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

Early Days: Volume 6, 1962-1969

Thomas Brooker Sherratt: Albany merchant, bay-whaler, ship-owner and self-appointed builder and lay reader of Albany's Octagon Church

Robert Stephens

Robert Stephens, 'Thomas Brooker Sherratt: Albany merchant, bay-whaler, ship-owner and self-appointed builder and lay reader of Albany's Octagon Church', Early Days, vol. 6, part 2, 1963: 49-67.

INTRODUCTION

The subject of this monograph landed at Albany, King George’s Sound, from the ship "James Pattison” on 12th May, 1834. Her voyage pioneered the first regular shipping service between London and Fremantle. Among her saloon passengers were Governor Sir James Stirling and his Lady on their return from his first official visit to England in 1832. Saloon shipmates, in addition to Thomas Brooker Sherratt, his wife Amelia and their family of five, aged from 13 to 2 years, were Lt. Peter Belches, R.N., and Patrick Taylor, each of whom was destined to play an important role in Plantagenet County and its then embryo seaport town of Albany. Thomas Brooker Sherratt, then 45 years of age, was to be actively associated with Albany’s formative years until his death, 23 years later, when his colonising mantle fell upon his second son, Thomas.

An endeavour will be made in this microcosm of family history to present, as in an hour glass, the vicissitudes of three generations of the Sherratt family in Albany. Family tradition has it. that its founding father was born at. Guildford, England, on 20th May, 1789, and prior to leaving England on his antipodean adventure, held a post in the Royal Household at. Windsor. Apparent confirmation of this exists (S.F.P.) in an obituary of his brother John, who, before his death at the age of 86, had, for the previous 28 years, been Superintendent of Richmond Park. When he was buried at Petersham, his funeral was attended by representatives of II.R.H. the Duchess of Teck, from the While Lodge.

THE MERCHANT

Although family tradition records the new colonist’s intention to acquire land for farming on arrival in Albany, he promptly rented a dwelling on Albany Beach, allotment B36, owned by a Mrs. McLeod, with a frontage to Stirling Terrace. In it a merchandising business was conducted until the end (if 1835. Betimes, with uncanny foresight of the town’s future growth, he purchased the freeholds of Albany Town Lots B28. B29, B30 and B31 at the harbour end of York St., all with frontages to Stirling Terrace. The first three’s southern boundary abutted the beach of Hanover Bay, Princess Royal Harbour. One boundary of lots B28, B29 and B31 provided a York Street frontage. Other town lots purchased about, the same time, S48, S49 and S50. had frontages both to Stirling Terrace and

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Duke St. Their Stirling Terrace front apes faced government Reserve 41, set aside for Albany's Market square, with a bench frontage to Point Frederick (now commonly known as Residency Point).

During occupation of the rented premises Sherratt commenced the erection of a two-storeyed house and premises on Town lot B28, which he occupied early in 1836 and vacated Mrs. McLeod's premises. Of this confirmation is prescived in a vellum-covered ledger kept by its merchant owner during 1835 and 1836 (S.F.P.). Some opening bidances in debtors’ accounts confirm earlier trading in the rented premises, as does also a Sir Richard Spencer letter (R.S.L.) in which Sherratt sought survey of a site at Big Grove, in the S.E. corner of Princess Royal Harbour for lime-burning. The ledger mentioned tells that its owner's clientele included all sections of Albany’s then small community. Included were the names of Governor Sir James Stirling, the Government Resident (Sir Richard Spencer), the Western Australian Government, fellow merchant George Macartney Cheyne, several local contractors, officers, rank and file of the small resident Military Guard, together with settlers who, like Sherratt, were of yeoman status. There appear also the names of toilers of the sea, bay whalers, sealers and mutton birders. These, at the time, were the main, if not the sole, producers of the locality’s exportable wealth. II reveals also that its owner, like so many of Australia’s early merchants, of necessity engaged in many auxiliary ventures, e.g., lime burners, timber merchants, ships’ chandlers, licensed victuallers, ship-owners and bay-whalers. Of the last, the name of a William Lovett at the head of an account, tells of Sherratt’s early association with a shore-based whaling enterprise. Confirmation apjiears in “Long Years Ago’’ by the late Albany-born E. C. D. Kcyser (sometime of the Government Statistician’s Office, Perth). In it, quoting the authority of ‘The Perth Gazette” of 24/12/1896, he records: “During February, 1835, William Lovett reached Albany from Hobart Town in the barque Jess to join Mr. T. B. Sherratt in bay-whaling and sealing in the vicinity of King George’s Sound and eastward’’ and continued: ‘The venture was on a small scale but, during 1835 fifteen whales were struck of which seven were beached. Although only 15 tons of oil and 2 tons of whalebone were obtained this evidences sufficient encouragement to its extension in the next season of a certain return.” It did, as will appear later.

Time is evidence (R.S.L.) that in his earlier years, in association with his other business activities, Sherratt was official Postmaster ami Government Auctioneer. The same source contains letters from Ins facile jten in which he forcefully expressed both his own and others’ claims to their rights as yeomen. There is evidence, too, in lhe Government Resident’s comments upon them, that Sher-iall's iiiijiuri unity and forthrightness pricked the official flesh of Sir Richard Spencer. The knowledge of these irks to officialdom strengthen

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the value of the tribute paid to Sherratt's value to the Albany community. A letter written by Spenecr in his official capacity (R.S.L.) addressed to Governor Stirling advised him “I fear there will be nearly a famine before the Government schooner can return, all that is in the Commissariat Store will scarcely save us. The Commissariat Officer in Perth should have sent treble the quantity of stores” .... “surely you could get tenders at a cheaper rate from Sherratt to carry provisions in stock, than from Perth or York?"

BAY WHALING

Brief mention has already l>een made of Sherratt's association with William Lovett. The site of their venture in bay whaling was a shore depot at Barker Bay, a pretty cove in King Georges' Sound on the eastern shore of Vancouver Peninsula, sheltered under Mount Discovery. A ledge of granite with a slight slope into the sea, in deep water, provided a natural flensing bench upon which whales, “fished,” were hauled and stripped for boiling down. Today, on the beach above the bench, the remains of the granite trypot-stand still exist. Records are preserved (B.L.A.) dated 1836, which tell of two similar depots operative eastward of King George’s Sound, one by Sherratt and the other by his merchant competitor, George Cheyne. A little later two of Sherratt’s sons, the eldest, George, and his brother, Thomas, were employed in bay whaling. No evidence has obtruded that their father took any personal part in the work at the depots.

SHIP OWNERSHIP

The extension of the bay whaling operations eastward coastwise could have suggested the necessity for the provision of transport, not only for the conveyance to store of whale oil and bone, but also the carriage of casks, gear and provisions for the boat crews and depot employees. Then, as now, sea transport was the most economical. This need could have suggested the venture into ship ownership. Be this as it may, during the first half of 1842, Sherratt had built on the Kalgan, from local timber, a schooner of 30 tons, the first of many more to be built in future years. Letters bearing on her registry (B.L.A.) suggest she was built as a tender for use in her owner’s bay whaling and sealing operations. Named the “Chance," that she completed the first leg of her maiden voyage from Albany to Fremanlle is evidenced by an item of Shipping News published in the “Perth Gazette” of 10th December, 1842. This recorded her safe arrival at Fremantle on Ihe previous day with one passenger, and that she was en route to Batavia to procure supplies for the following season's bay whaling operations. When the "Chance” sailed from Fremantle it was to a Port of No Return, as further mention disappeared from all the records. Prior to sailing for Fremantle, Albany's then Government Resident, John Randall Phillips, had re-

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ported to the Colonial Secretary the completion of the registry of the “Chance” (B.L.A.). Soon afterwards his official duty dictated his signature upon a more sombre Certificate of Registry. This was the “Death Certificate of Amelia Sherratt,” “the wife of Thomas Brooker Sherratl" who “aged 42, died on 23rd July, 1842, from debility.” She was buried in the Church of England portion of the then New Cemetery, on Albany Town Lot 51, Middleton Road. Apparent confirmatory evidence of the disappearance of the schooner “Chance” is a letter 6/10/1844 from the Colonial Secretary, Perth (B.L.A.) to Albany's Government Resident covering a Certificate of Registry of another vessel registered in the name of Thomas Brooker Sherratt, the "Emma Sherratt," of 130 tons, built at Torbay with "wattle knees” and “splendid timber”-- jarrah, of course. She, too, like the “Chance" proved unlucky for her first owner. Her name “Emma” was that of his third daughter, who managed her father’s household following her mother’s death. This second vessel passed from her owner’s control almost from the beginning of her long and useful life. In the hands of others and under various Masters, during the following decade she voyaged to Mauritius, Bourbon, Cape Town, London, Hong Kong, Sydney; with calls at Fremantle, Albany and Adelaide (S.F.P.) between times, until she finally foundered near Singa(K>rc. It would appear that following his wife’s death, both Sherratt’s health and his business affairs began to wane.' Evidence of this progressively grew worse during the years 1847 and 1848 (S.F.P.). Practically the whole of 1847 was spent in Perth where Sherratt engaged in Actions in its Supreme Court concerning his ownership of the schooner “Emma Sherratt.” Lengthy letters passed between him and his daughter Emma in Albany during his absence. These contained divers instructions upon both business and household mutters (S.F.P.) [Today, 114 years later, the writer feels that, it would be pointless and serve no useful purpose, even if time allowed, to enlarge upon their contents. This more particularly, lacking us he does, any professional training in either Law or Psychiatry.! In the following year, 1848, both the venue of the Court Proceedings and the schooner “Emma Sherratt” removed to Adelaide in the then Colony of South Australia, where Sherratt remained for almost the whole year.

The voluminous reports of the Adelaide Supreme Court and Arbitration proceedings in re the ownership of the schooner “Emma Sherratl” preserved in the “South Australian Register” can find no place in this monograph, except to tell of the failure of Sherratt’s Mills and tlu* resultant financial ruin, which for all practical pur-Ikjsck, marked the beginning of the end lo his active participation m business affairs during the remaining nine years of his life. Here, it is tell, is (lie place to acknowledge the help of the writer’s friend, a fellow research worker, the late Edward May Christie, then of Melbourne, but formerly of Albany and Esperance, who provideds

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typed copies of useful notes of the Adelaide Court and Arbitration Proceedings preserved in the South Australian Archives. It may he well, perhaps, to record here several uncontradictcd statements which emerged during the Supreme Court and Arbitration Proceedings in Adelaide which could have had a material hearing on the last nine years of Sherratt’s life, following his return to Albany in 1849. They were published in a Supplement to the “South Australian Register” of 7th Oct., 1848, headed "A Painful Narrative” above the signature of Sherratl's legal adviser. The relevant extracts from the newspaper mentioned are:—

‘‘Thomas Brooker Sherratt, the parent of a large family of motherless children, might be called the father of King George’s Sound. His house was the home of the traveller. He also found and assembled both settlers and travellers to worship the Most High, before the Settlement had any stated Ministry; and so far as time and means permitted, furthered the success of those around him.”

