Article by Rev. John Blacket


Its Historical Associations.

[IV.— By the Rev. John Blacket.]

The "pilgrim fathers" and mothers believed in God, they had come to attempt a great experiment, and felt their need of Divine guidance and assistance. The first services of which we have any satisfactory record were the service conducted by Capt. Morgan when the first settlers landed, and a little later on the Methodist service conducted by Samuel East in the store of the South Australian Company. About 1838 service was held in a tent, the tent being pitched at the upper end of the old cemetery, a spot which the visitor can locate. It must have been somewhere near the stone marking the resting place of Mrs. Beare. The old pioneer who described the tabernacle has also described the old cemetery.

"It was a good-sized plot of ground, neatly fenced in with brushwood, and very prettily situated for a graveyard— 'God's Acre'— where already one or two of the earliest settlers slept quietly beneath the sod the sleep that knows no awakening."

One of these sleepers was Mrs. Thomas Hudson Beare, of whom I have spoken. The old cemetery, though not so tidily kept, nor so carefully preserved as in pioneer times, may be visited today. There are four or five tombstones in it. One of these old graves contains the dust of two of William Giles's children. On the tombstone we read:—

Sacred to the memory of Samuel Giles, died 11th February, 1839, aged nine years. Also, Edward H. Giles, died 18th July, 1839, aged eight months. This stone is erected by their brothers and sisters [in 1882].

The story of little Samuel's death is a pathetic one. He was a bright and beautiful lad, passionately fond (as children bought up on Kangaroo Island must have been) of the sea. Many were the trips he had by boats to the whaling vessels in Nepean Bay. One Sunday little Samuel slipped away from the home at Beare's Point to go crab fishing. It was a hot day in the month of February, and the little fellow suffered a sunstroke, which terminated in death.

On other stones in the old cemetery are the following inscriptions: —

In memory of John Calnan, who departed this life, October 30, 1859, aged two years and three months.

Sacred to the memory of Charlotte Ann Calnan, who departed this life December 1st, 1859, aged five years and one month.

In passing, I may add that the founder of the family was Mr. J. Calnan, who came out, I believe, by the Africaine, landing at Nepean Bay in 1836. It was as an employe of the South Australian Company that he came to the province, but the rude little settlement at Kingscote was too unpromising and depressing. Mr. Calnan passed over to the mainland, and soon after passed away at Encounter Bay. The three old and well-known cottages, still in existence ("Faith," "Hope," and "Charity") were built by the Calnan family some 54 years ago. These old cottages—the oldest in Kingscote— ought to be preserved as historical relics.

I am sorry to say that some of the graves in the historic cemetery— the oldest in the State— are in a condition of collapse, and on the occasion of my visit four or five head of cattle were feeding in the sacred enclosure.

—A Tragic Circumstance.—

One of the old tombstones recalls a sad circumstance later than pioneer times. It is the one "Sacred to the memory Harriet, the beloved wife of George Granger, died October 27th, 1862." Many years ago William Chapman, one of the early settlers on the island, set put with George Granger from Kingscote in a whaleboat to convey Mrs. Chapman home. She had been on a visit to Adelaide with the year's produce, and had safely arrived at Kingscote. She took her seat with her husband and George Granger in the whale-boat. They steered for the North Cape. A strong wind was blowing, and the sea was rough. The distance was not great; in fact, Mr. Chapman's residence could be seen from the summit of the hill. Mr. Charles Calnan lived in "Charity" Cottage. He looked out occasionally to see whether the boat had reached the North Cape, but could not see her. Speaking to his wife, he said, "Old Bill must have drawn up his boat quickly." As the party did not arrive home that night, and the boat could not be seen, a search was made. Away in the distance in Hog Bay, a sail was seen in the water. The attention of Mr. Henry Bates was drawn to it. He secured a crew and pulled out to the wreckage. It proved to be Chapman's boat. Subsequently, Mr. Chapman's body was washed up on the beach, and the body of George Granger was found on the beach at "Red Banks," Nepean Bay. The remains of Mrs. Chapman were not found.

Among the early settlers on Kangaroo Island there were no cows, but the South Australian Company had imported a number of goats, and from these the settlers obtained their milk supply. The method of milking adopted by the man in charge of the goats was as novel as it was amusing. While discomfort was prevented in one form, it must have been intensified in another. To save the trouble of kneeling down, or bending his back, in the act of milking these goats, one after another the struggling animals were lifted onto the kitchen table, where the operation was performed.

