17a[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.
(7.) GENERAL TREATMENT OF THE ABORIGINAL AND HALF-CASTE INHABITANTS OF THE STATE.
D. Mission Stations and Aboriginal Institutions.
(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.
Minutes of Evidence.
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]
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.”
17b[Durack, Mary, 1969, The Rock and the Sand, Constable, London, Chapter 16]
BISHOP GIBNEY had for some time urged a Royal Commission into the condition of the Aborigines in Western Australia and had suggested that Dr. W. E. Roth, surgeon, anthropologist and Chief Protector of Natives in Queensland, be put in charge of the job. Reports of his activities in his own State had shown him to be a man of fearless principles, great sympathy and understanding for the Aborigines and without denominational bias. He had criticized the Queensland govermnent for the inferior quality of land provided for native reserves and certain Protestant missions for setting up on ground where cultivation was impossible, for feeding the people inadequately and forbidding them tobacco. Therefore, when his appointment as commissioner was announced in 1904, the bishop was satisfied that the state of affairs he had long deplored would be officially confirmed. He wrote Father Walter a cheerful letter, informing him that he would no doubt be called upon to give evidence and also that the State Premier had at last agreed to making the grant of 1s. a day for each child attending the mission school.
Bishop Kelly, obviously disturbed at reports of natives having left the mission, wrote, with unconscious irony, advising Father Walter that before the arrival of Dr. Roth he should organize an expedition to all the outlying camps, this to be undertaken by ‘someone who is known to the natives and trusted by them’ - Father Nicholas, for instance - if ‘if he were so inclined’.
When Dr. Roth arrived at Beagle Bay in September of that year, everything possible had been done to give a good impression, and the people, dressed for the occasion in clothes specially provided by the bishop, greeted the visitor with cheers and singing. Father Walter gave evidence of his missionary background in the Cameroons and the take-over of his Society from the Trappists. He stated that of his staff of eleven lay brothers and one teacher only the latter, being still a probationer, received a small salary. Numbers of dependants on the mission fluctuated considerably. When the luggers were in there were from sixty to eighty adults, never less than twenty. On Sunday about 100 natives attended the mission church and received food. A point was made, however, of not feeding any who did not work, except for the crippled and infirm who received relief rations, including three sticks of tobacco a week.
The thirty-one school children had lessons for three and a half hours daily and, in order to learn ‘the nobility of work’, were also expected to help around the mission. Although admittedly not always as well dressed as on that day they were adequately clothed and well fed.
The mission meals consisted of rice, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, with the addition of meat generally once a day - ‘meat meaning fish, turtle-meat or beef’. The hard-working boys, stockmen, gardeners, swineherds and lugger crew, received from 10s to £1 a month and their keep. They got about half a pound of meat each a day and tea and sugar with every meal. The women working in the gardens were not issued as much of these items but they got plenty of rice and garden produce. A fisherman was employed for the mission and surplus fish and turtle-meat were salted and dried.
The commissioner had heard that both children and adults frequently ran away from the mission. Had the missionaries any power to stop them? Father Walter said they had none whatever. He did not call it ‘running away’. Their natural inclination had always been to go ‘walkabout’ in the bush and he thought it reasonable to let them have as much liberty as they wanted. No native had ever complained to him about the mission.
Did Father Walter admit that the mission was in trust for the Aborigines? He did. Why then had they paid the Trappists £2,640 for the property? ‘It was for private property, namely the cattle which the Trappists had not included in the trust.’ Did the Pallottines now consider the mission stock to be their private property? They did. The debt incurred by the Pallottines in establishing the mission still stood at over £2400.
Asked what matters he would like to bring to notice, Father Walter replied:
‘Firstly, I should like to be appointed a local protector here for this peninsula. Perhaps I am, but I have received no official notice. . . . Secondly I should like to point out ... that the children, both half-caste and black, should be removed from those centres of vice, such as Broome and other places, and brought to this, or any other institution which is working in the interests of the blacks. Thirdly, provision should be made so that any man who has not got the permission of the mission should not be allowed to enter the boundary ... under any pretence whatever. Asiatics, especially should be kept away as far as possible. Fourthly, I would suggest that a policeman be stationed at Beagle Bay from the beginning of September to the end of May, instead of, as at present, from Christmas to the end of May.’
