14a[Roth, Walter Edmund (Commissioner), Government of Western Australia, Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives, 1905]

ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE CONDITION OF THE NATIVES.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS.

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(7.) GENERAL TREATMENT OF THE ABORIGINAL AND HALF-CASTE INHABITANTS OF THE STATE.

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D. Mission Stations and Aboriginal Institutions.

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(b.) Broome (Roman Catholic, Trappist).—-Your Commissioner cannot do more than beg your Excellency’s perusal of the minutes of evidence obtained from Father Nicholas [677-712], who for ten years past has devoted himself entirely to the benefit of the natives—a more unselfish man it would be rare to meet. Being as anxious as ever to give up the remainder of his life to working amongst the aborigines, the Department would do well to afford him an opportunity of increasing his sphere of influence. He certainly should not be allowed to pay rent for a reserve out of his private purse. At present he is responsible for the distribution of indigent relief to the extent of a few shillings daily, an amount far from commensurate with what is absolutely required.

...

APPENDIX C.

Minutes of Evidence.

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6th October, 1904.

Nicholas Maria Emo (”Father Nicholas”), Parish Priest, Broome.

(Conversation held in French: the Rev. Father is a Spaniard, and does not speak English fluently.)

677. How long have you been working as a missionary amongst the aborigines?—— Since the beginning of 1895, when I came out with a party of other Trappist fathers on their way to found the Aboriginal Mission at Beagle Bay. My General Superior gave me a formal promise to let me live and die in Australia on behalf of the natives. From the date of landing I commenced work all alone at Broome without a penny in my pocket; a tent was my church; a bough-shed my room.

678. What was the nature of your work at this period?—— Being dependent upon public charity, I was able after a little time to open an orphan school (Orfelin Ecole) in order to gather in the native children of full-blooded children of both sexes, as well as some half-caste girls, whom, to my sorrow, I found amongst the Asiatics. The Abbot of my congregation at Beagle Bay then commenced to give assistance in the way of provisions; with this help I succeeded in supporting during these three years 37 children and adults, and in paying a small salary for a school mistress.

679. Who was the school mistress?—— She was a half-caste woman married to a Manillaman. She had apparently spent some of her earlier years at Broome, and had considerable influence and sympathy with the natives, especialy amongst the children. I gave her and her husband, who was my sacristan, the title of half of one of my allotments, and paid her £3 per month. I saw a great deal of her, and was able to judge for myself that she was a good, pure, and trustworthy woman.

680. Why did not the school continue longer?—— A certain Government official, who came to inspect my school gave it an excellent report. He, however, added a postscript implying certain alleged aspersions on thc schoolmistress’s character, which he certainly admitted in the same postscript he did not personally believe. The very act, however, of his having made such a slanderous statement did a great deal of harm, with the final result that, disgusted and disheartened, I gave up this particular school and distributed the elder girls into service amongst the European ladies in Broome. Some of the elder boys - six of them - I lately sent to tho Beagle Bay Mission. These boys had been with me continually for a long time previously. All the younger children (boys and girls) who at the time of the closing of the school were too young to go into service I have supported until the present time.

681. Why did you not send the girls as well to Beagle Bay?—— There were no Sisters there, and I do not believe that any mission for natives can be successful unless there are women to look after the aboriginal girls.

682. Did you take any further steps yourself to look after the education of the children?—— With the help of subscriptions from the inhabitants of Broome, I built a church here, and a residence for myself; the latter served as a school for the remaining children of my blacks.

683. Did you do anything for the welfare of the adult black population?—— Yes. About the same time I bought seven or eight town allotments in close proximity to the church. Each allotment cost over £20. I also erected certain huts on these allotments for the Christian married couples.

684. Were these allotments and improvements paid for out of your own pocket?—— Yes.

685. Are they still your property?—— No. I made them over to various of these native couples, and impressed upon the wives the necessity for always retaining them so they might always have a permanent home here. They have now and again paid me back a little towards the cost of purchase. I am quite satisfied with what they have given me.

686. But when the time comes for you to be called to rest, and these blacks are no longer under your influence, is it not likely that some speculator or unprincipled person will contrive to get these allotments out of the hands of their present owners, especially as these lands are increasing in value?—I have thought of this matter since, and propose trying to make some arrangement by which these allotments may be held in trust from them.

