Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

The Diary of Mary Ann Friend

Mary Ann Friend

(Read before the Society July 31, 1931.)

'The diary of Mary Ann Friend', Early Days, vol. 1, part 10: 1-11.

This diary was written by Mrs. Mary Ann Friend, wife of Commander Matthew Friend, R.N., F.R.S. Mrs. Friend chronicles a voyage in the Wanstead, merchant ship, commanded by her husband, taking emigrants to the Swan River Settlement. The diary begins on sailing from Portsmouth, August 14, 1829, and ends June 12, 1831. In the interval, Mrs. Friend visited Madeira, Bahia, Cape Town, Swan River, Hobart, Torres Straits, Koepang (Timor), Singapore, Penang, Pedir (Sumatra), Nicobar Islands, Rangoon, Calcutta, Madras, St. Helena, and Ascension. Only the section dealing with the Swan River is quoted below:—

“Jany. 30th, 1830. Arrived in sight of Rottenness Island about 3 o'clock and at 1/2 past six anchored in Gages Roads about a mile and a half from shore. The weather was so rough the Pilot could not come off. I was much disappointed with the appearance of Swan River, the entrance is so extremely narrow, the country low and sandy. We found several ships here. H.M. Ship, the Sulphur and the Nancy at Cockburn Sound. The Minstrel, Pangelia and Marquis of Anglesey at Gages Roads. The latter was just where she had drifted the night she came on shore and was not above five yards from dry land. She was purchased by Mr. Leake a Merchant for £300 and he has since let her to Government for £100 the year. She has been converted into the Governor's residence (when at Fremantle), the Harbour Master's Office, the Post Office and a Prison ship for refractory servants. The chief town Perth is situated 16 miles up the river and there is already a passage-boat plying from it to the mouth of the river. You can like-


wise hire boats but the charges are enormous—for one trip to a ship and back with luggage they charge 4:4:0.

“We find that in consequence of Mr. Peel having arrived behind the time named by Government, Capt. Stirling had given away the grant reserved for him, and he had been obliged to take another about nine miles to the South of the Swan opposite Garden Island.

“Sunday, 31st. Early this morning all the stock went on shore. Capt. Friend also went, rowed by four of the gentlemen who call themselves his ‘boys,’ all the crew stood up and cheered him as he passed. About noon went ashore with my husband, was very much disappointed with the appearance of the roadstead which is very narrow at the entrance—I should imagine not a quarter of a mile wide. It is very true that the country is ‘beautifully undulating and thinly wooded,’ but alas the soil is nothing but sand. The town of Fremantle strongly resembles a Country Fair and has a pretty appearance, the pretty white tents looking much like booths—at present there are not above five or six houses. It is situated at the entrance of the Swan. The bar has never more than four feet water over it, and at times is impassable; every morning there is a strong land breeze and at evening a sea breeze, at which times it is impossible to go in opposite directions. Went to see Mr. and Mrs. Wells, Coll. Lautour’s agent here, was extremely pleased with Mrs. Wells, find her a charming unaffected young woman. While I was sitting at the door talking with her, up came the Ship’s Carpenter in a state of consternation with his tools in his hands, he had been doing something to the outside of the Ship when the boat broke loose with him and two men in it and in spite of every exertion they had been carried by the current over the bar and had drifted on shore. To judge how navigable the river is, I stood by the side of the river and saw Mrs. Daly the surgeon’s widow of the 63rd come down in a boat. She was towed by men at times walking nearly to their chins in water, she had started at daybreak and did not reach Fremantle until past seven at night, being a distance of only 16 miles. Sometimes days elapse without being able to have communication between the two settlements (Towns). The river also is in parts so extremely shallow as to prevent good-sized boats from being used on it; they have made


