Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Historical notes

P. E.C. de Mouncey

de Mouncey, P. E.C. 1930, 'Historical notes', Early Days, vol. 1, part 10: 52-62.

[These short papers were read before the Society, in conjunction with “Births, Marriages and Deaths Records of Western Australia—No. II,” on October 30, 1930.]





[Some of the information contained in the paper on Governor Stirling’s family was supplied by Mr. Grote Stirling, M.P., of Canada, a great nephew of Governor Stirling and some through Mrs. James Cowan, O.B.E., from Mr. Stirling. For some of the information used in the other papers acknowledgment is made to the Colonial Secretary’s Office records, copies of which were supplied by Mr. F. I. Bray.]


James Stirling, first Governor of Western Australia, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1791, and was the fifth son and eighth child of Andrew Stirling, of Drumpellier, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and was one of 15 children. Walter Stirling, a brother, and the second eldest of the family was created a Baronet in 1800. He died in 1832.

James Stirling entered the navy in 1803 and in 1823, at the age of 32, married Ellen, the third daughter of James Mangles, of Woodbridge, Guildford, in England. She was then 16 years old and was born in Surrey.

His first child, a son, Andrew, was born in Surrey, England, in the year 1826. His second child, Frederick Henry, was born—as recorded by Captain Stirling himself—at sea, and I believe, on the Parmelia in 1829, when that vessel was on its way from England to Western Australia conveying the first settlers to found the new Colony.

On Captain Stirling’s arrival in Western Australia in 1829, as Lieutenant-Governor, his family consisted of four persons, himself aged 38, his wife aged 22, his eldest son aged 3 years and his second child, in arms. He brought out with him eight servants.

On February 27, 1831, Captain Stirling’s third child


was born at Perth. On April 29 it was baptised William, by the Reverend John Burdett Wittenoom, the Colonial Chaplain of the Colony. This child only lived, however, just over two months and on May 2, 1831, was buried by Mr. Wittenoom, but where, no record appears to exist.

In 1832, their first girl, Mary, was born, she eventually married Victor Buckley and had two daughters and two sons.

In 1834, a fifth child was born, a son, Charles Edward. He afterwards became a Colonel of the Royal Artillery and died unmarried in 1895, aged 61.

On October 1, 1835, Agnes was born. The birth was announced in the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal of Saturday, October 3, 1835: “Birth.—On Thursday morning last, the Lady of His Excellency, Sir James Stirling, of a daughter.” She died in 1853 unmarried.

On February 10, 1837, Walter Albert was born. The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal of Saturday, February 11, 1837, recorded: “Birth.—On Friday the 10th instant, the Lady of Sir James Stirling R.N., of a son.” He was killed at Cawnpore, India, in 1857, aged 20.

On September 8, 1838, Ellinor was born. The same newspaper of Saturday, September 8, 1838, announced: “Birth.—On Saturday the 8th instant, the Lady of Sir James Stirling, R.N., of a daughter.” This lady married twice, and had a family of nine children. She died in 1911.

Captain Sir James Stirling, R.N., who, for his services, had been raised to the dignity of a Knight Bachelor on May 3, 1833, left Western Australia in 1839 for good. By this time he had had a family of eight children, six of whom were born in the Colony. One had died in infancy, as already noted.

After his departure from these shores, he had three more children, all girls—Anna Hamilton, Dorothea, and Georgina Janet—eleven children altogether, five sons and six daughters. Of these, four daughters married, all of whom had children. One son only married. This son was the Frederick Henry, born I believe, on the Parmelia, Governor Stirling’s second child. He became a Vice-Admiral and married Helen Thompson. They had


one daughter, Olive, born 1880, who married Sigurd Bentzon, a Norwegian diplomat.

Georgina Janet, Sir James Stirling’s youngest child, born in 1845, married (1) Sir Henry Tombs, V.C., and (2) Sir Herbert Stewart, V.C., Lady Stewart died in 1910 aged 65. She had four children, the eldest of whom, Gladys Tombs married Lord Newton Butler, afterwards the Earl of Lanesborough.

