Thursday, March 22, 2012


                  THE WRECK OF THE 
                   ‘CHARLES EATON
copyright R.J.Warren 2011-2012

The ‘Charles Eaton’ was a wood barque of 313 Tons that in August 1834, ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in far northern Australian waters. Most of the passengers and crew were got safely away on two rafts, which later became separated. Both rafts made it to islands in the area but except for five of the crew, who escaped in the only surviving boat sailed off to Batavia, natives killed all the adults including the mother of two very young boys, George and William D’Oyley. 

Only two cabin boys and the two very young D'Oyley children, belonging to a passenger [Captain D’Oyley of the Bengal Artillery and his wife] were kept alive. The cabin boys were John Ireland and a boy named John Sexton, the two children were George D’Oyley [7 years old] and his baby brother 2-year-old William.  Both boys witnessed the clubbing and beheading of their mother and father by the headhunters. George D’Oyley and William Sexton were separated from the other boys and taken to Darnley Island [Erub] where it is believed that they also, were later killed. A few years later, a large tortoise shell mask was found on Aureed Island decorated with forty-five human skulls. The skulls of white people made up seventeen of the dead and one was identified as that of Mrs. D’Oyley by a length of hair that had been driven into her skull by the force of a club blow. Almost all the skulls had suffered breakage caused by clubs, of the seventeen identified as not being native, only George D'Oyley's remains were undiscovered. There were two women, Mrs D'Oyley and her Indian children's nurse, both were killed along with all the adult males.

John Ireland and the young William D’Oyley were taken to Boydang Island where their captors fell in with natives from Murray Island. A couple from that place, [Mer] adopted John Ireland and William D’Oyley and they lived there for almost two years before being rescued by HM Schooner ‘Isabella’. Captain Charles M. Lewis commanded this vessel while searching for survivors from the ‘Charles Eaton’. After being told of surviving white children being seen by the crew of the convict ship ‘Mangles’ while that vessel was trading for Tortoise shell, the ‘Isabella’ proceeded out to try and rescue the boys. Captain Carr of the ‘Mangles’ had reported the sighting to officials when he arrived at Kupang, Timor. Although the boys were in good health, the crew of the ‘Isabella’ were all saddened at the thought of what the boys had seen and experienced in their almost two years among headhunters. Young William D’Oyley [now aged four] did not want to leave the arms of his adoptive mother and could only speak the native dialect. It took John Ireland a few days before he could answer questions without dropping the odd native word in where he had forgotten the English equivalent. Eventually both boys were returned to relatives in England.

              THE RESCUE OF TIMOR JOE.
The schooner ‘Isabella’ [from above] was eventually sold to a private concern and was later involved in the rescue of ‘Timor Joe’ who was castaway on Timor Laut when only 15 years old. This boy was rescued when Captain Thomas Watson of the ‘Isabella’, which at the time of this rescue was known as ‘Essington’, devised a plan to get the boy away from the natives who were known to be hiding him every time a vessel stopped at Timor Laut 

Captain Watson laid out all the gifts on a blanket and placed a mat on the hatch cover near a heavy iron latch, he invited one of the main chiefs to come aboard and see the gifts that he had laid out. The chief was impressed and Captain Watson brought a few more items out until finally, he asked for a pair of manacles to be handed to him. Watson then placed one of the manacle ends on his own leg and explained to the chieftain, that it was a leg band that would enhance the chiefs personal beauty.

The chief agreed and Watson placed one end on the chief’s leg and the other he attached to the iron latch and so captured the headman. This done, Watson ordered the chief to have the white boy brought aboard or he would hang him. The chief tried to delay proceedings by telling Captain Watson that the boy was inland and it would take several hours to find him. Watson told him to have the boy brought to the schooner in the morning and the little vessel lay out to sea for the night. The schooner returned in the morning and although the natives wanted to fight, the boy was brought and the exchange was made. Watson honored his agreement with the natives and gave them the gifts he had promised. 

Timor Joe was captured by natives in 1824 when it is believed he was accidentally left behind by his ship, he was rescued in March 1839; he went on to live at Williamstown in Victoria until he passed away in 1877. He had originally been a member of the ship ‘Stedcombe’ before becoming a prisoner of the natives, Master of the "Stedcombe": Captain Barnes, Masters mate Bastell.

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