Edward John Eyre

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.

Edward John Eyre
Edward John Eyre by Henry Hering
Governor of Jamaica
In office
Preceded byCharles Henry Darling
Succeeded byHenry Knight Storks
Lieutenant-Governor of New Munster, New Zealand
In office
GovernorGeorge Grey
Preceded byNone, position established
Succeeded byNone, position abolished
Personal details
Born5 August 1815
Whipsnade, England, UK
Died30 November 1901 (aged 86)
Devon, England, UK
OccupationExplorer of Australia, Colonial Administrator, Grazier

Early life

Eyre was born in Whipsnade, Bedfordshire, shortly before his family moved to Hornsea, Yorkshire, where he was christened.[1] His parents were Rev. Anthony William Eyre and Sarah (née Mapleton).[2] 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.[3]

In South Australia

In December 1837, Eyre started droving 1,000 sheep and 600 cattle overland from Monaro, New South Wales, to Adelaide, South Australia. Eyre, with his livestock and eight stockmen, arrived in Adelaide in July 1838.[4] In Adelaide, Eyre sold the livestock for a large profit.

Expeditions of Eyre

With the money from the sale, Eyre set out to explore the interior of South Australia. In 1839, Eyre went on two separate expeditions: north to the Flinders Ranges and west to beyond Ceduna. The northern-most point of the first expedition was Mount Eyre; it was named by Governor Gawler on 11 July 1839.[5] In 1840, Eyre went on a third expedition, reaching a lake that was later named Lake Eyre, in his honor.

Overland to Albany

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.

On 29 April 1841, two of the aborigines killed Baxter and left with most of the supplies. Eyre and Wylie were only able to survive because they chanced to encounter, at a bay near Esperance, Western Australia, a French whaling ship Mississippi, under the command of an Englishman, Captain Thomas Rossiter, for whom Eyre named the location Rossiter Bay.

Colonial Governor

From 1848 to 1853, he served as Lieutenant-Governor of New Munster Province in New Zealand under Sir George Grey.[6] He married Miss Adelaide Ormond in 1850. She was the sister of the politician John Davies Ormond.

Colonial Governor in Jamaica

From 1854 Eyre was Governor of several Caribbean island colonies.

As Governor of Jamaica, Eyre, fearful of an island wide uprising, brutally suppressed the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865, which was sparked when Baptist preacher and rebel leader (and future National Hero of Jamaica) Paul Bogle encouraged and led a rebellion, and occasioned the death of 18 militia or officials. Up to 439 black peasants were killed in the reprisals, some 600 flogged and about 1000 houses burnt down. General Luke O'Connor was directly responsible for those who inflicted excessive punishment.[7] Eyre also authorised the execution of George William Gordon, a mixed-race colonial member of the Assembly who, though not actually involved in the rebellion, was tried for high treason by Lieutenant Herbert Brand in a court-martial. Gordon was openly critical of the Eyre regime in his capacity as an elected member of the Jamaican Assembly, but Eyre was convinced that Gordon was one of the leaders of the Morant Bay Rebellion. On October 23, Gordon was hanged two days after his hastily-arranged trial, and Bogle followed him on to the gallows two days later, when he was hanged along with 14 others.[8]

The controlling European element of the Jamaican population — those who had most to lose — regarded Eyre as the hero who had saved Jamaica from disaster.[7] Eyre's influence on the white planters was so strong that he was able to convince the House of Assembly to pass constitutional reforms that brought the old form of government to an end and allowed Jamaica to become a Crown Colony, with an appointed (rather than an elected) legislature, on the basis that stronger legislative control would ward off another act of rebellion. This move ended the growing influence of the elected free people of color Eyre distrusted, such as Gordon, Edward Jordon, and Robert Osborn (Jamaica). Before dissolving itself, the legislature passed legislation to deal with the recent emergency, including an Act that sanctioned martial law and —all-importantly for the litigation in Phillips v Eyre — an Act of Indemnity covering all acts done in good faith to suppress the rebellion after the proclamation of martial law.[7]

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 Henry Huxley, Herbert Spencer and A. V. Dicey.[7] Other notable members of the committee included Charles Buxton, Edmond Beales, Leslie Stephen, James Fitzjames Stephen, Edward Frankland, Thomas Hill Green, Frederick Chesson, Goldwin Smith, Charles Lyell and Henry Fawcett.

