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

Early Days: Volume 2, 1932-1936

Peter Nicholas Brown (1797-1846): First Colonial Secretary of Western Australia (1829-1846)

Dr. Cyril Bryan and F.I. Bray

[Read before the Society, July 31, 1935.]

Bryan, Cyril & F.I. Bray 1935, 'Peter Nicholas Brown (1797-1846): First Colonial Secretary of Western Australia (1829-1846)', c: 1-32.


The Honourable Peter Nicholas Brown (or Broun), first Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, was descended from an ancient French family, one of whom is said to have set out from France for Scotland in 1073 to assist Malcolm Canmore in his struggle with William the Conqueror. Burke’s Peerage does not take the family back as far as this, contenting itself with stating that the Brouns were in possession of the lands of Colstoun in the County of Haddington, Scotland, in the 14th century. But Dod's Peerage bridges the two periods by relating the story of the Colstoun Pear, which fruit (said to be still preserved at Colstoun) was traditionally believed to have been invested by a Broun ancestor (in the person of Hugo de Gifford about the year 1200) with the priceless virtue of securing unfailing prosperity for its possessor. The Pear came into the possession of the Broun family through the marriage of a Broun with a daughter of the Lord Yester in the 16th century.


A century later the Colstoun Pear bore fruit of a kind when Patrick Broun of Colstoun, Deputy Sheriff of Haddington, was on February 16, 1685-6 created a Baronet of Nova Scotia. That, however, was the extent of its fruit; or shall we say that all its fruit from that out was poison fruit so far as this branch of the Brouns was concerned? For within two years, Sir Patrick Broun, the first baronet was dead: a dozen years later his second son Robert (together with the latter’s two sons) was drowned: and a dozen years later still his first son, Sir George Broun (the second baronet) was likewise dead—also drowned, according to Dod’s Peerage, together with his wife and family—when automatically the title passed to his cousin. And all this because the Lady Elizabeth, wife of the second Baronet, had foolishly attempted to eat the Colstoun Pear, in proof of which the Pear to this day still shows the mark of her teeth! But there are some who will have it another way: with them the Lady Elizabeth only dreamed of eating the Colstoun Pear on the night of her marriage. No matter: the result is written in this grisly record of drownings, and the vaunted power of the Pear seems to have been more of a hoax than anything else.

All the male descendants of the First Baronet having died, the title passed to a second cousin. But the Colstoun Pear remained in the possession of Jean, the daughter of Robert, second son of the First Baronet, who also inherited the Broun estate. In her person and in that of her descendants the Pear regained something of its original promise, for her son became Lord Colstoun, while later generations blossomed into Earls of Dalhousie.

Sir George Broun, the Third Baronet, was a second cousin of the Second Baronet. He was the eldest son of Alexander Broun of Bassendean, which explains our first Colonial Secretary’s choice of that name for his country seat at West Guildford. Dying childless, he was succeeded by his brother, Alexander, who was in turn succeeded by his son, another Alexander, as the Fifth Baronet in 1750.

But this Sir Alexander Broun again failing issue the title now passed to a second-cousin-twice-removed. Richard Broun, a parson, who therefore became the


Sixth Baronet though he never used the title. He married Robina McBryde, which introduced another name into the family as we shall see. The parson, Richard, died in 1781 and was succeeded by his eldest son James as Seventh Baronet. The parson’s second son William, however, interests us more, for he was the father of Peter Nicholas Broun, our first Colonial Secretary. Peter was not the only son. He had an elder brother, William James Broun, Government Secretary, Guernsey, Channel Isles; and a younger brother Richard McBryde Broun, who accompanied Peter to the Swan River Settlement in the Parmelia on that memorable voyage and in 1835 became Government Resident at Fremantle, succeeding George Leake, whose daughter Anne he married in 1837.

Such is the ancestry of the man whose name is writ so large on the first pages of our history. It only remains to add a few more remarks. There is a tradition in the BROUN family that their original descent was from the Blood Royal of France, a descent that may be gauged from the family Coat-of-Arms. We confess that we have not gone into that further than to notice that the motto accompanying the family arms has a right royal touch. FLOREAT MAJESTAS! Let Majesty flourish!

Is it only a coincidence that the watchword of the City of Perth, which owes so much to this First of our Civil Servants, should also be FLOREAT? Whether intentional or not, it should serve to remind us of this godfather of the Colony, and to exclaim FLOREAT with gratitude whenever his memory is invoked.


At this point we might attempt to make clear the tangle of his name. Was it Brown or Broun? A man, of course, is entitled to spell his own name as he wishes, and the fact is that our first Colonial Secretary for the first fifteen years of his life in Western Australia subscribed his name as B-R-O-W-N. There is no doubt whatever about that, but what had caused him to deviate from the old family name of B-R-O-U-N we do not know. Whether his father had also called himself


Brown we do not know, either, although it should be a point easy of settling. But somewhere we have seen it that the whole family in the middle of last century reverted to the old name of Broun, which if true indicates that for some time at least the Baronets, and the whole “tree,” had become Brown. That is confirmed by Dr. J. S. Battye who, however, further suggests that the family was mixed up in some way in the Young Pretender’s Rebellion in 1745 which caused them to change the name from Broun to Brown. What authority he has for that we cannot tell; but he must have some, for he goes on to state in an official letter on the subject that in 1843 “the Head of the Family changed back to B-R-O-U-N, and all the collaterals did the same.”

In the name of B-R-O-W-N the Colonial Secretary continued to be known and to sign his name until 1843. Then for the first time, as far as we can ascertain, he signs himself P. B-R-O-U-N. This signature appears at the foot of the Estimates for 1843; but whether he persisted from that time in signing himself B-R-O-U-N we cannot affirm. This, we are aware, raises a doubt that he did so. It is justified by reference to a paragraph in the “Inquirer” of September 25, 1844: “The Colonial Secretary in writing his name has now adopted the “U” instead of the “W,” being the orthography in use by the head of the family.” Five days before this he had signed a pilot’s licence as P. B-R-O-U-N, and from that date the signature “P. B-R-O-W-N” was never reverted to.

The change of name is confusing, when one attempts to write down an account of his life, however short. Are we to call him B-R-O-W-N or B-R-O-U-N? If we were merely referring to him, we could call him B-R-O-U-N, the name by which he has come down to us. But when it comes to quoting documents, and the signature at the bottom, he has to be written down as B-R-O-W-N. Sir Hal Colebatch in his “First Hundred Years” makes the most extraordinary mistake of saying the Colonial Secretary always signed his name as B-R-O-U-N. He could not have looked closely at the documents, for in all we have seen it is plainly written B-R-O-W-N. In this account we have adopted the plan of using the name B-R-O-W-N or B-R-O-U-N as the


spirit moves us. (Since the above was written, to make the matter more confusing we have come across several documents prior to 1843 in which the signature is plainly P. B-R-O-U-N. From this we may assume that he was meditating the change for some years previously, and either wrote it “P. Broun” unconsciously or subconsciously, or was just trying it out!)


Peter Broun was born at Guernsey on August 17, 1797, so that he was 31 years of age when Governor Stirling appointed him his chief aide. His father, William, who as we have already said was the son of the sixth Baronet, had migrated to the Channel Islands and married Annie, daughter of Peter de Mirgy, Colonel of the Guernsey Artillery. She was a remarkable old lady who outlived her son Peter by 20 years, her death occurring in 1865. Four years before his selection as our first Colonial Secretary, Peter Broun had married Caroline, daughter of James Simpson. A few months after her arrival Ensign Dale wrote her name on the map in Mount Caroline. In 1827 the first child was born; Mc-Bryde Anderson Broun he was called. He was born in Scotland, came here with his parents in the Parmelia. and after his father died, being then 20 years of age, he was appointed second clerk in the office of the Colonial Secretary at a salary of £100 a year. He died after a brief illness on December 7, 1866.

