Freotopia > people > George Forsyth (1843-1894), harbourmaster
George Forsyth was the fifth Fremantle harbourmaster, from 1874, and then in 1879 was appointed by Governor Harry Ord as head of the new Harbour and Light Department, which meant he was responsible for six ports: Vasse (Busselton), Bunbury, Geraldton, Port Irwin, Cossack (as well as Fremantle); and the lighthouses at Bunbury, Bluff Leading Light, Breaksea Island, Cossack, Fremantle, Point Moore, Port Irwin, Point King, Rottnest Island, and Vasse - that is, all the ports (except Albany) and lights in the colony. He was therefore first chief harbourmaster for the Colony of Western Australia (1879–1886).
Captain George Andrew Duncan Forsyth (14 June 1843 – 2 September 1894) was the fifth harbourmaster at the port of Fremantle (1874–1886) and the first chief harbourmaster for the Colony of Western Australia (1879–1886). He was born in Southwark, London on 14 June 1843, the son of Andrew Forsyth (1817–1876) and Eliza Maria née Kitteridge (1818–1862). He was the godson of British caricaturist and book illustrator, George Cruikshank, who taught Forsyth how to draw.
Forsyth went to sea when he was 14 years old; when he was 21 years old he came to Western Australia and worked in the coastal shipping trade.
He settled in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1866. Initially he was employed as a water police constable, where he was attacked and almost died at the hand of a convict that he was transporting, before becoming an assistant maritime pilot at Rottnest Island in 1869. In October 1873, he facilitated the rescue of SS Georgette when she was stranded on the Murray Reef off Rottnest.
In November 1874 he was appointed harbourmaster at Fremantle. In 1879 was appointed by Governor Harry Ord as inaugural head of the Harbour and Light Department, responsible for six ports – Vasse (Busselton), Bunbury, Geraldton, Port Irwin, Cossack and Fremantle (the only exception being Albany) – a position he held until dismissed on 10 May 1886.
Following his dismissal he continued work in shipping and maritime services in the North-West and Straits Settlements. He also developed his longstanding interest as an amateur artist, gaining considerable recognition for his well executed works. Forsyth was a self-taught amateur sketcher and painter who maintained a pictorial record of the sights and experiences associated with his occupation as a pilot at Rottnest and harbourmaster at Fremantle.
He held office in the Fremantle Lodge of Oddfellows in 1874 and was the first commander of the Fremantle Naval Volunteers (1879–1884).
On 24 April 1866 he married Marion Taylor Henderson (c.1847–1922) in Fremantle. They had four children: Andrew John (1867); Jessie Maria (1870–1878); George Arthur (1872–1948) and William Laurence (1874–1946).
Forsyth died on 2 September 1894 in Fremantle, was given a masonic funeral, and is buried in Fremantle Cemetery. (Wikipedia)
State Records Office, Harbour and Light Department.
Forsyth, Ron K. & Ian K. 2019, A Hazardous Life, Maritime Heritage Association, launched at Fremantle Ports, 26 March 2019.
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