some flat-bottomed boats something like half of a packing case for general use. Took my first walk out with Matthew, found the soil extremely sandy but covered with verdure. The trees were quite bleached and leaning in one direction, giving evident proof of constant heavy winds from one quarter. I understand from those who had first arrived at the commencement of winter that the winds were truly dreadful, coming in sudden squalls with violent bursts of rain. Tents were sometimes entirely blowrn away, leaving the unfortunate inhabitants who had been beneath them exposed to a deluge of rain We did not find one garden in the place, all had failed. We saw one potato patch which appeared tolerably flourishing, it was made soil and about 6 feet by 2. From what I could learn they appeared to have erred in the measures first adopted on landing—it was quite distressing to hear their sufferings, they landed in ‘Garden Island’ in a most tempestuous time of the year, many ill provided. The Governor himself had no tent and was obliged to have a sail fixed, scarcely anything was a protection. Gentlemen and ladies were obliged to share the same tent each night exposed to a deluge of rain, after staying there some time they removed to the entrance of Swan River where they again staid and from thence were again removed from Fremantle to Perth. This town which is the seat of Government is sixteen miles up the river, but the good land does not commence until five miles afterwards and then but in comparatively small quantities. I must say there appears a great want of energy on the part of the settlers; it is true they are waiting for the season to sow their seeds, but I do not see why the intermediate time should be spent in doing nothing, which is the case with many—they might at all events be erecting their houses and preparing for the winter. Melancholy appears to pervade all classes and great dread is felt lest there should be a scarcity of provisions. Captain F. started this evening with the sea breeze for Perth as no goods may be landed until the ship is reported to the Governor. The wind being contrary for me I could not return to the Ship. Mrs. Wells kindly offered me such accommodation as she had, which I thankfully accepted. Mr. and Mrs. W. are at the head of the first establishment here, but have scarcely a comfort about them. One of our barns would


be a mansion beside their house. They have half a small thatched house which makes one room in which they sit, eat and sleep. They have about 96 Men, Women and Children under them but with this establishment they can get nothing done. They have but one attendant and that is a dirty little boy about ten years of age. They can even scarcely get their clothes washed, while at the same time the women are washing for strangers, who are obliged to pay 6 shillings the doz. The servants are in fact receiving wages and food and doing nothing for it. I had a wretched night at Mrs. W. She was so kind as to make me up a bed at the foot of hers and put up a curtain to divide the beds; scarcely was the candle out when out rushed Rats. Two trotted over my head, a third, more bold, came over my face, which so frightened me I was obliged to awake Mr. and Mrs. Wells. A candle was procured but alas there was no chance of sleep for the place was full of the largest fleas I ever saw.

‘'Monday, Feb. 1st. My dear Husband returned without having been able to reach Perth. The boat was grounded, he was obliged to remain in her all the night and return this morning quite tired. Returned to the Ship. Matthew again left me to try and reach Perth.

‘‘Tuesday, Feb. 2nd. Mr. Sands the first Mate went on shore with the ‘Horse House’; it fell out of the boat crossing the bar with two of the men inside of it. The House drifted five miles above the town, every time the men who were inside tried to reach the door it turned over, they were like squirrels in a cage. It was at length overtaken by the boat. It has been taken on shore for the purpose of making a Cottage Ornee for me. Mr. Sands likewise took all the men save the Cook and the Steward. We determined to have a joke with the Gentlemen on shore for leaving us Ladies alone on board ship. Got Richard to hoist the Blue Peter as a signal we were going to sea, half an hour afterwards hoisted the Union Jack tied in knots to show we wanted a boat, at four o’clock began to get rather frightened that no boat came off, so drew down the Blue Peter to show we were in earnest. At eight the boat came off with the Revd. Mr. Davis and Capt. Leard. Quite rejoiced to see them.

“Wednesday, 3rd. Had a restless night quite uneasy about my husband, wish he would return. Several


gentlemen came off to see us. Understood great dissatisfaction prevails against Government. They appear to think its expenditure too small to assist an infant settlement, nor more than 300 per month. Complain likewise at the great Government reserves of land. The whole of one side of the river is kept; the whole of the frontage from Fremantle to Peels Town besides a large quantity of the choicest land near Perth. The Governor has likewise given good grants to the officers of the different Men of War that have been at the Port. They are gone away for three years and in the mean time the land lies idle, and numerous Settlers are waiting on the beach for their grants. No person as yet has had their full grant; settlers that perhaps expected 60,000 Acres have 500 and so in proportion. The exploring Party to the South on which so much depended the fate of the Colony returned this day and without going on shore came oft to see my husband. Two of the Gentlemen were known to me before, but they were in such a state I did not at first recognise them, they had been absent a fortnight during which time they had neither shaved or changed their dress—imagine the state they were in. They give a tolerable good report of the land at the River Leischnault; say it is much better than at the Swan and that the river is navigable a considerable distance up and has a pretty good harbour. They saw an immense number of Swans. The natives were numerous and at one place showed signs of hostility. One powerful man followed them to the beach threatening. The Gentlemen gave me a black swan, the only one I saw at Swan River.

