Boats were rowed backwards and forwards from the ship to the shore, transporting passengers and their personal luggage. Then it was 19 year-old John Taylor’s turn to climb into one that drew alongside. With the sailors sitting athwart amongst the passengers’ luggage, they started the long haul to shore. Each sweep of the oars brought the vessel closer to Fremantle. The steady cadence of the blades in the water would have been out of sync with what I suppose to be the rapid, thumping beat of John’s heart. Excitement and expectation intensified for a new colony, a new adventure, a new life.
As they advanced, the coastline, which had a pleasant, variegated appearance from the ship, transformed into a few stunted bushes scattered amongst the sand. With a crunch on the beach, the boat delivered John to the land that held all his hopes for a farming life. If family hearsay can be believed, he arrived with one and six (1s 6d) in his pocket. Whatever the truth, we can be assured that John wasn’t wealthy.“…he came to Western Australia with no other capital than his hands”The landing place was on the beach near the whaler’s tunnel that had been excavated beneath the ’round house,’ Fremantle’s oldest public building, which was used as a gaol. A short walk and John would be in the middle of town. The population of Europeans in the colony at this time was less than 3,000, the majority of the people living in Perth, located upstream. Fremantle itself was just a small settlement of several hundred. There were two hotels, some Government buildings, a few stores and a number of stringy-bark houses.
Even though John had come from a rural part of Oxfordshire, the sight of Fremantle, as representative of his new home, would have been quite a shock. His boots sunk into bare, barren, lifeless sand. How could this support crops? His expectation must have turned to doubt. He wasn’t impressed.
Fremantle and Perth came alive, as always, with the arrival of a ship, and the last one from England had been two months previous; the settlers were eager for the latest information and produce. The local newspapers – there were two in circulation – published the most recent news from London, gleaned from editions brought to the colony by Lionel Samson, a returning colonist. A princess had been born to Queen Victoria, just days before the Sterling set sail at the end of November, and the fear of hostilities with the French had been dispelled. However, the late Governor of the Swan River colony, Sir James Stirling, had been appointed to command the HMS Indus and patrol the Mediterranean to keep an eye on them, just in case.
Announcement of the birth of Queen VIctoria’s first child The cargo was unloaded from the Sterling. Newspaper advertisements announced the merchandise available: superfine trousers and waistcoats, ladies French dresses, Yarmouth smoked herrings, vinegar, mustard, pickles, and glass decanters. The Samson brothers, Fremantle merchants, were selling barrels of pork and flour, puncheons of rum, firkins of Irish butter, quarter casks of brandy, and hogsheads of English gin.
The Brown’s 205 pieces of cargo were taken to the Government store in Perth, waiting for them to send for it when they were established. It included 24 barrels of [blasting] powder, 15 cases of tea, 9 casks, 10 firkins, 40 extra barrels, 44 hams, a plough, 2 cart bodies, and a wagon. They had obviously taken the advice, that William Tanner gave in a letter, to bring as much extra as they could to sell for a profit. A cow that had been bought in Plymouth and a Berkshire sow were also amongst the supplies they brought with them. Having two young children, the Browns had made a sound investment in the cow. It had provided milk the whole voyage, the cost defrayed by the contributions of several others on the ship.
The passengers from the Sterling dispersed. The 16 emigration boys, 12-16 years old, who had been sponsored by the Children’s Friend Society, went off with their new masters to their various places of employment. So dire was the labour situation in the colony that 50 boys could easily have been hired.
Meanwhile, Thomas Brown had returned from his trip to William Tanner’s at Caversham Rise, where he and his wife and servants would stay. Not deterred by his lack of land, he purchased the flock of 400 ewes that had just arrived on the Eagle from Van Diemen’s Land. Thomas Fruin, a shepherd and one of Brown’s indentured servants, left to drive the sheep in stages to Caversham.
