60a[“Aborigines Amelioration”, The Hedland Advocate (Port Hedland, WA), Saturday 02 July 1910, page 5]
Perth, June 27.
Mr S.P. Mackay, owner of Mundabullangana station, Port Hedland, has handed Sir Edward Wittenoom a cheque for £1,000, to be used as Sir Edward Wittenoom thinks best for the purpose of ameliorating the condition of the aborigines.
Mr Mackay, in forwarding the cheque, said the work of the Government in the direction indicated should be largely supplemented by pastoralists(*), who had made large profits as the result of the occupation of large tracts of country formerly used as hunting grounds by the natives.
[* In the Advocate of May 14 we advocated this principle, and two squatters (of the class who work the niggers until diseased, and then turn them over to the State to cure,) promptly ordered us to discontinue sending to them a paper which dared express such views. —Ed.]
Suggests a wide divergence in attitudes of squatters.
27 jun 1910: Hedland Advocate reports £1,000 donation from S. P. Mackay. No mention of Daisy or the expedition, but it appears from other sources (below) that it was Bates who proposed that the donation be made available to Radcliffe-Brown’s expedition.
60b[“News and Notes”, The West Australian, Saturday 01 October 1910, page 10]
The Museum Lectures.—Mr. Alfred R. Brown, the leader of the Cambridge Ethnological Exploring Party, lectured before a large audience at the Museum last night on the subject of “Primitive Man in Western Australia.” His Excellency the Governor presided. Mr. Brown announced at the close of an interesting lecture, a report of which is held over, that through the generosity of Mr. Samuel McKay, who had placed the sum of £1,000 at the disposal of the expedition, they would be enabled to spend nine months or so longer than they had originally intended in the work of anthropological research in Western Australia. He felt bound to mention that to a lady they owed much in connection with this gift. Mrs. Daisy Bates had been enthusiastic over the matter, and by her urgency the generous action of Mr. McKay was largely prompted.
This just about clinches it, I think. Daisy Bates’ version of events is the right one.
60c[“Primitive Man in Western Australia”, The West Australian, Monday 03 October 1910, page 2]
PRIMITIVE MAN IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA.
LECTURE BY MR. ALFRED R. BROWN.
THE SCIENCE OF ANTHROPOLOGY.
HOW IT VIEWS THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES.
Mr. Alfred R. Brown, the distinguished ethnologist and the leader of the Cambridge Ethnological Exploring party which is about to undertake research work in Western Australia, lectured before a large audience at the Museum on Friday night on the subject:—“Primitive Man in Western Australia.” His Excellency the Governor presided.
By way of preface to his lecture, Mr. Brown said his purpose was to endeavour to show them why people in England thought that the Australian aborigines were so interesting as to justify the organisation of an expedition to study them on the spot. The study of anthropology was the latest of the sciences, and it was still the least developed of the sciences. Indeed, we might almost say that the one subject of which we knew least in the wide world, from a scientific point of view, was human nature, and after all that was not perhaps very surprising seeing that through force of habit we took ourselves more or less for granted. So, anthropology as a science—the science of the study of mankind—had been the very latest science to develop. It had only really begun in 1850 when the anthropological societies of England and France were founded. The science, however, had made great strides, and perhaps it would be of interest to explain briefly what the ideas of the anthropologist were regarding the aborigines of Australia. Science was merely a development of something with which we were familiar in every-day life. It was an attempt to interpret the present by means of a study of the past in the hope that we might be able to foretell a little of the future. We made such an interpretation practically every day of our lives. When, for instance, he realised that if he put his fingers to the candle flame they would be burnt he was foretelling the future by the knowledge he had gained from his experience of the past. Science was a systematisation of such knowledge. They were endeavouring to get more of such knowledge and to make it accurate. They studied the past history of forms of life in the endeavour to understand the processes they had gone through, and they hoped to be able to foretell what direction future developments would take. That was the whole object of the science of man. It was an attempt to study man as he had been in the past in the hope of being able to interpret man as he was at present and to foretell in time certain things about his future. The science of anthropology, of course, was young and so far it had not perhaps got very much to say for itself. Yet, remembering that it was only fifty years ago that scientists first began to turn their attention to man as a subject of scientific study, it was surprising what advances had been made. Why, it might be asked, did they not confine their study to Europe?
