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

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

The first year in the north-west

Mr Paul Hasluck

(Read before the Society, July 27, 1928)

Hasluck, Paul 1927, 'The first year in the north-west', Early Days, vol. 1, part 4: 1-16.


In the paper by Mr. A. E. Richardson, read before the Society at the May meeting, a general outline of the history of the North West was given. The explorations of Gregory were shown to be the direct cause of settlement and the names of Walter Padbury and John Wellard were mentioned as those on whose behalf the first settlements were made. The purpose of this paper is to supplement Mr. Richardson’s paper by filling in the details of the establishment of the stations for Padbury and Wellard and by endeavouring to present a story of daily life in the first year in the North-West.

The sources used in compiling the paper were principally the diaries of Charles Nairn (Padbury’s manager), and of William Shakespeare Hall (Wellard’s manager). References were made to the files of the newspapers of the time and to records of conversation with Mr. Edward Lewington, of Rockingham, who was one of Hall’s original party. For the use of the diaries acknowledgements are made to Mrs. Rutherford (for Mr. Nairn’s diary) and to Mrs. G. Clifton, of West Murray, and to the Messrs. H. E. Hall, of Cossack, and Aubrey Hall, of Carnarvon (for the diary of their father). Both ladies are also to be thanked for spending considerable time and trouble in making copies of the originals. Mr, Lewington’s information was broached as a result of the interest of Mrs. Sharman.

Before proceeding to the story told in these diaries passing reference may be made to the feeling of the times in regard to the settlement of the new country. The settlement of the North West in 1863 was a young colony’s first act of


colonisation. From the original holdings on the Swan River and in the South West settlement had extended steadily in all directions and settlers had pushed further out and further out again, hut the opening of the North West meant the sending of an expedition on a nine days’ voyage to a region isolated and in many respects different from the existing settlements. The attitude of the times to the North West is clear. The leading article of the “Inquirer” of April 4, 1863, says: “Upon the success of Mr. Padbury s adventure will, in part, depend the immediate colonisation of an entirely new country and it may be, hereafter, a separate province. Whether that settlement is for long to be attached to the colony or not will make but little difference; it will under any circumistances form a valuable outlet for the more energetic of our population, who now leave our shores for more distant lands; and will also from its proximity, be closely connected to us in a commercial sense.” Later the relation of the new territory to Western Australia was likened to the relation of Port Phillip to New South Wales. In a leading article of June 3 the “Inquirer" has a vision of the new settlement becoming before long “a flourishing portion of Western Australia, if not a distinct colony.” Western Australia’s future in the success of the new settlement was to be rosy.

The conditions under which settlement was made were not easy. Nothing was known of the North except from the reports of Gregory and of the earlier explorer Grey. The early settlers had to do a good deal of their own exploring after they landed. They had to provide their owin transport up the coast and their communications with civilisation. They had to find their own harbours. They had to take means for their own protection and ensure their own food supply. The Government made liberal land regulations, but in all respects the settlement was the result of individual private enterprise. It was the enterprise of Walter Padbury and John Wellard, and very little else that led to the settlement. Padbury and Wellard may be called truly the founders of the North-West; their managers—Nairn and Hall— who went up to the distant region to establish settlement and maintain it with a handful of stockmen, were truly the pioneers.

The scene of the story is the coast between the mouths of the Fortescue and DeGrey Rivers. Large parts of his


region, particularly in the neighbourhood of Nicol Bay, Gregory had reported to be suitable for pastoral purposes.

The first problem before the settlers was the finding of a landing place near to fresh water, for much of the coast was low, and marshy from the salt tides. Having landed j they had to choose a permanent station. Their chief dan- j gers were the natives, and the possibility that in the early years, some Occident might cut off their communication with the Swan River. Their high hopes were the founding of a new and rich province.

The story of Padbury’s settlement commences with the departure from Fremantle on April 4, 1863, of the cutter Mystery, 16 tons, under the command of Captain Peter Hedland, for Nicol Bay and DeGrey River. The passengers were Messrs. Hunt and James Turner. This was the exploring party. The North West coast was not very well known, and the Government being disinclined and the state of public finances not permitting much assistance for venturesome schemes of colonisation, the resolute old pioneer had purchased the vessel and despatched it at his own expense to examine the coast and take soundings.

