The origin of Dog Rock has been the subject of numerous legends since Albany was first settled. The story which attained the greatest currency was published in the Teachers Journal in May 1930 by T.H. Roberts who names his source as Sir Richard Spencer’s Diary. In this version the origin and the name of the rock dates from 1840.
At that time a settler named John Silverthorne lived with his family in an isolated cabin on Mount Clarence. The mail ship only visited Albany twice a year when the few settlers would rush to collect the mail and socialise with the ship’s crew. Silverthorne and his wife went to meet an arriving ship leaving their three-year-old daughter, Betty, asleep, guarded by her spaniel, Victor. When the parents returned they found their daughter surrounded by tribal natives, they screamed and ran towards her. The dog snapped ferociously at the aborigines who reacted by throwing spears at it but not at the child.
The Silverthornes buried the dog on the western slope of Mount Clarence but a wild storm that night washed the grave away. The following day the granite boulder, in the shape of a spaniel’s head, mysteriously appeared.
This story became so popular that the Tourist Bureau printed it in a pamphlet shaped like Dog Rock. There are, however, flaws in this story. The first anomaly is that this event is supposed to have happened in 1840 and Sir Richard Spencer died in 1839. Secondly, there is no record of Dog Rock having suddenly appeared during the nineteenth century; it has obviously been there for thousands of years. It was disputed at the time of publication by Mrs. A.Y. Hassell who wrote that her mother-in-law stayed with Lady Spencer between January and March 1839 en route to Sydney on the Dawson. Lady Spencer told her that the aborigines called the rock “Yacka” and the nearby rock opposite the Catholic Church “Yacka Nint”, meaning dog’s tail. She also said that the aborigines would not camp, or even shelter from rain, under the Dog Head Rock.
More recently, D.A.P. West quotes an aboriginal, Johnny Cockles, as believing that the rock is the model which the dreamtime gods used to shape all dogs. Les Johnson records Aboriginal Elder, Patrick Henry Coyne, saying in the 1960s that the rock is a traditional territorial boundary marker. It would be worthwhile to discuss these legends with the Aboriginal Corporation’s Albany Heritage Reference Group.
Over the years the European population of Albany has become rather possessive towards Dog Rock. In 1921 the Town Council proposed blowing up the rock to widen the road; the result was petitions and angry protests culminating in heated exchanges at the July Council meeting.
In 1970 the Managing Director of 6VA, Ted Furlong, suggested moving Dog Rock to the Chester Pass-Albany Highway roundabout to become a tourist attraction at the edge of the town. The result was numerous protest letters in the Albany Advertiser; amongst the suggestions was a referendum on the subject and a doubt expressed on the availability of a crane in WA which could move 500 tons. Former Mayor, R.K. Selby, wrote from Perth suggesting facetiously that the Crugnale Café would make a monument for the town’s entrance to rival Gundagai’s Dog on the Tucker Box.