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Ann Catherine (sometimes Ann Sophia) EVANS / Farmer / Watson
(By Dr Cyril Bryan)
I have added this article to the site as it gives an insight into early times.
A tribute to a soldiers wife.
The first white woman to set foot in Perth
Back to FARMER Thomas
Supplied by Peter Watson
Reproduction of an article by Dr Cyril Bryan (1884 - 1940) p 7-12 from a file held by Des Watson 5 Nov 2003
My Great Grandmother
(By Dr Cyril Bryan)
My Great-grandmother Ann Farmer was ever a figure of romance in my youthful eyes, and the passing of the years has only succeeded in making her even more of a romantic figure, although such a description would I am sure only bring a smile to her face could she hear it. But that is always the way with the real figures of romance. For the essence of romance is to be unconscious of performing anything out of the ordinary; they see what is to be done and they do it undaunted by obstacles, undeterred by what would halt or affright the ordinary person.
She was of course dead long before I was born, but for all that, she went on living for me in the
conversation of my elders, and she seemed actually to speak to me from a tiny photograph I had purloined from out of my mother's private drawer in a narrow jarrah chest-of-drawers, the likes of which have vanished before the stained threeply gimcrack furniture of today. Away back in the Eighteen Sixties the photograph had been taken here in Perth, and it was doubly precious to me since my Great-grandmothers hand rested on my mother's shoulder, then a sweet child of seven or so and her favourite grandchild, who stood so demurely but so naturally unselfconscious by her side.(there are 2 photos which could fit this description, which one is it - the one with her right hand on the child is in the file with the article. )
Great-grandmother Farmer was the first white woman to set foot in Perth, or rather what was two months
later to become Perth, for she accompanied her husband, Thomas farmer of His majesty's 63 rd Regiment of Foot, when that first handful soldiers was lowered over the side of HMS Sulphur into the ship's boat and rowed up the River Swan on that historic first voyage to prepare a settlement for the reception of the Parmelia' s passengers. But you will not find her name in any of those lists that are monotonously copied one from another in the books that purport to tell the early story of Western Australia. Such lists only give the names of what are called the first settlers to come to the Swan River Settlement, and they are confined to the passengers on the hired transport Parmelia.
Unprinted there the names, and ignored the fact that the real pioneers of the Colony and of the town of
Perth were the soldiers and their wives who were huddled up on HMS Sulphur, the warship which escorted Governor Stirling and the Parmelia party, though it is plain that they had the honour to be the very first to set foot on the mainland of Western Australia. They were in Perth two months before Perth was Perth, and they were in reality old inhabitants of Perth, well established in their quarters between barrack Street and Pier Street months before the Parmelia people were finally transferred from Garden Island to the mainland.
It is the strangest thing that for over a century the Sulphur's compliment has been ignored. Some of
course could not be ignored. Perth's Godmother for example, Mrs Dance, wife of Commander Dance who, when Mrs Stirling could not be enticed from Garden Island, was rowed up the Swan to go down in history as the lady who laid the foundation of the city by putting an axe to the tree, the felling of which heralded the birth of Perth; Captain Irwin who as Military Commander and thrice Lieutenant Governor left his name indelibly impressed on Perth and on the Colony; Dr Collie, Surgeon of the Sulphur, and Lieutenant Preston, one of the officers, who wrote their names along the Collie and Preston Rivers; Ensign Dale and Lieutenant Erskine of the 63rd regiment who put York and the river Avon on the map; Dr Milligan, also of the 63rd regiment and the first Surgeon to the Forces, honoured by Governor Stirling as the first (along with Irwin) to have his name commemorated by a street in the infant city.
