The collected writings of "Yacko"

"Yacko" - alias Gladys Annie HUGHES, was born on 10 July 1890 at The Sturt.  She was the daughter of Charles William HUGHES and his wife Ludmilla HOLTZE and the sister of  Wynnis J. RUEDIGER who also wrote articles about Kangaroo Island, and books such as  Border’s Land (see The Collected Writings of Wynnis Joyce Ruediger .) 

Gladys married Osborne Hansen THOMAS 22 April 1916 at her parents home in American River.  She died in 1975 and is buried in the Penneshaw Cemetery.  Her parents were pioneers in the district from 1910 and Ludmilla’s father was Dr. Maurice HOLTZE one time Director of the Darwin Botanical Gardens and the Adelaide Botanical Gardens.  He retired to American River in 1917.  Her husband’s family arrived in 1882.  - Chris Ward.

On this page is a collection of her writings concerned with the history of Kangaroo Island, extracted from the newspapers of the 1920's and 1930's. For another page of her writings of non Kangaroo Island history, nevertheless just as interesting, see The collective writings of "Yacko" (2).  

The reader is reminded that, although her writings are eminently readable, and appear remarkably authoritative, no sources have been quoted. And, of course, much might have been disproved (or proved) since the 1930's. - Ed.

The Sage and the Sailors.

Matthew Flinders, in referring to the disaster of 1802, which gave Cape Catastrophe its name, relates a curious coincidence. John Thistle, master of the 'Investigator,' who lost his life in the disaster, just prior to sailing from England interviewed a fortune teller. The wiseacre predicted a long voyage, that on reaching their destination they would be joined by another vessel; but that, before the two ships joined forces Thistle would be lost. Thus he was drowned at dusk on February 20, 1802, when a cutter in his charge capsized, and the entire crew of eight were lost. So the first of the forecasts came to pass. On reaching Sydney the Lady Nelson was deputed to act as tender to the 'Investigator' on the survey of the northern (Queensland) coast. Thus the second act, as pre-ordained, took place. This same seer told other members of the crew before they left England that they would be shipwrecked before they returned home, but it would not be in the 'Investigator.' That, too, came to pass, for the 'Porpoise,' in which Flinders and some of his crew were returning to England, struck a reef 739 miles north of Sydney. — 'Jacko,' Point Morrison.

The Sage and the Sailors. (1933, October 26). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 17. 


— Old islanders will recall Captain. S., of the schooner Omeo, and the ire he roused in old Nat Thomas and his mate, George Bates, by not paying his just debts. Some years later the crew of the Omeo were watering at Antechamber Bay. The two sealers observed the intruders, and quietly forcing their way through the junipers, suddenly pounced on the skipper; the scared crew paddled back to their ship. While George see—sawed on the victim's chest, Nat drew his knife, and putting the captain's beard clear of his throat in a terrifying voice, roared, 'Just say the word, George, and off comes his head.' Luckily George was in a merciful mood. By the way, George delighted in horrifying his hearers with yarn of the delectation of eating baby flesh. - Yacko, Kangaroo Island

KANGAROO ISLAND HISTORY. (1933, March 23). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 45. 


— Mr. Farmer, in his article on Kangaroo Island, paints a lurid picture of the old-timers, but his facts are a wee bit twisted. [Piracy and Villainy in State's Early History. (1925, April 11).The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 1. ] The plot is laid for the 'thirties or 'forties, not the 'eighties, as stated. The fathers or grandfathers of most of the present day settlers were in occupancy of their holdings by the eighties. It is strange there should be so few descendants of the sealers. History mentions a son, Henry, of "'Governor" Whalley, acting as pallbearer for the last male Tasmanian aborigine — William Lane, in 1869; and excepting for the above-mentioned family I can trace no others.

Old "Fireball," alias George Bates   (authentic names are permissible, as the present families of Bates resident on baby flesh, Whalley voyaged from the island, are in no way connected with George), owned to a partiality for Van Dieman's Land in a small open boat, according to Mr. Farmer's yarn. I have always heard that he absconded from the whaler General Gates.

Of course, we had some convicts here. There was plenty of opportunity for men to get away to the island, for at least nine vessels found it profitable to collect salt, seal, or wallaby skins in the gulfs prior to the founding of the province in 1836. The Union in 1804 collected 12,000 sealskins. In 1814 the Fly, Captain Stewart, gathered seven tons of salt, and 300 sealskins. Sale in those days was valued at £50 a ton at Launceston. Captain Dillon, of the Spring, in 1816, collected salt and 500 sealskins. Ten years later he won renown as the man who solved the mystery of La Perouse's disappearance.   Captain George Sutherland, of the brig Macquarie, spent six months in 1819 on the island. John Griffiths, of the schooner Henry, in March, 1829, loaded 20 tons salt. Griffiths founded the whaling station at Encounter Bay in 1835. Captain John Hart (who later became Treasurer of South Australia). of the schooner Elizabeth, procured five tons salt, 150 seaskins, and 12,000 wallaby skins, in 1831.

Mr. Farmer implies that it was the custom among the islanders to commit acts of piracy on passing vessels. Tolmer mentions a boat being bailed up off Western River. A solitary incident.   One of the accomplices, "'Gentleman John," was captured by Tolmer single-handed in old Jacob Seaman's (not Jacobs) hut, Point Morrison.

It is puzzling why Kangaroo Island, only eight miles across the passage from the mainland, had no aborigines, except the kidnapped lubras. The Government laid out a township for the natives by Frenchman's Rock, Hog Bay, but, of course, it was not needed, and the land was resumed.    

Twenty miles out from Kingscote on the Bark Hut property, Cygnet River, is a fascinating outcrop of white porous stone, which geologists have failed to identify. With judicious picking perfect specimens of petrified honeycomb, pumpkin seeds, peach or cherry stones are to be found. - Yacko.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1925, May 9). The Mail  (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from


An Expensive Sentiment.