687. Were you not at one time Superior of the Beagle Bay Mission?—— Yes. I was nominated to that position in 1898, and remained there until 1901. I was thus removed to other spheres of duty, and though being obliged to absent myself from Broome, although I frequently visited it from time to time, I occupied myself in the interests of other aborigines. For instance, while at Beagle Bay I made a point of visiting, travelling with, and living amongst, the tribes of natives at King Sound and Disaster Bay, and got into touch with practically all the tribes occupying the tract of country bounded by the peninsula terminating at Swan Point.

688. About how many camp blacks were there at the mission when you were in charge?—— In general, never less than 150; sometimes more than 200.

689. About how many children attended school when you were there?—— About 50 boys and girls.

690. Why did you leave the Beagle Bay Mission?—— I received instructions from the head of my Order that the Mission would in future be carried on by the Pallottines, and when all the brothers of my order (the Trappists) left Western Australia, I alone received permission and orders to remain, and ever since I have continued carrying on mission work in Broome.

691. Were you empowered to carry on the negotiations for the transfer of the Beagle Bay Mission from the Trappists to the Pallottines?—— Yes.

692. Was there any money consideration?—— Yes; we were to receive £2,640 for the cattle.

693. Has your order received the whole of this purchase money?—— Not yet.

694. You only sold the cattle, then?—— Yes. There were over 800 head. The Trappists had brought a little money out with them when they first arrived in the State, and with this money they purchased about 150 head of cattle originally. As to the buildings, fences, improvements, etc., I did not feel justified in selling them.

695. Why not?—— Because I considered them to be part and parcel of the trust, that they had been built with the labour and assistance of the blacks, and that they had been erected for the use and benefit of the natives.

696. Since the time you finally severed your connection with the Beagle Bay Mission you have devoted all your time and energies to working amongst the Broome natives?—— Yes.

697. At the present time, how many have you under your especial care?—— Nine old and infirm women, two old men (one of whom is beginning to be mentally incapable), five little girls (one of whom is blind), two small boys, two sick women, one man whose leg the doctor has lately amputated, two others very sick with incurable disease, one young man sick with consumption, one with pleurisy, one with disease of the leg. This total of 26 people I feed three times daily, and supply with medicine. The food consists of rice, meat, bread, and tea, with vegetables such as pumpkins, tomatoes, and watermelons very frequently. Often some goat’s milk is given to those who require it.

698. Who pays for all this?—— I do. I have given all I have. And now for the first time in 10 years’ work amongst these people, I am in debt to the amount of £100.

699. Do you mean to tell me that the Government has given you no pecuniary assistance?—— Not a penny, so far. But the time has now arrived at last when, unless the Government come soon to my assistance, I can no longer continue this expenditure which, though I have to admit it with a wounded heart (le coeur navre), will mean that I have to abandon all such sick natives to their fate. When Mr. Olivey travelled round her on behalf of the Aborigines Department, the Resident Magistrate spoke to him very forcibly on the necessity of giving some assistance to these blacks. Mr. Olivey promised to make the necessary recommendation to the proper quarters: I received only one box of medicines.

700. Does any religious body give you pecuniary assistance in this good and noble work?—— No.

701. You are then dependent only upon the charity of the Broome public?—— Yes.

702. Where do you keep all these sick people you have just mentioned?—— With the exception of three of the worst cases (the amputated leg, the pleurisy and the syphilitic) whch I have here at the back of my premises in a tent and a hut, they are all at the Point.

703. Where is this Point?—— A headland, within the town boundary, where I have ten acres, a very healthy locality and exposed to the sea breeze.

704. Is there anything paid for this?—— Yes. It is rented at £3 per year.

705. Who pays this £3?—— I do. It is my black’s camp.

706. Are there many old and infirm blacks in the neighbourhood of Broome?—— Yes; I have often found them dying of hunger, in the absence of a little care and kindness. Considering the many instances I have come across in Broome, how many must there be in other centres occupied by aborigines! I would suggest that all such cases, instead of being abandoned to their fate like dogs, should be collected into certain areas and looked after by someone friendly to the natives. But, for this, the assistance of the Government is essential.

707. Have you any suggestion to make with regard to the young and healthy adults?—— Let them work for their food, or hunt for it; there is plenty of game and fish about. If they were not lazy, the Government could grant them a piece of land which they might cultivate.

