Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society
Erickson, Rica 1971, 'T. N. Yule, Esq.: a gentleman of misfortune', Early Days, Volume 7, Part 3: 7-25.
The name Yule appears on the map of Western Australia in Yule brook, Mt. Yule and Yule river. They commemorate Thomas Newte Yule, a “very pleasant gentleman”, a colourful character and leading settler in the early days of the Swan River colony. He held several official posts and his name appears often in the pages of diaries, newspapers and government records. Yet hitherto no biographical account has been written.
Little is known of his life before he came to Western Australia. He was born in 1803 and married early in life. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to him, and he became a widower while still a young man. He was an officer in the Indian army, and when the Swan River colony was being promoted he combined with two fellow officers, Lieutenant Ninian Lowis and Captain Richmond Houghton, to form a syndicate to take up land in the new colony.
Houghton apparently never came to the Swan. Yule was to take charge of the syndicate's colonial venture, and was accompanied from India by Lowis, who secured leave for the purpose. Lowis was in charge of a number of convicts who were being transported to Van Diemen's Land in the Bombay, a vessel of 315 tons. <1> The syndicate chartered the ship to convey their servants and goods to the Swan colony. They arrived at Fremantle on 8th May, 1830. There were 16 passengers including Yule’s servants, Thomas Parry, agriculturist, Robert Lyndford, labourer, William Owens, carpenter and cooper, and two apprentices of 14 or 15 years of age, called Williams and James.
The value of the livestock, seeds, goods and servants’ passages was set at £2,178/6/1, which entitled them to a grant of 29,000 acres, according to a communication from the Colonial Secretary, in June 1830. <2> Yule and Lowis lost no time in seeking out a location
but had to be content with only 200 acres, Swan location S9 on the Canning. They applied for an adjacent location which Dr Simmonds was relinquishing on his departure for King George sound. After protracted negotiations the syndicate secured a 400-acre grant in the Canning district. A stream which flowed through it was called Yule brook.
After Dale's exploration of the Avon valley in 1830 Yule applied for a grant in the Beverley district. He and several other applicants combined to pay a Mr Watson to survey 29 miles of base line for them to define their grants. Yule and Dr Harris paid £39/9/0 of the total sum of £59/5/0/3. It would appear that these unofficial surveys were the source of much confusion when settlers came to seek out their grants in later years, for some of them could not be fitted into the land available.
During this time Yule's servants had cleared some land on the Canning grant, and in April they received 12 bushels of seed-wheat from the Government Stores for their first sowing. <4> Lt Lowis had been waiting all this time for a passage to return to India to rejoin his commanding officer. He left in May 1831, aboard the brig Cornwallis, which was leaving for the Isle of France, as Mauritius was then known, hoping to transfer there to a ship bound for India. He was furnished with a certificate from Captain Stirling to the effect that the delay in his departure had been caused by the lack of shipping. <5>
Yule was then left in sole charge of the syndicate's interests in the Swan River colony. A large part of the 29,000 acres to which they were entitled had yet to be selected. Such a large area necessitated a big staff of servants, and arrangements had already been made for four families of workmen to be sent out from England. They arrived in the Drumoor in December 1831. They were Alex Ferguson, wife and three children, James Miller, wife and child, James Thomson and wife, and Joseph Burges, whose wife had died on the voyage out.
Soon after their arrival Yule applied for 5,000 acres in the Plantagenet district, in January 1832. This was an area newly opened for selection and he asked for land near that which was chosen by Captain Bannister and Stirling, in the vicinity of Mt. Barrow (that is near Mt. Barker). His selecting agent was T. L. Morley of King George sound. <6> The reports of its quality must have been pleasing, for by midyear Yule asked permission to transfer 9,000 acres from his Beverley grant to the same district. There is no evidence that Yule ever occupied this grant. (It would appear to have been the estate now known as Kendenup, which was sold to Captain Hassell by George Cheyne, the Albany merchant, before the titles were completed.)
Yule still had the right to select about 15,000 acres, but was obliged to wait until another district was opened up. In the meantime he secured a fine grant on the Swan, above Guildford. He and Dr Harris lent money to R. H. Bland, who, on going to live at York where he purchased Captain Byrne’s grant, had mortgaged his 8,000 acre grant on the Swan to raise capital. <7> When they took possession of Bland’s grant Yule named his portion Houghton, after his partner in India, while Harris bestowed a family name of Strelley on his. Grapevines were already flourishing at Houghton, and Yule extended the vineyards and made many improvements. According to Irwin, Yule's establishment was one of the most complete in the colony. Irwin gave some of the credit to Yule’s workmen, adding:
‘His people are Scotch, and by their trustworthiness and sobriety added to the industry and skill in their occupations, and above all their attention to their children’s education and their observance of the Sabbath, they uphold the high character generally acceded to the Scottish peasant both at home and abroad’. <8>
This testimony could have referred principally to the Ferguson and Thomson families. Ferguson was to become known as the best blacksmith on the Swan. He later became the owner of a small lot of land at Guildford and secured all the smithy work around Guildford and as far as York. In the 1840s he moved to Toodyay where his reputation for sobriety and piety equalled his skill as a blacksmith.