Heath,' in his letter of April 7 on Kangaroo Island, [THE FISHERMAN'S PARADISE. (1923, April 7). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), p. 49. ] suggests that the whole place should be a fauna and flora reserve. That would be very nice from the naturalist’s point of view, but what of the settlers? Are they to have no say in the parcelling out of their homes, many of which their fathers and grandfathers made before them? At least 20 farmers could not consider anything under £8,000, and a few some thousands higher. There are quite another 20 with property worth about £4,000; total, £240,000. And at a rough guess a further £40,000 is represented by smaller farms. Then there are between 40,000 and 60,000 sheep worth £1 a head. The grand total, therefore, would be £325,000. Would it not be rather an expensive sentiment?

The Compass and Names.

'Heath' is in error with the points of the compass. Pennington Bay is on the south coast, not north. In 1855 a Mr. Joseph Pennington, associate to the late Sir Richard Hanson, was lost in the vicinity of this inlet. Some years later a gold watch was picked up at White Lagoon, and it was supposed to be his property. Most of the features of the south coast were named by the French expedition under Baudin in 1803, and rightly so, as they discovered it first and the tender of between 40 and 5 tons they had bought from the Government in Sydney, the Casuarina, was the first boat to circumnavigate.      

The correct name for Hog Bay is Penneshaw, a corruption of two names— Mr. Pennefather, secretary to Governor Jervois, and Miss Shaw, of The Times, who was visiting South Australia when the village received official recognition. The sealers, years before settlement in South Australia was thought of, found numerous pigs in the vicinity of Hog Bay, the progenitor of which they supposed, had been left there by the French. American River, which is really an arm of the sea, and practically divides the island in two (there is only a strip of land about  three quarters of a mile wide between the  head of the river and Pennington Bay), was named by Flinders Pelican Lagoon, but about 1812 Yankee whalers (whose vessel, the General Gates, with Capt. Pendleton in charge, was wrecked on the coast), built a 35-ton schooner, the Independence, of, presumably, cypress pine, and corked the seams with a bitumenous substance, found (but rarely now) along  the beaches and locally known as bun-gum. A few years back some new settlers thought they had found a coal seam at American River; a company was formed, and excitement among the unwary was intense, but further investigation proved they were digging on the site of the Americans' forge of 1812! Authorities differ as to the date. One historian writes that the shipbuilding was done in 1803-4.

The late Mr. John Buick and his wife were the pioneers of the river, and not the late Mr. Ryberg, as one is led to imagine from letters appearing a few weeks back. John Buick, a worthy Scotsman, made his home at Buick's Point about 1854, whereas genial Nils Ryberg did not come to the island until about 1895.

Salt Lakes.

The longest worked salt lakes in Australia are to be found on Kangaroo Island, and are of the purest saline minaral. The first authentic shipment was that of the sloop Fly (Capt. Stewart) in 1814, and consisted of seven tons of salt, valued at £50 a ton, and 300 seal and kangaroo skins. For some breach of law, Stewart was imprisoned by the Acting Commander, Lieut. Campbell, at Launceston, and when released he found his craft sunk and the cargo worthless.

Capt. Sutherland, of the brig Macquarie, traded in salt and skins to Sydney in 1919, and Capt. Griffiths of the Henry, schooner, did likewise to Launceston in 1829; and doubtless there were many other vessels bartering the necessities of life for skins and so on, which the sealers could procure. Opinion is divided as to which salt and skins to Sydney in 1819, and early traders, the small lagoon at the head of American River, known as Gobel's, or the salt lake owned by a Sydney company and situated about half a mile inland from Flour Cask Bay. One yarn is that convicts gathered the salt on this lake, carried it on their backs to the shore, and thence transshipped from a whale boat to schooners for Sydney. A tramway of about six miles, connects the works with the shipping port on American River, which is known by the surname of the Chairman of Directors (Mr. Arthur Muston).

About 1908-10 there was talk of the Government building a railway on Kangaroo Island, but it ended in talk, and to smooth matters over Vivonne Bay, on the south coast, was given a very fine  jetty, at a cost of £16,000. I believe one vessel has been alongside it.

State Library South Australia  SRG/67/20/28


Scores of rabbits made their burrows in the Point Morrison soil 60 years ago, descendants of a few bunnies unwittingly liberated by the late Mr. Thomas Willson, of Willson's River, who then owned the estate. When the late Mr. D. O. Thomas took over the property eight or nine years later, Bunny had entirely disappeared. No doubt the "goanna" played a large part in the extermination. In fact, no rabbits, tame or otherwise, make the island their home, and woe betide the man who should introduce any. Not only will he be forthwith consigned to the lower regions, but there is a fine of £100 per rabbit.

'Gentleman John.'

After George Meredith was murdered by his black retainers at Yankalilla in 1834, one of his companions of the Western River home, Jacob Seaman, built his hut at a picturesque little bay known as Norma, half a mile from the Point Morrison homestead. A gully perpetuates his Christian name. Before communication with the island became frequent, it was the rendezvous of the scapegoats of the colony. The late Inspector, Tolmer (whom South Australia owes an everlasting debt of gratitude for organizing the gold escort, and thereby the means of bringing to Adelaide from Forest Creek and elsewhere thousand of pounds worth of gold dust when the colony so urgently needed it) had an exciting tussle in Jacob's hut with the notorious leader of a gang of ruffians, nicknamed 'Gentleman John.' The rest of the police party, under Jacob's guidance, were on their way to Creek Bay, and Tolmer guarded his desperate captive a day and night alone. Fred Morrison was buried at sea off the point which bears his name.


When a company was formed in London to put into practice Wakefield's scheme of colonizing, the vessels under charter to the company and others were ordered to discharge their passengers and cargo in Nepean Bay, pending Light's decision on the site for the capital. At the point the sealers called Snake, the future colonists landed; and erected their tents or huts, and named the settlement after a director of the South Australian Company, Henry Kingscote.  Diminutive Governor Whalley, governor by virtue of priority, was called upon to abdicate in favour of the company’s representative, Samuel Stephens.

