Extracts from the letters and journals of George Fletcher Moore, now filling a judicial office at the Swan River Settlement/Voyage



February 17th, 1833.—On board the Schooner Ellen, off Cape Naturaliste, Western Australia.

When there is most to record, it frequently happens that there are less means and fewer opportunities of doing it

I have led so busy a life since I last wrote, that I scarcely know what lee way I have made, nor how to bring it up. On Tuesday the 5th, I had no fewer than fifty cases in my list to dispose of; and these I got through on Wednesday evening. On the Thursday I made a fruitless effort to get down to Fremantle, but by delays and adverse winds was obliged to turn back. We had a New Zealander in the boat, and I took much interest in acquiring information from him relative to his country, which I obtained through the instrumentality of Captain Liddle of the Thistle, who speaks the New Zealand language. It appears that this man had fled from his master, and come off in a trading ship,—a common practice. His manner, language, and appearance differed very much from my preconceived notions of the ferocity and cannibalism of the New Zealanders; and yet he acknowledges without hesitation the latter horrifying propensity and practice in propriâ personâ. The countenance of this man, however, is pleasing and good-humoured; his manners obliging; his language very soft, even to effeminacy; his person large and full; and his limbs rounded and smooth: his name is Ech-to-to.

On pointing out to him one of the plants of this country resembling New Zealand flax, he called it Am-su-rah, and said it was the same sort of plant, but smaller than that of his country. I shall not bore you with my imperfect attempts at his vocabulary further than to say, that his word expressive of dissent (synonymous with our "no") is ca-oo-ue (the oo sounded like the French eu); and that the word "woman" he expressed by "wyena" (mind—not "hyena").


The boxes of clothes have arrived; but those of a dress description are not in demand: indeed it would be incongruous to embark new settlers in the fopperies of dress, or to divert them in any way (beyond moderate recreation and the enjoyment of limited society) from the habits of their industry, and the objects of their emigration.— Luxuries will come too soon; let them be preceded by comforts. When industry shall have facilitated the means of procuring a subsistence, the leisure thus obtained may be employed in extending the circle of our pleasures.

On the 10th I rode to Guildford; walked thence to Perth, which I did not leave until the 12th; at Mr. Leake's, and enjoyed the grand piano which Mrs. Leake, who had recently arrived, had brought with her.

The two natives of King George's Sound (who are on their return) were greatly delighted with the music; they danced the kangaroo dance, and did everything in their power to show that they were pleased and grateful—"tank you mem, very pretty."[1] Their dance appeared to be in imitation of the chase of the kangaroo, the motions of the animal, and the panting and gestures of the person in chase. This dance was divided into different scenes or parts; the movements differing a little in each part: sometimes the dancers approached each other, then receded traversed and changed sides, with a corresponding variation in gesture and exclamation. At intervals they called out "get away, get away," and at each pause, "beraway, beraway," which latter word one of them explained in this way:—white man say "hip, hip, hurra," black man say, "beraway, beraway." During the entire dance, they make a violent panting noise, hegh, hegh, hegh, hogha, hogha, hogha; these sounds guttural. Afterwards they seated themselves in arm-chairs, with the greatest self-complacency, and drank tea.

Their visit has been of great service, for many natives subsequently came into Perth and Fremantle, and intimated their desire to live on friendly terms, and to refrain from offering injury to us or our cattle. Gallypert thus describes his interview with them—me wonka (tell) black man pear white man cow, white man yeep (sheep), white man kill black man;—black man no pear (spear) cow, no pear yeep, white man give black man jacket, towlyer, yerk (shirt) and bikket (biscuit) plenty; black man wonka (say) no pear no more.

On the 15th, we came on board the schooner in which I had undertaken to accompany the Lieutenant-Governor on a tour of inspection to Port Augusta and King George's Sound; and sailed on the following morning with a fair wind.

We had reached Cape Naturaliste, when the wind headed us, and obliged us to run back to Garden Island; where we went ashore on the evening of the 15th, and enjoyed a bivouac, in preference to our quarters on shipboard.

I wish you had a peep at us as we lay in the bush, with a canopy of trees over us,—our supper, fish (speared for us by the natives), with the accompaniment of crabs of our own catching.

On the 16th, we re-embarked; but the wind being still unfavourable, we anchored under shelter of Carnac Island, where we passed a most delightful day, rambling about the rocks, catching crabs with pointed sticks. Our men took some young mutton birds in the holes in which they burrow like rabbits; and the natives of our party begged hard to remain all night, in order to catch the old ones in their holes, which they do not enter before nightfall; but, as we intended to sail with the first of the land breeze, we made them sleep with ourselves on board, much to their regret.

17th.—A fine breeze all day: we were running parallel to the coast, but at a considerable distance, to clear Cape Naturaliste.

18th.—Abreast of the Cape; which is neither high nor bluff. The coast ten miles distant. We can perceive cattle in the valleys, and the first ridge of bare-looking hills in the back ground. Two fires are perceptible.

19th.—We are now opposite the part of the coast to which you seem to have turned your attention. It is bold and rocky, reminding me greatly of the Irish coast—more to be admired for the picturesque than trusted for its safety. It is probable that there may be many nooks, sounds, or bays, affording shelter, but they are not yet known.