Sir James Stirling’s other six children appear to have died unmarried, and there are no male descendants through the male line of Sir James Stirling living. He attained the rank of Admiral in 1862, and died at Woodbridge, England, in April, 1865, aged 74, and was buried at Stoke.

Of other relations of Governor Stirling, a William and Andrew Stirling resided here, in the early years of the Colony. William was a Parmelia passenger and was appointed during the voyage out “Acting Registrar” and was later secretary to the Board of Counsel and Audit. He was unmarried and was a first cousin of the Governor and the eldest son of James Stirling, of Stair, Governor Stirling’s uncle. This cousin has been described in various local authorities as being a nephew.

William Stirling, was I understand, Registrar of Documents in the Colonial Administration. These documents and their record cannot be found, but inquiries are proceeding. He died at Perth on April 14, 1831, aged 32 years, and was buried on April 16, in the East Perth Cemetery, by the Reverend J. B. Wittenoom. His grave is to be seen there marked with a slate headstone. The simple inscription reads: “Sacred to the memory of William Stirling, who departed this life at Perth on the 14th day of April, 1831.”

Andrew Stirling was a nephew of Governor Stirling, Andrew being the eldest son of Sir James’s eldest brother, John, of St. Andrew’s, Fifeshire, Scotland. He was for a period of five years, from 1834, private secretary to the Governor, his uncle. It is recorded that he held this office “with much credit to his early abilities, and to the satisfaction of the public generally.”

I believe this was the Andrew Stirling who was Clerk to the Council, in 1838. He left the Colony with Sir James Stirling in 1839, but was induced to return in 1840 to superintend his uncle’s flocks at Leschenault.


He there met with a serious riding accident to which was attributed the serious illness from which he died, at the age of 26, at the residence of Mrs. Eliza Boyd, Rose Bank, Guildford, on Wednesday, November 6, 1844. He was buried two days later at Guildford. The sons of the oldest tenants of Sir James Stirling carried the coffin to the grave. This grave is to be seen in the old East Guildford Cemetery now closed. The cemetery borders Terrace-road, and the wooden board, much weather worn and burnt at the base, marking the grave is inscribed: “Sacred to the memory of Andrew Stirling who departed this life at Guildford, the sixth day of November, 1844, aged 26 years."


Colonial Secretary’s Office, 27th July, 1829.

Government Notice

Notice is hereby given that on the 12th August, the Anniversary of the day on which His Gracious Majesty [King George IV.] was born, the first stone will be laid of a New Town to be called Perth, near to the entrance to the estuary of the Swan River.

After that date the Public Business in the several Departments of Government will there be transacted, and all applications for Land, or on other subjects received.

By Command of His Excellency,

(Signed) P. BROWN,

Secretary to Government.

General Memorandum

Colonial Secretary’s Office. 27th July, 1829.

The offices, of the Secretary to Govt., the Surveyor of the Territory, the Harbour Master, the Civil Engineer, and of the Commissioners of the Board of Counsel and Audit, are to be opened for the dispatch of Business on


the 12th of next month at the point indicated as the future site of the Town of Perth where a tent will he appropriated for each Department for that purpose. The officers at the Heads of their respective Departments and others whose duty may take them to the Main will be permitted to be absent with their families as much as the wants of the service will admit, during the residence of the latter on Garden Island.

By Command of His Excellency,

(Signed) P. BROWN,

Secretary to Government.

Letter from John Septimus Roe, to Peter Brown. Dated November 23, 1829.

Sir,—As the erection of Public Offices in this Town has commenced, and the workmen have proceeded so far with that of the Secretary to the Government as to admit of their commencing another; I have to request, you will solicit His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor’s permission for them to begin one for the Survey Department. The small bell tent in which the business of that office is carried on being insufferably hot and affording no security whatever to the instruments and various documents in my charge.—I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,

(Signed) J. S. ROE,

Surveyor General.