Some convicts found their way to Kangaroo Island, and some of the men who came off the whalers were rough characters. Where the prison of the little settlement at Kingscote was located I cannot tell, but one of the old pioneers has handed down to posterity an account of a Court case. An interloper from one of the older colonies was on his trial for theft. There were no policemen in those days; constables were appointed. During the trial the constable, a simple-minded, wayfaring man, fell asleep. He was rudely awakened by the prisoner shaking him by the arm, and exclaiming, "I say, old fellow! Wake up. Don't you hear what they are saying? You're to take me to prison." He was an old Vandemonian. During the night he made his escape, but was recaptured, and was then confined in a 300-gallon cask, seven feet in height and three and a half feet in width.

—A Viceregal Visit.—

The greatest event in the social life of the pioneers on Kangaroo Island, next to that of their landing, was a visit paid them by Governor Hindmarsh. He was accompanied by the Colonial Secretary. Robert Gouger having been suspended, T. Bews Strangways was now acting in the capacity of Colonial Secretary. The old pioneer from whose reminiscences I have frequently quoted, speaking of this official, says:— "He was a dapper little man, with light curly hair, and whiskers, extremely fond of dress, and possessed of various accomplishments." George Stevenson, the first Private Secretary, was also with the Governor. Of him it is recorded, "In person he was tall, and powerfully made; not handsome in features, but with a good, intellectual countenance, and well-shaped head; of undoubted talent, as the newspaper he afterwards conducted, The Register, proved in an eminent degree."

The reader will be specially interested in a description of the personal appearance of our first Governor on his visit to Kangaroo Island. "He was of middle height, pleasant looking, with frank, genial, affable manners, and every inch a sailor. His eyes were of the brightest blue; but while one 0f them moved here and there in every direction, the other remained stationary in its orbit, and had a cold, unmeaning stare." It was an artificial eye.

The Governor and his party arrived on a Sunday morning. He landed on the Monday to inspect the settlement, and to hold a levee. It was necessary that a feast should be prepared. The pioneer on whose "Reminiscences" I have drawn says:— "They were living in a place where frequently provisions of even the plainest description could not be procured for love or money. To provide at only 24 hours' notice a suitable dinner to set before 24 persons was no easy task." A man started out at daylight on Monday morning for "The Farm," where "Governor Whalley's" wigwam originally stood, now in the possession of the South Australian Company. He went on a foraging expedition. Another messenger was then told on to go to the settlement at Snake Point (now Reeves Point) to see what he could secure. "This one returned with the crushing intelligence that not one pound of meat was to be got upon the island, save a solitary loin of mutton, with four eggs." The captain of one of the vessels came to the rescue, supplying a ham, cheese, tin of soup, and preserved fruits. Meanwhile, the man from the "Farm'' arrived, bringing with him "a turkey dangling on one side of the saddle, and a goose on the other, and strapped be fore him a wallaby." The cooks set to work, and by 6 o'clock in the evening the feast was ready. It was spread in William Giles's newly built house near where Flinders's monument now stands.

Shortly after his arrival Col. Light condemned Kingscote as a place of important settlement. This was a fatal blow to the place. Passengers were now landed at Holdfast Bay. The whaling industry that had helped to keep the settlement at Kingscote going was now given up, and the place was practically abandoned by the company. Thousands of pounds had been laid out in stores, houses, and other improvements. All this capital was now sunk, the buildings fell into ruins, and Kangaroo Island and Kingscote suffered a long eclipse.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1919, January 2). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 4.


Under this heading there appeared a letter in Saturday's 'Register' from the pen of the Rev. John Blacket, of Brompton, who takes a keen interest in these matters, and wherin a reference to K.I. and its old associations is made. After referring to his suggestion that the house in which Col. Light lived at Thebarton should be secured as a national memorial, Mr Blacket refers to K.I. in these words: —

"There are also several relics and memorials on Kangaroo Island that ought to be preserved. It would be to the advantage of the residents on the Island if they would attend to this matter. Kangaroo Island, in time to come, will be a favorite resort for those who desire rest and change. Visitors, I think, will go there in numbers if only to see the place where the Pilgrim Fathers landed. It will be an advantage to the residents at Kingscote, as well as visitors, if all old historical associations are preserved .among others the three cottages built by the first settlers, and the pioneer cemetery. As years go by interest in the memorials of the founding of S.A. will he intensified. We shall feel the same charm here that Englishmen feel in relation to many of their national relics."

Mr. Blacket's suggestion is one that should appeal to our patriotic instincts and should be given effect to before it is too late. The securing of historical relics of the State's existence is a matter in which the Government could safely take a hand, and an appeal to them through the S.A. Geographical Society or some such Society would not be out of place. It is certainly very much to be regretted that the old cemetery at Kingscote is in such a dilapidated condition, and that sheep have been allowed to graze among the tombs. It would be a mark of respect at least to the pioneers if this ground was neatly and securely fenced.

- "PRESERVING NATIONAL RELICS.". (1910, August 6). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 3.