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Devlin, Arthur (1811–1893)

from Table Talk (Vic)

Captain Arthur Devlin, who died at "Bungunyah," Hastings, on August 28, aged 83 years, was the first white man born of an Australian native. His father, Arthur Devlin, was one of the five ringleaders of the Irish rebellion of 1798, who were exiled to the colony of New South Wales. Arthur Devlin married Priscilla, daughter of James Squire, the owner of the first brewery established in New South Wales. Soon after his marriage Mr. Devlin selected the 100 acres of land to which he was entitled under the conditions of his banishment, at Kissing Point, on the Parramatta River, and their first child, the late Captain Devlin, was born at Liverpool in 1811. The father died in 1820, leaving six children, three boys and three girls. Young Arthur was sent to sea when he was twelve years old in a ship trading between Sydney and South American ports. Later on he went into the Antarctic whaling trade, and made a good deal of money by it, so that by the time he was twenty-two years of age he had built to his order the first steamship that floated in Australian waters. The little vessel was called the Surprise, and was built by Henry Gilbert Smith, in Sydney, in 1832. Captain Devlin brought the material and helped to build the first wharf constructed in Port Adelaide, South Australia, called McLaren's wharf. By 1840 he was worth £48,000 in hard cash at his bankers, which amount he lost two years later by a series of shipping disasters. In January of that year he was wrecked in the Rapid, and for twenty-two days he and the crew were drifting on the ocean in two open boats. Captain Devlin was a man of extraordinary physique, and stood over six feet high, yet the privations he suffered caused the hair of his head to suddenly drop off after steering the boat for two days without sleep. It was twenty days later before the crew reached Rotumah, having had no food beyond a few cocoanuts which they had picked up on the shore of the island where they dared not land. The shipwrecked mariners were subsequently rescued by the barque Avon, owned by Captain George Ward Cole, who subsequently became Captain Devlin's partner in the ferry steamer Gem, running between Port Melbourne and Williamstown. In 1842 Captain Devlin had command of the ship Abercromby, and made a considerable profit by taking a cargo of sandalwood to China, and bringing back to Sydney a cargo of tea. In 1840 he purchased the barque Emma, in which he traded between Australian and South American ports until 1852. He then, in partnership with a Mr. Crawford, established himself in business in Melbourne as a gold buyer. He was one of the founders of the Athenaeum Club, and despite the hardships of his early life, including an attack of malarial fever at Hong Kong, during which he was left for dead, he enjoyed good health until, about nine months ago, he sustained fracture of the knee by falling down the stairs at the Opera House in Bourke-street. Captain Devlin had a large family, but only three children survive him, the eldest being Mrs. A. B. Malleson. His other two children, and several grandchildren reside in the Hastings district, where he went to recruit after his accident. The immediate cause of his death was bronchitis.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Arthur Devlin

Additional Resources

  • probate, Age (Melbourne), 16 September 1893, p 3

Citation details

'Devlin, Arthur (1811–1893)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/devlin-arthur-26552/text34317, accessed 23 April 2018.

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