From The Vaults

As well as getting a good feel for the the lay-out of the Albany region, I have come across some very pertinent and enlightening insights into the period of Collet Barker’s life. My source has been mainly through the history section of the Albany Library, with its staff of Malcolm Traill, and Julia Mitchell, but in particular thanks to the wonderful enigmatic Bob Howard, local historian, and extremely knowledgeable of the Barker Journal and the period of my research.
During my first contact with Bob, by phone, he drew my attention to a type-written version of Surgeon Braidwood Wilson’s journey into unknown country soon after he arrived at King Georges Sound with Barker in late 1829, on the Governor Phillip. Wilson had befriended Barker at Raffles Bay after he had been delivered there after surviving a shipwreck near Murray Island, and he accompanied Barker with his contingent of soldiers and convicts when the Raffles Bay settlement, (Fort Wellington) was abandoned, and shipped to King Georges Sound.While the Governor Phillip was being prepared for its journey back to Sydney, Wilson, with soldier Gough, Mokarre as guide, and two convicts, set out to explore. Unbeknown to his travelling companions, it seems that Wilson was determined to be the first to travel overland from King Georges Sound to the Swan River settlement, some 400 kilometres away. Needless to say, his companions became rather grumpy as they were led further away from the King George settlement, and Wilson’s version of his journey (in which he admits to wanting to get near the Swan River settlement) makes some fascinating reading. Fortunately they were carrying plenty of rum, gin, and brandy to ease them through troubled times. Wilson discovered and named many places, as mentioned in the last blog, and did manage to get back in time to catch his ship – but only just.
Bob HowardThe other article Bob referred me to was in a rare book of Historic Records of Australia, wherein an enquiry was held at Raffles Bay by Commandant Smyth, into the circumstances of the killing of some Aboriginal people by a party of soldiers and convicts, and the capture of a six year old girl who was wounded during the affray, in which her mother was also killed. Smyth could well have put himself on trial, as it was he who armed the group, and offered a reward of five pounds for the capture of an Aboriginal, in a most bizarre approach to establishing contact with the local people, who had not demonstrated any animosity prior to the botched expedition. 

The group of six, five armed with muskets, had crept upon a large party (they said about sixty) of Aboriginals in the dark as they gathered around their fires, and it appears, fired indiscriminately into them immediately they spied each other. During the attack, which set the natives to flight, a child was killed, and its mother, trying to rescue it and another child by taking to the water, was bayoneted to death. In addition, an Aboriginal man found wounded on the beach with his entrails hanging out, was ‘despatched to ease his suffering.’

The child, who was named Mary Waterloo Raffles by Smyth, from there on lived in the Raffles Bay settlement, and it was from such a disastrous initial contact with the natives that Collet Barker had to build a positive relationship on when he took command of the settlement on 13th September 1828, some nine months later.

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