Bob Gamble, John Bailey Pavey & Black Jack Anderson
Above: The story of Truganini, perhaps Australia’s best known female Aboriginal ancestor, extends through her sisters and other women like her, via Kangaroo Island, all the way to King George’s Sound. Cartoon image by Chris Grosz, taken from the politics, society and culture magazine The Monthly, May, 2012.
While the populace and commercial appetite of wider New South Wales, provided by their fifty year head start, roused the envy of the ambitious who had decided to settle in the paralysed West, Governor Stirling’s prized convict-free idyll also caught the flotsam of the social and economic tumult fermenting across the Bight.
The unfortunate experiences of the Menang and Major Lockyer during 1826 and 1827 came about as a result of the pursuit of profit through the procurement of seal skins, but the lasting presence of the sealers so far west probably had more to do with the sleepy faraway nature of the place as it did with the existence of its islands. This was because many sealers were both wanted criminals and in the habit of forcibly taking Aboriginal women, and by 1831 a particular pedigree of those women were being sought for repatriation. This locate and remove process targeted Palawah women who had become separated from the mainland and was part of an endeavour which became known as Tasmania’s ‘Friendly Mission’, a government effort aimed at providing peaceful means of submission to the remaining Tasmanian Aborigines in the wake of their being hunted down during the so-called Black War.
Tasmania’s Black War is a title arrived at by way of historical judgement determined by the rapid escalation in Aboriginal Settler conflict on the island from 1825. During this time the number of related deaths doubled year on year until, in November 1829, Governor George Arthur declared martial law. This provided protection from prosecution for settlers involved and resulted in the so-called Black Line occurrence of 1830, a terrifying show of collective intent against the Aborigines which finally broke their resistance.
For a chronological index of these events you should go to Lyndall Ryan’s Black War List.
The ‘Friendly Mission’ was taken up by George Augustus Robinson (no relation to George William Robinson of the Schooner Hunter) who was paid by the head to round up the Tasmanian Aborigines and deliver them to a mission station which eventually came into being on the west side of Flinders Island. Robinson, because of the bounty and because there were so few Aborigines remaining, extended his search to the many women he had heard of who were living with sealers in the islands of Bass Strait, most against their will. On the schooners Carlton and Charlotte which Robinson used in his searches, was employed Robert Gamble, a coxwain Robinson was told had intimate knowledge of both the islands and its occupants.
Robinson’s interrogation caused upheaval amongst the sealers and in a way acted as something of a deterrent towards their existence, but many were rooted to the lifestyle and unable, as much as unwilling, to change. Rather than simply give up the value of their women many either traded them or kept on the move, avoiding Robinson as best they could.
Robinson’s campaign led to an increase in the number of abductions of non-Palawah women; that is, women from coastal tribes on the southern Australian mainland. These women were from the Western Port and Portland Bay areas of Bass Strait, and from the headlands of the Spencer Gulf and Gulf of St Vincent more proximate to Kangaroo Island. Examples of these non-Palawah abductions are also evidenced by what happened at Cape Arid and King George’s Sound in 1826.
Above: Abductions of Aboriginal women occurred in key locations across the southern littoral, not just Tasmania. This map illustrates the mainland points as well as two areas of eastern Tasmania relevant to stories relating to King George’s Sound.
As we now know, Kangaroo Island was inhabited by Europeans, on and off, from 1803. From about 1810 it was in constant use by a transient population. By the early 1820s there were small farms growing vegetables, barley and wheat as well as rearing pigs, goats and poultry. From about 1824 the Recherche Archipelago caught the imagination of the N.S.W. and Tasmanian maritime trades as a distant but potentially lucrative sealing ground and the number of excursions there increased. Ship’s captains called at Kangaroo Island with the specific intention of hiring. Some ship’s captains said they had men stationed on Kangaroo Island but in reality the men were more like free agents, taking work wherever and whenever, and from whoever it suited them to work for. During this period, as the number of people on the island increased, inevitable social dynamics came into play and an unofficial leadership evolved.
It was during the mid 1820s, around the time of the wreck of the Belinda, when Nathaniel Thomas, George Bates and Henry Whaller took up permanent residence. Abyssinia Anderson (not our Black Jack) was another longer term resident, having been on the island, by accounts, from at least 1818. Most of these men had at some time at least one Tasmanian Aboriginal wife sought by Robinson; Thomas had Betty; Whaller, a woman known as Woorrartteyer; and Bates, possibly with the mother of Truganini, Ouray Ouray. In the meantime, Henry Whaller became known as ‘Governor Whaller’ and George Bates, recounting his life on the island, later remarked they wouldn’t allow criminals to live amongst them.
‘Fireball’ Bates’s definition of criminal probably needs some explanation as all on Kangaroo Island were living outside the law and the business of stealing women from the mainland was by then embedded practise. Whaller, Bates and Thomas, unless unjustly accused by Abyssinia Anderson, were all violent; Thomas causing the death of a boy by cutting off his ears, Bates breaking the arm of a boy over his knee, and another resident, James Allen, reportedly tying up and using his sealing knife to cut deep into the buttocks of one of his women after she tried to run away (Cumpston pg 183). By criminal, Bates was probably referring to men who stole from or used force to gain their living from other islanders. It was okay to gain women by stealing them from the mainland, and okay to use violence against women and children as a form of power, but it wasn’t okay to threaten another man’s wealth.
It probably didn’t matter what the men had done before they got to Kangaroo Island, new beginnings could be had there, but it does appear there was a runaway’s code in play, a measure of respect for each other’s hard earned existence. But such is the nature of the Alpha male, congregation was always going to lead to a tricky form of hierarchy. There were battles for supremacy, the lesser men vulnerable to command and abuse. The story of Black Jack Anderson, who may not have been allowed to live on Kangaroo Island, looks to be that of an outcast alpha male, while Bob Gamble, quite likely a pariah for his traitorous alliance with Robinson, I think was rogue; not a leader of men but someone whose own survival determined his actions.
On Kangaroo Island there were articles of value. Clothing, liquor, gun powder and the likes were gained from ships in exchange for salt and food. Money, probably quite a lot of colonial tenure as well as Spanish dollars and silver, the international currency of the day, was obtained from the work of the sealers on their expeditions and from the sale to passing ships of kangaroo, wallaby and seal skins they had gathered by their own accord. The criminals George Bates was referring to were probably not career islanders, but men like Anderson; incurable bullies and thieves, men prepared to dominate and injure in order to maintain control.
Above: Black Jacks at work. Those who found themselves on Kangaroo lsland between 1810 and 1840 were one time members of other crews, employed either as seamen, sealers or whalers. Runaways from large American ships were common and many joined the coastal trade cruising on smaller vessels between Sydney, New Zealand and Australia’s south coast. Their circumstances were then determined by the competency and control exercised by the new captain. Some seamen, such as Black Jack Anderson, ended up taking matters into their own hands, endeavouring by all and any means to acquire both money and freedom. Photo unattributed. Possibly taken at a New Zealand shore-based whaling station in the late 1800s.
Now, there is a gap of around five years, between 1827 and 1832, where there is little mention of the Recherche Archipelago and King George’s Sound in the records relating to coastal exploitation. The brig Ann had taken aboard 20 of Lockyer’s sealers still at the Sound in May 1827 and Lieutenant Sleeman, who had assumed the reins from Captain Wakefield in December 1828, reported the arrival of the 200 ton American sealer Rob Roy in April the following year, followed by the Sydney schooner Prince of Denmark also on a sealing voyage a month later, and in 1831 Captain Collet Barker, the last of the Albany military commanders, reported sealers being present in small boats in the region of Doubtful Island Bay. Between and thereafter, however, hung periods of apparent quiet while attention appears to have been focused on establishing James Stirling’s colonial venture at the Swan River.
Captain Barker maintained the N.S.W. military presence at Lockyer’s Frederickstown from December 1829, relieving George Sleeman after his year’s stint and commencing a period of even closer social interaction with the Albany Aborigines while virtually nothing else happened around him. (See The Garrison Years and Shortly After) Barker stayed until Stirling was forced to direct arriving settlers away from the Swan River on account of the land grants he’d approved, along with the rampant speculative uptake by his initial investors there. Stirling recognised the strategic importance of the Sound and drew public attention to it. However, on account of his convict-free policy he was then obliged to deem the military presence redundant. Which he did. Thus, King George’s Sound was happily struck from the N.S.W. expense books in March 1831 and the tiny penniless settlement was renamed Albany nine months later.
What’s relevant to the sealing aspect of our history is that Captain Collet Barker, who had packed up the military camp and shipped it out on the Isabella, was asked to stop off at the mainland opposite Kangaroo Island on the way back to Sydney to make some surveys. Barker, whose record of his time with the Menang is crucial to the tag ‘Friendly Frontier’ being later applied to Albany, was asked to do this because his friend, the explorer Charles Sturt, had followed the Murray River and come close to discovering its exit to the sea in the region of Encounter Bay. Also, George Bates was familiar with the area and had reported the presence of a large lake there to the captain of the afore-mentioned sealing ship Prince of Denmark who had forwarded the news via the King George’s Sound military outpost to Governor Darling in Sydney. The combined knowledge of this discovery had excited the prospect of settlement on the mainland adjacent to Kangaroo Island and it was Barker’s job to try and find the mouth of the Murray – which he did – and to make initial topographical readings. Sadly, in consequence of the Cape Jervis raids, mostly led by George Bates over previous years, Collet Barker was killed by a small group of Aborigines who had come across him on the beach alone and unarmed; probably thinking he was one of the offending sealers.
Above: Barker’s Waves; the beach at modern day Goolwa where Collet Barker was speared. Charles Sturt recounted Barker’s final moments as told to him by Sally, the Kaurna Aboriginal women from Cape Jervis, and George Bates, who had come over to the mainland after sighting the Isabella from Kangaroo Island. “One of the blacks immediately threw a spear and struck him in the hip. This did not, however, stop him. He got among the breakers, when he received the second spear in the shoulder. On this, turning around, he received a third full in the breast: with such deadly precision do these savages cast their weapons.” Photo uncredited, taken from Bob Innes’s website, The Desert Star
As it turns out, the men who speared Barker were Kaurna, from the tribe the two young Aborigines Harry and Sally were from. This was Harry and Sally who had been at King George’s Sound four years earlier with the gangs from the Governor Brisbane and Hunter, and it was Sally, in fact, who later told the story of what had happened to the Commandant of Solitude.
The untimely death of Collet Barker at Encounter Bay in April 1831 segues into the period when the stories of Anderson, Gamble and Pavey begin to converge; the three ending up on the South Coast together soon after Alexander Collie handed the Albany administration duties over to Sir Richard Spencer in the lead-up to the hugely influential arrival of the immigration ship James Pattison. (See The Supporting Cast) Going on in full view too, was the maritime activity relating to the interests of the Henty family, settlers who had arrived at the Swan River in October 1829, invested heavily, lost confidence and then sought to leave. This awkward, damaging business, high profile in terms of colonial confidence, was also influential on another level.