708. And what about the children?—These ought to be sent to mission schools (where there are Sisters or Matrons), while the half-castes should be sent to reformatories. The half-caste girls, in my opinion, are in general of a very vicious temperament.

709. How many half-caste children are there at present in Broome?—— About 30, of both sexes.

710. How many blacks are there at present in the neighbourhood of Broome?—— More than 300, of whom about 120 are in employment, but there are probably not more than 70 under contract.

711. What influence has your work had on these natives?—— They have become, comparatively speaking, law-abiding and good Christians. One of my great difficulties is the temptation offered to them in the way of drink, both by Europeans and Asiatics: drink is offered them with a view to inducing them to prostitute their women. I have baptised altogether 131 natives (45 men, 16 boys, 45 women, and 25 girls). Of the 33 Christians who have died, all the expenses in connection with the sickness, death, and interment have been borne by me. My work has borne fruit in that the non-Christian natives in the bush invariably come to me for help and assistance in the way of medical and other comforts, and I frequently visit their camps for this purpose. I regret to state that I know of 44 non-Christian infants who have been killed by their mothers at birth, and one child even of four years of age who was killed and eaten by its mother: now the latter is a Christian. I always let the blacks know when I visit their camps that I am fond of their children, and offer them so much rice and flour for any infant they do not want.

712. Do the police give you any help?—— Yes; the police have always placed themselves at my disposal and give me every assistance.

[end of Emo testimony]

AB notes:

Roth recognises Nicholas Emo’s 10-year contribution, and his remarkable testimony:

“Your Commissioner cannot do more than beg your Excellency’s perusal of the minutes of evidence obtained from Father Nicholas [677-712], who for ten years past has devoted himself entirely to the benefit of the natives—a more unselfish man it would be rare to meet. Being as anxious as ever to give up the remainder of his life to working amongst the aborigines, the Department would do well to afford him an opportunity of increasing his sphere of influence. He certainly should not be allowed to pay rent for a reserve out of his private purse. At present he is responsible for the distribution of indigent relief to the extent of a few shillings daily, an amount far from commensurate with what is absolutely required.”

14b[Durack, Mary, 1969, The Rock and the Sand, Constable, London, Chapter 10]

CHAPTER TEN

1895-1899

In their final decision the Trappist superiors were no doubt swayed by the impetuous return to France, in September 1899, of Fathers Bernard Le Louarn and Ermenfroy Nachin, both ex-secular priests who had come to Australia for the prime purpose of implanting there the seed of contemplative life. The picture of distintegration they painted must have been grim indeed, for their testimony struck at the vulnerable point of responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the exiled religious. The Abbot-General later stated his conviction that he had withdrawn the community just in time. ‘All indicates that the Australian climate has profoundly affected most of our religious’ he wrote. ‘In general fathers and brothers were not able to render any long service. Intellectual and physical unbalance were accentuated....[1]

This judgment may have been somewhat extreme but there can be little doubt that the community was suffering sadly for want of a strong superior and that ill-health had magnified their differences and undermined their mutual forbearance.

Abbot Sebastian, pressed with the problems and financial needs of a growing number of outside communities, was now anxious to suppress the Australian foundation as quickly and quietly as possible. He had still, however, to choose an executive capable of determined and incisive action and this was difficult. It did not seem that Fathers Anselm, Alphonse or Jean Marie, although all in favour of continuing the mission, would prove forthright enough to withstand the protests of the local prelates who had defeated previous efforts to withdraw. This left only Father Nicholas Emo who had carried out his solitary role as parish priest in Broome with uncomplaining fortitude, and who, having had little to do with the mission itself, seemed less likely to be emotionally involved.

Father Nicholas came of an influential Spanish family of the province of Castellon and had studied medicine for some time in Paris before his ordination to the priesthood, At the age of forty-five, after twelve years as a missionary in Patagonia, he had returned to France, eager, because of what he wrote of as ‘the secret attraction I felt for this unfortunate race,’[2] to devote the remainder of his life to the cause of the Australian Aborigines; It was with this intention that he had entered Sept Fons as a novice in 1894, though the Trappists seem rather to have considered him an answer to Bishop Gibney’s request for a Spanish-speaking monk to minister to the many Filipinos who had flocked to the pearling fields.

