An Australian Parsonage

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An Australian Parsonage  (1872) 
by Janet Millett


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Large in extent and varied in character as is that great district which is called by the general title of Western Australia, little has hitherto been known of it in England, and little interest has been felt either in its history or its progress. The intending emigrant who thinks of turning his steps towards New South Wales, or Victoria, or Tasmania, or Queensland, finds no lack of guide-books and histories by which to form an opinion of the merits or disadvantages of these rival colonies, and it is easy for him to decide which of these divisions of the great Austral continent appears to present the most favourable prospects in his own especial case. But with Western Australia, or, to use the name by which it is more generally known, Swan River, matters are altogether different. Until lately, no guide-book at all, of any later date than twenty years ago, was in existence, and all the information which could be of service to an emigrant was buried in parliamentary blue books and official pamphlets. The report of evidence which had been given before a Committee of the House of Commons to inquire into the merits of Western Australia as a convict settlement was the chief source from which we were able to learn anything respecting the colony when, eight years ago, we first meditated a sojourn in the Southern hemisphere. The peculiar isolation of Swan River, which is imparted to it by its physical geography, has also cut it off in great measure from free communication with its nearer neighbours, so that, even in the other portions of Australia itself, very misty ideas are entertained with regard to it. The following pages do not pretend to the character of either a guide or a history of the colony. They are simply, as their name implies, sketches of the writer's own experiences as a chaplain's wife during five years spent in a country where English colonists of a past generation were disappointed because their ignorance respecting it had induced them to cherish hopes which could never attain fruition, but where modern emigrants may find substantial good if they will confine their expectations to what the land is really capable of producing. The emigrant who desires to meet with minute and technical information will find that the blue book, containing the records of the census of the colony of Western Australia taken in 1870, together with observations upon the results of the census, published by the Registrar-General, Mr. Knight, will be of much service to him. He would also find it advantageous to furnish himself with a little history of Western Australia compiled by the son of the Registrar, Mr. William Knight, containing tables of statistics upon every point on which the intending emigrant or settler could wish to be advised. Both these works can be obtained by post if ordered from the publisher, Mr. Pether, Perth, Western Australia. The writer ventures to hope that, as she has most carefully avoided saying anything in her pages which could be a cause of pain to any individual amongst her former neighbours and friends in the colony—a task not always easy in a country of such scanty population that everyone within it is known to everyone else either personally or by name—some little measure of good-will and kindly feeling towards herself may remain in the reader's mind when he has come to the conclusion of her unpretending though honest and truthful records. In the very few instances in which reference has been made to the official actions of public functionaries, the writer would wish it to be understood that she gives her husband's opinions as well as her own, as he, from his position as a chaplain upon the Government Establishment, had a fair opportunity of observing in what manner colonial affairs were transacted, and what influences were sometimes brought to bear upon them.


Approach to Australia—Sea birds—Size of waves—Caught in gale off St. Paul's—First sight of land—Reminiscences of voyage—Drowning of German sailor—Man overboard, but saved—Description of emigrants—Suspiciously short hair—Petty thefts—Captain asked to take charge of photographs—Channel weather—A Wick herring—Birth of children—Soirée in the steerage—Fortune-telling cake—Drop anchor—First sight of Bush—A lonely landing-place—White beach—One-eyed native—Description of Fremantle—Scenery of River Swan—Arrival at Perth—Profusion of flowers … Page 1

Description of Perth—View over Melville Water—Old Government House and Gardens—New Government House considered by some persons to be too large—Employment of convicts in Perth—No chain-gangs seen there—Immigrants' home—Anecdotes of some of the emigrants from our ship—Mistakes amongst poor in England as to the geographical position of Western Australia, and distance from Sydney, Melbourne, and Hobart Town—Difficulty experienced by Emigration Commissioners at home in procuring free emigrants for Swan River—Additional public buildings in Perth erected during the last three years—Town Hall—Wesleyan Church … 24