The Henty’s were lawyers, farmers and financial services men from the fertile valleys of southern England who emigrated with high expectations. Soon after arrival their disappointment with the quality of farming land they’d been granted tainted their opinion of the Swan River colony’s chances of making it out of the economic hole into which it was rapidly sinking, and they backed away. By late 1831 rumour across New South Wales was that the Swan River was failing and another location to the east, probably on the coast somewhere in the region of Kangaroo Island, was preferred. The Henty’s both bought and hired boats to explore the coastline between the Swan River and Tasmania while they grappled and bargained with Stirling in an effort to get back what money they’d sunk in. The brothers combined their search with maritime trade and industry in order to keep afloat financially, in the process hiring and transporting seamen who knew the ins-and-outs of the coast, particularly in the region of Bass Strait. One of the men they employed was John Hart, at the time a young sea-captain at the very beginning of his career. Some of Hart’s voyages in the Launceston registered Elizabeth, also merit mention here, as do selected voyages made by John Griffiths, the owner of Elizabeth and another ship he named Henry. The movement of the Henty family effected outcomes at King George’s Sound and Doubtful Island Bay between 1831 and 1835 while simultaneously influencing settlement at Launceston and across the Strait at Portland Bay. By way of this, the Hentys also contributed to the trafficking of both legitimate and runaway sealers and seamen, (as well as their abducted women and acquired child labour) to and from Kangaroo Island and the west.
A summary of cross-Bight sailings made by the Hentys along with a few other related voyages during this time gives a sense of movement and good guide to the potential arrival of Pavey, Anderson and Gamble at King George’s Sound.
1829: Britannia, seaman James Hart first visits King George’s Sound.
1829: Socrates, Henry Reed owner, commences shore based whaling at Spalding Cove, Port Lincoln.
Apr 1829: Henry, Mr John Griffiths of Launceston, visits ‘western’ sealing grounds and Kangaroo Island.
Apr 1829: Rob Roy, 200 ton American sealer visits King George’s Sound.
May 1829: Prince of Denmark, Hobart sealer, visits King George’s Sound.
Jul 1829: Henry, John Griffiths leaves William Dutton sealing at Portland Bay.
Oct 1829: Caroline, The Henty’s with Henry Camfield arrive at Swan River from Sussex County.
Jan 1831: Captain Collet Barker reports in his journal there are sealers with small boats at Palerongup, (Pallinup River, Doubtful Island Bay area).
Jul 1831: Elizabeth, Captain Hart, picks up sealers from Portland Bay area for return to Tasmania.
Oct 1831: Thistle, 57 ton schooner bought by James Henty at Swan River.
Nov 1831: Thistle sails from Swan River to King George’s Sound, where John Henty takes up land at King River.
Dec 1831: Thistle sails from King George’s Sound to Launceston with Stephen Henty.
Dec 1831: Elizabeth, Captain Hart, sealing between Kangaroo Island and Portland Bay.
Jan 1832: Cornwallis sails from Swan River to King George’s Sound and Launceston with James Henty and wife.
Apr 1832: Henty family establishes new headquarters at Cormiston, near Launceston.
Nov 1832: Elizabeth, Captain Hart, establishes whaling venture at Portland Bay, led by the sealer William Dutton, then voyages as far west as Doubtful Island Bay.
Dec 1832: Thistle sails from Launceston for King George’s Sound, Augusta and Swan River. Brings Manyat and Gyallipert to meet Yagan.
Feb 1833: Thistle sails from Swan River to Launceston with passenger Henry Camfield.
Apr 1833: Caernavon sails from Launceston to Spencer Gulf (Port Lincoln, Memory Cove) on whaling venture with Edward Henty.
Apr 1833: Thistle sails from Launceston to Swan River, instructed to pick up Edward Henty at Spencer Gulf on return. Does so, also visits Portland Bay.
Jul 1833: Elizabeth, Captain Hart, facilitates expansion of shore-whaling enterprise at Portland Bay. William Dutton commands 24 employees.
Oct 1833: Elizabeth, Captain Hart, brings Edward Henty to Portland Bay for further investigation.
Nov 1833: Cumberland sails from Swan River to Launceston, passenger Stephen Henty
Dec 1833: Thistle sails from Launceston to Swan River, via Portland Bay, Kangaroo Island, Spencer Gulf, Recherche Archipelago, Doubtful Island Bay and King George’s Sound (drops two sealing boats at Two People Bay. Pavey possibly amongst the sealers.)
Jan 1834: Fanny (cutter, 36 tons) sails from Launceston to Swan River with Stephen Henty
Apr 1834: Thistle returns from Swan River to Launceston via King George’s Sound where it picks up 300 seal skins
May 1834: James Pattison arrives at King George’s Sound from England carrying influential passengers, including Patrick Taylor and Mary Bussell.
Jun 1834: Thistle sails to Bay of Plenty NZ to rescue seamen from schooner John Dunscombe.
Oct 1834: Thistle ferries Edward Henty with equipment and stock from Launceston to Portland Bay to commence settlement there. Henry Camfield aboard.
Dec 1834: Mountaineer, sighted at Portland Bay by Edward Henty, voyages to King George’s Sound via Thistle Island bringing Anderson and Manning to Middle Island.
Jan 1835: Thistle returns Henry Camfield to Launceston. Takes William Dutton’s ‘black woman’ (probably Sarah) to King Island.
Mar 1835: Hyacinth, sails from Swan River bound for King George’s Sound, misses due to contrary winds and delivers Patrick Taylor to end destination Hobart instead.
Mar 1835: Mountaineer returns from King George’s Sound, wrecked at Thistle Cove, Cape Le Grande. Crew and passengers make for Middle Island to seek rescue.
Apr 1835: John Adams, chartered from Launceston to Swan River by Stephen Henty, brings passengers Henry Camfield and Patrick Taylor.
1835: Calledonia arrives at King George’s Sound, Captain Thomas Lyell Symers with wife and family to commence living.
Dec 1835: Sally Ann, with Stirling, brings King George’s Sound setters to Doubtful Island Bay to discuss fishery and settlement. Stephen Henty declines offer to take up land there. (Bob Gamble possibly employed as pilot on this sailing.)
May 1836: Sally Ann sails for Launceston via Vasse River, Augusta and King Gorge’s Sound. Captain Howe drowns at Princess Royal Harbour. Stephen Henty navigates, possibly employs Bob Gamble as pilot.
John Bailey Pavey
The opening word on Pavey goes to Campbell ‘Jock’ Beer, a descendant, who has recently completed a comprehensive investigation into the life and times of this important South Coast identity.
John Bailey Pavey, alias John Williams, alias John Williams Andrews, was a larger than life character whose exploits would provide a competent adventure writer with enough material for a ripping yarn; albeit a dark one. The fourth son of James Pavey (1759–1847), a cordwainer of Romsey Hants England, John was an exceptional mariner and a tough farming pioneer, but with an obvious evil streak, honed during his early years as an assumed convict, then a sealer and later as leader of a shore-based convict whaling team.
Pavey was at Albany by 1834, just five years after the declaration of the Swan River Colony of Western Australia. It’s confidently assumed he was an escaped convict, probably from New South Wales, but how and precisely when he arrived at King Georges Sound is unknown.
John Pavey lived on the criminal fringe of the established society in early Albany. Between 1837 and 1845 he built up a substantial shore-based whaling venture that employed a number of men and, despite his reviled status in the community, he would have contributed significantly to the Albany economy during that period.
Jock Beer’s essay on Pavey makes a major contribution to what is an impoverished body of work relating to persons at Albany who were neither officials nor monied settlers. When I first read it, John Bailey Pavey excited me no end. At last, here was a detailed study of a man whose dubious but nonetheless powerful character uncomfortably married the white underclass at old Albany with its higher social tiers while also mixing with the rapidly changing world of the Albany Aborigines. More than that it was not only local but linked, as the new place inextricably was, to the east.
Right: Campbell ‘Jock’ Beer – 2015
Pre John Bailey Pavey was like fumbling around in a dark basement you knew stored the curios and correspondence of the social past, the paperwork and photographs of those who may not have been so nice and who society preferred not to remember well, but whose lives were nonetheless colourful and contributory. There were things in that dingy basement you could see but not quite make out or tie together, tantalising snippets of incidents and occurrences that promised stories that were not only revelatory but really, really important. Then, through sheer dogged perseverance, Beer constructed a light fixture and turned it on.
Campbell Beer’s John Bailey Pavey, lodged with Albany Library, is historic in its own way, enabling a deeper and much richer understanding of the goings on during the very formation of Albany town. A breakthrough in publicly accessible historical research, it should facilitate and encourage others whose ancestry doesn’t correspond to those we already know about. Hopefully, it will inspire more people to make their own contributions, thereby adding much needed depth and texture to our understanding of the past.
Pavey came to Albany as John Williams and/or John Williams Andrews. He appears in the records about a year ahead of both Anderson and Gamble. Campbell Beer says there is no official evidence Pavey was a convict unless he shipped out of England as John Williams, of which there were twelve who arrived into Tasmania between 1817 and 1822 alone. There are references to John Williams at Kangaroo Island as well but these are confusing, mixing details of what might have been the activities of Pavey with an African-American called Black Jack Williams and another man known as James Williams. Plomley, in Friendly Mission, also lists a John Williams, aka Norfolk Island Jack, but this man was still in Bass Strait in 1837, so cannot be the same. Finally, the timing of the more accurate Kangaroo Island references to John Williams relate to the period after 1834. Thus, Pavey’s factual story can’t really start until he gets to Albany.
Beer does speculate on his arrival though. . .
The Thistle, a 57-ton brigantine schooner, had left Launceston with Thomas Henty and his son Edward on December 8, 1833 for a voyage stopping at Portland Bay, Kangaroo Island, Port Lincoln, King Georges Sound, Augusta and finally Fremantle, which was reached on January 26, 1834. On the voyage between Port Lincoln and King Georges Sound, the Thistle left two boats and sealing crews on the coast to the east of the Sound to occupy themselves until picked up on the return journey. . . . could Andrews have been a member of one of Thistle’s sealing crews?
From 1831 George Augustus Robinson had begun his work gathering information on the Aboriginal women about Bass Strait, the government having recruited for him an ex-sealer coxswain by the name of Bob Gamble to assist his movements. If Pavey was living in Bass Strait at this time, Robinson’s presence may well have caused him to seek an island dwelling elsewhere, but if he had been working as a sealer and whaler in the wider Southern Fishery, for example, the Henty expedition would simply have presented a useful opportunity to explore the far western reaches; especially if he was an escapee. In any case, there is no surviving record of who comprised the Henty sealing gangs of December 1833, which look like they were let off in the area of Two People’s Bay.