The Study of Mankind
could only proceed in the same way as every other study; they had to take the simpler forms first, hoping from an understanding of these forms to reach a knowledge of the more complex forms. The civilisation of the white races in Europe was extremely complex and it was perfectly hopeless to try to understand it with out an understanding of the simpler forms of life which were only found in savage races. The science being an attempt to read the present in the light of the past, the Australian aborigine became of interest to the anthropologist because he represented a stage through which mankind had passed not only in Australia but in Europe and other parts of the world. We could trace back our history in Europe for a few thousand years but there came a stage when further progress backward was impossible. We could go back as far as the beginning of the Grecian, the Roman, the Phoenician, and the Egyptian civilisations but there was no one to tell what man was like beyond that except the archaeologist. We could, of course, examine the remains of the man who preceded civilisation in Europe and find out some of his characteristics. We could by this means judge to some extent what they were like. In Europe there was an interesting race of men who existed a very long time ago; how long ago, it was impossible to say until the geologist gave us accurate information. At any rate it existed at the end of the last ice age when the whole of Northern Europe including the greater part of Scotland and England was covered with ice. In those days there existed a race of men not very dissimilar to that of the aborigine of the present day. They made flint implements some of which were almost exactly like those in use in the north-west of this State, and in the Northern Territory to-day. There were certain other interesting peculiarities which characterised him; his skull, for instance. Let them examine the fossil remains of the Neanderthal man found in the Neander Valley. In the light of other remains found elsewhere it became practically certain that a man of this type lived over a great part of Europe. His life was that of a hunter, the implements of the chase being of stone, and in many important respects he resembled the Australian aborigine of to-day. It was also practically certain that from these Neanderthal men we were descended, and as our ancestors they were interesting to us. The skull the audience saw on the lectern was that of a Neanderthal man. Its inspection revealed many interesting peculiarities. Mankind had evolved in many different ways, and one main line of evolution had been the steady change in certain of his physical characteristics, a steady, gradual change from the lower to the higher forms, and the science of anthropology endeavoured to distinguish these changes, and discover the causes which had produced them. They would notice a marked peculiarity which distinguished the skull of the Neanderthal man from that of any modern European. They had only to look at the forehead of their next door neighbour to see that it was not like that of the Neanderthal man. The man who lived in the valley of the Neander twenty thousand years ago had a very low forehead with strongly developed eyebrow ridges. A number of skulls of the Neanderthal race all possessed the same characteristics, and they could not therefore say that this was an exceptional skull. Interest chiefly lay in the skull, of course, be cause it contained the brain. The skull would not be of much importance to an an thropologist if it were merely a receptacle fo: some other organ which of itself was not of importance. The
Principal Line of Evolution
in man had been in the brain and not in bone, muscle, or size. The evolution had been a perfectly steady one. The brain of man as he had passed from the lower to the higher stages had developed in the frontal region, and the distinguishing point between the skull of primitive man, our ancestor, and ourselves was that we had got more brain in the frontal portion of the skull, in the forehead. It would be interesting to follow the progress of this development in the brain of man. But unfortunately, the links between the Neanderthal man and ourselves were not procurable; they were extinct. The nearest approach to the Neanderthal man that they knew in science was to be found in certain low races of mankind. Let them turn to a skull found in the Murchison in 1897. They would notice that it possessed exactly the same characteristics as that of the Neanderthal man, the forehead slanting backwards and strongly marked eyebrow ridges. Between these two skulls there seemed to be a strong family likeness, and yet they came from widely separated parts of the world. Here was an interesting point about the Australian aborigine which marked him off. He possessed a forehead of the same type as the Neanderthal men of Europe. He conformed to the type of our ancestors, the Neanderthal men, and this suggested that his brain probably possessed the same sort of characteristics as the Neanderthal man’s brain. This, of course, was arguing from analogy. We knew how the Neanderthal man made stone implements, and that was about all we did know. He lived with animals now extinct. Wandering down the Thames Valley in those days one was as likely as not to meet the cave bear, which was extinct like its contemporary, the Neanderthal man. The skull of another aborigine showed the same characteristics as the Murchison skull, but not so exaggerated. In addition to the low forehead and the prominent eyebrow ridges, the nasal bone went back an unusually long distance. This latter feature distinguished the Australian aborigine from all other races. In the examination of these physical appearances science was endeavouring to map out the past history of man. Mankind was scattered over the world in varying forms. In Europe we had the typical white races with their high brain development, and in Africa a black race, the negroes, with frizzy hair. We got a similar black race with similar hair in New Guinea and in Melanesia, and we got a little link in the Andaman Islands and the Malay Peninsula populated by a black people with frizzy hair. These groups, consisting of men with black skins and hair we could only describe as frizzy or woolly, were generally called the negro races. They were the African negro, the Oceanic negro (the Papuan and Melanesian). and the negrito of Asia (in the Andaman Islands and the Malay Peninsula). On the other hand we got a race of dark men whose hair was not that of the typical negro; and whose skull did not follow the skull form of the negro—the Australian aborigine who was so dark brown that we could almost call him black. It was a problem to fit the latter in among the races of mankind. It had been suggested, for instance, that they should be called Caucasian, and that they were more closely allied to the white than to the negro race. There had been other theories that they were negroes who had come to Australia and had become intermixed with Malays. It was not his intention to go into these theories that evening. He was always being asked, however,
Where the Australian Aborigine Came From.