Officially the last of the Tasmanian aborigines was Trucaninni, a female black who died at Oyster Bay, Tasmania, in 1876; but old inlanders say the last of the race was buried some years later at Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island. The 'Governor's' half-caste son, Henry, one of the crew of the whaler Runnymede, was a pall bearer at the funeral of William Lann (the last male of the Tasmanian natives in 1869.

Point Marsden, which Flinders named after the second secretary of the Admiralty, is generally known as North Cape. Cygnet River is so called from the fact that the barque Cygnet unloaded stores a couple of miles off the mouth of the river in 1836. - 'Yacko' 

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1923, April 30). The Register  (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 3.

KANGAROO ISLAND AS A SANCTUARY.     Prom 'HEATH':— The article in last Saturday's Journal on Kangaroo Island was instructive and full of interest, although naturally I regret that "Yacko" cannot see eye to eye with me in my plea for sanctuary. I accept without question the figures quoted by that writer to show the importance of the interests involved; but what then? The proclamation of Kangaroo Island as a sanctuary would not drive the worthy settler with his sheep and other possessions into the sea ! The island settlers enjoy perfect immunity from the irritating and devastating ravages of the fox, dingo, and rabbit. In the north, and elsewhere, many agriculturists and pastoralists have been ruined by the ravages of one or other of these pests, while hundreds are yearly spending small fortunes on means to grapple with these ever-increasing menaces. As recently as last Wednesday the columns of The Register told of the serious state of affairs in regard to the dingoes in the West Darling district. 'Yacko' and his fellow-settlers are immune from these pests. They are "on a good wicket". Under these circumstances then, would it be too much to ask them to help to make it possible to preserve our quaint and unique marsupials' by erecting fences as extensively as their means permit, as less fortunately situated pastoralists and agriculturists are obliged to do as a protection against vermin? If this were done on a liberal scale, and it was found that the kangaroos and wallabies were still numerous enough to be a nuisance, the Government would take the same steps as those recently adopted in regard to opossums. If this were done, and the island were closed to the ordinary sportsman, it would still be, to all intents and purposes a sanctuary, and no great harm would be done to the inhabitants. Don't be too ruthless in the thinning-out process which is at present sanctioned against the opossum. It may be necessary to a certain extent; but don't let it be overdone, as it so frequently has been in other localities in the past. I remember, many years ago on the west coast, kangaroos were very plentiful, and needed thinning out, so the setters built huge corrals with widely extended wings, and organised a giant drive. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that thousands of kangaroos were entrapped, and were 'waddied" without mercy. For years their bones lay bleaching in the sun and at last attracted the attention of a speculator, who was about to ship them to the city to be converted into bonedust, but an examination proved that the sun and the process of time had eliminated all the manurial properties. It is questionable if, even among Australians, many people are fully seized with a proper appreciation of the unique character of our marsupials. On the other hand, Americans seem to be possessed of a keen interest, and have frequently ex- pressed themselves as envious of Australia's quaint fauna. Let us, then, look to it that they are carefully preserved wherever possible, for history appears to indicate that the marsupial does not long survive when hemmed in by civilization. At one time they were to be found in Europe, but are now extinct there. Australia today has the distinction of being the home of marsupial life in many forms, comprising the kangaroo family, opossums, wombats, porcupines, bandicoots, and even a marsupial fox. North America is now the only other place in the world possessing marsupials, but I believe there they are confined to one class only— the opossums. My apologies to "Yacko" for a slip of the pen which transferred Pennington Bay to the wrong side of the island. 

KANGAROO ISLAND AS A SANCTUARY. (1923, May 5).The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 15. 


Real Life Stories Of South Australia


 So tiny was the brig Lady Nelson, in which  Lieutenant Grant discovered and named Mount Gambier, that the sailors of the British warships contemptuously christened her 'His Majesty's Tinder Box.'  Nevertheless, the Lady Nelson had a much more adventurous career than many of the giant 'bulwarks' of the day, who regarded her so derisively.    

The coastline of the western boundary of the province of South Australia was discovered by the Dutch navigator, Francis Thyss, in 1627, the eastern coastline by Lieutenant James Grant, of the Lady Nelson, in 1800. Like several other of the early English expeditions, the brig had been commissioned with the idea of forestalling the French, in this instance the navigator Baudin. The English mariners, looking down from the decks of their huge men-of- war, jeered at the Lady Nelson as she sailed from England, calling her 'His Majesty's tinder-box.' She was a brig of 60 tons. She left England on March 18. 1800, and the first Australian land was made on December 3, when Mounts Schank and Gambier, and Capes Northumberland and Banks, were sighted and named. The Lady Nelson was one of the first vessels to be built with a centreboard, and in labelling Mount Schank, Grant was complimenting the inventor, Captain James Schank, R.N., while Margaret Island, Westernport, is named after Mrs. Schank. By the time Baudin had wandered into our seas in 1802, Flinders had discovered and charted most of the coast, and the north shore of Kangaroo Island, and the Frenchman could but rightly claim priority in discovering the land on from Cape Banks to his meeting with Flinders at Encounter Bay (three leagues), and subsequently the south and west coast of Kangaroo Island. 

The Lady Nelson's career was romantic, and ultimately tragic. She was the first vessel through Bass Straits, followed within a few weeks' interval by two other brigs, and the first ship from which Port King (Port Phillip) was discovered and partly surveyed. In between these surveys the little brig was transporting wheat from the Hawkesbury, cedar and coal from the Hunter River to Sydney, or conveying pioneers to Risdon, Hobart, Maoriland, or Melville Island (Northern Territory). While acting as supply ship to the military settlement at Fort Dundas (Melville Island), in 1825, the Lady Nelson met disaster. Scurvy had broken out. Fresh meat was needed, besides stock for future herds. So the brig was commissioned to convey buffaloes from the island of the Timor group. One trip was successful. But the second proved her last. Nobody knew what had happened to her until her hull was eventually found at Baba Island. Probably the same fate befell the Lady Nelson as that of the schooner Stedcombe, which disappeared in the same year while on the same mission — seizure by pirates and crews massacred. Two boys, Edwards and Forbes, of the Stedcombe, were spared only to become the slaves of the natives. Fourteen years later, through the persistence of Captain Watson, master of the schooner Essington, Forbes was handed over by the natives and eventually became a fisherman at Williamstown (Victoria). Edwards did not survive the harsh treatment, and had died some years before his mate's liberation. 

