James Stirling (Australian governor)

James Stirling (Australian governor)

Bold text"'] "'=Family background=

He was the fifth son of eight of the fifteen children of Andrew Stirling, Esq. of Drumpellier near Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. His mother, Anne was his father's second cousin, being the daughter of Admiral Sir Walter Stirling and the sister of Sir Walter Stirling, 1st Baronet of Faskine and Admiral Sir Charles Stirling.cite web|work=Dictionary of Australian Biography|title=James Stirling|url=http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogSt-Sy.html#stirling2]

The Stirling family was well-known and celebrated in the naval annals of the 18th century. With such a family background, it was natural for James to enter the Royal Navy, and at the age of 12 (in 1803) he joined up as a first-class volunteer, embarking on the storeship "Camel" for the West Indies. Thus began a distinguished career.


West Indies

James Stirling entered the Royal Navy at the age of twelve. Soon after arriving in the West Indies, young Stirling became midshipman of the "Hercules", and in 1805 he went to serve in his uncle's flagship Glory.

In that year he saw action off Cape Finisterre during the Napoleonic Wars against the French and Spanish fleets, and later served under the flag of his uncle in the "Sampson" and the "Diadem" in the operations on the Río de la Plata. After watching the fall of Montevideo and being incorrectly reported as killed in action, he served for a time on the Home Station and on 12 August 1809, at the age of 19 was promoted Lieutenant in the "Warspite". In 1811 he was Flag Lieutenant to his uncle, now Vice Admiral in command at Jamaica.

On 27 February 1812, he received his first command, the sloop "Moselle", and soon afterwards the larger sloop "Brazen" in which he was employed during the War of 1812 in harassing forts and shipping near the Mississippi River


Between 1818 and 1822 his father, Andrew, was a tenant at Henley Park in Surrey which began James' association with the area. At Woodbridge, Surrey, he became acquainted with the Mangles family, whose wealthy head had extensive interests in the East Indies, had been High Sheriff for Surrey in 1808, was a director of the British East India Company, and in 1832–37 represented Guildford in Parliament. His third daughter, Ellen, attracted Stirling's attention and the couple were married at Stoke Church, Guildford on 3 September 1823 on Ellen's 16th birthday. They had six daughters and five sons among whom were two children baptised on 15 June 1833 in Ash but who both born at sea, the first being Frederick Henry (born at sea on 29 March 1829 and first baptised at the Cape of Good Hope on 19 April 1829) and the second being Mary (born at sea on 11 October 1832 and first baptised in St Helena on 20 October 1832). Similarly another son, Charles Edward, was baptised on 19 January, 1834, having been born on board a ship at Spithead.Christopher John Pettitt, "Normandy Historians section of the Normandy & Worplesdon Directory", page 33, January 2008]

Western Australia

In 1826, the Governor of New South Wales, Governor Darling sent Stirling on the "Success" to visit and report on the west coast of Australia. Stirling was impressed with the land in the vicinity of the Swan River describing it as ideal for establishing a permanent settlement. In particular, he was pleased with the defensive prospects of Mount Eliza (the large hill which Kings Park is on), situated as it is near the narrows of the Swan River, which would make defending the colony from gunships easy, with just a few cannons.

On returning to London in 1828, Stirling lobbied officials to enlist support for a settlement to be established in Western Australia. Along with his brother-in-law, Captain William Preston RN (who was married to his wife's sister) he finally succeeded. They assembled a team of pioneers from the parishes of Pirbright and Worplesdon and on 6 February 1829 the sixty-nine pioneers departed Plymouth in the "Parmelia" under Captain J H Luscombe out of Spithead, arriving at Garden Island, Western Australia at what became known as the Swan River Colony on 31 May. They re-erected a wooden house that had first been assembled at Captain Preston's home in Sutton Green that would become the Governors home. These pioneers were responsible for laying the foundations of Perth, Fremantle and the market-town named Guildford that is now a suburb of Perth.

Stirling administered the Swan River settlement from June 1829 until August 1832, when he left on an extended visit to England where he was knighted, and again from August 1834 until December 1838. However, he was commissioned as Governor of Western Australia only from 4 March 1831, rectifying the absence of a legal instrument providing the authority detailed in Stirling's Instructions of 30 December 1828. Stirling had said

I believe I am the first Governor who ever formed a settlement without Commission, Laws, Instructions and Salary. [cite web | url = http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/item.asp?dID=94 | title = Commission appointing Stirling Governor and Commander-in-Chief 4 March 1831 (UK) | work = Documenting a Democracy | publisher = National Archives of Australia | accessdate = 2008-03-05 - see also [http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/scan.asp?sID=1217 Scan of 1st page of parchment original] and cite web | last = Bathurst | authorlink = Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst | year = 1831 | url = http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/resources/transcripts/wa5i_doc_1831.pdf | title = Transcription of Commission appointing Stirling Governor and Commander-in-Chief 4 March 1831 (UK) | format = pdf (5 pages) | work = Founding documents: 110 key documents that are the foundation of our nation | publisher = National Archives of Australia | accessdate = 2008-03-05]

With the creation of the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1830, Stirling automatically became an official member.

