I spoke with Police historian Peter Skehan yesterday whilst repairing his fence and although we have spoken in the past of Eric Edgar Cooke, I didn’t raise the topic this time although it crossed my mind. Today I see a photo of Rookwood Street Mt Pleasant shared by Denice Weaver from the 1950s where the police finally captured him after laying in wait after discovering his firearm previously.
The first person executed in Western Australia was 15-year-old John Gavin. Gavin confessed to the murder of a Pinjarra lad George Pollard and was held in the Round House until he was hanged on 6 April 1844. His body was buried south of the Round House. It is now thought Pollard’s mother may have been the murderer.
Since then,there have been many murderers, none however, managed to change a city through their acts… not like Cooke did.
Perth, situated in Western Australia was known in the 1960’s as a quiet place. People rarely locked their doors, or their cars and everyone was willing to give everyone else a hand where need be. That was until the “Reign Of Terror” hit Perth and with it came Eric Edgar Cooke, the serial killer that killed anywhere, anytime and anyone.
Born in 1931, Cooke was born different facially. His father automatically took no passion towards his son and that was made worse when Cooke was the oldest of two sisters. He was operated on as a small child that left his speech not quite right but his parents were assured that he could do other things and was not mentally disabled, despite his trouble in sounding out particular words. His parents blamed him all his life for being different. Rather than encouraging her boy that was already getting picked on in school, the parents beat him, and beat him hard.
His father was a man of tradition, he did as his father did. Went to work, worked hard and for long hours then came home drunk and took it out on his family. Cooke got used to this way of life, he knew no other way. Eric was beaten with his fathers fists and belt, his sisters and mother were beaten too but not to the extent of the boys beatings.
Cooke grew up a shy child, quiet with little friends. His mother was beaten for taking care of him and his father continued to beat him for years to come. He seemed likable to those who did give him the chance and for a small while there, he looked like he would turn out alright. But the anger in him grew, resentment grew, and he felt that society, his parents, God, everyone had let him down and he grew violent and bitter at the thought of them all. He explained his killings later on as “I just wanted to hurt somebody” and with the childhood he had, it seemed almost inevitable that he felt that way.
Cooke started working at 14, but found he gave his money to his mother to feed and clothe herself and his sisters. His father wasted a lot of his money on alcohol and left little for the family. Cooke started stealing after a little while, his constant lack of cash left him little choice to survive. Cooke spent less and less time at home, to keep from his fathers fists. He would break into homes, steal, watch through windows and peep at women doing their night time rituals or even sleeping with their husbands.
He got more confident as things were so easy in a city where everyone trusted one another, they left their doors open while watching tv so he would sneak in and steal money from their purses while they were home. He was also tiny and could hide well, this got him out of a lot of surprises as people came home or heard a noise from the other room.
By 18 he was getting bored, if he found nothing to steal he would vandalize the house or set fires in it. He was caught in 1949 and finger prints linked him to so many more. He only got 3 years in jail as Cooke gave the judge his story about stealing for family and for survival.
When out of jail Cooke found a home in religion where people accepted him and warmed to him. But he was soon found stealing from the church and was let off with a warning.
By 1953 he was married and started working as a truck driver. He later had 7 children and lived with them in a home with his wife. While playing happy husbands, he was still stealing on weekends. This allowed him to dress well and feed his family well. His wife was loving and honest, she never questioned his time on his own, she knew he was different and knew of his father and his past.
AT 1955 he was caught for stealing a car and was sentenced to two years hard labour. As soon as he was out, he bought gloves so they cant fingerprint him anymore and he started his full blown career into robbing houses and peeping into others at night.
1959 was when the rampage began. Sneaking into a divorcee’s house in the middle of the night, he searched for valuables but found none. Then he went to her room but she wasn’t asleep. She fought with him for some time and he eventually stabbed her to death with a small knife he carried with him for ’emergencies’
By 1960 he was in jail again for other offences and known for stealing underwear from clothes lines and pleasuring himself with them. He was still very likable to police and they still considered him harmless. Perth gradually grew worse in robberies, women being abused, women being attacked and underwear going missing. Police thought it was a group of peeping toms when all along it was just one man. One harmless looking man.
1963 he moved up in his crime wave to multiple murder. He fired a gun at a parked car and shot all the occupants. He then shot at another car but they managed to get away and finally he entered an open door to a flat nearby. He was unsatisfied with his last attempts and was wanting to really hurt someone. He ended up shooting at 29 year old man, who was left paralyzed for life after the ordeal.
After he shot the 29 year old, he fled to another town and did some robberies there. Then he got the taste again and wanted to hurt someone else. He found a 19 year old boy sleeping in bed, he shot him in the head and killed him instantly. He then knocked on the door over the street and killed a 54 year old man that answered. By 3am he was ready to go home.
All police knew was that the bullets came from the same gun. Descriptions from witnesses were poor.
3 weeks later… Cooke was at it again. He broke into another apartment and strangled a 24 year old Social worker. She was then abused while she was dead. Police thought the crimes were so different and didn’t even relate them to the previous shootings.
Cooke didn’t strike again for 6 months. An 18 year old student was shot in a home she was babysitting in with a different gun that he shot the others with. But Police were sure it was the same guy. But clues were needed to catch the guy, that was obvious.
A lot of pressure was put onto police then and they began the long process of going over all the clues with a fine tooth comb. They fingerprinted the whole area and were determined to compare it to every man in Perth if they had to.
The police investigation included fingerprinting more than 30,000 males over the age of 12, as well as locating and test-firing more than 60,000 .22 rifles. After a rifle was found hidden in a Geraldton Wax bush on Rookwood Street, Mount Pleasant, in August 1963, ballistic tests proved the gun to have been used in the murder of Shirley McLeod. Police returned to the location and tied a similar rifle, rendered inoperable, to the bush with fishing line and constructed a hide in which they waited in case someone returned for it. Cooke was apprehended when he returned to collect the weapon seventeen days later.
They handcuffed him immediately and he was in for some serious questioning. His very honest wife confirmed that he wasn’t home on the nights that the policed asked and eventually Cooke confessed, with little choice at that.
He confessed to over 250 break ins and had valuables for all. He remembered the tiniest details even from robberies so long ago and he admitted to more car thefts and also knew tiny details that linked him to each. He admitted to abusing women while in their beds and even to one where the young girl thought she fell out of bed and hit her head when it was really him, hitting her with something, and then scared off because of the noise. He also confessed to many hit and runs, aiming for them and then speeding off without a trace.
In 1964 Cooke was hung for his crimes. Although the death penalty is not a method of punishment now in Australia, it was back then. Cooke was actually the LAST MAN to be hung in Perth, the laws changed after his death…someone had to be the unlucky last didn’t they?
Nowadays mothers warn their children to lock the door at night and close their windows in case “Cookie comes” its an expression that is used a lot and is the left overs of what one single man managed to do to a city.
Our tale begins at the Fremantle Town Hall as it opened on the 22nd June, 1887, to coincide with the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. A grand opening ceremony was held, followed by a day of sport and a grand ball in the evening. On the following evening there was a children’s fancy dress ball, which was marred by the murder of Councillor Snook by William Conroy, landlord of the Victoria Hotel.
William Conroy (1857 – 18 November 1887) was the last person executed at the Perth Gaol. Conroy was convicted of murdering Fremantle Town Councillor John Snook.