Even the good ship Sulphur itself is relegated to a back seat, yet for three years after the foundation of the
Colony it explored its coasts, while in June 1832 it saved the inhabitants from starvation by bringing provisions from India in the very nick of time. My earliest memories are centred in the Sulphur, and in the soldiers and their families who sailed in her, and I looked with the greatest awe on my Grand-uncle Tom Farmer who, as a boy of two, had made on her that, to me, pre-historic journey. He had glided into my life as quietly and unobtrusively as all uncles and grand-uncles glide into any child\rquote s life, and I do not know that I regarded him as anything other than an amiable kindly looking old gentleman until one day I heard the remark made quite casually that he had been the first white boy in Perth.
I can still analyse my reaction to that remark even after all these years. I was amazed, so much so that I
felt dazed. First there was the very idea that Grand-uncle Tom Farmer had even been a boy. That took some believing and I don\rquote t know if I ever quite swallowed it. And the - the first white boy in Perth! Well that was something that I was almost able to visualise. At any rate, after I had recovered from the stupor that the news cast me into I looked around Perth and tried to imagine it before there were any houses. It was a task beyond me unless we were on one of our expeditions into the bush. Then I would find myself glancing here and there and saying to myself that it must have been just like this\ when Tom Farmer came here as a boy of two. But childish and youthful memories are often frail things on which to base reliable recollections, and all my contact with Grand-uncle had been made before I was six years of age; for he died in 1891. Grown to manhood, I had the melancholy satisfaction of having most of my childish memories confirmed and strengthened, or having my doubts cleared up, of having forgotten scraps summoned back out of the oblivion into which they had fallen: melancholy satisfaction I repeat, since it was from the lips of my Grandmother in the last hours of her long and unselfish life that confirmation came, and came so naturally in her quiet gentle manner. I can see her now propped up in her bed on the verandah of my mother's home in Mount Lawley, facing the River Swan which she regarded so lovingly and waiting patiently for that last call which was even then on the way.
One afternoon I sat and talked with her of many things when suddenly an aeroplane rose from across the
river and in a few seconds had passed over our heads. She watched it's flight and I thought she sighed. I put out my hand and touched hers. I saw the trains come, she whispered softly, and the steamships and the motor cars. And now I have lived to see people fly over the land
I watched her as her eyes turned again to the River and travelled up it and across it to the Penninsula, as
we call that tongue of land that juts out into the Swan at Maylands. Going back to your birthplace Grandmother? I said at last half jokingly, for it was on the Penninsula that she had been born a few months after Queen Victoria came to the throne, and only eight years after the Colony itself had been founded.Tell me about your early days (I went on) and about Great grandmother and my Grand uncles and - well tell me about the early days. I concluded lamely, for she was still looking at the Penninsula and I thought she was not listening. But she was and after a time spoke of those days, not in one continuous story but in patches as the memories came to her, and as I questioned her she saw herself again as in a glass but held some seventy years away, yet none the less clearly for all that." My mother. " She told me, That is, your Great-grandmother was Anne Catherine Evans and she was born in Merioneth in Wales in 1808. She was nineteen when her father Dr Evans married again, but she did not take to her step-mother and like many another girl in such circumstances she left home, determined to make her own living. She went to London and almost at once met Thomas Farmer.
He was a young man of her own age who had also gone to London to make his fortune. But they fell in love
and all their plans were altered. He wanted to get married immediately instead of waiting years until he had made his fortune. So he joined the army and was drafted to the 63 rd Regiment. This was in 1826. The marriage follows at once, and the next year your Grand-uncle Thomas Farmer, on whose knee you often sat and whom you remember was born at Chatham. A year later another son William was born, and just then Thomas Farmer was chosen as one of the party from the 63 rd Regiment to go to the new Swan River Settlement as it was called. A few months later, at the end of 1828, your Great-grandmother with her two children Thomas and William embarked with her husband on HMS Sulphur, the warship which was chosen to escort the Parmelia carrying Governor Stirling and his first party of emigrants to the Colony.
