Maitland Brown Memorial

Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia

Public Art : Maitland Brown Memorial (Also known as the Explorers' Monument)

Sculptor : © Pietro Giacomo Porcelli

Date Unveiled : The Maitland Brown Memorial was unveiled in February 1913, by Lady Forrest (who happened to have been engaged to him once!) .

Location : In the Esplanade Reserve, across the railway line from Fishing Boat Harbour, Fremantle, Western Australia.

Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western AustraliaDescription : A 3m high memorial consisting of a granite pedestal, with four panels of bas reliefs on each side and a bronze bust of Maitland perched right on top. The inscription and the panels on the memorial are steeped in controversy, leading to an addition plaque being added in 1994 (more of that later). The panels in question depict Police Inspector J.K. Panter, Police Constable W.H. Goldwyer and James R. Harding (who were killed by Aborigines in 1894). The other panels show the scene where the men were killed and a portrait of G.J. Brockman (who donated the memorial and was also responsible for the inscription). One panel shows a group of Aborigines being lead in single file with shackles around their necks.

La Grnage Memorial, East Perth CeneteriesBackground to Maitland Brown : Maitland Brown was born in York, Western Australia, in 1843. His pioneering farming family moved to Fremantle in 1852 when his father took a position as a magistrate. When Maitland was still a teenager he left the big smoke and joined his brother on a farming property, Glengarry, at Champion Bay (Geraldton). When he was eighteen, Maitland volunteered to join Frank Gregory's expedition into the relatively unknown north-west of the State, looking for good pastoral land. It was during this expedition that he made a name for himself.  Ill equipped for the harsh environment, Maitland rode back to base camp to gather water for the very thirsty explorers, thus saving their lives. As a thank you Gregory named a river after him near Dampier. In 1865 Maitland once again headed into the State's north, this time to find missing explorers, Panter, Harding and Goldwyer (La Grange expedition) who had set out from Roebuck Bay and failed to returned. The bodies of the three men where discovered on the 3rd of April, 1865, they had been speared. On his return he was appointed Justice of the Peace and then Resident Magistrate at Greenough (all at the ripe old age of 22). He then spent a good deal of his life in the political arena (as a member of the legislative council) often opposing the Government of the time. His political life was bumpy to say the least, resigning and threatening to resign numerous times. His most controversial resignation came when his brother (Edith Cowan's father) was found guilty of murdering his wife in a drunken rage (his brother was later hung for his indescretion). Maitland, however was relected a few months later. In 1886 he resigned his seat on the legislative council for the final time and took up the position of Resident Magistrate in Geraldton. Maitland died in 1905 and was originally buried at Karrakatta Cemetery but six years later his remains were removed and placed with those of the three speared explorers at East Perth Cemeteries .

Now Back to the Controversy : Lets just go back in time to the La Grange Expedition because that is where all the trouble began. Three explorers Harding, Goldwyer and Panter decided to explore the Roebuck area (near Broome) in 1864 in search of more pastroral land. When the three failed to return after a few months, the government sent Maitland Brown to the rescue. The search party sailed to De Grey River where they met up with an Aboriginal named, Dutchmanchum, who was to act as an interpreter. The bodies of the explorers were soon discovered near Boola Boola after the search party coversed with the local tribes. It seems they were killed 4 days into their journey. From all appearances it looked as though the men had been clubbed and speared to death whilst they slept (though there are doubts over the nature of Goldwyer's death). As the bodies of the explorers were being transported to the ship, two of the Aboriginals who had led the search party to the scene made a run for it, but were shot and killed by Tommy, one of the Aboriginal guides. Maitland then decided stay and search for the killers. Ok, now it is here where the stories begin to differ. One account says that Maitland and his party were ambushed by local Aboriginals during their search and were forced to open fire on them. Other accounts having Maitland and his pose riding into an Aboriginal camp and opening fire. The incident became known as the La Grange Massacre. It was reported that in the battle 6 Aboriginals died and 12 were badly wounded but that figure is in dispute (believed to be much higher). No one in Maitland's party were killed or even injured, which makes you think an ambush was highly unlikely. Did I happen to mention that the ship also had several Aboriginal suspects onboard but they were released after the death of one who jumped overboard.

Controversy #2 : In 1988, after 76 years of the memorial standing relatively ignored in the park, a group of Murdoch University academics decided it was high time that the Aborigines who were killed at La Grange were also acknowledged on this highly bias memorial. It took a further 6 years before the plaque was added. In 1995 the plaque was stolen and a new one added the following year.

Controversy #3 : In 1990 someone got themselves a chisel and chinked off Brown's head as a protest against the glorification of a man who had a reputation for mistreating Aborigines. A replacement bust was put in place until the head was secretly returned in 1993 (someone with a conscience ?).

Controversy #4 : Apart from the fact Lady Forrest was engaged to Maitland (which I find utterly intriguing), Maitland Brown nor the incident have any connection to Fremantle what-so-ever (well, unless you count the short time Maitland spent in Freo as a little tyke). It was Brockman who insisted that it be erected in Fremantle because more people would see it there than the intended location, Broome. But this controversy seems petty compared to the other three! 

Thought to Ponder : Personally I can't understand why the whole memorial focuses on the La Grange Massacre, surely they could have added some of Maitland's other achievements. I wonder if he would have been proud or horrified at his lasting legacy?

Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia

Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia

Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia Maitland Brown Memorial, Fremantle, Western Australia

More Controversies to Poke a Stick at : Perth is not alone in having controversial figures and memorials. Here are a few that might get your blood boiling or at least add an interesting talking point to your next dinner party. Thomas Edward Watson Statue, Civil War Monument, Pioneer Monument Fountain and the Ten Commandment Monument.

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