Two years after the Colony was founded (1831) a second son, James William, was born in Perth. He married Emily Caroline Lukin, and had five sons and eight daughters. The fifth and youngest son was Frank Tyndall Broun who entered Parliament in 1911 as M.L.A. for Beverley, and followed in his famous grandfather’s steps by becoming Colonial Secretary in 1919. He died cn April 1, 1930.

Two years after the birth of Peter Broun’s second son (James William), we find the following notice in “The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal” of April 6, 1833: “BIRTH. On Sunday last the 31st ultimo at Bassendean, the lady of the Honourable Peter Brown, Esq., Colonial Secretary, of a son. On Wednesday, the 3rd inst. the infant died.”


A fourth son, Charles Frederick, was born in 1839, also in Perth. He lived at Bassendene, Pingelly, spelling it “DENE,” not “DEAN,” as in the Berwickshire name. He died only a few years ago.

Peter’s brother, Richard McBryde Broun, who came out in the Parmelia, is frequently confused with Peter’s eldest son, McBryde Anderson Broun. But Richard was 29 years of age when he arrived on the Parmelia. He does not appear to have become an official on his first arrival, and his name is still absent from the list of officials issued in detail in 1831. His first appointment to the service seems to have been as First Clerk in his brother’s office at £75 per annum, but in 1835 he was sent as Government Resident to Fremantle where he was the local Pooh Bah, having control of the Customs and practically every other department represented there. He married Anne, only child of George Leake, in 1837. The previous year he had romantically placed her on the map of the Colony as we may read in George Fletcher Moore’s account of the expedition he led to Northam and Toodyay in June, 1836, when George Leake and Richard McBryde Broun accompanied him. A small hillock that they had ascended somehow brought thoughts of his sweetheart to the youngest of the three, whereupon Moore wrote in his book: “At Mr. Broun’s request we named the mount Mount Anne in honour of the young daughter of our excellent fellow tourist, Mr. Leake.”

It is often wrongly stated that Richard McBryde Broun was the First Government Resident at Fremantle. Actually the first was Captain Thomas Bannister. George Leake was the Government Resident when on January 3, 1835, his future son-in-law succeded him, as we have already stated.

On the death of his first wife Richard McBryde Broun married Charlotte, daughter of General Herbert, this lady outliving him 30 years, only dying 1898. Of these marriages there were two sons and two daughters. The second son, William Leake Broun, is the only one of whom we know anything. He became a captain in the P. & O. Shipping Company, and one of his sons, Richard Clive McBryde Broun, an officer of the Dublin Fusiliers, was killed in action on December 11, 1915.



Peter Broun, it is said, had already had some experience in an official capacity, but what that was, and where, we are unable to say. One of his descendants also states that he served in the Royal Navy, but that also we are unable to assert or deny, although we doubt it. We are on surer ground, however, when we state that his appointment as Colonial Secretary to the new Colony of Western Australia was on the nomination of Sir George Murray, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had been an intimate friend of Peter Broun’s father since their boyhood days, as he was of Captain Stirling’s people.

Governor Stirling’s first nominations to the Public Service of the new Colony were made as from December 30, 1828, six weeks before the Sulphur and Parmelia sailed. Peter Broun’s appointment as “Secretary” headed the list, but these appointments were not sanctioned until January 23, 1829, when a Treasury Minute emanated from Whitehall confirming the Office of “Secretary” at a salary of £400 per annum. The office was to carry half-salary from the date of embarkation, the full salary only coming into operation with his arrival at the Swan River.

It should be noted that Peter Broun was not appointed “Colonial Secretary" but merely “Secretary,” the first mention of the title Colonial Secretary being in the “Regulations for the Colonial Secretary’s Office” issued by Governor Stirling on May 16, 1829, while the Parmelia was still at sea. But for some time after his arrival here Broun signed himself “Secretary to Government.” Then he started to use the title Colonial Secretary as well, so that he was using both titles at once. On November 16, 1830, he actually wrote a letter from the “Colonial Secretary’s Office”—but signed it “Secretary to Government.” When the latter title was dropped it is difficult to say. He seems to have just ceased using it.

Although the Civil Service saw its birth in these first appointments in England on December 30, 1828, its first cry is not heard until May 16, 1829, two weeks before the coastline of Western Australia was sighted. On that day the “Regulations for the Colonial Secretary’s Office” were issued by Lieutenant Governor Stirling, as


already stated, and at this distance of time, with a Civil Service grown to manhood, it is of more than passing interest to note some of these original regulations for the infant service issued almost exactly 106 years ago.


The office will be opened for the despatch of business at eight o'clock in the morning and closed at two o’clock In the afternoon.

All applications in writing received after half-past nine o’clock in the morning will not be acted on until the following day.

The Secretary will receive persons who may have occasion to speak to him from 9 to 10 o’clock in the morning and from 1 till 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

No other person in the office is to be applied to or interfered with by persons coming to the Secretary. The Secretary is to intimate to the clerks in the office that if they shall at any time become acquainted with any transaction or business relating to the Public Service which may be in progress through the office, they are not to commit a breach of their trust by communicating the subject to others, but on the contrary that it is their duty to refrain from all idle and unnecessary conversation on such matters.

No verbal answer is to be given to any application, nor is any application not in writing to be attended to.

The Secretary is to visit the Lt. Governor at 10 o’clock in the morning for the despatch of the business of the day.

Documents of every description whether issued or received are to be duly registered. Those which are received into the office, in the Register Book A . . . and if proceeding from the office, in Register B. . . .

Corresponding to the marks A and B of the Registers, the Secretary is to keep two portfolios in use. one to contain all original documents received, the other of all answers or documents issued. When these are full, the documents they contain are to be distributed into receptacles having the following titles: (Here follow 17 titles with 34 receptacles, there being a “received” and “despatched” receptacle for each title).

The Secretary is to keep a Muster Book of all persons belonging to the Civil Establishment or in Government employment.

He is to keep a General Muster Book of every person in the settlement.

He is to keep an Account Currency Book of the Receipts and Disbursements of money.

He is to keep the following forms in the office: (Here follow 10 titles of the forms or “returns” to be kept).

He is to present to the Lieut. Governor punctually at the established periods the Storekeepers, Surveyors, Engineers and Superintendents returns and accounts, and after inspection and signature to deposit them in cases of reference.

As all persons intending to become settlers are required to obtain a certificate of permission to settle in the Territory, the Secretary, is to see that the proper form of application according to Form No. 1 of his Office be duly filled up and to require that each individual above 15 years of age shall obtain a separate certificate of permission whether as a member of a family or independently, and that the certificate state accurately the particulars relating to the individual to whom lt may be granted, and he is to notify that children attaining the age of 15 years at any period subsequent to their arrival in the settlement must apply for and obtain a certificate of permission, and further that all persons attempting to depart from the settlement without permission previously obtained from the Colonial Secretary’s Office will be liable to be apprehended.


We glean from a reference in one of Governor Stirling’s first despatches to the Home Government that three clerks had been allotted to the Colonial Secretary. Only one, however, had actually been appointed. This was William Shelton. On January 5, 1829, Under-Secretary Hay wrote to Governor Stirling that William Shelton would accompany the expedition as Clerk to the Colonial Secretary or any other department where he would be found more useful. He was appointed without salary, Mr. Hay added.

Whether he actually acted as Clerk to the Colonial Secretary is, however, doubtful, as on July 9, 1829, less than six weeks after the Parmelia’s arrival, we find J. Morgan, the Government Storekeeper, writing to the Colonial Secretary and “re-applying” for the use of the bell tent formely used by Captain Currie (the Harbourmaster) for “my clerk, Mr. Shelton.” Mr. Shelton’s further career here does not concern us, therefore, and we simply note that a notice appeared in the “Perth Gazette” of October 25, 1834, “that William Shelton intends shortly to leave the Colony.”

How the Colonial Secretary managed for clerical assistance in the very first days of the Settlement it is difficult to say. In time, however, he got his three clerks, but from the records the first appointment was not made till August 24, 1829, twelve days after Perth was founded.

This first of his clerks was P. P. Smith. He was appointed without salary, but left the service for some reason unknown to us at present, five months later. The next appointment was James Knight, who was appointed at £100 per annum on October 8, 1829. Seven months later he applied for a rise in salary and being refused he forthwith resigned. He re-entered the service, however, for on June 13, 1832, we find him applying again to the Colonial Secretary for a rise. Again unsuccessful, he kept quiet until November 19, 1832, when he had a third attempt, assuring the Colonial Secretary that if he resigned “no young man of any pretensions to respectability, or at any rate of capacity sufficient to fill it properly, would be found to accept it; because it must be considered by any such as a waste of time.” The third appointment was Arthur Price, who is returned by Stirling as joining the service without pay on June 29, 1829,


although Peter Broun gives the date as October 8. 1829. He was later granted a salary of £75, but within the year was dismissed for “disobedience, indolence, and impertinence."

But before these clerks had been appointed, a messenger in the person of Thomas Blakey, took up his post, at a salary of £68/5/- which was later reduced, much to Blakey’s disgust, to £25.

A later appointment to the Colonial Secretary's Office was George William Stewart, who began work on February 1, 1830. Six months later he was reported to the Governor as “keeping low company,” whereupon he protested and resigned, though the Colonial Secretary assured him he did not believe the charge.

Another appointment was that of Henry Smythe, a young lad whose mother asked the Colonial Secretary in the one letter for a post for her son and three hundredweight of flour for herself on time payment. We do not know whether she got the flour, but her son got a clerkship at £4/10/- a month from March 1, 1831.

Richard Wells’s date of appointment is rather vague, but on March 15, 1831, he complained of being called Chief Clerk instead of Assistant Secretary; and also of his meagre salary of £100. He got no redress.

One more reference to the clerical staff of our first Colonial Secretary: On June 16, 1831, Peter Broun found it necessary to hand "one of his clerks this document : “Having been informed that you were seen at the sale to-day when I had reason to suppose you (were) confined by indisposition at home I beg to inform you that I cannot consent to your return to my Office unless by the positive command of His Excellency. In thus determining I am actuated by a feeling of duty and the conviction that you have on more occasions than this absented yourself without just cause and by. your absence delayed the public business at the time in hand.”

The clerk’s (Mr. Dyer) indignation took the shape of a letter direct to the Lieutenant-Governor written at once on the receipt of his reprimand: “I beg to lay before your Excellency the enclosed letter I have just received from Mr. Brown. I read the accusation with surprise, not knowing that I had ever absented myself

one day without Mr. Brown’s permission; this morning; I particularly requested John Wittenoom to inform Mr. Brown that I had a severe headache, and I hoped he would excuse me attending at the Office; tis true I was present at the Sale for the purpose of making a purchase, but I can assure your Excellency I was then too unwell to have attended to my duty in the Office; I trust your Excellency will weigh this unpleasant affair over, and anxiously await your Excellency’s decision.”

What the Governor’s decision was we do not know.


Having dealt with his clerical staff we will try to elucidate the problem as to where the first office of the Colonial Secretary in Perth was situated. We have seen that actually the Colonial Secretary’s Department was first housed in a cabin on the hired transport Par-melia at sea. A fortnight later it was transferred to a hut on Garden Island where it remained until Perth was founded. From a temporary office on Garden Island there issued the famous notice calling Perth to life. It Will be noticed that the letter is addressed as from the “Colonial Secretary’s Office,” but it is signed by Peter Broun as “Secretary to Government.”

Colonial Secretary’s Office,

July 27, 1829.


Notice is hereby given that on the 12th August, the anniversary of the day on which His Gracious Majesty (King George the Fourth) was born, the first stone will be laid of a New Town to be called Perth, near to the entrance to the estuary of the Swan River.

After that date the Public Business in the several Departments of Governments will there be transacted, and all applications for Land, or on other subjects, received.

By Command of His Excellency,

(Signed) P. BROWN,

Secretary to Government.

This letter was not issued alone, but was supplemented by the following memo transferring the Colonial Secretary’s Office and certain other departments to the mainland as from the date of the Foundation of Perth.


The Offices of the Secretary to Government, the Surveyor of the Territory, the Harbour Master, the Civil Engineer, and of the Commissioners of the Board of Counsel and Audit, are to be opened for the dispatch of Business on the 12th of next month at the


point indicated as the future site of the Town of Perth where a tent will be appropriated for each Department for that purpose. The Officers at the Heads of their respective Departments and others whose duty may take them to the Main, will be permitted to be absent with their families as much as the wants of the Service will admit during the residence of the latter on Garden Island.

By Command of His Excellency,

(Signed) P. BROWN,

Secretary to Government.

This brings us to a much debated point. Where exactly, when he did shift to Perth, was the Colonial Secretary’s Office situated? The answer is on LOT A5, forming the eastern corner of Irwin Street and St. George’s Terrace, where the Celtic Club now stands. Here Peter Broun built his house which at the same time housed his Department. That this is so, admits of no doubt, for in a letter dated January 6, 1830, the Colonial Secretary in claiming an allowance for rent reminds the Governor that he had put up a temporary dwelling for himself and was greatly inconvenienced “in being obliged to make use of the same to carry on my Public Duties, which subjected, having only one apartment, my Family to the constant interruption of individuals who may have Business with me, as well as of three Clerks daily during office hours.” His request resulted in a rent allowance of £100 per annum being granted him by the Governor.

By 1832 this primitive accommodation was found to be too inadequate to be continued longer, and an ambitious scheme was projected for a Government Square consisting of a Central Church, round which were to be grouped the various Departments of the Government. It was therefore decided to sell those offices and the land on which they stood, and as a consequence LOT A5 was sub-divided into three parts: LOT A5, A5 1/2, and A5 3/4. In the “Gazette” of August 31, 1833, we find that LOT A5 1/2 was granted to Peter Brown, which would seem to indicate that he had in the meantime built a more permanent house for himself on that portion of the original LOT A5, which formed the corner of Hay Street and Irwin Street, and that the “temporary dwelling” he speaks of in his letter of January 6, 1830, had been handed over entirely to the Department. By subdividing the block as it did, the Government was thus enabled to sell the Office, and that portion of the original


block on which it was built, without disturbing the Colonial Secretary in his private residence.

More than a year elapsed, however, before the Government acted and it was not until December 30, 1834, that the “Gazette” contained the following announcement :—


Colonial Secretary's Office, Perth,

December 20, 1224.