Soon after his arrival at the mission he was asked to take charge of the parish in Broome, then a lugger journey of about a hundred miles from Beagle Bay and, from two to seven days’ travelling, according to wind and weather. This port had been proclaimed in 1883 but its site had been used as a lugger base for at least ten years before. It had by this time taken over from Cossack as the principal supply centre for the 150 vessels and 1,500 men then employed, in the pearling industry and was also the main port of contact for shipping between Australia and Singapore.

The town at the time of Father Nicholas’s arrival was lively and cosmopolitan, but not yet the flourishing, white-painted trading centre of its hey-day. Of its fifty permanent white residents, only six were women, though the wives of a few master pearlers, living with their husbands on ‘mother’ schooners, came into the port from time to time. Most of the population, then reckoned at 500, was Japanese, Chinese and Filipino but representatives of most countries in the world visited on onme pretext or another. Pearl buyers of various nationalities came to purchase gems for big businesses or for the private collections of crowned heads and other wealthy patrons, while traders from Singapore used the port as a stepping-stone to the Australian market.

The more rigid immigration laws were not then in force and many Japanese who had come in originally as divers had remained to form co-operative pearling groups. These, behind an official front of eating houses, stores and laundries, and with the help of renegade whites paid to act as ‘dummies’, were contriving to gain a firm hold on the industry and had staked their residential claim on a sandhill that sloped up from the business centre of the town. A track known as ‘Sheba Lane’, that ran between their flimsy establishments, was already redolent of Oriental mystery and intrigue. Some of the Japanese women who had come on the pretext of working in the various little businesses actually did so, but most remained hidden from the public gaze behind tinkling bead curtains, their thin, high-pitched singing and the soft plucking of their geisha lutes sometimes faintly heard against the harsher noises of the port.

Below the Japanese quarter spread the Chinese shops and gambling houses raised on concrete stumps. There were also two shanty hotels and a general store. Straggling along the sandy mangrove beach and the muddy banks of Dampier Creek were the iron shacks of the lugger crews, the shellpacking sheds and the lean-to workshops of Japanese shipbuilders, while the homes of the few resident master pearlers and the substantial headquarters of the Eastern Extension Cable Station were set apart from the Asiatic hoi-polloi above the curving beach of the bay.

There were everywhere signs of the port being expected to develop along the lines of a neat town plan. Chain gangs of Aboriginal prisoners were busy clearing the smoky coastal scrub, covering the carefully parallel thoroughfares with white shellgrit that dazzled in the sun and glowed like phosphorus under the moon. Pearlers returning with indentured crews from the Far East, the Celebes, the Indies or the Philippines, had brought blossoming shrubs and trees to give shade and colour to the gardens and road verges. Already the scent of oleanders floated on the warm air, and poincianas glowed like fire against a background of turquoise sea and emerald mangrove scrub.

Father Nicholas, a short, thick-set, black-bearded little man, devout, emotional and at some pains to keep his naturally extrovert nature within the bounds of Trappist convention, hid his disappointment at being thrust into much the sort of mixed community that he had left behind in Patagonia. The savages to whom he had yearned were not the poor bedraggled natives camped on the outskirts of the port in humpies thrown together of brushwood and slabs of rusty iron from the rubbish dumps, living mainly by prostitution and cadging from the pearling crews. Sometimes he caught a glimpse of the type of tribesmen he had visualized - and who by a stretch of the imagination might be considered Aboriginal counterparts of the Californian Red Indians converted by Spanish Franciscans in the eighteenth century. These were among the native prisoners brought in, on sheep and cattle spearing charges, from the remoter Kimberleys - tall, erect and proud, their torsos slashed with raised parallel cicatures, walking with an air of aristocratic disdain between their red-faced warders. Father Nicholas was by no means the first to believe that if Christianity could only be brought to such as these, within their own environment, they would came to reject the darkness of their savage ways and be fortified against the evils of civilization. In an initial approach to win their confidence he visited them at the prison, bringing tobacco, sweets and some New Testament illustrations through which he hoped, in his simplicity, to introduce them to the basic ideals of Christianity. A few forthrightly rejected his gifts. Others took them with polite detachment but communication was impossible as their English was more limited than his own, and the local tongues, spoken through an interpreter, were equally unintelligible to them.

The white and coloured people of the town at least paid him the compliment of their curiosity, but it was clear that most of them found something out of place, faintly suspicious, about the appearance of a solitary monk - a Trappist above all - complete with habit; cowl and cross, in the rowdy, go-getting little port. His elaborate Spanish courtesy and curious English soon became a byword, to be imitated with varying success by the town wags.

