Fremantle Stuff > People > John Alfred Reddell d. 1899

John Reddell

Captain John Reddell was a ship-owner with a fleet of luggers operating in NW Australia taking pearl shell. He and his son Jack were murdered by the mutinous crew of his own ship, the Ethel, in October 1899. His wife Minnie had died in 1892. Their memorial stones are preserved on the Heritage Trail in Fremantle Cemetery, at (my number) #71. The West Australian for 14 December 1899 gives a full account, as follows.

TRAGEDY AT SEA.
THE MISSING BRIGANTINE ETHEL.
A MUTINOUS CREW.
MASSACRE OF A CAPTAIN AND OTHER WHITES.

On the 19th October last the brigantine Ethel, manned by a coloured crew numbering about sixteen, with the captain and owner (Mr. J. A. Reddell), his son (John Reddell), and another white named James Taylor, left Broome for the La Grange Bay pearling grounds with provisions for the coloured men employed there. On the following day she was sighted by Captain Francis, of the schooner Nellie, off the Lacepede Island, and she was then sailing north. As she did not arrive at her destination when due, fears were entertained that the coloured men had mutinied, and, overpowering the three whites on board, had taken possession of the vessel and shaped a course north for the islands of Macassor or Manilla. These fears were founded on the fact that there had been no bad weather to cause her to founder. Sub-Inspector Brophy, of Broome, communicated with the Commissioner of Police as soon as the vessel was reported missing and urged that the authorities at Batavia and Singapore should be communicated with. As nothing could be done from Broome in the direction of following up the vessel, she having left Broome over three weeks before he was communicated with, the Commissioner of Police acted in accordance with the recommendation of the Sub-Inspector.
Subsequently the captain of the s.s. Australind, bound from Singapore to Fremantle, and the captain of the Tsinan, from Hong Kong, reported that they had seen nothing of the missing vessel, and since then her fate and that of the whites on board was shrouded in mystery. On Tuesday, however, His Excellency the Governor received a message from the Governor of the Straits Settlements, which, while clearing up the mystery, reveals that the fears entertained were only too well founded, and that the whites on board had suffered death at the hands of the mutinous crew. The substance of the message received by Sir Gerard Smith was: "Brigantine Ethel. Captain, son, mate and others murdered. Ship scuttled. Survivors landed at Adult; are now at Macassar. Dutch authorities, on denouncement by one of the crew, arrested culprits and seized valuables and other property. Please communicate British Consul, Batavia, as to witnesses and disposal of property."
The message was forwarded to the Premier by Sir Gerard Smith, who, when seen by one of our representatives last evening, stated that the name of the sailor who confessed was Pereira. Sir John Forrest informed the Resident Magistrate at Broome of the facts of the case, and also the sister of Captain Reddell, who lives in Melbourne.
A further message was received by His Excellency the Governor yesterday afternoon. This cablegram was from the British Consol at Batavia, and was as follows : "Netherlands Government informed crew brigantine Ethel, consisting of 13, found Timor Laret, now Macassar. Captain, son, carpenter, one Japanese, one native murdered. Ship scuttled south Lelaroc. Have you instructions ?"

SOME PARTICULARS OF THE MURDERED MEN.

The news of the fate of the Ethel, her owner, and the other white members of the crew caused a sensation at Fremantle yesterday. The Collector of Customs (Mr. Clayton Mason), on being interviewed by a WEST AUSTRALIAN representative, said that he had nothing to communicate beyond what was available in Perth. He understood that the cablegrams setting out the fate of the Ethel were received by His Excellency the Governor on Tuesday, but no public announcement was made, as it was desired first to communicate with the relatives of the deceased, whose whereabouts were not known at the time.
The Harbour Master (Captain T. W. Smith) informed our reporter that he had received a letter last week from Miss E. Taylor, who gave her address as "care of Mr. F. Taylor, second keeper, Cape Jaffa Lighthouse, via Kingston, South Australia." Miss Taylor - who, he understood, was a sister of James Taylor, the late carpenter of the vessel - desired to know whether anything had been heard concerning the schooner. He replied, stating that up to that date nothing was known. Taylor was engaged on behalf of Mr. Reddell by Mr. Brown, boat builder, of Fremantle. Captain Smith further stated that Captain John Alfred Reddell, the captain-owner of the Ethel, was very well known in Western Australia and the other colonies. He commanded some of the Eastern and Australian Co.'s steamers in the China and colonial trade, and had also been a Torres Straits pilot. He was engaged in the North-West pearl shell fisheries for the last 13 or 14 years. Captain Reddell was about 60 years of age, and owned one of the largest fleets of luggers engaged in the North-West fisheries. His son, John, who was on board the Ethel as clerk, was the eldest of a family of three or four. Mrs. Reddell died in Fremantle about seven years ago. The Ethel was a wood brigantine of 180 tons, built in Mahurangi, N.Z., in 1875.
Mr. Gordon, manager of the Union Bank, Fremantle, where Captain Reddell kept his account, states that the deceased's children are living with their aunt, Mrs. Florence Pope, at Manly, Sydney. He thought it was most probable that Captain Reddell had left a will, as he was a man of most careful habits. West Australian, Thursday 14 December 1899, p. 5.

References and links

West Australian, Thursday 14 December 1899, p. 5.

Fremantle Cemetery Heritage Walk


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