. . . ‘‘It nevertheless pleased the Sovereign Dispenser of all events, by a mysterious hut no doubt unerring Providence, to permit him to be plunged into abysmal reverses, which, for a time, deprived him of the benefit of his mental faculties. On recovering the use of his reasoning powers, he found his house strip! both of goods and of money to a large amount, and a new vessel, the building of which had cost him £1200, launched and registered in the names or others.” Then follows a record of the trading voyages of the “Emma Sherratt” listed earlier, whilst she was under the conlrol of others. The “Painful Narrative” continued with details of the vessel’s arrival in Adelaide and of Sherratt’s arrival there for the purpose of establishing his claim to the vessel’s ownership. Then follow lengthy details of the endeavours of his arbitrator to that end and further long additional submissions from which the following is a quotation—“A few persons having heard of Mr. Sherratt’s case, sent him a few pounds, which with a few more kindly advanced by his solicitor, unsealed the award (of the arbitrators) to disclose to him that he was, for the present, a ruined man.”

No evidence has obtruded that Sherratt, on his return to Albany, was other than a ruined man, both financially and physically. Nevertheless, he felt the necessity for the active co-operation of his sons, as, on his return, his business commenced to function under the firm name of T. B. Sherratt and Sons, until his death on 20th May, 1857, aged 68. Its registry preserved in the Registrar General's Office, Perth, records the certificate of Alhany’s then R.M.O. Dr. W. Finer, slating the cause of his death as “old age and exhaustion from natural causes." The particulars were supplied by his eldest son, John, ten days after death. His life’s motto, if he had one, could have been:—

“To strive, to seek, to find,
And not to yield."

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In the absence of any evidence to the contrary it has been presumed that his remains were placed beside those of his wife, Amelia, in the Albany C. of E. Cemetery, its site, then os now, lacking any identification mark.

A STRANGE WILL

Late in December, 1847, just prior to leaving for Adelaide to toss his final legal gauntlet into the arena of its Courts, Sherratt executed his Last Will and Testament (S.F.P.). It was witnessed by Charles Sholl (then Registrar of Deeds, Perth) and by John Goulson (Office Keeper of the Colonial Secretary’s Office) and by (presumably) his wife, Housekeeper of the C.S.O. It was typical of all his writings, which have come under notice, by reason of its forthrightness and religious views. Owing to lack of space, three extracts only follow, chosen as being material to this study. They are:—

(1) He "conjured his children to live in brotherly love and sisterly affection well assured that such an association if well conducted and in all honesty will assure them all prosperity in this world. Let their callings be ever so various—as should one Trade fail, all will not.”

(2) “That the affairs of the Sherratts be carried out in every upright and honest manner, avoiding all Bill transactions whatever.”

(3) John and Thomas, the two eldest of his sons, were appointed Executors and in that capacity were “to continue all Law Proceedings under advice from one well versed in Law Proceedings. I declare this Will and Testament to be void and of no effect—and in that case bequeath the whole of my property to the Law Officers of the Crown to be used as the Law directs to the use of my aforesaid and named children and they the Law Officers of the Crown to go on with the Law Proceedings in all Justice to the subject and punishment of perjury at present most conspicuous against . .

The Will further provided for his property to be held on Trust until his youngest child had attained 18 and be vested in his sons John, Thomas and William (author’s note—who, on their father's death, were aged respectively 30, 28 and 25) as Managers, plus his children as progressively they attained the age mentioned. Further, it also vested all the Managers with equal rule.

Strange fterhaps, but true, Probate of this unusual Will was not granted until the 29th September, 1890, thirty-three years after its /Maker's death. Thomas Brooker Sherratt, as already mentioned, reached Journey's End in 1857.

ALBANY'S OCTAGON CHURCH

Albany's first Church, of lath and plaster, octagonal in shape, was built in 1835, on Albany Town Lot S52, at the corner of Parade

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and Duke Streets, from Ihe private purse of its builder and owner. Thomas Brooker Sherratt (S.F.P.). Its site was adjacent to Ihnt of the Flagstaff erected by Major Edmund Lockyer early in 1827. as a token that the whole of New Holland (now the State of Western Australia) was claimed by the British Crown and scaled by the actual occupation by the party commanded by Major Edmund Lockyer, which had arrived from Sydney on the evening of the previous Christmas Day.

Its purpose was for use as a house of public worship by its builder and the members of his family according to the forms of the Church of England. It was first opened for public worship on Sunday, 27th December, 1835, free of debt. The books used in its services by its builder and self-appointed lay reader were, of course, the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. In addition there were three volumes of sermons by the Rev. E. W. Whittaker from which sermons were read. Save the •Bible, all are now preserved in Albany’s Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist, where they were placed on the celebration of its Centenary, 28th October. 1948.

There is evidence that the self-appointed lay reader was no novice in his Church associations, nor his religious convictions a passing whim.

Mary Bussell, daughter of the Rev. Marchant Bussell, whose family made such useful contributions to the settlement in the S.W. comer of Western Australia, and her mother, were shipmates aboard “James Pattison” with the Sherratt family. Her diary records an invitation by Sherratt for her mother and herself to a service in his family cabin one Sabbath:—

“We went—I was quite pleased—I am glad that I did now— those present numbered 18. The father (Sherratt) of this decidedly interesting little group performed the service with much feeling and devotion and I felt grateful for their attention in asking us.”

(Diary of Mary Bussell, in the “James Pattison” by Dr. Fair-bairn. “Early Days,” new series. Vol. 8.)

Again, during 1836, Sir Richard Spencer’s second son, Seymour, in a letter to the British and Foreign Bible Society, wrote: "We are still without a Minister of the Gospel, but a private individual has erected a small building in which he reads prayers and a printed Sermon every Sunday and I am pleased to say it is generally attended by all in the Settlement.”

Confirmatory of the latter is a volume of Whittaker’s printed sermons, many of which bear the T.B.S. initialled date of their public reading in Shcrratt's handwriting, until 1846, when his business trials commenced.

However, the cessation of Sabbath services did not halt the octagon building’s community service. This began, in addition to

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the Sabbath services, in April 1841, when it was the venue of a public meeting at which the erection of an Anglican Church was conceived, and that, after seven years, resulted in the consecration of the Church of St. John the Evangelist on Sunday, 9th July, 1848.