Conroy had immigrated from Ireland about ten years earlier, and before going to Fremantle was the licensee of the Victoria Hotel, located at the corner of James Street and Melbourne Road in Perth. On 6 September 1886 Conroy became the first publican of the new National Hotel on High Street in Fremantle
On 23 June 1887 Conroy went to the Fremantle Town Hall where there was a children’s ball in progress. He demanded entrance, as he was a licensee of the National Hotel, but was told by Snook that only ladies and children were to be admitted. He persisted in his demands and finally the door was slammed on him. Conroy later gained admittance to the Town Hall. When Snook left the supper room, Conroy followed him, drew a revolver from his pocket, shot Snook and put the gun back in his pocket. Conroy was arrested immediately. Snook died three months later. The trial took place at Perth and he was sentenced to death on 7 October 1887. After he was sentenced a petition was raised and signed by approximately 1500 people, including all members of the jury who had at the time of passing the verdict asked the judge to be lenient. This was then given to Governor Broome. A further call to the governor for clemency occurred during a public meeting attend by 1,000 people at the Perth Town Hall. Governor Broome then reviewed the case with two judges and medical people who had previously been part of Conroy’s trial, but the governor decided to let the law take it course. Conroy was hanged at Perth Gaol at 8 a.m. on 18 November 1887. The execution however was not swift as when Conroy was hanged the initial fall failed to break his neck and it took approximately 15 minutes for him to die of strangulation. Conroy was buried at Fremantle Cemetery.
Conroy was the last person to be hanged at Perth Gaol.
Thanks go to Debbie Miles for the name William Conroy which I followed up on, Mrs D Croft and Edward James Rigg for the images.
Thank you to all who have helped us get half way to our goal.
If you like surprises, then I have plenty of them to present to you with your help?
Since this campaign began we have pending for you to view Donald Campbell’s famous 1964 world water speed record on Lake Dumbleyung and testing at Crawley Bay, The opening of The Narrows Bridge and a Volkswagen travelling across the Swan River in the water, The Alkimos as she once was on the beach north of Perth plus as seen here the last tram to run on the streets of our City and a steam train travelling through the Swan View Tunnel in Perth’s hills.
74 tins of 16mm film were found on a verge in Nedlands by a passer by. I purchased these films to share with Lost Perth followers but it is expensive to convert them to digital format. I have spoken to relatives of the gentleman who recorded these films and they will accept a digital copy and I will do the same for the State Library of WA.
The films , in colour and black and white, range from 1948 to 1961 including Kings Park, Perth, Fremantle Bunbury, Wagin and Albany.
Museums and libraries do not have the funds to convert their own collection so it is up to us if we wish to watch these films ourselves. This also gives us the ability to ALL view the films.
On top of this rare footage , we have 3 more collections to be converted including that of WW2 hero Jack Sue. (and three more families have emailed me over night with more film)
When we have enough film I will get a movie edited on to a DVD with highlights of the footage to be provided to each and every person who put up the cash to help us get this project happening as a thank you.
The film I will take from town to town for charities to hold film nights where we will find more great photos and memories for Lost Perth and libraries.
The fun is just beginning as you never know who you are going to spot of so much film, maybe even Mum & Dad?
Please help me to show you our history on film.
Settlers occupied Western Australia and changed the
land introducing religion, laws and new diseases. Their actions disrupted Indigenous people’s lives. In the 1890s, Perth’s
railway station was built on a swamp like 15 other wetlands reclaimed by the white fella per the attached diagram where Fanny Balbuk had gathered eggs and caught turtles and fresh water crayfish as had her people for 1000s of years.
Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907) was a prominent Noongar woman, born during the early years of British settlement on Matagarup (Heirisson Island) along the Derbal Yaragan (Swan River) in Perth, Western Australia.
Balbuk provided information about Noongar culture and history to anthropologist Daisy Bates which can be appreciated today painting a picture of the black fellas way of life.
Fanny’s father was Coondebung, and her mother was Joojeebal/Doodyeep. They were well-known in the white community. For example, on an excursion north of Perth, the farmer George Fletcher Moore came across Balbuk’s parents and travelled with them for a few days. Moore published an account of this in the Perth Gazette on 14 May 1836. Doodyeep’s cheeky sense of humour and Coondebung’s skill at travelling and hunting on his own country are vividly described in Moore’s account.
Sadly Coondebung died in November 1840 after being imprisoned on Rottnest Island for taking flour. It is unclear what happened to Doodyeep.
Balbuk is renowned for protesting about the occupation of her traditional land around Perth. Daisy Bates recalled that:one of her favourite annoyances was to stand at the gates of Government House, reviling all who dwelt within, in that the stone gates guarded by a sentry enclosed her grandmother’s burial ground. (Daisy Bates, 1938)
Fanny Balbuk witnessed the devastation of her traditional lands by the early Swan River Colony. She would walk through the area of the city of Perth, naming every feature and tradition of the land and recall the part played by her mother and grandmother in the kangaroo hunt at King’s Park.
She gathered zamia fruit on St Georges Terrace. In the 1890s, Perth’s railway station was built on the swamp where she gathered eggs and caught turtles and crayﬁsh.
However, Fanny Balbuk was adamant to stick to her traditional rights of way. On finding that white men had built houses, and laid fences, on her traditional land, she would break down the fence with her digging stick, or walk right through any house and yard that had been built in the way.
Daisy Bates wrote of Fanny Balbuk at the time;
“To the end of her life she raged and stormed at the usurping (take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force.
“Richard usurped the throne” Synonyms: seize, take over, expropriate, take possession of, take, appropriate, steal, wrest, arrogate, commandeer, annex, assume) of her beloved home ground. ….. Through fences and over them, Balbuk took the straight track to the end. When a house was built in the way, she broke its fence-palings and charged up the steps and through the rooms.”
Balbuk’s grandmother, Moojorngul, is buried in the grounds possibly under Government House, or Kooraree. Balbuk never let the settlers forget whose land they had taken. She would stand at the gates of Government House – where her grandmother’s burial ground lay – cursing those who lived inside.
In 1907, Fanny Balbuk attended a luncheon at the Karrakatta Club, an exclusive club for women in Perth. Daisy Bates introduced Balbuk to all present as their landlady, since she was the original owner of the land on which the club stood.
Thanks go to The Nyoongar Tent Embassy for Fanny’s story.
Being an impatient driver for many years, I’ve often thought ‘silly ol’ fool’ whilst driving when some old codger fumbles his way through traffic in a vehicle akin to an aircraft carrier until I met a man. A real man I had no idea who might be behind the wheel of the next hindrance to my pole position at the next red light.
The man I speak of comes from South Australia and through a desire to participate in the call to arms he is now one of us living in a leafy part of Perth. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in October 1942 at the age of 20, having already served twelve months in the Australian Army.
His desire was to be a pilot in The RAAF and through the list of bases and towns you see from page 100 of 101 in his detailed flying log book he flew Gypsy Moths , Avro Ansons, Wellington Mk 3’s and the almighty Lancaster S for Sugar to deliver the message to Germany to end the madness.
He did his duty with his mates 35 times in a ship of the air that would glide as he put it once you made 20000 feet like a feather in the wind. Powering back at altitude, there were no flames or sparks coming from the magnificent Merlins and they never fired a single round in anger. They would have fired should an opponent threaten their well being save giving away their position to the night fighters with a powerful flash of the machine guns.
With a force of ONE THOUSAND aircraft at times, they were aerial dodgem cars making their way to the targets from 100 airfields forming up in the dark with no lights, radar, communications and primitive navigation techniques. The pilots could only sense their way over as the wing of an allie could come within feet of your ear, where would you go save bang into your mate under you not aware you were just above.
The passive way this gentleman tells the story of he and his friends and the unfortunate tale of he and his crew being stood down for a mission due to a touch of the flu. The crew that took their place sadly did not return as was the case for 1000’s of teenagers as they pressed home the orders from Bomber Command.
