belonging to a faction of the Binjareb. Probably there is confusion between two different men. The Clarence Ningina may have been Ninia, aka Unia, one of Calyute’s two sons involved in the killing of Private Hugh Nesbit.
This I think is more likely.
More inter-tribal fights followed. Another taking place about the foot of Mt Eliza during October 1836, noted by the alternative newspaper, the Swan River Guardian, though it isn’t made specific that the Murray/Bindjareb were involved.
Above: From December 1834 there were a series of spear fights on the streets of Perth, most of which appear to have been between the Bindjareb and Whadjuk, culminating in multiple battles during the autumn of 1840, after which the carrying of spears in Perth was banned. Image: Excerpt from the Swan River Guardian – 20Oct1836
During the course of the Whadjuk/Binjareb strife, which continued on a singular as well as group basis until the winter of 1840, ‘Murray man Ning-a-na (was) severley wounded by Ninda, Bokoberry and Be-ol-la’ (February 1840. See; Green, Broken Spears, Pg 231).
Prior to this, however, Old Narral had taken it upon himself to seize a conquest bride. Not from somewhere north or east, but from where it would cause most offence, from Ningina’s Clarence/Cockburn kalla.
The dates surrounding the capture of Narral’s bride aren’t clear but by August 1838 the consequences, thpugh not understood, were very much being felt by the settlers in Perth. So much so, the constant presence of spear-weilding Aborigines in a state of heightened agitation led to the closing of the Native Institution and a realignment of Armstrong’s role. Instead of running the Institution, Armstrong was tasked with policing the Aboriginal presence at Perth, trying to stop them from carrying spears anywhere near the town.
Here we should let the writers of the day pick up the story of Old Narral. Following is my abbreviated version of The Perth Gazette‘s dramatised retrospective. Bear in mind the writer does not know the difference between Old and Young Narral. He thinks the subject is young John Naral, but young Naral, even in 1838 was fifteen years old at best, not likely to be in a position to take a conquest bride.
Narral was a young man of shrewdness and intelligence, but he inherited much of the bloodthirsty ferocity of his father, Midjegoroo, and was endowed with the same impetuous passions as his brother Yagan. He enticed away a woman from the Murray River tribe; they were not a people tamely to submit to such an indignity, and they followed him up with such unremitting perseverance that he was obliged to abandon her to their fury, and they killed her.
To satisfy him, the Perth tribe gave him another wife; but, poor girl, either her affections were otherwise engaged, or she was not able to bend them to his will, and he killed her because she would not love him.
Nandery, the uncle of the girl, declared his determination to punish him for the deed. Narral came behind Nandery in the street of Perth, and thrust his spear into his back. Nandery died — Narral fled.
Werang, the father of the girl, undertook an expedition of revenge, and pursuing Narral for 60 miles, at length came up with him, expended his whole stock of spears upon him, and left him for dead. But with that surprising tenacity of life with which they are endowed, Narral then survived.
Narral met his death sometime afterwards by an accidental discharge of a gun from the hand of a white man (George Smythe of the Surveyors Dept) who was then conducting him to what he thought was a safe asylum.
But in the meantime, on learning he had survived Werang’s spears, Doorebup, his (Narral’s) intimate friend, was denounced, and was soon afterwards killed by Mauli Megat.
The friends of Doorebup then sought revenge, and fell in with Mauli Daubain, the brother of Mauli Megat, and drove one spear through the side of his head, and one into his side, and left him for dead, but he also survived, and contrived to make his escape out of the way of further danger.
The friends of Doorebup then again set out to look for another victim. Just at this juncture Tomghin came and betrayed to them the keeping-place of Mauli Megat.
On a preconcerted signal, they closed in upon him — their unfortunate victim raised his head, and seeing Weenat approaching with uplifted spear, Mauli Megat perceived at a glance that his hour was come.
Weenat first strikes you with his spear — now yoongar strike all: Doorbap, my brother, you are avenged.