Journey through bush to Barladong—Road party—Sympathy of our driver—Runaway sailors—Singular sound of wind passing through shea-oak trees—Crossing Darling Range at Green Mount—Extensive and beautiful view—Inn at Mahogany Creek—Australian magpie—Burning of team of horses and load of sandalwood by bush-fire—"V" hut in bush—Grass-trees or Xanthorrhoeas—Inn at the Lakes—Remain for the night—Sofa bedsteads—Journey resumed—Early start—Great heat—Paper bark-trees—Little inn among zamias, and red gum-trees—Kangaroo dogs and kangaroo breakfast—First sheep seen feeding forty miles from Perth—Poisonous plants—Change in character of forest—White gum-trees—Curious lizard —Descent of Cut Hill—View of Mount Bakewell—Arrive at Barladong—Description of Church and Parsonage—Deaf Clerk's welcome—Early call for sick visiting—Melancholy noise of curlews in the middle of the night. … Page 38

Description of Parsonage House—Multiplicity of doors—Verandahs the only passage from room to room—Difficulty in procuring necessary fittings—First visit to a country store—Beauty of native mahogany flooring if properly kept—Pensioners and wives—Convict depôts in country districts—Depôt at Barladong—Clocks and cocks—Climate in summer—Favourite riding-horse—Visits from the natives—Appearance and character of Khourabene—Difficulties as to dress—Habits of exchanging all things with each other—Native's duties towards strangers—Love of dogs among the natives—Behaviour to the women—Matrimonial quarrel near Parsonage—"Bollia" men, or conjurors—Cruel custom of avenging a death—Native grave—Natives very trustworthy as messengers—Ned sent to carry letter—His behaviour to his wife—Pepper-tea and sham poisoning—Use of grease and fat on the skin—Old Isaac's amusement at a lady's riding-hat—Red earth or Wilghee used as ornament—Native dandy dressing himself for a dance—Khourabene's suit of mourning. … 59

A new servant—Make-shifts in cooking—Kaolin—Camp-ovens—A native "batch"—Variety of out-door premises—Nature of the Australian hard woods as fuel—Alarm of fire—Sandalwood and "stink-wood" as fuel—Trade in sandalwood—Licence for cutting wood in bush—Bush-fires—Sudden deafness caused by fright—Infant burnt—Beauty of bush-flowers, and want of any useful food—Great scarcity of edible roots in bush—Promise of dried fruits from vine, apricot, and other introduced trees—Oranges and lemons—Potatoes—Curious objection of settlers to eat spinach—Name of spinach growing wild—Dubbeltje—Origin of name—Pig-melons for apple-pies—Sugar-beer—Native brewing—Ned's fear of bad Spirit soothed by sugar-beer. .. 89

Drawbacks to progress of West Australia—"Dangerous" country—Mr. Drummond identifies poisonous plants—Land when infested by them useless for pastoral purposes—Evil partly remediable—Intelligence required in shepherds—Impossibility on many roads of employing bullock-wagons—Scattered nature of cultivated districts—Narrow news of things in general—Difficulty of introducing tramways or railroads—Grain-bearing eastern districts—Railroad anxiously demanded—Can be formed only by Government funds—Different interests amongst the colonists—Want of means of locomotion—Monotony of colonial life—Seasons in Southern hemisphere—Sunday Lessons seem inappropriate—Hot weather at Christmas—Trouble of cooking—St. Thomas seems out of place at Midsummer—An old-fashioned Christmas—Excitement caused by cow—Khourabene makes a well-timed visit—Boils plum-pudding—Khourabene's old master—Servants' wages paid in live-stock—Temporary prosperity of colony—Reminiscences of hard-work and poverty—Listening for coach-wheels—Grinding flour by hand—Colonial-made steam-engine—Weddings and "traps"—More luxuries and less comfort—Shepherds and March-winds—Gin in the sheepfold—Shepherdesses—Spears in thatch—Poisoned sheep—Bringing home pigs—Gentleness necessary in tending sheep—Anecdote of little swineherd.Page 107