Only the Filipinos accepted him without question and welcomed him as their Father Confessor and friend. These were a people apart in the polyglot community: culturally neither Asiatic nor European, they were reputed by the pearlers to be less industrious than the Chinese and Japanese but more so than the Malays and Islanders. They made warm friends and bitter foes, played sweet music and fought with knives. Rodriguez, Corpus, de la Cruz, Puertollano, Santimera, Musoleon, Raymunda - their names and their features were to be perpetuated in generations of part-Aboriginal people along the pearling coast.

Too hot-blooded for the celibacy kept by many of the exiled Chinese and Japanese but staunch in their Spanish-type Catholicism and by tradition good family men, they were ill at ease in the passing relationships and casual begetting of children by native women. They had, therefore, inclined to establish themselves in little family groups in and around Broome and close to the scattered lay-up bases of the pearling fleets. Most of the men worked on the luggers during the shelling season, leaving their women and children to tend their little plots and herds and to sell goat’s meat, milk, poultry, eggs and vegetables to the pearling crews. The arrival of a Spanish-speaking priest was a profound relief to them, for although few of them really knew his language they were able, with the assistance of two or three of their better-educated countrymen, who were actually of some Spanish blood, to confess their difficulties and set about getting their irregular relationships straightened out.

They helped the priest put up a little timber church on the beach behind Streeter’s general store and to build a shack for himself on the sandhill above the town. This was at least some place of refuge for the solitary monk who by rising at two in the morning could abstract himself, sometimes finding consolation in the ebb and flow of the restless tide and the symbols it suggested to his devout imagination. At neaps the sea lay far out in a silver band and the rippled mud of the bay shone under the moon like a staircase to heaven while big king tides came flowing into the town like a cleansing grace, spilling out around the little shacks and shops, covering the scattered Binghi camps and lapping about the Mohammedan mosque on the edge of the marsh. What matter if they also brought with them an infestation of sandflies and mosquitoes and an army of scavaging hermit crabs to nibble at the monk’s sandalled feet and raid his meagre stores?

Before long Father Nicholas had established a small school for the native children and a hostel for half-caste girls and had enlisted the help of the pious Filipino, Caprio Anabia and his remarkable wife. A half-caste Aboriginal, this young woman had escaped the usual fate of her kind by being taken to Perth as a child and brought up in a good family. Her marriage to Caprio had been arranged by her guardians before she returned to Broome, where she had shown an unusually strong sense of responsibility for her mother’s people. She had gone into the native camps ministering to the sick and trying; in their own language, to teach them Christian principles and the basic rules of hygiene.

Now, in her many-sided role of hostel matron, nurse and schoolteacher, she did her best for the little waifs brought in by Father Nicholas from the outlying camps. The priest spent much of his time bargaining with the native mothers for the part-Aboriginal babies that they frequently killed and according to his and the other missionaries’ testimony, often ate as well. Some he succeeded in placing with the respectable families in the town. Others were cared for at a hostel with older half-caste girls who attended the little school for both full-blood and part Aboriginal children and where the girls were taught to read and write, trained to look after a house and to take some pride in their appearance. The spruce little group that was every Sunday shepherded through the town to the church, soon became the talk and envy of the pearling crews. The girls themselves, born in the corrupt outskirt camps, were often enough an easy prey and proved extremely ingenious in outwitting their devoted guardians.

Even some of the Europeans of the town enjoyed the joke of the service rendered the community by ‘Madam’ Anabia and her priestly protector. The story grew; the money made from their enterprise and the relationship between them was ‘established’ beyond a shadow of doubt, and practical jokers recommended newcomers to the hostel where they were assured of being able to hire girls for a small fee. One South Sea Islander, having been sent about his business, took umbrage, set alight to the mission school and hostel and burned them to the ground. The culprit stood his trial and was deported and sympathetic people helped the mission to a new start, but not long afterwards, a group of coloured boys, incited by tales of the priest’s claiming all the local girls for himself, burned down his church.