Yule also owned three town allotments at Guildford, nos. 160, 161, 162, and three at Fremantle, nos. 404, 405, 406. <9> During 1832 Yule was persuaded to use his literary talents in a journalistic venture, combining with three other men to publish a news-sheet called The Inquisitor. A small press had been purchased by Captain William Temple Graham, a former governor of Sierra Leone. The other principals were George French Johnson, a merchant at Fremantle, and William Nairne Clarke, a Scottish solicitor.
Clarke and Johnson had a serious disagreement over the affairs of the newspapers, which culminated, in August 1832, in a duel with pistols. <10> Johnson chose Yule to act as his second, and Clarke called on Graham for his services. Johnson was fatally wounded. Clarke, Yule and Graham were then apprehended on a charge of murder. The ensuing enquiry and trial created a great stir in the colony and when finally the three men were acquitted they left the court ‘surrounded by a crowd of most respectable friends.' This was the first and only duel to be fought in the colony.
Yule found many families of social eminence around him at Houghton. He entered fully into all the social and community activities, for he was fond of good company, good food and drink. There
were many dinners given and since Yule was a noted wit, every party that he attended was expected to be a merry affair.
He was on excellent terms with his neighbour, Dr Harris, who had a large family. Another colonist with whom he was on the best of terms was George Fletcher Moore. They had an arrangement which saved them the need of employing extra shepherds at lamb-weaning time, merely by exchanging the lambs of their flocks for a few weeks. <11> Yule brought good stock to the colony. It has been recorded that the famous cow called Yulika, owned by the Bussells was obtained from Yule.
Yule was one of the committee of directors of the Guildford Agricultural Society in 1833, and succeeded G. F. Moore as secretary to that body in 1836. He discharged these duties with energy and ability. The society not only fostered agricultural pursuits, it compiled detailed reports on the progress of the colony, and conducted horse-races and ploughing matches. It was also the mouthpiece for the indignation of its members, when they felt impelled to protest against land laws or any action of the government of which they did not approve.
In 1836 the colonists of Guildford and the Upper Swan were anxious to secure the services of a resident clergyman, and planned to build a church. Yule was one of the church committee, along with the Revd. J. B. Wittenoom, W. L. Brockman, Samuel Moore and Marshall McDermott.
The Harris family and Yule had many associations in common. Apart from being neighbours, they both had yet to select further grants of land, and they shared an interest in exploring new districts as they were opened up for selection. Land on the Hotham river was reported to be good. In August 1835 a company of men of like mind, including J. G. Phillips, Lt Bull, A. Hillman, M. McDermott, L. Burges, Yule and Harris proposed setting out with drays and axes to clear a track to the area where they hoped to claim land. <12> The making of the road would count towards the improvements which the government required of them before they could claim the titles to their land. This idea was proposed by Joseph Strelley Harris, the doctor's son, who was already determined to choose his grant there. Yule however decided to await further investigations before making his decision. The Harrises suffered drastic stock losses while taking their flocks over the hills to their new grant Yule had a flock of sheep in the York district in Trimmer's care and was far from pleased with his management. The pastures on the coastal plain were not satisfactory, so men were looking farther afield for grazing.
In June 1836 Governor Stirling decreed that all grants which had not been properly allotted on the Avon had to be decided within
a few months, as he was contemplating leaving the colony. The Toodyay valley had just been thrown open for selection and Yule promptly rode there to investigate the land. He decided to locate his grant of 15,000 acres at the place known to the natives as the Byeen, or the Place of the Rock, from a balancing boulder on a rocky outcrop near a good spring of water. His grant, Avon location 5, was about eight miles long and three miles wide, stretching from Bejoording to Bolgart. <13> It was a desirable tract of country, wooded with York gums and jam trees, typical of the best grassy land, and there were a number of springs. Here he transferred his flocks. It may be assumed that like other flockmasters who came to the new district, he built a stone hut for his shepherd’s stores. He had not intention of living there himself, so he planned to fulfil the location duties through the services of a tenant. In those days the tenant would bargain for a portion of the land in return for the work that he would do for the owner. By living on the grant, building a hut, clearing a plot of ground for a small wheat field, by fencing plowing and sowing it, and by running sheep on the grant, the necessary improvements would be made. The tenant usually acquired the land on which he had built the hut and would retain some of the fruits of his labours. Yule wished to enter into such an agreement and appointed Captain Whitfield, the resident magistrate of Toodyay as his agent in the business of leasing the Byeen.
Yule was enjoying life on the Swan too much to go willingly to his grant in the Toodyay valley. He was courting Lucy Harris, the doctor’s eldest daughter. They were married in July 2837 by Wittenoom, and Yule naturally preferred to live at Houghton. In January 1838 Dr Viveash, a new arrival in the colony, went up to the Toodyay district to seek out land to lease or purchase. Yule offered generous terms, but Viveash thought the grant was too distant and decided on a York grant instead. <14>
Yule, who was already commissioned as a justice of the peace in 1836, was appointed resident magistrate for the Upper Swan in May 1838. When in 1839 the government decided to economise, his territory was extended to include Guildford. <15> The year seemed to be full of promise for him. To complete his happiness his wife bore him a bonny son, whom they named John Strelley Carslake Yule. However the young mother did not regain her strength and we learn from Mrs Mitchell's diary how for four months she lingered. When her end was near, Dr Harris called their clergyman, the Revd. W. Mitchell, to her bedside. Lucy was only 24 years old when she died in November 1838. <16> A great assembly of Yule’s friends came to mourn with him as she was laid to rest, the first to be buried in the new churchyard at Middle Swan. Yule seems to have been deeply affected by the loss of this his second wife, and the publication of her death was delayed for some weeks. He and his infant son went to live at Strelley, where the baby was cared for by his grandmother
and aunts. Yule and Dr Harris prepared plans for the octagonal church to be sited near Lucy's grave. The building was begun in August 1839.