That the Octagon’s builder regarded it as the forerunner of an Anglican Church appears to be confirmed by a subscription list, opened at the public meeting mentioned; this contains the names of 50 Albany citizens who contributed between them £211. Of this sum, Sherralt gave £25.

In the years following his Adelaide debacle, the conduct of his affairs passed to a family partnership in which he became associated with his two sons, John and Thomas, trading as ‘‘T. B. Sherratt and Sons," of whom Thomas appeared the most active and useful, as will apfiear later. (S.F.P.) During the sixty years of its existence (it was demolished in 1895) the lath and plaster building served Albany’s community, not only as a private church, but as the seed-bed of St. John’s C. of E.; a Wesleyan (now Methodist) church and Sunday school. Other uses were as a public hall, a meeting place of the Albany Town Trust (the genesis of the present system of local government), of which Thomas Brooker Sherratt was the first Chairman, on the Trust’s creation in 1843; Mechanics' Institute; a private residence; and at last, fallen into disrepair, a shelter for straying livestock. During its long usefulness there has appeared no evidence that any charge was made by its owners when it was hired for community service. The Octagon Church is an example how, in life, nothing succeeds like success. The afterglow of the Octagon church still shines on Albany’s traditions.

THE YEARS BETWEEN

On the evidence available, Thomas Brooker Sherratt, following his return from Adelaide, commenced the year 1849 as a broken man, both mentally and financially. Such family papers as are available (S.F.P.J throw little, if any, light upon the partnership of T. B. Sherralt and Sons until his death in 1857, nine years later.

Official records (B.L.A.) during 1850 tell of the eldest son, John, as Ihe licensee of one of Albany’s (then) three hotels—aptly and informatively named the “Whaler's Return.” As mentioned earlier, both John and his brother, Thomas, during their teens were engaged, as employees, in bay-whaling ventures. Thomas, following his father's death, slowly began to emerge as the quiet balanced slecrcr of Ihe affairs of the family partnership, if, indeed, he had not materially assisted in that direction following his father's return. On the 19lh June, 1855, Thomas married Kmma Keturah Jenkins (S.F.P.). There is evidence that Thomas was the licensee of the York Hotel during 1864 (B.L.A.) conducted, presumably, in the premises built and ojierated as “Sherralt's Family Inn” by his

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father in 1842, in conjunction with his olher varied interests. Of Thomas, his son. tradition has it that the hotel trade not lieing to his liking, it was discontinued in favour of that of a merchant, bay whaler and shipowner. Records substantiate this (B.L.A.) and they tell that he held his Publican’s license for four years f18fi2-1865). The merchandising business was conducted at the same time as the hotel. During 1866 the same source records only a gallon license held in conjunction with the business mentioned. No evidence has appeared that Thomas had any association with the liquor trade subsequent to the latter year. There is independent evidence (W.A.A. 1864) that “Sherratt Bros.—Whalers” were operative, although this is not confirmed elsewhere. Scant evidence has obtruded (S.F.P.) of the merchandising section of the business (no ledgers as in the case of his father) but sufficient, it is felt, to justify its existence, more particularly, as an adjunct to his bay whaling and shipowning ventures.

BAY WHALING

There is evidence that during the 1860s, whilst operative as a merchant and publican, Thomas Sherratt, and not Sherratt Bros., conducted a bay whaling depot at Barker Bay (B.L.A.), King George’s Sound, upon the site earlier established by his father. Tradition has it that he was a giant of a man, physically capable, single-handed, of upending and carrying a whaleboat upon his broad shoulders. The local shipping records of the Port reveal that during the 1860s increasing numbers of American whaling ships made use of Albany’s unrivalled natural harbour system as a “liberty” port for their crews as provided in the latter’s Articles. This proved of considerable advantage to Albany merchants in several ways, such as increased sales, handy facilities for the purchase of the trading stocks usually carried by the Americans. Additionally the Yankee whaling masters were willing barterers of their trading stocks in return for the whale oil and bone acquired locally by the merchants from their customers by similar means, and of course in the case of Thomas Sherratt from the operation of his own bay whaling depot.

SHIP OWNERSHIP

As the pattern of the tapestry of the life of Thomas Sherratt slowly appeared upon the loom of its source material, it resembled that of his father prior to his Adelaide debacle. What seemed a promising clue to his first venture in ship ownership was located in the “Western Australian Almanac 1864.” In it were listed the voyages of a small coastal schooner of 24 tons named Amelia (the Christian name, it will be remembered, of Thomas Sherratt’s mother). Her master, George Pettit, was an Albany resident and her voyages, during 1863, were eastward from Albany to Middle Island and Point Malcolm on the southern coast. In this setting, viewed against the backdrop of Thomas Sherratt's knowledge of bay whaling, the

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clue rang true. Further, during the same year, Thomas was actually engaged in bay whaling and, being the man he later proved to be, how apt was his mother’s name "Amelia” for his pioneer schooner.

Vain hope! As her history, provided by the Battye Library Archivist (Miss Lukis) shows, the schooner "Amelia” was built at the Vusse by George Chapman in 1858. He died in October, 1863, and in the following June she passed to an Adelaide owner and for the subsequent 19 years gave useful service in the South Australian coastal trade, until she sunk, following a collision with her much heavier sailing sister, "Grace Darling.”

This was a false dawn to Thomas Sherratt’s shipowning venture; its retention in this monograph is justified as a remembrance and tribute to another Amelia whose mortal remains, forgotten and unsung, lie beside those of her husband, Thomas Brooker Sherratt, in their unmarked grave in the first Church of England Cemetery on Middleton road. She may at least be regarded as the prototype of a gallant band of now nameless women of her generation, whose loyal co-operation and encouragement helped their menfolk so materially in their pioneering labours in a strange new land.

