Fremantle Stuff > People > Yagan
One of his sons of Midgegoroo was Yagan, who was shot a couple of months after his father, on 11 July 1833, by colonist William Keats, to gain a monetary reward offered by the government, Yagan having been declared 'outlaw'.
Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, Saturday 4 May 1833, page 70:
By His Honor Frederick Chidley Irwine [sic] Esquire, Captain in His Majesty's 63rd Regiment of foot, Lieutenant Governor, Commander in Chief, and Vice Admiral of the colony of Western Australia and its Dependencies.
WHEREAS it appears from information received, that a Murder was committed yesterday between the hours of two and three o'clock, on the road from Fremantle to the Canning two miles beyond Bull's creek, on the Bodies of two white men named Velvick, servants to Mr. Phillips of Maddington Farm on the Canning River, and as there is no reason to doubt that the Murder was committed by a party of Natives, headed by a particular Native named "Egan or Yagan" supposed to be the chief perpetrator ; NOW therefore I the Lieutenant Governor, do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested, pronounce and declare the said "Egan" to be an outlaw deprived of the protection of the British laws, and I do hereby authorize and command all and every His Majesty's subjects residents in any part of this colony to capture, or aid and assist in capturing the body of the said "Egan" DEAD OR ALIVE, and to produce the said body forthwith before the nearest Justice of the Peace :—AND I do further as an encouragement offer a Reward of THIRTY POUNDS to any Person or Persons so producing the said Body in manner as aforesaid.
AND whereas there is every reason to believe that two other Natives well known by the names of Midgigooroo, and Munday were present, aiding and abetting the said Yagan in the perpetration of the said Murder ;—I do hereby further proclaim the said Midgigooroo and Munday to be outlaws, deprived of the protection of the British Laws,—and I do hereby offer a Reward of TWENTY POUNDS for the apprehension of each of them, the said Midgigooroo and Munday, dead or alive. GOD SAVE THE KING ! ! Given under my Hand and Seal at Perth, this first day of May, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Three F. C. IRWIN. Lieutenant Governor. By His Honor's Command, PETER BROWN, Colonial Secretary.
Irwin reported [in Portsmouth in person to Stirling] that three soldiers, a settler and two boys (the Velvick brothers) had been murdered in the twelve months following Stirling’s departure, with reprisals killing far more natives. There had also been a considerable number of raids on stock and crops. In January 1833 one of the native leaders, Yagan, had been caught and incarcerated with some of his tribesmen on Carnac Island. In March relations were not improved when soldiers at Perth Barracks opened ﬁre on unarmed Aborigines who approached them for food. The natives had become understandably agitated when food was offered, but half taken back, and the soldiers had responded with gunﬁre. There is no record of reprimand. On 20 May Yagan’s father, Midgegooroo, was also captured, identified as one involved in the murder of the Velvicks, imprisoned and then executed by ﬁring squad two days later in the yard of the Barracks—with Irwin in attendance. There was no trial. This Stirling would have been aghast to hear, given his Proclamation guaranteeing equal rights. Irwin assured him (as he later put in writing to the Colonial Office) that the Executive Council had deliberated extensively before taking action, and had been convinced of its necessity founded on a knowledge of the character and disposition of the aborigines, after near four years intercourse. The previous lenient measures and forbearance of the Government, after they had with impunity murdered several of the settlers, having been considered to have had an injurious effect in causing the natives to believe the course pursued to be the result of fear of their superiority?
The Colonial Office later disapproved of the execution, not for reasons of injustice but for fear of reprisals. And more unrest had followed. Irwin had not had time to report in dispatches that Yagan had managed to escape from captivity and, after learning of his father’s fate, had became even more threatening. Stirling had met Yagan and would have agreed with George Fletcher Moore’s description of him as a ‘Wallace of the tribe’. He managed to evade capture for two months, continuing his raids on outlying properties, but committing no murders. As Moore recorded, ‘The truth is everyone wishes him taken but no-one likes to be captor ... there is something in his daring which one is forced to admire’ He was ﬁnally trapped on 15 August 1833 by two boys who met him in a pretence of friendship, then shot and killed him. Moore observed:
The arrest of Yagan was man's work! Boys unfortunately undertook it, without sufﬁcient steadiness; they were frightened at their own act, discharged their guns injudiciously, and ran away, by which the life of one of them was sacriﬁced.
Most of the settlers were more concerned with that death, of 16-year-old William Keats, than about Yagan. Yet the power and mystique of this native had impressed all, and led to his head and body cicatrices being preserved and sent for study in England (in fact, they arrived on the very same ship as Irwin). An uneasy peace had reigned in the colony after Yagan’s death, Irwin reported, which he hoped would last. Statham-Drew: 247-8.
The photo (from Wikipedia) is that of the Yagan memorial statue on Heirisson Island >
Hallam, S.J. 1981, 'The first Western Australians', in C.T. Stannage ed., A New History of Western Australia: 36-71.
Hasluck, Alexandra 1961, 'Yagan the patriot', Early Days, 5, 5, part 7: 35-48.
Hasluck, Alexandra 1967, 'Yagan ( - 1833)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU.
Statham-Drew, Pamela 2003, James Stirling: Admiral and Founding Governor of Western Australia, UWAP.
Williams, A.E. 1984, Nedlands: From Campsite to City, City of Nedlands: 1-8.
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