Yule’s plans for the future were unsettled. There was need to return to India to discuss business with his partners. He also wished to have his daughter join him in Western Australia, but distance and poor communication prevented a quick solution to his problems.
A second chance of leasing the Byeen was presented, when Captain Scully, another newcomer, went in search of land along the Avon late in 1839. Details of the negotiations are not known, but Scully ultimately received 2,000 acres of the northern portion of Byeen. There was no water in this section of the grant but the captain bought 160 acres nearby, adjacent to the government reserve on the Bolgart springs, where he established his homestead and farm. It may be inferred that by running his flocks on the Byeen he performed some of Yule’s location duties. Scully, Yule and Stokes, a land agent, visited G. F. Moore in March 1840, and it is probable that the legal details of such a transaction were then finalised. <17> Yule visited his grant periodically. In November 1840 he was given ten days leave of absence from his magisterial duties on the Swan, to go to his grant and see his flocks in the Toodyay district. <18>
As soon as the Byeen was leased. Yule advertised Houghton for sale or lease. He described it as a dwelling house adapted for the residence of a small genteel family, consisting as it did of an entrance hall, parlour, kitchen, store, servants’ room and pantry, with two bedrooms and a closet above. There were 40 acres of crop, which was an unusually large area those days. Most of the fields were post fenced, and there were extensive outbuildings. <19> The tenancy was taken by Lieutenant Slade in May 1840. He used it as a stepping-stone to a larger property near Toodyay where he subsequently settled, calling it Glenavon, in 1842. Thereupon Dr Viveash, who returned to the Swan at this time, took over Houghton in July 1842. Yule apparently continued to live at Strelley.
These notes on the leasing of Houghton are a digression. To continue with Yule's activities, he had been offered the post of chief draughtsman in the Survey department, by Surveyor-General Roe. Men skilled at drawing plans and maps were hard to come by, and the survey work was far in arrears, but the salary was small and Yule declined courteously in March 1840. <20> The date is significant, for it coincides with his land leasing transactions and suggests that he was receiving sufficient income from his rentals, or was planning to leave the colony.
The church at Middle Swan was taking shape slowly. It was not opened for worship until November 1840. because Yule and Harris were opposed to holding a service in it until it was quite finished.
There was accommodation for one hundred people, and the first service was held in the presence of Governor Hutt. Yule’s standing in the colony was reflected in Hutt’s choice of him as a member of the Legislative Council, after Thomas Peel’s resignation. Yule was sworn in during April 1941. His plans to visit India were unaltered and he was granted permission to sail to Calcutta on board the colonial schooner Champion in June of the same year. <21> He took with him a record of the lands in the name of Lowis, Yule and Houghton, as shown in the government register at the time, as follows — Canning river 400 ac., Avon district 14,223 ac., Plantagenet 14,000 ac. and the town lots already mentioned. <22>
Communications with India were not regular. One settler who took a cargo of horses to India during the early years of the colony had to wait eighteen months before he could secure a passage to the Swan again. Perhaps Yule was fortunate in being able to return as soon as January 1842. He brought with him a very handsome present of seeds from the Horticultural Society of India, and some exotic plants, including Assam tea, which was thought to be a most desirable acquisition, if successfully propagated. <23> They were handed to Joseph Strelley Harris, who was prominent in the affairs of the Agricultural Society at the time.
During Yule’s absence in India his daughter Elizabeth voyaged out from England, in company with eight members of the Sewell family, who were coming out to join their father. They arrived at the Swan in October 1841, aboard the Mary and Jane. <24> This was a period of world-wide business depression, and Yule was grateful to receive government appointments, even though he was obliged to leave the Swan. Immediately on his return he was appointed district registrar of the Swan District, a post which he held for two years. In November 1843 he became acting protector of the natives at York. He resigned as registrar in January 1844, and in April was appointed a justice at York, and as protector of aborigines in August. <25>
By this time Yule had recovered his usual bright spirits and once more was entering gaily into the public activities of the colony. As magistrate of courts he sat in judgment at York on such matters as trespass, breach of contract, and the issuing of licences. This was serious business, but his sense of fun obtruded even there. The court was held in the newly-built policeman’s quarters, which consisted of two rooms of mud walls. There were no suitable furnishings and Yule observed that whereas his seat was a ten-gallon cask, a fellow magistrate sat on a cask one size larger, which could create jealousy. Yule was referring as much to his figure as to official precedence, for he weighed about 15 stone, was very rotund, and obviously in need of the larger seat. <26> Yule was also a member of the Swan road committee in 1843. No doubt he was well acquainted with the state of the roads between Guildford and York, for he must have travelled between the two centres frequently.