This was a difficult question to answer. It was like asking where Australia came from. The Australian aborigine had been here a very long time, and what he was like when he got here it seemed impossible to say. They could not tell whether, when he arrived, he was exactly the same as he was now, or whether he had changed since he had been isolated. But the problem became more interesting when they put it in another form, and asked what was the relationship between the Australian aborigine and other types of mankind. The anthropologist would say that the Australian aborigine first of all formed a link between the ancestor of the white races and the negro. He came in between these two groups. The deep seated nasal bone was characteristic of the Australian and Tasmanian aborigine and distinguished him as a specialised type. Probably the Australian aborigine had been sparated from the rest of mankind for many thousands of years, and had, during that period, developed little idiosyncrasies which were called specialisations.
But, after all, it was the skulls which in an interesting subject interested him least. We could dig up skulls, but we could not dig up customs and beliefs, and it was accordingly the latter which were most in need of study. The subject matter of this study was disappearing every day. This was the difficulty of the anthropologist, and he could give them an instance of it from his own experience. The Andamanese Islanders were rapidly dying out. In 1858 there were 6,000 inhabitants in one island. When he went there a few years ao, there were only 600 and in another 50 years he expected there would not be 60. When he was there he was continually told:—“You must find old ‘so and so.’ He is the only man who can supply the information you want.” Consequently, he marched through a dense tropical forest for two days to the camp of this man and found him at death’s door. He spent three days at the bedside of this native, who, however, never rallied, and with his death there disappeared all the information concerning the customs and belief of his tribe. Exactly the same thing was happening in Australia. That was why the anthropologist, even if the Australian aborigines were less interesting than other races, sought to study them. We could not tell much about the customs and beliefs of primitive man in Europe because all we had left of him were certain relics of stone and bones and bits of wood. These did not tell us much about the ideas he possessed, though they told us something. The fact, for example, that he had a spearhead in one particular way and not in another was an interesting fact concerning his mental capacity. The further fact that he drew pictures in a peculiar way told us some thing about his brain. In Australia, on the other hand, we had mankind living in a condition in which they lived in Europe twenty thousand years ago, and possessing similar ideas. They had beliefs similar to those of our ancestors, and therefore it was to the aborigines of such places as Aus tralia that we turned when we wanted to know what our ancestors, the Neanderthal race, for instance, were like. A social or ganisation which was not like that with which we were familiar—one of the family, the village, the city, and the State—interested the anthropologist who endeavoured to ascertain what part of it belonged essentially to the history of human nature, and what was merely accidental. The Australian aborigines were organised in tribes which were divided into two halves, and every member of the tribe belonged to one or other of the halves. Over the greater portion of Australia the division was into “Eagle-hawks” and “Crows.” A man must be either “Eagle-hawk” or “Crow.” He could not be both. If he were a Crow he must not on any account marry a “Crow.” He must marry an “Eagle-hawk.” All “Crows” were brothers and sisters, and they must not kill a “Grow,” although they might kill an “Eagle-hawk.” This would give them a rough idea of the
Aboriginal Social Organisation.
This, of course, was not the invariable division, and in the south-west of the State we got the “Crow” and “White Cockatoo.” As we advanced the organisation became more complex, and the tribe became split up into four parts. An aborigine who belonged to one of those parts could divide all his acquaintances into four classes—(1) his brothers and sisters; (2) his father and fathers’ sisters; (3) his mothers and mothers’ brothers; (4) his wives and brothers-in-law. The aborigine stood in a perfectly definite relationship to everybody he met, and his life was regulated by certain laws which prescribed what he had to do when he met those people. There was only one of four classes the aborigine could possibly marry, and he would be guilty of a very grave misdemeanour indeed if he were to marry into the wrong class. There was a whole body of women whom he called mothers, and he did not distinguish one from the other in the way he treated them, although one was his actual mother. There was another body of women who were all his sisters, and a certain rule of conduct existed which he had to respect with regard to them. Again, one portion of the tribe, tha Eagle-hawk half or moiety, for example, was frequently divided into smaller parts, which were called clans. Each of these clans had its name. For instance, one man might belong to the “Kangaroo” clan an other to the “Emu,” and a third to the “Bandicoot,” and so forth. A “Kangaroo” man could kill or eat anything he liked with the exception of a kangaroo. That animal was sacred to him, so to speak. On the other hand, an Emu man night kill a kangaroo, but not an emu. The anthropologist was endeavouring to understand this strange institution. The system was not peculiar to Australia, and the name which had been given to it was totemism. Where a native had a sacred animal such as the kangaroo, they referred to the kangaroo as his totem. The name was taken from the language of the Ojibway tribe in North America, where it had exactly the same meaning as was given to it in Australia. The system of totemism was to be found in Melanesia, New Guinea, India, Africa, North America, and there were traces of it in Polynesia and South America. The only part of the inhabited globe where totemism was not found was Europe, and the north of Asia, but there were a number of scientists who held that there was sufficient ground for believing that early peoples in Europe, the ancient Greeks, and Romans, and Semites, had exactly the same institution of totemism. The evidence did not satisfy him that our Aryan ancestors did have totemism. There was no absolute proof, nor, he thought, was there any proof that the ancient Jews possessed it. There was a certain amount of probability, but apart from that we might say that wherever in the world we studied man wse found in existence, excepting in the parts he had mentioned, either totemism in its normal form or some changing form of totemism, some evidence that totemism had existed, and had changed into some other form of social organisation. What was the conclusion to be drawn from this? It was that
Totemism was a Stage in the Evolution of Society,
that it was a necessary stage, and that it was only by passing through the stage of totemism that man reached the higher planes of civilisation. This meant that where a man had reached a stage of civilisation which was higher than that of the Australian aborigine, he had passed through a social organisation which was similar to that to be found among Australian aborigines of to-day. This was assumption which had not been proved, but it was the logical conclusion that the scientist must draw from the evidence at his disposal. Totemism was, therefore, of considerable importance. It was not the earliest form of social organisation. The Australian aborigine was many thousand years behind us, but he was himself the result of a considerable development. Language, to mention one thing, was not built up in a day. The Australian aborigine was not half so far back in the history of mankind as the anthropologist would like to go.
