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Robert Lyon Milne

Robert Lyon Milne was known in the colony by the pseudonym Robert Menli Lyon, under which name he published invaluable articles about the Noongar language and placenames.

Having arrived per Marquis of Anglesea 23 August 1829, Lyon was granted Fremantle Town Lot 19, which is on the southeast corner of Cliff and High Streets, where the Bank of NSW now stands. He also owned Lot 31. In the Upper Swan, he was granted what was to become Belvoir. He did not develop it, and gave it to William Shaw, whose family is more usually associated with the property.

Robert Menli Lyon (1789–1874) was a pioneering Western Australian settler who became one of the earliest outspoken advocates for Indigenous Australian rights and welfare in the colony. He published the first information on the Aboriginal language of the Perth area.
Robert Menli Lyon was born Robert Milne in Inverness, Scotland. He is thought to have had a career in the army in his youth and probably attained the military rank of captain. In 1829, at the age of about forty, Milne immigrated to what was then the British colony of Western Australia. During his time in Western Australia, Milne made no claim to military rank, initially preferring to be known simply as Robert Milne. Shortly after his arrival, he adopted the name Robert Menli Lyon, Menli being an anagram of Milne.
Lyon travelled widely in the colony and had friendly contact with the local aborigines. He saw the mistrust, hostility and sometimes violence with which the frontier settlers treated the aborigines and became an outspoken defender of their rights. He spoke in their defence at a number of public meetings, arguing against proposed punitive expeditions and other violent measures and instead proposing policies of negotiation and conciliation. His stance alienated him from many settlers and he became a target of hostility himself. Wikipedia.

George Fletcher Moore:
In the evening Mr. Lyon, the writer of those essays about the natives in our newspapers, came here on some law business. I do not know what to make of him. He is either a much better or much worse man than he seems. He is either somebody in disguise or incog[nito], or else he is a very great hypocrite. He is said to have been a man of war (in the 42nd Regiment); his words are the words of a man of peace. He speaks as if he would wish you to believe him a zealous, disinterested ‘missionary’ in concealment, or unconfessed. Some of his acts do not seem so disinterested - averse to litigation, yet always involved in it; professing puerile simplicity, yet arguing with the casuistry of a Jesuit; affecting a great knowledge of the languages. – I recollect staring at him one day not a little when he suddenly asked what I thought was the force of the particle ‘Eth’ in the first verse of the Hebrew bible – yet this man has been a common or uncommon boatman plying on the river here. A great financier, he proposed an admirable scheme of a bank, which was to enrich us all: the only difficulty in which was that the Govt. was to lend us £100,000!!! I think he must be some schoolmaster gone crazed or somebody, in short, touched in the attics. In short, did I say? In long rather. (Millendon Memoirs: 224)

References and Links

Carter, Jennie 1986, Bassendean: A Social History 1829-1979, Bassendean Town Council.

Lyon, Robert Menli [Robert Lyon Milne] 1833, ‘A glance at the manners and language of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia with a short vocabulary’, in two parts: Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, 30 March 1833: 51; and 20 April 1833: 63-4. Many of the first people's names for places above come from this source.

LYON, Robert Milne (alias MILNE). b. 1789 (Scotland), arr. 23.8.1829 per Marquis of Anglesea. Selected land at Swan River (which he transferred to Shaw, gratis) & in Avon district. Was very sympathetic towards Aborigines & offered suggestions for their civilization 10.8.1832. He was known as an eccentric. Dep. 1834 for Tasmania. Erickson.

Moore, George Fletcher 1884, Diary of Ten Years Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia, and also a Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language of the Aborigines, M. Walbrook, London; facsimile edition UWA 1978; introduction by Tom Stannage.

Moore, George Fletcher 2006, The Millendon Memoirs: George Fletcher Moore's Western Australian Diaries and Letters, 1830-1841, ed. J.M.R. Cameron, Hesperion Press.

Reece, Bob 2011, '"A most singular man": Robert Lyon Milne', Early Days, 13, 5: 585-.

Wikipedia page

Clippings above from Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, Saturday 15 November 1834.

Garry Gillard | New: 27 June, 2018 | Now: 14 March, 2024