Hunt, the navigator, was made available by the Government. The only other help the Government gave whs the services of Ridley, a surveyor, and of some native prisoners from its well-stocked store at Rottnest. For Ridley’s work in helping to explore the country was granted the use of “surveying instruments, etc., from the Government Stores, and camp equipage, pack saddles, clothing and such articles as could be made by convict labour without any great outlay of money.” (Governor’s speech to the Legislative Council, June 10, 1863.)

The Mystery sailed to Breaker Inlet at the mouth of the DeGrey River, but could not find a suitable landing. At Point Larry, the west horn of the inlet, there was a landing, but there was no certainty that the point was not cut off from the mainland by the mangrove creeks and salt marshes which intersected the coast in all directions. About 30 miles west of the DeGrey was discovered a “beautiful harbour completely landlocked.” It was at first named Mangrove Harbour but was later called Port Hedland, after the master of the Mystery. But the disadvantages of Port Hedland were that in unfavourable weather it would be


difficult for a sailing ship to beat into it, and there was no known fresh water nearer than the DeGrey. The cutter returned down the coast towards Nicol Bay.

Meanwhile the main party of settlers had left Fremantle on April 24 in the barque Tien Tsin, 254 tons, under the command of Captain Jarman. The passengers were W. Padbury, M. Samson, S. Ridley (the Government surveyor), J. McCourt, C. Nairn, D. Brown, W. Jones, G. Sivert, a boy who was entered on the strength as “cook” and five natives—one of them a free native named Dugald, and the other four prisoners. The cargo was 11 horses, 6 working bullocks, 540 sheep and provisions.

The Tien Tsin and the Mystery met in Nicol Bay on May 4, when Hunt, Turner and Hedland reported their findings. Then, under the swinging oil lamp in the cabin of the Tien Tsin, an all-night council was held. The report from the Mystery and the maps of Gregory were all that was known of the country. The problem was whether to land among unknown difficulties at Nicol Bay, at Mangrove Harbour, or at the DeGrey, or to land at a sandy beach to the east of Cape Lambert, 25 miles from known fresh water and feed. It was decided to take the surer course, land on the eastern side of Cape Lambert, and make for the Harding River, on which Gregory had reported there was plenty of feed and water for the stock.

“So, up anchor,” continues Nairn's diary, “and set sail- for Cape Lambert (on the 5th) to the east of which at the sandy beach mentioned we find a pretty good harbour. The Mystery leading and the Tien Tsin following under easy sail, sounding all the way, we came to anchor a few miles from shore. Messrs. Padbury, Ridley, Turner, C. Nairn, McCourt and Dougall (a native) landed (the Captain, Mr. Hunt and Samson in another boat taking-soundings) in search of fresh water. Saw several natives on the beach, great strapping fellows from 5ft. lOin. to 6ft. 3in., very noisy, but friendly, and incessantly begging for tobacco. We got back to the boat about dusk, no water found, but in other respects the landing will do, there being some nice grass on the sand hills, and the quicker we land now the better as the sheep are beginning to die too quick for us and the bad water the stock are now using injures the horses as well.”

The bay into which they had entered not having a name on the Adrriiralty charts, was called Tien Tsin Harbour,


after the ship; an island on the eastern side Jarman Island, after the captain, and the inlet at the head of the bay, into which, later on, the vessels ran at high tide to unload, was named Butcher Inlet after the chief officer. To-day the I landing in Tien Tsin Harbour is known as Cossack.

The stock were all landed and watered at a shallow well J dug near the beach. The well turned salt during the night. The stock were in a bad state and were cut off by the salt marshes at the mouth of the Harding River from the fresh water seven miles away. A crossing was discovered by Nairn and McCourt, however, and starting at 11 o’clock at night on May 8 to get the benefit of the low tide, they brought the sheep across by moonlight to the pasture and fresh water. Forty sheep and a bullock were lost on the way, mainly as a result of drinking salt water. The first temporary resting place over the marsh is referred to by Nairn as Dead Sheep Camp.

A short trip inland was made; the division of the Harding iiito two branches 17 miles from its mouth was discovered, and then Padbury, Samson and McCourt left by the Tien Tsin for Fremantle, leaving Naim in charge of the stock and Ridley and Hunt preparing to explore. The cutter, which was to maintain communication with the new settlement, was lying in Butcher Inlet.

On the next day (May 13) Nairn shifted the party about three miles above Dead Sheep Camp to a shady spot on the river where there was “a fine pool of fresh water and abundance of good glass.” This was named Walnut Tree Camp. That night heavy rain fell and the camp was flooded. Nairn writes : “Our tents for convenience were pitched under walnut trees for the benefit of shade, but it proved to be a low spot and before morning all round our tents and where they stood was knee deep in water. All our guns and cartridges, most of the provisions, and selves and bedclothes, all were nearly under water. Everything less than two feet high was covered. When daylight at last arrived we cut a pretty figure, not for want of water, but grub and fire and all the arms useless. The river in front of the camp that yesterday had scarcely any running water, now had risen five feet in perpendicular. Shifted tents to higher ground and before night had most of the arms again ready for action. The plains very boggy from last night’s rain; bullocks and


horses cannot shift from where they are. Some of the sheep got bogged. No chance of drying clothes or anything else except by fire and then had to wet one side while we dried the other, for the rain continued, but not so heavy.”

For two days the floods isolated the camp but the river fell as quickly as it had risen and the men were soon rearranging their camp, building a temporary yard, attending to the sheep and marvelling at the fact that the grass was growing indies higher every day. When it came to the mustering and counting of the sheep it was found that only 424 were left, over 100 having been lost since leaving Fremantle. The ewes were now beginning to lamb.

It was Padbury’s intention to settle not on the Harding, but on the DeGrey, and before leaving- for the south he had arranged that Nairn should go with Hunt and Ridley overland to the DeGrey to try and discover permanent water or a harbour there for the landing of stock in the future, and also to make an overland route for the removal of the stock from the Harding. Accordingly, on May 21, Ridley, Hunt, Nairn and the native Dugald started out from the camp with four saddle and three pack horses to find their way to the DeGrey, 150 miles distant.

The journey there and back was accomplished in safety. The George, Sherlock and Yule Rivers discovered by Gregory. were crossed and water was also found in several creeks. Many good patches of grass were seen. Sometimes the travellers were in grass that hid the horses, but at other times they travelled uncomfortably through the spinifex. They found, however, that the overlanding of stock and sheep would be practicable. They found much good land by the rivers and Nairn passed the opinion that it would be good for maize and tobacco and other cultivation, as well as producing two crops of grass.

It was during this expedition that the first clash with the natives occurred. On the landing at Tien Tsin Harbour, the natives had been very noisy in their jabbering, had begged for tobacco and gobbled it up with relish and had shown a fear of the horned stock. But they had not molested the party in any way. Although Ridley and Turner, on two successive days, while sitting on guard over the stores on the beach during the unloading, had feared that treachery was being meditated against them, nothing had happened, and


Nairn, dismissed their account as of little importance, and, indeed, suggests in his diary that Ridley and Turner were rather nervous. Generally the natives had avoided the newcomers. On May 30, howtever, as the exploring party was crossing a stream bed near the DeGrey River, a band of natives appeared on the banks above them. Two widely different accounts of the affair are given by Ridley and Nairn. Ridley, in his journal, heightens the danger and makes him-r self the chief actor. Nairn represents Ridley as being in some trejpidation and treats the .affair as trivial. Apparently what happened was that a band of 18 natives appeared on the banks but retreated when the explorers rode forward, the flight being hastened by the shots Ridley fired over their heads.

On the return to the Harding from this exploration Nairn decided to take the stock overland to the DeGrey. The Tien Tsin was now expected on her second voyage, and so arrangements were made with Hedland, the master of the Mystery, to wait a few days for her, and if she did not arrive to leave a note buried at the well on the beach instructing the Tien Tsin to bring the stock to Point Larry, where it was necessary for the Mystery to go with provisions for the overland party. These arrangements were carried out and for a time the Harding River was deserted.

On June 23 the sheep and bullocks were started overland in two sections. The bullocks reached the DeGrey on July 3 under the charge of Nairn, who then went back to meet Dan Brown, who was bringing up the sheep. It was difficult droving. Lambing had not quite ended. For miles two or three of the party went ahead burning the spini-fex to make a path for the flock. On July 24 they reached the Ridley -River and camped. “And now,” wrote Nairn on that day, “it is quite time We gave thanks to God for His goodness in bringing us through with so little trouble. I for one do from the bottom of my heart.”

