John Brown Gribble to Frederick Chesson, 17 December 1886, C137/21

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Gribble, John Brown








Western Australia

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Bodleian Libraries

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C137-21


Near Perth, W.A.

Dec 17th 1886

My dear Mr Chesson,

As the mail is to leave again tomorrow I am just jotting you a scrap or two of news. Re native matters I am still so full of all kinds of hard manual … the promised time that I cannot … for full corresp…. You will see by the enclosed clipping that the work of murder and cruelty still proceeds. The plain truth is that what we hear of these atrocities are only as the drippings of the great reservoir of iniquity beyond and behind the curtain. My own case which was first postponed from Nov. to Dec. has again by the trickery of my opponents been further postponed to February. My solicitor says that such moves are simply to disquiet me and drive me away from the colony. But I am resolved to remain and fight the matter to the end God being my helper.

The … colonies were sent us little help since I last wrote you and I feel confident that God will in some way or other supply our need while we strive to secure justice and liberty for the poor blacks of this land. As I before informed you we have suffered even the loss of all things and are simply depending under God upon the benefactions of his own people whom he disposes to assist us. I hope the day will soon come when Responsible Government will be adopted and then may we hope to see a better state of things for the natives. The matter of the appoint of a Royal Commission is of a most vital importance for without it darkness will conceal the truth.

The great object here is to keep iniquities covered up. The man McPhee charged with murdering natives near Roeburne recently is to be tired in February, when I suppose the man Eatch will also be tried. This man Eatch was formerly a police … and is well known in Perth. If I cannot obtain legal redress here I shall be obliged to go to England and personally enlighten the British public.

I cannot now stay and write further.

I remain
Yours faithfully
John B. Gribble

F.W. Chesson Esq
Aborigines Protection Society

P.S. Do all you can to obtain the appointment of Mr Duke Brockman as native protector.

From the Perth Herald

Sensational articles from time to time appear in our Wednesday contemporary upon the ill-treatment of our aboriginal natives. In another leading article in Wednesday’s issue, reference is made to the case of William Thames an ex-policeman, and a parallel drawn between his treatment by the Bench, and that of a settler residing some miles from Roeburne. It is said that this man had two boys in his employ, the eldest being about 13 years old, both speaking English. They ran away after being flogged, were pursued, and were driven back with a stockwhip a distance of 30 miles. Arrived at the station, the elder boy was stripped and lashed to a fence in ‘crucified’ position and then flogged until he had fainted. The second boy was treated in the same manner and after having worn out one lash, he began to put an another when the boy, in his agony, screamed out ‘oh master, if you want to kill me, cut my throat, but don’t cut me to pieces!’ The brute, unmoved, continued flogging until the second lash had worn out. News of the horrible deed reached Roebourne, and when the boys were brought in, the inhumane monster admitted that he had not flogged the first boy so much as he had the second because he could not bear it, adding that he had ‘lost his temper.’ The magistrate inflected a fine of £1 for dogging the weaker boy, and £5 for the assault upon the boy who could bear it. If these facts are true, and we are bound to give credence to the, we scarce know which is most deserving of condemnation, the conduct of the inhuman monster, who flogged the children or the magistrate who permitted such blood curdling brutality to be indulged in, at the cost of a paltry fine. We have in mind a similar case, where two missionaries were sentenced to penal servitude for flogging natives in Africa yet in West Australia when so much is said of the human treatment of an aborigine the conduct of the settler and the magistrate are not inquired into. We consider this a public question, involving the character of the colony. It has either been grossly libelled, or a state of affairs is permitted to exist in regard to the treatment of our aboriginals that demands strict inquiry. If our magistrates can treat so lightly such severe treatment, it is time they were at once removed from their position, and their names struct off the roll of Justices of the Peace. We trust the government will at once clear up the matter. The colony should be purged of such a foul disgrace, if true, by the public condemnation of the culprits or if untrue by the prosecution of the journal which has promulgated the hideous story. A story equal in atrocity and horror to any told of the worst days of American slavery.

The above case was never noticed by the government. J.B. Gribble