Opinion of our shipmate on the subject of educating natives—Success of Roman Catholic bishop—Wesleyan Mission School—Its failure—Mrs. Gamfield—Causes of her success with natives—Her difficulty in establishing her pupils in life—Anxiety of the Bishop of Perth to undertake guidance of institution at Albany, and to resign his See for that purpose—Petition to abandon project of resignation—Our inability to undertake missionary work at Barladong—Mingee and her mother—Protest against name of Sally—Mingee handed over to her betrothed—Mingee elopes with half-caste—Family complications—Khourabene left in charge of Parsonage—Dying native woman—Binnahan—Khourabene's opinion of legs—Native funeral—Hasty interment—Going to school—Hen and duckling—Quickness in learning to read—Backwardness in sewing—"Squeak" in boots—Forlorn little native—Names suitable to good society. ... 127

Length of summer and winter—Rapid change of weather—Bull-frog—Perplexing sounds—Healthiness of hot weather—No palliatives to heat except sea-breeze—Flies—Ants—Housekeeping difficulties—Fleas—Flowers—Raspberry-jam blossoms—Cow-keeping—Goats and Sabbatarianism—Churning—Scarcity of cheese—Cow-tenting—Bells and herd attractive to cow—Sameness of diet—Australian mutton tastes differently to English mutton—Bunbury beef—Pink everlastings—Road making and mending—"Governor Hampton's cheeses"—Horses and foals—Colonial gates—Aptness of horses to stray—Horse hunting—Obliged to hobble our horse—Horse gets rid of side-saddle—"Gum-suckers"—Headlong riders—Eating a dolghite—Description of one—Evergreen trees—Clearness of atmosphere—"Choosing frocks out of the sky"—Southern Cross—Thunder-storms—Chimney struck—Twisted trees do not attract lightning—Suitability of climate to consumptive patients—Peculiarities of climate—Bishop Salvado's opinion of it. … Page 149

Natural history often considered a dry study—People of this opinion had better skip Chapters IX. and X.—Garrison of cats—How it is disposed of—Cats as playthings—Cat brings in yellow lizard and green snake—Bob-tailed Guana—Scarcity of scorpions and abundance of lizards—Ubiquity of bronze lizard—"Mountain Devil"—Similarity to granite lichens—Timothy missing—Brought back by smiling boy—Dies, and obliged to be buried for want of arsenical soap—Untameable Noombat—Supposed pig in cabbages—Impossible to identify, satisfactorily, creature called Bunny-ar—Tradition of alligator—Black snake—Binnahan's escape—"Bunch of black-puddings"—Palmer-worms—Trapdoor spiders—Walking-stick insects—Present of kangaroo—Kangaroo's mode of self-defence—Dangerous guest at meal-times—Jacky drinks sugar-beer—Little old native brings dog—The chase—New propensity—Jacky succumbs to privation from beer—Kangaroo hops away with baby—Modes of dressing flesh of kangaroo—Fur counterpanes—Kangaroo rats and "boodies"—Dog fails to make distinctions—A domestic tyrant—Emu's feathers—Opossum—Bishop Salvado's opinion to be taken with reservation—Opossum's noiseless mode of walking—Supernumerary claw—Various hiding-places tried by Possie; finally selects carpet-bag—Fondness for flowers—I am obliged to admit that Possie eats birds—Possie plays truant—Returns to supper—Opossum's mode of eating apricots—Possie and her daughter—Domestic duties—Fondness for society—Possie supposed to have rejoined her relations—Tender retrospections. … 178



Parroquets—Twenty-eights—Rosella parroquets in pomegranate-tree—Native brings Rosella nestling—Love of pancakes—Wild Rosellas decoy away my tame one—Supposed single specimen of parrot—Crows—Silver Tongue—Wagtails and swallows—Bell-bird Cockatoos—Swans—Cockatoo broth—Startled in the dark—A thankless offer—Kylies used in killing birds—Painting a kylie—Bronze-winged pigeons—Ngowa—Method in which Ngowa prepares nest—Rare birds driven into inhabited districts by want of water—We lose turkey—Painted snipe—Cat's tribute to fidelity of artist—Cinnamon-coloured heron—Moths and other marauders—Fish called Coblers—Snappers and mullet—Crawfish—Fresh-water turtles—Frying turtle-eggs proves a bad experiment—Affectionate disposition of aborigines—Wild ducks—Khourabene's complacency at a well-filled bag—Game laws—"Father and mother, I must hook it away!"—Strong feeling of ownership with respect to land on part of natives—Metempsychosis—Forest laws less severe amongst Australians than amongst ancient Normans—Accumulation of water in consequence of felling timber—Amends made by white man—Corobberies—Mortality and early deaths amongst natives—Bishop Salvado's way of dispersing combatants—His remonstrances produce no effect with native husbands—Drought—Want of tanks—Floods—Swollen river renders farm-yard impassable—Washing on river bank—Inconvenience of distant wells—Temptations to gossip at wells—Anecdote of encamping at night without water—Enthusiastic welcome of boy and pony—Custom capable of sweetening brackish water. … Page 216