Two nights later wild dogs snapped up five lambs; the following night another was killed.

On July 27 the site for a permanent camp and the first station in the North West was chosen on the western channel of the DeGrey and on July 30 the stock were moved over. On the following day a large flooded gum tree was marked “N. Jy. 31—1863.” In the meantime the Mystery had duly arrived at Breaker Inlet at the mouth of the DeGrey


and was anchored about six miles below the station. Stores were landed and brought up by the bullocks. On Sunday, August 2, all hands enjoyed the first day of rest since leaving Walnut Tree Camp. On August 5 the Mystery sailed for the south. No sign had been seen of the Tien Tsin. Everyone feared she had gone down in a gale. The Mystery must leave and return at once with stores for the pioneers. The next few weeks for those left on the DeGrey were busy ons. They worked putting up the tents, building huts, clearing land for a garden, cutting timber for a stockyard and house. On August 8 Naim records the first attempt at cultivation. He sowed pumpkins. On August 10 he sowed cabbage, radish, tobacco and later he sowed maize. The tobacco never grew. All the other plants came up, but, excepting the pumpkins, were eaten by the mice. The mice were particularly troublesome. After finishing the garden they busied themselves about the house "running,” Nairn writes, "steeplechases over the men while they are asleep, boring holes under the iron walls of the house, through the cane walls of the huts and stealing almost everything . . . They have eaten two holes in my hat, bridles that were not hung up, and bags. Anything not harder than lead they will try to gnaw, and anything short of 16ozs. weight they will try to steal/'

By September 11 the house was finished and the men were getting on well with the stockyard. There was still no news of the Tien Tsin and they were now* anxiously awaiting the Mystery. For months they had been living on damper and very little else, game being scarce. On September 11 Nairn wrote: "Moved the goods into the iron house. Dan and English getting on well with stockyard and making a good job of it, but we may never use it, particularly if the Mystery does what the Tien Tsin has done (gone to the bottom). It will be finished in a day or two.” The men, too, were often ill, and the natives were getting bolder, and had to be watched closely. The work went on. They cut the long grass for hay and carted it in. The mare Linda foaled and the foal, the first bred in the North West, was named Spinifex No. 1. In the intervals pf working on the station Naim rode out on long journeys exploring the possibilities of the run. He returned with news of more wonderful grass lands. Dan Brown went down almost daily to Point Larry to look for the Mystery. At noon on October 6 he returned joyfully with the news of her arrival.


“And for the third time,” writes Nairn, “this one-masted craft has raised my drooping spirits and made me believe more than ever in a supreme Protecting Power.” The following day the cutter was unloaded of all her goods, including 2 pigs, 2 cocks and 1 hen. On October 29 there is only one entry in the journal: “Hen laid her first egg to-day.”

With the arrival of the Mystery all was explained. The Tien Tsin had not gone down in a gale. There had been confusion over the arrangements. On arrival at Tien Tsin Harbour Captain Jarman had not found the letter left by the Mystery. He had expected to meet the cutter there and when she did not appear he feared that she had been lost at sea. It was supposed that Nairn and his party were safe on the DeGrey. So the stock from the Tien Tsin—516 sheep and 17 cattle—had been landed on the beach and driven to the Harding, where they had been left in the charge of McCourt, who had come up on the boat with Pollard, Conway, W. Taylor and a boy. The Tien Tsin had then returned to Fremantle.

That had been the end of the Tien Tsin’s services for Padbury. She had returned, however, to Tien Tsin Harbour and landed stock for Mr. Wellard. McCourt’s party had then heard nothing of the Mystery. On the return voyage, however, the Tien Tsin had passed the Mystery at sea, one day’s sail from Fremantle. All the misunderstanding had been explained and Turner, Ridley and Hunt, who were returning to Fremantle in the Mystery, had been able to -.tell the story of the DeGrey settlement. As soon as possible after the arrival at Fremantle the Mystery had left again to relieve the settlement at the DeGrey, and calling at Nicol Bay on the way up to re-ship some of the stores landed by the Tien Tsin and to take on board Taylor and Conway, had reached the DeGrey on October 26 to cause the happy scene already recorded.