He had nothing else to say except that ‘under the present state of the law, it was practically impossible to carry on earnest mission work’. In contrast, the evidence of Montague Sydney Hadley, superintendent of the Anglican mission on Sunday Island, showed a much more free and easy attitude to finance and his task in generaL He had only two helpers, a school teacher and a cook. There were 113 permanent residents on his mission, including twenty-three school children, but they received an annual grant of only £100 as against £250 for Beagle Bay. From the sale of pearl shell, beche de mer and what he was able to provide from his own pocket they managed, however, to keep out of debt and he did not feel justified in asking a shilling a day for school children such as had recently been granted to Beagle Bay. ‘I don’t think,’ he admitted with refreshing frankness, ‘that I could give the government a quid pro quo.’ He said that he would like to extend his sphere of influence to the Cape Leveque area at the top of the peninsula where the people were of the Bard tribe as were the Sunday Islanders. This would make his task much easier, especially if the King Sound side of the peninsula were closed to pearlers, a stipulation which, speaking as an ex-pearler himself, he did not think would be much loss to them. Such lay-up camps as were there at present could be moved to Beagle Bay and Baldwin’s Creek, where there was plenty of good water, wood and shelter for repairing the boats.
Hadley’s evidence does not suggest that he had any quarrel with the Pallottine mission but this last suggestion, in view of the trouble already caused by lugger crews in Beagle Bay, is hardly indicative of goodwill!
Father Nicholas, interviewed in Broome, gave evidence in French of having come to Australia as a Trappist novice but with the formal promise of his superior that he might live and die in Australia working for the Aborigines. He had begun work alone and without resources in Broome: ‘a tent my church, a bough shed my room’.
Asked whether he was not at same time Superior of Beagle Bay he said that he had been nominated to that position in 1898 and remained there until 1901. There had never, in Trappist times, been less than 150 people on the mission, sometimes more than 200, with about fifty children in the school. He had been empowered to carry out negotiations of transfer from Trappists to Pallottines, the money consideration being for over 800 head of cattle. These had increased from an original 150. No, the Trappists had not yet received the whole of the money due to them.
He spoke of the establishment of his school and orphanage in Broome and explained his having had to close his hostel for the half-caste girls. He told also of his care far the aged and sick, who would otherwise have been left ‘to die like dogs’, of the town allotments he had purchased from public subscription for Aboriginal couples, and of his visits, to the natives’ camps in an effort to save the lives of halfcaste children.
I regret to state [he added] that I know of forty-four non-Christian infants who have been killed by their mothers at birth, and one child of four years old who was killed and eaten by its mother: now the latter is a Christian. I always let the blacks know that I am fond of their children and offer them so much rice and flour for any infant they do not want.’
Evidence collected from pastoralists and pearlers, police and government officials, stockmen and the natives themselves showed the north-west to be an area in which the white population was for the most part either blind or indifferent to the miserable condition of the Aborigines. The commissioner found that large areas of country were being taken up with no provision whatever for the displaced people who, when driven from their hunting grounds, were doomed either to starve or to die by corruption and disease. Along the coast from La Grange to the eastern shores of King Sound he found drunkenness and prostitution (‘the former being the prelude to the latter’) rife in the lugger camps and he criticized many aspects of both the pearling and pastoral industries.
Where the taking of native prisoners was concerned be found ‘a most brutal and outrageous state of affairs’. Since the police received an allowance for every native brought in on sheep or cattle spearing charges it was common practice to arrest as many as possible, without warrant, and to extract confessions of guilt ‘at the muzzle of a rifle if needs be’. Long chains of ‘offenders’ were brought in for trial, with native witnesses - never for the defence - inevitably found guilty and sentenced to flogging or terms of imprisonment with hard labour.