They were studying the Australian aborigine so as to throw light, if possible, on the past history of mankind, and to interpret the present and foretell the future. It might seem a far cry from the Houses of Parliament to the hut of the Australian aborigine, and yet it was not a very far cry. We were at the present moment faced by many possible changes in society. Catastrophe was predicted by some people if a certain thing was done, and by other people if it were not done. The scientist had not yet been born who could tell what would happen if we made a particular change. We could only foretell the future if we had general laws. The object of anthropology in the domain of sociology was to endeavour to discover those laws which governed the social evolution of man. If, for instance, we could say that man had developed from any particular state of society through another given condition such as totemism, and so on through different stages of organisation by gradual steps with definite given causes at every period for every change, then it would be possible to foretell what would follow any given change in society. It was characteristic of human evolution that mankind had the power to interfere with this process of evolution. Man by the study of medicine and otherwise had put a check on the process of natural selection which carried off the unfit individuals. In social organisation, also, man continually interfered by means of acts of Parliament though this applied more to the higher than the lower stages of civilisation. The anthropologist hoped by the study of the lower forms of human life, of social organisations such as totemism, to discover what might be called the natural laws of these peoples and to apply these natural laws not only to the Australian aborigine, but to more developed societies, and to be able in the end to foretell what would be the result of a given change. One of the most interesting
was presented by Australia, a large continent populated mainly along the coast by people who lived mostly in the towns. How would this abnormal sociological structure develop? The science was too young to try to give the key, but a problem was offered which the sociologist some day would tackle and endeavour to answer. For the means of answering such questions one had to go back to the study of mankind in the earliest days, and as he had endeavoured to show while we could not get back to our own ancestors except by examining their skulls and their drawings and their stone implements we could get back to them to some extent by studying the habits and customs of the aborigines of Australia, who besides having a similar skull formation were in a condition of society in which our ancestors probably lived at some time. The science of the study of mankind was prob ably the most important of the sciences, as it was the latest born, and on the physical side, for instance, we could hope to know more from the work of the anthropologist of the physical structure of mankind. In the same way by studying the mind of man in its evolution from the lower forms we might be able to apply the knowledge gained in the sphere of education. With the study of the evolution of society and of morals and religions from their primitive to their developed forms, we might be able to affect our own actions very considerably. Owing to the generosity of Mr. Samuel McKay, who had placed the sum of £1,000 at the disposal of the expedition, they would be able to continue at work nine months or so longer than they had originally intended. Since his arrival he had been surprised and pleased at the interest which was shown on all sides in the aboriginals. Valuable research work had also been done. Mrs. Bates had rescued from oblivion a large number of interesting facts concerning the aborigines, for, as he had stated, the opportunities of obtaining information regarding his race were becoming less daily, and Mrs Bates had placed upon record the results of investigations among tribes which had since disappeared. The welcome which had been given to the expedition had been extremely pleasant, and if they were able to bring to light fresh facts relating to the aborigines he would be very pleased indeed with his visit to Western Australia. (Applause.)
Interesting emphasis was given to the points of the lecture by many lantern views depicting the physical characteristics for native races, the artistic efforts of primitive man, and other relics of prehistoric times. On the motion of Dr. Hackett, M.L.C., the lecturer was awarded a cordial vote of thanks.
Anthropology has come a long way!
60d[“News and Notes”, The West Australian, Tuesday 04 October 1910, page 6]
The Cambridge Ethnological Expedition.—At the conclusion of his lecture at the Museum last week Mr. Alfred R. Brown; M.A., leader of the Cambridge Ethnological Expedition, announced that through the generosity of Mr. Samuel McKay, who had placed the sum of £1,000 at the disposal of the expedition, they would he enabled to spend nine months or so longer than they had originally intended in the work of anthropological research in Western Australia. Mr. Brown, however, did not explain that this was the money which Mr. McKay recently handed to Sir Edward Wittenoom to be expended in any way he thought best in the interests of the aborigines of this State. It appears that Sir Edward’s attention was directed to the expedition from Cambridge University, and he decided to hand the thousand pounds over to Mr. Brown on behalf of the donor. Sir Edward considers that Mr. McKay will be pleased to find that the money has been devoted to furthering the objects of the scientific expedition.