Notice Is hereby given—

That the GROUND, with the buildings, lately occupied by the Colonial Secretary's Department, will be put up to Sale by Public Auction, on the 29th instant, on the premises.

By His Excellency’s command,


Colonial Secretary.

But were they sold, and if so where did the Colonial Secretary’s Office shift to? We confess we have not checked up on the sale of the ground and buildings on the plot A5. We are more concerned with the locality to which the Colonial Secretary’s Office was now shifted. At this date it seems impossible to be absolutely definite in this respect, but it should be stated that there is reason to believe that the Colonial Secretary for the past three or four years carried on his official duties in hired premises. At the same time the scheme already referred to, namely, the building of a Government Square to surround a central church must not be brushed lightly aside. For it is just possible, when we consider this scheme, that the Colonial Secretary’s Office was shifted from the Celtic Club site to the present Masonic Club site. Our authority for this is a notice in the “Gazette” of April 1 1837, where it is announced that “the building which has been used as a Church and Court House, and tho allotment on which it stands. Section A. No. 8, St. George’s Terrace, is to be sold by auction.” This is the block on which the Masonic Club stands facing Hay Street, Dr. Kenny’s old residence being on the St. George’s Terrace alignment.

But while there may be considerable doubt as to where Peter Broun removed his office from the Celtic Club site, there appears to be very little, if any, doubt, as to where it took up its permanent location in 1838.


This is undoubtedly, in our opinion, the present Agricultural Department, the contract for which was let in 1836 although its completion was long delayed owing to various causes. The first inkling we have of a permanent office is conveyed in a notice appearing in the “Perth Gazette” of June 16, 1838:—

“Perth Gazette," Saturday, June 16, 1838.


The building intended for Public Offices at Perth will be found to be one of the greatest value to the Public Service, by bringing under one roof all the different departments, and by inducing regularity in the dispatch of business. Hitherto it has been scarcely possible to arrive at a systematic arrangement of papers, or to secure them effectually from loss and accidents. As the proposed erection is of a substantial sort, and will not require repairs for some years, a great saving will accrue in regard to sums heretofore required for repairs, or the hire of temporary buildings.

All, however, was not plain sailing in this transfer to its permanent abode as the “Perth Gazette” tells us in its issue some six weeks later:—

“Perth Gazette,” Saturday, July 28, 1838.


The new Government Offices, although in an unfinished state, have been occupied for the last week. The delay which has occurred in the erection of this building is a strong proof of the impolicy of allowing a number of mechanics to take a contract for any public work. The experiment was tried in this instance, by the Governor, with a good motive, but it has totally failed. It is a matter of some question whether the present contractors—now reduced to two, originally eight or ten—will be able to complete the work.

“Perth Gazette,” Saturday, April 13, 1839.

The Clock—THE PERTH TOWN CLOCK.—This wonderful production of art (and contrivance, touching the means) is now working well at the top of the Public Offices, to the infinite improvement of the public time, and the amusement of the passers by. The offices were sufficiently deformed without adding this additional deformity, which will be a lasting disgrace to whoever suggested it. O friend “Barwise,” could you conceive that your handiwork was to be placed in the centre of a waggon-yard!

Before leaving the subject of the Civil Service it will be very pertinent to refer to the question of holidays. Up till 1833 among the other Public Holidays, May 29 was annually celebrated as the Anniversary of “The Restoration of Charles the Second.” That year, however, marks its last appearance. We see that from the following document which is extracted from the “Perth


Gazette” of August 30, 1934, and for which no apology is needed for its submission in toto:—

“Perth Gazette,” Saturday, August 30, 1834.


The Anniversaries of the following Days will be observed as Holidays in all the Public Offices in the Colony:—

Christmas Day.

Good Friday.


King’s Birth Day.

Queen’s Birth Day.

Battle of Waterloo.

Battle of Trafalgar.

Foundation of the Colony—1st June.

Holidays falling on a Sunday will be held on the Monday following.

On all other Days, except the aforementioned, the usual Hours of Business at the Public Offices will be from 9 till 4; and the Officers of the Establishment are requested to observe that theif Absence from the Duties of the Offices to which they belong during the Days and Hours of Business, without regular permission from the Governor, will subject them to his displeasure. It is also to be understood that their usual Places of Residence are to be those which are stated in the List of the Civil Establishment.

To prevent mis-apprehension, all communications are to be made in writing to the Heads of the Departments to which the business may relate, and the Civil Officers are hereby directed to decline all verbal communications; but as convenience may arise to individuals, and business be forwarded, by relaxation of this rule, as far as affording information to those who may require, it, the Governor will not object to the reception of individuals by Heads of the Departments at their offices for the particular purpose, during the first hour after the commencement of business in the morning, but no visitors are to be admitted into the public offices at any other period of the day.

The members of the Civil Establishment will receive medical advice, free of charge, from the Colonial Surgeon, within the limits of the town in which he way be residing; but on all other occasions no provision will be made for them in this respect, nor will medicines or medical stores at any time be supplied to them at the public cost.

The salaries appropriated to officers on the establishment having been fixed by His Majesty’s Treasury upon the understanding that the persons filling them shall use and apply the whole of their time and attention to the furtherance of the public service, it is recommended to those who are desirous of retaining their appointments to set examples of diligence, and to refrain from expressions of dissatisfaction with the recompense awarded to them, it being, of course, optional with any one to resign an appointment which may not be commensurate with a just estimate of his abilities.


The main object contemplated in the establishment of the Colonial Secretary’s Office is to conduct the correspondence of the Governor with the several Departments of the Public Service; and also with the Colonists, collectively or individually. The rules to be adopted for this purpose are, in the first place, that every letter received and issued shall be accurately registered, and that, by the dally inspection of this Register, the correspondence may be prevented from falling into arrear.


Thirdly.—By a regular and aystematic presentation to the Qovernor of all letters received by the Colonial Secretary, the Governor's decision may be obtained and the proper answer returned without delay; but the Secretary having neither Authority nor Responsibility In such matters, is not to address any letters on service in his own name or in that of the Governor, without the sanction of the latter. Henceforward the office of the Colonial Secretary will be relieved from the necessity of keeping any Cash Accounts. The books to be kept in this office are those which are hereinafter mentioned:—

1st—Secretary’s Register.

2nd.—Book of Correspondence with the Civil and Military Departments.

3rd.—Book of Correspondence .with Private Individuals or Associations.

4th.—Book of Proclamations, Government Orders and Notices, Acts of Council, &c.

At ten o’clock the Colonial Secretary is to attend the Governor for the purpose of disposing- of the business of the day: he is to bring with him his Register, and the letters and papers which are to be decided upon; the Register will contain, in respect to each letter received, a column for the substance of the answer returned; and with regard to communications to be issued, a column for the instructions upon which the Secretary is to act.

Strangely enough it was not until 1839 that Easter Monday was added to the list of Public Holidays to be observed.


We have a list of the general belongings which Peter Brown brought with him on the Parmelia and which he had to swear to before Lieut.-Governor Stirling on November 3, 1829. He had a cow, a bull, 2 sows, 2 pigs, a goat, 2 dogs, 2 horses, a half-share in 2 mares, and an assortment of fowls, geese, turkeys, and ducks; all valued at £190; a general assortment of agricultural tools, £3/3/-; seeds, plants, etc., £7/10/-; provisions, £59/7/4; a gun, pistols, ammunition, sword, £17/11/3; miscellaneous articles such as furniture and clothing, etc., £923/16/3 1/2. This totalled £1011/17/10 1/2, but according to the rules governing the grant of land only £721/16/6 1/2was “applicable.” However, even on this showing he was declared eligible for 9626 acres. As to his family, in addition to his wife Caroline, and his son. McBryde Anderson Broun, there was Ann Brown (whom we have not located yet), as well as Margaret MacCloud, Mary Anne Smith, and Richard Evans, apparently servants.