Half-castes, despite the prevalence of infanticide, be found to be increasing in the back country, one Fitzroy station alone being ‘credited with from twelve to fifteen’, while only rarely did he hear of these children being acknowledged or provided for in any way by their white fathers. Half-castes he thought would be better brought within the influence of missionary establishments.
In so far the report would have met with the approval of Bishop Gibney, but the commissioner not only failed to recommend an increased subsidy for Beagle Bay but suggested that its grant for the relief of indigents should be cancelled. Dr. Roth remarked a decrease in numbers of some 50 per cent at this mission from a reputed maximum of 200 in Trappist times. He had also heard complaints from the natives about the quality and quantity of the food, and he regretted the absence of nuns. Concerning the 10,000 acres in fee simple that had been promised the Trappists subject to £5,000 worth of improvements (for which the bishop thought he bad long since established the claim) the commissioner observed that the improvements had been mainly applied to one location and not to the ‘total area’ as stipulated. This and another three blocks that the mission was anxious to obtain in fee simple, contained the only permanent waters on the entire reserve and he recommended that the Lands Department would ‘take care that the property held in trust for the natives [was] not handed over to the mission’.
On the other hand, the commissioner recommended an increased subsidy for Sunday Island mission, commended Hadley as a ‘fine example of man who is sacrificing self on behalf of others’ and - making it harder than ever to endure from Father Walter’s point of view - warmly praised Father Nicholas’s work in Broome. Dr. Roth drew special attention to the evidence of the Spanish priest:
A more unselfish man it would be rare to meet, and 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.
Dr. Roth’s recommendations made on behalf of Father Nicholas and of the Benedictine mission at New Norcia, absolved him from any just accusation of denominational prejudice but Father Walter was probably right in suspecting that he had been influenced by people prejudiced against himself and his work. The sergeant of police in Broome, far one, had done nothing to help the mission and said in evidence that he saw no reason why the government grant of £250 a year should not include the upkeep of the old and indigent.
‘Nothing should be paid [he said]. The mission is more of a squatting business than a mission station.... The natives are working for them on the station, in the gardens, looking after the herds, and on the two boats, one of which is a pearling lugger. The natives work for what they eat.’
This of course was foolish talk, as the sergeant later admitted in an apologetic letter, adding that he had not expected his comments to be taken ‘so literally’. He was shocked, however, by Father Walter’s suggestion that his evidence had been influenced by Father Nicholas ‘who,’ he said, ‘I think is above that sort of thing.”
But nothing could now alter Father Walter’s convictions that Father Nicholas was at the bottom of everything, from malicious rumours to harsh facts, such as the repudiation by the Labour Government, elected in June 1904, of the newly granted child allowance, which was dismissed as an electioneering dodge on the part of their Liberal opponents. Examining the Spanish priest’s evidence to the commission, Father Walter claimed to find a misstatement in almost every line of it. His indignant letters to Limburg and to Bishop Kelly pointed out that Father Nicholas was not superior of the mission from 1898, as he had said, but had been put in temporary charge in 1900. Never, declared Father Walter, as there were letters from France to prove, had Father Nicholas been empowered to act on behalf of the Trappists. Furthermore, the Pallottine insisted his estimate of the Beagle Bay population in Trappist times had been totally false, Perhaps so, but it happens to correspond with figures given by Bishop Gibney in his report of 1900. In short, everything, according to Father Walter’s reasoning, added up to the conclusion that Father Nicholas was an enemy of the mission and that their work was to no avail as long as he remained in the country. It was proposed therefore that he be replaced by a priest then at Beagle Bay.