It is believed by a good many people of Western Australia, that the twelve-sided white stone building at Arthur’s Head, Fremantle, sometimes referred to as the “Round House,” was built by convict labour. It was erected, however, long before convicts were transported here. On August 11, 1830, Mr. Richard Lewis, of R. Lewis & Co., put in a tender from Fremantle to the Colonial Secretary, agreeing to erect a prison or building according to certain plans drawn by Mr. Henry Willey Reveley, the Civil Engineer, and, to use Mr. Lewis's


own words, “to finish the same in a masterlike manner on Arthur's Head for £1,840 and to find security for doing the same.”

Eleven days before the building was completed, the Lieutenant-Governor through the Colonial Secretary expressed his surprise that the contractors had not finished the undertaking and threatened that if they did not proceed more rapidly with it, His Excellency would take other means to effect that purpose.

On January 18, 1831, the engineer, Mr. H. W. Reveley, reported to the Governor that the contractors had that day completed the construction of the gaol at Fremantle. It had taken, therefore, five months to build.

The building was not erected by convicts, or by prison labour of any sort. It was not until June 1, 1850 that the ship Scindian arrived at Fremantle from England with the first batch of convicts.

The building is the oldest one in the State, and it is to be hoped for that reason it will be preserved as one of the very few links that now remain with the infant days of the Colony and that when the opportunity occurs and more money is available it will be restored to its original state.



[By Mr. P. E. C. de MOUNCEY.]

T. B. Wilson, M.D., Surgeon, R.N., in his “Narrative of a Voyage Round the World ... a description of the British Settlements on the Coasts of New Holland,” etc., published London, 1835, writes of a morning’s ramble through Perth in October, 1829, gives a glimpse of the two-months old city and makes reference to an early newspaper. On Monday, October 19, 1829, he records: “At daylight I arose and took a walk through the town—the intended principal street of which, named St. George’s Terrace, where the future beaux and belles of Western Australia, may in after times, show off their reciprocal attractive charms, was. at present, only adorned with lofty trees, and a variety of lovely flowers. In my perambulations, I fell in with the written newspaper of the place, appended to a stately eucalyptus tree, where among other public notices, I observed the Governor’s permission for one individual to practice as a notary, another as a surgeon, and a third as an auctioneer.”

The Fremantle Journal and General Advertiser appeared at Fremantle on Saturday, February 27, 1830, in manuscript, and although it is numbered five, this refers, apparently, to the fifth copy of that day’s issue written. An editorial paragraph states: “The Editor trusts that some allowances will be made for the little information the first number of the Fremantle journal contains and respectfully informs his readers that the second will be more worthy of its title. The paper was in the possession of the late Dr. James Kynaston Couch, of West Perth, and a photographic copy is with the Historical Society.* This possibly is the earliest Western Australian newspaper in existence. The size of the paper is four pages in foolscap; and it was sold at 2/6 a copy. It was published by James A. Gardner, whose father was a Commander in the Royal Navy. In it we read that the infant of Dr. Milligan, surgeon to the forces, died at Perth aged 2 (?) days. And that “on

*The original of this paper has since been handed to the society by Mrs. Couch, the widow of the late Dr. Couch.


Monday last, one of Mr. Stone’s men, named Thomas Thomson went out with the intention of shooting game and was found drowned on Wednesday morning,” and that “the Editor had not received further particulars relative to this melancholy affair.”

The Western Australia Gazette, dated Sunday, June 20, 1830, also in manuscript, of four pages, is preserved in the Parliamentary Library, Parliament House, Perth. It was possibly the Colony’s first Sunday newspaper. This paper was also published by James A. Gardner, the sole proprietor, at his office, Cliff-street, Fremantle, at a price of 3/6 each. This issue of the paper under review is not numbered, but a news item states that “In our journal of the 3rd April, 1830, we hinted that His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor in the same spirit of anxiety and unrelaxed solicitude for the welfare of the Colony had determined shortly to appoint summary Courts of Jurisdiction particularly one for the recovery and adjudication of small and disputed accounts thus advancing us one more step in our progression,” etc.

