A Valiant Woman

16 August, day 12 of our chasing sun and wildflowers trip

We drove over to Town Beach on Roebuck Bay this morning and while there had a walk around the tiny pioneer cemetery. There are only a scattering of graves, but wandering amongst the aged headstones did wonders for my imagination.

In the early 1900s Broome was a thriving town built around the pearling industry. We talk about multiculturalism in Australia today, but Broome in her heyday was a real melting pot of multiculturalism long before the word even came into existence. Sea faring captains left their high sea commissions and bought up pearl lugging fleets in Broome – there was money to be made in the pearl industry. Most of the money came from pearl shells for the manufacture of, amongst other things, buttons. Any pearls found in the shells was a coveted bonus. Chinese, Malays, Japanese, Dutch, and goodness knows how many other ethnic groups journeyed here to get their share, plying whatever supporting industry they could offer to the booming town. The less savoury part of the early history was the practice of ‘black birding’, the capturing of aboriginal folk to use as slaves on the pearling luggers. Yes, Australia has done a lot worse by our native land owners than stealing a generation….. and the practice of black birding was long after the abolition of slavery in the southern states of America.

I wonder what the love story of Alfred and Ruby Morgan was. There’s no mention of children, I wonder if they died childless. Ruby was 18 years younger than Alfred, did he treat her with kindness.

This headstone had me intrigued. What did Phyllis Everett McDaniel do that warranted, “a valiant woman” to be engraved on her headstone. I’m sure there’s an historical/fiction story that could be inspired by such an inscription. I briefly looked to see what facts I could find:

Phyllis was married to Master Pearler, Daniel McDaniels. They moved to Broome in the early 1900s, so I’m guessing Phyllis must have been a teenage bride. How hard must that have been – I’m presuming she would have left her family and friends behind to move to Broome. Without the comforts we have today, would she have felt lonely and found Broome to be ‘a God forsaken place’, or would she have been welcomed into to bosom of Broome society and would she have fallen in love with this unique and wonderful land. Did Daniel cherish his teenage bride, did she love him in return? I’m gathering she must have at least called Broome home by the time she was widowed in 1955 as she continued to live here for a further 24 years. Passing away at the grand old age of 90, I wonder what went on in her long life to warrant the inscription of “a valiant woman”. I can’t think of anything grander than that for a tombstone epitaph, can you!

13 thoughts on “A Valiant Woman

    1. It had me intrigued for sure. I’ve since found out she was a teacher.
      The life of the captured aboriginals was just awful. Apparently if a shark was seen near a pearl diver, one of the captured aborigines would be thrown overboard to bait the shark away from the diver. We’re a horrible species……


      1. Oh that is unconscionable by today’s standards. No empathy. These folks grew up in a time when some lives were worth much more than others. Such prejudice belongs with the dinosaurs – extinct.


    2. Interestingly enough I have started reading the series of books The Seven Sisters. At present I am reading the one named The Pearl Sister which is pearling in Broome but they are historical fiction. Lucinda Riley is the Author & she has a way of drawing you in so that it is hard to stop reading.


      1. I’ll have to look out for it. I’ve read a few good novels set in the Broome during the pearling heyday. Most provide a bit of insight into what the early days here were like.


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