While the Mystery lay in Breaker Inlet the first shearing at the DeGrey took place. It was finished on November 6 and three bales of sheep’s \Mool and half a bale of lambs’ wool was loaded on to the cutter. This done, Nairn journeyed overland to the Harding and reached Walnut Tree Camp on November 14, where he found McCourt’s flock rather dirty and in poor condition. Mr. Wellard’s station was now established a few miles higher up the river, under


the managership of William Shakespeare Hall. McCourt had also done shearing and, the clip—-4 bales of unpressed and unwashed wool—was loaded into the Mystery, which had called at Tien Tsin Harbour on the way down from the DeGrey. On this trip the Mystery also took down three cwt. of pearl shell.

Xaim decided to leave Padbury's second flock on the Harding under the supervision of Hall for the time being and. after collecting the 160 Padbury's bullocks that remained. drove them to the DeGrey. He reached home to hear that the native Tommy had gone to the bush for 8 days with a gun, carried off a native woman by force of arms and. it was also reported, shot a man. Tommy was punished lightly, for the shooting could not be proved. A fortnight later he cleared out again.

It was now December. The first pumpkin in the garden was cut. A whirlwind passed without doing much damage. An excursion was made searching for pearl shell on the reefs. Life moved on very quietly and on Xew Year’s Day Naim left off the watch that he had mounted every night since the first landing. Early in January the rain came. In three weeks the grass in the river flats was “so thick that a five foot man could not see his way through it and walking in comfort was not to be thought of.” Lambing commtenced. On February 12 was recorded: “The great event of the month; the first plough was stuck in the ground after dinner, it being the first ground turned by a plough on the DeGrey.” Haymaking started. Grasshoppers came in thousands. Naim, or. a journey across to the Harding to take over his sheep from Hall, writes of passing through “two flocks of grasshoppers so thick that we could not see the ground and when some of them flew up we had to spur our horses to get through them.” It was unpleasant for the pioneer pastor-alists but a bountiful season for the natives. They ate the grasshoppers.

The natives had been much more friendly for some months. When Nairn was out exploring in November he records (Nov. 11) : “Started early without breakfast and after tracking up natives (at Peter's Creek) in search of water came upon a whole mob of them just breaking up their camp, to begin their day's work. As soon as they saw us there was a great shout from them and (they) came


running towards (us) shouting Willeberamurra (Dougall) and Thuleganmurra (myself) gooneberry (good fellow).

We found that many of them were friends and were known to us and the others were very soon made known who we were by the rest, and each one simulated the other in their noisy welcome and guidance to water. I think if the horses had consented they would have carried the lot. We at last came to water but after all the tumult there was only a small well. Gave the horses what water we could, which was not much, but enough to keep them going, there were so many natives and each one wanted water for the horses which were waiting in their turn, and now and then a drink for themselves to taste the water from my baling; and they would if they were let drink as much as a horse. Saddled up and gave them some of my spare damper and some sugar I did not use as the tea was forgotten, at starting. I counted 80 able bodied men. Before this a good many had satisfied their curiosity and gone, and I should say at first there could not have been less than 100 or 120 men, independent of women and children we did not see. No water at the Snake Rocks. Arrived at the Turner about 12 and halt for a day to give the horses the benefit of the water. Four natives came to see how we got along.”

On another occasion (Oct. 14) five natives came to the station bringing their own food and appeared quite happy when they were allowed to stay for the night. “My natives,” writes Nairn, “showed them a specimen of their Korobury and singing; afterwards they treated us to a similar entertainment. Their Korobury which we saw is very ordinary, not so fast and boisterous as ours, but much more correct as to time; the singing is far superior to any native airs 1 have ever heard being more solemn and so very correct to time both with voice and gesture and at the conclusion they all stop as if it was one voice and sometimes come so low at the finish it becomes almost a whisper.”

For the first year at the DeGrey indeed the settlers got pn well with the natives. Nairn managed them well. His only fault, according to Lewington, was putting too much trust in everybody and particularly in natives. The fierce hostility came later and is outside the scope of this paper.

At the end of February Nairn went to the Harding again and took over his flock from Hall and drove them—419 sheep, and 38 lambs of the original shipment, and 120 lambs


of the new season—to the DeGrey. At this stage, a little less than a year aftc~ the first arrival of Padbury’s party on the North West Coast, we will leave the DeGrey station and turn to the early days with Wellard’s party on the Harding.

