Saturday, May 26, 2007

that Rottnest colour

More Sketchbook gold: the island's early buildings and their origin.

"Nowhere else in Australia, except in Tasmania, will you find such a complete surviving colonial settlement as Rottnest. Yes, with its long, yellow-ochre sea-wall and squat, blockhouse like cottages overshadowed by huge, dark Moreton Bay fig trees, it looks more like a Spanish military outpost than anything of Australian origin."

This is, say the Sketchbook, thanks to Henry Vincent, a "tough old soldier from Wellington's wars" who went from being Fremantle Prison jailer to Rotto in 1839.

"Apart from the Hostel - completed in 1881 by a contractor for a European Boys Reformatory - Vincent built all the crude, picturesque old cottages, walls, buttresses, and stairways that give Rottnest its unique character."

Vincent's workers were, of course, Aboriginal prisoners. In one of his monthly reports to Government House he said they were: "Getten stan and lime, Belden barn, garden, cotten fier wood and fishen."

Readers of another great Rotto book, 'All The News In A Flash', will recall author John Moynihan quoting an excerpt from a Vincent letter to the Colonial Secretary's Office:

"Sir, I am out of flour non to issue to solgers nor men I served out the last of my one stock this morning I light one fire Monde night Wensde two fires..."

"Vincent's spelling and punctuation left much to be desired," Moynihan noted.

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