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Reproduced courtesy of the artist Glen Mackie and Canopy Gallery Cairns

Kei Athe Mosby

Date: 2016
Image: h1200mm x w2300mm
Paper: h1400mm x w2400mm
Medium: Hahnemule 350gsm 'Weiss' alpha-rayon Ph netural reg paper Medium: Relief printed vinylcut, printed black in one run, with applied watercolour; pulled in one run
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Joint purchase from USA Bicentennial Gift and the Sid Faithful and Christine Sadler program supporting Contemporary Indigenous Maritime Heritage in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands through the ANMM Foundation
Object Copyright: © Glen Mackie and Canopy Gallery Cairns
Object Name: Print on paper
Object No: 00054815

User Terms

    American Edward 'Yankee Ned' Mosby, Born 1834 - Died 1911 in USA.
    'Yankee Ned' was patriarch of a large Torres Strait Islander family. 'Yankee Ned' was an American Jew who migrated from the North Eastern part of the United States after the Civil War. He is believed to be a veteran (or perhaps a deserter) of the American Civil War.
    This print was created by Ned's Great great great Grandson Glen Mackie, and is based on family knowledge of the 'Yankee Ned' story.
    Mackie uses traditional Torres Strait Islander carving and traditional painting techniques called 'minar' to integrate Ned's visage and depictions of his islander wife who he affectionately called "Queenie" and his children. Other Images include the artist's hammerhead shark totem, representations of atmospheric diving technology (air hose and helmet) and a pearl lugger fleet.

    SignificanceThis may be the only artistic depiction of the American 'Yankee Ned' Edward Mosby's Australian family story. Mosby was patriarch of a large Torres Strait Islander family that started a successful pearling enterprise in the last quarter of 19th century. The artwork was created by his Great Grandson Glen Mackie based on family knowledge of the 'Yankee Ned' story and uses traditional Torres Strait forms and techniques to integrate Ned's visage with a depiction of his islander wife Kudin whom Ned Mosby affectionaly named "Queenie", and children. The artist's hammerhead shark totem, representations of atmospheric diving technology (air hose and helmet) and a pearl lugger fleet.
    HistoryEdward Mosby, also known as 'Yankee Ned' Mosby was born in the United States in 1834 and died 1911. He was a veteran of the American Civil War. He was related to the famous John Singleton Mosby, Confederate Partisan Ranger General Mosby. Mosby family history suggests George deserted the US Navy after the war (1861-1865) and settled in far away Torres Strait.

    The family is said to have migrated to the USA from what is now known at the West Bank of Palestine, it is likely the family name was Moshabe. Family history says that he kept a Torah and paraphernalia of the Jewish faith and had ambitions to send his children to the USA for an education.

    By the late 1860s Mosby was working in the pearling and beche de mer industry in the Torres Strait islands. He apparently began to convince Indigenous islanders that, according to Civil War researcher Jim Gray, other pearlers were gathering the profits from the waters around their islands that should by right be theirs.

    Mosby was soon a popular outsider amongst the islanders. He then arrived on Masig Island with a boat and promised the islanders a share in the pearl shell harvest if they joined his crew as divers and fishermen.

    Mosby married an islander 'Kudin', who he affectionately called 'Queenie'. He was not accepted as a leader on Masig until, sometime between 1871 and 1879, the Murray or Mer islanders attacked Massig and 'Yankee Ned', perhaps with the benefit of his military experience during the American Civil War, led a successful defence of the island.

    The as yet uncolonised Torres Strait Islands were 'annexed' by the Queensland Colonial Government in 1879. At this time, Mosby had already established a school and houses, and introduced cattle, horses and European style agriculture to Masig. Mosby carried on pearling with the islanders, many of whom owned their own luggers during the height of the pearling industry prior to World War II. Four of his sons owned and operated luggers.

    Ned Mosby died in 1911, but is still a significant figure in his Torres Strait Island family's history, as well as in the history of the Torres Strait and the pearling industry.


    War Deserter:
    He may have deserted from the United States Navy, and perhaps for that reason he decided to seek seclusion in a remote location. Family stories say that he would use one of his most treasured possessions, a powerful telescope, to keep a watch on ships sailing through the Torres Straits. If any of these ships were flying the American flag (the Stars and Stripes), he'd conceal himself until the ship was out of sight.