The Governor Eyre Defence and Aid Committee was set up by Thomas Carlyle in September 1866 to argue that Eyre had acted decisively to restore order. The committee secretary was Hamilton Hume, a member of the Royal Geographical Society with whom Eyre had explored in New South Wales. His supporters included John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, Lord Cardigan, Alfred Tennyson and John Tyndall.[7][9]

Cases against Lieutenant Brand and Brigadier Alexander Nelson (British Army officer) were presented to the Central Criminal Court but the grand jury declined to certify either case. Eyre resided in Market Drayton, which was outwith the jurisdiction of the court so the indictment failed on that count. Barrister James Fitzjames Stephen travelled to Market Drayton but failed to convince the Justices to endorse his case against Eyre. The Jamaica Committee next asked the Attorney-General to certify the criminal information against Eyre but was rebuffed. Eyre then moved to London so that he might bring matters to a head and offer himself up to justice. The magistrate at Bow Street Police Court declined to arrest him, due to the failure of the cases against the soldiers, whereupon the imagined prosecutors applied to the Queen's Bench for a writ of mandamus justified by the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1802 and succeeded. The Queen's Bench grand jury, upon presentation of the case against Eyre, declined to find a true bill of indictment, and Eyre was freed of criminal pursuit.[7]

The case went next to the civil courts. Alexander Phillips charged Eyre with six counts of assault and false imprisonment, in addition to conversion of Phillips’s ‘goods and chattels’,[7] and the case was eventually brought 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.[10] Eyre was exonerated in the Queen's Bench, a writ of error was submitted to the Exchequer, whose judgment affirmed the one below, and an important precedent was thus set by Willes J.[7]

Later life

Edward John Eyre 2.jpeg

Eyre's legal expenses were covered by the British government in 1872, and in 1874 he was granted the pension of a retired colonial governor. He lived out the remainder of his life at Walreddon Manor in the parish of Whitchurch near Tavistock, Devon, where he died on 30 November 1901. He is buried in the Whitchurch churchyard.[2]

Recognition and legacy

A statue of Eyre is in Victoria Square in Adelaide as well as Rumbalara Reserve in Springfield NSW on the Mouat Walk. In 1970, an Australia Post (then Postmaster-General's Department) postage stamp bore his portrait.[11]

South Australia's Lake Eyre, Eyre Peninsula, Eyre Creek, Eyre Highway (the main highway from South Australia to Western Australia), Edward John Eyre High School, the Eyre Hotel in Whyalla, and the electoral district of Eyre in Western Australia, are named in his honour. So too are the villages of Eyreton and West Eyreton, and Eyrewell Forest, in Canterbury and the Eyre Mountains and Eyre Creek in Southland, New Zealand.

Eyre Road, Linton, Palmerston North also thought to be named after him as well as a few streets in Canterbury, New Zealand.

See also


  1. ^ Steve Pocock (2000). "History". Great Australian Bight Safaris. Archived from the original on 18 February 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2006.
  2. ^ a b Geoffrey Dutton (1966), "Eyre, Edward John (1815–1901)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1 (Australian National University), accessed 25 October 2018.
  3. ^ Kevin Koepplinger. "Hero and Tyrant:Edward John Eyre's Legacy". University of Michigan. Archived from the original on 15 December 2012.
  4. ^ Foster R., Nettelbeck A. (2011), Out of the Silence, p. 32-33 (Wakefield Press).
  5. ^ Manning, Geoffrey H. (2012). "Names - E" (PDF). A Compendium of the Place Names of South Australia. State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  6. ^ Michael Wordsworth Standish (1966). "Eyre, Edward John". The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Te Ara. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Peter Handford (2008). "Edward John Eyre and the Conflict of Laws". Melbourne University Law Review. 32 (3): 822–860.
  8. ^ Gad Heuman, The Killing Time: The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994).
  9. ^ Thomas, Donald (1974), Charge! Hurrah! Hurrah! : a life of Cardigan of Balaclava, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 318–320, ISBN 0-7100-7914-1
  10. ^ Geoffrey Dutton (1982) In search of Edward John Eyre South Melbourne: Macmillan. pp. 115–42. ISBN 0-333-33841-3
  11. ^ Australian postage stamp honouring Edward John Eyre. australianstamp.com

Further reading

  • Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia, and overland from Adelaide to King George's Sound, in the years 1840-41, sent by the Colonists of Australia, with the sanction and support of the Government; including an Account of the Manners and Customs of the Aborigines, and the state of their relations with Europeans. By E. J. Eyre, Resident Magistrate, Murray River. 2 volumes. London (1845). Available at the Internet Archive: Volume I, Volume II.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Richard Graves MacDonnell
Lieutenant Governor of Saint Vincent
Succeeded by
Anthony Musgrave
Preceded by
Charles Henry Darling
Governor of Jamaica
1862–1864 (acting); 1864–1865
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Knight Storks
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
John Murray
Clarke Medal
Succeeded by
Frederick Manson Bailey
1839 in Australia

The following lists events that happened during 1839 in Australia.