— 'Yacko,' Port Morrison.

Real Life Stories Of South Australia. (1933, July 6). Chronicle(Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16.


Real Life Stories Of South Australia


This is another tale of the days before South Australia was colonised — and after. It deals chiefly with 'Governor' Whalley, and incidentally with some of the ships which came to Kangaroo Island in the benighted days before 1836.   

Many of the incidents of early Kangaroo Island have several versions, some highly romantic, but of doubtful veracity. They will probably never be authenticated. There is a yarn that "Governor" Robert Whalley sailed to the island in a whalelboat from Tasmania before 1817, with two concubines, Puss and Bet. Another is that he landed from the American brig General Gates in 1819.  

Quite a number of vessels called at Kangaroo Island before the first settlers arrived from England in 1836. The list includes the Union from America in 1803, a Government boat from Sydney (name unknown, but probably the Integrity), 1803; a sealing vessel from Sydney (name unknown), 1806; the Eliza from Sydney, 1809; the Endeavour from Sydney, 1810; the Campbell Macquarie from Sydney, 1812; Fly, from Port Dalrymple, 1814; the Spring, in charge of Captain Dillon (who 11 years later found La Perouse relics at Vanikoro), 1815; Rosetta, and also the Endeavour, 1817; Macquarieand General Gates, 1819, Prince of Denmark and General Gates, 1822; Henry, 1829; Elizabeth and Henry, 1831; Henry, 1833, and also in 1834.  

Whalley and his partner, William Day, lived with their colored harems in a log hut built on the fertile bank of the Three-Well River (later called the Morgan, and now known as the Cygnet). Here, about 12 miles from the mouth of the river, they cultivated their patch of wheat, grew splendid potatoes, cabbages, &c. tended their four dogs, numerous fowls, pigs, and one horse— a 17-hand nag imported from Tasmania, and the first horse in the State. Whalley was a total abstainer, and would not grow barley. His strongest drink was a very palatable tea brewed from the leaves of the swamp ti-tree. During a dearth of flour, wallaby liver was hard baked and served as bread. For clothes, wallaby or seal skin was used, pieced into rough suits. 

There is a rumor that the Sydney authorities once sent a punitive expedition to the island, though no official record of the visit has yet been found. Major Lockyer, commandant of the military outpost at King George's Sound, certainly made the suggestion that one should be sent after some trouble with a boisterous gang of sealers from Kangaroo Island in 1826. When the English emigrants arrived the settlers numbered at least 11— Robert Whalley, diminutive and honest headman; his partner, William Day, William Walker, John Stokes, Harry Smith, George Bates, Nathaniel Thomas, Jacob Seaman, William Thompson, William Cooper, and James Allen. At one time as many as 12 lubras lived on the island kidnapped from Tasmania, Victoria, Port Lincoln, or Encounter Bay. Their names are in teresting, for several appear in history — Sally Walker, Little Sal, Bumblefoot or Big Sal, Bet, Puss, Polecat, Wauber, Dinah, Mooney, Charlotte, and Suke.  

Samuel Stephen, the first manager for the South Australian Company, was not particularly generous in his treatment of the first "Governor." For a hunded odd fowls Whalley was paid 20/. Yet when he wished to stock another farm the company would not sell him a pair of his old fowls for 7/6.  

The sleepers for the Port and Gawler lines were sawn on Whalley's farm and floated down the Cygnet to the sea for shipment to Port Adelaide. Whalley died in 1856 while on a visit to Adelaide. He is interred in an unmarked grave in the old Kingscote cemetery. 

— "Yacko,"Point Morrison.

Real Life Stories Of South Australia. (1933, April 13). Chronicle(Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 19.


Real Life Stories of South Australia


Scraps From Kangaroo Island

Older than the State itself is Kangaroo Island, where the first immigrants settled before coming to the mainland. But years before 1836, the island was inhabited by white men— run-away sailors, run-away convicts, sealers, and so on.      

Years before colonisation on the mainland was mooted, Kangaroo Island for varying periods provided a haven to numerous visitors. During the summer of 1803-4, the Yankee crew of the brig Union built a schooner at Pelican Lagoon. Their boat slip is still discernible, roughly lying halfway between the settlements of American River and Muston. Some years back there was excitement among the residents; new settlers picking up chunks of coal thought they had stumbled on a coal seam. Further investigation proved the 'find' to be on the site of the Americans' forge. Within two years of the launching of the schooner at Pelican Lagoon, mother ship and schooner were wrecked, and all but 11 of the crews were drowned or massacred. 

The next visitors to 'blow in' were sealers from Sydney, in 1806. Three years later they were still there. The name of the leader (Joseph) Murrell, was given to a bay on the north-west corner of the island. These days it is better known as Harvey's Return. Harvey, by the way, was a later day sealer, who could not find a landing till he made the small indentation, which since bears his name. From 1812, when the Campbell Macquarie reached the island just prior to running aground at Macquarie Island, visitors were very frequent. John Stokes arrived in 1817 - 'Governor' Whalley, from the notorious American brig General Gates, in 1819. Different vessels calling for either salt or skins arrived during 1810, 1814, 1815, 1817, and 1819. In 1822 or 3, when the General Gates paid the second visit, she induced to sail with her to Maoriland, Stuart, a sealer, and a native woman and babe.  As Kangaroo Island had no known aborigines of her own, except kidnapped women from the mainland and Tasmania, presumably the lubra was one of these. 

Several of the gangs the General Gates left sealing in different localities on the New Zealand coast were massacred. The native and her two-year-old babe escaped to the woods, and for eight months remained in hiding from the Maoris. During that time mother and child sustained life by eating the raw flesh of seals and birds. The fear of making their whereabouts known deterred them from lighting a fire. 