Some very Interesting glimpses of the social life of the times appear in the pages of the diary of Gerald de Courcy Lefroy. Yule is often mentioned. In an account of the York races and fair of October 1844. it was noted that Elizabeth Yule accompanied the Nashes, who drove up in a cart from Guildford. Most of the visitors from the Swan found it more comfortable to ride than to drive over the rough roads over the hills. The young bloods voted Elizabeth to be 'a very nice gel', which was high praise from Gerald, who had a most critical and discriminating eye for the ladies. They gathered for a picnic lunch at Yule’s and Lefroy had fun teasing her. <27> Yule's horse Billy and Lefroy’s horse Erin were entered in the races and there was much friendly rivalry between them.
The race meeting was a very gay affair. There had been a lot of spills at the races. Then after the fair eighteen people fell off their horses. This may have been due more to the merry parties than the lack of skill as riders.
One young girl amused herself at the race course after one event by riding the winning pony. She rode astride in careless colonial fashion, which was unseemly, for women were expected to ride side-saddle. She was not a bad rider, but as she paced the horse between the heats of the hurdle races, she fell off three times. Yule tried to be gallant but cut a very comical figure instead. He rode up to her after her second fall to see if she were hurt, and she asked. “Why don’t you get down and help me up?" Although he was very portly Yule was not old, and he began to dismount to show his activity and gallantry — but his foot stuck In the stirrup and down he came, flat on his back, within two yards of the girl, and he was far more helpless. Like most fat people he was not averse to making fun of his appearance. As he looked at the girl in mock dismay he said, “Now which? Will you come and help me, or do I help you?"
In the following year business conditions worsened in the colony and Yule was obliged to go to live at the Byeen. He was then appointed as a justice of the Toodyay district. With “Squire" S. P. Phillips (no relation to J. G. Phillips) as a neighbour on one side of him and Captain Scully on the other, only two or three miles away, Yule would not have lacked for company. But there were few women in the district and his daughter Elizabeth must have been very lonely, and she welcomed Lefroy with cups of tea whenever he came.
One event to stir the quiet routine of their days was the arrival in August 1846 of the three Gregory brothers, who were on the eve of setting out on their first major exploration into the interior. The cavalcade was too big for one homestead, so some of the men went on to sleep at Scully's.
As a result of the economic recession, the colonists were beginning to leave the country. At the end of 1846 Scully received news from England which made him depart by the first boat, probably by that which brought him the letters. It was impossible to sell his farm, even if he wished to, so he leased Bolgart to the Lefroy brothers. Gerald de Courcy Lefroy frequently visited the Byeen to see Yule, who in his opinion was a very pleasant person to chat with, a man of information, and a gentleman, who did not confine his remarks to the usual colonial topics of grass, sheep, and crops. Judging by Lefroy’s diary the two men also indulged in much gossip.
Yule certainly did, as is shown in a letter he wrote a few years before, to C. H. Wright, a former neighbour on the Canning, who had appointed Yule as his agent when he departed for Van Diemen's Land. It gives a hint of Yule's droll manner of talk. It also indicates that gossip was the spice of life in the colony, and that there was plenty of it to hand around.
August 21, 1840.
My Dear Wright,
Thanking the sender for the present of a book for son aged 2 1/2years, also cap which is an outsize (because I am 15 stone). The colony politically, governor very unpopular, the people bent by the yoke and galling. We have memorialized, petitioned, remonstrated and protested, but after 10 years, no difference. Land is, by late instructions from Home, to be put up at 12/- an acre. We have however got 4 unofficial members in the legislative — may check Gov.
Now speak of people you remember when you left. Your friend Bull has detected some very improper proceedings in his wife . .. and she has been packed off to England and allowed £50 per annum. A duel was prevented between Bull and Lawson in time to prevent bloodshed.
There is another more serious affair before the quarter session. During Mrs Whitfield’s absence from her home in Toodyay to attend her daughter Charlotte during her confinement (He, HO, Ho) Mr. W. and all hands have left the house and there is a very strong feeling in the colony against the old man. Most families here have determined not to admit him to their houses etc. and among the 2 dozen people of Perth a subscription has been started to bring him to justice. William Samson's marriage to Mrs P-------. Collinson has left the service and is now sitting on a high stool in their office, Samson Bros. He gets £200 per annum. George Leake is about to be married to Miss Kingsford, a young lady who arrived in the Cygnet just
before you left. Clearly a matter of money — I hope she will serve him as Bull got served, Phillips is leaving the Canning at last He is going to K.G. Sound as Resident and subcollector of revenue. He is a great partisan of the Governor’s and I fear not so much in the confidence of his fellow colonists as formerly in consequence.
I have to go down to Fremantle to settle an unpleasant fracas between Lamb and his wife. One of the young Davis’ of the Canning, John with the — Hip and Go constant — lately married the last of the hopeful family Thompsons of Rottnest, formerly again of the Stirling Arms, Fremantle. I believe he was fortunate to become a father within the week. Old Hester is getting on much better. Miss Hester is I think although very awkward and untaught the prettiest and altogether the finest girl in the colony. We have lately a new paper the Inquirer. I sent you the third copy, edited by Mr Leckie. MacFaull might do well but is too indolent. George Moore is going home and Mr Nash, an Irish barrister, will be advocate general for him in his absence. Scott and his family have gone home but is coming back with Mrs Luke Leake. I expect she won't be pleased to find George Leake married again. Old Major Nairn is still living in Phillips’ old house. He is breaking up and lives with his wife and one daughter. The wife doesn't agree with stepdaughter, who has gone to be governess and lady's companion to Mrs Phillips. He has a son in Van Diemen’s Land. One of the Misses Bussell also came out in the Cygnet, married a Mr Ommanney. Old Wittenoom is rejoicing in a daughter by the marriage with the daughter of Mr Helms, a retired tailor from London. The Roes and Brouns continually have children. Lennard returned from England with a wife.
Yours very truly Thos. N. Yule.
A letter which Yule wrote to the same friend in 1948 was in a despondent vein; he commented on the long economic recession:
Jan 20 1848.
Still on my land in the Toodyay district. As good a block as any in the country. A goodly flock but scarce labour. A shepherd gets £40 per annum and chooses his own master and discharges him if he doesn't like him. We are down in the mouth. Sandalwood carters get £13 a ton at Fremantle (calling York So and So's). I am busy cutting and have 163 tons on my grant.
Copper also has been found on my place. ------- speaks of Phillips at King George Sound and of -------- and courtships. Phillips now appointed Protector of Natives at the Sound. Sam Burges married a daughter of Capt. Meares, late of 2nd Lifeguard. Burges
doing well. Hinds, Ridley, Lukin, Drummond broken down. Clarkson giving up farming — ditto Dempster who married Pratt’s daughter ...”
Incidentally the copper find was a hoax. One of his workmen, an Irishman who had been on the South Australian copperfields thought that it would be a good prank to salt a hole with copperbearing stone. When the truth was discovered Yule did not take the matter as a joke when his hopes of making a fortune were dashed.
During his sojourn at the Byeen Yule drove down to Perth regularly in a trap or sulky, to attend Council meetings. Although the track was rough for a wheeled vehicle he could no longer face such a lengthy ride on horse back. The sandalwood which Yule mentioned, provided a lucrative trade for 1847 and 1848, which tided many settlers over a very bad period, but prices fell from over-supply and by 1849 it was very hard to make ends meet.
Both Yule and S. P. Phillips were noted horse breeders. They ran their stock on the open range of Crown lands to the west of their grants. By 1848 shepherds and others were competing for these pastures, and Yule found it necessary to lay legal claim to the area by taking out a pastoral licence of 12,000 acres. Phillips took up a larger lease adjoining this, late in the next year. The two men held a huge area between them. During 1848 there were hopes of establishing an organised horse trade with India, when George Leake initiated negotiations with an agent in India, to promote a horse rearing and exporting company. <28>
At the end of 1848 Yule suffered the misfortune of a disastrous fire which swept through the Byeen. An account was published in the Inquirer, 17th January 1849:
"The fire at Mr Yule's originated in the carelessness of a native who had come to the house on a message, and made a fire at a short distance from it where he lay down to sleep. A very strong land wind blew some sparks on the dry grass adjacent, which immediately ignited and burnt with such fury, that is was utterly impossible to check it before it reached the stockyard, the fence of which it soon consumed; destroying in its progress some pigs and about ten tons of sandalwood ready for market. From thence it made a detour, entirely surrounded the house, partially burning the garden and paddock fences; by an untoward and sudden change of wind, it then returned and ignited a stack of barley, 12 tons of hay, the stables, etc., thence progressing nearly as fast as a man could run, to the wheat fields, where it devoured the whole crop, just cut and ready for carting, obliterating all traces of fences and everything which obstructed its progress. We are sorry to learn that the total damages
sustained by Mr Yule from this untoward event are estimated at no less a sum than £200 and that the farm, with the exception of the dwelling house, which fortunately escaped, is for the time perfectly ruined. The feed for the horses, cattle and sheep is destroyed for many miles.”
Quite disheartened by his misfortune Yule decided to leave the Byeen. He rented his property, with the pastoral leasehold, to his employee, Duncan Macpherson. The rental would not have compensated him for the loss of sandalwood, crops and pastures. His income was supplemented by his appointment as Clerk of the Council, on a temporary basis at £100 per annum. His sense of insecurity was scarcely lessened when he was made Acting Colonial Secretary for a few months in the following year. Like many other colonists of long standing, who had seen their fortunes melt away during the difficulties of the first two decades of the settlement. Yule was content to accept official posts in the civil service for the sake of a small but regular income. These appointments had the advantage of permitting him to live in Perth, where he enjoyed the social life to which he was accustomed. During his sojourn in Perth, Yule and his son lived in a house adjacent to Reveley's mill in St. George's terrace.
Yule’s daughter Elizabeth married Sampson Sewell in January 1850. The ceremony was performed by the Revd. Charles Harper, and the two witnesses were S. and W. Parker. It would appear that her father was not present. The young couple went to Champion Bay district in 1853 to manage James Drummond's station, Oaka-bella. They remained there for many years and died childless.