This helps to clarify the sequence of events regarding Sam McKay’s $$1,000 donation. There was only one donation, to be used as Sir Edward Wittenoom saw fit, and almost certainly directed to Radcliffe-Brown on the recommendation of Daisy Bates.
60e[Salter, Elizabeth, 1971, Daisy Bates: “The Great White Queen of the Never-Never”, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Chapter 17]
“Daisy was made for Brown’s exasperation and he for hers.” —E. L. Grant Watson: But to What Purpose?
In a matter of months it became evident that a work relationship between them was out of the question. “Anarchy Brown”, as he was known at Cambridge, was, at the time of his arrival in Australia in 1910, an astonishingly good-looking and gifted young man in his late twenties whose reputation fluctuated between the “bit of a superman” that he was to his assistant, Grant Watson, and a “fabricator of stories”, regarded with distrust by his more cautious colleagues. By this time his political views had been modified from anarchy to socialism, but he was still far from the nationalism that dominated the thinking of his contemporaries. As strongly individualistic as Daisy herself, he carried a sense of style into the detail of ordinary life. His dress was that of a Paris “savant”. He had even thought out the best posture for sleep.
It was after his triumphal return from the Andaman Islands that he was offered the leadership of the expedition. He had gone alone into a dangerous situation and shown so little fear that the islanders had regarded him as a god and allowed him to gather invaluable data on their social organization. Anxious to repeat his success in what was still considered, anthropologically speaking, the uncharted territory of North-west Australia, he read Spencer and Gillen and dazzled the impressionable Grant Watson, a newly qualified zoologist, with tales of the Aborigines.
Later writers were to agree with Daisy that collaboration with him was difficult.
Towards women, whether they were students or colleagues, he showed a condescension that was to gall more than one among the now distinguished women anthropologists.
Ruth Benedict, in her letters to her colleague Margaret Mead, quoted in Margaret Mead’s The Way of an Anthropologist, describes him as “impenetrably wrapped in his own conceit”.
“I don’t think Brown is fighting for good work over bad, but for work done by disciples over against work done by non disciples,” she wrote. Hortense Powdermaker, one of these disciples, made the more cautious comment that he seemed to need to be worshipped. Margaret Mead was more forthright:
“Brown identifies himself with every idea he has ever voiced and any disagreement, tacit or uttered, with his ideas, he takes as a slap in the face.”
All three women conceded the personal magnetism to which the young Grant Watson succumbed. Where Brown led, Grant Watson was prepared to follow. The two young men became a unit from which Daisy, a woman and a strong-willed one at that, found herself excluded.
At first all went smoothly. It was not in Daisy’s nature to worship, but her letters to Mathew show that she was prepared to learn. She arranged to have an extra desk put in her office so she and Brown could work together on her material; she noted his comments and made the necessary corrections.
In the field it was another matter. Here she was on familiar ground. Experience asserted itself and she was less prepared to follow. Brown, on the other hand, would tolerate no question of his leadership.
Two very different people, they were alike in that they were both egotists with a declared ambition: Brown to occupy the first Australian Chair in Anthropology; Daisy to publish her book. To realize their ambitions, each needed the other. That Brown was successful and Daisy was not, was due, in part, to the generosity of her nature. By giving him access to her material, she was acting in her own as well as his interests. But that the expedition received recognition throughout Australia was very largely due to the power of her prestige.
By 1910 this was considerable. “The epoch-making work Mrs Bates has done amongst the aborigines,” wrote the Western Mail, “the interest she has created in those quaint, lovable and primitive people to whom, when all is said and done, Australia really belongs, entitles her to rank among the women who have accomplished great things in this age.”
Daisy transferred the accolades to her leader, telling the press that she “greatly appreciated the opportunity of cooperating with Mr Brown”. She admitted that “these further investigations must mean considerable amplification of the work I have been doing”, and thereby established their relationship as master and pupil.
Brown appeared to accept such homage as his due. In neither of his two long press interviews is there a mention of her name. What he failed to do, the journalists did for her.
“The interview with the leader of the expedition, A. R. Brown,” said the Mirror, “will have been read with great interest, all the more so because of its confirmation of the facts and views set out by Daisy Bates in her lecture in the Perth Town Hall on the curious class divisions existing amongst the Australian aborigines.”
There is no doubt at all that Brown could have managed without Daisy. As an anthropologist he was brilliant and his ability to pioneer his work had been proved. But to finance his expedition was another matter.
Discovering that it lacked funds, Daisy contacted her old friend and admirer Sam McKay. According to her own account she rang him from her office “and in ten minutes a £1,000 was mine.” This, she said, she handed over to Brown.
