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Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/Preface



In the year 1828, the British Government being anxious, for political reasons, to establish a colony on the West side of Australia, issued public notices, offering large tracts of land, on certain conditions, to any who would proceed to, and settle on, that district before the end of the year 1830. Attracted by the hope of obtaining possession of a good estate, and feeling that the prospect of success at the Irish Bar was but remote and uncertain, I applied to the Government on the subject of some official appointment, if I should go to the Colony as an emigrant. The answer was to the effect, that any appointment made here now might clash with the proceedings of Governor Stirling; but if I chose to go out at my own risk and expense, they would give me a favourable letter of introduction to the Governor. On this encouragement, I made up my mind to go at once.

My friends were doubtful as to the prudence of such a hazardous step, but I reconciled them to it by a solemn promise that I would keep them fully informed, by each available opportunity in my power, of every incident and circumstance of my position and life there, whether good or bad, and leave them to judge of my success or failure. This was the cause of the "Diary or Journal" hereinafter contained. It was written solely for the information and satisfaction of my father, brothers, sisters, and immediate friends in this country. It was commenced soon after my embarcation from Dublin, and was a great source of relief and consolation to myself during the voyage, as well as through all the difficulties, dangers, labours, and eventful incidents, for the space of ten years in the colony, until my first return home on leave of absence. It was not continued after that time.

Having mentioned that the acquisition of substantial property in the shape of land was a great inducement to my emigration, it is right to mention the result. On giving a schedule, and satisfactory proof of the value of the property, and the number of servants taken out, an assignment of 12,000 acres, or rather a right to choose that quantity of rural land, was given to me, which was eventually obtained in various blocks and in different places according to my own choice. There was considerable delay in getting the blocks surveyed and the boundaries marked out, and registered in, the records of the office of the Surveyor-General. I purchased also from time to time several blocks of land from settlers, who either preferred the money, or were desirous of leaving the colony for various reasons. The result was that when I came home finally, some twenty years ago, I was, and still am, the possessor of twenty-four thousand acres of land in fee simple, as well as several allotments in towns. I became the first Judge in a Civil Court, was member of both the Executive and Legislative Councils, Advocate-General, and sole legal adviser of the Government, acted temporarily as Colonial Secretary, because of the illness and death of that officer, and the illness and death of Governor Clarke about the same time.

The history of the original letters may possess some little interest. They were from the first carefully preserved by those to whom they were sent in this country. But, after the lapse of many years, they were confided to the care of a near relative in the colony, who had expressed a great desire to see them. This lady was well acquainted with Sir Thomas Cockburn Campbell, the able Editor and owner of the paper called "The West Australian." The letters were shown to him, he begged to be permitted to publish extracts from them seriatim in his paper, according as space would admit of. He sent to me a copy of each paper which contained an extract. I cut out those extracts and gummed them into an album. This has enabled me to publish them all here afresh.

I have also added to them a "Descriptive Vocabulary" of the language of the Aborigines—their habits and manners, and the fauna of the country. The only restriction I put upon Sir Thomas as to the treatment of the journal was, that he should omit anything too trivial for publication, and also carefully avoid anything that could in the least degree be likely to annoy, or hurt the feelings of, any one, either in the colony or in this country—an injunction which he has most judiciously observed and most honourably carried out. I introduce here one of his letters to me as being appropriate to the subject.

Copy of a letter from Sir T. Cockburn Campbell.

"West Australian" Office,
Perth, 16—9—1881.

My Dear Sir,

Many thanks for your kind letter. I have had great pleasure in publishing your journal, and I can assure you it is read with very great interest indeed. There has been a break in its publication lately on account of my space in the "W. A." being so filled with Council reports, but I shall resume the journal again next week. What terrible times you early settlers had to pass through. It is difficult to imagine it now, in a conntry with railways, telegraphs, &c., and so many of the conveniencies of modern life.

Believe me, my dear Sir,

Faithfully yours,


George Fletcher Moore, Esq.

