The story behind The Sound #5

For eight weeks the Menang men remained on Michaelmas Island. They tended to the cutlass wounds on their throats and bodies and lit fires to communicate with their country men and women on the mainland. Tiffany Shellham speculates that the Michaelmas Island fire which Major Lockyer saw on his arrival was not the Menang men’s appeal for assistance but rather to alert their families on the mainland, warning them of an unknown ship entering the Sound.(39)

 Rock Dundar, adjacenet to Michaelmas Island

Rock Dundar, adjacenet to Michaelmas Island

 

The channel between Michaelmas Island and Breaksea Island is prone to tidal surges and about eighteen hundred metres in width. They may not have been able to swim the channel but if they stood on the south side of the island and looked across the stretch of water to Breaksea Island, the Menang men would have been able to see the sealers’ camp and the two abducted countrywomen. At some stage in the eight weeks between the Astrolabe leaving and the Amity arriving, McGuiness took a female Menang captive to an island east of King George Sound and Bailey took the other Menang woman and a female child to Eclipse Island.

Lockyer’s subsequent attempts at procuring justice for the Menang population could be construed as a utilitarian act for a fledgling colony vastly outnumbered by their Indigenous landlords, as a ‘law and order’ campaign against the white men who lived on the very edges of society, and to assert his authority as first Commandant of King George Sound. The day after taking William Hook’s statement, he ordered that the Amity’s naval party go to Eclipse Island to rescue the Aboriginal child, the Menang woman, and to arrest Samuel Bailey.

With the exception of the Menang population, the people who gathered at King George Sound in 1826 were people on the fringes of their known worlds. By January 1827, the story of the three communities, Menang, sealer and coloniser, who collided and clashed in King George Sound in 1826, becomes frayed. John Randall sailed with his crew to the Swan River.(40)  Lockyer left after one hundred days and was replaced by the second Commandant Captain Wakefield.(41)  The sealer Samuel Bailey was sent to New South Wales to face justice for murder. William Hook was sent to testify against him. The men who had speared the blacksmith avoided the colony for fear of being recognised by Lockyer, and the Aboriginal girl was sent to New South Wales to face an uncertain future among strangers. The Pallawah women worked the islands with sealers to the east and the north of King George Sound, and eventually they returned to an uncertain future in the crucible of violence that was Van Diemen’s Land’s Black War.

Footnotes

39. Shellam, T., ‘Making Sense of Law and Disorder: Negotiating the Aboriginal World at King George’s Sound’, in History and Anthropology, Vol. 18, Iss. 1, 2007, pp. 75-88.

40. In 1837, Aborigines at Swan River described a boat carrying both whites and Aboriginal men up the river ten years previously, matching the crew of Randall and Pigeon or Robert Williams. Green, N., Broken Spears, Aborigines and Europeans in the Southwest of Australia, Focus Education Services, Perth, 1984, p. 46.

41. Hunt, D., Albany, First Western Settlement: Forerunners ~ Foundation and Four Commandants, The Albany Advertiser, Western Australia, no date, p. 25.