Mr. Wellard’s party sailed from Fremantle in the Tien Tsin on August 8, 1863. The cargo was 370 sheep, 26 cattle, 9 horses and stores. Wellard accompanied the party to Tien Tsin Harbour where the stock were landed safely and then returned to Fremantle leaving William Shakespeare Hall in charge. Hall, a powerful man with a reputation as a great bushman, had had previous experience of the North as a member of Gregory’s exploring party in 1861. McCourt, Nairn’s shepherd, who had been an old companion of Hall’s on the Gregory expedition, it will be remembered was already at Walnut Tree Camp on the Harding River with the second flock of sheep sent north by Pad-bury. These two men worked well together. For the time being Hall kept his sheep near the beach, at a place he called “Dig Down,” and the first house, made from timber brought up from Fremantle, was erected on the hill' above the landing. Later the sheep were moved across the marsh and on October 17 Hall chose Gregory’s Camp 49, above the junction of the East and West Harding, as the site for his station. Andover, founded on that spot was the second station in the North West and the first permanent settlement in the Harding River district. For a time then, there was the station at Camp 49, McCourt’s Camp and the house at the Bay. But early in November the house was removed to 49.

There was plently to do on the station. The unremitting labour continued over Christmas. Here is a page from Hall's diary:—

Dec. 17: Men after ewes and lambs and horses. Abraham shot three emus, sent us two. Carting stores, coopering casks and driving in all our horses.
Dec. 18: Hunting horses, stowing stores, fitting up house.
Dec. 19: The same and making furniture.
Dec. 20: Unpacking, stowing stores.
Dec. 21: Making mauls.
Dec. 22 and 23: Splitting for fold, boring, trimming, etc.
Dec. 24: Killed a sheep, 43lbs.
Dec. 25: Christmas Day, excellent dinner.
Dec. 26: Working at fold, quarrying, etc.


The only interludes in the labour—apart from the feast of Christmas Day—were Nairn’s arrival from the DeGrey and the strange conduct of Laing, the cook, of whom it is recorded that one day he refused to do the cooking as he said he had taken an oath against it. After that he worked, on the building. Besides Laing the hands at Andover, as far as can be gathered, were Joe Pumphrey, Harry Green and Ted Lewington and the natives Barrigal and Billy. Dixon, one of Wellard’s original party, and two natives had been sentback by the Mystery in November. With Nairn’s flocks were McCourt and Sivert, whose nickname was ap-oarently Chum, and the native Abraham. It is possible that there may have been one or two others. After Naim removed his flocks to the DeGrey McCourt stayed on with Hall, at:£3. a month, which was better than the 25/- or 30/-a month which was the more usual pay for shepherds and stockmen in those days.

Life at Andover continued very quietly until the end of February, when Lewington, a boy in his teens, was attacked by* a native. Lewington’s own story, confirmed in the main particulars by Hall’s diary is as follows:—“The native Mul-landee had been working at the station and when he wouldn’t carry some water the cook gave him two behind and the native got wild and rushed straight down to the river where I was minding the cattle. I wias fishing. I had King Mool-ligunn’s boy Jacky with me and I noticed that he kept on making signs but I didn’t know anything until the nigger knocked me into the water with his stone hammer. As soon as he knocked me in he jumped in after me. He lammed at me with his hammer but I put my hand up. His look was enough to kill a man without being hit. His eyes were nearly bursting out of his head and he looked fearful. He lost his hammer but he grabbed me by the arms. I called for lackey. The native let me go to grab Jacky and I got out of the pool. I went for him then but he turned and ran with me at him, but, I didn’t follow him too far. I up and went for home as hard as I could.”

Hall went out with a party searching for a couple of days *but Mullandee could not be seen. The searchers found something less expected. The black mare Lucy, abandoned by Gregory in 1861 because of her weakness, was found on the George River. She was ridden down and led home. Hall notes.: “The old mare came away from her solitude with as much pleasure as we did with her. She intends


to write a sequel to the adventures of Robinson Crusoe.” The natives were acting suspiciously now. They were seen concealed in the scrub with spears. Lewington was followed. McCourt was followed. “I must keep a sharp look out for the stock as I think these fellows intend mischief.” Hall noted on March 6.