As already stated Peter Brown was eligible in respect to the stock, goods and chattels he had introduced into


the Colony to a grant of 9626 acres of land. His name appears second on the list of land grants in the Records which were first allotted on September 29, 1829. The first name was R. H. Bland (who entered the Government service on February 1, 1830 as Superintendent of Government Stock at a salary of £100 per annum and subsequently became Government Resident at York). He was granted 8000 acres. Peter Brown is next with a grant of 5000 acres. On July 1, 1830, Peter Brown was granted 54 acres in fee simple on the Swan River, this property being now occupied by the Power House in East Perth, or rather Norwood, we believe. Again we see in the "Perth Gazette” of August 31, 1833, Peter Brown granted Town Allotment A54. This was part of Lot A5 on which originally stood the first Offices of the Colonial Secretary. But Lot A5 on the Original Plan of Perth was soon after split up into lots A5, A5£, and A5f, as we have already described.

As to Peter Brown’s personal and social side we lack much. We have fleeting glimpses of him in the various diaries and journals of the early settlers. George Fletcher Moore happily made his acquaintance immediately on his arrival at Fremantle. On November 12, 1830, Moore make the entry: "A fortnight before on Sunday we reached the mainland—I was anxious to see the Governor without loss of time and therefore proceeded to Perth about 12 miles by river in the boat of Mr. Brown, the Colonial Secretary, from whom I have received the kindest and most hospitable attention. In consequence of some depredations committed by the natives on the upper part of the Swan River Mr. Brown proceeded thither, accompanied by a few soldiers and I took the advantage of going with him to that part of the country......”

What had happened was that a native had been seen robbing a house. Peter Brown and Moore and the soldiers chased them, unfortunately killing one, wounding three others, and bringing back seven prisoners to Perth. A pleasant Sunday afternoon !

In September and October, 1831, the natives are said to have made havoc with the sheep at Upper Swan. At any rate they killed eleven sheep belonging to Peter Brown, and speared his cow. They were fired at, but


escaped, only to return later to kill Brown’s shepherd and to carry off sheep belonging to neighbouring settlers.

A whole year later things were more peaceable at this particular spot for we read in Moore’s Journal (September 9, 1832): “Our Lieut.-Governor (Captain Irwin) Mr. and Mrs. Brown and Captain Fremantle made an excursion recently to the head of the river in order to give the latter gentleman an opportunity of seeing the country. He was greatly delighted with it and the weather was very favorable. Captain Fremantle went on the same day to his ship.”

A few days later (September 14, 1832) Moore gives us a sight of Peter Brown’s house in the Terrace: “The bark of the trees has been tried for thatch and it answers pretty well if carefully applied. Mr, Brown has an outside covering of it about 14 inches in thickness over a shingled roof to keep out the heat but it is expensive. .. . .”

Alas, Moore only gives us the briefest social events. He dined at the Browns now and again, and drank tea with them, and he alludes to "“a merry party at Redcliffe for dinner which included Mr. and Mrs. Brown and other settlers.” Another dinner, a public dinner, tendered to Captain Irwin and the officers of the 63rd on their departure, and to the officers of the 21st on their arrival, took place on September 27, 1833. Peter Brown’s health was proposed then in the following terms: “Mr. Chairman, I have to propose the health of a gentleman who has relieved and assisted many—who has been alike the friend of the poor and the affluent, and the staunchest supporter of the Colony—I mean the Honourable P. Brown. (Cheers.) The Hon. P. Brown rose and expressed with the diffidence becoming merit, his un-worthiness to receive so flattering an eulogium. He thanked the company kindly for this expression of their satisaction, and trusted his further endeavours would ensure to him their friendly consideration,”

Even when we dip into the account of the Colony by his friend and colleague and neighbour, Captain Irwin (published in 1835) we do not get much about our first Colonial Secretary: “Mr. Brown, the Colonial Secretary (Irwin wrote therein) has one of the best farms in this


part, which, with comfortable house and office on it, he has let to another settler. This gentleman has also one of the most improved farms in the neighbourhood of Guildford.”

These holdings referred to by Irwin are, of course, Coulston, which old family name he had given to that land allotted to him in the Swan District, and Bassendean, which as we have already seen was likewise an old family name, situated west of Guildford, and where he had built the homestead which still stands to this day.

Two more extracts: On October 24, 1838, Moore jots down: “Mr. Brown (Colonial Secretary) is to sleep here to-night, and the Governor is coming on Saturday.” And on November 16, 1839, we read: “On Friday night there was a ball at Mr. Brown’s where dancing was kept up till five o’clock in the morning, and I came home to-day (Saturday) very tired in consequence.”


A reference should be made to the Legislative Council of which Peter Broun was naturally a prominent member. On November 1, 1830, His Majesty in Council, King William the Fourth, intimated his pleasure that a Legislative Council consisting of three or four persons resident in Western Australia, should be set up to assist the Lieutenant-Governor in ruling the Colony. The first members were Captain James Stirling, Lieutenant-Governor; Captain F. C. Irwin, Commander of the Forces; Peter Brown, Colonial Secretary; J. S. Roe, Surveyor-General ; and W. H. Mackie, Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and the first sitting was held in February, 1832. Each member subscribed to the fearsome oath required at the time, repudiating the Jacobite claims to the Throne and affirming his loyalty to the Protestant religion. The official document containing their signatures is to be seen in the State Archives to-day.

Extracted from C.S.O. Records for January 1 to February 29, 1832.

I do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King William the Fourth, So help me God!

I do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure, as impious and heretical that damnable doctrine and position that Princes excommunicated or deprived by the authority of the See


of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign Prince, Prelate, State or Potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, or pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within the Realm of England or any of the dominions thereunto belonging.

So Help me God!

I do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare, in my conscience before God and the world, that our Sovereign Lord King William the Fourth is lawful and rightful King of the Realm of England and all other His Majesty’s dominions thereto belonging. And I do solemnly and sincerely declare that I do believe in my conscience that not any of the descendants of the person who pretended to be Prince of Wales during the life of the late King James the Second, and since his decease pretended to be and took upon himself the style and title of King of England by the name of James the Third, or of Scotland by the name of James the Eighth, or the style and title of King of Great Britain, hath any right or title whatsoever to the Crown of the Realm of England or any other of the dominions thereunto belonging. And I do renounce, refuse and abjure any allegiance or obeisance to any of them. And I do swear that I will bear Faith and true allegiance to His Majesty King William the Fourth and him will defend to the utmost of my power against all traitorous conspiracies and attempts whatsoever which shall be made against his person, Crown or dignity. And I will do my utmost endeavours to disclose and make known to His Majesty and his Successors all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which I shall know to be against him or any of them. And I do faithfully promise to the utmost of my power to support, maintain, and defend the succession of the Crown against the descendants of the said James, and against all other persons whatsoever, which Succession by an Act entitled “An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown, and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject” is and stands limited to the Princess Sophia Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover and the heirs of her body being Protestants. And all these things I do plainly and sincerely acknowledge and swear according to the express words by the spoken words, and according to the plain and common sense and understanding of the same words, without any equivocation, mental evasion, or secret reservation whatever. And I do make this recognition, acknowledgment, abjuration, renunciation and promise heartily, willingly and truly upon the true faith of a Christian.

