18 Feb 1868: Depositions of the natives

1868, Apr 1 Inquirer Newspaper

Depositions of the natives concerning the death of Constable Griffis, the native assistant, and George Breem

The information of Euralgarri, alias Jacky, a native of the North-West Coast, touching the death of PC W Griffis, Peter, a Swan River native, and George Breem, given through the sworn interpretation of Horace William Sholl [1], taken 8th February, 1868:-

Jacky being affirmed to speak the truth saith: Two nights since I was to the westward of Mr Davis’s boat. I then slept about as far as the river from this house to the eastward of Jermyn’s tent. Griffis and Peter came to me that night, and Peter captured a native named Entire by the whitefellows, but Coolyerberri by the blacks, and put a chain around his neck. The natives all ran away and Griffis and Peter went to the westward to the tent with Coolyerberri. After Griffis went away the natives all collected together and were talking savagely – they were very angry. Pooldalgarry, alias Big Monkey, said “We’ll all be savage, and when they go to sleep we’ll spear them.” I heard him say so. The others said “We ought not to be frightened – we ought to go and spear them.” None of them said we ought not to spear them. There were present at the time Poodegin, alias Charley, Woolgulgarry, alias Ned, Mulligough, an island native, Minnulgajebba, an island native, Parrakarrapoogoo, an island native, Cooracoora, a native who came to the Government Resident to complain of a whiteman named Woodhouse having flogged himself and his brother, Chilwell, who went with Mr Broadhurst pearl shell fishing, and three others. There were many more natives, but these were all that were savage. They did not speak to me, but I spoke to them, and asked why they wanted to spear them, for the whitefellows would come down and shoot them. They said when the whitefellows came to shoot them they would spear them. Memerri, an island native, said so. I slept that night with the women and children and the native men who were not savage. We all went away over the hill to another place, the others were creeping towards the tent along the track. The moon had not risen high when I left them. Entire came when we were asleep with a revolver in his hand and a chain on his neck, and told us that the whitefellows were dead, and that he and the others had speared them. The other natives came with him. Ned said that he had speared Griffis first, in the chest, and then they all hit him with the back of at tomahawk. They did not use the firearms. Charley speared Peter in the belly just as he was rising up – he tumbled over and never spoke – Griffis never spoke. Entire said that he speared Breem, who ran away frightened, but the others chased him, and he was speared. When he was running away he told them not to be savage with him. The natives took a big gun of Jermyn’s, another gun, one from Peter and a pickaninny gun. I did not see powder or shot or saddles. They went to the westward, to a well, through the water, where their tracks could not be seen. I was frightened and swam across to the boat. I was too frightened to tell what had occurred. The men who speared them are now to the westward at the other end of the Bay. I have no relations among these natives.

[The following is additional information given in the report in the Perth Gazette, 3 April, 1868]

[Jackie continues…]
In addition to the names of those I gave the other day, I name the following as assisting at the murder – Pulthulgerri alias Big Monkey, Euculgurria alias Jimmy, a lad who took spears with him, Warrara, an island native.

The following natives attempted to dissuade them from attacking the white men, namely:- Joe Murray, I do not know his native name, he is an Eastern native, Ngilyewoorunga alias Little Monkey, Woolgolgern alias Charcoal, Eucalgerri alias Dan, Wollbongo alias Whalebone, Johnny and myself. Maypole was not there. He ran away when Griffis came.

Johnny being affirmed to speak the truth saith:-

I went to collect pearl-shells to the westward with Jermyn, Charcoal, Joe Murray, Little Monkey, Whalebone, and Dan. We went to collect shells yesterday morning. The moon was high in the heavens when we left. The sun was not up when we came back. Griffis, Peter, and Breem were alive when we left the tent. Entire was a prisoner with a chain round his neck and no handcuffs. Griffis was lying on his elbow in the back of the tent, Breem was on the other side opposite to him. Peter was in the front of the tent outside with Entire in front of him. They were not asleep, they were eating. I was there when Entire was brought into the tent. I did not hear that the natives were savage, but Entire was saying to himself he wished the natives would be quick and come. When I came to the tent and saw Griffis was dead I ran away and swam across to the vessel with Whalebone. Charcoal went up the hill and looked at the boat and then went with Joe Murray and Dan to join the other natives to the westward. Jermyn walked before me and I did not see him again, but I saw his tracks coming towards this place. They were those of a man walking quickly. I think he must be dead – the sun was hot and he must have died from want of water. I came with Davis and saw the bodies. Griffis was not in the same place as when I left; he was outside. He was dead and had been dead some time. Peter was dead but I did not see the other until I went and looked for him with Davis. He (Breem) was also dead. They had all been speared; Griffis in the left chest and Peter in the belly. Breem was speared under the left arm. They had been knocked about with stones. Whalebone swam from the vessel when Davis and I left, and I have not seen him since.

Katitjin Notes:

[1] Horace “Horrie” William SHOLL (1852-1927)
Horace Sholl was the son of Robert John Sholl, the Resident Magistrate at Roebourne, whose report preceeds this deposition. Horace arrived in Nickol Bay with his family in July 1866 at the age of 14. Here we find him at the age of 16, having been in Roebourne for about a year and a half, being the official interpreter for these Aboriginal depositions. One would have to ask to what degree Horace’s interpreting skills favoured presenting a point of view that would shortly justify the massacres that occurred, with full knowledge and authorisation by his father. Horace later became a pastoralist on the Yule River, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (1891-1901) and one of the most successful pearlers of the North-West. Talk about a vested interest!