Notice of sale of 400 sheep Thomas, Eliza, the children, and some of the servants travelled by boat to Perth and then the twelve meandering river miles to Guildford. Caversham was four miles further again.John Taylor was responsible for taking the cow.
After passing Butler’s Bush Inn, above Freshwater Bay, John could look back over the ocean to see the Sterling, his recent home of four months, lying in Gage Roads, and beyond that, Rottnest Island. A long, low outcrop of limestone – Garden Island, where the settlers had first landed in 1829 – lay to the South. Once again turning north, John followed the track of deep, loose sand, which made for heavy going through the open forests of mahogany and gum. The tall grass trees stood like sentinels holding their long, spear-like seed heads. The track continued in this way, occasionally touching the river, until it came to Mount Eliza, the natural bushland of which is now conserved in Kings Park. From here, there was a magnificent view over the buildings of Perth, situated on that part of the Swan called Perth Water.
Perth about 1837 – Charles Dirk Wittenoom, Sketch of Perth and Melville Waters with Mount Eliza from the main street of Perth, Western Australia, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-137146045 John would have found the road from Perth to West Guildford just as difficult. It had been allowed to fall into disrepair in anticipation of a bridge over the mud flats of the causeway to East Perth, which had been advocated for years. He continued to the north-east. Deep sand filled the track that passed the Pine Apple Inn at the site of present-day Maylands and then reached the Cleikum Inn at West Guildford. Here, travellers to Guildford and the towns over the Darling Range would cross the Swan, and those going to the north would continue along the western side of the river.
John arrived at Caversham Rise to find that Thomas and Eliza Brown had been invited by Samuel Viveash to stay with him at his property, Yangedine, over the ranges near York, while they searched for suitable land in the area to purchase.
1. York Agricultural Society. (1851, July 23). Inquirer (Perth, WA : 1840 – 1855), p. 1 Supplement to “The Inquirer.” Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65739124. [back]
2. John Taylor of Yangedine. (1889, April 20). Eastern Districts Chronicle (York, WA : 1877 – 1927), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14858802 [back]
3. Accouchment of Her Majesty, and Birth of a Princess Royal (1841, March 20). The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article642781[back]
4. “Shipping Intelligence.” (1841, March 17). Inquirer (Perth, WA : 1840 – 1855), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65582067. [back]
5. This Week’s Best Tale. (1928, February 23). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37666398[back]
6. John Taylor of Yangedine. (1889, April 20). Eastern Districts Chronicle (York, WA : 1877 – 1927), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14858802 [back]
7. Charles Dirk Wittenoom, Sketch of Perth and Melville Waters with Mount Eliza from the main street of Perth, Western Australia, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-137146045 [back]
8. There is some supposition, on my part, in the time frame for all this, using what was written in “A Faithful Picture” – see bibliography. [back]
Australian Corpus of English – Australian National Corpus, https://www.ausnc.org.au/corpora/cooee
Brown, Eliza, Thomas Brown, and Peter Cowan. A Faithful Picture: The Letters of Eliza and Thomas Brown at York in the Swan River Colony, 1841-1852: With an Introduction. Freemantle, W.A.: Freemantle Arts Centre Press, 1977.
Hitchcock, J. K., and J. W. B. Stevens. The History of Fremantle: The Front Gate of Australia, 1829-1929. Fremantle: Fremantle City Council, 1929.
Perth in the ‘Thirties. (1926, October 23). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 69 Edition: Metropolitan Edition. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142165066
The Western Australian Journal. (1841, March 20). The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal (WA : 1833 – 1847), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article642777
State Records Office of Western Australia, Survey of Roads between Perth and Fremantle on West side of Swan River by the Preston Point Ferry by A. Hillman [scale: 25 chains to an inch]. https://archive.sro.wa.gov.au/index.php/survey-of-roads-between-perth-and-fremantle-on-west-side-of-swan-river-by-the-preston-point-ferry-by-a-hillman-scale-25-chains-to-an-inch-roads-076