So help me God!

(Sd.) James Stirling.

F. C. Irwin.

Peter Brown.

J. S. Roe.

W. H. Mackie.

We have a picture of this Legislative Council from the pen of G. F. Moore, Advocate-General, who was later appointed to that body. Its first meetings were held in secret, but by 1834 the public were allowed to be present. “Our Legislative Council is now open to the public,” G. F. Moore writes on Christmas Day, 1834, “and we are directed to conform to the rules of the British Parliament in our proceedings, so that actually you may regard me as a Member of Parliament here. . . . The room in which our Legislative Council sits is a large room with a space ruled off for the public. We


are required to appear in full dress there, so that I have had an opportunity of wearing the coat and waistcoat you sent, but I confess I have not had the courage to put it on yet. The Governor appears in full dress (naval uniform), Captain Daniel in full military dress, Messrs. Brown and Roe in blue coats, with red collars and Crown buttons, i.e., buttons with the Crown on them. All civil officers wear these buttons.”

If there was nothing spectacular about our First Colonial Secretary, there was a solidity which was required more than everything else in those early days. Of his solidity, that is, of his solid worth, the following two extracts from his addresses in the Legislative Council, both delivered within a year or so of his untimely death, give ample proof. The Colony then was in the depths of a depression compared with which our present depression is a small affair. On August 2, 1844, Peter Broun rose in his seat to give his fellow-members the benefit of his voice in regard to the cause and the cure of the existing depression, and from it we gather an inkling of the effect it was having with the community. It is reported as follows:—

“His speech was a remarkable one. He presented to the House a number of carefully compiled tables designed to show that in the preceding seven years the cultivation of wheat had increased out of all proportion to the population. It followed, therefore, that farmers must either find a market for their wheat or suffer constant embarrassment and eventual ruin. An increase of labourers by emigration would only increase the production of wheat, and in the absence of a market still further reduce prices. In other words, the quantity of wheat-land cultivated would be larger, while consumers would increase only in a trifling degree. Hence to talk of more emigration was idle. It was necessary, he contended, for the success of any recently established colony that its merchants should be sufficiently numerous to relieve the agricultural and manufacturing population. Some colonists had stated that a protective duty would tend to encourage farmers, but he could not suppose that such assertions were made after mature deliberation. The whole of the wheat raised in the preceding year would scarcely fill a tolerably-sized ship, and


most decidedly would not be a sufficient quantity to constitute an ordinary speculation of a second-rate corn merchant in London. Vessels would not be bothered with taking such a small amount of wheat to the home country.”

The second extract (July 26, 1845) gives us his attitude on the introduction of Convict Labour into the growing Colony. Urging that the Colonists were entitled to an expression of opinion on the subject by the Legislative Council, he reminded the Council that four of its members would be advantaged by the introduction of convicts since they were Government Officers and their salaries would be considerably increased. It was, he went on to say, “out of all question to expect the Home Government to accede to such a request, and it was degrading in us to make it. The settlers should pay respect to their often proclaimed opinions on this matter, and he hoped if any had resolved in favour of it, they would still hesitate to attach their names to any document having for its object the expression of sentiments in favour of convict labour. Why did they all give a preference to settling in this Colony, where there was not a house or shelter for them, but that they abhorred the contamination of a convict population? It may be well for those who are mere “birds of passage” to bring forward this question, for they would derive means from the extra outlay of capital with which they would flee away. The permanent settler, however, who made this his home for life, would not, he was convinced, be so misled as to destroy his hopes of peace in this life, and that of his children after his departure, by giving his signature to the documents which were either in preparation, or already handed round for signature.”


It is believed, and there is every reason for the belief, that Peter Broun kept a detailed Journal of all the happenings attending the expedition to the Swan River, but the only Journal in his handwriting in the State Archives is a very sketchy affair and was apparently only prepared for inclusion in Lieutenant-Governor Stirling’s first real report of the Colony’s progress which


he despatched to the Colonial Office in September, 1829. This Journal begins on February 5, 1829, with the entry: “An expedition under the command Captain Stirling R.N., sailed from England in His Majesty's Ship Sulphur and Parmelia hired ship to establish a Colony on the West Coast of New Holland.” He means that that was the first start. Actually we know that they did not quit the shore of England until another eight days later.

To quote the Journal in its entirety would serve no definite purpose but certain entries may well be quoted since they are in Peter Broun’s own handwriting:—

“May 31, 1829.—The Parmelia made the land off Garden Island and hove to for the night.

“June 1, 1829.—Attempted to enter Cockburn Sound by the passage between Garden Island and Carnac Island but in consequence of a heavy swell on the reef beat up round Rottnest Island and hove to for the night.

June 2, 1829.—Passed through Gage Road observed the British Flag flying near the entrance of Swan River and the Challenger lying under Garden Island in Cockburns Sound. Parmelia grounded in crossing a shoal running between Woodman's Point and Carnac Island and remained on the bank for 18 hours notwithstanding the exertions of all on board aided by Captain Fremantle and a large party of the crew of the Challenger.

“June 3, 1829.—Parmelia drifted off the shoal at 8 o’clock a.m. and was brought up at the N.E. end of Garden Island.

“June 4, 5, and 6, 1829.—Parmelia rode out a heavy gale from N. and N.W. lying at single anchor.

“June 7, 1829.—Weighed anchor and moored the Parmelia between the Challenger and Garden Island.

“June 8, 1829.—Artificers landed with tents on Garden Island and with a party of the Challenger men commenced clearing ground and erecting temporary houses. H.M.S. Sulphur arrived in Cockburns Sound.

“June 9, 1829.—Government Stock and part of the detachment of the 63rd Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Pedder landed on Garden Island. Survey of passages into Cockburns Sound commenced under the Surveyor-General.


“June 10, 1829.—Intimated to Captain Irwin that the Port at Swan River where His Majesty’s Flag had been hoisted and formal possession taken by Captain Fremantle would be put under his charge as Commandant of the Station and the seamen and marines at present there withdrawn.

“June 11, 1829.—Several temporary dwellings finished.

“June 12, 1829.—Excellent lime stone burnt.

“June 13 and 14, 1829.—Seamen of Challenger and a party of the Detachment of 63rd employed since the Parmelias and Sulphurs arrival in clearing ground and erecting temporary houses.

“June 15, 1829.—Commenced discharging Parmelia.

“June 16, 1829.—The remainder of the Detachment of the 63rd Regiment under Captain Irwin landed at Swan River to relieve the party of the Challengers people under Lieutenant Henry.

“June 17, 1829.—Proclamation of Lieutenant-Governor Stirling made public by Captain Irwin at Swan River.

“June 18, 1829.—The same Proclamation made public at Garden Island. Public notices of the subjoined appointments made by the Lieutenant-Governor, viz.: The Commissioner of Crown Lands; Civil Engineer; Superintendent of Government Stock; Superintendent of Gardens, Farms, etc.; Registrar; Clerk to the Storekeeper; Clerk to the Secretary to Government; Government Messenger.

“June 26, 1829.—The temporary dwelling for the Lieutenant-Governor completed, as also the Government Garden, and stocked with seeds and plants. (This is at Garden Island, of course.)