There was no false dawn about Thomas Sherratt’s schooner "Walter-and-Mary.” The actual agreement for her building together with her parchment Certificate of British Registry, Official Number 72477 (S.F.P.), are in the writer’s possession. The agreement for her building, dated April, 1866, cites its contracting parties as John Odgers Peters, shipwright, of King River, Oyster Harbour, King George’s Sound, Western Australia, on the one hand and Thomas Sherratt, merchant, on the other hand, with George Maxwell as witness. Then follow the detailed specifications, measurements, tonnage, timbers and fastenings, all subject to the choice or approval of Thomas Sherratt. These all agree substantially with the schooner’s Certificate of Registry. The agreement bears an endorsement signed by Henry Townsend, the owner of the land upon which the vessel was to be built, in which he undertook to protect the property (schooner) of Thomas Sherratt (on his land) should any illness or death occur to John Odgers Peters. On it also Henry Townsend certified that he had no claim on the vessel building for Thomas Sherratt by John Odgers Peters now or at any future period.

The agreement also provided the consent of “John Odgers Peters” to the inspection by any English shipwright and stated the price of his work as "the sum of one hundred and sixty pounds sterling (£160).” He was to confine himself to the work “(of the schooner's building)” unless through the order, or consent to act otherwise, from Thomas Sherratt.

Nine years later, on 2nd October, 1875, at Fremantle, the then Registrar of Shipping, Worsley Clifton, signed the parchment certification of registry of the schooner "Walter-and-Mary,” a two-masted fore-and-aft schooner (No. 13 of 1875), Fremantle Registry,

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recorded as built in Albany in May, 1871, by J. O. Peters of Albany” —“Measurements in feet — length 47, width 15, depth of hold 7, gross tonnage under dock 31”).

No good purpose, it is felt, would be served by extending the prescribed Hour Glass limit of this monograph with assumed explanations. The causes of the delay between the signing of the agreement for the vessel’s construction and her registration nine years later are conjectural only. Perhaps the congregation of American whalers in Port could have provided both Sherratt the merchant, publican and bay whaler, and Peters the skilled shipwright, with so much lucrative business as to make it mutually advantageous to suspend the schooner’s construction until the Americans had departed.

It is significant that it was on the 1st January, 1875, that the first part of the telegraph line to link Western Australia with Adelaide via Eucla was ceremoniously placed in front of Albany’s Post Office by the then Colony’s Governor Weld. From that date until three years later, in December 1877, when it was opened for business, its construction provided full employment for Albany-based schooners, captained by men with a practical detailed knowledge of the southern coast.

After the telegraph line’s completion business between Albany, Eucla and the intermediate ports progressively increased following the occupation of extensive pastoral holdings, many of which were based upon the sites of the telegraph repeating stations along the line’s route. At the time these were Cape Riche, Bremer Bay, Doubtful Island Bay, Mary Ann Harbour, Fanny’s Cove, Esperance Bay, Thomas River, Point Malcolm, Israelite Bay, Eyre’s Sand Patch and Eucla. This coastal run provided Albany-based schooners with lucrative trade until, years later, they were slowly ousted by small coastal steamships. Here, it is informative to incorporate a contemporary’s account of the construction of the telegraph line previously mentioned. (West Australian, Perth, 12/7/1935.) This from the pen of the late G. P. Stevens, who as a lad of 15 began an association with it, which lasted for 20 years, when he became a trainee telegraphist early in 1875. He wrote, referring to the port at Esperance Bay during the line’s construction period “. . . and of the schooners employed in transporting material for the telegraph line” . . . . "Frequent calls were made by the vessels ‘Mary Ann,’ ‘Agnes,’ ‘Walter-and-Mary,’ ‘Tribune,’ ‘Planet,’ ‘Twilight’ and ‘Catabunup’.” At least three of these tiny craft left their bones and some of them their names along the South Coast.

“Walter-and-Mary’s” Log (if it could be found) whilst commanded by her owner, could have contained, amongst many others, the following entries:—

1875 “Conveyed a party of copper prospectors to Point Charles, near the mouth of the Fitzgerald River.”

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Of this Charter, Naendip, on the river’s watershed still retains evidence of those now dead prospectors’ old copper workings. (“The East-West Telegraph Line,” G. P. Stevens, W.A. Historical Society’s Journal Vol. II, Part XIII, 1933.)

1860 "Salvaged quantity of ship's gear from the wrecked Dutch brig “Batoe Bussi.” The "Batoe Bassi’’ was wrecked off Tager Harbour (between Esperance Bay and Point Malcolm). After the rescue of her crew what remained of her wrecked body and gear were purchased by Thomas Sherratt for £8. ("West Australian,’’ Perth, 1/7/1880.)

1885 ‘Thursday, 16th. Loaded aboard schooner a large reel of cable to link Breaksea Lighthouse by telegraph with the Albany Post Office."

This job made headline news in the "Albany Mail’s” issue of the 21st July. It told of the schooner “Walter-and-Mary,” with a reel of telegraph cable aboard, being towed to Nannarup Beach by the Albany launches “Loch Lomond" and “Perseverance.”’ With one end fixed to a post on the beach the cable was unreeled, whilst the schooner was towed to Breaksea Island’s tall stiltlike landing stage to which the other end was made fast. The operation was supervised by officers and ratings of H.M.S. Opal, based at Albany because of the (then) current Russian war scare.

The following surface ripple of the growing use of steam propulsion appeared in the "Albany Mail”—“For Sale: the tight and fast Schooner ‘Walter & Mary,’ 31 tons register, substantially built of jarrah, copper fastened to the governing board, extra trinnioned, thoroughly sound and well found.—Apply General Agency Coy., Albany, 15/11/1885.”