Pavey’s presence at Albany is documented from early 1834 where he is in possession of his own small boat. Also at this time it becomes clear there were other sealers in the locality as, though nameless, they are included in various official correspondence. By the Spring of that year The James Pattison had arrived, disgorging optimism into the otherwise stagnant Albany social network and economy. Pavey made his mind up to stay and wrote to the Government Resident Sir Richard Spencer requesting the annual lease of Coffin Island at Two People’s Bay. That arrangement was sanctioned and worked a charm as the American led off-shore whaling boom was accelerating and within two years would see the South Coast literally buzzing with activity. Like George Cheyne, Pavey was a hard-nosed natural trader; useful qualities in Albany back then. These attributes, even more useful among a body of labourers engaged in the harsh and dangerous work of the Southern Fishery, left him poised to take every advantage.
Black Jack Anderson
Left: Black Jacks by Jeffrey Bolster tells of the tens of thousands of African-American men who went to sea in the 19th Century.
There is very little known about the origins of Western Australia’s Black Jack Anderson and much of what is, is confused. This is because the tag Black Jack was applied to ‘men of colour’ who made their way as seamen during the 19th century. There were a lot Black Jacks in Australian waters during the age of sail, albeit just one or two named Anderson. Also, during the same period there was another seaman of repute who went by the name John Anderson. This man, probably for reasons of association as much as alliteration, attracted the tag ‘Abyssinia’ (generally applied to men of East-Asian and Arabic origin) even though he was almost certainly white.
To resolve the confusion, it’s a good idea to make it known who our Black Jack Anderson was not.
The Bass Strait islander John Anderson, aka Abyssinia Anderson, alias Black Jack Anderson, (C. 1790-1860) was described by G.A. Robinson in 1831 as being English, 5′ 7″ to 5′ 9″ in height, with grey hair, age 40-50. Although there is one suggestion he was a Lascar, there is no mention of skin colour which strongly suggests he was white. This John Anderson is believed by most researchers to have arrived into Sydney in 1813 as a freeman aboard the Archduke Charles which sailed out of Portsmouth via Cork in the European summer of 1812. Anderson, according to another source, served time in the navy as a boy and was present at the battle of Trafalgar (Napoleonic Wars, 1805). He may have gone to Kangaroo Island very soon after arriving as he was said to have gone sealing and remained as such for sixteen years. This John Anderson can be traced to Kangaroo Island aboard the Endeavour in 1818. Peter Miller Cunningham’s, Two Years in New South Wales, published in 1827 stated; the senior individual upon the (Kangaroo Island) settlement is named Abyssinia, and has lived there for fourteen years and upwards. If correct this would have placed Abyssinia on the island from 1813. If incorrect, it still positions him in the country from the time of the arrival of the Archduke Charles.
This John Anderson was also recorded by Robinson as being on Woody Island in 1831, living with an Aboriginal woman named Emue or Emma. It is accepted now that Emue/Emma was a Kaurna woman from Yankalilla, north of Cape Jervis. Anderson is said to have had ten children by her, five of whom were surviving at the time of the interview. Robinson’s journal entry of 10 January, 1837, reveals Emue was still with Anderson on Woody Island then. By the 1840s Anderson was known to be living in the Western Straits, possibly at Hunter Island, from where in 1845 and 1846 he brought some of his children to the small northern Tasmanian settlement of Stanley to be baptised. There is no clear indication of where and when he died.
Most of this information has been collated and made available at the invaluable on-line resource Bass Strait People 1790-1850
This Abyssinia Anderson may also have been erroneously named as the sealer George Robinson. In G.A. Robinson’s transcribed notes (provided on-line by the State Library of N.S.W.) a man living on Woody Island in 1831, with James Everett and three Aboriginal women, is called George Robinson. Elsewhere in the same notes Robinson describes the man living with Everett on Woody Island as Anderson. Also in the same notes there is some confusing association with Woody Island and the Kent Group. Woody Island can’t be found on today’s maps but is variously described in 19th C. newspaper reports as adjacent to the smaller Tin Kettle Island, the two at the time collectively referred to as the Anderson Isles. Tin Kettle Island is located in the western waters between Flinders Island and Cape Barren Island in the Furneaux group. Today, the island adjacent to Tin Kettle is called Anderson Island.
Above: Anderson and Tin Kettle Islands, home to Abyssinia Anderson, James Everett and their Aboriginal wives and families from the mid to late 1820s into the 1830s. Map Source; Bicycles Network Australia
So, who then was Western Australia’s pirate terrible? The truth is it’s impossible to know. There is a trail, which we’ll join in a moment, but there is no clear detail determining when Black Jack Anderson first arrived, or from where. Speculation to his being African/American looks to be derived from the tag ‘Black Jack’ which is carried through the folklore and difficult to dismiss, but the 1836 census taken at Albany by Richard Spencer lists a James Anderson, citing him as a mariner aged 35 and from England.
Black Jack Anderson’s story appears to commence with the wreck of the 27 ton schooner Defiance off the southern coast of modern day New South Wales in October 1833. The location was Cape Howe, very close to the Victorian border, about 25 kilometres south of the historically frequented whaling location Twofold Bay. One account (Wells, pg 40) says he was one of at least two Black Jacks aboard, the other being John Bathurst. The captain of the boat was an errant young man by the name of George Meredith junior, eldest son of a prominent Tasmanian settler, George Meredith Snr, who had arrived from England in 1821 and invested heavily at Oyster Bay on the central east coast. George junior had lived at Oyster Bay from age 15.
In September 1833, The Defiance was reported separately as heading on a sealing voyage to New Zealand and the South Seas Islands as well as on a trading voyage to the western coast of New Holland laden with sealing supplies. The latter was the case but there is no muster roll or ‘Claims to be Presented’ advertisement detailing crew names and numbers. In any case, Meredith, whose father had ventured into boat building, whaling and sealing from around 1826, was familiar to sailing, though his competency as skipper might be questioned.
Meredith’s father had built small boats for the purposes of bay whaling near Little Swanport at Oyster Bay and also for sale to the whaling and sealing industry at large. He built and fitted out his own 40 ton schooner, Black Swan, which, in 1829, he registered to George junior. Young Meredith, then in his early twenties, was being set up in business. George eagerly set about manning his ship with seamen and sealers, probably drawn from the family fishery at Oyster Bay (the locality of which was already associated with abducted Palawah women, including Mooney and Sal who had been at King George’s Sound in 1826) and duly set off for the Straits on his maiden expedition. It is unlikely Meredith was master but unfortunately the Black Swan was wrecked anyway. The incident occurred off Prime Seal Island, one of the lesser isles on the western side of Flinders Island, within a year of the ship’s registration, being reported on 6th February 1830. Young Meredith and his crew may have been away just a matter of weeks when it happened. No lives were lost but tellingly the crew made for James Munro’s Preservation Island to await rescue. Young George Meredith was at that time likely exposed to Munro’s penchant for buying Aboriginal women.
It’s not known what happened in the interim but young Meredith recovered to some degree. From at least December 1832 records show he was sailing with a Captain West on the 27 ton schooner Defiance . Agents for the Defiance were the Sydney based Learmonth and Sims but Meredith’s father could have had an interest in its ownership and enterprise. Young George eventually found himself skipper of the Defiance out of Sydney late in September the following year, but the command may not to have been legal. The records show that Defiance, master West, had been engaged in supplying sealing outposts over at least its previous three outings. From March 1833, the ship’s agents thought its sailings were bound for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands when it appears the crew were making for Bass Strait and the southern littoral, almost certainly including Kangaroo Island and quite possibly making as far as King George’s Sound. .
One theory, put forward by Marie Hansen Fels, whose work I Succeeded Once: The Aboriginal Protectorate on the Mornington Peninsula, 1839–1840, I have drawn much from here, is that Meredith and West, during the March-May 1833 sailing, called at Western Port Bay and carried out an abduction raid. George Augustus Robinson, later investigating, recorded in his journal of December 1836;
Matilda the VDL woman pointed out the spot a few miles down the harbour at Point Nepean where she said George Meredith and his crew of sealers stole the native women. The men’s names were Brown, Mr West the master of the schooner, a man named Billy. Said the schooner anchored off, the sealers went on shore. Said there were plenty of forest boomer kangaroos at the point. Said they deceived the people; gammoned them. Said the native men upset the boat and the men were all wet and fell into the water. Said there was plenty of blackfellows, some on the Port Phillip side, some outside, sea coast. Said the sealers were afraid of the Port Phillip natives. Said they employed her to entice them. George Meredith stole the, I think she said four women, took them in the schooner first to Kings Island and then to Hunter and Clarks and Gun Carriage Islands, and then sold them to the sealers there. I am informed that Munro bought one. She pointed out the small islands in the mid of the port soon after you enter and told me that the natives had killed two white men there; they found their bones and an iron pot and tomahawk.
Various entries in the records of G.A. Robinson, implicating Meredith in the trade and/or delivery of these and other abducted women, show the abductees were taken to sealers haunts in the Straits, including those of James Munro and Abyssinia Anderson. The following extracts, also from Marie Hansen Fel’s ‘I Succeeded Once’, though relating to the year 1836, are nonetheless revealing. Note: Gun Carriage Island also lies in the waters between Flinders and Cape Barren Island but is now known as Vansittart Island.
12 January 1836
At Gun Carriage Island, there were six sealers, two Tasmanian females, three New Holland females and one Calcutta female … The surgeon was told that Munro (the sealer James Munro/Munroe) gave seven pounds for the New Holland woman he has named Emue.
9 May 1836
William Proctor, sealer, told Robinson that the New Holland women were brought to the straits by George Meredith, that Munro has one, Bailey has one, and the other sealer the last.
17 June 1836
Maria, subsequently known as Matilda, was landed by the sealers on Flinders Island and walked in to Wybelena; she had come from Gun Carriage Island. Another woman was also landed, but she was taken off by Abyssinia Jack (formerly of Kangaroo Island) who also had a New Holland woman.
23 July 1836
Three sealers were on Gun Carriage Island with several New Holland women. In addition, Abyssinia Jack had other New Holland women stolen by George Meredith from their country adjacent to Kangaroo Island.
9 August 1836
On Preservation Island, Dr Allen spoke with Munro who had a native of New Holland with him, who had recently had a child; Smith was living with him and they had ‘several’ New Holland women.
Now, on the following voyage of September 1833, during which the wreck occurred, there was an Aboriginal woman aboard Defiance. This may have been Matilda, also known as Maria, her Aboriginal name being Mirnermannerme, born c.1811 at Swanport, Oyster Bay, location of the Meredith boat building and whaling enterprises. Alternatively, it could have been Sal, another Oyster Bay women whom Meredith was said to have lived with on Kangaroo Island. Sal was Tanleboneyer, also from Little Swanport. In both cases see Bass Strait People for details.
Also on the Defiance’s last voyage was a young man by the name of James Manning, a passenger bound for King George’s Sound. Manning could not have been more than twenty years old and appears to have been traveling on his own. Nothing else is known about his origins but he (much) later married John McKail’s daughter, Mary Henrietta, at Albany. It may have been that Manning was related to one of the earliest Albany families as it seems to have been his absolute imperative to get there. In many ways this part of the story could be written as Manning’s before either Meredith’s or Anderson’s, the whole episode alternatively titled, ‘James Manning’s Series of Unfortunate Events’.
