Commandant-of-SolitudeCommandant of Solitude. The Journals of Captain Collet Barker 1828-1831.

Edited by John Mulvaney & Neville Green.

ISBN 978-0-85905-893-3, (1992, R 2021), 240 x 170,   illustrated- colour plates, Section sewn, French flap soft cover, 466 pages, 1.2kg, $80.00*

After seeing service in the Peninsular War, Canada and Ireland, Captain Collet Barker (1784-1831) was posted to New South Wales, but he spent less than a month in the relative comfort of Sydney Town. He was sent to command the isolated settlement at Raffles Bay (near modern Darwin) for just over a year and was then transferred to King George Sound (Albany), both tiny military detachments on the furthest frontiers of empire.

Prehistorian D. J. Mulvaney and historian Dr Neville Green with E.W.F. (Ted) Street laboriously transcribed Barker's journals, revealing the texture of life in the frontier settlements. 

The combined Raffles Bay and King George Sound manuscripts were 586 folio pages of almost indecipherable script. The Raffles Bay folio was deciphered by E.W.F. Street and similarly the 250 King George Sound (Albany) pages by Dr Green that engaged him for 12 years.

Here is Barker's account of his day-to-day problems in the most remote settlements in the continent. He had to deal with difficult officials, unruly soldiers and escaping convicts. He had to try to meet the inflexible demands of the Colonial Office, and at the same time struggle to raise crops and animals in unfamiliar soil and climate. He took an enlightened interest in the Aborigines, who were familiar with European visitors and his journals provide a unique account of the friendly relationships that he achieved with them. 

Barker emerges as an excellent administrator, kind-hearted, zealous and firm. His untimely death is movingly recounted in Chapter 1. As solitary in his death as in his Australian commands, Barker at some time penned a sadly percipient epitaph consisting of the first lines of Alexander Pope's Ode on Solitude. The last stanza of this ode reads:


Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;

Thus unlamented let me dye;

Steal from the world and not a stone

Tell where I lye.


On 30th April 1831 Barker was fatally speared in South Australia.


This book details the early years of the military settlements at Raffles Bay and Albany. It is essential for the understanding of both colonial outposts. The publishers gt gt g/father, William Thacker, was present at Albany, courtesy of HMG.