Site NameWirmbrandt and Rembrandt Rocks
This massacre is part of a group of massacres
Aboriginal Place NameAnmatjere
Language GroupAnmatyerr
Present State/TerritoryNT
Colony/State/Territory at the timeSA
Police DistrictAlice Springs
DateBetween 7 Aug 1884 and 7 Sep 1884
Attack TimeDay
VictimsAboriginal People
Victim DescriptionsWarrior(s)
Victims Killed100
Victims Killed NotesDead included Slim Jim, Boko, Clubfoot and Jimmy Mullins, allegedly shot by Trackers.
Attacker DescriptionsMounted Police
Attackers Killed0
Attackers Killed Notes
Weapons UsedFirearm(s), Spear(s)
NarrativeSee also Attack Gap and Blackfellows Bones Bore massacres. Traynor (2016, pp 120-121) recorded that Harry Figg (stockman) and Thomas Coombes (cook) were attacked at Anna's Reservoir Homestead, which was owned by the Willowie Pastoral Company headed up by William (Billy) Coulthard. Attackers crept into Coombes' room and speared him eight times then set the roof alight. Figg emerged from the homestead, shooting four dead, before being speared between the shoulders. Both wounded and badly burnt, they escaped to a stock camp 50 miles away and survived. Constable William Willshire and Constable Charlie Brookes, two Aboriginal trackers and four volunteers (Alec Ross, Harry Price, Summard and McBeth) went in pursuit, reporting they had shot dead four Anmatjere men. Official deaths were eight; Kimber (10 Sept 2003) reported the number to be 15. Morrison (20 Sept 1884) refers to part of the reprisal as the Blackfellow Bones Hill Massacre. The original attack was carried out by Anmatjere people in an attempt to drive colonists away from their land. Charles Perkins (1975, p19) wrote: ‘The white station owners would go on regular hunts for Aborigines. “Instead of having a kangaroo hunt today, we’ll have an Aboriginal hunt.” They would go out and shoot them, men, women and children. My mother saw this happen as a girl. There are two good examples amongst the many hundreds that one could choose to illustrate the atrocities that were carried out by white society through the police. A massacre took place at an area called “Blackfellows Bones” near Mt Riddock (just north of Alice Springs) which involved the shooting of Aborigines by police. The people who were involved were mainly from Mum’s own family, including her mother, her mother’s sister, and a number of aunts and uncles. Mum’s mother was very young at that time. She managed to escape but her sister was captured. An Aboriginal mother was shot while still bearing a child and carrying another child in her arms. An Aboriginal boy was shot next to her also. There were an unknown number of Aboriginal people killed in this incident which was in retaliation for cattle which were speared by some other Aboriginal people in another area. This incident occurred some time before 1914 and is still vivid in the memory of the old people’. Sid Stanes (Lonsdale Collection, Reel 25 side 1, pb 28), an old cattleman, recalled in an oral history interview: ‘When they killed Harry Figg out there, they brought all the stock in from Frew River, The Reservoir, The Stirling, they shot a lot too. [Mounted Constable Erwein] Wurmbrandt shot a lot of those blacks. He was shooting them wholesale and he was recalled and Cowle took his place’. Another part of the reprisal took place ‘off the 30 Mile to a rock on the bottom end of Napperby [Station]’ according to Harry Tilmouth (Trish Lonsdale Collection NTRS 3414/P1, p 10). He said: ‘This rock is now called Rembrandt's Rock but was originally named Wurmbrandt's Rock because Mounted Constable Wurmbrand ‘was a pretty savage chap and that is where the turnout took place, I believe’. Researcher’s note: there are two rocks in the same area, both incorrectly spelt: (1) Wirmbrandt Rock and (2) Rembrandt Rock.
SourcesTraynor 2016; Kimber, D. 10 September, 2003, Alice Springs News ; Nettelbeck & Foster 2007, p 16; Wilson 2000, p 272; Morrison ; Adelaide Observer, September 20, 1884 ; NTTG, October 25, 1884, p2 ; Perkins 1975; NT Archives Service NTRS 3414/Part 1 – Sid Stanes, Lonsdale Collection Reel 25, side 1; NTRS 3414 – Reel 26, side 1 - Harry Tilmouth; Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, 2002 . (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating***