Arthur Phillip

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Arthur Phillip bigraphy, stories - British naval officer; Governor of New South Wales

Arthur Phillip : biography

11 October 1738 – 31 August 1814

Admiral Arthur Phillip RN (11 October 173831 August 1814) was the first Governor of New South Wales, and founder of the settlement which became Sydney.

After much experience at sea, including command of a ship that was saved in a storm by convicts, Phillip sailed with the First Fleet, as Governor-designate of the proposed British penal colony of New South Wales. In February 1788, he selected its location to be Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour).

Phillip was a far-sighted governor, who soon saw that New South Wales would need a civil administration and a system for emancipating the convicts. But his plan to bring skilled tradesmen on the voyage had been rejected, and he faced immense problems of labour, discipline and supply. Also his friendly attitude towards the aborigines was sorely tested when they killed his gamekeeper, and he was not able to assert a clear policy about them.

The arrival of the Second and Third Fleets placed new pressures on the scarce local resources, but by the time Phillip sailed home in December 1792, the colony was taking shape, with official land-grants and systematic farming and water-supply.

Phillip retired in 1805, but continued to correspond with his friends in New South Wales and to promote the colony’s interests.

Gallery

Image:arthur.phillips.memorial.at.bathampton.arp.jpg|The Arthur Phillip memorial on the wall of the Australia Chapel, Bathampton Image:Arthur-Phillip P1010024.JPG|Bathampton Memorials File:Bust of Arthur Phillip.JPG|Bust of Phillip at St Mary’s

Later life

Phillip’s wife, Margaret, had died in 1792. In 1794 he married Isabella Whitehead, and lived for a time at Bath. His health gradually recovered and in 1796 he went back to sea, holding a series of commands and responsible posts in the wars against the French. In January 1799 he became a Rear-Admiral. In 1805, aged 67, he retired from the Navy with the rank of Admiral of the Blue, and spent most of the rest of his life at Bath. He continued to correspond with friends in New South Wales and to promote the colony’s interests with government officials. He died in Bath in 1814.

Phillip was buried in St Nicholas’s Church, Bathampton. Forgotten for many years, the grave was discovered in 1897, Burial place of Arthur Phillip and the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes who also started federation in Australia, had it restored. An annual service of remembrance is held here around Phillip’s birthdate by the Britain–Australia Society to commemorate his life. A monument to Phillip in Bath Abbey Church was unveiled in 1937. Another was unveiled at St Mildred’s Church, Bread St, London, in 1932; that church was destroyed in the London Blitz in 1940, but the principal elements of the monument were re-erected in St Mary-le-Bow at the west end of Watling Street, near Saint Paul’s Cathedral, in 1968. There is a statue of him in the Botanic Gardens, Sydney. There is a portrait of him by Francis Wheatley in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Percival Serle wrote of Phillip in his Dictionary of Australian Biography:

Loss of remains

In 2007, Geoffrey Robertson QC alleged that Phillip’s remains are no longer in St Nicholas Church, Bathampton and have been lost: "…Captain Arthur Phillip is not where the ledger stone says he is: it may be that he is buried somewhere outside, it may simply be that he is simply lost. But he is not where Australians have been led to believe that he now lies." Robertson also believes it was a "disgraceful slur" on Phillip’s legacy that he was not buried in one of England’s great cathedrals and was relegated to a small village church. Robertson is campaigning for a rigorous search for the remains, which he believes should be re-interred in Australia.

Popular culture

Phillip is a prominent character in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play Our Country’s Good, in which he commissions Lieutenant Ralph Clark to stage a production of The Recruiting Officer. He is shown as compassionate and just, but receives little support from his fellow officers.