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Fremantle Observer

In December [1831] the colony's first printing press was landed from Van Diemen's Land, and from it was issued the ”Fremantle Observer,” the first issues of which were printed by Charles Macfaull and W. K. Shenton. That little press and a copy of the paper may be seen to-day in the Perth Museum. Its history has been concisely expressed by Edmund Stirling, who subsequently owned it.
The libel that was the cause of the colony's only duel was printed on that press. The duel was fought in 1831 on the south bank of the river to the west of the present traffic bridge, the combatants being a Scotch lawyer named Clark and a merchant named Johnstone. The latter was fatally wounded and Clark was committed for trial, but acquitted, duelling being a venial offence in those days. The pair of duelling pistols used in the encounter are now in the police museum, in Perth. Hitchcock: 21-2.

[A later historian, Allen Graham, writes that that the men were in partnership in a newspaper called The Inquisitor, and that the duel was actually fought on 18 August 1832. He also says that the duel was fought at the rear of William Graham's home, Richmond House. Allen Graham 2005, 'Early duels of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 4: 95-106.]

It appears that this newspaper has not (yet) been scanned for Trove, but there is an article in the (Hobart) Colonial Times (29 June 1831: 3) which reports on material from the Observer, as follows.

We have elsewhere inserted a letter from the Swan, contradicting some prejudicial statements made some time since in the Hobart Town Courier. If all was as the letter states we should be most happy, but unfortunately accounts differ very much. No one among us ever insinuated aught prejudicial to the respectability of the Swannies, but when they would fain look down upon us as being less pure than themselves, and at the same time most earnestly entreat the Home Government to render them a Penal Settlement, surely it betokens a feeling of inconsistency to say the least.
The accounts from Swan River on the whole, may be termed better than they have been. Provisions were plentiful, and the Agricultural accounts are far more satisfactory. Scurvy had been troubling the inhabitants, and had in many cases, been dreadful in its ravages. Great complaint is still being made, as to the insecurity of property, and the want of power to enforce the laws, which indeed were little heeded. The latter speculations of our fellow townsmen have turned out favourably. The Nimrod, it is said, will bring 70 passengers from the Swan.
Winter has at length commenced, hitherto the weather has been more than usually serene and delightful - the first symptoms of the winter were perceptible yesterday. At this period last year we had had nearly three months of continued wet. The farmers have in many places hitherto not been able to plough their land owing to the continued drought, but the bountiful showers which are now falling will enable them to proceed rapidly with their out-door work.
The town has had its walls ornamented for the last day or two with placards of the astonishing "beauty of the beast," belonging to Mr. OAKES, of Redlands. The animal is well worthy the inspection of the curious, both as to its condition and the beauty of its symmetry.
We are sorry to have to communicate the death of a man employed on Capt. M'Dermot's grant on the Canning River. An affray had taken place with the Natives, who threw eight spears into him, and wounded a lad in two places, but by swimming the river he escaped. We are informed the deceased, who was known as Colonial George, had often fired at the Natives ; if so, it but corroborates our previously expressed opinion, that all affairs of this nature, have originated in improper treatment of the Aborigines, rather than from a natural disposition to ferocity on their part.—Fremantle Observer.


Garry Gillard | New: 10 October, 2017 | Now: 10 October, 2017