Son of a Master Pearler, as they are known. Most of my life has been spent in what’s called the “traditional pearling environment” diving, harvesting and working along the shores of an 80-mile stretch of beach in Australia's remote North-West.
My family comes from 3 generations of pearl divers and pearl farmers; who cultivate, grow and harvest these magnificent gems that find their way onto both men and women around the world and have been treasured since the ages of Egyptian pharaohs.
While many of the Australian pearls are those you might see in high-end fashion magazines and prestige jewellers around the world, I adapt my own sensibility to create a new style of pearls, reflective of a new generation who values their beauty but not necessarily married on a traditional strand or setting.
On my mother's side, our Aboriginal ancestors were the traditional owners of the region around Broome. Pearl shell was used in daily in hunting and ceremony and traded for millennia between coastal Aborigines and along the spice routes of Asia.
My ancestor John Septimus Roe came from England as a naval officer and first surveyed the entire North and North-West Australian region under the King Expeditions from 1817-1822.
He was known as the father of Australian explorers and mapped the entire Kimberley region and ended up in Broome where I'm sure he was one of the first English explorers to recognize the potential for pearling in that area.
John Septimus Roe was appointed Surveyor General of Western Australia and went in the first boat with governor Stirling where he surveyed the area that the original settlement Perth and Fremantle were built upon. Then continued to map the rest of the southern part of the State.
His son George Harriet Roe was also an explorer and a became a pearler and pastoralist. He had a station in the Broome area and several pearling boats. He famously escaped death in 1871 after his fresh crew had mutinied on the way back from the island of Macassar, up near Singapore.
(A transcript from the event.)
"Everything went well until a day
before reaching port, when my mate
reeled into the cabin gushing blood
from knife wounds, saying the crew
were in open mutiny, and were for taking
possession of the schooner. There
were only six of us on board,
and we hurriedly prepared to meet the
mutineers, who were then swarming
aft to where our bunks were.
"We stood them off with our revolvers as
long as our ammunition lasted,
and then got out on the deck and engaged
in a hand-to-hand conflict with
tomahawks and knives. The deck soon
became a shambles, and suddenly the
mutineers retired right forward, with
a view to making a job of us by some
other process. My companions, some
of them terribly hacked about managed
to crawl aft and get into the ship's
boat without being noticed, but before
I had time to get in the ruffians were
coming aft again, so there was nothing
for it but to jump overboard and swim
out to the others, who had cut the
boat's painter, in order to prevent her
being scuttled by them.
We started to pull for the shore
some few miles distant, and were mak-
ing fair progress, when we noticed that
the schooner had way on and was
bearing down on us. They couldn't
manoeuvre her too well, however, in the
light breeze, and when they got too
near we sculled away in another direction,
which made it compulsory for
them to go about, and thus lose what
little way they had on. We kept these
tactics up until we got into shallow
water, where they couldn't follow.
Realising the position, they then changed
schooners' position, and headed
for the open sea.
"We could do nothing when we went
ashore, as there was no vessel in
which to take up the pursuit and so
the matter rested for some time after-
wards, until I went south, where at
Fremantle, I heard, of a boat answering
to the description of my boat,
The Gift, having been seen by a trader up
among the Netherlands Indies. So we
equipped, and set sail for those parts,
and after a long cruise through the
Malay Archipelago we got word of The
Gift having been sighted away up in
the Moluccas group of islands.
After a long search our quest was
rewarded, for we found her one day
riding at anchor. We boarded her,
surprised the remnants of our mutineers,
and later on gave the ring-
leader short shrift at the yardarm,
taking the balance of them in irons back
to Macassar, where the authorities
made them "walk the plank."