Excerpts from The History of Brighton by Weston Bate 1841 – 1851
An abundance of fish seems to have been the attraction for the numerous (white) families on the foreshore. The capsize of a fisherman’s boat and the loss of its crew was conjectured in 1843, when in rough weather several schools are schnappers strung together were thrown up on the beach at Brighton. Several scores of schnapper is good fishing by present-day standards. Another reference to the abundance of fish is giving in 1853 when the Argus reported from Brighton that sharks had chased the school of “herrings” into the beach in such numbers that the inhabitants are taking them up in pales. The blacks often came by day and night wading and spearing.
A prize fight in the vicinity of Brighton in 1849 is further evidence of the roughness of things, It was broken up by police, although a leader of the assembled mobs of vagabonds called on his followers to “pitch into the —- traps”. They had not yet earned the Goldfields titles of Joe’s. Drunken Aborigines provided a gladiatorial display in keeping with the setting when members of the Port Phillip and Gippsland tribes fought in Brighton later in 1849. The Argus accused an unnamed publican of supplying them and Constable Draper made quite a story of the event including 2 deaths among the casualties. The Argus roundly condemned as an exaggeration.
There are other pitiful stories told of the decay of aboriginal Life, the descent of the pure primitive to civilised degradation, the elevation of uncomprehending white men to the roles of judges and masters.
Inclusion of a short description by one Brighton settler Porter
There are plenty of blacks here, which visit us very often. but they are very simple and they don’t do any barbarous murders as the other tribes will a 100 or 200 miles up the bush. One of our shipmates stuck up his cap one-day about 40 yards distance and four or five of them jumped up with there spears as if it were their enemy come to attack them and soon put three or four spears through it ….
The Turn of a Page
The pleasure of the huntsman and the steeplechaser in the barriers the settlers had erected to protect their cultivations spoke of the turn of a page in the advance of the white man’s dominion. But the movement was also acknowledged in a subtler way. The Aboriginal had become an outcast if not in his own eyes certainly in those of the settlers. Several pitiful figures are spoken of around Brighton, found strange by men, not at all aware of any strangeness in themselves. To them, a conquest had been made and the fetters of civilization imposed on an untutored wild. If those could not be made to fit the aboriginal the fault was not with the fetters – they had been too well tested by history. The majority of the colonists spurred on by the economic privilege conferred by gold, sought to prove to themselves that they had left England for a place with her opportunities to develop what they had most desired at home. Many were scarcely aware of a native Australia, as it’s flora, fauna and it’s Aborigines did not comply with the pattern they sought to impose. Nothing enters their accounts to reveal that they are aware of the profusion of wildflowers, the 50 species of orchid that grew in the Brighton area. All were no doubt English as it had been with J.B. Were in 1852, except the action of the building committee or St Andrews church in 1859 which on the suggestion of Charles Webb ordered the planting of 50 blue gums.