You never hear people talking about the Sulphur now. It is all the Parmelia. But those who came on the
Sulphur played even a greater part in the Colony' s first beginnings. They were the first to land at Fremantle and to come up to Perth, and they were living here under the very greatest hardships for months before the Parmelia\' s passengers left Garden Island for the mainland. The soldiers and their wives were the actual pioneers of Perth! They were the first and only inhabitants for several months: and they had cleared much of the bush and marked out the roads before any civilian population came. Even the officials, except Mr Roe and the surveyors, remained at Garden Island till the soldiers had made Perth ready for them.
The voyage from England to Fremantle was a very dreadful one, for everyone was so cooped up on the
Sulphur that they could hardly move. But they had to put up with it for six months, though they suffered torments. In addition the Sulphur was in a bad state, and couldn' t keep up with the Parmelia which arrived here six days before the warship. However they were in plenty of time to found the new Colony, for although HMS Challenger under Captain Fremantle had been here for more than a month there were no preparations made for the colonists and they had to be landed on Garden Island where there was fresh water, and where Governor Stirling had planted a garden when he visited the Swan River in HMS Success several years before.
The people on the Sulphur were not landed on Garden Island but had to put up with another two weeks of
close confinement on the ship until Governor Stirling had explored the Swan River a little more carefully, seeking a site for the chief city of his new Colony. Then one day - it was June 16 1929 - orders came for the 63rd Regiment to go ashore. They were lowered into boats and landed at Fremantle where the sailors of the Challenger had erected a fort and still kept guard. Here the soldiers were paraded, the flag was hoisted again, and Captain Irwin read the Proclamation founding the new Colony and appointing Captain Stirling the first Lieutenant Governor.. One party of soldiers, they were all unmarried men, then took over the fort from the sailors, while the other soldiers with their wives and children were placed in the boats and, after being dragged over the bar at the entrance to the river, were rowed up the River Swan to what was to be Perth.
There was a pause.
No need to tell me why for I too was visualising the scene, the boats being pulled over the bar, the wavings and the shoutings from and to them as if it were a lengthy voyage they were going on, into the very heart of a savage land.
What a sight it must have been to them to see the wide stretches of the lovely river and the green along its
banks! And what thoughts must have raced through their minds as they went forward to found a new country! What thoughts indeed! I closed my eyes and conjured up the scene: those miles of the Swan River after it leaves the narrowish neck this side of Fremantle and bellies out into the bays and inlets in which it is so rich. I could see a ship' s boat creeping along slowly under the oars of the sailors in their old Naval rig; I could see the soldiers arguing with one another as soldiers naturally do, and I could see the women eagerly and excitedly pointing to this beauty splash and that, holding up their children to watch the swarms of black swans which swam so gracefully in their hundreds on the waters, or winged their way above or around the boat that must have puzzled them so sorely; and I could see them all, soldiers, sailors, women, children, watching out keenly for a glimpse of the black-men they had been told about, but seeing only the smoke spirals of a chain of fires along the skyline lit by natives as a signal to their fellows of the coming of the White Man.
Above all I seemed to watch them as they burst onto Melville Water and gasped their amazement, only to
gasp again as they swept through the narrows and Perth - although they did not know it - lay before them on the further shore a mile away. But once again I was roused from my dreams by that gentle voice.
The boat came to a stop in the shallow water which lapped the shore where the mounted police had their
stables at the foot of the present Supreme Court, and the women and children were carried on to dry land by the sailors and soldiers. Your Great grandmother was the first woman to be set ashore. She was carried by a sailor, while Thomas Farmer carried the two children, Thomas and William Farmer, who were the next to reach land. Imagine what it must have felt like to them to set foot on the solid earth again after all those six long terrible months cooped up on ship-board: And imagine the thoughts that must have come to them as they took that first quick wondering glance about them to see only the dense bush in the midst of which their homes were henceforth to be:
But there was little time for wondering and speculation. A rough track, worn by Captain Stirling on his
several landings there , led away up the hill, and following this for several hundred yards they came to a spot already marked for thei reception. Here a clearing soon opened before the axes of the soldiers, and the tents sprang up before sundown. Do you know where those first tents were erected? They stood just within the corner formed by Barrack Street with St George's Terrace, and it is still from this point, where Perth was first established, that the country is governed, for the Premier's office stands there today. And do you know also that the rough track that led there from the water's edge was the beginning of Pier Street? For Governor Stirling soon had a small pier erected as a landing stage where they had first come ashore, though the pier has long since disappeared, and that part of Pier Street is now enclosed within the grounds of Government House.