Above: Defiance, reported as leaving Sydney on Friday, 27th September, 1833, on a sealing voyage to the western coast of New Holland. Defiance was separately reported by her agents, Learmonth and Sims, as heading for New Zealand and the South Sea Islands. The Sydney Herald, 30 September, 1833
Above: Uninsured, the Defiance and its cargo reported wrecked in The Sydney Herald, 24 October 1833
Above: Reports say Meredith wasn’t aboard when the Defiance went ashore. Was Meredith incompetent and/or drunk, or had the ship been deliberately wrecked by some of its crew? The Sydney Monitor, 26 October, 1833.
The story goes that there were two whaleboats attached to the Defiance, one of which made for Sydney, the other south and then westwards toward Bass Strait. There is no surviving detail regarding the first boat. This part of the story comes from Manning who somehow agreed to go with Meredith instead of awaiting rescue from the inevitable salvage operation. Manning said it took five months for Meredith to lead them to Kangaroo Island, suggesting they spent time at Western Port and possibly Portland Bay, which at that time had its first bay whaling crew, headed by William Dutton, in place and had also just fallen under the eye of Edward Henty who was viewing it as a potential point of settlement.
That Meredith abandoned the wreck of the Defiance and made off to obscurity supports the idea he could not have gone back to Sydney without the likely prospect of arrest and imprisonment. Whether he was criminal by nature or just a kid who, unable to live up to the achievements and standards of his controlling father, naively sought to determine his own fate among hardened seamen with agendas of their own, is hard to know. Although his father appears to have completely disowned him, there are some sympathetic accounts of Meredith’s nature recorded after his death, albeit provided by men of similar ilk. In any case, after the wreck of the Defiance Meredith, perhaps forlornly, perhaps not, made the decision to remove himself from the reach of both his family and the law by going to live on Kangaroo Island.
Above: George Meredith wrecked his second boat, the uninsured 27 ton schooner Defiance, late in September 1833, after which he sailed to Kangaroo Island in a whaleboat taking his passenger, the mysterious James Manning, with him. They took five months to cover the 900 odd miles from Cape Howe, indicating likely stops at Western Port and Portland Bay.
They arrived in February 1834. Manning later testified he helped build a house/hut for Meredith and Sal at Western River on the north western part of the island, looking towards the Althorpe Isles and Cape Spencer. Now, one reference (Wells, pg 40) says Anderson and Bathurst were on the Defiance and made their way to Kangaroo Island with Manning and Meredith. But Anderson and Bathurst didn’t establish on Kangaroo Island, instead they went towards Port Lincoln and took up on Thistle Island (known amongst the sealers as Long Island on account of its shape).
Thistle Island is on the western side of the Spencer Gulf, named by Matthew Flinders in 1803 after his midshipman John Thistle who, along with seven others, tragically disappeared after leaving the Investigator to search for water ashore. The question, however, is whether or not Anderson and his men were whalers who originally absconded in that area and come to Kangaroo Island where they joined the crew of Meredith’s Defiance (heading to Sydney), or had arrived from Sydney for the first time, as above, via the wreck.
That Anderson does not appear to have been resident at Kangaroo Island (at this time) lends support to the ideas he was either a whaler based at Spalding Cove (Port Lincoln) or had come from further west. He could also have been one of those men deemed by Bates, Whaller & Co as ‘criminals’ and thereby made not welcome. All things considered, however, it seems Anderson must have had an earlier presence in the area.
In any case, in September Manning was induced to join Anderson. This was probably because Anderson was bound for King George’s Sound (or Midddle Island at least) and Manning knew it. Perhaps also he had heard the rumours of a mainland settlement being established in the Kangaroo Island locale, with Port Lincoln high amongst its potential locations, and expected greater chance of being ‘picked up’ there. (As an aside, Edward Henty had been to Spencer Gulf in the Caernarvon the previous winter scoping the Port Lincoln locality, as the Henty’s investigated so many places along the coast at that time.) Anderson, once he had him, put Manning to work sealing or mutton birding on the basis he would provision him. At this point it seems as if Manning may have attached himself to Anderson in some capacity, Anderson perhaps offering him employment. Manning then said that in November, while he was on one of these islands mutton-birding, Meredith arrived and accused him of stealing £4.10.0. from him before leaving Kangaroo Island. Manning said Anderson and Meredith stood him up with loaded pistols and, knowing he had money, took that amount from him.
Manning is mysterious, nothing’s really known of him. I wonder was Manning an alias and he a thief on the run?
Also during November Meredith said Anderson, Bathurst and four other men went to Port Lincoln from where they brought by coercion five Aboriginal women, two carrying babies, and two of their husbands, over to Boston Island (about two and a half miles off-shore). Manning says he protested but the men took the Aboriginal husbands out of sight, shot them and beat their brains out with clubs. An older woman was given the two babies and sent off into the bush while one other of the women apparently got away. Manning said in his deposition that another Aboriginal man had drowned trying to swim over during the ordeal. The three remaining women were then taken back to Thistle Island where they commenced life under the sealers command.
A month or so later, in January 1835, Manning said a small cutter bound for King George’s Sound arrived at Thistle Island. The cutter was called Mountaineer and was commanded by Evanson Jansen. Jansen offered Manning passage to the Sound for a fee of £3.00, which Manning quickly agreed to, but not before Anderson had negotiated passage to Middle Island for himself and the three abducted women.
What happened to Bathurst and the four other men at Thistle Island isn’t known, but Manning must have wondered what on earth he’d got himself into head so far west all alone.
Above: The locale of Kangaroo Island, scene of so much violence and skulduggery during the period 1824-1836.
Robert ‘Bob’ Gamble
The precise origins of the sealer Robert ‘Bob’ Gamble are as difficult to ascertain as those of Black Jack Anderson, although it is clear he was European. A related convict record I came across belonged to John Gamble, a stagecoach driver, who arrived at Sydney on the Atlas in 1819. John served four years before being sent to Liverpool for so-called distribution where on 13 August, 1823, he was assigned as labour to a Robert Gamble of Brickfields.
Further investigation reveals the arrival of an Ann Gamble and children on the Jupiter into Hobart and then Sydney in May 1823. Ann was John’s wife. A John Gamble was married to an Ann Northin in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on July 3rd, 1817. Ann Gamble petitioned for mitigation of her husband John’s sentence and also appears residing at Brickfields on the 1823 list of persons having been assigned a convict. Arriving with Ann Gamble and her children on the Jupiter was a Martha Gamble who may have been John’s sister. Once free, John Gamble the stage coach driver took up his old profession and acquired a degree of notoriety in the Sydney newspapers for his reckless speed.
There were other Sydney Gambles too. One line, from a George Gamble recorded in 1811, seems to have developed links with the N.S.W. Police Force. The earliest arriving convict Gamble appears to be Thomas, per Admiral Gambier, in 1808. The Gamble surname is prominent in 19th Century records relating to the counties of East and North Yorkshire, extending westwards to Cumbria and across the Irish Sea to Ulster.
Whether the Robert Gamble living at Brickfields Hill, Sydney, in 1823 is the same Robert Gamble who lived with his Bunorung Aboriginal wife Eliza Nowen on Bald Island at the entrance to King George’s Sound from the mid-to-late 1830s and went on to become original overseer for Captain John Hassell at Jarramongup in 1849, is most unlikely, but the fact our Bob Gamble named his first-born Martha and his second John, suggests there may well be a link.
Terri Lo Presti, a descendant, says in her own web page about him that Robert Gamble had probably been in Tasmania from about 1820 and that he may have arrived as a free man on the Surry, which made multiple trips between Britain and Australia over the period 1814 to 1840, including 1819. However, there is no record of an arriving convict by the name of Robert or Bob Gamble and alternative evidence, presented later, indicates he may not have been born until 1811 and not arrived until the late 1820s.
What is worth remembering at this time is that Captain John Hassell was based at Launceston from where, during the period 1825 to 1836, he was commanding ships voyaging between Tasmania, and Sydney (and New Zealand). Many men will have served on his busy passages during this time. Hassell left Launceston for England on 2nd March 1837 on the Brig Rhoda. Calling into King George’s Sound on the way out, he stayed five days, very probably instigating dealings he followed-up on when he returned just under two years later.
Above: Convict John Gambel was assigned as labour to Robert Gambel of Brickfields, Sydney, on 13 August, 1823. Source; New South Wales, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856 [database on-line]
In any case, Gamble’s story first comes to light in the records of George Augustus Robinson whose June 1831 journal recorded;
. . . Robert Gamble a Sealer. Robt. Gamble deposeth that he has been employed in Sealing in Banks and Bass Straits for the period of three years and that during ten months out of this time he had been living on Kings Island. . .
Banks Strait is that stretch of water between the north-east tip of Tasmania at Cape Portland and Clarke Island, the southern most of the Furneaux Group.
So, Gamble joined the sealing fraternity late in the piece, four years after Hassell in the Belinda and two years after the time of the Hunter and Governor Brisbane at King George’s Sound. By 1828, the likes of Bates, Whaller, Abyssinia Anderson, Munro and Everett were old hands, well ensconced with their women and offspring between Kangaroo Island and the Furneaux Group. The records show that Gamble knew of the community on Kangaroo Island and one reference (Wells, G. E., 1978, Kangaroo Island South Australia: Cradle of a Colony pg 40/41) says he resided there for a time. What emerges from the few Robinson transcripts relating to him, is that Gamble, first employed as pilot aboard the government vessel Carlton as an aid to Robinson’s ‘Friendly Mission‘, became an unreliable informant.
Between May and June 1831, the year of the deposition cited above, Gamble guided the boat put at Robinson’s service into the island harbours of the Furneaux and Kent groups where the sealers had built their dwellings and livelihoods. He was at Flinders Island with Robinson in January 1832, soon after the decision to establish the Aboriginal mission, and was involved with a cruel segregation of the gathered tribesmen there. (See The Last of the Tasmanian’s Ch 8, by James Bonwick) Gamble was later suspected by Robinson of being in league with the sealers (namely, the aforementioned Thomas Tucker ) and a criminal himself. He was dismissed and sent to Hobart for trial.
The immediate question is, why would someone who had lived as a sealer for three years then become an informant against them?
One likely answer, of course, is money and provision. Another might be that he had something against those he was prepared to expose. Yet another might be that he had something to hide or protect and the best way of doing that, possibly, was to put himself in a position of potential immunity.
The remainder of Gamble’s deposition is worth reading. (I’ve modified the grammar in this as the straight forward transcript is unpunctuated.)