Banksia epica

Banksia epica is a shrub that grows on the south coast of Western Australia. A spreading bush with wedge-shaped serrated leaves and large creamy-yellow flower spikes, it grows up to 3½ metres (11½ ft) high. It is known only from two isolated populations in the remote south east of the state, near the western edge of the Great Australian Bight. Both populations occur among coastal heath on cliff-top dunes of siliceous sand.

One of the most recently described Banksia species, it was probably seen by Edward John Eyre in 1841, but was not collected until 1973, and was only recognised as a distinct species in 1988. There has been very little research on the species since then, so knowledge of its ecology and cultivation potential is limited. It is placed in Banksia ser. Cyrtostylis, alongside its close relative, the well-known and widely cultivated B. media (southern plains banksia).

County of Eyre

The County of Eyre is one of the 49 counties of South Australia. It was proclaimed by Governor George Grey in 1842 and named for the explorer Edward John Eyre. It covers a portion of the state between the Adelaide Hills in the west and the Murray River in the east from Robertstown and Mannum on the northern boundary to Sedan and Swan Reach on the southern boundary.

Edward John Eyre High School

Edward John Eyre High School is located in Grundel Street Whyalla Norrie, South Australia. It opened in 1968 as Eyre Technical High School.Built during the boom period, student enrolment reached around 1,500 in the 1970s. Today, Edward John Eyre High School, also known as Senior Secondary Campus of the Whyalla Secondary College, has a student population of over 400.Eyre High School caters to a wide cross-section of the community. Its Young Mum's program supports young mothers to complete their education. The Pre-Industry Program and Trade School assists students in preparation in the trade areas. The specialist volleyball course lead to wins in state and national competitions.

Edward John Eyre High is proposed to be merged with Whyalla High School and Stuart High School. The new merged school is intended to be on Nicholson Avenue, Whyalla Norrie between the Whyalla campuses of the University of South Australia and TAFE SA and expected to open for the 2022 school year.

Eyre's 1839 expeditions

Edward John Eyre made two expeditions into the interior of South Australia in 1839. At the time nobody had been any further than the head of Spencer Gulf. The first expedition, in May, set out from Adelaide. It is not exactly clear how far north he reached before turning back, but somewhere in the Flinders Ranges. The second expedition, in August, sailed to Port Lincoln, and struck out west following the coast to Streaky Bay. Forced back again by inhospitable conditions, he went east and then further north than the previous attempt, eventually finding the lake that is now called Lake Torrens.

Eyre made a third trip north in June 1840, this time reaching what is now known as Lake Eyre. A fourth trip began in February 1841, this time determined to reach Western Australia. The trek began at Fowlers Bay and reached Albany in July, a trip of 1600 km (1000 miles).

Eyre Peninsula

The Eyre Peninsula is a triangular peninsula in South Australia. It is bounded on the east by Spencer Gulf, the west by the Great Australian Bight, and the north by the Gawler Ranges.

It is named after explorer Edward John Eyre who explored parts of the region in 1839-1841. The coastline was first charted by the expeditions of Matthew Flinders in 1801-1802 and French explorer Nicolas Baudin around the same time.

The region's economy is primarily agricultural, with growing aquaculture, mining and tourism sectors. The main townships are Port Lincoln in the south, Whyalla and Port Augusta in the north east, and Ceduna in the northwest.

Eyre River (New Zealand)

The Eyre River is a river in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. It arises in the Puketeraki Range and flows south-east into the Waimakariri River near Christchurch International Airport. The connection with the Waimakariri is via a diversion channel running south-west, replacing the Eyre's original easterly flow. The river is named after Edward John Eyre, the Lieutenant-Governor of New Munster from 1848–53.The river rarely carries surface water, due to the unreliability of the easterly rains which feed it.


Eyreton, originally known as Eyretown, is a small village in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is named after Edward John Eyre, who at one time was the lieutenant governor of the South Island (then known as New Munster). It is a rural village located to the west of Kaiapoi, near the north bank of the Waimakariri River, and the 2001 New Zealand census revealed that 2,139 people lived in Eyreton and the surrounding area. This was an increase of 624 people, or 41.1%, since the 1996 census.