Yule grasped the opportunity of improving his financial position in another field, after Leake's death in 1849. He took charge of the correspondence in connection with the horse trading company which Leake had been promoting. The agent in India was a veterinary surgeon named Haggar. The Indian shareholders were to provide the stallions, and the colonial horse-breeders were to provide the mares. A series of questions was asked in Western Australia, of experienced men in the several districts, concerning the suitability of runs in their areas, from the point of view of grasses, poison plants, diseases and the availability of land, as well as the willingness of horse-breeders to co-operate.
It was proposed to float a company with capital of £16,000, the whole of the shares to be subscribed to in India. Six thoroughbred sires from England, in charge of a staff of Europeans and Indians, were to go to Western Australian studs to serve the mares. There were to be no fees for this service. All colts were to go to India, and the fillies were to be retained by the breeders. As negotiations proceeded, the Indian shareholders thought that the colonists should
contribute a quarter of the capital, and here the scheme faltered. All the breeders except W. L. Brockman were agreeable, but he In the meantime had contracted to supply another party In Calcutta and therefore wished the venture to lapse. The matter was freely discussed in the newspapers of 1849 and 1850. <28>
The introduction of convicts to the colony in 1850 was thought to improve the prospects of a thriving horse trade, and Yule went to a great deal of trouble to collect the required information. The company was at last formed in 1851, with £500 being contributed from Western Australia. Haggar toured the colony to select horses, which had to be up to cavalry standards. These were hard to procure, because the colonists were breeding for hacks and draught horses. Despite all Yule's efforts, the scheme fell through, and the trade was then conducted by private venture.
In 1851 Yule was appointed with E. Y. W. Henderson, Comptroller General, and H. C. Dowling, to act on a board to check improvident spending in the Convict department in Western Australia. The duties mainly were to make recommendations to the Governor and through him to the Imperial government At the end of 1851 Yule was appointed as Police magistrate. His tours of duty to the Avon valley were always an occasion for happy reunions with old friends. He was a fair-minded judge, and his decisions were respected, but he came into open conflict with Governor Kennedy who held office in Western Australia from 1855 to 1862.
Shocked by the excessive drinking of spirits in the colony, Kennedy proposed to reduce the number of hotels, especially in the vicinity of convict establishments. As these establishments were located in the main centres of population, the new regulations affected most of the people, and were greeted with hostile criticism from all parts of the colony by people of all walks of life.
Licence fees were to be raised, restrictions were to be placed on the sale of spirits, and ticket-of-leave men were to be banned from obtaining licences. As many of these men already had licensed premises it was thought to be unfair to attack their vested interests. The act was claimed to be against the reforming policy advocated by the Home government, which affirmed that conditional-pardon men should be placed on equal footing with fellow subjects of the Crown. The new Public House Licensing Act was the subject of hostile criticism at well-attended public meetings held in all the districts.
Yule's clash with Governor Kennedy came about over the granting of a public house licence to a ticket-of-leave man, whose inn near the Perth causeway was the recognised meeting-place for teamsters coming down from the country. Teamsters were notorious roisterers. While in company on drunken sprees they were difficult
to control and this was one reason that Kennedy wished to close down as many of their haunts as possible. Kennedy was not satisfied that the Police Commissioner and Yule were administering the act as he wished. The upshot was that both were advised to retire in January 1856. The two men went to England where Yule said that he would put his case to the Home government.
Yule was in a position to leave the colony, because there was a dissolution of the partnership of Lowis, Yule and Houghton in 1855. The Byeen was divided into three equal portions, and of them Yule retained the central part and the old name of the Byeen. The northern section was apportioned to Lowis and Houghton, and became known as the Carroll. This was a native name for a small rock kangaroo which lived on the rocky ridges there. The southern third was sold to a cousin of Duncan Macpherson, Ewen Mackintosh, who already owned a farm of 160 acres adjacent to this section which he called Glendearg.
Yule had another reason beside his quarrel with Kennedy for voyaging to England. His son was 17 years old, and ready to begin studies for his chosen profession as a surgeon.
They departed aboard the Esmerelda early in 1856. <30> While in England, Yule was called, with other prominent colonists who were there at the time, to give evidence before committees of the House of Lords investigating the convict system and the land laws of Western Australia. His stand on the licensing Act was vindicated when the Home government promised to reconsider the offending provisions concerning ticket-of-leave men. When Yule returned to the colony in February 1858. he was reinstated as Police magistrate, but the unfortunate Police Commissioner never came back.
Yule's fondness for spirits was well-known throughout the colony. There is a story told by J. T. Reilly of how a prisoner turned Yule's reputation to his own advantage. As Reilly remarked:
“Yule was one of the early settlers who had a considerable experience of the ups-and-downs of colonial life. He was a gentleman of education and culture and although recognised as a bon vivant, was a strictly just and impartial magistrate. Nevertheless one day as he sat on the Magisterial bench obviously suffering from a hangover he addressed the prisoner on a charge of drunkenness, querying, ‘Had the prisoner been drinking?’ 'No more than Your Worship.' was the quick retort that won him a dismissal from a red-faced judge.” <31 >
Yule's high living was probably the cause of his ill-health. In February 1859 he applied for six months' leave of absence from his duties, because of a severe indisposition. The need for money may have forced him to sell part of Houghton, comprising 320 acres with the vineyards, to Dr Ferguson.
