Site Name Minderoo,
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Thalanyji
Colony WA
Present State/Territory WA
Police District Roebourne - Pilbara region
Latitude -21.996
Longitude 115.042
Date Between 6 Jul 1869 and 31 Jul 1869
Attack Time
Victims Aboriginal People
Victims Killed 20
Victims Killed Notes 20-50
Attackers Colonisers: Settlers
Attackers Killed 1
Attackers Killed Notes Farquar McRae, ET Hooley, Richmond Thatcher
Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Winchesters, Pistols
Narrative After Shepherd William Griffiths was speared by Thalangi people and his body ‘obliterated’ near the Ashburton River. Farquar McRae organised a small punitive party to join five other white men led by Edward Timothy 'E.T'. Hooley assisted by magistrate Robert Sholl. They were R. Sholl, W. Shenton, TR Thatcher, EJ Kelsh and ‘native assistant’ Ben. Between 10 July and 15 July they battled several groups the last being at the junction of the Henry and Ashburton Rivers. This poem describing the incidents lay in a Forrest Brothers safe for over sixty years before being published in the 1930s in the Western Mail.
The Battle of Minderoo
by ‘Tien Tsin’, August, 1869. [Poem likely written by Richard Thatcher who was on the punitive expedition]
‘Twas Sabbath morn the rising sun had not appeared in view
But day contested with the night at beauteous Minderoo
The cork bark shed a sweet perfume the wild Ashburton pea
Made sweeter still the morning air and birds sang merrily
What means this band of armed men who ride on fiery steeds?
What mission brings them thus abroad that so much caution needs
No pannicans nor hobbled chains upon their saddles tied
They seem to hold their very breath as o’er the plain they ride
How slowly and how silently they’re riding neck and neck
The impatient neighing of a steed it’s rider soon doth check
The sun shows in the Eastern sky illumining the scene
And lighting up the thick snake bush with leaves of heavy green
The startled emu o’er the plain is quickly lost to view
And from the gums with noisy screams there flies the cockatoo
A smile comes oe’r the leaders face a smile that seems to show
He feels that joy a warrior feels who meets a worthy foe
For there some hundred yards ahead the dimly burning fire
Betrays the presence of the foes to meet whom he desires—
A foe both treacherous and cruel with cunning like to theirs
He means now to surround their camp and take them unawares—
They see the troop and starting up with wild discordant cries
They yell like fiends and on the whites intimidation try
They little know that leader bold who fought in many a field
With stern commanding voice he cries on every man to yield
They answer with their fighting spears most cruelly barbed in rows
With cooeys and with club they try to disconcert their foes
Now Hooley had that barbed spear but one inch nearer been
But Heaven above—your wife and child you never more had seen
Well shot bold Bob: that warrior his earthly course had run
He’ll never throw another spear nor view the setting sun
Bold trooper Vincent’s restive steed doth rear with all his force
He only asks to fight on foot if one will hold his horse
Now Ensign Willie’s mare doth try from off the field to bolt
She kicks and rears but still Will lets them taste his navy colt
McRae confronts the dusky foe upon his well trained steed
He fears no spears alike defies the coyles’ whirling force
An ugly smile upon his face most dangerous to see
Descended evidently from a Scottish ancestry—
His reins hang loosely on his arm his rifle grasped tight
He sits just like one carved in stone and cooly takes a sight
The leader of the savages the white man’s arms defies—
Encouraging his followers with yells and shouts and cries
His left hand grasped a painted shield his right his spears and rest
To strike the horses of the foe he bids them do their best—
But suddenly his shield is dropped his spears are scattered round
With loud despairing cry of rage he drops upon the ground
A bullet from McRaes good piece has gone right through his brain
He never more will use that shield nor throw those spears again
Hurrah: cries Thatcher with delight that shot was worth a crown
Another warrior bites the dust the boldest of them down
Their leader gone and falling fast for mercy then they pray
And send the prettiest women out to plead with bold McRae
That flinty hearted champion the damsels proudly eyes
He heeds not their entreating looks nor cares about their sighs
Send out the old men and the boys we only fight with men
Throw down your arms unship your spears we’ll talk of quarter then
They send out boys and aged men the nuncaberrys stay
And fight like wolves or tigers till they’re vanquished by McRae
And there they lie upon the plain a ghastly sight to view
Their life blood stains the clayey soil of beauteous Minderoo—
By murdering natives on that plain a lesson may be read
Whoso sheddeth blood of man by man shall his be shed.
(Sunday Times 20 October 1918:8)
Sources Sholl to Colonial Secretary 12 June 1869, CSR 647-66 SRWA; Forrest 1996; Gifford 2018:89-94; The Sunday Times, 20 October 1918: 8 (Sources PDF)
Corroboration Rating ***