In the Field

Historical research is often associated with dusty old books and hours of note taking.

In fact research is not like that any more for the retrieval of information is very good in the Battye Library in Perth.

Following reading all about it we decided to do some research in the field. This was Johnny de Leeuw, Peter Gradisen and myself. The target - Gin Gin.

The reason for this was that Lt. Robert Dale of Palm Valley fame had in 1830,looked for stray cattle around the area, together with George Fletcher Moore. (Palm Valley report)

We found this intrigueing for the area wasn’t settled until 1846 and the colony was about a year old. It was also known that Dutch ships carried cattle as a fresh food supply and that these often made it ashore after being shipwrecked. Another clue?

It was already obvious that the English were loath to pursue any information that related to Dutch survivors. (Imagine how the history books would have looked if these ships had been English.)

The Shire of Gin Gin also claimed to be the home of the Gilt Dragon. This ship had come unstuck on a reef near what is now Ledge Point and it was known that the 76 survivors had camped on the beach for some time as there was fresh water. No one knows what happened to them after that, either they didn’t know or weren’t telling.

We assumed that the survivors had gone inland and intermingled with the local tribe. This tribe, the Youat People had the reputation of being very friendly and accommodating to the English explorers around in the 1830’s

We tracked down a local historian, Mrs. Dewar, who had written a book about Gin Gin. She knew very little about what we wanted to know but she told us that there used to Aborigines around the town but that the measles had wiped them out.

The Youat People

The Mogumber Mission Farm is the reserve where a lot of them now live and work.

We spoke at some length with the manager who told us that a lot of ‘oral history’ had been lost because of the Lost Generation who were removed from their families. He told us however that his wifes great-great Grandfather was a grown man when the colonists came and that he was a half-caste.

When we asked him about Gin Gin he rolled his eyes and became uncomfortable and told us that there were many bad spirits around Gin Gin and that no native would go near the place. When asked why, he explained that if a native is not properly buried, his spirit remains abroad and he becomes a bad spirit -

He claimed that the settlers had poisoned the waterhole and all the natives had died - and now there were a lot of bad spirits in Gin Gin.

We knew from other reliable sources that new settlers often used this method to rid themselves of ‘nuisance’ natives.

However, it must be noted that epidemics of Influenza, Measles and also VD were responsible for the demise of natives and usually those who lived in close proximity to the new settlers.

He indicated that he knew the Dutch to be much more humane and had good vibes, but no so with the English settlers.

It was a worthwhile trip for we came away with more questions that need to be researched. 

                                                                                                                                        Thomas Vanderveldt  2002

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