Although a branch line railway called the Eyreton Branch existed, it never actually ran through Eyreton; its route from Kaiapoi to West Eyreton passed north of the village.

Frome River

The Frome River is an ephemeral river in the Australian state of South Australia located within the Lake Eyre basin. Its source is near Mount Rose in the northern Flinders Ranges and it discharges into the south-eastern side of the northern part of Lake Eyre.The river was named by the British explorer, Edward John Eyre in 27 August 1840 after Captain Edward Frome who was the Surveyor General of South Australia at the time.

Gawler Ranges

The Gawler Ranges are a range of stoney hills in South Australia to the north of Eyre Peninsula. The Eyre Highway skirts the south of the ranges. The Gawler Ranges National Park is in the ranges north of Kimba and Wudinna. The ranges are covered by the Gawler Ranges Native Title Claim.

John Baxter (explorer)

John Baxter (1799–29 April 1841) was an Irish convict who became an Australian pioneer, overlander, explorer, and offsider of explorer Edward John Eyre.

Mount Hope, South Australia

Mount Hope is a small town on the Flinders Highway on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It was the terminus of a branch of the Eyre Peninsula Railway from Yeelanna from 1914 until but the line was closed and dismantled in 1966. The town was surveyed in 1916, and proposed to be named Mount Woakwine, but no action was taken to call it that.Mount Hope was part of the traditional territory of the Nauo. It was first traversed by Europeans when Edward John Eyre passed that way in 1839. The school opened in 1911 and closed in 1974. In 1912, it had an undenominational Sunday School run by the same teacher as taught in the school for the rest of the week.

Mount Remarkable

Mount Remarkable is a mountain in South Australia located in the Flinders Ranges about 250 kilometres (160 mi) north of the centre of the capital city of Adelaide and immediately north-west of the town of Melrose which is located at its base.The mountain has a height of 961 metres (3,153 ft). It and the adjoining range is described as having “high strike ridges on quartzite” with “lower rounded ridges on shale” and as having a “cover of forest, parkland and some woodland”. Since 1972, it has been located within the boundaries of the protected area known as the Mount Remarkable National Park. The mountain’s summit can be reached via a walking trail known as the Mount Remarkable Summit Hike which starts in the town of Melrose and which is graded by the national park’s managing authority as being a “moderate hike’ of a distance of 12.2 km (7.6 mi) and that has a “round” time of five hours.The mountain is reported as being discovered by Colonial Europeans and named by Edward John Eyre either in 1839 or on 27 June 1840. Eyre is quoted as saying "from the lofty way it towered above the surrounding hills I named it Mount Remarkable."

Polish Hill River, South Australia

Polish Hill River is a small town in the Mid North region of South Australia, between the towns of Sevenhill and Mintaro.

Running northward through the locality is the Hill River itself, discovered and named by Edward John Eyre in 1839 after John Hill, discoverer of the nearby Hutt River.Following earlier pastoralism, closer settlement in the area began in the early 1850s, with the arrival of Irish Catholic migrants, including the Barry, Sullivan, Erwin, and Rochford families who were all from Glendalough, County Wicklow. The first white child born at Hill River was claimed to be James Erwin, in 1853. Polish Hill River was also established in the 1850s south of the Hill River settlement, around the church of St. Stanislaus Kostka by Polish Catholic immigrants. These included Dr Anton Sokolowsky (d.1862).The former church now houses a museum of Polish migrants to South Australia. Several well-known wineries exist in the Polish Hill River area, including Pikes, Pauletts, Wilson Vineyard and Little Brampton Wines. Grossett Wines also source grapes from this area. A circuit from the Riesling Trail, the Father Rogalski Loop, provides a walking and cycling entry to the Polish Hill River region.

Protector of Aborigines

The office of the Protector of Aborigines was established pursuant to a recommendation contained in the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes, (British settlements.) of the House of Commons. On 31 January 1838, Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies sent Governor Gipps the report.

The report recommended that Protectors of Aborigines should be engaged. They would be required to learn the Aboriginal language and their duties would be to watch over the rights of Aborigines, guard against encroachment on their property and to protect them from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice. The Port Phillip Protectorate was established with George Augustus Robinson as chief protector and four full-time protectors.While the role was nominally to protect Aborigines, particularly in remote areas, the role included social control up to the point of controlling whom individuals were able to marry and where they lived and managing their financial affairs.As well as Robinson, A. O. Neville and Edward John Eyre were notable Protectors of Aborigines.

