ESCAPE OF NATIVE PRISONERS FROM
WE noticed in our last number that the natives transported to the Island of Rottnest under the charge of Mr. Welch had contrived to make their escape ; we have made some inquiry into the man- ner in which it was effected, and we are glad to learn that no blame can be attached to the parties under whose guard and control the natives were placed. It seems that on the evening of the night they got away they were all made fast together by passing a trace chain through their irons and lock- ing the end with a handcuff : the chain was placed round a cypres-tree. In order to disengage the chain from the tree, they set fire to it, and thus were, comparatively speaking, at large,—the irons having been cut from one leg of each native by Mr. Welch as an act of humanity, on their arrival at the island. It has been remarked as surpising that the falling of the tree was not heard by any of the party ; but the tree, although considered suffi- ciently large for security, could not make much noise, as it fell during a heavy storm of wind and rain which lasted during the night. It is supposed they were clear from the tree about two or three o'clock in the morning, and made their way imme- diately to the beach, where Mr. Thomson's boat was lying, and there with some of the iron work
contrived to break the handcuff, which united the two ends of the chain. They all got into the boat and pushed off, trusting to the open sea—a most foolhardy and perilous adventure; indeed it was attended with so much danger, that those who are experienced boatmen would not ventured to have crossed from the island to the main in such a
tempest as they must have encountered. One of the natives, an old man named Helia, was drowned. Some reports have been circulated, founded on in- formation derived from one of the party named Cogatt, that he was thrown overboard ; we are in- clined, however, not to credit this report, as this boy, since his recapture, has told Mr. Armstrong, the Interpreter, that the boat was capsized in the surf, and they all had a narrow escape of their
lives, but the old man had not strength enough to reach the shore. On their landing, they made for the track of the Guildford road, where they were fallen in with by the native Weeip, commonly call-
ed "Governor Weeip," and some of his tribe. It was their intention to have kept the old man's death a secret, but Cogatt communicated it to Weeip, who instantly came down to Perth and told the Perth tribe, who are his nearest relatives. A plan was that night concerted by the natives of Perth to take the fugatives, and it was thought a good opportunity to enlist them in the cause ; they were accordingly promised a reward if they brought them in. On Saturday morning they all started off, and in the course of the afternoon they were heard approaching towards Perth, reiterating their cries of exultation, which we soon found out were the yells of victory,—they having surprised the runaway party, and put to death an old offender named Goodap, to avenge the loss of their relative Helia. The whole of the party would have been sacrificed by this summary process of Aboriginal justice, had they not contrived to elude their pur-
The following are the names of the prisoners convicted at the last October, January, and July Quarter Sessions of the Peace, and who escaped
from Rottnest :—
Buoyeen, for cutting, maiming, and wounding Charles Hokin, a lad eleven years of age, on the Canning River.
Molly Dobbin and Tyoocan, for breaking open and entering the dwelling house of Mr. John Han- cock, at Belmont, and stealing a quantity of flour, &c.—These three natives still at large.
Helia, the old man guilty of the murder of an aboriginal black woman in the streets of Perth.
Cogatt, stealing butter from Mr. Spice, at the
head of the Swan River. Retaken.
Goodap, stealing from Mr. Drummond, on the Swan, and a known bad character. Speared (dead)
by the natives.
Notwithstanding these natives had so recently escaped from a place of con- finement, on the first night after reaching the main land they robbed a garden at Bassindean, on the Swan, and the gar- den near the Cleikum Inn, adjoining the Guildford ferry, and had concerted plans for robbing other settlers. Their suc- cessful escape, it appears, would have
emboldened them to perpetrate many more robberies, had not their career been thus timely checked by the assistance of the Perth tribe, who deemed they had their quarrel doubly just, in avenging their own cause, and acting as a consta- bulary force on our part. We can but regret the loss of life, although justly forfeited; but as a case involving the peace and protection of the colonists ex- posed to their outrages, we are bound to regard the whole of the proceedings con- nected with this affair as affording a serious but useful lesson to the aborigines,
who would set at defiance our institutions for their correction or instruction.
Cogatt was taken prisoner by George Syred at or near the farm of Mr. Spice, the scene of his former depredations. This person deserves some credit for his activity, and we hope a similar alacrity will be shown in apprehending Molly Dobbin, a notorious character, and his
It is remarkable, that although the natives made their escape on Wednes- day night, and the circumstance was known at Perth on Friday, communicated as we have stated, no intelligence was received from the island until Saturday afternoon, notwithstanding repeated sig- nals hud been made by Mr. Welch, which were noticed by persons at Fre- mantle, but disregarded. This displays either gross inattention, or a want of proper consideration for the public, which remains to be explained. We have generally found the inhabitants of Fre- mantle ready to volunteer in a good cause. Why they withheld their usual good feeling on this occasion, is unac-
The foregoing account, which we be- lieve to be strictly correct, exhibits the character of the aboriginal inhabitants of this territory in a more conspicuous light than we have ever had it brought under our observation—it affords a strange anomaly, sufficiently illustrating the im- practicability of ruling or controlling them by the influence of British law. Here we have convicted felons, who, in the act of escaping, are said to have mur- dered one of their companions,—they are not at large twenty-four hours before they repeat their acts of depredation,—they are attacked by an injured tribe, which it would have been next to impossible to have turned from their purpose, if their purpose had been known to the proper authorities, and one of their number is killed. This is a medley of events which, by the strict application of British law— if it could be applied—would involve the settlers in interminable broils and dissen- sions with her Majesty's subjects the blacks; we have no alternative there- fore at present but to guard ourselves from their violence, and to protect our property, leaving the aborigines to settle
their own matters of difference or hostili-
ty according to their established usage and their own code of laws, which have for their basis 'might is right'