Edward John Eyre bigraphy, stories - British explorer and colonial administrator

Edward John Eyre : biography

5 August 1815 - 30 November 1901

Edward John Eyre (5 August 1815 – 30 November 1901) was an English land explorer of the Australian continent, colonial administrator, and a controversial Governor of Jamaica.

South Australia's Lake Eyre, Eyre Peninsula, Eyre Creek, Eyre Highway (the main highway from South Australia to Western Australia), The Edward John Eyre High School and the Eyre Hotel in Whyalla are named in his honour, as are the villages of Eyreton and West Eyreton in Canterbury, New Zealand.

Recognition

In 1970 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post .

Early life

Eyre was born in Whipsnade, Bedfordshire, shortly before his family moved to Hornsea, Yorkshire, where he was christened. His parents were Rev. Anthony William Eyre and Sarah (née Mapleton). accessed 14 May 2013. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966 After completing grammar school at Louth and Sedbergh, he moved to Sydney rather than join the army or go to university. He gained experience in the new land by boarding with and forming friendships with prominent gentlemen and became a flock owner when he bought 400 lambs a month before his 18th birthday. When South Australia was founded, Eyre brought 1,000 sheep and 600 cattle overland from Monaro, New South Wales to Adelaide and sold them for a large profit.

South Australian expeditions

With this money, Eyre set out to explore the interior of South Australia, with two separate expeditions north to the Flinders Ranges and west to beyond Ceduna.

Eyre, together with his Aboriginal companion Wylie, was the first European to traverse the coastline of the Great Australian Bight and the Nullarbor Plain by land in 1840-1841, on an almost 2000 mile trip to Albany, Western Australia. He had originally led the expedition with John Baxter and three aborigines. Two of the aborigines killed Baxter and left with most of the supplies, and Eyre and Wylie were only able to survive because they were rescued by a French whaling ship which at Rossiter Bay, under the command of Captain Rossiter, chanced to be there. Eyre named the bay after the captain.

In addition to exploring inland South Australia and New South Wales, Eyre was instrumental in maintaining peace between white settlers and Aborigines along the Murray River.

Notes

Colonial Governor

From 1848 to 1853, he served as Lieutenant-Governor of New Munster Province in New Zealand under Sir George Grey. He married Miss Adelaide Ormond in 1850. She was the sister of the politician John Davies Ormond.

From 1854 he was Governor of several Caribbean island colonies.

Colonial Governor in Jamaica

As Governor of the Colony, Eyre, fearful of an island wide uprising, brutally suppressed the Morant Bay Rebellion, and had many black peasants killed. Hundreds were flogged. He also authorised the execution of George William Gordon, a mixed-race colonial assemblyman who was suspected of involvement in the rebellion.

These events created great controversy in Britain, resulting in demands for Eyre to be arrested and tried for murdering Gordon. John Stuart Mill organised the Jamaica Committee, which demanded his prosecution and included some well-known British liberal intellectuals (such as John Bright, Charles Darwin, Frederic Harrison, Thomas Hughes, Thomas Huxley, John Tyndall, and Herbert Spencer). A rival committee was set up by Thomas Carlyle for the defence, arguing that Eyre had acted decisively to restore order. His supporters included John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Twice Eyre was charged with murder, but the cases never proceeded.

The case went to the UK Court of Exchequer as Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1, Exchequer Chamber. The case was influential in setting a precedent in English and Australian law over the conflict of laws, and choice of law to be applied in international torts cases.G. Dutton, In Search of Edward John Eyre (1982, MacMillan), 115-42; J Michener, Caribbean (1989, Random House), 402-42

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Living octopus

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