Whilst the schooner “Waiter & Mary” (her name after her owner's youngest son and eldest daughter, of a family of six, the issue of his first wife) was safely at her anchorage off Lit tie Grove, opposite and within view of her owner’s store and residence at the foot of York Street, awaiting the appearance of her new owner-to-be, is the time to present a youth’s cameo of her owner, now retired from the sea in his middle fifties. It is preserved in the late H. G. Keyser's “Albany Reminiscences” (“Albany Advertiser,” 6/9/19531 "At the bottom of York Street where the Westralian Farmers’ buildings abut the railway line, was the shop and dwelling ijrcupnil by Mr. Thomas Sherratt, or Uncle Tom, as he was affec-honalcl} culled.” . . . ‘‘Uncle Tom was a huge man and the writer, sent to purchase some article usually stocked, found Uncle Tom lully stretched out on and completely obliterating the counter. To iny enquiry whether he hud the article required, he gave a grunted Wo' and promptly went off to sleep again. He was a splendid char-icter. but supremely casual.”

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Apropos the proposed sale of the "Walter & Mary" the following quotation is pertinent. It appeared in the “Albany Advertiser" of 31/12/1954, in an article written by the Albany-born I. C. Andrews, entitled “Tales of the South-East Coast.” Its author tells how he began his seafaring life, aged 14, as a “boy" on the schooner "ARnes” on the Albany-Hue la run during the late 1890s. His next berth, still as a “boy," was aboard a cutler, the “Eva," to ply on a like run to that of the “ARnes.” Of this he records:

“Shortly after my return Mr. Thomas Place, then the well-known Host of the Premier Hotel, decided to refit the old schooner “Walter & Mary” owned by a Mr. Thomas Sherratt and lying at anchor over at Little Grove. My Dad altered her rig to a cutter and a Captain J. J. Sale was given command. A boy was wanted to complete the cutter’s crew and 1 was chosen.

. . . The cutter was renamed the ‘Eva.* . . . The venture proved unprofitable and on her return the ‘Eva’ was sold.”

Prima facie confirmation of the foregoing exists in the obituary of Thomas Sherratt (“Australian Advertiser,” 28/6/1895). After reference to his bay-whaling activities it states: “he subsequently built the ‘Eva’ and other boats.”

Tradition records the schooner’s ultimate end, but under her first name, the “Walter & Mary” did duty for a long time “She was afterwards sold and did service as a pearler around Broome, but a willy-willy sealed her fate and her remains lay decaying on a northern beach.” This from the anonymous pen of “Beachcomber” (“Albany Advertiser,” 15/5/1944).

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICE

In his community service, as in his business and religious associations, Thomas Sherratt, as if by deliberate intent, trod in his father’s footprints. The latter, as previously mentioned, was elected Chairman of Albany’s first Town Trust on its creation in 1843. His son was a committeeman on the Town Trust during 1862, 1865, 1866, 1868 and 1869. The break in this service was, in all probability, brought about by absences from town consequent upon his bay-whaling operations and later by his mastership of his schooner “Waller & Mary.” On his retirement from the sea and the disposal of his schooner it was not long before he was back in this community service. The Town Trust Act of 1843, operative during his earlier membership, had during 1871 been replaced by West Australia’s first Municipal Corporations Act. Under its provisions, Thomas Sherratt was elected a Councillor for the Town’s West Ward, for the normal term of three years. (B.L.A.)

During this period, in 1889, the Municipality’s then Mayor and Councillors, including of course Thomas Sherratt, were the subjects of an honour unique in Albany’s local government history. A brass

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plate was inscribed with the names of the then Mayor and Councillors, dated 1889. The inscription ran:

“This clock was made by W. M. Potts & Sons, Clock Manufacturers of Leeds, England, to the order of Lancelot de Hamel, Mayor of Albany.

Councillors

Robert Muir, John McKenzie, Thomas Sherratt, Charles F. Lay-ton, Stewart F. Symers, William Douglas, Charles D. Keyser, James Edwards, Cuthbert McKenzie. October, 1889"

A little less than 18 months later, at 3 p.m. on 15th April, 1891, the then Mayor, Robert Muir, pulled a tape which started Albany town clock’s still-continuing public service in which it has ticked and chimed away the lives of the town’s citizens.

This well-hidden tribute would, it is thought, have appealed to Thomas Sherratt’s unassuming character.

ANGLICAN CHURCH ASSOCIATIONS

Like his father (whose pioneer work in church building made it unnecessary for his son to follow him in that particular line) Thomas Sherratt was a member of St. John’s Church of England (S.F.P.). Perhaps it is significant that the Octagon Church was not demolished until after his death in 1895. Perhaps its retention upon Albany Town Lot No. 52 could have been that he regarded it as a Memorial to his parents interred in the unmarked grave in Albany’s first consecrated Church of England Cemetery on Middleton Road, Albany Town Lot 51.

The archives of St. John’s Church of England, Albany, preserve its minutes for two periods, 1841-1850 and 1871-et seq. In the first his bay-whaling activities could have precluded his regular attendances at services. The same would have applied during his mastership of the “Walter & Mary,” although the minutes mentioned record his church wardenship during 1871-72. His obituary (A.A., 28/6/1895) records “He was interested in church matters and for many years a church warden.”