The first whaling station in South Australia was started by Henry Reed, of Launceston, at Flourcask Bay, on the south coast of K.I., in 1831. Some alleged authorities say Flourcask received its name from the fact that flour was washed ashore when the steamer Yon Yangs was wrecked in the vicinity in 1890. Flour was washed up from the Yon Yangs, but the bay was known as Flourcask many years before. One of the trypots from the station can still be seen in use as a drinking vessel for cattle at American River. The owner's grandfather with bullocks dragged the relic for miles over sand dunes and scrub to its present resting place. 

— 'Yacko,' Point Morrison. 

Real Life Stories Of South Australia. (1932, December 29).Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16.


From 'ARCADIAN':— May I add to 'Yacko's" notes that a party of sealers resided on the island so long ago as 1806. These were under the direction of Mr. Joseph Murrell. Mr. Murrell visited the island in 1809, and took two of the party with him in the Eliza to Sydney, leaving four others behind. Among other vessels that loaded salt at Kangaroo Island in the early days were the Endeavour and Rosetta.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1923, May 3). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 6.


Salt In The Early Days.

— Kangaroo Islanders are intrigued over the recent unprecedented developments regarding the mineral lease held by the Australian Salt combine. Salt was one of South Australia's first exports, and the saline mineral collected on Kangaroo Island was, until recent years, 98 per cent. pure. The first authentic shipment of salt was five tons gathered by the crew of the Fly, Captain Stewart, from Port Dalrymple in 1814. For some breach of law, Stewart, on his return to Van Dieman's Land, was imprisoned and his boat confiscated. On seeking compensation Stewart valued his cargo at £50 a ton. By 1819, when Captain Sutherland of the brig Macquarie gathered salt, the mineral had fallen in value to but £10 a ton. There is much controversy among historians as to which lake was the favorite with early collectors; the one at the head of American River, near Mr. George Gobell's property, or the lake at the head of the Bay of Shoals. The latter is first mentioned in 1815, and the former in 1819. Muston's Lake, over the working of which trouble is said to be brewing, was, until comparatively recent days, unexploited. 

— 'Yacko,' Point Morrison.  

Real Life Stories Of South Australia. (1933, March 23).Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16.

Judge Bolted From Court

Pioneering had its tragic episodes, but it had its comic ones, too. There is an instance of Judge Cooper trying a man in one of the rooms of his home at Whitmore square, A sudden crackling sound, and an hysteric scream, 'He's shot,' sent jury and spectators helter-skelter through one French window, and judge and lawyers through the other. Tolmer, the police inspector, Ashton, the governor of the gaol, and Joseph Stagg, the prisoner, were the sole occupants left in the room. Investigation found a beam of the floor over a cellar had cracked, and so caused the unprecedented commotion.

— 'Yacko,' Port Morrison

Stranded On A Barren Island

In 1884 there was a lot of sealing on the south-west coast of Kangaroo Island. Most of this hunting was on the Brothers' Rocks, not far off the Island. The Brothers are two barren rocks standing well out of the water, and seals congregate there in great numbers at certain periods of the year. On one occasion four men, Neilsen, Marsden, and Small, and an American blackfellow, took a boat on a waggon from Kingscote to a point opposite the Brothers, where they intended to kill seals. Two of the men were to camp on the Brothers to do the killing. The other two were to camp on the Island, and take food and water across every few days and bring back the skins. The latter had a snug camp on the Island. One morning they started out to the rocks and landed Neilsen and Marsden, the killers. Then they started back for their camp on the Island, but were never seen from that day to this. Nine days later one of the hands from Barratta Station, while riding along the coast, was startled to see the men on the rocks making frantic signals by waving a blanket.  Sensing that something was wrong he searched the bottom of the cliffs and found portions of the sealers' boat broken to matchwood. He returned to the station, and a telegram was sent to Adelaide. A few days later the steamer Governor Musgrave was sent to rescue the stranded men. It was very rough, and the boat could not land. The sailors floated a line ashore and told the men to tie it around their bodies and they would pull them through the surf. Neilsen tied a baby seal to one of his legs to take with him, but the seal had too much rope and kept diving, nearly drowning Neilsen. However, both men were taken off safely. — 'M.J.A.,' Coorabie.  (possibly “Yacko”??)

Judge Bolted From Court. (1933, July 6). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16


Real Life Stories Of South Australia


Were White Men There Before Flinders?

At the south-eastern corner of Eyre Peninsula is Memory Cove, where Flinders erected a tablet in memory of some of his crew who lost their lives in the vicinity. An interesting find was made there by the artist of the party— a series of strange drawings, the origin of which is still a mystery.


The first discovery of the south coast of Australia was accidental. The Dutch vessel, Guide Zeepaard, outward bound from Holland, made a bad landfall, and instead of sighting Australia about Houtman's Abrolhos and thence skirting the coast north to their possessions at Java, they rounded Leeuwin, and sailed east to the islands which bear the Christian names of the super-cargo of the vessel (Pieter Nuyts) and the skipper (Francois Thyss).


In 1718, Jean Pierre Purry, a French-Swiss in the employ of the Netherlands East India Company, drafted a memorial portraying the advantages of settling the south coast of Australia. He argued that where-as the countries of the old world lying within the 30th and 36th degrees latitude were fertile, it was reasonable to suppose that the Land of Nuyts, lying within the same degrees, was likewise. The Dutch refused to be interested, so Purry approached the French and English Governments. Though he battled hard for his scheme, they likewise were not prepared to consider anything 'so foolhardy.' So England lost her second chance of colonising Australia.