. . . that whilst he was sojourning at this place (King Island) he was informed by a Sealer named Dobson of several murders which from time to time had been committed on the Island by the Sealing gangs which occasionally resorted to this [indecipherable]. Says that a Dobson informed him that a Sealer named—Knight had been murdered by his associate, his motive for so doing was in order to become possessed of two Black Nt. women of V.D.L. belonging to his companion, as also some seal skins. It appears that the perpetrator of this Diabolical act had prevailed upon his companion to accompany him on an Hunting excursion in the Bush on which occasion he took the opportunity of Murdering him by cleaving his Head with a Tomma Hawk. He subsequently left the Island and thus escaped [indecipherable] punishment. This Murder was perpetrated on the west side of the Island. Was also informed by Dobson that an aboriginal female of VDL had been cruelly murdered by a Sealer on the South end of the Island (don’t recollect the name). The Sealer who committed this atrocious cruelty affected his purpose by beating his Victim with a Club so unmercifully that he had left her for Dead. She however so far recovered as to crawl under a Small Bush and where she remained in Concealment until Dobson returned, which was about an Hour after the perpetration of this Diabolical act. On perceiving Dobson she crawled towards him and made him acquainted with the circumstances of the cruelty and soon after expired in the greatest agony. The Disceased was a fine young female Native of the District Of Cape Grim, from which place they had forcibly carried her away and had thence transported her to Kings Island.
Signed Robt. Gamble Witness
Robt. Gamble further deposeth that he heard the Sealers state that the Black women, Natives of Van Diemen’s Land residing on Kangaroo Island, are cruelly treated by the Sealers at that place and that they are in the frequent Habit of tying them up and severely scourging them with cords.
The transcript of the rough and sometimes difficult to decipher notes Robinson made during the winter of 1831 also reveal Gamble had been accused of shooting two Aboriginal women himself.
John Williams Alias Norfolk Island Jack – Has been a sealer for Several years Place of resort Kent Group had at a recent period 3 Abgn females Nt of V.D.L. One a young woman – Alias N native of Brune Island who was one of those females forcibly taken from her Country by a man of Colour named Baker and who was afterwards shot by a Sealer named Robt Gambell at Kents Group supposed maliciously by this. Gambell is the same indvdl that shot an Abgn female at Hunters Islands. . .
As can be seen, the revelation comes through information gathered about a sealer named John Williams, alias Norfolk Island Jack. Robinson doesn’t seem to recognise in his notes that the Gambel he had working for him was the same person John Williams was telling him about. Had Gamble actually shot two woman or was Williams, who may have known Gamble was working for Robinson, lied in order to set him up?
Plomley, in Friendly Mission, revealed the identity of one of the women Williams said Gamble shot;
Murrerninghe, AKA Kit, abducted by John BAKER [with Lowhenunhe and Makekerledede] lived with John WILLIAMS AKA Norfolk Island Jack, lived with HEPTHERNET (James Everett) at Kangaroo Island, she was shot at Kent Group by Robert GAMBLE. [FM 11/10/1830, p.116]
Above: This excerpt from Rebe Taylor’s Unearthed; The Aboriginal Tasmanians of Kangaroo Island, shows that Gamble may have shot two of Truganini’s three sisters, all of whom appear to have been abducted by John Baker, another Black Jack, and brought first to Kangaroo Island.
What makes this doubly intriguing, of course, is the possibility John Williams, alias Norfolk Island Jack, may also have been John Bailey Pavey. As previously mentioned however, Norfolk Island Jack was also said to still be at the Kent Group in 1837 when Pavey was busy around the waters off Western Australia.
So, in mid 1831 Robert Gamble was either under suspicion by Robinson or, no less than seven months later, suddenly recognised as the man Williams had spoken about. He was arrested and sent for trial. Robinson, perhaps, had been protecting Gamble on the basis he would help him secure prosecutions against other sealers and also help him recover more of the Palawah women he was being paid £5.00 per head to repatriate, but Plomley also reveals in Friendly Mission that Robinson eventually perceived Gamble as ‘evidently a bad man‘ thwarting his progress.
Above: Excerpt from N.J.B. Plomley’s seminal Friendly Mission, page 380
But Gamble was never tried. There’s no record of it. Instead, we learn that Martha Gamble, daughter of Robert Gamble and Eliza Nowen, a Bunurong woman from Western Port Bay, was born at Albany on November 5th 1835. Whether Martha was born at Albany or one of the islands along the South Coast, which her descendants believe to be case, isn’t essential knowledge right now. What is, is the fact Gamble was associated with Albany from at least 1835. Gamble’s children with Eliza Nowen were never officially registered, we know Martha was born at this time because it is recorded inside a surviving Gamble family bible, apparently gifted to Robert in 1840 by someone from the Henty family. The bible, known as the Breaksea Island Bible, is held by the Albany Historical Society.
It is inconclusive whether Eliza Nowen and two other Bunorung women known to be living on Bald Island (off King George’s Sound) around 1839 were abducted by George Meredith and later purchased or stolen by Gamble and brought to the West, but it seems clear that all had arrived and were in place at least by the latter stages of 1835.
Did Gamble and Pavey arrive together on the Henty owned Thistle which left Van Diemen’s Land in December 1833, or had Gamble been working aboard that ship on its previous two voyages between Launceston and the Swan River in December 1832 and April 1833? There appears to be a link between Gamble, the Hentys and Henry Camfield, which we’ll explore a little more in due course, but there is no obvious association with Anderson until 1836.
Gamble first appears in the official Albany records via the census of 1836 where he is listed as a seaman aged 25 yrs. If he was only 25 at this time, it means Gamble was born in 1811, throwing into doubt his arrival in the colony Pre 1820.
Above: Excerpt from the original Albany census of 1836 taken by Sir Richard Spencer. Robert Gamble is listed as entry number 55, a Seaman by profession, aged 25 years, born in England. Many thanks to Dr Murray Arnold for the file containing this vital document.
The Fate of the Cutter Mountaineer
There is no evidence Gamble was on the Mountaineer when it ventured westwards from Launceston to Portland Bay, Port Lincoln and King George’s Sound over the summer of 1834/5, nor is there any mention of that voyage in the newspapers of the day. The sailing surely happened but there is decided uncertainty over where and when Bob Gamble joined with John ‘Black Jack’ Anderson.
The Mountaineer was built for Mungo Sommerville, a bachelor landowner, publican and businessman, at Launceston in 1832. Summerville may have sold the 23 ton cutter to its commander on that voyage, Evanson Jansen, or may have commissioned it under him on a trading mission.
Edward Henty reported the Mountaineer, which he described as a whaler, being at Portland Bay early in December 1834 and sailing from there on the 5th (Bassett, the Hentys, pg 305). William Dutton was also at Portland Bay then too, heading up John Griffiths sealing team on the back of his second consecutive whaling season there. We also know from James Manning’s court deposition that it was January when the Mountaineer arrived at Thistle Island off Port Lincoln. That Henty described the Mountaineer a whaler implies she was probably headed for Spalding Cove (at Port Lincoln) which had been exploited as a shore based whaling station by another Launceston businessman, Henry Reed, since 1829. In fact, it was Reed who was financing William Dutton’s whaling enterprise at Portland. (See Land Based Whaling Activities On The West Coast Of South Australia 1829 – 1845 by Charles Parkinson, for information on Spalding Cove)
Henry Reed is noted for having arrived in Tasmania in 1827, apparently unmoneyed, and somehow acquiring an array of business interests within four to five years. Over the period 1829-1836 Reed appears to have employed about 30 men per season at Spalding Cove, delivering them there and supplying them from his ship Socrates. There’s possibility, therefore, that John ‘Black Jack’ Anderson got to this part of the coast through Reed’s ventures, but as no records at all were kept (indicating Reed’s whaling interests were probably clandestine), it means once again there’s no way of knowing.
There is no evidence to suggest Captain Jansen had pirated the coaster Mountaineer either, and that she arrived at Albany on February 22nd where she stayed until March 14th 1835 indicates she wasn’t behaving suspiciously. Looking at it this way, it would appear the Mountaineer called at Thistle Island in the knowledge there were whaling men still stationed in the region and that more than likely she was carrying rations and equipment to trade.
Being just 23 tons the Mountaineer wasn’t a big boat. Records show she was single-masted, 35 feet long and 13 feet at her widest point. Capable of sailing under just a master and mate, cutters most often employed crews of three to five. If Jansen took Anderson, Manning, the abducted women and possibly other men as well (including Gamble), then he could have had neither a big crew nor sealing gangs already aboard.
It’s generally reckoned that Gamble was an associate of Anderson’s and that therefore he was part of Anderson’s party which Jansen took aboard, subsequently delivering them west of the cliffs to Middle Island, but this is questionable. Gamble has been mentioned as living at Kangaroo Island and it’s easy to think he went there after Robinson lost patience with him sometime in 1832, but the Mountaineer doesn’t look like she went to Kangaroo Island and there’s nothing to say Gamble was living on Thistle Island with Anderson and the other men either. Nor is there any mention of Gamble at Middle Island during this episode.
Above: The Mountaineer was a 35 foot, 23 ton coastal cutter, 13 feet across at its widest point. This boat is a replica cutter, Mischief, built in 2007. Mischief was 45 feet long, giving perspective to the size of boat the Mountaineer was. Image courtesy, Wikipedia.
In the newspaper report covering the story of Manning’s eventual arrival at Albany there were clear suspicions as to why he wanted to come west, a question first piqued when he chose to go with Meredith in the whaleboat after the wreck of the Defiance instead of waiting for recovery. About his disembarking at Middle Island, Manning said that Jansen was a drunk and that by way of misunderstanding he had ‘lost his passage’; indicating he had been left there unwillingly.
For a man (perhaps more a boy) just held up by Anderson, and who had seen Anderson direct a violent abduction and murder, the decision to disembark voluntarily is difficult to understand. Anderson looks to have been persuasive and perhaps (probably) influenced Jansen’s decision not to take Manning any further. Most of the writing about Anderson falls in with general sealer folklore, portraying him as a drinker, gambler and womaniser, that he was a brutal ‘standover man’ who kept a brace of pistols and large sum of money about his waist. If this was the case and Manning was carrying a largish sum of money himself, why would he choose to stay on a remote island in the company of such a person? Manning’s actions seem to describe him as being manipulated.
In any case, the Mountaineer left them, the abducted women and an unknown number of other persons at Middle Island, then successfully proceeded to Albany where over a period of three weeks Jensen recruited five or six passengers for the return journey. These passengers comprised young members of the Newell family who had decided to leave Albany and seek work in Tasmania. According to James (Jem) Newell’s declaration, the passengers were himself and older siblings Dorothy and Mary, Mary’s husband of five months Matthew Gill (up until then a member of Richard Spencer’s household staff), and William (possibly Thomas) Church. Jansen’s crew was three strong, made up of himself, James Ward and a man named Hill, making a total of eight persons aboard. They sailed on Saturday, March 14th. (Note: Cumpston in Kangaroo Island names Owens as a passenger and appears to call Hill, Kitt.)
The Mountaineer made it to Thistle Cove (yes, another Thistle) immediately west of Rossiter Bay (Eyre and Wylie’s 1841 point of rescue), eight days later. Under calm conditions the cove is idyllic, with crystal clear water and pure white beach. Jansen mistakenly laid anchor in the shallow, sandy bottomed bay. Two nights later the wind got up, the anchor dragged and the cutter was blown ashore. There was no loss of life but the damage was irreparable. Two days after that Jansen, knowing Anderson was on Middle Island, then made the decision to go there. All eight made the sixty mile eastwards journey in a single whaleboat fitted to accommodate just five persons. According to Newell they were three days getting there.
