by Sarah Drummond
(a book review)
(abbreviated version here)
Good writing is every bit as instant as good music. The measure of both as much about how quickly and how far the work sends me off into my thoughts as it is appreciating the sheer quality of the composition. Just as a few bars of the right music can trigger an explosion of emotionally charged insight, a single paragraph can transport me to places it may take minutes to come back from.
I’m a slow reader of good books because of it.
This post is continued from Part 4 (a) previous:
John McKail and George Cheyne: Town, Sea or Land?
Above: John McKail arrived at Albany immediately prior to the 19th Century’s great off-shore whaling boom (1836-1842), a phenomena which should have resulted in much greater migration of moneyed settlers to the area despite world-wide economic recession. But King George’s Sound was already a hard-sell being neither farming country nor flush with Colonial resources and it’s chances were halved again as it was left to languish in the shadow of Sir James Stirling’s beloved but deeply troubled Swan River settlement, Perth. Image: King Georges Sound to Cape Riche Survey by F. Von-Summer, 1848.
At Albany, George Cheyne escaped the self-serving clutches of Richard Spencer’s local governance by removing himself eastwards up the coast in order to take advantage of the shipping traffic, but the ex-garrison’s tiny population still improved by way of labouring class and small-time investment level immigrants. After Cheyne, Spencer, Sherratt and Symers, only one other man was persuaded to take a big-time investment plunge at Albany. Captain John Hassell did so from 1839 with the most Machiavellian of land-based assaults, thereby commencing the highly competitive South Coast pastoralist era, subject of the In Search of Ngurabirding sub-series. In the meantime, McKail’s sea-based heritage, modest means and exploitative trader mentality, along with his sizable persona and penchant for social discourse (pub-going), kept him focused on the settlement’s immediate facilities and short to medium-term prospects, the result of which came to serve him well.
The Sealers of the Schooner’s Hunter and Governor Brisbane 1825-26
Above: Part of a sealing gang captured in full flight. Probably American, the gang are thought to be clubbing Cape Fur Seals off Namibia sometime in the early 1800’s. Image uncredited and taken from The Seals of Nam website.
King George’s Sound was settled some years before Robert Gamble became known there, so we should go first to the story of the sealers who Captain D’Urville of the Astrolabe came to know in October 1826, and who Major Lockyer encountered when he arrived in the Colonial Brig Amity a few months later. These were the sealers who stole the seven year old from Cape Arid, the little Aboriginal girl Lockyer named Fanny (see The Major’s Butterflies Beat Him Down); the same men Lockyer labelled ‘a complete set of pirates.’ Continue reading
Major Lockyer and the story of the Amity anchoring in the large harbour at King George’s Sound on Christmas Day 1826 holds nothing new. Everyone who lives at Albany knows of the replica vessel down by the shore in the so-called historical precinct, as does (practically) everyone who has ever come to play tourist.
I didn’t particularly want to add to Lockyer’s story as he only commanded the garrison for a little over three months, but it’s hard to escape his influence on the settlement he left behind. After-all, it was his judgement that prevented disaster. If Lockyer had not perceived something was wrong when the soldiers and crew were making their first shore excursions he could have retaliated at the spearing of his blacksmith and got the business of settlement off on a complete wrong footing. The garrison was outnumbered at the time, the Aborigines could have organised and set against them, there could have been a massacre.
Rough men in small boats. The trade in fur-seal pelts left an indelible mark on early European settlement along Australia’s Southern Ocean littoral. Albany was no different. Noongar men between Cape Arid and King George’s Sound were tricked, their women kidnapped and abused.
Originally Published 7 April 2014:
So, it was the great French and British maritime explorers who gave name to most of the coastal sites we are concerned with and recognise today. I’m going to stay with the foreign influence as the trade in fur-seal pelts is largely about that, but first want to establish a contrast which is and will remain consistent throughout this series of posts.
Consider the primary places of recognition along the South Coast in a macro sense; King George’s Sound, Cape Riche, Doubtful Island Bay and the Recherche Archipelago, including Cape Legrand, Cape Arid and Middle Island. There are just a handful of European names really and on any coastal map today they still make the primary points of bearing. There are more European names, of course, but these were applied during the settlement period from 1840 onwards. Most when E.J Eyre, J.S. Roe and J. Forrest made their explorations, others from more local pastoral endeavours over roughly the same time. On a micro level, however, along the same approximate 500 mile length of coast, the opposite occurs. On a micro level there are literally hundreds of Aboriginal place names. They range inland but we can draw points of delimitation for our own purposes running west to east at Kendenup/Eticup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup, Cocanarup, Mandurbanup, Condingup and Balbinya. Many of these names are Anglicised to some degree or another; that is, they are no longer recognised in their original Aboriginal form, but they represent the native presence and were all in existence by way of living knowledge (memory) long before any map or chart was ever made.
Originally published 5 April 2014;
There are two other French excursionists I need to mention. One is Bruny d’Entrecasteaux, the other Jules d’Urville.
These voyagers didn’t do anything in particular to influence settlement. They just visited, gave names to the most obvious geographic features they came across, collected specimens of flora and fauna, drew pictures, configured maps and tracked the path of the stars at night. Their job was exploration and discovery, furthering the practise of navigation and their limited understanding of the strange New World.
The names they gave provide geographic reference points in a language we understand today, but the seafarers in the big ships didn’t actually do anything to shape the local history we are interested in here. We can’t proceed, however, until we have this under our belts because those geographic references are essential to knowing exactly where we are talking about.