Winter a favourable time for exploring parties—Explorers turn back for want of water—Second expedition—Excitement at setting out—School copies—Second disappointment—Wild puppies give great umbrage—Bushrangers—Impassable bush serves as prison wall—Fire-arms indispensable to bushrangers—Fatal occurrences—Native trackers—Chain-gang—Conditional pardons—Fact of having been in Western Australia suppressed by immigrants in Adelaide—Tale of escape—Discontent of ticket-of-leave men on cessation of conditional pardons—An oppressive state of law—Truck system—Anecdote of shoemaker—Benevolent master—Tendency of truck system to destroy gratitude—Archdeacon Paley's opinion of paying ready money—Girl thinks it high time bucket should be worn out—Reckless expenditure of wages—Savings' bank discouraged, and why—French convict saves money—Barter—Paying one's creditor with eggs—Dressmaker paid with melons and almonds—Hospital admission—Nursing the sick—Presents to patients forbidden—Hospital orderlies—Dentists—French Colonel—Ophthalmia—"Bunged" eyes—Squints—Measles and hooping-cough—Mortality from measles amongst natives—A "corporal act of mercy"—Native hops and tea—Holloway's pills—Woman severely burnt—Broken leg—Dislocated hip—Answer to coo-ee—Finding of human bones—Lost child—Discovery of relics—Reasons for easily losing one's way in bush—Anecdotes of Irish neighbour and the poor maid-servant—We spend a night out of doors—Silence of bush at night—A perplexing adventure—Horse brought back by Khourabene—A "dropped hip"—We are thrown out of cart and feel injured by horse's indifference to what has happened—Traces repaired with knitting-cotton. … Page 235

Bishop Salvado's history of Australia and of the Benedictine Mission of New Norcia in Western Australia—Missionaries dispatched by "Propaganda"—Rudesindo SalVado and Giuseppe Serra obtain leave to quit La Cava—Commencement of native vocabulary—Sad incident on reaching Perth—Formation of Missions—Captain Scully's proposal—Missionaries leave Perth and soon present travel-stained appearance—Disappointment in finding no water—Lengthened walk in search of it—Building of hut—Approach of natives—Insupportable suspense—Mode of propitiating natives—Natives assist in completing hut—Provisions almost consumed—Eating of grubs—Bishop unable to provide shoes—Musical entertainment—Help arrives too late—Patching clothes—Present of flour—Missionaries in character of surgeons—Tales by fire-light—"Jingy corobbery"—New views of Missionaries—Cannibalism—Infanticide—Tilling ground the best remedy—Scheme for founding monastery and native village—Perplexity about ways and means—Remittances from "Propaganda"—Laying the first stone—Pompey provides dinners for builders—Allotments—Wages—Habits of saving inculcated—Naming of heifer calf—Obstacles to success of Mission—Cordon sanitaire—Marriage of converts—Aristocratic ideas—Drinking tea in bush—Orphan child carried to Perth—Meeting between Father Salvado and little travelling companion. … 273

Names upon shore-line of West Australia in three different languages—Legend of Great Java—Spanish admiral invents name of Australia—Pioneers of West Australia exclusively Dutch—Discovery of Swan River—Finding of inscription on Dirk Hartog's Island—Dampier's shark—M. de Bougainville—Reasons of Admiral D'Entrecasteax's voyage being undertaken—Captain Baudin's ideas about names—Tale invented by colonial John Bull—Naturalists lose their way—Captain Baudin's inhumanity—Pewter plate carried to Paris—Captain Stirling sails to Swan River—His favourable reports of it—Cockburn Sound—Garden Island—Plans for colonization—No convicts to be admitted—Large grants of land—Deplorable condition of first immigrants—Scurvy—Early cutting of cabbages—Governor Stirling's activity—Unsuitability of goods and furniture—Travelling carriages turned to good account—Deal packing-cases found useful—Harp re-shipped—Tents blow loose in windy weather—Boys fasten ropes—Vessel on sand-bank—Boat capsized—Merits of twins not recognized by Colonial Government—Australind projected—Repetition of disappointment—Western Australia acquires a bad name—Discovery of mineral districts. … Page 300