ALBANY'S QUICKENING GROWTH

A year or so before Thomas Sherratt’s retirement from the sea, on 25th October, 1884, Mr. Anthony Hordern’s Syndicate secured a contract for the building of the Great Southern Railway to link Albany with Beverley. The “Albany Mail,” 21/7/1886, published notice of the Company’s intention to resume certain lands along the route of the line after 1/9/1886. Included in the schedule of blocks were Albany Town Lots B28, B29 and B30, which were listed for total resumption. These were the site of the original buildings, it will be remembered, built by Thomas Brooker Sherratt, in 1836, now owned by his son Thomas. The latter had, apparently, received

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earlier direct notice ns a prior issue (19/6/1886) of the paper recorded:—"Albany is to have two new stores, both now in course of erection, one in Stirling Street (the Collie Street of today) and Iho other at the corner of the same street and Duke Street for Mr. Thomas Sherratt." The latter building was on the eastern end of Albany Town Lot No. 53. Ultimately only the lower track ]w>rtions of the lots were in fact resumed, and Sherratt continued in ownership of the family buildings until prior to his death. Later the new owners became Henry Wills and Coy., who, following Sherralt’s death, demolished the original buildings which were replaced by a large wool and grain store and a motor service station. Many years later, another news item (West Australian Newspaper, 23/11/1929) recorded—"At Albany, Westralian Farmers Ltd. bought the large wool and grain store of Henry Wills & Co., together with a motor service station, for £8,000, at public auction.” Today these buildings are still the headquarters of this company’s extensive business operations in the Lower Great Southern District.

VALE—THOMAS SHERRATT

Thomas Sherratt died in Albany during June, 1895, and was buried in the Church of England Cemetery (Albany Town Lot No.

51), Middleton Road, where it will be remembered both his parents’ remains had been interred. Today a substantial but unpretentious tombstone records:—"Thomas Sherratt, born Guildford, Surrey England. Died 25th June, 1895, aged 65.” An Albany newspaper, “The Australian Advertiser," in its issue of 28th June contained a compact, well-written and faithfully factual obituary. This could have given its modest subject little, if any cause for complaint, more particularly as at least a quarter of it referred to his pioneer father’s useful association with Albany. In this connection the writer has gathered a strong impression, if not a conviction, that in most of Thomas Sherratt’s successful business ventures he purposely duplicated those of his father, as if dedicated to the presentation of the afterglow of the transient brightness of his father’s meteoric colonising effort prior to his breakdown in health. The same, it is felt, applied to the Octagon church which, following his father’s death, he let be as his memorial. The building, dilapidated as it then was, during the 1880s and 1890s, had already become a canonic tradition, if the number of still preserved photographs taken of it, in its changing stages down the years, are any criterion.

For the reason mentioned, the originally planned caption of this monograph has been retained despite the fact that its basic data when studied in detail required a trilateral approach. For the same reason a backward glance must be given to the section headed “A Strange Will,” more particularly to its three quoted extracts. On the available evidence it appears that Thomas Sherratt faithfully followed and carefully honoured the terms of (1) and (2) but balked

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at the directive contained in (3). This instructed the continuance of certain Jaw proceedings after his death. Thomas Brooker Sherratt, even in his Will making, evidenced his decided taste for tlie machinery of the law. The time factor, in this instance, as in several mentioned earlier, prevents the record of reusons pro or con, for the disregard of the extract Number Three. That there were reasons, and that Probate of the Will was granted to “Thomas Sherratt one of the Executors of the Will” suggests the Supreme Court, Perth, found no negligence or improbity on his part. That there were reasons is patent from the fact that Probate of the Will was not granted until 27/9/1889, 32 years after the Testator's death, when, in the Supreme Court, Perth, administration of the Estate of Thomas Brooker Sherratt was granted to “Thomas Sherratt one of the Executors of the Will/* and concluded with “leave being reserved to John Sherratt the other Executor to come in and prove." Local tradition had it that John Sherratt, the other Executor mentioned, had migrated to America aboard a whaler. This study has led the writer to the conclusion that Thomas Sherratt loved the law as little as he loved the Devil. Never ever any suggestion of his being involved in actions at law, either as Complainant or Defendant. Only on two occasions, in the basic data, is his name associated with any law proceedings. In the first, he had no option when subpoenaed as a Juryman at an Inquest on 2/11/1859; the other when, in his capacity as an Executor, he sought Probate of his father's WilL

Today, Sherratt Street, a narrow, quiet and secluded thoroughfare, on Albany sub lot 129, high on the S.E. slope of Mount Melville, near Mokare Park, overlooking Princess Royal Harbour, unpretentiously preserves the Sherratt tradition.

THE THIRD GENERATION

WALTER PRETIOUS SHERRATT

In the case of Walter Pretious Sherratt, the third and final figure in the Sherratt family trilogy, the narrative, for the reason which appears later, lapses into the first person. Accompanied by my wife and family I moved from Katanning to Albany early in January 3934. This I now know was the centennial year of the arrival of Thomas Brooker Sherratt, his wife and family. On my arrival, by one of those unpredictable whims of destiny which shape (lie lives of men, the only suitable residence available was in Cuth-Ikti Street. Then unknown to me, its site was within the precincts "cij the sjjot of ground about 500 yards square where on Sunday, 21st January, 1827,” Major Edmund Lockyer in the presence of his soldiers and the personnel of his workforce, in the prescribed ceremonial raised the British flag to establish the claim of the British Crown to the western half of Australia by right of occupation.

