Memoirs of William Loose BEARE


from the KIPA newsletters 37 and 38

William Loose Beare (b 1825 d 1910) was 10 years old when he landed with his family on The Duke of York on 27th July 1836. He subsequently became a manager of pastoral properties and a pastoralist. Later in life he wrote these memoirs. [Note: These have been edited in this newsletter (37).]

[In Newsletter 38, under “Setting the Record Straight”, Bill Holmesby pointed out some errors that William Loose Beare made - shown in square brackets and italics]

My father, Thomas Hudson Beare, was Second Officer for the South Australian Company and a registered professor of Edinburgh University. [Thomas Hudson Beare (Senior) was not a "Professor" of Edinburgh University. He was of­ficially known on Kangaroo Island as the "Superintendent of Buildings ". The title of "Regius Professor" is correctly attributable to Thomas Hudson Beare (Junior), who later be­came Sir Thomas Hudson Beare KCMG. He was the brother of William Loose Beare.]The first vessel to leave England was the "John Pirie" on 22nd February 1836 and the "Duke of York" left on the 26th February 1836. We arrived on 27th July 1836. The second vessel to arrive was the "Lady Mary Pelham" on 31st July 1836. The third vessel to arrive was the "John Pirie" about 4th Au­gust, 1836. The fourth vessel to arrive was the "Rapid", with Colonel Light on board. We always used to chaff them about getting bushed. They anchored in Antechamber Bay on the 19th of August. The "Africaine", which arrived at the Bay on 14th November 1836, made herself rather noteworthy from the fact that some five of the crew elected to walk from somewhere in the vicinity of Cape Borda to Kingscote. Two of the party were lost and three of them were picked up more dead than alive. One was named Nantes and the other Baggs. The vessel "Cygnet" arrived on 11* September 1836, landed her passengers at what was known as "Three Well River"; it was on the maps (English) in this name and should have never been altered to Cygnet River.

There were only thirteen passengers in the "Duke of York" all told; four of them were kids (I was one of the kids). There was a little rush as to who should land first, my father or Samuel Stephens. When the vessel dropped anchor the boats were slung out, and as it was midday, all went down to dinner. I had a little sister on board. She was sometimes at the captain's table and sometimes at ours; but suddenly someone said, "Where's Elizabeth?" Then I went out on deck looking for her and discovered that a party consisting of the second mate and two of the crew were getting off, and they had picked up my little sister and smuggled her into the boat, so she should be the first to land. She landed and filled her pinafore with Australian things and came back on board again. She was unfortunately burnt to death in 1839. [W.L. Beare claims that his sister Elizabeth was the first to land on the island. This claim has been disputed by the manager of the South Australian Company, Samuel Stephens, who is supposed to have gone ashore soon after landing. The article also states that she was burnt to death in 1839. We know for certain that this tragic event took place at Netley, her father's property in January 1846.]

I do not know exactly the time, but we were all on board when suddenly the vessel gave a lurch and everything went off the table; it appears the ship had anchored too close to the shore and was stuck and heeled over as the tide went back. We were all in the boats in a very short time. She, of course, righted when the tide returned. We rehearsed all our duties in England, and had our tents pitched before leaving; in fact, rehearsed everything and actually lived and camped outside, just as we expected to do in South Australia, watching for our orders to leave, and waiting for the Imperial Government to pass the Act and we waited for two years for the passing. Therefore, when we reached South Australia, in a very short time our tents were ready and everything in order, just as we had them in England. We pitched our tents exactly where the township of Kingscote is at present situated. There was, however, no water to be got there and we moved down about half-mile on the flat where there was a well of water, left there, I think, by Southerland, [Sutherland] who was down from Sydney. The first night we had nothing to eat but salt beef. I clearly recollect attempting to get a drink out of a kettle, but it was frozen and would not run. My father gave me a little lesson, that water, which had been boiled froze more quickly than water which had not been boiled.

On the third day some islanders, run-away convicts, etc, turned up, good fellows apparently, and brought some wallaby and lots of vegetables, and introduced us to their black wives. T. Whalley had been on the island since 1814 and Billy Day since 1816. The others had been on the island for different periods; but anyhow, they were all very useful ... A few days after our arrival we were told that Captain John Hart was down at Encounter Bay with a whaling party, and we went down there to interview him, but found he had left.