“July 1, 1829.—A temporary store house completed.

“July 22,1829.—Parmelia reported cleared of Government Stores by the Harbour Master.

“July 29, 1829.—Government Notice made public that the first Stone of a New Town to be called Perth would be laid on the 12th August the anniversary of His


Gracious Majesty’s birthday on the estuary of the Swan River.

“August 10, 1829.—His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor with Captain Fremantle several officers and artificers disembarked on the Main near the mouth of the Swan River and proceed up the river to the spot fixed upon as the site of the Town of Perth.

“August 12, 1829.—The Ceremony of laying the Foundation Stone of the Barracks performed by cutting down a tree in presence of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, Captain Fremantle and several other officers. The Detachment of the 63rd was also present and fired three rounds.

“August 13, 1829.—The Line of the new Barracks laid down by the Surveyor-General.

“September 5, 1829.—The Towns of Perth and Fremantle declared open for location, and several lots in each immediately applied for, and granted to settlers.”

This is the last entry in this Official Journal, and under it is written: “Perth, Western Australia, 9 Sep., 1829. P. BROWN, Secretary to Government.”

We have said that Peter Broun kept a Journal. It vanished with all his papers when the barque Hindoo, in which Mrs. Broun was returning to England, was burned to the water’s edge on its homeward voyage, and Mrs. Broun was forced to spend three weeks in an open boat before she was picked up. With the ship went this Diary of our First Colonial Secretary which it was his widow’s intention to have published in London. It was an irreparable loss to this Colony’s archives.


No account of Peter Broun’s life in the Colony would be complete without a reference, however brief, to his disastrous attempt to become the Colony’s banker. Among the officials and settlers whom Governor Stirling brought out with him in his original party there were various assortments of professional men and tradespeople: but there was no banker! Looked at from today it seems a curious oversight, this neglect to appoint


some one person skilled in figures and bookkeeping to ensure the safekeeping of such moneys as those first migrants brought with them, and would accumulate from time to time; but, inadvertently or otherwise, no banker had been included, or was to arise on landing, so that the settlers in their simplicity looked quite naturally to that Pooh Bah of the Colony’s earliest days, Peter Brown, Secretary to Government, to look after their surplus cash, to perform the duties of a human safe deposit, and to function as an official or semi-official banking house.

Peter Brown does not seem to have sought the honour of being the Colony’s first banker. Both the honour and the responsibility appear to have been thrust upon him; at least that is the only inference we can draw from the explanations he was forced to give when the crash came, as it had to come. “On the arrival of the expedition at Garden Island (he stated on oath) Governor Stirling requested me to take charge of the Public Funds; and on our coming to Perth, from circumstances of our residence in the bush and the consequent fact of there being no place of security, most settlers on their arrival were necessitated to lodge their funds in my hands which entailed on me a very arduous and responsible duty from my being in a great measure obliged to trust the details of my affairs to deputies, owing to my constant attendance on the Governor in the exercise of my official duties. It therefore became necessary to adopt some system of accounts by keeping a separate set of books from those of the Government, thus disuniting the offices of Colonial Treasurer and Banker, and subsequently all payments were made by cheques varying from 30/- to £1000. On Mr. Deputy Assistant Commissary-General Lewis’s arriving in the Colony in 1832 with authority from the Treasury to take upon himself the Treasurers’ duties, I was then called upon to settle my accounts and it was then found that a balance was in my favour, which was paid by warrant and closed my accounts. As the distresses of the Colony became pressing I continued the banking business under the superintendence of my brother. . . .”


It was unfortunate for himself that he did so, for he had entered upon a field which has brought down the greatest of financial geniuses. To make it all the worse for him he seems to have dealt largely in bills, and this method of banking, added to the inordinate time cheques would be floating about on account of the distances in the country—three or four months was nothing for a cheque to be held—finally caused the roof to leak. Apparently it got about that various bills had had to be postponed; and then, one day in 1835, Peter Broun had been forced to ask a friend for the loan of £70. This soon became public, but even then there was no panic, no outcry, rather it would seem a public confidence that the Colonial Secretary, the most important personage in the Colony next to the Governor, would fix the matter up satisfactorily and fairly no matter what the trouble was.

But the funds of the Colony had to be raided to put matters straight in the end. Not that this was done illegally. Peter Broun, in consideration of the Government’s coming to his aid, assigned a fourth part of his income in repayment, and as well sold out his estate at Bassendean, stock and all. This apparently would have been the end of the matter, but just then the unfortunate Colonial Secretary became involved in a dispute with Mr. Shaw who, judged by his actions and behaviour as recorded in the newspapers of the day, was a thoroughly nasty person, though according to Colebatch’s “First Hundred Years” an ideal settler and country gentleman. The dispute concerned the boundary between their holdings on the Upper Swan, it emerges from the confused tangle of evidence in the Courts; but it quickly passed that until, on January 12, 1836, we find the Hon. Peter Brown, Colonial Secretary laying an information and complaint before two Magistrates (the Reverend Mr. Wittenoom and Captain Whitefield) against Mr. Shaw for wilfully assaulting him in the public street.

Mr. Brown, according to his evidence, had been proceeding along St. George’s Terrace when he overtook Mr. Mackie (the Colony’s First Judge) and Mr. Shaw at Habgood’s Corner (now the A.M.P. Corner). Nodding good-morning to Mr. Shaw he was astounded to hear that gentleman reply by calling him a blackguard


and other derogatory names, and then proceeding to shake a stick threateningly over his (Mr. Brown’s) shoulders, desiring him at the same time to consider himself horsewhipped. At this point Judge Mackie stepped between them and made them pledge their honour to cause no further breach of the peace. For this assault Mr. Shaw was fined 5/- with 2/6 costs, a caution being added to avoid any offensive expressions towards the complainant in future.

But that was only the first round of a bitter contest. Ten days later, January 22, 1836, Judge Mackie swore in a special jury consisting of J. Walcott (foreman), D. Murray, W. Burgess, W. Habgood, B. Clarkson, James Clarkson, Paton Meares, Mathew Moulton, W. Samson, L. Leake, A. Waylen, and S. Moore, to hear a charge of libel preferred by Peter Broun against William Shaw. The charge set forth that William Shaw did utter and publish to several different persons in Perth certain malicious and slanderous words to wit that he (meaning Peter Brown) was a disgrace to the high situation of Colonial Secretary, was unfit for gentlemen's society, was a liar and not a man of his word, and other words to the same tenor and effect, etcetera, etcetera; and in support of these charges a number of prominent people in the social life of Perth in the thirties entered the witness box and testified to Mr. Shaw having used these words to them in the previous few weeks.

Surveyor-General Poe deposed that Shaw had stopped him in the street and told him that Peter Brown deserved to be whipped for a blackguard and a scoundrel. Mr. Trimmer said Shaw had said to him opposite Leeder’s Hotel: “There is a person called a gentleman, who is no gentleman, a friend of yours, over whose shoulders I have just dropped a whip in the presence of Mr. Mackie, and I told him he was a scoundrel, a rascal, and a liar, and that he has deceived every person in the Colony.”