They did their duty , an adventure unimagined in the sleepy towns of Australia several years before when these boys were still in primary school and the world changed forever for many.
Douglas Ross Arrowsmith, DFC, OAM returned to the arms of his sweetheart Helen in Perth and he took up a position with a bank rising to manager after doing the obligatory run around the country branches saving the hide of many a farmer during tough times because the bank manager used to know his customers unlike the bottom line approach today.
Doug runs the local RSL, organises his local ANZAC service , speaks regularly at primary schools and is inundated by the media for his fabulous tales flying over The English Channel and shares the most delicious banana bread and home made biscuits with all and sundry that enters his home.
Doug is doing a Donald Bradman approaching the century mark at an energetic 97 and lives on with his two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren plus me.
Doug and his daughters have just returned from Canberra after another 460 Squadron dinner to celebrate those fallen friends and to remember their past.
The next time you consider a joust with a gentleman or lady on the roads, consider your actions as they might just be your hero.
The formal opening of the first section of the Eastern Railway for general traffic
on the 1st of March 1881 was not a particularly brilliant affair, and no very great interest was manifested by the public in the ceremonies which took place on the occasion. But
this may probably be accounted for by the fact alluded to by Mr. J. C. H. James at
the Town Hall in one of the most brilliant of the many brilliant speeches which he has
made in this colony when returning thanks for his constituents “The Ladies,” that,
practically, the railway had already been ‘opened’ so many times before, and that
the running of trains was no longer a novelty. The Commissioner of Railways
had issued eighty-four invitation cards, the invited being members of the Executive,
Legislative, and Municipal Councils, heads of religious denominations, and a few other
gentlemen holding prominent public positions. A large issue of cards was, unfortunately, rendered impossible, owing to the small number of railway carriages available.
The special train drew up at Perth railway station, which was decorated with flags
and greenery, shortly before 10 a.m, and immediately on the arrival of His Excellency who was escorted to the station by a guard of honour consisting of the Volunteer Artillery troop a start was made, the run down to Fremantle being accomplished in 26 minutes.
At Fremantle the local Volunteers paraded on the
platform as a guard of honour, and His Excellency on alighting was presented by
the Chairman of the Municipal Council (Mr.E. Solomon) with the following address :—
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY, On behalf of the inhabitants of Fremantle, the members of the Municipal Council congratulate Your Excellency on the successful opening of the Eastern Railway; and we would also express our pleasure
at welcoming you to our town on arriving by train from the capital.
We feel persuaded that the facilities the Eastern Railway will afford for more frequent and rapid intercommunication between the inhabitants of Perth, and of the towns of Fremantle and Guildford, will conduce to their social and material prosperity; and we look upon this event as the dawn of a new era in the history of the colony. We recognise the deep and zealous interest Your Excellency has always manifested in the completion of this important public work ; and we trust it may be during Your Excellency’s administration of the Government of Western Australia that the extension to the Eastern Districts may be undertaken.
We believe Your Excellency’s journey by rail today is a happy augury for the future, and that the progress of Western Australia, will henceforth be such as to give her a worthy place amongst the Australian colonies.
His EXCELLENCY replied as follows :
Mr, Chairman and Gentlemen,– I thank you for the kind manner in which yon have welcomed me to Fremantle on my arrival by train from the city. I thank you also for your reference to the interest which I have always taken in the highly important work which it is my pleasing duty to open this day for public use. I entirely concur in your
estimate of the many advantages which must necessarily follow on the establishment of railway communication, and it is therefore with peculiar pleasure that I am able to inform you that Her Majesty’s Government have sanctioned a further loan for the extension of the railway towards York, and that immediate steps will be taken for
carrying on the work. The weekly visit which I am in the habit of making to your town will be none the less agreeable in the future from the fact that I can now
visit you by rail. I am indebted to you and your fellow townsmen for many cordial receptions, and it is a satisfaction to me to believe that Fremantle, which must always continue to be the western terminus of the line, will benefit as largely as any
part of the colony by the establishment of railway communication with the agricultural districts in the interior. I have much pleasure in declaring this section of the line open for public use. A bountiful supply of champagne, fruit, and other refreshments had been provided by the Town Council, and, after full justice had been done to the proffered hospitality, the party, reinforced by the Fremantle contingent, started back along the line ; the train, which stopped a few minutes at Perth, reaching Guildford shortly before
At Guildford there was another parade of Volunteers ; and here very pleasing,
though somewhat patriarchal, arrangements had been made for the entertainment of the guests. The line terminates in a grassy paddock, and within the paddock is a large
spreading gum tree. Under the grateful shade of this survivor of the primitive forest, chairs and tables had been arranged, and champagne and fruit provided. The Governor immediately on alighting was conducted to this leafy bower, where the acting Chairman of the Municipality (Mr. Harper) read the following address :
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY,-We, the Acting Chairman and Councillors, on behalf of the inhabitants of Guildford, have great pleasure in congratulating Your Excellency upon being enabled upon this your second period of Administration in this colony to graciously declare open for public use the section of the Eastern Districts Railway.
We trust that this event may prove to be the dawn of a long day of prosperity to this colony, and we beg to assure Your Excellency that, whether this hoped for success is realised or not, it will be with feelings of respect and gratitude that we shall ever associate Your Excellency’s name in connection with this well constructed and useful public work. We sincerely trust that circumstances may enable Your Excellency to initiate the construction of a further section of this railway, at an early date, feeling confident that its full measure of advantage to the colony depends entirely upon its advance into the agricultural districts.
In concluding this address we beg to express the hope that this establishment of railway communication with Perth may be the means of affording us the pleasure of welcoming yourself and Lady Robinson to Guildford more frequently in the future than has been possible in the past.
His EXCELLENCY, in replying to the address, said : Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I feel exceedingly grateful for the kind terms in which you have addressed me on my arrival at Guildford for the purpose of opening the first section of the Eastern Districts Railway. It is highly gratifying to me that your name should be associated with this most important public work-a work which cannot fail to be of material advantage to your town, and to develop the resources and increase the prosperity of the whole of this part of the colony. It is a happy coincidence that within the last few days I have received an intimation of Her Majesty’s Government having approved the further extension of the line towards the Eastern Districts, and, judging from the efficient way in which the present work has been designed and superintended by the Works Department, I cannot doubt that the extension will be carried out in an equally satisfactory manner. I thank you, in Lady Robinson’s name and my own, for your kind wish to welcome us more frequently to your pleasant little town, and I would in conclusion express to you our thanks for the hospitality which you have extended to us in the past, and the pleasure with which we look forward to repeating our visits in the future. I have now the satisfaction to declare your section of the railway open to public use. After about half an hour agreeably spent under the gum tree, the start back for Perth was made. The metropolitan station was reached about 1 o’clock, and on the platform Councillor Scott, in his capacity of acting chairman for the municipal body, was in attendance with the following address :
To His Excellency Sir W. C. F. Robinson, K.C.M.Q., Governor and Commander-in-Chief, etc. SIR,-It is with feelings of respect and gratitude that we meet Your Excellency here today. The prompt and able way in which this important work has been carried out under your Administration claims our respect, and our gratitude is due to you for the lively interest you invariably evince in all that affects the welfare of our colony.
We congratulate you, Sir, on the opening of this first section of the Eastern Districts Railway, venturing to anticipate that you will at an early date find us in a position to undertake the extension of the line through Guildford to the more important centres of agricultural-and it is to be hoped in the future of other-pursuits. We trust that, on the establishment of railway communication, these our corn producing areas may enable us not only to do away with any protective duty on flour, but to compete with our sister colonies in the exportation of that necessary of life.