My uncle, Samuel Stephens, first manager of the South Australian Company came with us and remained here for some time, laying out a sort of township where the South Australian Company was to have formed a settlement. At that time the vessels coming out here had to put in to Kangaroo Island, where they had to wait for orders as to their future destination … Things were in a very unsettled state until we learned where Colonel Light would fix the site of the principal city.

Chas. Powell, gardener for the S.A. Company, planted fruit trees, olives, and vine cuttings, which nearly all grew; he also planted a mulberry tree on the island and this came out in the "Duke of York". In addition to Chas. Powell, there also came out in the "Duke of York" Geo. Neale, rough carpenter; William West, labourer; Henry Mitchell, butcher, to kill and sell - he had nothing to kill and refused to do anything else, so he was sent back again. His father gave him a land order (134 acres country land and one town acre). These were all employees of the S.A. Company.

The first wedding that took place in the colony was on board the "John Pirie", the contract­ing parties being Samuel Stephens and Charlotte Hudson Beare. She was 56 and he was on­ly 30. The ship, for the purpose of the ceremony, had to be a certain distance from the shore, and was dressed in full regalia. The marriage took place on 23rd December 1836. [Mention is made of the first wedding in the colony, claiming the participants were Samuel Stephens and Charlotte Hudson Beare, which took place on 23rd December 1836, the bride being 56 and the groom 30. This is not correct. The bride was 48 and the groom 26, alt­hough the wedding did take place on board the ship "John Pirie" on 23rd September 1836. There is however recorded evidence that there was at least one ceremony prior to this date, when a young couple Mary Ann Powell and William C Staple were married at Kingscote on 29th August 1836.] The first white children born were Fanny Lipson Finniss and J.R Hoare. There was great difficulty in my mind at the time as to the arrival of children, there being no gooseberry bushes or parsley beds. [W. L. Beare claims that the first children born in the colony were Fanny Lipson Finniss and James Rapid Hoare. Records show that James Rapid Hoare was born on 7th November 1836 at Rapid Bay and Fanny Lipson Finniss on 2nd January 1837. Other families in that time frame in which infants were born were those of Robert Gouger and Wilkins (ancestors of Sir Hubert Wilkins).] Capt. Bromley started a small school for the young folk. From the very first landing, there was a religious service twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. The Wesleyans claimed them, but the services were Church of England from the very first moment we landed. My mother and aunt took prayer books. The captain of our vessel be­longed to the Primitive Brethren. We took eight to nine months to send word to home and back.

After staying at Kingscote, ...we stayed there about 18 months ..., where my father was transacting business for the S.A. Company, looking after plant and men etc., he removed to Adelaide, still in the employ of the S.A. Company. Some little time before leaving Kingscote, my mother died; I was eleven years old. When I was about twelve, Ron Germein brought a boat over from Kangaroo Island without assistance, and I determined not to be outdone by anyone my own age and resolved to do something as grand. I made full prepara­tions on the evening before I decided to start, and secured a boat; next morning I was up and in the boat, starting off with a full wind. I left Kingscote, I think, before sunrise - anyhow, it was very early - and arrived opposite what is now Mr Bickford's residence, Glenelg, the same day, feeling very happy, but very tired. I might mention that I did not go back by boat, but was bought back in my father's cutter.

About six or seven years ago I visited the place of our landing and the impression left with me from that visit was that it was one of the most beautiful pieces of country ever spoiled by civilisation.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Thursday 28 December 1905, page 5



In view of the fact that the anniversary of South Australian colonisation was again at hand, a representative of "The Advertiser" called upon Mr W L. Beare on Wednesday with the request that he would kindly become reminiscent for the benefit of readers. Mr. Beare, it must be remembered, is the sole surviving member of the original band of colonists who, under the auspices of the South Australian Company, reached Kangaroo Island in the barque Duke of York in 1836. Others are still living who arrived by the same vessel, but had not the specific object in view that brought Mr. Beare and his comrades to these shores.

"What can I tell you that is not already known'" asked the old gentleman, who, hale and hearty, was found attending to some office work. "Everybody knows that I came here in 1836 in the Duke of York. And besides, I hate notoriety. That's one reason why I wish tomorrow's celebration was well over. You know, of course, that the South Australian Company was formed in England for the purpose of colonising South Australia. Properly speaking it was the true founder of this State. Samuel Stephens was the first manager for the company, and my father, Thomas Hudson Beare, was second in command. I might tell you something about our voyage out."