This suggestion drew vehement protests from the residents of Broome, not only on the grounds that they wanted Father Nicholas but that the priest in question was an alcoholic. From this Father Walter could only conclude that Father Nicholas had lobbied in some underhand manner for public sympathy and he lost no time in accusing the bewildered little priest of his duplicity. To this charge Father Nicholas replied in French:
... Never have I understood the sympathy I have among the people here who absolutely do not wish that Father ... come to Broome.... They know that he will not long resist the temptation to drink and have demonstraed strongly in my favour. If you believe, dear Father, that I should go elsewhere for the good of the Church and the mission, I will readily do so when one more suitable is found to take my place. .. . It would please me well to escape and to hide in the rocks beside the sea and live in solitude with God. This is the truth...
Father Walter’s position was a lonely one, as no one was able to see what appeared so obvious to himself. Bishop Kelly wrote:
. . . In the first place there has been no investigation into the charge made against Father Nicholas of furnishing Dr. Roth with evidence against the mission. F. Nicholas protests that he did no such thing and I am able to bear witness that it is quite unnecessary to suppose that he did, for statements reach me even here that the natives are not so happy at the mission as formerly and some of them have even inquired of me as to when the Trappists will return.
... we can understand and appreciate at their face value such complaints about the mission, the fact is that they are made ... but not by Father Nicholas.... Secondly it could be almost disastrous both to the cause of the natives and the Manilamen to remove Father Nicholas. It would be impossible to find one to fill his place in their regard and in the esteem of the general public, I will not therefore, for these and other reasons ... consent to having Father Nicholas supplanted by anyone ...
Father Whitmee wrote from Rome in his usual down-to-earth way:
... If you can only keep quiet all will come right again. You see, with Father Nicholas, had you used him, things would have, been very different. Now he is a hero and a martyr. Don’t attempt to do anything against him, otherwise the people will turn you out of the country. Use him, make a friend of him and he will help the mission at least by sending children.
Rather than take this advice Father Walter asked the bishop to arrange a secret ballot that he was sure would reveal the true sympathies of the people to be with himself. This vote, however, showed 128 out of 132 Broome Catholics to be in favour of Father Nicholas. Bishop Kelly then came himself to Broome, hoping as be said ‘to arrive at a modus vivendi’, and drew up an agreement by which Father Nicholas was to take charge of the native and Filipino Catholics and Father Walter to minister to the others. But there was no rational solution to this clash of personalities. Father Walter demanded that Father Nicholas vacate the presbytery and also that the subsidy recently granted him for the upkeep of his aged and indigent be made payable to himself. Father Nicholas submitted but he wrote to Bishop Gibney that it was no longer humanly possible for him to remain in Broome. He had in the meantime obtained dispensation from the Trappist rule and proposed to devote himself as a secular priest to the coastal tribes and the Filipino crews. For this purpose he had raised the down payment on a 14-ton schooner which he told Bishop Gibney he would now have to forfeit if he could not pay it off.
The bishop, however, was no longer able to help his clergy as it had been his joy to do, for his farsighted Church projects and land purchases had run his diocese into the state of debt that was to harass and shadow his old age.
In the meantime, however, he had been instrumental in having Roth’s statements regarding Beagle Bay mission criticized in the Legislative Assembly. As a result the subsidy was not cancelled as recommended, but raised to £500 a year, retrospective to 1904, with an increased grant for invalids, which made the continuation of the mission possible. With the current price of stock and shell, however, as well as the heavy cost of freight, the poor seasons and urgent need for fencing, well sinking and bloodstock, it was still unable to keep out of debt, the blame for which continued, as unreasonably as ever, to fall mainly on Father Nicholas.
The latter’s prayers for deliverance were answered when his friend Filomeno Rodriguez came to his assistance and paid off the schooner on which he had set his heart and his deposit. The priest, overcome with relief and gratitude, named the vessel San Salvador and at once transferred to it his few worldly goods. Sleeping for the first time on its ample decks he dreamed that Our Lady appeared to him, ‘so shining, so beautiful’, and assured him that the vessel would serve him well to the time of his death and would never be lost at sea. The dream was to prove prophetic for San Salvador, as few others of that treacherous coast, bravely weathered the seas and cyclones of the years, to be left at last, worn out, on the beach at Beagle Bay.