Lastly, in viewing with satisfaction the opening up of the colony’s general resources, we assure you, Sir, that we shall always recognise the necessity of rendering our city worthy of its position as the capital of Western Australia.
His EXCELLENCY replied as follows :
Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN, I thank you sincerely for your cordial address, and for your generous recognition of the interest which I take in all that relates to the welfare of your colony. I need hardly say that I warmly reciprocate your congratulations on the opening of the first section of this railway. It is nearly four years-namely, three months before my departure for Singapore, since I forwarded to the Secretary of State the preliminary surveys of the line, and urged on Her Majesty’s Government the importance of proceeding at once with “this, desirable and much-needed under- taking.” It was with great satisfaction I found on my return to the colony that the work had been commenced, and was progressing in such a satisfactory manner as to promise its prompt completion ; and you will readily believe that the gratification which I experience at taking part in this ceremony today is greatly enhanced by the fact which it is my good fortune to announce to you that the Secretary of State has sanctioned a loan for the further extension of the line towards York, and that the object of the special session of Council which has just been summoned is to give effect to the legislation which is necessary for carrying on the work. I trust with you that the establishment of railway communication with the Eastern Districts may enable. us in time to do Away with a protective duty on flour, to which, on principle, I am opposed, and to compete with our sister colonies in the exportation of that necessary of life. The steps recently taken by the Municipal Council of Perth for borrowing a sum of money for city improvements evinces a progressive spirit which reflects much credit on the Municipality. I cannot doubt that as your city increases in importance, as, under existing circumstances it cannot fail to do, the increased responsibilities which will necessarily devolve upon your Council will continue to be so discharged as to satisfy the citizens that their interests have been placed in zealous and competent hands. I now declare this section of the line open for
This brought to a close the opening ceremonies, after which the assembled company
Copied from – https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2984631
The land that became Rossmoyne in February of 1961 was by the words of the first owner Morgan in 1830 ”only 10% of it is worth walking on.” From that time on, nothing much occurred for more than a century, merely cattle wandering through.
I may say nothing happened in Rossmoyne in a century but maybe the most telling moment in the relationship between the black and white fellas occurred nearby just East of The Bateman’s property or Bull’s Creek at Karel Avenue as named today, I will leave it up to you as you read an engrossing account of events.
The aboriginal people who had lived here for thousands of years were not just rolling over to the white mans ways and the hero of the time for them was Yagan. His story and those of his people unfolds here.
A SERIOUS turn was given to the native troubles in 1833. The continued descent of blacks on the flocks and herds of settlers embittered the one race towards the other, and reprisals became more numerous. The furtive murders committed by either side caused each to be on the alert, but when violence was shown to a white woman some of her countrymen rose their wrath and said they would wage war against the old-time possessors of the soil. Sentiments of humanity had hitherto dominated the white population; they did not forget the splendid, though quiescent reception given them when they first sought to establish themselves in Western Australia. But now, many of the most earnest advocates for a peaceful and charitable treatment of the blacks experienced a revulsion of feeling, and announced that they would severely punish them. They could not long brook (tolerate) these grave attacks on their stock, nor could they calmly listen to the stories of murder which were intermittently noised abroad. The community was so small and so far removed from old associations that the death of any one of them occasioned profound gloom.
But the position was a difficult one. Men embue (inspire) with English sentiments of fair play and respect for the persons of others could not coolly shoot down single blacks; to murder whole parties in cold blood was equally repulsive. The natives would not unite together and in open battle attack the invaders. All that their primitive natures would allow them to do was the covert stealing of stock by small bands or, upon the imagined demands of their laws, the murder of individuals so that their honour and superstition might be satisfied. The whites could not give full rein to their wishes, and the blacks were therefore permitted to openly roam the Swan River bush, and visit the homesteads of settlers and beg for food. So rapidly, it was said were their kangaroos and emus being exterminated that they must have recourse to settlers for the bare necessaries of life. During the scarcity of provisions among the white people in 1832 the usual allowances of flour, &c., were denied the natives, and hence the increased number of instances of thieving. The original fear of white weapons, too, had worn off, and having successfully murdered some men, they more readily murdered others. It was murder on both sides.
The inherent courage of certain native characters was brought out, and they in 1833 gave evidence of bravery and determination which would have done honour to the highest civilisation. No more conspicuous figure, probably, has ever risen among Australian natives than that of Yagan. The son of a chief, he was himself a man of strength and power; was the hope of his people, and inspired fear among the whites, who were wont to term him the “Wallace” of the Australian aborigines. Yagan was a unique specimen of native manhood, intelligence, sagacity (wisdom), and bravery. He was over six feet high, and, one writer says, possessed a dignified bearing. He stood head and shoulders above his fellows, in mind as well as in body, and though a subject of terror to the white people, he yet commanded their admiration. He was the dominating spirit in the sanguinary (bloodshed) native troubles of 1833.
The amicable relationship established with the aborigines at King George’s Sound by Major Lockyer and Captain Barker still continued, and the blacks began to recognise the character and power of the Britishers, and to be affected by their civilisation. Mr. Dale, when returning to Perth in January 1835, took two King George’s Sound natives with him, who were treated with some display of hospitality by the local whites and blacks. Yagan and others of the Swan River tribe expressed the desire to meet the visitors, named Gallypert and Maryat. On the 24th January Messrs. Dale and Smythe took the two men to what was known as Monger’s Lake, where Yagan and ten of his tribe gave them an apparently cordial welcome. A conversation was initiated between them, but owing to a difference in language they had some difficulty in understanding each Other. But they were on mutual ground when some one proposed a trial of individual skill. Gallypert and Yagan took their spears, and one of the white men stuck his walking stick vertically in the ground. Both natives walked some twenty-five paces away, and placing their spears in their throwing-sticks hurled them at the object. The expert Yagan proved the better marksman, for at his first throw he struck down the walking stick. Gallypert was not so successful. Other trials of skill were made, and it was observed that the Swan River men had the advantage in appearance, strength, and aptness over their visitors. Gallypert advised the Swan River men to be peaceful towards the whites, and afterwards described his conversation to an interested listener as thus: “Me wonka (tell) black man—pear white man cow, white man yeep (sheep), white man kill black man; black man no pear (spear) cow, no pear yeep, white man give black man jacket, towlyer, york (shirt), and bikket (biscuit) plenty; black man wonka (say) no pear no more.”
Then Yagan took up the thread of the discourse and recounted to his sable countrymen his experiences during his recent imprisonment at Carnac, and told them how he outwitted his guards. Finally he, as a distinctive act of courtesy and hospitality, seemingly adopted them into his tribe by an exchange of names.
Mrs. Leake, the wife of a prominent settler, entertained the King George’s Sound natives with music on a “grand” piano. They expressed themselves as pleased and grateful, and murmured, “Tank u mem, very pretty.” Not only did they articulate their delight, but danced the kangaroo dance to the accompaniment of the piano. Then, we are told, they “seated themselves in armchairs with the greatest self-complacency, and drank tea.” Shortly afterwards they were taken back to Albany.