At this point the question might be asked, did Jansen make the mistake of anchoring in Thistle Cove himself, or was he deliberately led to believe that it, instead of the very next cove to the east, was the safe haven?
Anderson and Pavey are both implicated in reports of ‘wrecking’; that is, the act of deliberately misguiding sailing vessels so that they run ashore or become irreparably grounded. The below excerpt, gleaned from Beer’s John Bailey Pavey, tells of what is believed to have taken place along the South Coast during the time of these sealers.
Many a sad scene was enacted by them during their reckless career as sealers, and often wreckers. The navigation of these seas was then comparatively but little known, and many a good craft was lost amid the coral reefs and islands. These wrecks afforded good plunder, and in cases where a few unfortunates had escaped the disaster, their lives were ruthlessly sacrificed by the wreckers. (The Aborigines of Victoria Vol 2 – R. Brough Smyth 1878 – Appendix E written by John Moore Davis.)
That excerpt could well apply to this very story, as we shall see.
On arrival at Middle Island Manning said Jensen brought with him six men and two women. If correct, it means there was one other male passenger aboard the Mountaineer (therefore Owens?). Newell said when they arrived on Middle Island he found Anderson, Isaac (Winterbourne), a man named Frank, a white boy called James and three black women, two living with Anderson in a stone house and one with Isaac.
That Manning didn’t mention Winterbourne (also on Spencer’s Albany census of 1836), the boy James and the other man, Frank (Mead or Moore), might suggest they were already at Middle Island when the Mountaineer left them off, further strengthening the notion it was already Anderson’s domain.
It was during this time when Dorothy Newell became attached to Black Jack Anderson, forming the romance so well described in Sarah Hay’s novel, Skins. It was also the time when James Manning, now desperate to get away, paired up with sixteen year old Jem Newell; the two naively deciding to get off the island and, by hook or by crook, walk their way to Albany.
Above: Idyllic Thistle Cove at Cape Le Grande. Was Jansen seduced by its serenity or deliberately led to believe it was a safe anchorage? Either way, he paid for his lapse in seamanship with the wreck of his 35 foot cutter, Mountaineer, in March 1835. Photo courtesy Richard Watson Photography
James Newell’s account mentions the survivors meeting with five Aborigines while they were at Thistle Cove. There is no detail, just the passing remark taken down by Richard Spencer (Newell was illiterate) that the Aborigines were ‘quite civil and did them no injury’.
Thistle Cove, as mentioned, is one cove west of the more protected Rossiter Bay which the French owned whaler Mississippi, under Captain Rossiter, used six years later when Wylie and Eyre came stumbling by. In fact, it was 1835, the year of the Thistle’s wreck, that Captain Rossiter first guided the Mississippi along the South Coast, leading the French whaling fleet to the sensation which the New Zealand whaling grounds had at that time become. From 1835 the number of foreign whaling vessels hunting off Western Australia’s South Coast soared, going from less than five recorded engagements in 1836 to more than 80 five years later.
James Manning said Anderson and Isaac Winterbourne robbed him of his remaining money, £46.16/-, the complaint being lodged after Manning got to Albany in August. The case was heard in September and both Anderson and Winterbourne were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Sarah Hay, when talking about her research for Skins says part of the reason for the acquittal came from a deposition made by Dorothy Newell in which Anderson’s character was defended. Dorothy Newell, aged 22, declared she had gone to live with Anderson three weeks after arriving on the Island, implying she had not just gone into the house but into his room. Sarah Hay’s conclusion was that this was voluntary. Dorothy Newell became partner to John Anderson soon after, and Anderson, around the same time, became associated with the business affairs of James Newell Snr, Dorothy’s father. From this it appears Anderson may not have been completely inhuman after all. It also begs the question, was Anderson of African origin at all? I think there is significant doubt about this and that he could have acquired the tag ‘Black Jack’ because of the abductions of Aboriginal women he carried out.
Anyway, towards the end of May, after more than six weeks on Middle Island, Newell said six people left for the Sound in a whale boat. This was probably the Mountaineer’s whaleboat. Newell named the six as the Mountaineer’s crewmen, Ward and Hill, plus men by the names of Owens, Moore and White, plus the boy James.
For clarity, Sarah Hay uses the names John White and Francis Mead when discussing her research while Cumpston quotes John White and Frank Mead. It’s possible that Francis/Frank Mead was James Newell’s Frank Moore. . .
On June 23rd, a month later again and after numerous attempts to get Anderson to allow it, Manning eventually succeeded in getting a ride for himself and Jem Newell to the Cape Arid mainland where they commenced their long walk.
By this time Manning had been on Middle Island with Anderson and his gang about five months. Over the course of that period, Anderson led sealing excursions to other islands in the Archipelago, each time taking the native women with him. One of these islands will have been Mondrain Island as it is mentioned in later texts. James Newell says he was engaged by Anderson and joined his boat for pay. Curiously, there is no mention of Evanson Jansen/Jenson/Johnson in any of the texts, except to say that Newell claimed Anderson had stolen his money too, a large amount Jansen had saved from the wreck of the Mountaineer and had wrapped in canvas and kept about his person. Newell claims he and Manning saw Anderson and Winterbourne with the money but the three Justices of the Peace who presided over the hearing at Albany (Spencer, Belches and George Cheyne’s brother, Captain Alexander) still found the evidence insufficient.
Despite extensive internet searches, including Trove, I could find nothing else relating to a captain, master, mate or seaman by the name Jansen, Jensen or Johnson in the years following. Jensen is talked about in the surviving narrative as if being on Middle Island for a time, but in such minimal terms it is as if he was disregarded and ineffectual in any of what eventuated. One of the enduring questions is how many boats were on the island? Sarah Hay has it in the novel that Jansen took one of the boats and quietly slipped away all on his own, but did Anderson, in order to keep the money and title over the wreck, dispose of him somehow?
The folklore indicates yes.
Anderson’s reluctance to part with Manning is also intriguing. Did he have some kind of murderous intent for him, or, as Manning had witnessed him at work on Boston Island presiding over the killing of the two Aboriginal men, did he fear Manning telling the authorities? Perhaps he just wanted Manning to help man his boat, to aid with the sealing work and the business of general survival under those conditions? If Anderson had been on the Defiance out of Sydney back in September 1833, he and Manning would have been in each other’s company, more or less, just shy of two years. Manning probably always wanted to get away from Anderson, but Anderson looks to have held sway over him and he was compliant; perhaps (probably) fearing for his life. Let’s not forget Manning must have been a young man, probably still in his teens, and the whole ordeal the stuff of nightmares.
That Anderson appears to have been the commanding resident on Middle Island, the stone house and sealers camp being well established there, suggests, as the folklore has it, it had been his domain for some time. We know Middle Island had been a primary base for the western sealing gangs since at least the wreck of the Belinda in the winter of 1824, fully eleven years earlier. The question, at this point, is how long the stone house had been there and was it Anderson who had it built?Archaeologists have done their best to determine this but the findings are inconclusive.
It’s possible Anderson could have been one of the unnamed sealers who came into Albany the day after Lockyer sailed on the Success. It’s possible he operated in the interim between King George’s Sound, Middle Island, Bass Strait and Sydney, using Middle Island as his primary base. There’s no written evidence discovered, yet, to substantiate that, but the folklore suggests Anderson had been at Albany from as early as 1827, and remember, six of the thirty sealers known to have been in and around King George’s Sound at the time of first settlement remain unaccounted for in terms of their identities and departure.
If Anderson’s home was Middle Island prior to 1835, it may have been that Meredith’s Defiance had been that far west on its previous voyage and Anderson had joined the crew for the round passage to Sydney and back. If so, it means Anderson could have been part of Meredith’s raiding parting at Western Port between March and May 1833, something that could have fed his appetite for the Port Lincoln abductions. Alternatively, Anderson could have found his way to Sydney by a different vessel and simply signed on to Meredith’s crew out of there knowing the schooner was westward bound. In any case, his raid on the Port Lincoln Aborigines looks very much to have been carried out with the intention of bringing the women back to Middle Island with him. More to the point, it seems clear Anderson and Middle Island were not unacquainted at that time.
This raises an interesting question for the Noongar Shell People. We know they long held the practise of keeping their women away from the coast and well out of sight of the new white presence. This has been documented from Flinders time. Also, we know the Shell People had a coastal culture but it didn’t extend to the islands. The Noongar did not build canoes or boats, they didn’t like the water beyond spearing fish in the rock pools and shallows. Did Anderson know his chances of luring Noongar women into his boat in the first instance were limited, and in the second, the value of Noongar women to the island dwelling sealer was probably less than those of the eastern tribes? Or, did he choose not to try it because of the potential repercussions when he went ashore? What happened at King George’s Sound ten years earlier would have been common knowledge.
In all cases, it makes sense for Anderson to have sought his women from the far side of the cliffs.
Anderson’s consent to the departure of Manning and Newell amounted to no more than a lift to the mainland, something perhaps more likely to be brought about by Dorothy Newell’s influence than any asking by the boys. But it was mid-winter, whaling season, and not much by way of sealing was likely to be gained. Anderson may well have been thinking of a supply run to Albany anyway and with the added people on the island it may have made sense for him to let them off. Nonetheless, Anderson gave the boys no provisions, not even a pouch of gunpowder so they could keep a fire. Newell, however, said Isaac Winterbourne gave Manning two charges of powder on leaving.
The story then goes that the ‘Two English Lads’ commenced their journey, living off limpets and grass-roots as they averaged eight or nine miles (13-14 kms) per day, that they found enough water by staying close to the coast but went at times up to five days with nothing at all to eat. I wonder, did they have so much as a knife between them?
Somewhere in the region of the Fitzgerald River, in increasing states of physical and mental distress, they looked out at a nearby island and saw the movement of two people. This was probably at Doubtful Island Bay and could have been he crew who had left in the Mountaineer’s whaleboat earlier. They made attempts to establish contact but none came. They saw no smoke and had no way of making their own. On August 9th, forty-seven days after Anderson let them go, they were delivered, probably by the Two People’s Bay Aborigines, to John Henty’s old house at King River (recently purchased by George Cheyne). They were well enough alive but by accounts skeletal and unable to speak clearly.
The five who left in the whaleboat a month ahead of them do not appear to have made it back. Thinking about that, Manning was probably lucky Anderson wouldn’t let him go.
Above: Manning and Newell covered around eight miles a day, never out of sight of the coast, on their seven week walk from Cape Arid, to Albany. Rescued by Aborigines somewhere around Two People’s Bay, they were brought to the old Henty property at King River skeletal and barely able to speak. If not for the Aborigines the two will probably have perished, as the five others who left in the Mountaineer’s whaleboat a month ahead of them look to have done. Photo; Fitzgerald National Park, courtesy Dept of Parks and Wildlife
News of the boy’s arrival at Albany broke quickly and the two were questioned by Resident Magistrate Spencer the following day, after which they were rationed and allowed recover. Three days later Manning made a full signed statement and a week after that Newell gave his, marking his signature with an X.
Within six weeks the case was heard.