Matthew Moorhouse was the first Protector of Aborigines in South Australia. He led the Rufus River massacre, which slaughtered 30-to-40 Aborigines.The Aborigines Welfare Board in New South Wales was abolished in 1969. By then, all states and territories had repealed the legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children under the policy of "protection".

Stuart High School (Whyalla)

Stuart High School is a high school in the city of Whyalla, Australia, on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula., four hours drive from Adelaide.

Stuart High School is part of an Alliance of schools in Whyalla, including Whyalla High School (8 - 10) and Edward John Eyre High School (11 - 12), plus close collaboration with the numerous primary schools in Whyalla.

The school's Aquaculture program is now part of the Eyre Peninsula Seafood and Aquaculture Trial, where tourist can come and visit the complex, and even feed the fish. Stuart High School also participates in the annual "Fishy Fringe" snapper competition, held over Easter in Whyalla, where smoked fish is sold to the public in the school's stall down at the foreshore.

Stuart High School has recently changed its logo, upgrading the old logo with a more modern interpretation.

Stuart High School is proposed to be merged with Whyalla High School and Edward John Eyre High School. The new merged school is intended to be on Nicholson Avenue, Whyalla Norrie between the Whyalla campuses of the University of South Australia and TAFE SA and expected to open for the 2022 school year.

West Eyreton

West Eyreton is a small rural village in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. It is west of Kaiapoi and north-west of Eyreton and is named after Edward John Eyre, a 19th-century lieutenant governor of the South Island, then known as New Munster. In the 2001 New Zealand census the population was 1,146 (573 males and 573 females), an increase of 306 or 36.4% since the 1996 census.

In the 1870s, poor transport led to the construction of the Eyreton Branch railway line, which opened on 17 December 1875. Despite its name it ran to the north of Eyreton and originally terminated in West Eyreton, extended to Bennetts Junction on the Oxford Branch on 1 February 1878. Beyond Horrelville closed on 9 February 1931, and on 26 May 1954 low traffic led to the closure of the branch. Little remains besides some of the formation and a loading bank at the site of station.


Whipsnade is a small village and civil parish in the county of Bedfordshire. It lies on the eastward tail spurs of the Chiltern Hills, about 2.5 miles south-south-west of Dunstable. It is the home of Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, as well as the famous ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, and is the namesake of Whipsnade Park Golf club, although it is actually in neighbouring Dagnall.The local Wildlife Trust manages a small nature reserve north of the village called Sallowsprings (51.8559°N 0.5391°W / 51.8559; -0.5391 (Sallowsprings)).Edward John Eyre, explorer of Australia, was born in Whipsnade in 1815.A hill figure can be found in the site. Shaped like a lion, it was made for Whipsnade Zoo. During the Second World War, this chalk image of a lion on Bison Hill, owned by Whipsnade Zoo, was covered with a black sheet in order not to attract attention from the German bomber planes.

Whyalla Norrie, South Australia

Whyalla Norrie is a suburb of Whyalla on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. It was gazetted as a distinct suburb in 1967, and had its boundaries altered in 1975 and 2000. It is bounded by Iron Knob Road, Norrie Avenue, Broadbent Terrace and MacDouall Stuart Avenue. It is part of the City of Whyalla.It contains the Westland Shopping Centre, the largest shopping centre on the Eyre Peninsula. It also includes the Whyalla Public Library, Bennett Oval, the largest sporting oval in Whyalla, the Whyalla Health and Leisure Centre, and the Anderson Raceway.Whyalla Norrie has a number of educational facilities: Fisk Street Primary School, Hincks Avenue Primary School, Long Street Primary School, Nicolson Avenue Primary School (opened 1954), Edward John Eyre High School (opened 1968 as the Whyalla Technical School), Sunrise Christian School, the Whyalla Special Education Center, the Whyalla TAFE campus and the Whyalla campus of the University of South Australia.The suburb includes the National Trust of Australia-owned Mount Laura Homestead Museum heritage village, consisting of the former Mount Laura Station homestead, the Gay Street Cottage and Wash House, the Whyalla Policemen's Dwelling Lockup, engine sheds, a blacksmith shop, harness shed, telecommunications museum, and a former steam train from the Iron Knob mines. The cottage and police lockup are both separately listed on the South Australian Heritage Register; both buildings were relocated to the site in 1978.Whyalla Norrie was in the top five country localities in South Australia for real estate price growth in the decade to 2013.Whyalla Norrie has its own branches of the Rotary Club and Country Women's Association.

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