Flinders continued the explorations of the south coast in 1802, when he connected with the Dutchman's turning point of 1627 at Nuyts Archipelago. With the exception of D'entrecasteaux's visit to the Australian Bight in 1792, there is no known record of any callers in the intervening years. Westall, the artist of Flinders' expedition, found an interesting drawing on a cliff at Memory Cove, which makes one think perhaps all the history of the 'South Land' is not yet known. The drawing depicted a procession of thirty-two men and women following a kangaroo. Most of the figures are draped to the ankles, and two much larger than the rest brandishing a hilted sword and long staff respectively. Another form wears a turreted hat; arrows are carved (a weapon Australian aborigines do not use), and there are ten well-executed representations of the Jewish sevenbranched candlestick. Dr. Leigh, writing in 1837, speaks of perhaps an act of vandalism, but it is worth recalling. 

On the Cygnet River, Kangaroo Island, while sheltering in the hollow trunk of a tree, he noticed, cut deep into the bark, the inscription, 'This is the place for fat meat; 1800.' Kangaroo Island, Thistle Island, and St. Peters Island all had their communities of sealers and lubras many years before colonisation in South Australia was mooted. On St. Peters, a renegade named Bryant made his home with two native women and their half-caste children. Sometimes the American whaling ships called in, then the sealers bartered the fresh water and greens for any stores they required. When a gang of sealers from Kangaroo Island, led by John Williams, lost a boat, they made their way to St. Peters Island. In three months, out of timber cast ashore from wrecks, they had built another vessel. Perchance relics of the first settlers could still be found on the islet. 

— 'Yacko,' Point Morrison. 

 Real Life Stories Of South Australia. (1933, March 9). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 16.


The first of South Australia's prospective settlers reached the rendezvous at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, per Duke of York, on July 27, 1836. They founded their village of tents on the point since known as Kingscote. Of course, later, when the Torrens was discovered, and the site of the capital surveyed along its banks, Kingscote was practically deserted, and the South Australian company moved their interests to Adelaide. Kingscote exists, but the only relics of bygone days are a few tumbledown tombstones and a mulberry tree, which still bears eatable fruit.


AUSTRALIANA: Topical, Reminiscent, Historical. (1924, August 9). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 8.


OIL-SEEKING, based on a new theory, is  being carried out at American Beach, Kangaroo Island, S.A. The originator of the discovery, Mr. S. S. Sanders, an expert with the divining rod, found by first moistening is hands with kerosene the rod would act for the tinned kerosene; and now a company is testing at a selected spot for the priceless fluid underground. About 1854 the late Alexander Tolmer, a one-time Adelaide Commissioner of Police, and the organiser of the gold escort which brought so much of South Australia's gold back from Forest Creek and other places, thereby greatly helping Adelaide at a most critical time, was emphatic about the finding of oil on Kangaroo Island; but nothing came of his plans. The old-time whalers, years before South Australia was proclaimed a province (1836), always caulked their boats with bitumen they supposedly gathered along the seaboard of the south coast. Their name for the stuff was "bungum. "

-- Yacko.

Oceania. (1921, December 3). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 2.


In South Australian Waters. 

By 'Yacko.'

Miss Winnie Fairweather (Observer, 12/5/23) in her article on wrecks mentions only two wrecks in South Australian waters— the Admella and the Star of Greece. Though with those there was a tragic loss of life, there have been other wrecks equally disastrous. In 1840 the brigantine Maria, bound from Port Adelaide for Hobart, was wrecked on that graveyard of many vessels — the Coorong. The passengers and crew only escaped one death to meet a worse; for all were massacred by the natives. Major O'Halloran, Commissioner of Police, led a party in search of the murderers, and subsequently hanged two of the culprits. Small toll for the 26 lives taken; but, unaccountably, these reprisals caused much newspaper controversy. Money to the amount of £4,000 was reputedly buried ashore, but only £11 odd has ever been recovered. Mr. Simpson Newland's delightful book 'Paving the Way' is built up from the above incidents. 

In the early days of our settlement it was the custom to send the long sentence prisoners to the neighbouring convict colonies. In 1850 the Lady Dennison was chartered to convey 10 such to Tasmania, but all trace of her was absolutely lost; at the time it was surmised that she had been seized by the prisoners, but she may have foundered in a storm. There was an audacious plot to capture the brig Punch shortly afterwards, when on her way to Hobart with prisoners and passengers. Naturally, after the mysterious disappearance of the Lady Dennison, the captain and crew kept constant watch, and the would-be absconders were handed safely over to their gaolers. 

An authoritive instance of the consummation of a similar scheme was the seizure of the Lady Shore in 1797. The transport, with 60 female prisoners, and one male prisoner, the notorious swindler, Major Semple, was outward bound from England for Sydney, when the majority of the guards and crew mutinied, killed the captain, transhipped the loyalists to the long boat, and made for Monte Video. The Spaniards confiscated the vessel, the mutineers were imprisoned, and the women were given domestic work.

A Dreadful Shore.

The practically hourbourless, rock-bound south and west coasts of Kangaroo Island have witnessed many wrecks. In 1877 the brig Emily Smith was lost new Cape Borda, and a few of the battered bodies of her lascar crew were washed ashore. Some time later a settler, while on his periodical trapping expedition, found the corpse of one unfortunate fellow in his hut, an immense heap of shellfish beside him, to tell the tale of a desperate struggle to sustain life. A score or more precious lives were lost with the founding of the Loch Sloy in 1899. The sole survivors were four men, three of the crew, and a passenger, all mercifully lifted by an extra large comber on to a narrow ledge of rock. When day dawned (the vessel had struck at 2 in the morning, and the unfortunate people had only just taken to the rigging when she began to break up), Simpson, the 16-year-old apprentice, scrambled to the top of the cliff, and the ropes he made of twisted cloth washed up from the wreck enabled him to hoist his comrades to safety.   Seeking habitation, Kirkpatrick, who was physically far from well, gave his boots up to Simpson, and the lad left him and pushed on for help. The two sailors made civilization about the same time. The leader of the search party hastened the mariners to Adelaide, and with a small army of settlers sought for Kirkpatrick, but nought in vain. Simpson was sent for, and 11 days after parting with his companion the emaciated body of Kirkpatrick was found crouching under a bush.

Heavy Losses of Life.