Father Nicholas struck a carved stone cross in the sandhill near his new school and, with the support of loyal Filipinos, put up beside it a second and considerably larger church and a small presbytery. Despite setbacks, the sincerity of his work had by this time made an impression on the majority of Broome residents and when a government official named Marsden reported unfavourably on the Mission to the Aborigines Protection Board, mainly because of gossip concerning its half-caste matron, they rose staunchly to his defence. Twenty-seven prominent residents (few of them Catholic) added their signatures to that of H. W. Brownrigg, J.P., in a letter testifying that the priest’s establishment had ‘greatly improved the condition of the natives, morally and intellectually’.[3]

Corporal Thomas of Broome added to this that he had ‘always found the mission scrupulously clean’ although ‘the house is not a mansion and would no doubt be better if larger’. Of the matron he reported in glowing terms as ‘a good housekeeper, cook, laundress etc.,’ who had looked after his own home when his wife was ill. ‘Mr. Marsden,’ he concluded, ‘never reported the matter to me. , . . He had ample time and opportunity while here to have ascertained the falseness of the rumours which he scarcely himself believe.’[4]

Father Nicholas, in answer to a heartbroken letter to Bishop Gibney, received a comforting reply from his lordship’s vicar-general: ‘Do not, on any account let it worry or annoy you. It is no wonder that things are said. Are there not some who would like to see the school put an end to altogether? . . .[5]

Marsden’s report, however, had blighted the priest’s hopes of financial help from the board for the erection of better premises. Some years later, asked by Commissioner Dr. Roth why he had abandoned his school and hostel, he replied that ‘the very fact of his [Marsden] having made such a slanderous statement did a great deal of harm, with the final result that, disgusted and disheartened, I gave up this particular school and distributed the elder girls into service amongst the European ladies in Broome’.[6]

He continued to teach and support the boys and younger children and forged ahead with a plan to house married native couples on allotments made over in their own names. These blocks he had purchased for £20 each from public subscriptions and what he referred to as ‘a private source’[7], possibly the sale of native artifacts and geological specimens to Australian museums. Besides this he had secured, for a rental of £3 a year, some ten acres on a headland within the town boundary which served as a clean, quiet camp for sick and aged natives whom he visited each day, bringing rations and medicines. He kept a record of sorts of the people who were blind and ‘deff’, the prostitutes and the ‘coquettes’[8] (he apparently made some distinction between the two) whom he was treating for syphilis and other diseases. As early as 1897 he wrote of a ‘man and woman with the leprosy’ and another old woman ‘her left arm being with the leprosy’.[9] It is now thought likely that he misread the symptoms and that these natives were suffering from yaws, for by all known rules had leprosy been spreading unchecked from this time it would have become alarmingly obvious long before the thirties. In any case, as no one wanted to believe him, he isolated his ‘lepers’ as well as he could and when they died buried them himself in an isolated spot and set fire to their camps.

But his greatest hope during this time remained the establishment of a mission among natives not yet contaminated by the diseases and vices of civilization. He knew that Abbot Ambrose had considered the possibility of moving the Trappist mission to somewhere near the Prince Regent RUver, but for himself Father Nicholas was in favour of maintaining Beagle Bay as well as opening a more remote establishment. That he should at some time be allowed to undertake pioneering mission work was his dearest wish and one in which he had been encouraged by Father (soon to become Bishop) Kelly when the latter was on a visit to the north. Of this Father Kelly had written to Bishop Gibney:

... I look upon Kimberley as the pick of Western Australia and this part between King Sound and Cambridge Gulf as the pick of Kimberley. Already several speak of expeditions to explore it. They may not do this for some time as they fear the natives, but in the meantime it would be well for the Trappists to seize the opportunity which may never offer again.[10]

Bishop Gibney was at that time finding Beagle Bay difficult enough to keep afloat without considering a second or alternative proposition but Father Nicholas suspected nothing of the Trappists’ inclination to close the Australian foundation. He took a trip up the coast with his friend Filomeno (Pat) Rodriguez, a Spanish pearler from Manila, and found what he considered a good site far a mission near the mouth of the Drysdale River. Full of enthusiasm for the proposition, he was planning a letter to the motherhouse when he received a communication from the Abbot-General informing him that he had been put in full charge of the Australian mission - for the purpose of terminating it! Father Alphonse, then acting superior, had been advised that he must return to France with all but two or three lay brothers but, as opposition was expected if the local prelates came to hear of the decision, he was given no reason for the order. Father Nicholas was instructed to say nothing, until after the main body of religious had left, except that the mission would be held as a ‘grange’ until things improved.[11]