Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Clarkie's Camp

Coulter and Treffene Found Guilty and Sentenced to Death
The Verdict

When the jury returned at 4.45, the two accused were put up in the dock again. Treffene was excitedly wiping his hands but Coulter was calm. The jury had been absent for - - - three hours and twenty five minutes.
To the question of the Associate, the foreman said the jury had agreed upon their verdict that both Coulter and Treffene were guilty of wilful murder.
They added the rider: We wish to add your honour, that we very much deplore the fact that Mr Clarke is not in the box too.

On the scale of ripping yarns, it is a worthwhile read. Here is the transcript. I've been sniffing around this story for a while, ever since Old Salt first told me about Clarkie's Camp.

"Yeah, it was on the north side of Brooks'. Always a nasty spot to have a camp on an inlet - the north side. Cold and wet, all the sou-westerlies come on shore. Anyway, this bloke Clarke lived out there for years and years, til he died I think. I never met him, or I don't remember meeting him anyway. Maybe I did and didn't know who he was. People said he'd turned Queens evidence, or King's evidence I s'pose at the time, and moved out to Brooks' under the witness protection program. Said him and his mates had shot a coupla Kalgoorlie cops from the gold stealing squad, back in the 1920's."

These days Brooks' Inlet is called Broke Inlet; one of those big south west estuaries swelled by the hill country rivers and flushed out to the Southern Ocean. Here is a story I wrote about coming across the Broke Inlet refuge of Johnny Chester when I was a kid. Ms Mer has a shack down there. She's fished the inlet for probably thirty years or so. Aside from fisher folk, isolated, cold places such as Broke have traditionally been home to fugitives like Chester and men like Clarke, who simply needed to disappear from the demons and gold stealers.

Last night at another isolated inlet, I asked Old Salt again about Clarkies' Camp and the story of the gold squad detective murders. I think I was reminded of the tale because Mountain Man was back with his shambolic camp and he always sets up right next to the only toilet in town. He bothers me because he's a shouter and I like to toilet in peace without getting completely freaked out. In places like Pallinup, there is rat logic, there is kindness, there is camping etiquette and then there is this kind of experiential-On-the-Road-the-guys-in-white-coats-don't-know-where-I-am. That's fine. I have a real admiration for people who manage to step off the edge.  
Just. Don't. shout at me.

Apart from the Mountain Man, Old Salt and I were the only people around for miles. Unruly has gone east fishing, somewhere, probably Stokes Inlet, no one can say. Grievous' Bro has his boat moored on the shore but he was nowhere to be seen when it came time to set nets. I fretted about this: "Maybe he's been bit by a snake and is lying in his shack dying. Shouldn't we check on him?" Only last week he'd told me there were two plump and glossy tiger snakes wandering about his camp like they owned the place.
"Well, best I don't find him," said Old Salt. "There's no way I'm givin' that ugly bastard mouth to mouth."

This morning I wandered up to the toilet in the half light, bleary and trying not to think about crazy fringe dwellers, fugitives, tiger snakes or that my leaking wet weather gear meant I was about to get drenched on the boat. The wind was already stepping up to the predicted gale warning and bits of foam from the river rolled along the ground and flicked over my boots.
Out of the drop dunny, I broke into a jog to liven myself up.
"The waves are coming over the bar! The bar! It's comin' over the bar!" He shouted at my back.
God, it's five fifteen, I thought. But Mountain Main was right. To the east, huge waves sprayed above the  sandbar in milky plumes. It's probably one of the nicest things he's ever shouted at me.

Treffene said: I am innocent of the charge of murder. It was a pure and simple accident. That is all I have to say.
His Honour then put on the black cap and sentenced both men to death.

The Daily News, Perth, 15th September 1926, p.1.


  1. I would have continued with this post, gone into the conversation I had this morn with the Mountain Man that laid most of my future toileting fears to rest.
    But on trying to load more pictures of a stormy Pallinup morning, Google tells me that I've exceeded my data upload allowance of 1 gig a month and I can pay $2.95 for another 24 gigs per month.
    So, I feel a bit slapped down. Anyone else having these problems? I've had it on the sidebar for a few weeks but now it has affected my posts.

    1. I don't believe it is Google. I think it's a scam. Do not pay any more money. Reset your passwords. This stuff is free for us. (sorry about all those commands (actually, they are not commands) one after the other, but there is a scam going on here.

  2. I agree with Tom, never had this problem, but Boy Wonder would know more about this than me. Ask him. He'll be at your favourite cafe again this Saturday morning.

    Fascinating story ST. Almost makes me want to study local history and write about it like you do. Knowing me though, I would end up doing some psychological analysis of the characters rather than getting into the complexities of the narrative.

  3. Isn't that always part of the narrative? The psyche?
    Thanks MF. I thought you'd like the story of Clarkies Camp.
    And BW got to the bottom of it. Something to do with picasa, so mass deletions are on the drawcard. I might print off another blog book before I do that, just in case :)

    1. I think the only way to post up many large pictures is by using something like Picasa, which is why I don't bother, preferring to concentrate on text. Anyway, your prose is so visual that you don't really need loads of pictures - beautiful though they are.

    2. Yeah but ...
      Anyway, it's obviously just some housework needed. (Something I've never been good at.)

  4. I never cease to be amazed by the stories that are there just below the surface. Just scratch it and they come bubbling up.
    Love those wild seas.

  5. Thanks Janine. I really like stories that slot into a landscape as wild as ours, which is why the 'fugitive' yarn works in places like Broke.

  6. Yes of course the psyche is always part of the narrative, but talking about what drives it is probably far less engaging and interesting for most than the narrative itself.