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Birch, Gustavus John (1820–1883)

Our contributor "Tell-tale," referring to one who has been well known for many years past to boating people in the habit of cruising in Moreton Bay, says —"So poor old Birch has at last joined the great majority. His death is briefly recorded in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. January 10, at St Vincent's Hospital, Gustavus Birch, of Stradbroke Island, Queensland.' 'Old Birch, of Amity Point,' as he was always familiarly referred to amongst us of the boating fraternity, at one time—very many years ago—occupied an important position in the public service. He came here before Separation, as registrar of the Supreme Court, with Mr Justice Milford, the first resident Supreme Court Judge of the Moreton Bay district, and when that gentleman some time afterwards returned to Sydney, Mr Birch went with him. Birch from his first residence here seems to have been attracted to the secluded spot which for so many years subsequently formed his home, and he shortly afterwards returned from Sydney and lived for a time at Amity Point. For a time afterwards he filled the position of Registrar of the District Court at Ipswich (or Limestone, as it was called in those days). Having, however, relinquished that position, he again sought the quietude of Amity Point, where he was able to indulge his strong taste for natural history to its fullest extent. Although he so long lived a hermit life—coming to Brisbane, I believe, not more than once or twice within twelve or fifteen years—he was always glad to receive visitors at his lonely bark hut, and those who have had the pleasure of conversations with him always came away the wiser. He was a thorough gentleman, well educated and polite, and hospitable to a degree. On all matters appertaining to natural history and botany he would talk for hours with the zest of an enthusiast. In the former days of his sojourn on Stradbroke he kept a diary, which would have been both useful and interesting from a scientific point of view, but unfortunately this with his primitive hut and its other contents was some years ago destroyed by fire. The last time I saw the old recluse, the rough life he had led was beginning to tell upon his constitution. We found him shut up in his humpy, lying on his bush stretcher, unable to rise. His mind was, however, as vigorous as ever, and after the usual 'yarn' we left him his last words to us being words of apology that he was unable to come out and see us off in our boat. When I promised to send him some papers to assist him in passing his lonely hours his old predilection showed itself by a hint that magazines dealing with science, natural history, or botany would be received with the most pleasure. Amity Point will seem quite a different place without 'Old Birch'."

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'Birch, Gustavus John (1820–1883)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/birch-gustavus-john-28625/text36134, accessed 27 June 2019.

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