So far as regards the winding up of the Journal, I could not desire a better than the gratifying commentary of the EDITOR of the West Australian, to whom I tender thanks for the interest he took in it, and the judicious care he bestowed on its publication in his paper. On my part, I have to render my humble thanks to the Heavenly Giver of all Good, that at the ripe period of an eighty-sixth year, I should be permitted to undertake, and enabled, as I hope, to complete the work of its publication, 54 years after its commencement.

With reference to the "Descriptive Vocabulary" which has been added to it, the appropriate Preface thereof speaks fully for itself. It was put into my hands in a very crude state by Governor Hutt, that I should get it published in England. I had been called home on serious family business. There was no direct conveyance; I had to go by Java, had a long voyage in a Dutch ship—the captain alone had a small smattering of English. To relieve the tediousness of such a voyage, I devoted my leisure to the manuscript, added to, enlarged, expanded, and made it what it is. So, though only one of the few parties connected with the former attempts, I might fairly and truly use the familiar expression, "Quorum pars magna fui."

I made all arrangements for the printing, corrected the press, made terms for the binding, advanced and paid all attendant expenses, had the books carefully packed in a well-tinned chest, which I took back to Governor Hutt, and divided them equally with him. This was in accordance with a previous understanding between us, that on my doing so he would pay half the expenses, which he cheerfully did. That work has been long out of print. It concerns a race which is gradually dwindling away, and may soon be entirely extinct—its language corrupted, disused, forgotten, lost. It is well to endeavour to make a small record of it whilst there is a possibility of doing so. Such is one chief object of the present attempt; may it have the desired effect. The Aborigines, when we first came in contact with them, had no knowledge of a God, no worship, no object of worship, no ideas on the subject. Many efforts were made to civilize and to Christianize them. The Wesleyans made some tolerable progress with them, but sedentary habits did not suit either their health or dispositions—a violent disorder of the mesenteric glands suddenly carried off thirteen of their most promising pupils, and the school was broken up at that time. Some 40 years ago a Mission of Spanish Benedictine Monks was established in the Colony for the avowed purpose of the conversion of the Aboriginal natives. They gathered the children, both boys and girls, into the schools together, and when they came to marriageable age, such children were joined in pairs according to their choice, by a form of matrimony.

All these young people, at suitable ages, were brought forward for confirmation. About ten years ago, a grand ceremony was that of an unusual number of these young natives, collected on such an occasion, a photograph of which, taken at the time, has been shown to me in London.

It is right to explain the singular concatenation of circumstances by which I found myself compelled to act for a time as Colonial Secretary. His Excellency the Governor Colonel Clarke) and the Honourable the Colonial Secretary (Peter Brown, Esq.), were simultaneously so prostrated by serious illness as to be incapable of transacting any business; the doctors denied all access except to their nearest friends. How the Government was to be carried on was a grave question. As I had married the Governor's stepdaughter, I was admitted as a friend. I found him greatly depressed and distressed. I offered to discharge the duties of the Colonial Secretary temporarily, getting another to do my duties for the time. The Governor was greatly relieved by the offer. By the permitted interviews at his bedside, I was enabled to use the usual formal heading of letters from the office, such as "I am directed by His Excellency," &c., &c. My first step, as soon as a mail served, was to inform the Government at home of the unprecedented position in which I found myself, and begging their instant attention to it. In due time another Colonial Secretary came out, and I gladly resumed my former positions. Both the Governor and Colonial Secretary died.

I have stepped beyond my strict limits in introducing this episode, but the step was almost unavoidable under the circumstances.

George Fletcher Moore.

(From the "West Australian").

Amongst the earliest settlers in Western Australia was a gentleman well known to old colonists Mr. George Fletcher Moore, late Advocate-General of the colony, who for many years past has been resident in England.

Mr. Moore, from his first arrival at Fremantle in 1830, kept a diary–recording the events of his daily life–which, as opportunity occurred, he sent home to his friends. This diary, full of details of the greatest interest to all West Australian colonists, most graphically illustrates the early life and progress of the Swan River settlement. Of Mr. Moore's letters, those written prior to 1834 were published in England, but have long been out of print, and, with the remainder, which carry on the record of events to a much later date, are now in the hands of his relatives in this colony. These letter-diaries seemed to us of so much interest that we asked, and were kindly granted, permission to publish them serially in the West Australian.