The visit of these natives seemed at first to have had a good effect, and for some time numerous Swan River men were daily to be seen in Perth and Fremantle, where they expressed their desire to live on friendly terms and their determination to refrain from injuring settlers’ cattle. Their friendliness was short-lived, and soon they gave vent to that baneful characteristic—the wanton destruction of property. In February colonists on the outskirts of the Swan River settlements suffered severely at their hands. Mr. J. H. Monger had many unfortunate experiences with them at Monger’s Lake, and other persons had stock stolen or killed. On Monday, the 11th of February, the natives deported themselves in a threatening manner to the shepherd of Messrs. Trimmer and Bland, at York. They were spurred on by the vicious chants of a native woman, and the shepherd in self-protection shot the woman. In the same month Jenkins, a private of the 63rd Regiment, was speared by natives at Clarence, a settlement a few miles south of Fremantle. Jenkins was in the act of drawing water from the well near the military barracks in that district, when he heard the approach of many feet. Before he could discover whence the sounds came spears entered his back and shoulder, and to his side and arm. He recovered from his wounds. The motive of this attack probably lay in the fact that Jenkins was one of the guards to the natives who had been imprisoned at Carnac.
Mr. Norcott, a superintendent of the police corps, had a narrow escape in March. While eating biscuits in the presence of Yagan he offered the latter a share. Then, considering he had given the native too much, he endeavoured to take a part away. This roused Yagan’s ire and immediately he pointed his spear at Mr. Norcott, and was only restrained from casting it by the colonists who had gathered round. So dauntless was this man that the Perth Gazette writes:—” The reckless daring of this desperado, who sets his life at a pin’s fee, is being the subject of general observation, and we firmly believe for the most trivial offence, even with a loaded musket at his breast, he would take the life of any man who provoked him.” He was very proud of his escape from Carnac Island, and chucklingly informed different white men how he managed it. On one occasion he even walked up to the door of the gaol at Fremantle, and after exchanging civilities with his late keeper marched off, pointing significantly at the gaol and then at Carnac, which rose plainly before the eye over the bay.
Several suspicious fires occurred in March, and on the third or fourth the house of Mr. Waylen was burnt to the ground. It was supposed that the natives set it alight. While the conflagration proceeded these men danced round it like demoniacs. Several cases of stealing and breaking of windows were announced about the same time. The white people were in a dilemma as to how to act, whether to severely punish the delinquents, or continue their efforts to civilise them and show them the enormity of their actions. The Government had from time to time sworn in magistrates who were required, perhaps more than anything else, to administer the law with regard to natives.
The next appearance of the natives was in a calmer and more pleasant light. On Wednesday, 13th March, at the instigation of Yagan, a corroboree, or native festival, was held in the yard of a settler in Perth. The schooner Ellen had just arrived from King George’s Sound with five more natives, who at their urgent request were conveyed to Swan River; Yagan wished that members of the two tribes should give a joint representation. About dusk they assembled, and, while chanting, chalked each other in strange devices. A crowd of white people, including Lieutenant-Governor Irwin, several ladies, and the fashion of Perth, soon congregated. Then with the utmost fidelity the natives represented the killing of the kangaroo, and gave the necromantic dances which embraced the knocking of noses together, dancing on the knees, and the pulling of each other’s legs. Yagan was master of ceremonies, and acquitted himself, it is said, “with infinite dignity.” At the conclusion of the representation the performers asked for, and were given, permission to sleep in the back yard that night.
Next day a native fray took place in Perth, caused apparently by jealousy. There was some disagreement as to the proprietorship of a native woman, and after bickerings and careful preparations a fight was held. A native named Munday and his wife and another woman were so severely wounded that they were conveyed to the Hospital for treatment. Such a splendid example of affection was shown by Munday to his suffering spouse, the Gazette writes, that “it was worthy of imitation.”
Desultory (no purpose) small crimes were committed by the natives during the next few days, and on the 17th March some of them cruelly speared a horse owned by Mr. Tanner. The feelings of the people were rising, and it was only the humane determination of the Government and of several influential settlers which prevented them visiting their anger on the blacks, even to general slaying. Opinion was still divided, but the majority seemed to advise the sternest means to put down the trouble. Mr. Lyon remained one of the most earnest supporters of the natives, and in an article published under his name in the Perth Gazette of 23rd March, he voices the sentiments of the minority. He states, “The aboriginal inhabitants of this country are a harmless, liberal, kind-hearted race; remarkably simple in all their manners. They not only abstained from all acts of hostility when we took possession, but showed us every kindness in their power. Though we were invaders of their country, and they had therefore a right to treat us as enemies, when any of us lost ourselves in the bush and were thus completely in their power, these noble-minded people shared with us their scanty and precarious meal, suffered us to rest for a night in their camp, and in the morning directed us on our way to headquarters, or some other part of the settlement.”
The many-sidedness of Yagan’s character was being shown, and he seemed to blend boldness and revenge with courtesy and bush hospitality. He was constantly appearing in one or other light, so that even the people who directly and indirectly suffered at his hands could not deny him their respect. A fire took place and, unlike his fellows, Yagan rendered eager assistance in overcoming it. He was willing to show the whites any part of his and his father’s domains and to share with them his meal. But on the other hand he was insolent and unforgiving. On the last day of March he entered the house of an absent settler, and finding the wife at home talked and acted in a violent manner. The woman escaped from the house and ran off towards some neighbours, at which Yagan, to pacify her, called after her, “White woman very good, good-bye.” Then he hurried into the bush, but Captain Ellis, superintendent of native tribes, chased and caught him, and bringing him back, informed him that he would be severely punished if he repeated such actions. Yagan immediately rushed away among the trees and was vainly fired at by congregated soldiers. For some little time he remained in the bush, but soon he cast off fear and walked boldly into Perth.
The natives now carried on war in the settlements not only with the spear, but with the torch as well. They occasionally preyed upon settlers’ stock and set fire to their grass and hay-ricks. Affairs were drawing to a crisis. Towards the end of April, two thoughtless and cruel murders by white people lighted the fire of revenge in the indomitable Yagan. A man from Van Diemen’s Land, employed by Major Nairn, was escorting a cart to the house of Mr. Philipps, on the Canning, along the track which had been cut from Fremantle to the Canning River. He saw unoffending natives on the way, and turning to his companion (so writes Mr. Moore), said, “D—n the rascals, I’ll show you how we treat them in Van Diemen’s Land.” Lifting his gun, he fired and shot one, and that without provocation. A few nights afterwards, a merchant in Fremantle heard suspicious noise in an adjoining store. Rising to discover the cause he observed three natives breaking into the building. The neighbours were aroused, and seizing arms fired upon the thieves, and one, Domjuim, fell, and died three days afterwards. The same stores had been robbed before. These two acts were the incentives which stimulated revenge in the heart of Yagan.
On the morning of the 30th April, a few hours after Domjuim was shot, Yagan, with a party of natives, was seen at Preston Point, near Perth. Yagan appeared to be greatly excited, and “foamed at the mouth and raved like a madman.” He burned under the insult done to his countrymen, and informed the servant of a settler that he was going to the Canning to spear a white man, and (vide Gazette), “fixing his spear in the throwing-stick, he rushed into the bush, followed by his infuriated tribe.”
Three carts owned by Mr. Philipps, laden with provisions, were returning from Bull’s Creek to Mr. Philipps’ farm. Mr. Philipps, with four men, had charge of two of the carts, while the third cart, some distance away, was accompanied by Thomas and John Velvick. Just as Mr. Philipps was leaving Bull’s Creek, about thirty natives appeared, led by the old chief, Midgegooroo, and Yagan, Migo, and Munday. They scrutinised the vehicles and seemed particularly curious concerning the third cart. Midgegeoroo asked how many men were attached to it, and on being told he and his party instantly disappeared in the bush. The Velvicks were in the very cart wherefrom the Tasmanian had incontinently shot at the native a few days before. Strange to say, also, at about the precise point on the road where he had committed this outrage, Yagan and Midgegooroo now surrounded the vehicle said to be ‘two miles beyond Bull’s Creek.’.
