50["From Bernier to Wyndham", The West Australian, Thursday 28 April 1910, page 2]


(By H.P.L.).

Passionate devotion to the bush is the principal characteristic of the natives, and when official intimation came to Bernier Island that the first batch of certified cured cases were to return to their different countries, there was joy unbounded. New overalls had to be made, hats to be trimmed, and hair to be cut. I organised a monster wash, and on the day preceding the departure repaired to the well a mile distant with abundance of soap and scrubbing brushes. One can imagine what a scene they presented, as covered from head to foot with soap they kept singing and dancing, wild indeed with joy. I had provided each one with a stick of tobacco for the voyage, and at each little fire they baked their tobacco. They never use the tobacco in its raw condition. They bake it in ashes, and either chew it or smoke it in that state.

I wish to pay a deep debt of gratitude to Mrs. Batty, the cook on the island, who helped me with unselfish enthusiasm to make their outfit, trim their hats, and altogether entered into their joy. We were also under a heavy obligation to Mr. Smith, manager for Charles Moore and Co., and Mr. Pitchford, of the Bon Marche, who provided the many coloured ribbons to deck the native lassies' hair, hats, and necks.

Preparing to Depart.

The evening came, and there was a last muster at the surgery. What a ringing laugh as each one passed the doctor, but joy was mingled with regret for the comrades left behind, many, indeed, never to return to their loved bush, though young and apparently strong. The morning brought a large contingent of cured cases from Dorre, and when we boarded the small steamer Venus there was a reunion of lovers, brothers, and sisters, mothers, and sons. Thesa native men, herculean in stature, many of them, were real knights to their women folk, helping them to mount the gangways, carrying the babies, or helping with the blankets of their female friends. At Carnarvon we boarded the Koombana, very comfortable quarters bemg provided for the natives. They were quite spoiled by the passengers, who loaded them with dainties and tobacco in abundance. On board they kept up their old joyous spirit. When parting at Onslow with the first detachment of their island comrades the scene was most affecting, but after leaving this port they soon regained their cheerfulness, and joined by the male friends gave two corroborees.


At Point Sampson we had the second parting, and then on to Derby, where the jetty swarmed with blacks. The news had travelled by bambarn that they were returning, and sons were there to meet their mothers, lovers to meet their old sweethearts, and sisters to meet sisters or brothers. As the last of my dusky charges filed off at Wyndham, each one carrying his or her Government blanket, the girls resplendant in new gowns and bright ribbons, I said good-bye for ever to those whom I had watched and cared for for two years. Though to anyone taking up such work, the daily round is a dangerous and disagreeable one, yet I found that there were many bright points if the life of a savage, many fine qualities in the character in the Western Australian aboriginal. And when at last the Koombana steamed out from Wyndham on her return voyage south, and the last little band of my black girls waved me a last good-bye, and danced me a farewell dance, I felt, appalling as had been the work and the life, that I was well repaid by the affection of my blackfellow exiles.

Up the Coast.

Having said good-bye to my dusky charges I. should like to say a little of the trip up the coast. It became a matter of great wonderment to me that so little has been said or written of the loveliness it reveals. I do not remember ever reading any description of its beauty. I can say certainly that I never heard any residents of the Nor'-West speak of it as if it possessed any scenic charms whatever. Yet on board the Koombana the passengers were alive to its witchery. For my owln part, I must say this I was enchanted by the exquisite landscapes and waterscapes which were opened to the view as we steamed northward day after day during the latter portion of the journey to Wyndham. The first place of call after leaving Carnarvon was Onslow. We saw nothing of this town, as there is no jetty, and the Koom bana did not go in shore. The day of our arrival at the port of Roebourne was so overpoweringly hot, and the horse tram so overcrowded that I did not make the trip to Roebourne, nine miles distant, Instead I transferred my one Roebourne girl to the care of a policeman. The third port was Port Hedland, where the heat was too terrific for words, Port Hedland is quite devoid, apparently, of any natural features of interest. A former resident of Perth now living at Hedland kindly organised a trip in the train of trucks running from the port along the line in course of construction towards Marble Bar. There was plenty of sport for the male members of the party, shooting wild turkeys and kangaroos, but otherwise the country was quite destitute of attraction.


Broome was our fourth port of call, and the first glimpse of this lovely and prosperous town was quite a revelation. As we came in the one-horse tram drove down the jetty, bearing a living freight of white, as it seemed. As it came nearer I saw that it was crowded with men, all clad in white and all carrying towels. My first impression was that they were all going for a swim, but they came aboard, and dispelled that impression. I was afterwards told that these towels were carried for the purpose of mopping up the perspiration induced by the humid fervours of this tropical town. I did not wonder, as the weather during my stay gave me no reason to doubt the truthfulness of my informant. Of Broome itself I can only say that it looks a delightful place, with beautifully kept roads--everything as green as the lanes of the old homeland--cocoanut trees in full bloom, banana trees, and a hundred other tropical plants growing luxuriantly, all combining to form a most lovely sight. Prosperity seemed to suffuse the very air, and everyone was in good spirits. Even the great gangs of chained natives who passed me on the road seemed to be in gleeful mood. It is true that these chains are very little of a burthen, a fact to which I can bear personal witness, as the superintendent of Carnarvon Gaol kindly let me try them on. I bade good-bye to Broome - lovely, prosperous Broome - with regret.


The run north up the coast of Dampier Land, around Cape Leveque, through the island of Buccaneer Archipelago, and almost southward through King's Sound to Derby, was full of pleasant surprises in the way of scenery. At Derby, again, every thing was beautifully green, as was to be expected at the end of February and during the rainy season. Derby is hardly imposing as a town, consisting mainly of one long main street, like an Irish village, but here, as in Broome, the world seemed to be going well with the residents, who all looked cheerful and prosperous.

A Maze of Islands.

After leaving Derby for Wyndham the scenery along the coast is entrancing. For 40 miles the Koombana steamed through a maze of islands, mountains, and rocks. Time after time we passed through narrow straits into a splendid expanse of sea, which narrowed again to a channel hardly wide enough, it seemed, to permit of the vessel's passage. After passing this labyrinth of islets and rocks, the lovely scenery continued, but with wider spaces of open sea, so beautifully clear and calm that it seemed as if one could walk over it to the rocks. Four days' voyage brought us to Wyndham.


The surroundings of this capital of the Furthest North looked very striking and picturesque, towering hills sheltering the little town, which nestles at the foot of one of these eminences. The township is only a small one--just a few houses, a store or two, an hotel, a post office, and a gaol but like all the North-West, full, apparently, of an abounding prosperity. Doubtless, in the days to come this part of Western Australia will carry its teeming thousands, but to-day it is the great lone land, awaiting the touch of the enchanter's wand to awaken it to its destiny of glorious fruitfulness.