One of her newspaper cuttings, however, gives rise to a minor mystery.
It seemed that McKay had already donated the amount to the Aboriginal cause. The cheque was in the keeping of pastoralist Sir Edward Wittenoom, “whose attention had been directed towards the Cambridge expedition”.
Since Daisy herself had kept the cutting, the inference is that it was she who contacted Wittenoom. To add to the confusion was Brown’s story to Grant Watson that McKay had handed him the cheque after a lecture he gave in Perth.
Putting the facts together, the most likely interpretation seems to be that Daisy knew of McKay’s donation and took him along to hear Brown’s lecture so that he would allow the money to be used for the expedition. McKay was impressed enough to write out another cheque there and then. But, as the paragraph pointed out, it was to cover the amount already placed in the keeping of Sir Edward Wittenoom.
As so often happened when she looked back over the years, Daisy’s memory took a short cut. But there seems little doubt that it was she who was instrumental in procuring the thousand pounds—a gesture that she was, in later years, to bitterly regret.
Brown showed his gratitude by asking that she be attached to the expedition for a further six months. Since this was what Daisy wanted most at the time, she considered herself rewarded. He agreed also to continue his revision of her material although, he told Grant Watson, this was becoming more and more difficult.
To Brown, Daisy was an enthusiast rather than an anthropologist. Her book was the work of an amateur. To the man who carried method into every facet of his life, her mind resembled “a well stored sewing basket after half a dozen kittens had been playing there undisturbed”. As his own researches continued, to put her book in order represented a waste of time—the one thing he feared. That he continued to do so is apparent from her complaints about the “mutilated manuscript” handed back to her. But by then their relationship had deteriorated beyond hope of any mutual achievement.
Their differences remained a private matter. The press notices that heralded their departure reported Daisy as “anticipating the journey with intense eagerness”. As a woman in an all-male scientific expedition she continued to be the focus of interest.
“So far as can be called to mind,” wrote the West Australian, “the instance is unique, except perhaps for Eve’s sojourn in the wilderness.”
“Her exceptional and unique knowledge of the natives as well as the mysterious influence she holds over them . . . will be of invaluable assistance to her companions,” purred the Mirror.
There was one dissenting note in the applause, in a cutting kept no doubt to show the kind of opposition that Daisy was up against. It was a paragraph under the heading of “Larks”. What paper it came from is unknown: “Any reader who wants to hear Carr Boyd’s opinion of Daisy Bates’s proposed exploratory trip into nigger infested mulga, first plug your ears with anti-septicised cotton wool and then ask Garr to write it on a slate. N.B. Please disinfect the slate before handing it back.”
On 14th October 1910, two days before her forty-seventh birthday, she set out for Bunbury. There she met the two men and all three continued by steamer for Geraldton, where Louis Olsen, the cook, was engaged. Hiring horses, they rode to Sandstone, pitching camp some miles out of the town near an Aboriginal camp.
Some seven or eight groups had collected for the initiation ceremony which the three “ghosts” were allowed to watch. Work was progressing well until a police raid disturbed it by scattering the natives in all directions.
Just over a month before their arrival, on 11th September to be exact, what were known as the “Darlot murders” had taken place near Laverton. In her report to the Chief Protector, Daisy explained that the murders were spearings demanded by tribal law because of “wrong” marriages. The Chief Protector remained unconvinced and decreed that “Justice be done according to the white man’s laws.”
As a result, their camp was searched by white troopers. “Some ten or twelve white Australians came riding through the camp, firing off their revolvers at the native dogs, and shouting and swearing in quite a cinematograph manner,” Grant Watson wrote.
Brown was angry. Refusing to budge from his tent door, behind which he had hidden two of the so-called “murderers”, he informed the constable that if it were any satisfaction to him, the work of the expedition in that area was ruined. They had no alternative but to cross to the Lock hospitals on Bernier and Dorre Islands. Here the groups were well represented and there would be no fear of interruption.
Daisy approved of his stand but not of his decision to leave. She argued the point. If they waited, she said, the natives would return. Brown listened without reply, his eyes fixed on distance, as was his habit when wishful of putting an end to a conversation. Daisy’s arguments trailed off into silence. She confided in Grant Watson that Brown was indeed a very strange young man and “no gentleman”.
The next day Brown informed her that plans for departure had been made. If she still wished to stay behind, she was free to do so. “And so it was that we went our way,” Grant Watson wrote, “leaving Mrs Bates to follow how and when she would. . . . [she] did not like to yield and I do not think she supposed that Brown would be so ungallant as to leave her, but he contended that if women claimed the privileges of men, they should be treated as men in like circumstances would be treated.”
It was a difficult moment for Brown’s young disciple. Daisy had put herself out for him more than once. He genuinely liked her, admiring her “guiding spirit that was not a missionary spirit but one of charity and compassion”. The obvious affinity between the county Irish lady with her “neat and dapper appearance” and the “stone age men and women who accepted her with trust and appreciation”, struck him as an odd example of symbiosis.
But his loyalties remained with Brown. The party split up. The two men left for Bernier Island, Daisy remained at Sandstone.
This was the first open breach between them. Again, Daisy gave no hint of it, writing cheerfully enough to the Chief Protector that “Brown and Watson have left. I am to follow on Thursday’s train.”
She was later to claim that she had in fact chosen this particular train in order to travel down with the men captured in the raid. Her reports, she said, prevented the death sentence from being passed on them.
If so, she was to pay dearly for her magnanimity. Her journey became a nightmare that began at Carnarvon. From here she was to take the boat to Bernier Island, but she found out, on her arrival, that Henrietta, the captain, was sleeping off a drunken spree from which no power on earth could wake him.
Daisy was forced to wait. The town, filled with squatters celebrating the yearly race meeting, was as disorderly as Broome and offered no accommodation at all. For one night, at least, she had to sleep on a table top. When it did sail, the Shark ran into the tail of a “cockeye bob” and the lugger heaved its way over stormtossed seas, taking a record thirty-five hours in the process. She arrived seasick and exhausted, blaming Brown for her vicissitudes.
In the meantime the two men were well established in their tents, basking in tropical sun on the sandhills of Bernier Island. In his first novel, Where Bonds Are Loosed, Grant Watson described the conditions under which they lived.
The island, about eighteen miles long and never more than a mile in width, was hot by day but cooled by sea breezes at night. Tent life, however, was prevented from being idyllic by the ants, persistent enough to devour underpants or even toenails. To keep them at bay, their nests had to be dug out and filled with hot ashes.
The hospital itself consisted of three walls of tarred canvas and a corrugated iron roof. In its ten beds were “broken and helpless pieces of humanity who lay still all day and looked out across the bleak expanse of sand dunes under which they were destined to be buried.” The scientists carried out their investigations in an atmosphere heavy with death and crackling with tensions. Between the doctor—a young man “more interested in spirochetes than in suffering men”—and the stockman, a vendetta was being fought. They had been seen to stalk each other across the dunes, rifles cocked.
Shortly after Daisy’s arrival on 11th December, they crossed to Dorre Island to celebrate Christmas in retreat from a tornado. This time Daisy experienced the full force of a “cockeye bob”. The women convalescents were tumbled along the sand dunes. The hospital roof was torn away. Her tent was cut to ribbons and she sent an urgent request for a new one.
In the meantime, she wrote, she had been given hospitality by the “devoted medical staff, so much loved by the patients”.
Nothing provides a clearer indication of her change of attitude over the years than her contrasting reports on these “Lock” hospitals, the Government’s misguided attempt to put an end to the venereal disease that was spreading with frightening rapidity among the ranks of the Aborigines.
Acting in their capacity of Protectors, police officers were empowered to examine women as well as men for signs of the affliction. After enduring this humiliation, sufferers were then neck-chained and transported by camel buggy to Carnarvon. Their bodies were very often rotten with sores, suppurating and fly-blown, and many died before they reached the shore hospital at Carnarvon. Those who survived were shipped to Bernier and Dorre, the men to the first, women to the second. In his novel, Grant Watson has left us a horrifying account of this method of transportation as he saw it:
“All the hatches were open, and in the shallow hold were standing some forty natives, pressed close together, their heads just coming above the level of the deck. They looked miserable and suffering pieces of humanity and from their close packed bodies came a pungent odour which permeated the whole boat.”
“The horrors of Dorre and Bernier unnerve me yet,” Daisy wrote in The Passing of the Aborigines. “. . . To question the poor shuddering souls of these doomed exiles was slow work and saddening. Through unaccustomed frequent hot baths, their withered sensitive skins, never cleansed in their natural state save by grease and fresh air, became like tissue paper and parted horribly from the flesh.
“There was no ray of brightness, no gleam of hope.
“In death itself they could find no sanctuary, for they believed that their souls, when they left the poor broken bodies, would be orphaned in a strange ground.”
So she could write when, after twenty-five years, she looked back on the islands. By then she was “thinking black”. But at the time when she stayed on Bernier and Dorre she was still the Government representative, whose duty it was to write objective reports for the benefit of the Chief Protector.
“The work is extremely satisfactory,” she told him, “the women being generally very willing to afford all the information required of them. I have visited the camps of the outpatients several times and found the occupants pretty contented with their position.” At the Carnarvon hospital, “All looked cheerful and happy.”
The only hint she gave of the misery she was later to describe was by her request to act as “postman” or message-bearer between islands.
The Aboriginal had no written language. His “letters” were bamburu, short sticks on which were carved pictorial messages. When Daisy crossed from Dorre Island to the mainland, she carried some of these with her.
“I think these little messages and my reports of the sick natives and their friends will bring kindlier thoughts about the Islands, which to many of them do not now seem so far away nor so gruesome,” she wrote.