Mr. Philipps, while proceeding on his way, heard a noise, and hurriedly riding forward, saw Yagan plunging a spear into the body of one of the Velvicks. Both men were found dead; one had crawled about two hundred yards into the bush before he succumbed. The bodies were horribly mutilated. The natives had picked upon a most convenient site for executing their revenge. The dark forms of many black “boys” arose all round amid a thick bush, and when Mr. Philipps appeared the murderers easily decamped.
Lieutenant-Governor Irwin at once issued a proclamation offering a reward of £30 to any person who would “capture, or aid and assist in capturing, the body of Yagan, dead or alive.” Rewards of £20 each were offered for the bodies, dead or alive, of Midgegooroo and Munday. All three natives were deprived of the protection of British laws.
And now the sentiment of revenge which had burned into Yagan was momentarily transferred to the settlers, and all were imbued with an intense desire to capture this man who treated them so superciliously (distain). Almost every settler was at first willing to go out in search of the chief outlaw, and official and private parties were for some time daily organised to brush up the woods. The first to operate was Lieutenant Carew, who, in charge of a small detachment of the 63rd Regiment, took up a station on the river to intercept Yagan should he wish to join the women and children of his tribe, then on the Perth side of the river. Thenceforth for some months Yagan baffled his pursuers, though he was all the time in the Swan River country, and from his secret lairs watched the search parties which panted for his blood. On May 6 the Government equipped a volunteer party under Lieutenant Carew, accompanied by Captain Ellis, to search for the outlaws. They proceeded to Monger’s Lake, about five miles from Perth, and observed the natives they watched in the bush. Then hiding themselves as much as possible behind the shrubbery they silently stole towards the band, but feathered sentinels of the Australian bush soon warned the blacks of danger. A flock of cockatoos rose with deafening cries and flew, screeching, into the distance. The natives hurried off, and the avengers, after vainly following them for some distance, were compelled to turn back.
Meanwhile, Yagan showed no outward signs of fear. He managed to elude the search parties, and while they scoured the country, he, with intrepid coolness, visited some of the houses of settlers. So well did he understand the character of the English people that he visited only those whom he knew would not molest him. He was one day ferried across the river by a settler, and with three other natives obtained palm nuts and potatoes somewhere on the other side, whereupon he returned to the banks and was ferried back. The four now entered the enclosure of Mr. Hardy, and a son of Mr. Drummond saw the unconcerned Yagan rushing horses to the fence to have the pleasure of seeing them bound over it. The news of his having been seen was soon announced throughout the settlement, and that particular part of the river country was most carefully searched, but no sign of Yagan was observed.
A party of four soldiers and three civilians, headed by Hunt, determined to search high and low for the outlaws, and give them no opportunity of escape. They made towards the Murray River, and soon came upon a native camp. The blacks had noted their approach and sought cover in the bush, where they separated into two parties. Hunt and his men followed one of these, but could not get close enough to shoot or take them prisoners. Each party of natives occasionally lit fires, apparently as signals denoting the course its members were taking. The Europeans followed them between two lakes, from which there was no visible outlet, but all the natives concealed themselves in the rushes and close jungle which completely hid the way. Only one was seen, and as he rose from his hiding posture he poised and hurled his spear, and was levelling another when Hunt raised his gun and brought him to the ground. Fearing an ambush in so suitable a place, Hunt retreated and returned to Perth. It was reported that he shot several other natives on this occasion, but the report was not confirmed.
Other parties went out and scoured the country in every direction, without avail. It was for Yagan that they made their most sedulous excursions, but at the same time they searched for old Midgegooroo and Munday. Eventually on Thursday, 16th May, Captain Ellis and Mr. Hardy, with a small party, went out towards the hills where some of the chief haunts of the natives were. They proceeded on their way in close file, and glanced searchingly through the woods on every side of them. When a few hours’ journey from Perth they caught sight of a native in the bush. This fellow observed not their approach, and Captain Ellis ordered his men to encircle him. The circle was made and quickly contracted, and before the aboriginal knew of their presence, there was no outlet open for his escape. It was the outlaw Midgegooroo, amusing himself in play with his young son, five years old. The old man was apparently unaware that the whites were seeking his life, for he had been hitherto engaged in caring for the women and children of his tribe. As soon as he noticed his dangerous position he tried to break through the line, and wrestled with great vigour. He cried loudly in big desperation for the champion of his tribe, Yagan, but he cried in vain. His spears were soon snapped in twain and, with his little son was taken prisoner.
Midgegooroo had been associated with many depredations of whites and their stock, had been concerned in the murder of Entwistle, and had used violence on different persons. He was now given short shrift. On the 21st May a number of persons congregated in front of the gaol in Perth, and Mr. J. Morgan, a magistrate, read aloud a death warrant. The Lieutenant-Governor, attended by the Council, was present, but the young son had been removed to the Government schooner Ellen, then lying under Garden Island.
Mr. Morgan, a constable, and attendants, went into the gaol to bring out the prisoner, who, on seeing their preparations, yelled and struggled fiercely to escape. He was pinioned and blindfolded, and bound to the outer door of the gaol. A party of the 63rd Regiment volunteered to shoot the condemned man, and at a signal from the Leutenant-Governor advanced, halted six paces away from Midgegooroo, levelled their guns, and fired. The sable warrior fell dead.
The Perth Gazette was pronounced in its remarks on the conduct of some of the people who assembled to witness this death. The editor writes: “The feeling which was generally expressed was that of satisfaction at what had taken place, and in some instances of loud and vehement exultation, which the solemnity of the scene—a fellow being, although a native, launched into eternity—ought to have suppressed.”
It is reported that numbers of natives were shot down about this period by the irritated whites. The more charitable people recognised the sequence of events which led up to these murders by Yagan and Midgegooroo. Advocates for their merciful treatment were not wanting, who pointed out that by taking these lives the aboriginals were merely obeying their law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The Government decided that in justice they must protect the lives of natives, and therefore issued a proclamation stating that they were subjects of His Majesty, and received the protection of his laws in Western Australia. The following passage was included in this proclamation, “And whereas the protection of law doth of right belong to all people whatsoever who may come or be found in the territory aforesaid, I do hereby give notice that any person or persons shall be convicted of behaving in a fraudulent, cruel, or felonious manner towards the aboriginal race of inhabitants of this country, such person or persons will be liable to be prosecuted and tried for the offence, as if the same had been committed against any other of His Majesty’s subjects.”
Another murder by natives of a white man took place, and another native, a relative of Midgegooroo, was shot. Then Yagan again appears on the scene. While Mr. G. F. Moore was engaged on his farm on the Swan, near Guildford, he observed a party of northern natives approaching him. He saw among them some friends of his, and, unarmed, at once went forth to meet them. When he had got among the blacks he was surprised to recognise Migo as one of them, and upon scanning the face of the man at his side saw that it was Munday. Looking still closer at the others he was more surprised to behold the outlaw Yagan standing aloof, keenly scrutinising his countenance, and observing his manner of receiving them. Yagan stood some distance from the rest, leaning on his spear in a sullen and morose humour. Moore, pointing to Yagan, asked a native by his side, “What name?” They all replied, “Boogat,” to which Moore answered, “No, Yagan.” The warrior, seeing that he was known, now stepped forward, as if to challenge discussion, and, according to Mr. Moore, said, “Yes, Yagan,—Fremantle white man shoot Domjuim, Yagan brother: shoot black man cutyell (two). Me, Yagan, gyidyill (spear) white man cutyell.”