Mr. Beare was assured that everything in connection with the period in question would be of interest.

"After the company had been formed," he continued, "we were waiting for quite two years in England before a start could be made. Delay after delay took place, but in the end this wait proved useful to us, for we studied every incident we could read or hear about in connection with everyday life in Australia. We practised pitching tents, and so on, and when, we actually arrived we found everything came easily and naturally to us. The Duke of York was originally what was known as a Falmouth packet, built for speed, and it used to run between Falmouth and New York. In those days she was a brig, and carried a man-o' war crew. When the company purchased her another mast was stepped, and she was turned into a barque and fitted out for the expedition. We had six guns aboard and plenty of round shot and cannister to load them with, but not a pound of gunpowder on the ship, excepting a private supply of sporting powder belonging to my father. We left St Catherine's docks on February 26, 1836 but before we lost sight of England we had on two occasions to put back for repairs, having had everything washed off the decks by heavy seas. It was April 17 before we finally lost sight of the old country.

"An amusing incident occurred before we got clear of the Thames" continued Mr. Beare. "My father was bringing out a female servant who had never been at sea before. Somehow she got into conversation with the man at the wheel, who told her that we should be out of sight of land very soon. That settled her. She went into violent hysterics, shrieking and carrying on in such a manner that we were compelled to land her at Gravesend. With her we landed a piano also, for the reason that we could not get it down the hold. We never heard what became of that woman after - or of the piano.

"After finally leaving England we had a fair enough passage. We were constantly on the lookout for pirates, but saw none so my father's powder was saved. On the way out we spoke the Lady Mary Pelham, and were ungallant enough to reach Kangaroo Island three days ahead of her, drop ping our anchor on July 27. We found; a number of sealers on the island who, however, were chiefly engaged in obtaining wallaby skins. These mostly runaways from ships, for vessels used to come from Sydney to the island for salt and wallaby skins. No doubt there were a few, escaped convicts amongst them. At first these men were a little frightened of us, as they had been told a vessel would be sent from Sydney or Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) to take them off, but in a day or two they gained confidence in us, and brought us some splendid vegetables, as well as poultry, and other luxuries. We found them useful to us in many ways. One of these men at that time had been on the island for 22 years, and another for 12 years. Most of them had black gins for wives, whom they had procured from the mainland. There were also several black women there who came from Van Diemen's Land. The daughter of one of these is living on the island now, and is one of the most intelligent and witty women one could talk with. Kingscote, where we formed our settlement, was named, before we left England."

Did you remain long on the island? Mr. Beare was asked.

"It was about l8 months or two years before we settled on the mainland." On Proclamation Day I was at Rapid Bay. and was there when the first white children were born. They were a daughter born to Captain B. T. Finniss and a son to one of the captain's retinue. The latter was named James Rapid Hoar. Later on my father settled down at Netley where he farmed for some time."

"I should like to say," added Mr. Beare, "that Captain Morgan, of the Duke of York, was as good a man, and as able a seaman as ever walked. He belonged, to the sect known as Plymouth Brethren, and he made his influence felt on board our vessel coming out. I never heard a single bad word used on the whole voyage, and there were prayers each night. There was no drunkenness aboard, although the sailors, as customary in those days, had their regular allowance of grog every evening. The poor old Duke of York went on a whaling cruise afterwards and was wrecked off Moreton Bay on the Queensland coast. Captain Morgan and all the crew got safely to shore, but I think a couple of the sailors were speared by the blacks before they reached a settlement. Captain Morgan was given command of a missionary vessel afterwards. It is not so very long ago that he died.

Can you tell me anything about Glenelg in the old days?

"I have told all I know so often before. There were plenty of blacks about, and real good fellows they were, although we had come to rob them of their country. Halfway between here and the Bay three tribes had joined and lived peaceably together and at one time, the police estimated that there were 700 of them in the locality. There was plenty of game for them, and they lived happily, enjoying corroborees night after night. I always feel sorry for those poor fellows to whom our coming meant extinction. However, no doubt we make better use of the country than they did."

"Thirteen is an unlucky number," concluded Mr. Beare. "There were 13 of us who, came out on the Duke of York under agreement with the South Australian Company, and I am the only one left alive. I wish tomorrow was over.

A PIONEER OF '36. (1905, December 28).The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), , p. 5.