Notes put doubt on Yagan gravesite

Notes put doubt on Yagan gravesite

The diary of an Austrian botanist who visited WA in the early years of the Swan River Colony has cast more doubt on the generally accepted location of the grave of Aboriginal warrior and Noongar leader Yagan.

The diary of Baron Charles von Hugel, who came to collect plant specimens, was not translated into English until 1994. It reveals he visited the grave "one mile from Mr Bull's house".

Settler Henry Bull's home, which still stands, is about 1.5km from the junction of the Swan River and Ellen Brook, where historian Paul Allardyce believes Yagan's body is buried.

Yagan was shot on July 1, 1833, by teenage brothers William and James Keats - shepherds for Mr Bull. To claim a bounty, his head was removed and exhibited in London. It was buried in an Everton cemetery in 1964, exhumed in 1997 and returned to Australia.

It was buried on West Swan Road in Belhus, at a memorial park near where Yagan's body was thought to be. But this is several kilometres from Mr Allardyce's location.

"The diary represents more primary evidence that the grave is more likely to be near the junction of the two rivers," Mr Allardyce said.

The diary's English version was found recently by botanist Allen Lowrie while he was researching his book Carnivorous Plants of Australia. Von Hugel visited in November 1833 and saw the grave - "bare of any ornament except for a spear struck in the ground on the right-hand side" - with Mr Bull.

His diary has a dramatic version of Yagan's death, presumably as told by Mr Bull.

"The tempting reward of 50 pounds induced two brothers … to kill this outlaw," he wrote. "They went to the Aboriginals camped here, who knew them. As he was talking with Yagan, the elder brother laid his gun on his left arm, took aim at Yagan's head … and pulled the trigger."

The younger brother was killed, "pierced by more than 50 spears". The elder brother escaped.