The sailing ship Lock Vennachar was lost with all hands at West Bay, K.I., in 1905; and Simpson who survived the founding of the Loch Sloy went down in her. One of the Vennachar's spars was washed up at Cape Hart, with the broad cut of the ship's axe plainly visible. The French barque Montebelle was wrecked in Stunsailboom River, K.I. , also in 1905. To a man her crew were saved: one sailor had a few days previously fallen from the mast and broken a leg, but he was pulled ashore with a comrade in a cradle. A severe ordeal, as most of the time they were dragged under water, the extra weight causing the rope to sag. Many lives were lost in the founding of the steamer Clan Ranald, off Troubridee, Y.P., in 1909. At the wreck of the Thompsons at Guichen Bay, 21 men were drowned. In the foundering of the Emu at Port Elliot all hands were drowned. And so on, down the list, numerous precious lives have been lost. While the officers of the Government and the Tug Company were wrangling over a few paltry pounds, lives were being sacrificed at the wreck of the Star of Greece. The company wanted the value of their rescuing tug guaranteed, and the Government would not give it, and while they argued four days and nights were wasted, and the luckless victims of their haggling were falling one by one from the rigging into the boiling surf below. Adam Lindsay Gordon's poem, 'The Ride From the Wreck," was inspired by the foundering of the Admella off Cape Banks in 1859. The name Admella was corrupted from the first two letters of her ports of trade— Adelaide, Melbourne, and Launceston.

OLD-TIME WRECKS. (1923, May 30). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 11.

Narrinyerree.—Very glad to have your interesting letter on murders by natives. Mr. Meston is unusually well informed on these matters, he having been connected with the aborigines for over half a century. You refer to the murder of the crew of the Maria in 1840, and point out that "Yacko's" account of that tragedy was not quite correct. The information you gathered about that tragedy when engaged in missionary work would, we are sure, be the more correct. You say that the people wrecked from the Maria were "conducted from where they were wrecked on the Coorong Beach to a place on Lake Coorong, where the friendly tribe who conducted them left them, because they feared to go into territory of the next tribe of natives. The white people then came on to a point on the Corrong called by the natives Nunkamong, where they fell in with the tribe, who murdered all but one man. He escaped, and, swimming the river at the Murray mouth, found his way to the whaling station at what is now called Victor Harbor." You also point out that Mr. Meston never mentions what you consider the finest tribe of aborigines, the fish-eating lake tribes of South Australia, a people with an intelligence far superior to any north of Brisbane. We shall be glad to hear further from you on this point, and thank you for your great interest in the matter.

WILL YOU TELL ME?. (1924, March 8). The World's News(Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 37.


From A. T. SAUNDERS:— 'Yacko' in Wednesday's Register writes respecting the wreck of the Star of Greece: — 'Four days and nights were wasted, and the luckless victims of their (the South Australian Government and the Tug Company) haggling were falling one by one from the rigging into the boiling surf below.' This   statement is incorrect. The Star of Greece, wheat laden, sailed from the Semaphore at 6.45 p.m. on Thursday, 12/7/1888 and less than 20 hours afterwards she had run on shore about 200 yards from the Port Willunga Jetty, and her crew were either safe on shore or were drowned. Had those on the forepart of the vessel remained there for a few hours they would most likely have all been rescued from the shore. Those who were on the after part, which was afloat when it broke off at the bulwark, were drowned, with the exception of one man. 

As the ship was about  as close to the shore as the guardhouse on North terrace is to Rundle street, a tug or lifeboat could have done little, even had there been time to send it. A rocket apparatus to fire a line across the ship would probably have saved some who were drowned. Politicians and demagogues of the baser sort and the secretary of the Tug Company made much talk for their own benefit. The ship was hove-to at 9 p.m. on Thursday till just before she struck; the deep-sea lead was not used to show if or how fast she was drifting; and, in fact, the seamanship on board was not of good quality apparently. The mate of the Star of Greece, Capt. Harrower, was here a few months ago, master of an English-owned steamship. 

The figurehead of the ship is in a garden on the Payneham road from Gilles Plains, and Mr. Ive, of Downer & Co., Waymouth street, has a good painting of the ship in his office. The Lady Denison was wrecked on Tasmania. She was a regular trader between here and Hobart, and on October 3, 1849, cleared for Hobart with four police and 14 prisoners, 30/12/49. She arrived from Hobart with Capt. and Mrs. Saunders (my parents) as passengers, 5/1/50, she cleared for Hobart with nine passengers, two guards, and six prisoners (see Register 8/1/50, p. 3, c. 2). She returned to Port Adelaide and, 17/4/50 cleared for Hobart with passengers three constables, and 10 prisoners. 

So she had considerable experience as a convict carrier to Hobart from this province. The Register, 14/6/50, quotes from The Hobart Town Advertiser of 14/5/50:—Serious fears are entertained for the safety of the Lady Denison, which left Adelaide for Hobart Town a month since. It is said that 14 prisoners, with a guard of two police, were aboard, and it is not improbable they have risen, mastered the crew, and got posses- sion of the ship. This is mere conjecture." The Register, 7/10/49, has account of the relics of the Lady Denison. In 12/6/50, the brig Punch, 147 tons, Capt. Thomas Allen, cleared from Port Adelaide for Hobart Town with P. B. Coglin, Mr. Sauerbier, Miss Berton, Mrs. Beddome and four children, William Studdman, John Rounsevell, Ann Nathan and boy, and also 12 prisoners. 

The Punch arrived, at Hobart 25/6/50. One of the convicts was a Treasury official, who stole Treasury coin and levanted in the ship Samuel Bodlington, but the Government schooner Yatala was sent after the ship, caught her off Cape Northumberland, took the levanter out of her, and back to Adelaide, where he was tried and convicted. His wife took passage, but the Punch and the Lady Denison affair had made Capt. Allen alert. Soon after the Punch sailed the steward discovered that the lady had pistols in her cabin. The officer in charge of the convicts, John Rounsevell, so well known in Adelaide, was informed, and Capt. Allen decided to take no risks; so in anchor chain was passed down the fore-hatch and up the after hatch, and the end was fastened to the mast. The leg irons of the convicts were then shackled to the chain cable, and the prisoners were told that if they made any trouble the crew would man the windlass, heave the chain taut, and stand the convicts on their heads. There was a little trouble, and a few of them got loose, but Capt. Allen battened the hatches down until Sgt. Rounsevell and his men had secured the convicts. Thereafter only two male convicts were allowed on deck at a time for air and exercise. 