Dorothy Newell may have influenced Anderson’s decision to come in to Albany. How many arrived in the boat is hard to make out but it looks as if the party included Thomas Church, Matthew and Mary Gill, Dorothy Newell, Isaac Winterbourne and Anderson. It would appear the three Port Lincoln women were left on islands along the coast, probably at other known sealing camps. In all likelihood they had brought skins with them too, enough to laden the boats and slow their progress, but not all Anderson had. It would have been very interesting to see the look on Anderson’s face when he got to Albany and found he was wanted on charges of theft laid by James Manning.
As we know, Anderson and Winterbourne were acquitted due to lack of evidence but the story was picked up by the newspapers and the gathering legend of Black Jack Anderson was born.
Interestingly, and this is something Sarah Hay reported, Anderson’s statement was signed. That is, he did not mark an X as Newell had done, but wrote his signature John William Anderson. In another court document I have, however, Anderson’s name is marked with an X.
Three months later, John Roe and Sir James Stirling brought Stephen Henty and a group of Albany settlers, including George Cheyne and the newly arrived Thomas Lyell Symers, to Doubtful Island Bay. Stirling was hoping Henty would take the land there in exchange for the family’s 20, 000 acres at Leschenault, and if not perhaps one of the wealthy new settlers would establish a fishery there. In any event neither Doubtful Island Bay nor Cape Riche were settled at the time. Two People’s Bay however would have been occupied with the continuing activities of John Bailey Pavey at his Coffin Island lease.
Prior to September 1835 Anderson’s familiarity with Albany isn’t easy to determine, but from the point at which he brings in Dorothy Newell it’s clear he was at home in the town. We know this because Anderson was back in court again less than six months later. Campbell Beer’s John Bailey Pavey, picks up the story; (remember, Pavey went under the aliases John Williams and John Williams Andrews).
On March 16, 1836, John Williams Andrews brought a complaint of stealing against John Anderson. He informed the Justice of the Peace at Albany, Sir Richard Spencer, that Anderson had stolen flour, cooking implements and a pouch of 35 Spanish dollars, from his campsite on Michaelmas Island, located in King Georges Sound about fifteen kilometres east of Princess Royal Harbour. In his defence Anderson suggested that he was only recovering property that Andrews had previously stolen from him; specifically two aboriginal women, one taken from Middle Island and the other from Doubtful Island. In his complaint Williams had failed to mention anything about women being taken. Anderson also accused Andrews of having stolen from him, fur skins and 500 percussion caps from Middle Island and an anchor and cable from Thistle Cove, materials salvaged from the wreck of the ‘Mountaineer’ that had sunk in the Cove in March 1835. Having dealt previously with another complaint of stealing against Anderson, Justice Spencer seems to have placed less weight on Black Jack’s story and found in Andrews favour. He imposed a restraining order on Anderson and his associates, Thomas Symers and James Newel (assumed to be the father of Andersons’ partner Dorothea), preventing them from, ‘interfering with or meddling with or injuring any goods or chattels or any property whatsoever belonging to John Williams Andrews, particularly such as Andrews may from time to time deposit or leave on any uninhabited island off the coast of Western Australia…..’
We learn from this that Anderson had left at least one of his captive Port Lincoln women on Middle Island and another on one of the Doubtful Islands, sometime between September 1835 and February 1836 and that he had claimed salvage rights over the wreck of the Moutaineer, and that during this time he had formed some kind of business arrangement with Dorothy Newell’s father and with Captain Thomas Symers as well. We also discover Anderson had been previously charged with theft.
That Symers was a ship owner suggests he may have been interested in salvage operations and possibly in trading skins with the eastern colonies. The arrangement with James Newell Snr is harder to determine as Newell was a limeburner and general labourer. In any case, Anderson once again comes across as someone with something to offer. Indeed, use of the term ‘Mariner’ as opposed to ‘Seaman’ in the 1836 census, might imply self employment over mere occupation, though the entry under John Williams reads, ‘owner of whaleboat’. As mentioned, the name Anderson appears on the census too. James Anderson, Mariner, 35, England, looks like it could very well be the John Anderson we are discussing.
- 11, Charles Byrne, Seaman, 24, Scotland
- 48, John Williams, 31, Builder/Owner of whaleboat, London
- 49, John Morgan Hughes, Seaman, 40, London
- 55, Robert Gamble, Seaman, 25, England
- 56, Andrew Mobury, Seaman, 40, Sweden
- 107, I. Winterbourne, Mariner, 40, England
- 115, A. Soloman, Mariner, 35, England
- 127, Thos Lovitt, Mariner, 40, England
- 140, Robert Brianson, Mariner, England
- 141, James Thatcher, Mariner 40, England
- 142, John Bootts, Mariner, 30, England
- 143, William Turner, Mariner, 30, England
- 144, John Beadon, Mariner, 30, England
- 145, James Anderson, Mariner, 35, England
Persons whose occupations were listed as ‘Seaman’ or ‘Mariner’ taken from the 160 names recorded in the 1836 Plantagenet Census taken by the district’s leading official, Resident Magistrate, Sir Richard Spencer.
We also learn that Pavey was not only active at Two People’s Bay but had an island camp much closer to Albany as well. Also, that he too was venturing along the coast as far as Cape Arid. 1835, in fact, was the peak year for local sealing operations. Donald Garden says seal skins were Albany’s first export and that in 1835 they valued £1500. After that the business fell away, by 1843 just eighteen skins being declared. At the time, Pavey appears willing to pick up whatever was left lying around on the islands and bays, even if it amounted to people. It also appears that Pavey was perfectly willing to engage with the settler establishment in order to force outcomes that suited him. So too Anderson by reciprocal practice.
That Anderson and Pavey were stealing from one another’s unoccupied camps gives insight to the nature of the transient sealer lifestyle and to the concept of opportunity by which they lived. Sealers lives, as we know, were precarious. The number of persons whose histories are long enough to make sense of is a fraction of those who were employed in the industry. That there is enough to write about Anderson, Pavey and Gamble sets them aside as outstanding individuals in their own right. Perhaps lucky, or luckier than most, but these are the enduring personalities belonging to an arena more densely populated than history gives credit. Many died or moved on leaving just the vaguest of traces and many more left none at all. Death, even under the most malicious circumstances, as the fate of John Anderson himself shows, was just something that happened.
A Deadly Rivalry?
So, by the Easter of 1836 Anderson is reckoned to have been unofficially married to Dorothy Newell and under a court restraining order preventing he and his associates from interfering with the property of other sealers, namely John Bailey Pavey and his men, wherever it may be along the coast Pavey decided to deposit his things. Anderson continued his sealing enterprise among the islands of the Recherche Archipelago while Dorothy, by the looks, stayed in Albany. Sarah Hay discovered this when she came across a letter written by Hugh Spencer, Sir Richard’s second son (who drowned with John Morley in 1840), detailing the distribution of ten bibles he had recently bought. One of the recipients was ‘Dorotheir Anderson, mariners wife.’ The letter was dated 18 January, 1837.
On Wednesday, March 29th, just over two months after that letter was written, Robert Gamble came in to Albany. It was the end of the summer sealing season and he had some important news to deliver. Spencer was away in England so Gamble approached the temporarily appointed Resident Magistrate, Patrick Taylor, in order to tell that on Christmas Day he had helped bury Anderson on Moundrain Island (sic), saying Anderson and his Aboriginal woman had been murdered by a band of sealers who had since left the colony. (SRO – Albany Courthouse – Plaints – CONS 348/003 – statement by Robert Gamble). That there was no official inquiry or action taken reflects the murky nature of it being reported. However Gamble delivered the news to Patrick Taylor, it was received in such a way as to be deemed beyond the town’s jurisdiction (and interest), though I wonder would Spencer have reacted differently?
For information, Mondrain Island was in use during the rein of the gangs from the Hunter and Governor Brisbane ten years earlier, being the place where Lockyer noted the sealers he had quizzed had stockpiled in the region of 700 skins. In fact, Lockyer wrote in his rough journal on Sunday, March 10th 1827, that the island the skins were on was not Mondrain but near to it, close to Thistle Cove.
The story of Anderson and his demise has formed an integral part of the South Coast’s folklore ever since. You can read an interesting and important fictional account from a 1929 edition of the West Australian newspaper here. The account, rendered more than 90 years afterwards, seems to amalgamate the individual stories of Pavey, Gamble and Anderson as well as incorporate the names of some of Lockyer’s original pirates. The value of that account is to serve as reminder to the degree of notoriety the men had built locally and how their once formidable presence remained alive within the community, Close on a century after the fact, during a time when accessing old records was inordinately impractical, the relationship between Pavey, Gamble and Anderson had been preserved orally and valued to the point where someone chose to set it down well enough in pure story form to have it published via the day’s mainstream media format, the West Australian newspaper. That distillation now amounts to the misty legend of Black Jack Anderson.
Above: The first published account of Anderson’s death was provided by W.N. Clarke in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), Saturday 8 October 1842. The account may have been given to Clarke by John Bailey Pavey who met him at Albany in March 1840 (Beer: JBP, pg 21), and at Chatham Island the following year.
The general belief is that Anderson and his gang had been gambling and drinking and that, for reasons attributed to Anderson’s mistreatment of his men, one went in to his tent while he was asleep and shot him in the head. Anderson dead and the money about his person no doubt of interest to all, the gang then turned on the (presumably Port Lincoln) Aboriginal woman with him. Apparently, she was found cowering in the bush and beaten to death so as not to give away the perpetrators.
The question left lingering here is whether or not Pavey and or Gamble had anything to do with it?
Above: Mondrain Island, scene of John Anderson’s murder in the summer of 1836/7, lies 50 miles west of Middle Island.
I ask that question because Pavey and Anderson were rivals and Pavey’s later behaviour shows that he was more than capable. Pavey, around a decade later (1845) is said to have cut a man named Antonio from a rope hanging over a cliff edge so that he fell to his death. (Beer; JBP, pg 35) Anderson looks to have been the ‘master’ of Middle Island at the time of his own death, Middle Island being the most resourceful and well-known of the Recherche Group, and therefore good reason to think Pavey will have wanted control of it himself. Remember, Pavey had already ‘acquired’ the Port Lincoln Aboriginal woman Anderson had left behind there when he went in to Albany with Dorothy Newell and others from the Mountaineer. It’s clear Pavey was operational in the Two People’s Bay area but claimed the entirety of the South Coast as his place of work. The restraining order granted against Anderson testifies to this. That Anderson lost the case brought against him by Pavey shows that he was held in lesser regard by the Resident Magistrate at the time, reflecting earlier claims of criminality against him. Perhaps Pavey felt the disappearance of Anderson would be met with some ambivalence by the authorities at Albany?
And what about Gamble? I haven’t found anything concrete to say he was employed by Anderson prior to the summer of 1836/7, it’s just assumed he was. The folklore seems to suggest Gamble held a grievance against Anderson and I wonder if this may be attributed to the killing of an unknown man believed to have taken place at Doubtful Island Bay (or near by) at around this time?