This was Yagan’s explanation of the crime, and his pleading, according to his law, of its justice. Moore took up the conversation and said, “But Domjuim quiple (steal), white man shoot.” Yagan replied, “Yes, Domjuim quiple, white man shoot black man, black man ‘pear white man.”
Mr. Moore said, “But Domjuim quiple. White man quiple, white man shoot white man. Black man quiple, white man shoot black man.”
Yagan reiterated, “White man shoot Domjuim, Yagan brother; Yagan ‘pear white man far away.”
Mr. Moore pointed out that all white men were brothers, upon which a chorus of blacks cried, “No, no!” He then declared, “Yes, all white men brothers, all same. Black man ‘pear white man, all white man angry, all white man shoot.”
In a more friendly tone, but determined spirit, Yagan asserted, “White man shoot, black man ‘pear.”
Moore now addressed them all and said, “Black man no ‘pear white man; black no quiple; black no ‘pear horse, cow, sheep, pig: white man all same brother; black man plenty corroboree, plenty shake hands.”
Here he advanced with open hands at which all the natives, except the moody outlaw himself, rushed forward and seized them. It was a long argument, and Moore confessed that Yagan was as successful in it as he was. The natives had grouped themselves around the contending parties, and were apparently closely attending to the conference between these representatives of the conflicting races. Then, writes Moore, “Yagan stepped forward, and leaning his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with the right, delivered a sort of recitative, looking earnestly at my face: I regret that I could not understand it; I thought from the tone and manner that the purport was this:—’You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts and disturbed us in our occupations. As we walk in our own country we are fired upon by the white men. Why should the white men treat us so?'”
The manner of delivering this statement reminded Moore of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, the other men seemed to be acting in a subordinate character to Yagan. One and all desired eagerly to know the fate of Midgegooroo. Yagan approached and seemingly sought to read Moore’s countenance, and confirmed to searchingly scan it. The question was full of danger to the white man, unprotected as he was, and he gave no direct reply to it. At last Yagan said with extraordinary vehemence of manner, distinctness of utterance, and emphasis of tone, “White man shoot Midgegooroo, Yagan kill three (holding up three fingers).” Moore replied that if Yagan killed a white man, every white man would shoot Yagan.” The warrior “scowled a look of daring defiance, and turned on his heel with an air of ineffable disdain.” He had held, during the greater part of this conference, “a beautifully tapered and exquisitely pointed spear, grasped like a stiletto about fourteen inches from the point, while the shaft lay over his shoulder with a seeming carelessness.” He evidently dreaded treachery, and was on his guard against it; taking care not to let the Europeans press on him too closely, and keeping some of the natives between him and them.
Moore seems to have considered that he would be blamed for not trying to take Yagan prisoner, and he explained that nothing short of an overpowering force, or the perpetration of a cold-blooded, deliberate treachery would have sufficed to take the dangerous outlaw. He published his interview in the Perth Gazette, and expressed his conviction that the natives were determined to act upon the doctrine of taking life for life. They seemed thoroughly satisfied of its propriety, and after the blow of retaliation was struck desired to be as friendly as before. Moore concludes his descriptive article with the caution, “Every one should now be upon his guard. Yagan seems to possess the power of ubiquity. He has declared, and his are not idle threats, that he will take three lives for that of Midgegooroo.”
The wives and children of Mdgegooroo now wandered through the bush in all their pageantry of mourning. About their faces they were marked in white and red streaks—the humble trappings of their woe—in honour of the presumed death of their chief. They asked many questions as to his fate, and were generally told that he and his son were in the prison at Carnac Island, but it seemed to be generally understood what had become of him, and it was even said that Yagan was near Perth when the death sentence was carried out. On the 27th May, Yagan was unwisely informed by a settler of Midgegooroo’s death. When Lieutenant-Governor Irwin heard of this, he immediately strengthened the military throughout the district. The daring native with his primitive weapons caused fear to spread throughout the settlement.
During the second week in June, Yagan, and Weeip, “the chief of the mountain tribe,” visited the farm of a settler who had treated them with kindness. Yagan told the lady of the house the names of those who were present at the death of Midgegooroo. She and her attendants became alarmed, but Yagan quickly assured that they need not be concerned, for he would ‘pear “soldier man.”‘
With unflagging spirit parties continued to go out in quest of the outlaw, and all eagerly watched for the appearance of any bulletins concerning their welfare. Slight depredations were still being made. The accused natives had more than once been seen near Perth, yet so carefully and secretly did they pick their way through the bush, the banksia and blackboys, that none could see them. It is said that Weeip offered to guide some of the avengers to the haunts of Yagan; at any rate he boldly stalked through the streets of Perth, and even joined a search party under Captain Ellis. On another occasion two natives met a young man walking alone along a bush road. They freely informed him that they intended to spear Yagan, and offered, there and then, to lead him to the hiding place of the outlaw. The man was at first delighted, for like many others he was anxious to receive the £30 reward. But when the natives proceeded to a thicket, and apparently wished to draw him into it, he became afraid and went back. The blacks now tried to get away from him, and Weeip, who was one of them, cunningly contrived to get beyond the range of his gun. He then made off. The other native watched an opportunity, and threw his spear at the man, which grazed his breast. Raising his gun, the young fellow aimed at the native, but the weapon missed fire. The native got away, and the white man hurried into Perth and told his story. It was afterwards currently reported that this native was no other than Yagan himself, and some of the aborigines gave credence to the statement. Weeip, who was afterwards questioned as to the young man’s allegation, contradicted its salient points, and asserted that the white was the aggressor, and fired his gun before the native used his spear. To clinch his statement Weeip produced a spear, which bore gun-shot wounds, and then he emphatically declared that had be been near enough he would have speared the fellow. The public appeared as willing to believe Weeip as the white man. His mental capacity and condition were spoken highly of, and in this connection the Perth Gazette of July 6th publishes a plain-spoken eulogism of Weeip’s countrymen. It says, “Those who have not had an opportunity of witnessing the sagacity and acuteness of the aborigines of this country can form no idea of the natural extent of their minds—they are by no means the base, degraded, sanguinary wretches they have ignorantly been designated—they have their many virtues which their roving habits will render it difficult to bring into exercise.”
And now came the circumstances which led to the death of Yagan—the prop of the aborigines. Early in July he was seen at a farm on the Swan, and upon being spoken to ridiculed the idea of being captured. He evidently merely watched and waited his opportunity for retaliation. Two lads named William Keats and James Keats were the instruments of Yagan’s destruction. William was eighteen years old, and James was but thirteen. William had frequently expressed the determination to kill Yagan, apparently for the reward. Others had been afraid to commit this deed, nor would they be guilty of treachery, but William was bold and unaffected by sentiments of honour. His master, Lieutenant Bull, a settler on the Swan, had often advised him to put away the thought. Lieutenant Bull was friendly with the natives, and felt strong sympathy for them. Some little time previously he had taken Weeip and three other natives to Fremantle to see Midgegooroo’s son. The interview was a pathetic one.
Under careful tuition the boy had become cold towards his people, and when Weeip spoke to him he disclaimed all knowledge of the chief, and seemed indifferent as to the fate of his relatives. At this Weeip burst into tears, whereupon the lad, whistling, turned away to play with a companion. This scene caused the Gazette to remark that “savages are not to be won by austerity or severe discipline.”
On Thursday morning the brothers Keats were minding cattle near the house of Mr. Bull. While thus engaged they observed natives going to the house for flour. Yagan was one of them, and the boys induced him to turn aside, and he remained with them nearly all the morning. Both boys carried guns, and William, watching his chance, once endeavoured to shoot the outlaw in cold blood, but his gun stopped at half-cock. Yagan did not observe this act, but after some time, becoming suspicious, he threw down his firebrand and digging stick, and threatened them, but used no violence, and went his way and joined the other natives, who were cooking damper near the river. Some say that the boys were invited to partake of the simple meal.
