State Records Archive
Title: Derby. William Eardley desires marry half caste girl
To: The Chief Protector of Aborigines, Perth
Re your wire of 4th January instant William Eardeley’s application for permission to marry a halfcaste girl.
Eardeley is a young man who is hardly able to keep himself, at present he is doing odd jobs about an hotel in Derby. He never does any hard work. He appears to me to be slightly demented. He was an inpatient of the Derby Hospital some time ago, a few days ago, he was asked to pay the Hospital fee but refused to pay. He said he had no money.
I do not consider him a fit and proper person to marry the halfcaste and strongly recommend that his application be refused.
He has no home or settled place of abode.
Acting Sub Inspector
[Police Station, Derby]
To: Mr William Eardeley, Derby
February 10th 1909
In reply to your application to marry a half-caste aboriginal, I beg to inform you that this cannot be granted.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,
Chief Protector of Aborigines
William Eardley was a Scottish immigrant, born in Glasgow in 1875, who came out to South Australia with his family when he was a child. When he enlisted during the First World War at Broome in 1915, he gave his occupation as “bushman.” He was discharged 1916 on medical grounds, having contracted malaria, but re-inlisted 6 months later. After the war, he married Winifred Maud Robinson in Perth and returned to live in South Australia, where he worked as an overhead linesman and supported a family of 8 children, living in the same house for most of that time. He died in Adelaide at the age of 77, in 1952.
Given that most men simply cohabited with Aboriginal women without formally marrying, partly, no doubt, in order to avoid the difficulties involved in the process, as well as the interference of the Chief Protector of Aborigines and the Police, it would appear that Eardley was at least sincere and willing to make a formal commitment – was he really not “a fit and proper person”?
Sub-Inspector John McCarthy had been in the Police Force since 1888. He had gone to Derby in 1905, as a promotion his role in Perth as the police prosecutor at the Perth Police Court. He was well liked by the press for his courteousness, and considered a “zealous and capable” officer. He had served in the North-West, in Marble Bar and Roebourne, between about 1895 and 1900, before returning to Perth.