“Matthew returned—delighted to see him, had the Swan for dinner and found it very good eating.

“Thursday, 4th. Rose early to arrange my house, it will make a tolerable residence, but find it too much exposed to the sun and the wind. Teased to death by the flies. Had many visitors in the evening, had trunks of trees placed on each side of the house on which we sit and in the evening have a large fire in the front. Had a tent pitched for the Servants by the side of the house and two tents at a distance from the rest of the party. Cooked under a neighbouring tree.

“Friday, 5th. Moved my house under the shade of a tree.


“Sunday, 7th. Am just roasted!!! Thermometer 92 in the shade. The Natives had numerous fires round us which made the heat intense. Expected every minute to see them come down on us. Had Kangaroo tart for dinner, a present from Mr. Henty, resembles Oxtail; had likewise Paroquets and Quails for dinner—quite colonial.

“Monday, 8th. Heat excessive. Thermometer 98 in the shade; suffered much from the warmth and the flies are so troublesome. We are always thirsty—always drinking and never satisfied, I imagine the water must be brackish, as our well is on the beach. I have scarcely moved all the day.

“Tuesday, 9th. Rose early, not very well, think the water does not agree with me. Went to Perth with Matthew; did not arrive until very late in the evening. The banks of the river are truly beautiful and Melville Water a fine sheet of water. When we arrived at the settlement (Perth) had to make our way through the bush to reach the town guided by the fires. Was not expected before to-morrow, did not find the tent ready so was obliged to walk up and down the town whilst they emptied the tent which was full of people carousing. Never slept in such a miserable place; everything so dirty, sheets, etc. Such quantities of Mosquitoes and fleas. Matthew sat up all the night driving the insects off me. The noise from the neighbouring tents so annoying and the Soldiers sitting up late singing and drinking.

“Wednesday, 10th. Rose at daybreak. Capt. Irwin of the 63rd came down and took me to his house; he is very comfortable. Breakfasted with him and tasted the comforts of an English house, had excellent white bread, butter and milk. The situation of the Town is extremely picturesque but its great distance from the entrance of the river and the numerous shoals must certainly prevent its being the seat of Government. The town is situated on an eminence and has a beautiful bay in front. They have already raised a kind of jetty for the convenience of landing. Many of the Soldiers have reed houses, others have tents. There is an excellent house nearly finished which will be opened as an Hotel and called the Stirling Arms, the keepers of the Coffee tents are making a great deal of money—the lower orders hav-


ing plenty of money. The flies and fleas are beyond description annoying. The Church is composed of reeds and wood and considering the short time in which it was erected does them great credit. They were only eight days from the commencement being anxious to open it on Christmas day. It is large and spacious and has a vestry at the end. Called on the Governor and Mrs. Stirling and was most kindly received. Capt. Stirling is desirous of persuading Matthew to stay and has offered him the situation of Surveyor-General of the Southern district at the River Leischnault. Matthew has applied for a grant of 5000 acres. The Governor has promised to give it him and should we not be back before the end of 1830 will reserve it for him.* Dined with Dr. Milligan. Capt. Irwin was so kind as to insist upon giving up his house to us at night. Slept there surrounded by every comfort. What a contrast to last night. Walked back in the bush but saw nothing worthy of notice; many parts were burnt by the Natives. Saw one of the Lakes—there are three of them, but rather marshes than lakes.

* In May, 1831, Captain Friend was assigned 5,000 acres In the newly-opened Murray River district.