William cocked his gun and laid it over his arm in an unconcerned manner. With his brother he went among the natives, who were about to make their repast, and pointed the muzzle of the weapon towards Yagan’s head. Almost immediately he pulled the trigger and the “Australian Wallace” fell and died. The natives were thrown into momentary consternation at this deed, but soon they began to fix their spears in the throwing-sticks. James saw one called Heegan in the act of throwing. James shot, and Heegan fell. Then looking round he saw Weeip about to throw, and fired at him but missed. The foolish lads now ran away, James dropping his gun. They took different directions; the natives followed William. He was caught on the river’s bank, and as James was wading the stream he looked back and saw Weeip and three other natives around William driving their spears into his body. The horrified boy of thirteen years old rushed away to obtain assistance, and the natives, fearing immediate punishment, disappeared in the bush. A party of whites was soon on the scene, and found the hacked corpse of William Keats. About three hundred yards away lay the bodies of Yagan and Heegan. The latter was still alive, but moaning pitifully. There was a gaping wound in his head, from which the brains oozed; one of the party “put him out of his misery.” A white settler took the head of Yagan, and flayed that part of his body hearing the wails and scars of his tribe. They were dried and kept for many years as memorials to one of the bravest and most intelligent members of a rapidly disappearing race. Thus ended the story of Yagan. The outlawry of Munday was withdrawn by Government proclamation, and James Keats received the reward, but through the influence of others left the colony in fear of retaliation.
The Gazette of 20th July expressed the opinion that the death of Yagan was caused by “a wild and treacherous act, not the heroic and courageous which some unthinkingly have designated it. The unfortunate youth has suffered for his temerity, and has entailed upon us a stigma which it will be the work of time to eradicate. . . . What a fearful lesson of instruction have we given to the savage! We have taught him by this act to exercise towards us deceit and treachery, which, in him, we have daily reproved; and led him to draw no very favourable conclusions of our moral and physical superiority. We do not remember to have heard of one instance in which the aborigines of this country have abused our confidence when we have encountered them in the bush; we must therefore again deplore an act which it appears to us will annihilate the surest road to perfect amity—mutual confidence. We must remember Yagan was killed after spending the morning in company with the youth who shot him, and when upon the point of taking his frugal repast, a portion of which he would not have withdrawn from the hand that slew him. We are not vindicating the outlaw, but, we maintain, it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed. It was a rash and unadvised adventure of youth, which we should regret to see held up by children of larger growth as a laudable example of courage to our rising generation.”
Much more can be found on this link and many more chapters on our home state
The link attached is worth saving if you wish to learn more reading the chapters of the early days in the colony.
Today marks 11 years since I joined Facebook and yet this is my first blog.
I had the pleasure of entering the WA Museum Collections and Research Centre yesterday enjoying the passionate presentations by those who look after the collection of 8 500 000 precious items.
To many of us, a school trip to the Museum in Northbridge was our first encounter with the massive 24 metre frame of a Blue Whale. The skeleton is one of the Western Australian Museum’s oldest and largest specimens. With a skull weighing 800 kgs and a mandibles of 400 kgs each , the combined weight of 356 pieces is considerable. It has a long and interesting history within the Museum and holds a special place in the hearts and memories of the people of our State.
For nearly 127 years, the WA Museum has been the home to this marine giant’s skeleton.
The WA Museum’s specimen washed ashore in 1898, and remained at the mouth of the Vasse River (near Busselton) for three years before it was ready to be transported to Perth for display. During this time the Museum’s taxidermist, Otto Lipfert, worked with the help of a local farmer and two Japanese fishermen to remove the flesh from the carcass. The skeleton was then left on the shore for 12 months to bleach before the bones were individually labelled for reassembly at a later time.
The skeleton, was transported by horse-drawn carriage to the newly opened Busselton Railway station. From there it was taken to Perth by train where it was reconstructed in an open-faced shed at the Museum, located on the corners of Francis and Beaufort streets. In order to support the weight of the skeleton it was supported by more than a tonne of iron rods. The bones remained in this location until 1968, before moving to its new home within the Francis Street building.
The Western Australian Museum’s fascinating 120-year history documents the state’s rich natural and cultural heritage, featuring nearly 8 million objects in its incredibly diverse exhibits – from dozens of insects in a single jar, to a single piece of Mars.
Established in the old Perth gaol in 1891, its collections were originally geological, ethnological and biological. In 1959, the botanical collection was transferred to the new Western Australian Herbarium, and the museum focused its collection and research interests in the areas of natural sciences, anthropology, archaeology and WA history. Over the 1960s and 1970s it also began to work in the emerging areas of historic shipwrecks and Aboriginal site management.
Behind the scenes, the WA Museum’s many scientists, curators, research associates and volunteers work together in a sprawling climate-controlled facility in Welshpool – the Collections and Research Centre.
The diverse experts work in the fields of terrestrial zoology, aquatic zoology, earth and planetary sciences, history, anthropology and archaeology. While the museum’s maritime archaeology and maritime history departments are based at sites in Fremantle, some of those extensive collections are also housed in Welshpool.
The study of culture and communities revolves around a central, integral question: what does it mean to be human? Again, through the objects in its collections, the WA Museum’s researchers and curators help us unravel some of the complexities and mysteries of human history. Who we are and how we live is revealed through artefacts like a little boy’s home-made wartime toy, examples of intricately woven Aboriginal baskets, and thousands of coins collected from 17th century Dutch ships wrecked along our coast. There are also 19th century porcelain tea sets, 20th century weapons, and a 21st century asylum-seeker boat.
The Western Australian Museum has a strong commitment to sharing stories that help people explore their identity, culture, environment and sense of place. To learn more about the Collection and Research Centre, visit the online collection at museum.wa.gov.au/museums/collection-and-research-centre.
My favourite piece of the entire collection is this convicts uniform. Just five pieces of clothing survive from the convict period in Western Australia – this jacket and trousers being two of those five items.
The bizarre parti-coloured uniform was worn as extra punishment by prisoners sentenced to work in iron leg chains. It is made of coarse wool tabby in black and bright mustard yellow halves. The right hand front half of each piece was black and the left half yellow; this was reversed on the back and the collar. Because the punishing iron chains remained on the prisoner’s legs 24 hours a day, the sides of the trousers buttoned up (and could be unbuttoned) like a fly. The pieces are stamped with the infamous broad arrow that signified British Government property.
Western Australia was the last of the Australian colonies to receive convicts from Britain, resisting the stain of convictism for more than twenty years. Between 1850 and 1868, 9971 male convicts were transported to the Swan River Colony as a source of labour for the struggling settlers. Their uniforms were made in the tailor shops of the big London prisons in three standard sizes and sent out in annual despatches. Ordinary prisoners, ticket of leave men and men on special punishment on the chain gang wore different issues of clothing, which they received twice a year for summer and winter.
Because these historic pieces of clothing are fragile and irreplaceable they are not on permanent display. It appears that this uniform was never issued for use, which undoubtedly accounts for its survival.
Our new Museum opens in 2020 and if the passion displayed by the staff yesterday is anything to go by, it’s going to be world class.
May 13th 2013 we met and since then you have trusted me to share Western Australia’s memories with you
Over 10000 posts of our fabulous life growing up in the best city thanks to you sharing the fun of your Lost Perth.
Cheers from Reg Claybrook and Warren Duffy but please call me Duff.