Against this Shaw called various witnesses whose evidence showed that the banking procedures of Peter Broun were very involved, but not more so than one would expect in a Colony not five years old. But no fraud or roguery was unveiled; rather it put the Colonial


Secretary in a good light, for it showed that directly he had had to suspend payment he had put his estate up to auction to square his debts and to ensure that no one was any the worse financially for their confidence in him. This evidence was followed by that of Peter Brown himself which explained in detail how he had embarked on this banking enterprise solely to help the settlers, and went on to detail all the transactions alleged to have been mishandled by him. Finally Mr. Shaw endeavoured to justify his aspersions. He failed utterly, and when he entered into a defence of the practice of duelling (which he apparently thought should have been invoked to settle the matter) he was sat down by the Court and relapsed into silence.

The jury’s verdict provided a gleam of humour. They found a verdict for Peter Brown and assessed the damages at £50—but added a rider that they did not think he should claim it! Judge Mackie demurred at this and though several jurymen declared that these damages were given under the persuasion that the plaintiff would not take the money, a straight-out verdict for Brown was entered, with £50 damages. Although it is not stated, it is believed that the Colonial Secretary merely took his expenses out of this sum and returned the balance to the defendant.

So ended the cause celebre of the thirties. But though Peter Broun was not destined to figure again in the Courts as a principal, there was another case in which he was concerned in the capacity of a witness and which deserves quotation for the light it spreads in regard to the administration of Justice in those, to us, strange days. This case involved a charge of “disorderly conduct” against Dr. Crichton (the Colonial Surgeon), Lionel Samson, and E. G. Collinson. Frederick Turner had laid the charge against them, and had declared them drunk in the streets of Perth at 2 o'clock in the morning. Peter Brown entered the witness-box to say that the three persons charged had been at his house all the night playing whist with the ladies, and had had no drink. Dr. Crichton and the other defendants followed this by declaring that it was Turner who was drunk. They were discharged, “not guilty,” and the next day Turner was charged with perjury. He was


sentenced to seven years’ transportation—which, however, Governor Hutt remitted on condition that Turner left the Colony. Turner left.


In July, 1846, we have the first hint that Peter Broun’s health was failing. At the same time the new Governor, Colonel Clarke, was ill, and G. F. Moore was appointed to act for the Colonial Secretary, while Captain Irwin acted for the Governor. They both suffered a temporary recovery, but in August they had relapsed. From that but there seemed no hope for either, though the Colonial Secretary was the first to go. He died at the residence of his brother, Richard McBryde Broun, at Fremantle on November 5, 1846, the whole Colony mourning his untimely death. The Governor’s regrets were contained in the following public document:—

“It is with sincere regret that H. E. the Governor has directed to be announced to the Public, the decease of the Hon. Peter Broun, Colonial Secretary, on Thursday morning, the 5th instant (November), after a lingering and painful illness of many months’ duration.

“This officer has been associated with this settlement from its earliest formation, and the unwearied zeal and assiduity with which for a period of 18 years, he has discharged the various and arduous duties of his office, without intermission, since his arrival in the Colony, are well known to this community, and have been duly appreciated by the Government,

“His Excellency pays this tribute of respect to his memory, with a feeling of sorrow dictated by a just sense of the long services which Mr. Broun has rendered to Western Autsralia.”

The newspapers of the day were not behindhand in their regrets at the passing of this valuable officer, and they give us also a picture of those final scenes. It was meet that his last voyage should have been made up the River Swan, whose virgin waters he had navigated a short seventeen years before, full of hope and happiness, and of determination to rear a Colony that would hold its head high among the nations. How he succeeded we


all of us know. Yet for more than one hundred years we have postponed the telling of his story!

(From “The Western Australian Journal,” Saturday, November 7, 1846.)

“We notice with extreme regret, the announcement of the demise of P. Brown, Esq., Colonial Secretary. He died at Fremantle, on the 5th instant, at the residence of his brother, whither he had been removed some time back in a very precarious state, indeed after all the medical gentlemen had pronounced it a hopeless case. The remains were met on the Jetty by all the inhabitants of the town, who could possibly contrive to be present, and the procession proceeded slowly to the church, where the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom officiated. The corpse was subsequently followed to the grave by a most respectable and numerous body of his friends, as well as the public, who all appeared to sympathise deeply in his loss, and. were anxious to evince this last tribute of respect to his memory. As the boats were leaving Fremantle, minute guns were fired, and the shipping in the harbour displayed their flags half-mast high; the Emma Sherrat, which had previously got under weigh, lay to off the bar, and also displayed her colours in the prescribed form.

“Thus the life of a valuable officer of the Crown has terminated, after serving a period of 18 years in the capacity of Colonial Secretary, with a salary of £500 per annum, and without the slightest prospect of a donation or pension being extended to the family.

“How strongly this circumstance impresses upon our minds, the urgency of a colonial ‘union,’ to meet these mischances. It appears to us that the subject involves so wide a range of the colonies, that it should not be made a partial question, but one extending over the whole civil service. If some considerable and deliberative men would make this matter more attractive and deserving of enquiry, they would render good service to the state, and give the assurance that due compensation would be given for lengthened services in Her Majesty’s offices, not immediately derivable from H. M. chest, but from a collected fund all derived from the different colonial branches of service.


“The handsome eulogium passed upon our departed friend, by the Government, in a notice we this day insert, relieves us from expatiating further on his estimable qualities both public and private.”

(From “The Inquirer,” Wednesday, November 11. 1846.)

“The dark emblem of mourning witnesses that one of high station among us has sunk into the tomb. The grave has closed over an officer who faithfully served his Sovereign from the first foundation of the Colony, till, in its eighteenth year, he sunk under unremitting toil and continual anxiety.

“In his high official station, Mr. Broun was indefatigably zealous. As a colonist, he was always at his post. No plan for the public good was met by him with apathy. On every occasion of public service, to know that his presence was required was sufficient to ensure it. Earnest in public duty—hospitable and kind in private life—through evil report and good report—through the early miseries and hazards of the settlement— through the dark and trying periods, not only recorded in the anxious appeals of the alarmed colonists for aid—through the fever of speculation, and the paralysing panic which succeeded it—not one hour was he absent from among us, or did he fail to take his share of the suffering and the struggle. And now—as the Colony he so faithfully served and dearly loved, is rising in the strength of its own resources—as his fellow-labourers begin to see a prospect of reward to their toil, rarely the lot of the first generation of settlers—he has fallen to rise no more; the victim of lingering and painful disease, produced by the complicated anxieties of arduous duties, inadequately repaid. Of this personal regard which his amiable and kindly nature had won from every class, the last tribute to his memory was the highest evidence.

“The funeral was the largest and most respectable wh'ich Western Australia ever witnessed. As the sad procession set out from Fremantle in the boats of the Champion, minute guns were fired, and the flags of the shipping were hoisted half-mast high. On its arrival at the jetty at Perth, it was joined by all the officers, civil and military, whom the Governor had desired to attend


in full dress; while all the principal settlers who could arrive from the country in time, and all the citizens of every rank and class, seemed to take a melancholy pleasure in performing in the most solemn manner the last duty to him who had been, from its birth to that hour, identified with every suffering and every effort of Western Australia.

“The simple, just, and graceful tribute offered by His "Excellency in the official columns of the ‘Gazette,’ to the tried fidelity and zealous services of the departed, has fitly closed the melancholy scene.”

[Since the compiling of the above paper a number of other documents bearing on Peter Nicholas Broun and the early days of the Colony have been brought to the notice of the authors by two of his descendants—Mr. Norman Broun, of Katanning (a grandson) and Mrs. J. S. W. Parker, of Claremont (a great-granddaughter). It is hoped to publish these in a future number of the Journal.]

Garry Gillard | New: 27 September, 2020 | Now: 17 October, 2023