    Another family story is that Edward Mosby sailed from Boston, Massachusetts aboard a whaling ship after the war. When his ship berthed in Sydney to take on stores, he quarrelled with the first mate and in the heat of the argument produced a revolver. Mosby and one of his fellow sailors then bound the first mate with rope and decided that the best thing to do was to jump ship and disappear as quickly as possible. They subsequently travelled as far north as possible to escape capture and punishment.

    Administrators of Indigenous peoples - Torres Strait
    John Jardine, the First Administrator and Magistrate of the Torres Strait Islands recorded that Mosby came to the area in the mid-1860s and worked for him at Somerset in Albany Passage.

    Pearling History/Beche-de-mer:
    It’s believed that his work for Jardine was on an early pearling lugger which also gathered beche-de-mer. From the day he appeared in the Torres Straits he attempted to convince Islanders that the pearl fishers were taking away wealth that by rights should be theirs. Such an idea made Mosby very popular with the Islanders, but very unpopular with the pearlers.

    Employment opportunities:
    Eventually Mosby arrived on Masig (Yorke Island) with his own boat. He promised the islanders a share of any wealth that could be gained from the sea if their best swimmers and divers would help him to harvest the shells and beche-de-mer.

    Mosby guaranteed that he would make his home on the island and marry one of the island girls. To show that his commitment was genuine, Mosby wooed and won a Masig girl named Kudin. He affectionately called her “Queenie” and it is by that name that she is best remembered.

    Yankee Ned and Queenie married according to Island rituals and he had a grass-thatched house erected on the north side of the island. The house didn’t last for long as a rival suitor, jealous of his relationship with Queenie, crept up in the dead of night and shot a fire-tipped arrow into the house. The couple was saved from the raging inferno by nearby villagers.

    As time went by Mosby became accepted by most in Masig, even though some still did not consider him the powerful force he sought to be. Then fate stepped in to convince all the islanders that they indeed had a great leader among them.

    Defence of communities:
    The islanders of Mer, or Murray Island, considered to be the most fearsome of the Torres Strait headhunters, decided to go on one of their periodic raids to the surrounding islands. They had selected Masig as their target and with faces and bodies painted for battle the men of Mer crowded into canoes. As their canoes came into sight of Masig, they were silhouetted against the rising morning sun and were spotted by Mosby. He gathered together the local warriors and set a plan into action. A third of the Masig men were to stand in plain view on the beach and await the attack. The remainder, with the women and children, were to run across the low sand to the other side of the island, and prepare to flee in canoes to safety.

    The attacking warriors of Mer watched this maneuvre and thought they had only a small force of Masig men to overcome. What they were unaware of was that Mosby had told the remaining Masig men to turn back and crawl on their hands and knees through the grass to the beach where the landing was to take place. When the warriors from Mer beached their canoes they were immediately met with a shower of arrows from the concealed warriors. Many of the attacking force fell on that blood stained coral beach. Only a half-full canoe got away alive and it was the last time a head hunting force ever attempted to attack the islanders of Masig. Following the victory, Yankee Ned was accepted as leader of the Masig people and a force to be reckoned with in the entire Torres Straits.

    Introduced European Education:
    In 1879 Mosby was well established on Masig when the visiting Government Agent advised the islanders of their annexation by Queensland. However, Mosby had already brought the first form of western civilization and rule to the Island by employing a white school master so that the children could be educated.

    Mosby’s business prospered and he erected a European style house, introduced cattle and horses and seeds for gardens. Soon the people of Masig were considered to be the most progressive in the Torres Straits. By the outbreak of the World War II, four of Mosby’s sons who owned luggers had also become prominent in the gathering of pearl shell, trochus shell and beche-de-mer.

    After the loss of a leg from coral poisoning, it was Yankee Ned’s habit to sit on his verandah in the evening, and to look at his collection of priceless pearls. He would take them out of a canvas bag and put them on a table under the light of an oil lamp and explain to his sons that one day these would pay for their education in the United States, “where you will meet all of your relatives in Virginia”.

    According to legend he was looking at his pearls one evening when he heard a noise in the darkness. He spun around and saw a Japanese pearl diver watching him. Next morning Mosby told his family he had safely buried his treasured pearls where no one but he would ever find them. Unfortunately Ned Mosby died suddenly and he never had a chance to reveal the whereabouts of his hidden pearls. Though many have searched for them, they are still buried somewhere on Masig.

    Edward Mosby remains on the list of Civil War dead buried in Australia. He died in 1911 on Masig (today known as Yorke Island), Torres Straits and was buried on Thursday Island.
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