Above: W.N. Clarke also spoke of the murder of an unknown man at or near Doubtful Island Bay during the mid 1830’s, claiming it was ‘loudly expressed’ Anderson was responsible. Was the murdered man a friend of Robert Gamble’s, or the missing Captain Jansen of the Mountaineer? The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), Saturday 8 October 1842
Perhaps it was because of the death of this man that Anderson’s crew rose in mutiny against him? But someone still had to pull the trigger, then go on and kill Anderson’s Aboriginal woman.
Apart from the possibility of being a friend of the man who had his throat cut by Anderson, Gamble may also have had other reason.
From the Spring of 1835 it’s understood Anderson and Dorothy Newell were common-law husband and wife and assumed the couple were together since returning from the trying and fateful ‘wreck of the Mountaineer’ episode. But Anderson was a mariner, far from the stay at home type, and will have been away down the coast again very soon. After all, he had his business, belongings and stolen Aboriginal women to look after. Anderson was sealing over the summer of 1835/36, as we know, and probably away at certain stages over the winter of 1836 too.
Albany court records from November 1836 reveal that Gamble and Anderson were drinking in the Ship Public House (Ship Inn) in the company of Mrs Mary Ann Earle, 37-year-old wife of Carpenter Richard, on October 31st. Gamble had a child on his knee and was advised by Mrs Earle to put it down because it was crying. Gamble’s reaction was to strike Mrs Earle on the face which he later said was in response to her circulating a report that he was cohabiting with John Anderson’s wife during Anderson’s absence. Gamble was fined £1 and ordered to pay costs. He signed his defence statement with his signature. John Anderson was witness to the attack and marked his name with an X.
Above: The opening part of John Anderson’s witness statement given after Mary Ann Earle charged Robert Gamble with assault following an incident at the Ship Inn pub on October 31st 1836. Gamble said he hit Mrs Earle because she had circulated a report that he had cohabited with John Anderson’s wife during Anderson’s absence (over the winter of 1836). Anderson was murdered on Mondrain Island less than two months later. Gamble reported Anderson’s death late in March 1837 after returning from the said sealing expedition. Gamble said Anderson was murdered by other members of the gang who had since sailed eastward, away from the colony. Patrick Taylor was acting RM in the absence of Richard Spencer when Gamble made the report. There was no enquiry. SRO Series No: 1686, Title: Plaints – Local Court Agency: 229 – Albany Clerk of Courts Record Item:002 Thanks to Jock Beer for the tip-off.
Did Gamble, knowing what Anderson was like, fear for his life after Mary Ann Earle made it known he had spent time living with Dorothy Newell?
Gamble chose to strike Mary Earle in a public place and in full view of Anderson, an act revealing his anger at being accused, but also his fear of the consequences. If Gamble’s reaction (hitting a woman in the face) reflected his feelings about the accusation then it’s not too difficult to imagine the kind of trouble he thought he might be in with Anderson. From our 2015 standpoint, we only know a small amount about Anderson and the things he had done and was capable of, but Gamble will have had an acute sense of what may have lain in store for him out there among the islands carrying out the dangerous work of the sealer. And remember, Gamble already had two counts of murder leveled against him. Did he decide it was in his best interests that Anderson was no longer around? The folklore paints him as anxious; a tormented, hand-wringing individual carrying about with him a long-held and bitter grievance.
This is what I meant when I said earlier that Gamble comes across as a rogue survivor. He got out of sealing into the protection of a government job with G.A. Robinson until he was found out, then fled Bass Strait to escape the wrath of both official and unofficial law over the death of the two Palawah women and his association with Robinson, the sealer fraternity’s enemy. In an effort to avenge the death of the Doubtful Island Bay murder victim and to escape Anderson’s jealousy, or the fear of it being exacted against him over the Dorothy Newell accusation, could Gamble have been the one to take the pistol and end Anderson’s reign of terror?
Gamble said Anderson died over the Christmas period but didn’t report the death at Albany until March. Did the gang continue sealing and finish out the season as if nothing had happened, or was Gamble afraid to come in any sooner, preferring to stay long enough away to measure the likely reaction back at Albany, or at least to fabricate a story that would make it difficult to convict him?
What is intriguing here is that Gamble’s arrival back at Albany coincides almost exactly with the arrival of the brig Rhoda, out of Launceston and en-route to England with a cargo of wool and bark. Rhoda anchored at Albany for five days, during which time a key passenger, Captain John Hassell, spent time discussing land and business opportunities with the likes of Sir Richard Spencer and George Cheyne. (Garden: Albany, A Panorama of the Sound, Pg 71.)
Above: After the death of Anderson, Gamble may have found his way to Bass Strait and Launceston where he encountered John Hassell who was making ready to return to England on the brig Rhoda. Gamble may have come back to Albany on this ship, suggesting a possible link between the two men which may have extended as far back as 1823 and the arrival of the brig Belinda in Australian waters. If he did make it to Launceston, Gamble may also have met with members of the Henty family which it seems he also knew. Hobart Town Courier: 10 March 1837
It may be pure coincidence but a return journey to Bass Strait would explain Gamble’s absence of roughly three months from the time of Anderson’s death. We know by March 1837 Gamble had two, possibly three, children with Eliza Nowen (discussed further below), so may also have had a strong urge to return to Albany. Gamble later worked for John Hassell, possibly at Kendenup and certainly at Jarramongup, while the names and birth dates of his children were recorded in a bible apparently gifted to him by someone within the Henty family.
In any case, Anderson’s demise liberated both Pavey and Gamble, the two of them continuing their varied careers about the waters of Albany for many years afterwards.
As for Dorothy Newell, she stayed true to her working class roots and familiarity with the sealing and labouring occupations by later marrying limeburner, butcher and associate of John Bailey Pavey, James Cooper, and then another early Albany resident George Pettit. Sarah Hay did the research, writing it up in a Journal of Australian Studies article called Who was Dorothy Newell?
. . . a Mrs Cooper lived in a house on Stirling Terrace in Albany, which was at one time listed as a bakery and confectionery store. She was described as an eccentric old maid who had lived there for years. Her common law husband was James Cooper who built the house in 1850. He was a limeburner who had property across the harbour alongside James Newell senior. He seemed to disappear around 1855 and Dorothea lived alone until she married Pettit in 1875.
Dorothea survived her brother Jem by twelve years and was the last member of the Newell family in Albany. . . . I was interested to discover where the house on Stirling Terrace might have been, the house where she would have died. To my surprise I found that it still existed, no longer as a private residence but as a popular restaurant. Up until the year Dorothea married, the property, which included shops behind the house, was in the name of James Cooper. When she married it became Pettit’s and he sold it a couple of years after Dorothea died.
When I visited the restaurant, I spoke to the then owners who were unaware of the early history of the house. They told me it was haunted by a little old woman who sat in the chair by the fireplace and by a man who came up from the sea to keep her safe.
With Anderson out of the picture Pavey continued on his merry way, profiting from his activities during the peak years of the foreign whaling boom and venturing in his ships the Fanny, Lively and Vulcan between the Swan River, Albany and east as far (at least) as Adelaide. Pavey invested his profits in property at Albany. In fact, he became a neighbour to Patrick Taylor who during that period owned two town cottages as well as the Candyup homestead.
Above: John Bailey Pavey’s financial fortunes wavered over the years but he held various properties in Albany town, including one waterfront location (under the name John Williams) neighbouring Patrick Taylor. Cut taken from Chauncy’s 1851 town survey.
Gamble was employed by Anderson for a period during these years but looks not to have taken interest in setting up house and home at Albany. Instead, he seems to have resided, at least for part of the time, at Bald Island with Eliza Nowen (whose origins we’ll come back to shortly) and his growing family.
Gamble recorded the respective births of his children in the previously mentioned Breaksea Island Bible as follows;
The above links bring you to Terri Lo-Presti’s pages on her ancestors which impart details of the surviving Gamble sister’s extraordinarily difficult lives.
The inscription on the Breaksea Island Bible says it was presented to Gamble in 1840 and is signed by what looks to be the name Henty. This is interesting because by 1840 the Henty family were no longer associated with Western Australia. John had left the plot at King River in 1833 and Stephen had passed up the offer of land at Doubtful Island Bay in 1835, finally leaving the colony for good in the Sally Ann in May 1836. On that farewell voyage Stephen Henty had retained Captain Howe as master (Henty had bought the Sally Ann from him the previous year), but Howe was tragically drowned at Princess Royal Harbour en-route. The story goes that Stephen Henty navigated the Sally Ann from then on, but it’s possible Robert Gamble was recruited by Henty to help guide him through the Recherche Archipelago where Henty was said to have acquired a cargo of pink salt. ( W.N. Clarke in The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), Saturday 8 October 1842.)
Above: There was ample opportunity for seamen such as Robert Gamble to move between King George’s Sound and the eastern colonies on passing vessels. Gamble may have known members of the Henty family from previous voyages, may even have first come to the West on one of the family ships. A bible presented to Gamble in 1840 bears the inscription Henly or Henty, suggesting a relationship that went beyond that of mere employee. Gamble may have helped Stephen Henty navigate the Sally Ann through the Recherche Archipelago to Middle Island late in May 1836, after Henty’s employed skipper was accidentally drowned at Albany. If he did, however, Gamble was back soon after, as it was October that same year when Gamble struck Mary Ann Earl after she accused him of co-habiting with Dorothy Newell, John Anderson’s wife, in Albany town. Image above; Page 367 excerpt from Marnie Bassett’s The Henty’s; Oxford University Press 1954.
Now, that there is a gap of five years between the births of the Gamble daughters Isobel (1839) and Nancy (1844) suggests Robert may have left the South Coast around 1839 or 1840 and possibly not returned until 1843 or 1844. At least, he may not have been with Eliza Nowen. Looking at the dates it seems less of a co-incidence now that John Hassell arrived back at Albany in the ship Dawson on the 29th of January 1839. Almost immediately Hassell bought Cheyne’s and Morley’s unimproved grants at Moorilup and possibly the block in the middle of Stirling Terrace where he set up his merchant business. By March the deals were complete and Hassell set sail for South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land, arriving at Launceston on April 23rd. The Dawson was sold (reputedly) for £3000 after which Hassell made for Sydney where he bought live-stock and chartered the China, departing Sunday 9th February 1840. The China arrived into Albany early the following month loaded with livestock. Robert Gamble may have been recruited by Hassell as a seaman on the Dawson, returning to Albany with Hassell the following year on the China. It’s possible Gamble was gifted the Breaksea Island Bible during this time.
Above: Hassell arrived into Princess Royal Harbour with his livestock in the China at the same time as Eyre and Symers (named as Belches here) also arrived with livestock imports. John Morley and Hugh Spencer were drowned when returning from the China after making customs inspections. See The Supporting Cast for detail. Robert Gamble may have been recruited by Hassell and sailed with him out of Albany in the Dawson in 1839 and back again in the China in 1840, during which time he came into possession of the Breaksea Island Bible. From 1840 Gamble may have taken work with Hassell at his newly formed Kendenup property at the head of the Kalgan River.