Swan River immigrants begin to see their position—Valuable commercial products of Western Australia—Scanty means of turning them to account—Settlers decide upon asking Home Government for convicts—Suitability of colony as vast jail—Rations—Schemes for improving circumstances of colony—Superior class of prisoners in early convict ships—Long sentences—Government expenditure required in West Australia for many years to come—Frequent allusion to Government—Government men—Proposal scouted for introduction of Government women—Difficulty of procuring female immigrants—Women disheartened on landing—Bigamy—Situation of convicts' wives—Ultra-Protestantism—Child surreptitiously carried out to be christened—Matrimonial disputes—Social inequalities—Small number of respectable women—A convict's wedding—Shifting nature of population—Glazier cannot come—Effect of familiarity with crime—Causes assigned by convicts for being transported—The tax-cart, and other anecdotes—Convict geologist—"Addicted to sharpening of a knife"—Convicts in church—No rule without exception—Religious instruction of convicts on road parties much overlooked formerly—Present position of chaplains—Impossibility under existing circumstances of chaplains' visits being of much benefit to road parties—Books craved for—Warder's disappointment on examining box—Convicts' notions on week-day and Sunday services—Sort of books preferred by convicts—Sitting near the pulpit—Effect on personal comfort produced by convict servants—London pickpocket—Preference for machinery in place of convict labour. 324

Schools on the Irish system—Roman Catholic schools—Schoolmasters—Scholastic squabbles—Convict tutors—Difficulties to educated convicts in earning livelihood—Festival of the Barladong Fair—Want of recreation—Silver mugs—Popular entertainment—"Paddle your own canoe"—Natives attracted to fair—Different costumes—Glass spears—Fights occasioned by betrothal and polygamy—Native laws respecting marriages—Sheep-shearers interrupted at dinner—Pitched battle in barley-field—Holding beard between teeth—Æsop's donkey—Khourabene in position of Mr. Swiveller—Khourabene brings home wife—Legacy of brother's widow—Khourabene's past history as married man—His escape from policeman—Finaly acquitted—Reasons for contracting additional marriage—First wife deputes making of dampers to second wife—Ladies' quarrels—Khourabene and his wives—Khourabene an outlaw—His aunt's lamentations. … Page 354

West Australia regarded as the "ugly duckling" by sister colonies—Contains, nevertheless, best timber in the world—Jarrah wood—Its indestructible nature—Blue gum—Formation of timber company—First railroad—York gum—Casuarina—Suitability of Jarrah for railway sleepers—Improvement of Cockburn Sound—Shingling of roofs—Sandalwood trade—Whale fisheries—Whaling almost monopolized by Americans—Ball on board the whaler—Registrar's, statement of abundance of whales—The "gentleman from Tasmania"—Overland expedition to Adelaide—Incidents related by M. Rossel—Government geologist—Discovery of new pasture land—Tommy Winditch's announcement—Pearl fisheries—Hawk's-bill turtles—Sponges—Western Australia viewed as a field for emigration—Necessity for raising loan—Manner of carrying on business in the colony—Influence of merchant-class: when and how injurious to a colony or beneficial to it—Instance of labourer desirous to clear land—Help from storekeeper—Reason of land being rented—Small farmers often little better than carriers—Clearing lease—Necessity for great variety of information—West Australia unattractive to large sheep-owners—Presents a different aspect to small capitalist—Prospects offered to the hard-working immigrant—Great preponderance of convict over free inhabitants—Antagonism between classes to be dreaded—Colony unsuited to persons possessing small fixed incomes—Storekeeping ten or twelve years ago—Expense of imported goods—Suitability of West Australia to labouring men and invalids. ... 375