The Harris family's link with Strelley was broken about the same time. The family was left penniless when Dr Harris died in 1846 of delirium tremens. The property was heavily mortgaged to Samuel Moore, but the latter’s death in 1849 postponed a foreclosure. J. S. Harris received a small stipend when he was appointed resident magistrate of the Toodyay district in 1850, after the death of Lt Slade. One wonders whether the influence of Yule secured this post for Harris, for he had an inadequate knowledge of law and was also an eccentric, tactless, man. The younger Harris advertised Strelley for sale, or to let, during the 1850s. Finally Mrs Harris and her family sailed for England in 1860, leaving her son to continue his ineffectual career in the colony. He was transferred to the Vasse soon after, and remained there for twenty years. He never married. When Yule later retired to England, there were no kinsfolk of either family (apart from the childless Elizabeth) to perpetuate their names and traditions, which accounts for the dearth of knowledge concerning them.
During 1861 Yule's name was commemorated in Yule river by F. T. Gregory, who in exploring the north-west, bestowed names of prominent colonists on outstanding physical features such as Hamersley range. Mount Bruce and Hardey river. Mount Yule, between New Norcia and Walebing, had been named about twenty years before.
Yule returned to England once more in 1862. One of the last affairs to engage his attention in the colony where he had suffered so many blows of misfortune, was a small windfall and concerned the fate of Mr Beere’s house. Ed. Beere was a small farmer and pastoralist who was originally in the employ of Lefroy at Bolgart. When the latter transferred to Walebing, Beere had sub-leased Bolgart and afterwards become independent with his own pastoral lease on the west of the Byeen. As was customary, he secured a small tillage lease within this land, and because he had first right of purchase from the Crown, and was therefore reasonably secure in his tenure, he made many improvements. He built a comfortable house for his large family, dug wells, cleared land and planted gardens and fruit trees. However he had run into debt. He applied for aid from Squire Phillips, who agreed to lend Beere £100, if Beere would transfer the titles of his leases to the squire. In return Phillips offered to buy the freehold of the 60 acres on which the house stood, agreeing that Beere should live on this part and remain in occupancy for 21 years if he so wished. The squire found it convenient to keep men thus dependant on him as a source of labour. After making these arrangements to their mutual satisfaction, all would have been well, except that Surveyor Evans had trouble in surveying the 60 acres, being unable to mark out the original base line of the old surveys. After shifting camp several times, he found
that the west boundary of the Byeen lease was out by a degree and a half.
The first to realise the significance of this error was Duncan Macpherson. Yule’s tenant on the Byeen, who had been paying for Yule’s pastoral fees as well. He knew that with the new boundaries, Beere’s homestead would be located just within Yule’s pastoral lease, and he promptly applied to the Governor to purchase the land on which it stood, thinking that as he had paid the fees on the land, he should have pre-emptive right of purchase. Yule, however, considered that he had this right since Macpherson was only a tenant. Phillips, who had already taken over Beere’s pastoral lease, which was worthless without the homestead and wells, wrote that he would be satisfied if he could recover the £100 that he had lent Beere, and he offered to sell what he considered his pastoral interest for that sum. Beere, who had relinquished his pastoral rights, and still owed $100 to Phillips, was about to lose his home and the fruits of his pioneering labours. He was in a great state of mind, and wrote a pathetic letter to the Governor, but he made the mistake of grossly overstating the value of his home and labour, which he set at £750.
Toodyay, 26 Jan. 1862.
To His Excellency, Governor Kennedy.
May I beg to call Your Excellency’s attention to an application made by Mr Yule for to buy 40 acres of land on which my house is built, the particulars are as follows. I took out an eight year lease in the usual way some years since and built a house as I thought on the land and laid out a considerable sum of money, clearing, fencing, trenching and sinking wells. About two years since I was pressed for £100 and Mr Phillips very kindly said he would pay it for me if I would assign him the lease, also that he would buy 60 acres for me and then lease me the whole for 21 years, only to keep sheep off. I accordingly assigned the land in the usual way and I though it was alright. However it was not surveyed until the other day and it turns out that the house and improvements are about a chain inside Mr Yule's leases B class land. I at once applied to Mr Yule, explained the mistake I had made and begged of him to allow me to buy the land that my house was on. He refused to do so and has applied to purchase it for himself or for his tenant Macpherson, which would of course deprive me of all the money I have laid out on it, fully £700., and would be perfect ruin to me with a large family and the impoverished state I am in. I therefore trust you will kindly look into it and see that I am fairly treated. The mistake has occurred principally I believe by Mr Yule’s original line along his fee simple land about 4 miles
from this, being about 1 1/2 degrees wrong, or different from the line run through the other day and from which line I took my distance. In fact it was the only one to take it from. All I want is to be allowed to buy my house or to be allowed fairly for it. But to be turned out with a large family and not a shilling to build another with would be shocking. I hope Your Excellency will excuse my troubling you but you will see at once the serious consequences it would be to me and I am sure you will kindly see and set the matter right for me if possible.
