The odd story of 'Henry Warland' of Kangaroo Island, South Australia, 1814 - 1845

The following information has been updated thanks to Chris Ward. Any queries about this person should be addressed to Chris at: ceejay(at)internode.on.net.

On 25 October 1844, the Sydney Morning Herald (page 4) ran a short article on Kangaroo Island, and noted that the police had spoken with 'an old man named Warland … on the Island 27 years.' The article noted that Warland, '27 years on the Island … had never had a day's illness.'

In January 1845, another report in the Sydney Morning Herald noted that Henry Warland 'lent his native women to the police'.

According to Chris Ward, this person was not a Warland, but Wallen or Whalley with Wallen being the most widely accepted at this time. Thomas, Robert and Henry are variations of his Christian name. This is supported by the available evidence.

A short booklet of 10 pages titled 'The Story of Early Kingscote' published by the National Trust in the late 1980's mentioned a Henry Wallan living on Kangaroo Island in relation to early settlement there:

The most famous of these men was Henry Wallan, better known as 'Wally' for 'Governor Wally', who settled near the present site of the Cygnet River Post Office in 1816.

The geography of South Australia; historical, physical, political & commercial', states:

The first to take this step was Thomas Whalley, who left the General Gates, a whaling ship which was in South Australian waters, in 1816. He settled on Kangaroo Island near the present township of Queenscliffe. By Whalley 's persuasions Billy Day, one of the crew of another whaler which visited the island two years later, was induced to desert his ship and join him.'

The book also states that the name of this man occurs variously as Thomas Whalley, Wally,. Robert Warlans, and Walker, and on the arrival of the first emigrant ship - he was found to bear the sobriquet of "Governor."

(Note: Bews Point became Rolls Point and is now known as Reeves Point. The present town of Kingscote was originally known as Queenscliffe and the original settlement of Kingscote was at Reeves Point. Queenscliffe became Kingscote early in the 20th century.)

This seems to be supported by the State Library of South Australia on this site (or one of the sources quoted the other):

The first settler was Thomas Whalley, who left a whaling ship named the General Gates in 1816 and landed at Bews Point (now Rolls Point), immediately beneath where the telegraph station stands now. Two years later he induced a man named Billy Day to leave a whaler, which anchored there, and join him in a Robinson Crusoe life. The first settler had, therefore, been twenty years upon the island when the legal colonizers landed and he had, by general consent, been elected chief man under the title of 'Governor' Whalley. He had taken a man named George Cooper into partnership and they had managed to get some female Aborigines and established a small farm upon the Three Well River, afterwards called the 'Cygnet'.'

Chris Ward has added the following information:

Wallen certainly had a son with a Tasmanian aboriginal mother who may have been related to Trugannini (spelling?) supposedly the last of the Tasmanian aborigines as well as William Lanne (King Billy). The son was known as Henry Whalley and educated in Hobart Town and became well known in whaling and sealing circles. He was a pall bearer at William Lanne’s funeral. Whalley died on Macquarie Island following the shipwreck of the Bencleugh in 1877.

There was some uncertainty about which ship Henry Wallen arrived on. Page 5 of the Story of Early Kingscote states:

Of the pre-colonisation residents of the Island, Henry Wallan was undoubtedly the most colourful. He is referred to as Wallen, Wally, Whalley, Wharlan, Warland, Walker and 'Governor'. He is supposed to have been put ashore from the 'General Gates', a whaling vessel (probably American) at Rolls Point in Nepean Bay. He was presumed to have been English and within a couple of years he was joined by 'Billy Day', another sailor who had tired of shipboard life and the two settled down to an isolate rural existence'. .. 'Their long residence on the Island gave them a certain social standing and Wallan is often spoken of as 'Governor Wally'. Their life was shared by three black women, two from the adjacent mainland and one from Tasmania.

A quite detailed account of their living arrangements is included as well.

In relation to this point, Chris Ward noted:

There certainly are two versions of Wallen’s arrival on Kangaroo Island. The General Gates story seems to be discounted as the ship was not in the area at the right time. The Marquis of Wellington story is widely accepted.

Wallen had a farm at Three Well River later known as Cygnet River but his farm was commandeered by the South Australian Company in 1836. I’m not sure about the ‘ruined outcast, and a wandering drunkard’ but he moved to Hog Bay where he lived out the rest of his life.

Page 6 of the Story of Early Kingscote states:

It appears that Wallan stayed on the Island after the company took over the farm and he maintained his association with the Island for the rest of his life. He died in Adelaide in 1856 at which time he must have been about 70 years of age. His body was brought back to the Island which had been his home for 40 years but all record of the location of the grave has been forgotten.

Chris Ward commented:

Wallen died in the Gresham Hotel in Adelaide and the newspaper report gave his age as 62. His grave is in the Pioneer Cemetery at Reeves Point and has been since a few weeks after his death.

Page updated 9 April 2020. Copyright Andrew Warland.