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Four years later on 31/3/1831, the Cantonment of this New South Wales Military Outpost passed under the control of Western Australia's Governor Stirling. On the arrival of the Sherratt menage, Albany’s population totalled some 180 souls, while its first surveyed streets around the northern shore of Princess Royal Ilarlxiur could he seen only as straight lines on its townsite plan. Sherratt. it will he remembered, soon after his arrival, acquired the freeholds of a number of town allotments including several within the earlier Cantonment area. On one of these, Lot 52, at the corner of Parade and Duke Streets, he built the Octagon Church. My home in Cuth-bert Street was within 200 yards of Town Lot No. 52 on the comer of the two streets mentioned. The brick home occupied by Walter Pretious Sherratt was on the site of the Octagon Church until its demolition following his father’s death. He conducted his storekeeping business on the eastern portion of Town Lot No. 53, at the corner of Duke and Collie Streets. The western end of the same Lot, at the comer of Duke and Cuthbert Streets, was occupied by the Methodist Church, Hall and Manse. It was during my attendance at the public services in this Church that I first met Walter Pretious Sherratt who in his capacity as Sidesman regularly performed the duties of his Office each Sunday. I remember him as a decorous and quietly spoken old gentleman, an opinion I found no occasion to alter, when as a customer I had occasion to visit his store. This to the best of my recollection he conducted without assistance. Later from observation I formed the opinion that his days were spent, either in his home, his store or his Church. During 1936 my friend, the late F. I. (Son) Bray, then Chairman of our Society’s Parks and Memorials Committee, sought my assistance to obtain information on "The present location of the Punishment Stocks at one time located in the vicinity of the Albany Gaol." Included in a number of Albany’s older citizens whom I interviewed was Mr. Walter Sherratt. The following is a copy of his statement which, with those of others, was forwarded to Mr. Bray.

“I was born in Albany during 1864; my grandfather being Thomas Brooker Sherratt, who arrived in Albany by the ship ‘James Pattison’ during 1834 from Guildford, Surrey, after a term of service as a member of the household staff of King George IV. He was accompanied by his wife and six children, of whom one was my father Thomas. I remember as a boy seeing the stock at the rear of the Octagon Church on Albany Lot 52 at the corner of Duke and Parade Streets, Albany. So far as my memory serves me, the stocks were similar to the drawing by Mr. Bert Rosling. I remember being told of another stocks which were on the open space in front of what is now the London Hotel." -' r

His store, it may be remembered, was built by his father in anticipation of the resumption of his home and business premises

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at the foot of York Street, during 1886, by the Great Southern Railway Company. I must record that my knowledge of the foregoing and most of what follows was not acquired until the death of Mr. Walter P. Sherratt in 1939. Following this, his widow paid me the compliment of the gift of the Sherratt Family Papers. At the same time she sought my advice as to the disposal of the Prayer Book and Sermons which had been used by her husband’s grandfather in the Octagon Church, also some whaling gear, including a very heavy harpoon-gun which had been used by her husband’s father Thomas in his bay-whaling days. Fired from the shoulder it had discharged harpoons during the course of whale hunts. In my opinion, it would have required a man of Thomas Sherratt’s powerful frame to have handled it at all, let alone withstand its powerful “kick" when fired from a tossing whaleboat, travelling at speed in the wake of a hunted whale. As mentioned earlier, the Prayer Book and the Sermons found a home in St. John’s Church of England on the occasion of its Centenary in 1948. The whaling gear and harpoon-gun are preserved in the Police Department’s Ballistics Museum.

On reflection, after Mr. Sherratt’s death, I formed the opinion that my interview with him concerning the stocks could have been the cause of my nomination as legatee of the Sherratt Family Papers, of which he was the family Custodian, although I had no prior knowledge of such being the case.

It may be remembered that when Thomas Sherratt christened his schooner “Walter & Mary,” he commemorated his youngest son and eldest daughter. Walter’s second name “Pretious" did not imply any special regard of his parents. It did honour to an intimate personal friend of his father, William Pretious, who, for some 20 years, subsequent to 1853, held the post of Pilot in Albany. Earlier, bred to the sea, he had sailed the seven seas as mate on many whale ships.

In the absence of any mention of Walter’s name, during his teens and early manhood, in the Sherratt Family Papers or other sources I have assumed that he was employed in his father’s store during his absences aboard his schooner. When his father retired from the sea and disposed of his schooner to attend to his merchant’s business it could have been that his son Walter, then in his early thirties, commenced as a Grocer on his own account. Be that as it may, a tradition which lacks confirmation has it that Walter conducted a Grocery Store on Albany Town Lot 106, at the corner of York and Grey Streets opposite the Town Hall. This old building, si ill in use, is marked for demolition as the site of Albany’s new Post Office to be. E. C. D. Keyser’s article, “Long Years Ago" I Albany Advertiser, 8/9/1926) quoted earlier, mentions "Walter (Sherratt) is the well-known (Albany) Storekeeper." More definite evidence exists in the pages of “Wise’s Western Australian Post Office Directory.” This records in each of the years 1895, 1898 and

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1900 that he conducted business as a Grocer under his own name, most likely on the site of the corner of Duke and Collie Street, where, as previously mentioned, he was in business during 1934 and so continued until his death. He died suddenly at his residence (on the site of the Octagon Church) on Friday, 27th October, 1939. His remains were interred in the Methodist Cemetery on the following Sunday afternoon. As in the case of his father a plain substantial headstone marks his gravesite. This bears the brief inscription:—

“Walter Pretious Sherratt,
Born Albany 1865,
Died Albany 27th October, 1939.
Aged 74. Ever faithful.”

On the evidence of all the basic data used, Walter Pretious Sherratt followed in the footsteps of his father Thomas, when he, too, honoured by observance the Directives contained in his grandfather, Thomas Brooker Sherratt’s Will, (1) and (2), and like him eschewed involvement with the law. The erection of his home upon the site of the then ruins of the Octagon Church building could have been a desire to spend his life within the aura of its tradition.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Acknowledgment of once quoted, source data has been made in the monograph’s text. For those frequently quoted, symbols have been used and a key provided hereunder. For any hurt caused by unintentional omission from either of these, accident rather than design is pleaded and due apology tendered.

(S.F.P.) Sherratt Family Papers. (R.S.L.) Letters of Sir Richard Spencer, R.N. (B.L.A.) Battye Library Archives. (W.A.A.) W.A. Almanac. (A.A.) Australian Advertiser.


Garry Gillard | New: 8 April, 2021 | Now: 8 April, 2021