Apart from the bloodshed which characterises so much of the early writing about internal Aboriginal affairs across Noongar country, which many of the settlers found genuinely distressing, we note here that Old Narral, when taking flight after killing his cousin Nander, sought escape in the region of the Avon Valley. The reports say he went in the region of Tooday and Northam where he trusted, eventually, the somewhat dubious confidence of the surveyor’s assistant George Smythe to safely escort him home. (Smythe left the colony after this incident but his career did not improve.) That Narral fell victim to Smythe’s apparently accidental firing of his gun is one thing, that he chose to hide out on the upper reaches of the Swan, where it meets the Avon, the same place Fanny Balbuk ran to when in trouble with her own people in Perth forty years later, is telling.
It’s clear Old Narral needed to escape if he was to survive, but could he not have gone north of the Swan towards near Gingin, or even further, toward New Norcia? What was it about the Avon Valley that drew him over the scarp instead of the northern coastal plain? Was it because the Avon Valley was his mother’s or grandmother’s country, his ancestral home on his maternal side?
The answer almost certainly has to be yes.
John Henry Monger was already two years in York by the time Narral met his fate at the hands of George Smythe late in 1838. He had begun organising himself there during a three week visit between April and May 1836 when his wife was heavily pregnant and his financial vulnerability causing him most pain. His oldest som, John Henry Jnr, was five years old. His second son Joseph was two, while wife Mary delivered third son Stephen in April. They had lost their only daughter Ann in infancy three years earlier.
On the one hand they appear a unified family, growing and eager to get on with their opportunity in the fledgling colony. But not much had gone right for Monger and he was desperate to break the shackles of his financial persecution. The move to York was a turning of his back on Perth and the calamity of the failing colony, not only was it a bitter struggle to stay housed, clothed and fed, the streets around his house were populated with angry Aboriginal men, agitated youths flummoxed by what was happening to and amongst their people. Fights between themselves and the Bindjareb and with the settlers flared all around. York, despite the cross-cultural fighting there, he must have surmised, constituted an altogether better prospect.
Monger still had his house in Mount Street, possibly even money from the sale of it, but otherwise he was broke. By October 1836 John Henry Monger was included in a statement of land under cultivation at York where it is shown he had just four acres out of a total of 251, the whole owned by 19 proprietors in total. In the same survey, of the 6575 sheep calculated to be grazing in the district Monger was yet to own any. Neither yet did George Shenton nor Thomas Mews. (Swan River Guardian – 27Oct1836)
Monger went on to great financial success, but how, and how long did it take?
Following is the chronology of newspaper reports relating to Narral, after which this somewhat exhausting post comes to an end. If you’ve made it this far congratulations, and stay tuned for Part 2 of the Apical Argument, which will focus on events in and around York in the hopes they may shed light on the ancestry of John Jack Mongar Benil, the reputed Aboriginal son of John Henry Monger.
In which Narral is implicated in the murder of Private Dennis Larkin near the Upper Swan brracks, a revenge attack for the death of an Aborigine shot by soldiers after being arrested for theft at Mr Burgess’ place.
In which Narral lays complaint at the Magistrates Court against Private Liston of the 21st Regiment to the effect he had been beaten and ill-used.
In which Narral, Gogalee and Garbel, thought to be inheritors of Midgegooroo and Yagan’s lands opposite Perth, are accused of causing a deadly fight between themselves and the Clarence tribe led by Niniga/Ningina during an organised corrabora (corroboree) designed to bring peace following the massacre at Pinjarra.
In which Narral gives evidence at the hearing for John McKail after the death of Gogalee
In which Armstrong tells of Narral (aka Jin-ngoomurra) feigning to spear a female belonging to the 21st Regiment with no criminal outcome.
In which Narral is the subject or settler correspondence regarding inter-tribal killings on the streets of Perth. In this instance Narral is unpunished by Britsh law for killing another Aborigine in the streets of Perth.
In which Narral is described as killing Niandra/Nander/Nanderry (another son of Yellagonga’s) at Mt Eliza and is afterwards seen at Guildford and on his way to the districts of Northam and Toodyay.
In which Narral is the subject of a summary on Aboriginal behaviour with respect to the carrying off of native women, the killing of native women for failing to love in return, and subsequent attacks for revenge by their relatives.
In which Narral’s episode described above is elaborated upon.
In which Narral’s story makes G.F. Moores ‘BRIEF CHRONICLE OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS WHICH HAVE OCCURRED, CONNECTED WITH THE COLONY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, SINCE THE FIRST SETTLEMENT WITHIN ITS LIMITS IN THE YEAR 1826‘