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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kingston, South Australia

The Big Lobster

Kingston Jetty

Lighthouse, circa 1872

Kingston is lobster country and is the home of the Big Lobster. Not far from here the Maria, built in Dublin in 1823 foundered - she left Port Adelaide for Hobart on 26th June 1840 and went down somewhere near Coorong. Amazingly, all 26 passengers on board, including women and children, somehow made it safely to shore and headed for Adelaide on foot, 180 kilometres away.

Without the help of the Aboriginal Ngarrindjeri people, they would have surely perished. They agreed to help them cross the land and provided food, water and shelter.

Two years earlier, another ship the Fanny was also wrecked in the same area and the survivors had also been helped to safety by the Ngarrindjeri. In fact the Captain of the ship praised their rescuers highly and said.

"...during our stay amongst them , which was about seven weeks, they at all times evinced the greatest of friendship."

But something went horribly wrong. Word was sent to Adelaide that the entire party had been murdered by the natives and a Mr Pullen was sent to investigate. When they made contact with the tribe, they took him to a place where all the bodies lay, including those of the women and children and he were appalled.

But there was another side to the story. The Ngarrindgeri said that members of the party had continually made sexual advances to young Ngarrindgeri women which was strictly forbidden and after many warnings, they killed all the survivors.

Governor Gawler went beserk and sent Pullen and a Major O'Halloran, 12 police, 11 sailors and 3 Aborigines to capture those responsible. O'Halloran took 65 prisoners on August 22nd 1840 and in a kangaroo court, sentenced two men to death. A gallows was swiftly constructed and they were hanged.

That's when the debate started. The Governor was eventually recalled to England because it was decided that he had contravened British justice by not giving to two prisoners a proper trial.

The wreck of the Maria has never been found.