“Thursday, 11th. Had a delightful sail back to Fremantle but was terribly burnt by the sun. A great part of the way the men were obliged to walk in the water and push the boat along. Saw an amazing number of Fish but few birds and those chiefly ducks. Matthew got some good mineralogical specimens. Got home about four o’clock, dreadfully tired, wanted to go to bed but had so many visitors I could not. Quite weary—suffering from the effects of the Sun. We have noticed on the beach a large brown misshapen Moss something like jelly, they have called it here the Sea Slug; since upon more minute inquiry I have little doubt it is La beche de mer, so much in demand, when dried, in India. The Chinese are particularly fond of it. Had a small Kangaroo made me a present, the only one I saw at the Swan.

“Monday, 15th. Matthew returned; gives a sad account of the place. Nothing has been done, no houses erected, he has about 362 Settlers. Much dissatisfaction prevails.

“Tuesday, 16th. Thermometer 61 in the morning, 87 at noon.


“Wednesday, 17th. Were terribly frightened this morning; a party of Natives, 7 in number, came down to our tents. Fortunately Matthew was at home. He shut all the females and children up in my Horse House. I understand the Natives are quite naked with straight hair; they are black—but paint their bodies red. They pulled our breakfast about, tasted everything but particularly liked the sugar. Afterwards Webb, one of Mr. Ridley’s men, asked them to come to his tent, when there he would not let them come in. They endeavoured to force an entrance. Matthew caught up his gun and ran across, seized the most violent by the throat, who drew a kind of knife and attempted to strike him. The other savages levelled their spears and I thought all was over with my dear Husband. I was paralysed with fear. Fortunately at this moment other Gentlemen came up, armed, and no mischief ensued. The Thames, from V.D. Land put in in great distress having sprung a leak and expecting every hour to sink. She had 1200 sheep on board for the Mauritius. It is expected they will be landed and sold. Mr. Walcott returned from Peels Town; the accounts are very bad. The natives had made a large fire to drive the kangaroos. It spread rapidly owing to the dry state of the grass and reached the encampment of Mr. Watson which was entirely burnt. He lost everything I believe except his Stock. A Mr. Smith had his tent also burnt. The fire reached to within a few yards of Mr. Peel’s stores where his Gunpowder was kept.

“Sunday, 21st. Went on the water to Preston Point, beautiful weather. Dined on the grass; after dinner took a walk with Miss Roberts in the wood; we much frightened my good Husband who thought the Natives had carried us off; he came after us in full pursuit, occasionally firing his gun, never saw him so agitated. He appears to have such a horror of the Natives. Did not get home before one in the morning, the wind and tide were both against us, we were fearful we should have been out all the night. Matthew went on shore at one place to try and make a fire; he imprudently shook his powder flask over the flame, when it went off with a loud explosion; it was a mercy he did not lose his hand.

“Sunday. 28th. Mr. Dutton at Preston Point lost his child, a fine little boy about four years of age. It was


supposed the Natives had carried him off, a party having been seen near the house. Many persons went in pursuit of them. One Gentleman about 12 at night came up with a large party encamped; they all ran away with the exception of one who took refuge in a tree. He asked him for the Picaninny; the man pointed to the Mountains. The Gentleman then fired his gun upon which he fell from the tree as dead but immediately got up and ran away. He found about a bushel of fish, each fish was cleaned and carefully wrapped up in a piece of the bark of a tree and tightly bandaged.

“Tuesday, 2nd. Understood some of the men in pursuit of the child have fallen in with a party of Natives and fired upon them; two of them dangerously wounded.

“Friday, 5th. A poor Black Man who keeps a Coffee Tent had it destroyed by fire; it was a most distressing sight. I happened to be passing at the time and witnessed it; his agony of mind was so great. At first they were at a loss how to quench the flames no water being at hand. Till Matthew caught up a quantity of sand and threw upon the tent at the same time tearing it down; fortunately his little bag of money was found and we raised a subscription on the spot for him. The man was so grateful and during our stay when he had fresh provisions or a nice pudding, he would send me a piece with his humble duty. Such dainties as there are always acceptable at Swan River, indeed I must say there is a great deal of what is vulgarly called ‘cupboard love ’ going on here.

“Sunday, 7th. Went to church, the service was performed at Tranby House which was lent for the occasion. Heard that the Cumberland, a fine ship 600 tons, had run upon a reef of rocks off Cape Leawen (Leeuwin) and was a total wreck. Some of the people came up in a boat. The Cumberland had stock for Swan River.

