Walter Edward Swyer


Although W.E. Swyer changed his surname in the 1880's, his original surname is used exclusively on this web page.

Arrival in Australia
Walter Edward Swyer, the son of Septimus Swyer and Agnes Christina Heckmann. Walter Swyer emigrated from Great Britain, disembarking from RMS Quetta at Brisbane on 24 September 1884.

The Aru Islands
Extract from the North Australian Saturday Morning 27 August 1887:

The following letter was received last mail by Mr Searcy, from W Swyer owner and master of the cutter Peri which boat it will be remembered, was last heard of down at Port Essington some months ago, whither she had been driven through bad weather on the coast: "To Collector of Customs. Dear Sir, - When you left me at Port Essington Jacky Davis promised to remain with me and get beche le mer [sic], but as soon as they had eaten up all my rice or near it (I had no tobacco), they cleared out and left me and my little boy. On April 10 we weighed anchor in Knocker Bay for Mr Robinson's place at Bowen Straits, to try and get one or two boys there and then go on to Port Darwin. Met with light wind and variable weather, and ran back to Knocker Bay again and anchored at 4 pm. On 20th April made another start for Bowen Straits, and came to anchor in Raffles Bay on the 25th. Got within about 6 miles of Robinson's place when the jib was torn in several places. Returned to Raffles Bay, repaired jib and mainsail, and started again, standing across to Croker Island. Jib and foresail both went in a rain squall, which strengthened in to a gale that blew night and day. Could not make out the land and could do nothing but drift under the mainsail. After five or six days the gale abated and we got our sails dry, by which time we were 150 miles S.E. of Cape Croaker [=Cape Croker?]. Finding it impossible to beat back to the island, shaped a course which brought the boat off Negar [=Ngor Island?] one of the Arrou Islands, when there was very little left on board to eat. Next day got a few stores from a schooner and then left for Dobbie Island to repair damages, but on arrival there found the town had been burnt to the ground, and a couple of the inhabitants burnt also. - W. SWYER, Dobbie Arrou Islands, June 4.

1. It is likely the author of this letter, W Swyer, was Walter Edward Swyer 1861-1934.

2. Place names mentioned in the text have been identified except for Dobbie Island

Place Latitude Longitude Map
Arrou Islands = Aru Islands   134°30'E Arafura Sea, SW of New Guinea
Bowen Strait 11°18'S 132°32'E SC53-13
Cape Croker 10°59'S 132°36'E SC53-13 ?
Croker Island 11°08'S 132°33'E SC53-13
Dobbie Islands = Wamma Island where the port of Dobbo is located?      
Knocker Bay 11°20'S 132°07'E SC53-13
Ngor Island   134°30'E  
Port Darwin 12°28'S 130°49'E SD52-04
Port Essington 11°16'S 132°09'E SC53-13
Raffles Bay 11°16'S 132°24'E SC53-13

3. Searcy was presumably Alfred Searcy, Sub-collector for SA Customs 1883-1896 with headquarters at old Palmerston. Author of In Northern seas, being Mr. Alfred Searcy's experiences on the North Coast of Australia (1905), In the Australian Tropics (1909) and By Flood and Field: Adventures Ashore and Afloat in North Australia (1912).

4. For an 1857 description of the Aru Islands from a naturalist's point of view see Chapter XXX. The Aru Islands - Residence in Dobbo and the subsequent chapters from The Malay Archipelago, Volume II by Alfred R. Wallace.

5. Commander J Lort Stokes RN in Volume 1 of his Discoveries in Australia describes his 1839 visit to the Aru Islands in HMS Beagle.

Member Pharmaceutical Society of Western Australia
When we landed in Derby [in 1886]..."; "...and W.E. [Swyer] had a chemist shop and an aerated water machine. Cammileri, F (1986) Chasing the Weight 1886-1912. Hesperian Press, p11,12

Walter E [Swyer] was in practise at Derby when he joined the Pharmaceutical Society in 1893. After ten years he transferred to Fremantle. McWhinney, Alan (1975) A History of Pharmacy in Western Australia The Pharmaceutical Council of Western Australia.

The inaugural meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society was held on 24th October 1892. In the register of members of the Society he is recorded as No 21 with a date of registration of January 18th 1893.