When the Punch was near to Hobart the Treasury official was allowed an hour alone with his wife, and when the convicts were going ashore at Hobart he handed to Capt. Allen a Norie's '''Epitome of Navigation' (which   is now in Port Adelaide, owned by Capt. Allen's son), showing that an attempt to capture the Punch had been contemplated. 

During the trial of the official, a letter written by him when on board the Samuel Boddington to his wife was read in Court The official lived at Brighton, could see his house from the ship, and said in the letter he hoped some of the Brighton   fishermen would come near enough to the ship to take the letter ashore to his wife. I understand that in accord with a usual custom, the official was, after a time, 'assigned' to his wife in Tasmania, and re-sided with her. In The Register. 29/6/1871, in 'Leaves from a Log Book,' the late Mr. Jagoe, under the caption of 'The Convict Brig,' has an account of   this voyage of the Punch, but it is slightly inaccurate. The Register, 25/3/50 (p. 4, c. 5), has 'a Van Dieman's Land Romance but true' about the Rookery and the Badger. 

In 1833 convicts seized the Badger and reached Japan. The Cyprus convict ship was seized by 32 prisoners in Recherche Bay, Tasmania, in August, 1829. Lieut. Carew, 10 soldiers, and 13 prisoners were landed, and the others escaped to Tonga, Japan, Canton, and England, where three were arrested; two (Watts and Davis) were executed, but Capt. Swallow was acquitted. On January 11, 1834, the Frederick was seized by 10 prisoners in Macquarie Harbour, and reached Valdavau (Sicily), 26/2/1834. They were arrested, brought back to Tasmania, tried, and were acquitted on a technical point.

OLD- TIME WRECKS. (1923, June 1). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 12.


"MELOS" speaks of St. Francis Isle, in the Great Australian Bight. []  This isle, one of  a group, the turning-point of Pieter Nuyt'sexplorations in 1627, was the starting-place of Flinders' discoveries in 1802. It is no doubt strange that no pests infest its lands, but Kangaroo Island, of a much vaster area, being ap-proximately 80 miles by 40 miles, can claim similar distinction - nothing worse than wallabies and opossums. Though, years ago, any number of rabbits made the island their home, they have now mysteriously all disappeared. Some theorists consider the goanna the extinguisher. That may be, but they have not rid the island of the black snake yet. Incidentally, across the Backstairs Passage, on the mainland, a distance of about eight miles, kookaburras can always be heard, but the island has none. Between the visit of the French expedition under Baudin in 1803 and the arrival of the first notorious inhabitant (inhabitant advisedly - there were never any aborigines, excepting "wives" of the sealers) in 1812, the emu peculiar to Kangaroo Island entirely disappeared. The French (who, by the way, were the first to circumnavigate Kangaroo Island, in the 30-ton cutter Casuarina, built in Sydney) caught several specimens, which can be seen in the Paris Museum.


Oceania. (1921, August 27). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 3.



ACCORDING to official records, Lannay was the last full-blooded male of the Tasmanian aboriginals. His death occurred in February, 1869; the woman Trugannini died in May, 1876. It is extremely doubtful whether the women mentioned by "Yacko" were Tasmanian born, as the old sea rovers who were responsible for abduction of dark ladies of the southern seas were not particular about the locality they exploited. The wife of "Jimmy Monro," King of the Straits, was a Port Phillip gin. In those days there was a sprinkling of Maori blood in the Straits; Lascars, South Sea Islanders, and representatives of the southern States were also present.-Melos.

Oceania. (1921, March 26). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 3.


' MELOS' is wrong in stating the last of the Tasmanian aborigines passed away in 1875, for at the time there were three women still living at Kangaroo Island, the last of the three being buried some years later at Stokes Bay. Kangaroo Island had never any natives of its own. When the notorious first settlers arrived (sealers, whalers, escaped convicts, etc., the first being Henry Whalley, in 1812), they lived with black women kidnapped from Port Lincoln, Encounter Bay, Tasmania. Captain Sutherland, of the brig Macquarie, visited the island in 1820. At that time, he asserts, there were forty men, women, and children. At the present day there are only the offspring of one man and his "wife." What became of the rest of the half-castes is a mystery.


AUSTRALIANA: Topical, Reminiscent, Historical. (1920, October 9). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 3.

More About Kangaroo Island.

— Recent eulogies on Kangaroo Island remind one that its potentialities were not always considered so favorably. Early In the 19th century fear of the French invading Australia was very real. About 1803, the assistant surveyor, Charles Grimes, of Sydney, was reputed to report on the possibilities of Kangaroo Island for colonising [incorrect - Grimes reported on King Island for that purpose]. Grimes decided against the island, and settlers under the guidance of Collins, were deviated to Victoria, and thence to Tasmania. Flinders first discovered the island in March, 1802, when he sighted Point Marsden (north coast) from Spencer Gulf. 

The following year the island was circumnavigated by the Sydney-built boat Casuarina, of the Baudin expedition. During the summer of 1803-4 the crew of the brig Union, from New York, built a 35-ton schooner at Flinders Pelican Lagoon (the inlet today known as American River). 'The Chronicle' of the period refers to the island as 'Border's Island,' the spelling without doubt being a corruption of Baudin. The natural resources of the island were first exploited when the Americans collected seal skins in 1803-4. Salt was first gathered probably in 1812 by the Campbell Macquarie from Sydney, and authentically in 1814 by the Fly from Port Dalrymple.  — 'Yacko,' Point Morrison.

Real Life Stories of South Australia (1932, November 17). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 18.