It is a work of time, expense, and difficulty to explore the windings of a coast; more an object for Government to accomplish, than for an individual to undertake. You conjecture that this is a desirable part of the continent to select for a settlement, but it may be long before this place shall be located, and a solitary settler would labour under many disadvantages in his isolation.

It would be very injudicious to choose an uninhabited district, when there are so many places here in which we can have the protection and comfort of society. A Robinson Crusoe kind of life may do very well in romance, but will not be pleasant in reality.

This must be obvious for many reasons; and as we are now going with a nine-knot breeze and a heaving sea, I shall not be at the trouble of scribbling any thing in proof of it.

Last night the wind became unfavourable as we were rounding Cape Lewin, but on standing out a little we got a fair breeze off land, and so held our course, purposing to call at Fort Augusta on our return.

26th.—We have been on shore for a week, and have now set sail again, having seen much that is interesting, but without an opportunity of recording it, until now; and even now you must be satisfied with a rapid sketch from recollection.

Early on the morning of the 20th, we rounded Bald Head, the promontory which forms the western head-land of the deep bay of King George's Sound, which appeared to me like Lough Swilly, and I greatly enjoyed the scene. We then proceeded N. and W. through the entrance into Prince's Royal Harbour, and at nine o'clock anchored opposite the settlement there, and on the succeeding morning were welcomed on shore by the clamouring "allalo" (how d'ye do) of a dozen natives, who expressed the greatest joy at seeing their friends Maryate and Gallypert again. This day was passed by the Lieutenant-Governor in examining stores, and other official duties. I called on Messrs. Morley, Cheyne, Littleton, and some others, from whom we received the greatest kindness during our stay.

On Friday we went by boat, from Prince's Royal Harbour, across the Sound, up Oyster Harbour, to a farm lately occupied by Mr. Henty, on the King River, and here enjoyed a rich treat of some of the fine oysters, from the abundance of which the harbour is so named; then proceeded thence to the Calgan River, which we ascended about six miles, but the navigation becoming impeded by barriers of rocks, we halted to bivouac round a cheerful fire, under a canopy of red gum trees, and were composing ourselves for the night, when Eyenan (a native who had accompanied us) suddenly jumped up exclaiming, "Wigh (a snake[2]) no good, no good." By torchlight, we killed a snake, which had been on the foot of this native, who signified to us that the bite would not be of serious injury, "men dik little," would make him a little sick. Next morning we walked higher up the river, which was here a running stream about twenty-five yards broad, crossed in several places by ledges of rock, where the natives had constructed ingenious weirs for taking fish, which appeared to be abundant. The scenery here is romantic, the soil on the banks tolerably good; but I understand that it does not continue so to any great distance. We returned down the river, and again indulged in an oyster feast, and proceeded to a small island, which a solitary convict had once attempted to cultivate. The effects of his toil appear in the grapes, cabbages, &c., which have now grown wild.

At five we reached the settlement, where we dined with Doctor Littleton. Next day I visited the farm before breakfast with Captain Irwin, for the purpose of selecting a suburban grant in the vicinity. The farm is a tract of ground partly of clay, and partly of loamy quality, about a mile and a half from the settlement, where there are some acres of ground under cultivation, which have produced good wheat this year. I went out a second time, accompanied by a surveyor, and chose two lots of four acres each, one for Captain Irwin, the other for myself; the soil is peaty, with a small portion of sand. Can you imagine a sandy bog? If so, you may have a notion of this soil.

24th.—On this day (Sunday) many of the natives[3] came into the barrack during divine service, of whom some remained all the time, and conducted themselves with great decorum. On Monday they were drawn up in line, and addressed in the following speech by Mr. Morley, the storekeeper, while we all looked most ludicrously grave.

Now now twonk, Gubbernor wonka me wonka black fellow,
Now attend, the Governor desires me to tell the black man

black fellow pear white man white men
if the the black man spear the white man the white men

poot. Black fellow queeple no good. Black
will shoot them. If a black man steal it is not good. If a black

fellow peer black fellow no good Black fellow
man spear a black man it is not good. If the black man

plenty shake hand black fellow, no black fellow no queeple,
be friendly with the black man, if the black man do not steal,

black fellow give him white man wallabees, wood come here,
if the black man give the white man wallabees, bring wood,

water come here, white man plenty shake hand black man,
and bring water, white man will befriend the black man,

plenty give it him bikket, plenty ehtah, plenty
and give him plenty of biscuits, plenty to eat, and give him

blanket, arrack, tomahawk. Now now Gubbernor wonka me
blankets, rice, tomahawk. Now the Governor desires me

give it him one guy black fellow one guy knaif.
to give each black man one knife.

A knife was then suspended by a riband round the neck of each; thus ended the ceremony, and they were dismissed, a set of wealthy and happy mortals.

  1. Savages in every part of the globe have a strong passion for dancing. Robertson the historian gives an interesting account of the love for this pastime evinced by the native Americans; and Raynal enters into a philosophical detail of the subject in his work on the East and West Indies. It is somewhat remarkable (observes the latter), that in the first ages of the world, and among savage nations, dancing should be an imitative art; and that it should have lost that characteristic in civilised countries, where it seems to be reduced to a set of uniform steps without meaning, &c. Raynal, vol. v., page 65.—Editor.
  2. Latet anguis in herbâ.

    Doyle, Jun.

  3. Vide Appendix