Dog Rock, Middleton Road

Dog Rock 1900s
Dog Rock is a great stop for a photograph. This large granite out crop juts out from the ground right alongside Middleton Road in the shape of a dog’s head.
In 1921 the council of the day proposed to demolish the rock so they could widen the road but this was quickly squashed with petitions and protests.
The dog’s collar was painted on in 1938 as it was believed to be a hazard being so close to the road.
In 1973 the rock was classified by the National Trust.
The Noongar people of the area know Dog Rock as “Yacka” which means wild dog tamed.
Some stories below of historical interest:
This letter published in the Albany Advertiser on May 14, 1930, provides some interesting first hand knowledge of the original Noongar name for the rock.


To the Editor

Sir, I read with some interest in last issue the pretty story about the Dog Head Rock, but it is not old enough to be called a legend. I have for many years tried to find out if there is any legend connected with this curious Rock, but so far have failed.When my mother-in-law, Mrs Hassell first arrived at Albany on her way to Sydney on the good ship Dawson, on the 7th January, 1839, the ship remained in port until the 9th March, 1839, during which time she stayed with Lady Spencer, while her husband, in company with Mr George Cheyne, inspected Kendenup and the country around King George's Sound.Lady Spencer showed Mrs. Hassell this remarkable rock and told her the natives called it "Yacka"  and the tall rock nearby, opposite the Roman Catholic Church, "Yacka Nint". She also told her the natives would never camp, or even shelter from rain under the Dog Head Rock. "Yacka Nint" means dog's tail.

Yours, Mrs. A. Y. Hassell, Albany
This legend associated with Dog Rock was published in the Albany Advertiser on May 13, 1930 and was credited to “J Bush Beyond”.

Every teacher who has made holiday at picturesque Albany, writes T H. Roberts in the 'Teachers' Journal" for May, will be familiar with the quaint natural monument, the Dog Rock. But there are few who will know the legend of its origin in the early days of settlement on King George's Sound. I was recently privileged to read Sir Richard Spencer's diary, a manuscript that "should certainly be published for the enlightenment of West Australians, who are ignorant of the conditions" of  life here only a century ago.
Teachers who recount old tales of settlement will find interesting material in this, one of the few legends of the State. In the days of which I write, over ninety years ago, the port of Albany consisted of a few mud-brick huts nestling in the hollow between its granite hills. High on the slopes of Mt. Clarence was the log cabin of John Silverthorne, who had brought his wife to share the hardships of pioneering in the lonely beauty of the south. From their doorway, one looked down on the panorama of the outer harbour with its blue, fish laden waters, and its white rollers breaking at the foot of the Lion Couchant. Now the ocean-going liners come to anchor in the sheltered bay, but the home-made craft of a solitary fisherman was the only sign of civilisation ninety years ago.
In the cabin on the hillside was little Betty Silverthorne, a child who never knew the company of school-mates, but played all day among the grey boulders and janean thickets with her faithful spaniel, Victor. The dog worshipped his three-year-old companion with canine devotion. Perhaps you have noticed how the contour of the Dog Rock is moulded like the head of a spaniel. Mail-day was every six months. Great excitement prevailed in the little colony when the white wings of sailing vessels appeared on the Sound, and the majestic wind-jammers lowered their longboats with stores from the far-off mother land. There were high festivities, when the flesh of the kangaroo shared the board with rich English wine, until the white wings were spread again, and the ships embarked on their lonely passage across the southern ocean.
One of these eventful days occurred in late summer. The season had been unusually long and dry, but gathering clouds and distant rambles of thunder foretold the coming of Aborigines who had gathered in great numbers for the season's corroboree. They came from Nookenallup and the Porongorup washpools; from Waggiarap and the unknown Salt River; from every waterhole and reed swamp of the bush. A corroboree was a time of anxiety for the white settlers. For though natives will invite white men to their mock corroborées, the festive rites when they meet for the initiation of warriors and tribal conclave are conducted with a secrecy that is violated only on pain of death. Many of the tribes had never seen a white face, but wild aboriginals, contrary to accepted belief, are not hostile. They are frankly curious, childishly inquisitive.
The cabin on Mt Clarence was somewhat isolated from the crude township in the hollow. When the vessel appeared gliding before the wind, Silverthorne and his wife ran down the winding path to the river, for jetties were but a dream of the future then. Victor, the spaniel, followed, barking excitedly, but Betty was left asleep. Towards evening they returned, walking slowly, poring over letters from home. The setting sun struggled in a storm wrack from the south.
On the surrounding hills, the "debil-debil" fires were twinkling like a fairy city in the primordial woods. Imagine their horror when, earning in sight of the cabin, they discerned their little daughter surrounded by painted warriors, jabbering and gesticulating. The child was in no danger, for the natives manifested only admiring curiosity, but Mrs. Silverthorne screamed and began to run. Quick to interpret the apprehension of his mistress, the dog was before her. Snapping viciously, he darted among the savages, seized the child in his mouth, and bore her to her parents. Disconcerted by the dog's ferocity, the natives threw spears after him, then disappeared in the scrub. The child was unharmed, but the faithful Victor had given his life for her safety.
They buried him at sunset on the western slopes of Mt. Clarence, looking away to the lonely bush over the valley, where fertile gardens now extend. That night the season broke. Such a storm came beating up the breakers, as has never since been known to trouble the Sound.
The fury of the waters enveloped Breaksea Island, and great boulders were torn from the hillside, and went crashing through the thickets. Sodden earth slid away like avalanches into the hollows. In the morning, the whole face of the hillside had been changed. The newly-dug grave of the faithful spaniel had been washed away, but mysteriously out of the earth had arisen a giant boulder in the shape of a spaniel's head. And there to this day it remains, overlooking the valley of the gardens and the dreaming.
It may seem hard to fathom now, but back in the early 1920s one Albany councillor thought it a good idea to remove the Dog Rock as this letter published in the Albany Advertiser on August 27, 1921, testifies.


