KRAKOUER, Theodore

KRAKOUER, Theodore ( 1818 – 1877 ) – Convict No. 232


‘ A Polish Jew, Hawker, Talented Horseman, Forefather of the KRAKOUER AFL Football Champions ‘.


Theodore KRAKOUER ( hereinafter referred to as TK, was born at Krakow, Poland in 1818. His parents lived in a large Jewish community. He grew up in turbulent times, when increasing attacks and persecution of Jews were escalating dangerously in Eastern Europe.  Little is otherwise known of his early life in Poland, nor have we found an accurate record of the date he left his home land. His future looked grim as he had no knowledge of the English language.

TK adopted his surname which was an extension of his birthplace town name,  before moving to Berlin, Germany, where he studied the Talmud.  When he eventually decided to relocate to England, jobs and economic opportunities were severely limited. He survived this very testing period by involving himself in scams. He had decided that petty crime seemed to him to be the only manner in which he could ensure survival.

In 1848, TK was arrested for stealing clothes and money.  He was found guilty at Portsmouth Court and sentenced to fifteen ( 15 ) years incarceration. At the time of his conviction it was noted that TK was a married man, literate and working as a Wool Sorter.  He was taken to Portland Gaol, where he spent two ( 2 ) years . Prisoners worked in hard labour conditions, mostly assisting in construction of the huge breakwater that was to surround the harbour.

In 1851, TK was taken on board the vessel ‘Mermaid’ for transportation to Western Australia to serve the balance of his sentence as a convict.  After almost four ( 4 ) months at sea, the ‘Mermaid’ berthed at Fremantle on 15 May, 1851. He spent more than twelve ( 12 ) months at the Fremantle establishment before being issued with a Ticket of Leave on 12 September, 1852.  A short time passed until he met and married Brina ISRAEL, who had travelled to W.A. from England on a supported passage, to start a new life in Australia. They went on to produce a family of nine ( 9 ) children, six ( 6 ) sons and three ( 3 ) daughters, between 1853 and 1869.

TK and his family are believed to have lived in a cottage near the Fremantle Round House, whilst he initially worked as a Teamster from livery stables nearby.(  He had a natural ability to work closely with horses ). He was known to have worked in many different employment roles, such as labourer, prospector , farrier and in the bush along the road near Williams, until granted a Conditional Pardon on 15 September, 1855.

In 1853, Tk and partner, Edward Hales TAYLOR purchased a new , purpose-built cart for his team of horses to transport goods to the villages and towns on the way to Albany , Vasse and return. He was also mentioned in the journals of Marshall Waller CLIFTON, for his trading activities in Australind and Bunbury.  In March, 1854, TK requested a local police constable at Vasse,  to enquire with the Captain of an American whaler in port, whether he would sell him supplies of tobacco.  Although TK contended that he did not purchase any supplies, the police took him to Bunbury and  held him for attempting to smuggle four hundred ( 400 ) pounds of tobacco and trying to avoid paying customs duty. As a result, he had his hawking licence cancelled.

During TK’s short absence from Fremantle/Perth, his partner TAYLOR, illegally sold the cart , without consultation with TK, to a third party, causing the business to suffer badly. ( TAYLOR was committed for trial for his theft ). Although TK was issued with a Certificate of Freedom on 7 February, 1865,  these were proving very difficult times, with little money, no status in life  and bereft of any comforts to support his family to achieve fulfilling lives. The pressures of incessant toil, unrelenting heat in summer  months and his growing battle with alcohol, combined to have a detrimental impact on his mental health. Following an increasing number of overnight stays in police lock-ups due to alcoholism, TK was admitted to the Fremantle Asylum, where he died in 1877. It was distressing for widow, Brina, to coerce their eldest son, Abraham to drive the horse and cart team on deliveries along the Williams road to Albany and return, to enable the family to survive.

Two ( 2 ) of the younger sons, Rudolph and David, are highly renowned for their work in clearing a five hundred ( 500 ) kilometre track through virgin bush to connect the Great Southern, near Broome Hill  to Coolgardie, opening connection from the Port of Albany to the Goldfields. These brothers became successful businessmen by establishing  a number of Hotels from Collie to Norseman.  They both married indigenous women and raised large families.

One hundred ( 100 ) years after TK’s death, the Polish Jew would have been immensely proud of two ( 2 ) of his Great Great  Grandsons.  Phil and Jim KRAKOUER were Australian Rules Football stars from Mount Barker, WA, who initially played for Claremont, before dominating for the North Melbourne Kangaroos in the VFL/AFL between 1982 and 1989. Both boys should be very thankful for the courage and endeavour shown by their  Great Great Grandfather Theodore, in striving against heavy odds to establish his family, particularly when the course of his life is laid bare.


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27 February, 2021.