“Monday, 8th. Broke up our encampment at the trees and moved to the beach where we have had a tent erected. Left the place with regret having spent so many happy days there, the whole of the time we did not have one shower of rain and took all our meals in the open air. Rode with the things on the cart and thought it quite delightful. Staid on the beach nearly ten days after we moved. Had for dinner one day a large Bus


tard; it was coarse but everything fresh is considered good at Swan River. Much interested in the account I heard of an Englishman in the bush, who was in a state of great destitution and had been fed for some days by Miss Wittmoond (Wittenoom). Walked with Capt. Irwin to see him; think him to be to a certain extent an imposter. He was lying under a bush, with his head tied up in a sack; he would not suffer it to be taken off, for us to see his face; said his name was-----, that he was brought up an Architect and was the son of the Provost of Dundee; would not take the sack off because he had not been shaved for some time. Capt. Irwin promised to send for him and give him employment, also to send him some clothes. On enquiry we found that the chief part of his story was true but that he had reduced himself to a state we found him in by his excessive dissipation, that he and two other young men shut themselves up in a hut, until they had consumed everything they had. They styled themselves the Glories of Fremantle. One died in a drunken broil the other was still living but in great distress. The day after I saw this man went in the evening to see Mrs. Wells. A violent shower came on. We (Cara and self) were obliged to run across the heath in such a torrent of rain as we never see at home. We were completely drenched and ran in constant fear of the numerous holes that had been dug for the purpose of making wells. Lost our way, it being dark, came up to a reed-built house, saw a man standing outside the closed door, asked him the way and was much startled by having a response in the same voice we had heard in the bag. Got home very wet, the tent completely drenched.

“The day before we left had an application from the friends of a young Lady to take charge of her home to England; objected to it myself, but was overpersuaded by Matthew. She came on board the day we left.

“Sailed for Hobarton, March 19th, quite sorry to leave Swan River and the many kind friends, particularly one Family that had come out with us. About ... passengers came on with us from Swan River. A Newspaper had been established some time before we left but it was a stupid concern. The stock out of the Thames was sold by public auction; the sheep did not average more than fifteen shillings each. Whilst we were here a runaway match in the town made a great sensation. After the young Lady had run away, the Clergyman disappointed them and did not come from Perth as promised. To my great surprise at night the Gentleman brought the fair one to my tent and begged me to take charge of her. I had no room but she staid with Miss W. and in the morning was married from Mr. Gillibrand’s tent. Went to give her joy, had Cake and Wine. Afterwards the happy pair proceeded to a neighbouring tent (the most miserable place I ever saw) for the Honey Moon. Swan River is considered on the whole healthy. Dysentery prevails but seldom proves fatal. The only vegetable found is Samphire, which is either eaten with Vinegar or boiled. I was much amused with the account I heard from Miss E. of Mr. Peel’s arrangements. Mr. P. pays his people weekly with his own Notes on Messrs. Cooper & Lucy, which notes he receives again for payment of things purchased at his own Stores and for which he charges an exorbitant price. At one time his charges were so out of character his people came and applied to the Governor and he was made to reduce them. Nobody takes his Notes but himself and his people. Gentlemen’s sons who had come out with high expectations were obliged to stand behind Counters selling tea, sugar, etc.

“The night before we left a great deal of anxiety prevailed owing to the natives having attempted to carry off a female from Preston Point, which is about three miles from Fremantle. A Gentleman coming down the river was alarmed by the violent screams of a Female, he pushed his boat ashore and found the Natives endeavouring to carry off a female Servant. He fired and they fled. The families residing at Preston Point used occasionally to see the Natives on the opposite side of the water; they used at night to kindle huge fires and dance round in the most fantastic manner, more like Demons than anything else.

“A Literary Society is established at Perth to which Ladies are admitted as members. I put my name down, was ballotted for and elected. I was the third Lady on the books, being preceded by Mrs. Stirling, the Governor’s Lady, and Mrs. Roe, the Surveyor-General’s Lady. The subscription was 2 guineas. They have already funds in hand and intend immediately to commence building the rooms.”

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