It’s a solid wooden cross, standing slightly apart from others at the Albany Memorial cemetery.
The words are simple :-
H Rodber, AB HMS Diamond, killed June 2 1885, aged 33 years
The memorial was paid for by the man who killed the able seaman.
So how did Henry Rodber (also spelt Rhodber in some newspaper reports) end up below the ground, and what happened to the man responsible for his death?
There had been some unrest around town. The Royal navy ‘s HMS Diamond was in port, and its sailors were running amok. Townsfolk were complaining that the police could or would not control them.
The first night of June that year, some of the junior navy officers known colloquially as “bluejackets” were drinking at the town’s Weld Arms Hotel.
There was a scuffle between a sailor called West and local storekeeper Abraham Krakouer, which apparently started when Krakouer declined West’s offer of a drink.
When Krakouer’s nose got scratched he “plugged” West in the eye and ran home.
But some of the seamen went to his house and there was a ruckus.
The police were sent for, but by the time they had arrived the sailors had fled and all was quiet.
An incensed Krakouer asked a policemen if he could get a revolver from them, declaring that if any of the bluejackets came back he would shoot some of them.
The answer, of course, was no, and the policeman advised him if he did any shooting to “shoot in the air”.
The next morning Krakouer went into town, asking around for the loan of a revolver. An Edgar Jaffray had one to spare, and gave him the weapon at another hotel, the Freemason’s hotel.
But he handed over the gun in front of a HMS Diamond sailor, Finn, who was talking about the scuffle the night before.
Krakouer joined in the conversation, saying that the men had been a lot of curs, and finishing up by remarking “I wish I had this (the revolver) ” last night ; only let the b-s come up to-night, and they will feel something from this.
He returned to Jaffrey’s office to get ammunition and on his way home separately met two policemen, and repeated his intention of shooting some of the bluejackets.
One report said he also actually shook the revolver at some bluejackets he saw at the Weld Arms as he walked past after 1pm (on his way home finally perhaps).
As the newspaper put it, this was “like holding a red rag to a bull.’’
The sailors headed back to Krakouers, where the black-eyed West demanded an apology for having been struck by Krakouer the night before. They called on him to come out and fight.
Here, events get complicated. The sailors, including Rodber, were said to be armed with sticks and using bad language.
West was trying to get to Mr Krakouer on his high-set verandah.
Mrs Krakouer was talking to the ill-fated Rodber at the veranda gate, along with a young woman, Margaret Hegarty.
Rodber, it was said, wanted to “expostulate’’ with Krakouer. It is not known whether he was present at the Weld Arms the night before? Was he a good friend of West? Or was he drunk and just joining in the fun?
Margaret later told the Supreme court Rodber had a large stone in his right hand, and she and Mrs Krakouer had tried to get it from him, but he pushed her each time she asked for it, and was saying “let me at him, let me at him.
West rushed the verandah, Mrs Krakouer ran to stop him, allowing Rodber to push Margaret aside, and run into the house. She claimed he still had the stone in his hand.
Krakouer backed as far as the back door, saying that if any man followed him he would shoot him As Rodber continued to advance, a shot rang out.
“Krakouer, when he saw what he had done, immediately gave himself up to the police.”
Dr. Rogers was sent for and the body removed to the dead house.
An inquest followed, then the case was bandied around the courts, with the charge changing from murder to manslaughter, and juries being unable to reach decisions.
Finally, after three trials Krakouer was sentenced to two years hard labour. This was commuted to one year. charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 2 years hard labour.
This was commuted to 1 year. Krakouer paid for and arranged the erection of the memorial cross.
Who was Abraham Krakouer?
Who was Abraham Krakouer, a man who would erect a memorial to the man he killed?
The Krakouer family’s Australian history started when Theodore, a Jew from Krakow, Poland, went to England in the early 1800s to escape escalating attacks on Jews. However, work was difficult and many resorted to petty crime to survive.
Theodore was sentenced to 15 years in WA for stealing clothes and money. As a ticket-of-leave man in Fremantle, he married and had eight children. Abraham was the oldest.
Abraham obviously recovered from the igmony of his incarceration, as he went on to become Mayor of Collie, and also owned a string of pubs with two of his brothers.
Krakouer died in 1928 aged 74 and is also buried in the Albany cemetery.
Two of the brothers also married local indigenous women, starting a dynasty of Jewish -Aboriginal football players.
Sources: Antonovsky, A & W; Here from the Beginning: Jewish contribution to life in early Fremantle. Viewed at https://fremantlestuff.info/jewish/heritage.html
Geni; Abraham Krakouer. Viewed at https://www.geni.com/people/Abraham-Krakouer/6000000028352943569#/tab/media
Gravestone Photos; Name Details Abraham Krakouer https://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/namedetails.php?deceased=1567639 and Henry Rodber https://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/gravedetails.php?grave=759915
Griffin and Co – http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/110412, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62566072
Police Gazette Western Australia, Wednesday June 17, 1885, https://slwa.wa.gov.au/pdf/battye/police_gazettes/188506_m.pdf
South Australian Register Monday 15 June 1885, p 5
State Library of Western Australia, Albany, 016813pd, The Weld Arms hotel, Albany, ca 1904
The West Australian, Thursday 25 March 1886 – p3, Tuesday 21 July 1885, p 3, Wednesday 19 August 1885, p 3, Thursday 20 August 1885 – Page 3