Although Brown had extended her period of service, he had also taken the precaution of dividing the work, and Daisy was free to come and go as she pleased. Permission to carry the bamburu was granted, but at the same time she received a stern warning about the limitations by which she must abide in handing out rations.
No bills would be honoured, the Chief Protector warned, except for the list already authorized. She pleaded the case for greater liberality as her “little presents” promoted goodwill. Besides, “one woman on the ration is old and deaf, another is blind. Some have their sans and husbands on the Islands.” Wherever possible, she assured him, “those who can work come into town daily and wash, or chop wood.”
Her appeals were ignored. The warnings grew sterner. But as compensation for official disapproval was the growing affection of her black friends.
“All those whom I had previously met amongst them rushed over to the buggy to greet me. The diseased natives and their women do not avoid me,” she reported with pride.
On 14th April 1911, six months to the day after their departure, Daisy returned to Perth. On the strength of McKay’s donation Brown went north again, this time with two men, his destination “inland from Carnarvon”. Daisy returned to her old camp in the Murchison Bush. The decision to split up had restored her good spirits. She was reported as “brimming over with enthusiasm”; and that, “notwithstanding the loss of weight of something like a stone, she had nothing to say concerning the privations and hardships which must have been endured but spoke only of the work that Mr Brown and she had done and of what it was hoped to do.... As a student of the aboriginal races of the State, Mrs Bates has perhaps no compeer, and yet she herself acknowledges that she has still so much to learn in the matter.”
The pupil was still paying homage to the master. In view of . their differences, this showed a magnanimity that the master did not show towards his pupil. He did, however, utilize a press interview to make known his hope that “the Australian Government would follow Canada’s example and establish a department of Ethnology.”
“For that work,” he pointed out, “[the Canadians] have made a grant of over £800 a year.” This left Australia as “practically the only place which has not a department of that kind”.
The Government took the hint but was slow to realize it. It was more than a decade later before a Chair of Anthropology was created at Sydney University. It was offered to Radcliffe-Brown.
Daisy’s explanation for her return to the bush had nothing to do with ethnology. “The dear people, I simply love them,” she said. “They are just simple children and I would do anything in the world I could to help them.”
Her life resumed a now familiar pattern. She moved from camp to camp, filled in her vocabularies, recorded fragments of legends, noted customs, nursed the sick and comforted the bereaved.
About her book her mind was at rest. One copy remained with Andrew Lang in England. The other was with RadcliffeBrown. Publication had been promised. The raw material that she had taken down by word of mouth would emerge in the pattern of scholarship. Recognition would be hers.
In twelve short months her hopes dissolved. In July 1912 Andrew Lang died. A Labour Party was in power and Brown was on the high seas, on his way back to England and without her MS.
In a letter to Mathew, dated 5th September 1912, Daisy filled in the unhappy details:
Dr. Andrew Lang had a copy of the book in typed MS. and Macmillans say they have only received portions of it from Dr. Lang’s executors. The late Government handed over the only copy I had to Brown and that was mutilated beyond recovery. The present Government has relieved Brown of the responsibility of publishing the book, returns it to me, but will not pay for its publication. . . . Mr Fraser had promised free copies of the book to several hundred contributors on the assumption that it was to be published by the Government. Mr. Brown could not fulfil these promises if the book was to be published by the Cambridge Press ... and so the Government released Mr. Brown from his undertaking and has given me the MS., but the mutilated portions are useless.... I told Mr. Fraser I feared the whole thing would have to be rewritten and his reply was “Oh Lud!”
There was more to the story. Perhaps in defence of his “mutilations”, Brown had showed her a letter written to him by Andrew Lang in which Lang had said that “a red pencil would be needed in [Daisy’s] long and wandering work”. Outraged, she had written at once to Lang, who broke off relations with Brown but did not deny the charge. After Lang’s death Professor Marett of Oxford agreed to take over the job of revision and Daisy decided to take her chance on a separate publication. Brown agreed not to use her material but the manuscript he returned was still in the process of revision and the one in England incomplete.
Her chances of publication were, literally, in ribbons, and Daisy’s final comment to Mathew shows that even her apparently invincible optimism had suffered defeat.
“I had hoped to have been able to go home, but alas! That is another disappointment and as there are so many others I won’t dwell any more upon them.”
Instead she replaced one ambition with another.
The expedition had deprived her of academic laurels but had led to success of a different kind. Her bitter disappointment at the hands of the whites coincided with her total acceptance by the blacks. She understood their needs. As an official representative she could fulfil them.
The first woman to be included in an Australian scientific expedition should be eligible as the first woman Chief Protector of Aborigines.
To achieve such a position she would be up against the prejudice of men who regarded leadership as their right. Daisy decided that her job was to convince them that she would be no rival in their field; that they needed a woman as a doctor needed a nurse.
“The virus of research” remained her chief preoccupation but, though she did not know it, the story of her book had reached its sad and tattered conclusion.
The story of “the life that was service” had begun.