James A. Gardner left the Colony later in the year 1830 for Port Louis, Mauritius.

A paper called The Western Australian and Perth Gazette number 5, also in manuscript, and dated Saturday, March 19, 1831; and published by W. K. Shenton, at the Gazette Office, Fremantle, was sold at3/- a copy. This paper is in the possession of the Perth Public Library. The journal gives a first instalment of an account of Captain Thomas Bannister’s overland expedition from Perth to King George’s Sound in January, 1831.

The Western Australian Chronicle and Perth Gazette, number 6, in manuscript of four foolscap pages and dated Saturday, March 26, 1831, is in possession of the British Museum. It was edited and published at the Gazette Office, Fremantle, by W. K. Shenton and was sold at a price of 3/- each. It gives a second instalment of the account of Captain Bannister’s journey to King George’s Sound. A photographic copy was secured for the Western Australian Historical Society in January, 1931. Every word of these manuscript papers was written by hand, but of the number copied each week for circulation, no record appears to exist.


The Fremantle Observer, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, number 7 and dated June 11, 1831, appeared in print, and is also in the possession of the Perth Public Library. It was published by Charles Macfaul. In it we read: “Birth.—On the 26th ultimo at Perth, the lady of J. S. Roe, Esq., Surveyor-General, of a daughter.”

Other Western Australian printed newspapers of May, 1831, are preserved in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, New South Wales, and photographs of some of these are in the possession of Mrs. J. M. Drummond, of Cottesloe.

The Western Australian Colonial News, in four pages, was printed and published by William Temple Graham at Fremantle, and issued on Wednesdays at a price of ninepence each. Number 13, dated Wednesday, January 9, 1833, is to be seen at the Public Library, Perth.

The earliest newspapers of the State preserved in sequence and now at the Perth Public Library, are the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, and start at number 2, Saturday, January 12, 1833. Of all the newspapers issued in the Colony before that date, the three only of separate dates already referred to in this paper, have come into the possession of the Public Library.



On February 2, 1932, a tablet erected by the Western Australian Historical Society on the rock known as Chipper's Leap, Greenmount, was dedicated by Mr. S. J. Chipper, a grandson of the John Chipper who gave the rock his name. Also present at the ceremony were descendants of Reuben Beacham, the companion of Chipper, and one of them, Mr. A. Green, spoke during the proceedings.

The rock, which stands near the York-road at the top of Greenmount, marks the spot where John Chipper and Reuben Beacham, a boy, were attacked by blacks while driving a cart from Guildford to York, on February 2, 1832. Beacham was killed, but Chipper, although badly wounded, escaped death by leaping down the face of the granite rock which now bears his name.

The ceremony was held on the centenary of the event, at 8.30 o’clock in the evening, and about 200 persons gathered to take part in the commemoration. Mr. I. T. Birtwistle (chairman of the council of the society) presided, and the principal, speakers were Messrs. Chipper and Green. The honorary secretary of the society (Mr. P. Hasluck) gave an account of the circumstances of the colony at the times of the incident. Votes of thanks were moved by Mr. P. E. C. de Mouncey and Mrs. J. Cowan, and appreciative reference was made to the action of the late Main Roads Board, who, when ordering the construction of a deviation of the York-road, acceded to the society’s request to avoid the destruction of the rock and constructed their new road in a way to add to the effect of the rock and the society’s tablet.



Another one of the society’s standard brass tablets has been placed on a wall of the Perth Technical College buildings, near the Bazaar-terrace entrance, to mark the site of the water mill erected by the Civil Engineer, Henry Willey Reveley, in the end of 1832. Some of the circumstances of the mill’s erection have been related in the society’s journal, Vol. 1., Part VIII., pages 73 to 80, and a map reproduced there shows the exact site of the mill building. Further interest attaches to this tablet by reason of the close association of the engineer with the poet Shelley, whose life Reveley once saved from drowning on the Arno in 1821.

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