With tents as their homes these first soldier inhabitants and their wives had to be content until Governor
Stirling had finally decided where the chief city of the Settlement was to be. Right to the last he wavered between Point Heathcote and the present site, but at last after two long months in these primitive and rough conditions he made his decision, the soldiers were paraded, the Union Jack unfurled, Governor Stirling read a Proclamation, Mrs Dance put her axe to a tree which was then chopped down, the soldiers fired a volley, and Perth was born. It was August 12, 1829. The tree stood within that passageway in Barrack Street just south of the Town Hall, between what was the old Guard Room and the Treasury Buildings, but there is nothing there in the shape of tablet or stone to tell you of that historic ceremony.
From these first few tents, now that Perth has been definitely established, the town soon grew outwards in
every direction. But you can see that in its very beginning Perth was simply a soldier\'s camp. They lived in those tents at the north-east corner of St George's Terrace and Barrack Street until the first huts and, later, more substantial barracks were erected further up the hill towards the Town Hall, a Guard Room being erected actually on the corner of Hay Street, until with the erection of the Town Hall, forty years later, the soldier's Guard Room was shifted further down the hill again, where it must have been when you were a boy. This Guard Room was erected on the Town Hall corner on account of what is now the intersection of Hay and barrack Streets being the principal camping ground of the Blacks before the White Man came. From that spot high up the hill they found that they could signal in every direction, across the water to South Perth and Applecross, to Mounts bay Road and Mount Eliza, to the heights of the West and North and East Perth and thence to the Darling Ranges and beyond.
When the soldiers and their wives shifted to the barracks further up barrack Street, the Serjeants\rquote
quarters were erected at the corner of St George's Terrace and Barrack Street. This building remained there until the General Post Office was built there in the eighteen seventies. St George's Terrace was next marked out and cleared and the soldiers parade ground was formed facing the Terrace just to the east of the Serjeant's Quarters. It is still an open space covered with green grass but it is much higher than it used to be and many of the trees planted there by the Rev. Wittenoom have died off. He planted twelve there and they were called the twelve Apostles.
East again of the Barrack Ground was the Officer's Quarters. They were in tents at first, then mud
huts replaced them, but soon they built the old white-washed building that is still there. It had been used for all sorts of purposes ever since it ceased to be the Officer's Quarters. It was the General Post Office, the Police Headquarters when Colonel Phillips was Commissioner, and for a long time it was the bandroom of your father's band, the metropolitan Rifle Volunteers band.
Next to the Officer's Quarters was the Jail. The deanery is there now. It was in front of this jail that
the soldiers shot the native chief Midjigaroo during the early trouble with the Blacks in 1833. They also hanged some of the natives there, in some cases leaving their bodies hanging to the gibbet in chains as a terrible warning to the other Blacks.
The street next to the jail got it's name in the same way as Barrack Street, because it was simply
the continuation of the track which led straight down to the River where the first boat grounded and your Great grandmother was carried ashore. Governor Stirling soon erected a pier here, and a larger one was built later on. It was allowed to crumble away when the Barrack Street and William Street jetties were built. Pier Street was cut off at the Terrace when they built the present Government House. The first Government House was built near the present stable in the Government Domain. When I was a young woman they built the high stone wall alongside the river and cut off the Pier Street pier. The brick wall in the Terrace was not built until the Seventees, after the present Government House was built.
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Last revised: June 27, 2004.