In October 1834 Stirling led a detachment of 25 armed troopers and settlers including Septimus Roe and Thomas Peel that attacked an encampment of 60-80 Pindjarep Aboriginal people. The Pindjarep fled into the bush and were later encircled near a crossing on the Pinjarra River, Stirling referred to this as the Battle of Pinjarra. Settlers accounts claim between 10-80 aboriginals died compared to aboriginal oral history which claim 150 people died. [cite news|title=This week in history|author=Frank Dunn|work=The Sunday Times|date=October 23, 2005] [cite news|title=Aboriginals and Settlers|author=Susan Hewitt|work=The West Australian, Features; Pg. 2.|date=May 26, 2004]

Stirling remained entirely unsympathetic to the needs of Aboriginal people in Western Australia, and never recognised their prior ownership of the land despite the fact that the Buxton Committee of the British House of Commons informed him that this was a mistake for which the new colony would suffer. Stirling mentioned in dispatches that the Aborigines "must gradually disappear" and the "most anxious and judicious measures of the local government [could] prevent the ulterior extinction of the race".

As recognition of his service in establishing the colony Stirling was granted land near Beverley, Western Australia. This land, along with neighbouring properties was re-acquired by the Western Australian Government, who later subdivided the land into farmlets for returning soldiers. The remaining land was later used to establish the Avondale Agricultural Research Station, which includes Stirling's restored homestead.


In the mid 1800s, Stirling selected convert|12800|acre|km2 of land in Harvey and called it the "Harvey River Settlement"Fact|date=March 2008. However, The only improvement made was a convict built cottage on the banks of the Harvey River. The cottage featured a shingled roof and pit-sawn jarrah walls with hexagonal-shaped paving blocks fitted together to form firm flooring. A replica cottage known as Stirling's Cottage has been built on the site and includes one of the original paving blocks in its history room.


In October 1840 he was appointed to command the "Indus" in the Mediterranean where he remained until June 1844. After another three years ashore he was appointed to the "Howe" which he commanded from April 1847 to April 1850 when he was knighted by the King of Greece.

Far East

In July 1851, Stirling was promoted Rear Admiral and in the following year served at the Admiralty. From January 1854 to February 1856 Stirling was commander in chief of the naval forces in China and the East Indies.

Using gunboat diplomacy he signed the first British treaty with Japan (the Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty) on October 14 1854 "In 1856 he was recalled because he had failed in the primary naval duty of finding and destroying the Russian squadron - partly, perhaps, because of his preoccupation with the self-imposed task of negotiating with Japan" [cite book|title=Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 1834-1858|author=W.G. Beasley|publisher=Japan Library paperback|date=1995, first published by Luzac & Co., 1951|isbn=1-873410-43-3|page=144] Yet his agreements with Japan were ratified, and his conduct was officially commended.


Stirling was promoted Vice Admiral in August 1857. He became an Admiral in November 1862 and died in comfortable retirement at Guildford in Surrey on 22 April 1865 aged 74. He was buried in Wyke Churchyard, near the western end of St Marks Church, Wyke, as was Captain Preston. There is a memorial tablet within the church. His wife survived him by nine years and was buried in the extension to the graveyard of Stoke Church where they had been married.


The plant genus "Stirlingia", was named in his honour by Stephan Endlicher in 1838. A variety of Pittosporum is also named in his honour. In England, Stoke Church's social centre and hall is named "The Stirling Centre".

In Western Australia the suburb of Stirling is named after him as is a seat in the lower House of the national Parliament. The Royal Australian Navy's Indian Ocean Fleet is based at HMAS Stirling near Rockingham. There are also many pubs and buildings named after him throughout Perth and Fremantle.


Further reading

* Hasluck, Alexandra."James Stirling".Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 1963.
* Statham-Drew, Pamela. "James Stirling : admiral and founding governor of Western Australia" Crawley, W.A. : University of Western Australia Press, 2003. ISBN 1876268948

ee also

* History of Western Australia
* Anglo-Japanese relations

External links

* [http://www.celebratewa.com.au/Events/view.asp?DetailsID=55 Celebrate W.A. site]
*cite book|author=The Constitution Centre of Western Australia|year=2002|chapter=Captain Sir James Stirling 1828-1839|chapterurl=http://www.ccentre.wa.gov.au/index.cfm?event=governorsJamesstirling|title=Governors and Premiers of Western Australia|url=http://www.ccentre.wa.gov.au/index.cfm?event=govPrem|location=West Perth, Western Australia|publisher=The Constitution Centre of Western Australia|isbn=0-7307-3821-3
*NRA|id=P27349|name=James Stirling

NAME=Stirling, James
DATE OF BIRTH=January 28 1791
PLACE OF BIRTH=Drumpellier near Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
DATE OF DEATH=April 23 1865
PLACE OF DEATH=Guildford, Surrey

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