To the Editor

Sir, lt will not yet be forgotten that a meeting of ratepayers recently convened by the Mayor, for the express purpose of considering the proposal to mutilate the Dog Rock, two resolutions were carried:

(a) That the Dog Rock not be interfered with in any way; and (b) that the Council take immediate steps to secure a strip of land opposite the rock, in order to widen the street.

The second resolution would have been unnecessary had the ratepayers decided that the rock should not be removed; but since they decided it was desirable to retain the rock, the strip of land should be acquired.

Failing to recognise this our Councillors decided not to acquire the strip of land, but to refer the matter of the removal of the rock to a referendum of the ratepayers (in the apparent hope that the ratepayers would then sanction its removal), although every ratepayer assumed that the Council would respect and accept the resolutions with good grace, and that the question of the removal of the rock had been finalised.

The ratepayers having decided that the rock should remain, it would seem only natural that when the Minister for Lands inquired whether a reserve should be proclaimed to preserve the rock, the Council should have at least "expressed appreciation of the Minister's inquiry and his readiness to assist the ratepayers. But nothing of the kind. Cr. Balslon preferred to take "strong exception" to the Minister's offer, and his remarks on the offer, particularly when endorsed by the Council, will quite properly be strongly resented by the Minister.

The average ratepayer, without hesitation, sums up the matter thus: (a) Cr. Balston wishes the rock to be removed; (b) the ratepayers do not agree with Cr. Balston; therefore (c) Cr. Balston is angry with the ratepayers and as a consequence, rude to the Minister.

Cr. Balston would, in the opinion of' the citizens-whose interests and wishes he is supposed to protect and carry out and by whom he has been elected be well advised to consider those wishes, rather than endeavor to enforce his own views, with which the ratepayers do not agree.

In the interests of the town, he should not act like a disappointed child when his ideas are not endorsed by the citizens, fly into a temper and be lacking in the courtesy which is due to a Minister of thc Crown, whose assistance and sympathy will in all probability be again and again sought in the future by the Council.

Albany has nothing to gain and much to lose if her councillors act in the petulant manner displayed on this occasion, and are totally lacking in the tact which the rate payers expect them to observe.

Yours, Mr Common Sense