Massacre at the Island of Marree
We have been favoured by Mr. Alexander, mate of the Magnet, with the following account of the taking of the cutter Sisters, Captain Brend, an old trader from this port:
Jan 31, 1844: Came to anchor off the N.W. end of Liffou, one of the Loyalty Islands. A number of natives, as usual, swam off to the vessel. They informed us that a ship had lately been taken, and the greater part of the crew massacred by the natives, at the island of Marree. Captain Lewis having arranged with the chief here to cut wood in our absence, we determined upon immediately proceeding to Marree, and endeavouring to rescue the remainder of the crew, and what property might not have been destroyed. We accordingly weighed and with a favourable wind reached the place by noon the following day. About four P.M. a canoe came alongside with a Tongataboo missionary and three other men that had just arrived (per canoe) from the south-east end of Liffou. The information we got from them was, that all hands had been killed and the vessel sunk ; but that her sails, rope trade, &c., were ashore in a hole of a rock abreast of where she went down. We also understood from them, that another vessel had either been taken or wrecked at or near the Isle of Pines ; that the white men formerly belonging to her had come over to this island in a boat, and were still living ashore, and said if ; we would wait until the next day they would bring them on board - we accordingly did. So about midday the same men came alongside, having brought one of the white men with them - the chief had detained the other.
The, account he gave of himself was as follows: he sailed from London in Sep last, in the brig Janet, of Dumbarton, Captain Gorman, on an intended voyage to the South Sea Islands, to procure sandal-wood and tortoise-shell, but was wrecked upon the southern reef of Caledonia, on the 14th of Dec. Seven of the crew perished with the wreck : the other seven (in all fourteen in number) saved themselves in one of the boats, and landed the fifth day upon the Isle of Pines. Remaining there but a short time, they set sail; anticipating "to fetch some other island inhabited by a more civilized race of people, but unfortunately made Marree,
They had not been long here before the natives destroyed their boat, and killed five of them. Since that period he (William Barlow), and his shipmate (William Jones), had been, treated with the greatest kindness and humanity, and had now mutually agreed to remain on the island until such time as they can leave together, which he said there was no probability of doing at present, being so closely watched by the natives, who are bent upon, keeping them.
We inquired if he knew any;thing concerning the vessel that had lately been taken by the natives at this place ; he answered in the negative, but said there was a great many things distributed among them, all sorts of trade, clothing, mathematical instruments, &c. ; that a whale and jolly boat, manned with natives, left the island for Liffou a few days previous, having on board a great many different articles, among the lot a chronometer, but did not know how they came by them. He said they were all too frightened to come near us ; that when we stood rather close inshore, they left the beach, and went and hid themselves in the bush. After supplying him with a few necessaries he stood in need of, they all returned on shore. As we could gain no further information as to the fate of the unfortunate vessel, we determined upon standing over to the S.E. end of Liffou, and endeavour to learn the particulars from Bulla, the chief of the tribe who inhabit that part of the island. About 7 a.m., the next day, a canoe came alongside from Bulla's with seven natives and the white man, (who has been upon the island for the last two years). From him we have the full particulars of the melancholy catastrophe of the Sisters cutter, Capt. Brend.
It appears that a number of both sexes were onboard previous to the commencement of the fray ; that while the crew, consisting of ten men, were busily occupied at their respective duties, and consequently unprepared for any sudden attack, they were severally seized round the middle by some of the natives, who held them while the rest despatched them with their clubs ; not one of them, I am sorry to add, escaped the dreadful massacre ; they then plundered her of everything, and set the hull on fire. As some of the property had been conveyed over to this island (Liffou), and strongly suspecting these people to have been accessory to the whole affair, we detained the chief's brother until the rest went ashore and brought off what things they had in their possession belonging to the cutter. They soon returned with the following articles : A chronometer, greatly injured, a jolly boat, a quadrant, some account books, and the log, written up to the 16th Dec.
Having received the aforesaid property, and time being so much an object with us, we allowed them to depart. We have a letter, given us by the white man, that was sent him from the two men at Marree, in which it states they were cast away in the ship Thetis, bound to Canton, being quite a different story to what one of them imposed upon us, and concluded by saying he should know more of their history by-and-bye. Taking into consideration the miserable and anxious situation in which they are placed, and the manner in which he evaded every proposition of making their escape, and getting onboard when told we were bound to Sydney, I am convinced it must be something more than common to deter them from changing their condition when such an opportunity offered. Perhaps I might be censured for allowing my suspicion to go so far, especially upon unfortunate men, yet I cannot but think they have either been engaged in taking some vessel out of the hands of the master and lost her, or are bolters from Norfolk Island.
Thirty-seven white-men have been killed by the natives of Marree within the last two years - thirty-two out of that number within the last six months.
G. F. ALEXANDER,
Mate of the Magnet.
Source: The Shipping Gazette & Sydney General Trade List for Saturday 23 Mar, 1844
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