The danger apparently passed. Lewington says that this is what happened: “Mr. Hall came and talked to them. He showed them the guns and said: ‘If you are badja, I’m badja. If you begin, I begin.’ The next morning the natives had gone.”

In April the Withnells, the third settlers, arrived and the women folk of their party were accommodated temporarily at Andover. The routine work continued. Here is another page from Hall’s diary:—

May 30: Men at usual work, cutting battens for sheds. Self clearing out house, looking to provisions and other things; resalting beef, making butter.
May 31: Two men as before. Me. and self ploughing. Lewington brought in all horses. Sheep counted, 354 or 5, which is right, with three dead and nine killed.
June 1: One man digging trench to fold, two ploughing; one clearing bushes.
June 2: As above.
June 3: Men as above. Self making a harrow. Lew-mgton shot a turkey.
June 4: All employed. First ewe lambs.
June 5: Sunday.
June 6: Two men ploughing. First attempt to grow corn. Self cutting steps and blocks.
June 7: Men as above. Self seeking lost sheep (not those of the House of Israel) but two with lambs. Lewington came home much hurt from a severe fall with his horse.

In July the first shearing at Andover commenced. There seems to have been changes in the staff. The new names are Tucker, Albert and Connor. In August the station enjoyed the first products of its garden—beans, lettuce and radish. The natives became troublesome again. They gathered armed with spears in the river flats. King Moolli-gunn. a fine intelligent native who was very friendly to the


whites, gave a warning. On August 24, Hall writes: “I went up the river and brought in Ney (a horse), and saw the bulls and bullocks, and a few natives, who told me to be off. I supposed they thought I was after them. I left McCourt, Albert and Tucker at home (the two former stowed away) to give the natives a chance of attacking the house, but they thought better of it. At about sundown I went to Withnell’s to let them know there was going to be a great muster of natives and put them on their guard, but Moolligunn had informed them previously. McCourt was also employed making cartridge pouches which I had cut out. The natives were also anxious to know where every person was, and watched me from the top of a hill, and sent a boy with one spear to the house, which I have no doubt was meant for Tucker, if he gave them a chance to use it.”

The uneasiness continued until September but again the natives dispersed and the year passed quietly with routine work at the station.

Thus, on the DeGrey and the Harding the dozen or so men worked obscurely for their 30/- a month under the direction of Nairn and Hall. “It w'as a hard life, but we had some good times,” says Lewington. He remembers principally his shepherding sometimes 25 miles from the station, his gallops after emus with the dogs, and the game he shot. It was mostly steady work with the coming of a. ship as a great event. The natives usually brought the news ot its arrival, in great excitement crying, “Injeballa koker-ella.”

Of the many and various ships that have sailed or gone down on the North West coast the greatest seems to be the little cutter Mystery—a one-masted, sixteen-ton, wooden boat, which, according to Ridley, swarmed with fleas and cockroaches. Her master, Peter Hedland, was a Dutchman, and a very nice fellow, as everyone who knew him testified. His end was tragic. He was speared by natives in Nicol Bay. Many was the time he had brought good cheer to the lonely settlers.

A year after their landing we left the first settlers still toiling on the stations, Soon others came to share their task. Some of the old originals went south again; many stayed in the north, the first of the big and distinctive band of Nor'-Westerners, and there they died or were killed.


As far as is known, Lewington is the only survivor. "Great times,” says he, "and a great country.” And after a silence, thinking of those he knew, he adds, “Great men.”

Nairn, at the age of 32, went down w!ith the schooner Emma, which left the North for Fremantle in March, 1867, with 42 persons on board, and was never heard of again. It was only chance that Hall was not on that boat too. Hall lived to old age, associated in various capacities with the North West and becoming chairman of the Cossack Municipal Council. He was drowned at Cossack in 1895. The funeral took place in heavy rain. Owing to the state of the roads no vehicle could be obtained but his old friends took his coffin on their shoulders and carried it along muddy roads through the teeming rain to its last resting place, anxious to pay their last meed of respect to one who was described as “the father of the district, a model of intrepidity, integrity and honour.

Garry Gillard | New: 7 October, 2021 | Now: 7 October, 2021