I have the honour to be sir,
Your obedient and humble servant,
The Governor asked Surveyor Evans to assess the value of the improvements, and then instructed the Crown Solicitor to unravel the legal tangle. Beere’s cottage and improvements were officially valued at £160 — £80 for a house of stone with thatched roof and the refinement of a boarded floor. The fence at £40, two wells for £10, and about 50 acres of clearing and enclosed garden at £30 completed the bill. It was ruled that Yule, and not Macpherson, had the right of purchase, and that the Crown had the right to charge more than the usual 10/- per acre.
The Governor noted with some asperity on the correspondence that he did not see what Phillips and Co. had to do with the point in question, since the improvements were made by Beere on Yule's lease. For once Dame Fortune dealt kindly with Yule, who must have smiled at what was to observers, a comical situation. For Beere was known not to be above sharp practice in a small way. Also it was unusual for the squire to be on the losing side, paying twice over for 60 acres, as it were. For he must have paid Yule something for the title to the block in question, which was duly entered in the Avon land location book in the name of Phillips and Steere.
Yule returned to England soon after. Six years later he died at Millbrook near Plymouth on 13th November 1868, at the age of 65 years. His tenant at the Byeen, Duncan Macpherson, could not weather a series of bad years and was sold up by his creditors at the end of 1867. He took his family to the distant virgin district of Carnamah. The Byeen was then leased to James Butterly, a workman who had risen by sheer hard work to become a man of some substance. Yule’s son and heir, who became a surgeon in England, subsequently sold the Byeen to Butterly, who in 1873 built a fine brick home there with a huge kitchen, capable of seating up to twenty workmen, the number he employed at haymaking and harvest time.
John Strelley Carslake Yule probably never returned to the land of his birth. On 24th July 1873 he married Ida Eliza, the daughter of a surgeon at Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. A notice was duly printed in the Inquirer in September. <34 >
There this story would have ended, but for the glimpse of a photograph in an old number of the Western Mail published on 7th May 1910. It portrayed two men about to go to Walcott inlet in the far north of Western Australia, seeking a suitable site for a Presbyterian mission station for aborigines. The names of the men were W. S. Rankin and Dr J. S. Yule. After some months absence, they returned full of enthusiasm, not only for the chosen spot, but also for the scientific interest of the aboriginal culture in the area. However their church could not raise sufficient funds, the government would not help, and Dr Yule resigned from the commission to go to another mission on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Enquiries at the Presbyterian offices in Perth revealed that Dr J. S. Yule was a fifth year medical student of the Melbourne University. It is possible that he could have been a grandson of Thomas Newte Yule. Could some aboriginal relics among his possessions inherited from Yule's Swan River colonial days have influenced him to visit these shores?
(*All manuscript items are in the Battye Library of West Australian History, which houses the State Archives and the manuscripts of the Royal W.A. Historical Society.)
(1) *CSR 2/222
(3) *SDUR H/1/23& A b
(4) *CSR 4/55
(5) *CSR 4/91. 19th May 1831
(6) *SDUR M/2/167 A 170. and Y/3
(7) *SDUR H/l/120. 19th August 1833
(8) Irwin. F. C.. The State and Position of Western Australia .... (London, 1835)
(9) *SDUR Y/ll
(10) De Mouncey. P. E. C.. The Historic Duel at Fremantle, in Early Days (Journal of the R.W.A.H.S.). vol. 1. pt. 5. 1929
(11) Moore. G. F., Diary of Ten Years' Eventful Life of an Early Settler In Western Australia (Lon.. 1884). Entry for 15th October. 1834
(12) *Lands and Surveys Dept., Explorers' Journals, Jl. p. 452
(13) *SDUR Y/8, September. 1836
(14) *Viveash, S. W., Diary, 1838-51
(15) Western Australia. Government Gazette, Index 1836-90
(16) *Mitchell. F, T. (Mrs. W.), Diary, 1838-40
(17) Moore, op. cit.. Entry for 9th March, 1840
(18) *CSR 85, 27th November, 1840
(19) Hasluck. P. M. C.. 'Guildford and the Swan', in Early Days (Journal of the R.W.A.H.S.), vol. 1. pt. 2, 1928. p. 17
(20) *SDUR Y/12
(21) Perth Gazette, 18th June. 1841
(22) *SDUR Y/ll. 26th May, 1841
(23) Perth Gazette, 8th January, 1842
(24) *CSR 97/202
(25) Western Australia. Government Gazette, Index 1836-90
(26) Deacon. J. E., 'Captain Richard Goldsmith Meares and his Times', in Early Days (Journal of the R.W.A.H.S.), vol. 3. pt. 10, 1948, p. 7
(27) *Lefroy, G. de C.. Diary, 1844-52. Entry for 22nd October. 1844
(28) Inquirer, 8th August, 28th September, 24th October, 1849; 1st February. 5th April, 1850; 20th March, 21st May, 25th June, 1851.
(29) Kimberly, W. B., History of West Australia (Melb., 1897). p. 156
(30) Wollaston, J. R.. Wollaston's Albany Journal* 1848-1856 (Perth. 1954), p. 234. Entry for let March. 1856
(31) Reilly, J. T., Reminiscences of Fifty Years' Residence in Western Australia (Perth, 1901). pp. 18-19
(32) *SDUR Y/22a-ff, 1862
(33) Inquirer, 3rd February. 1869
(34) Ibid., September. 1873
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