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Gregory, Sir Augustus Charles (1819–1905)

Sir Augustus Charles Gregory, K.C.M.G., M.L.C, pioneer, explorer, and legislator, and one of the outstanding figures in the early history of the Australian continent, passed quietly to his rest on Sunday, at his home, Rainworth, Rosalie, near Brisbane. Though he had reached the ripe age of 86 years, the death of the distinguished gentleman was nevertheless a painful shock to a wide circle of friends, for until last week he was moving about with accustomed activity. Recently it appears that Sir Augustus Gregory caught cold. He treated it lightly at first; but at length consulted his medical adviser. Dr. D. Hardie. who discovered that his patient had developed a severe attack of pneumonia. Age and a consequent weak action of the heart prevented a successful contest with the disease, and Sir Augustus gradually sank and died peacefully about midday.

The deceased gentleman was born at Farnsworth, in the county of Nottinghamshire, England, on the 1st August, 1819. He received early private tuition in his native town, and in 1829 he was taken to Western Australia by his father, Joshua Gregory, who died in that colony in 1838. "Burke's Colonial Gentry" traces the lineage of the family back to the reign of Charles I., when Thomas Gregory, Esq., held the office of Sheriff of Nottingham. The early education of Augustus Gregory was continued privately in Western Australia, and at the age of 18 years he was given employment in the Survey Office, drawn thereto by a natural inclination for survey work. His energy and enterprise led to his appointment to the permanent staff, and he was engaged in survey and exploration work in the Western colony until 1854, when he was appointed by the Imperial Government to conduct the exploration of Northern Australia, as described in greater detail in another part of this article. The Royal Geographical Society awarded their gold medal to the explorer in the year 1858. It was in 1855 that he first came to Queensland, and in 1858 he conducted a search for the lost Leichhardt. The following year he was appointed Surveyor-General in Queensland, and he held that office until 1875. His distinguished services to the country obtained for him the recognition of his Sovereign, and he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1874. In the year 1882, Mr. Gregory was called to the Legislative Council of this State. During the thirteen years which have since elapsed, he has taken the warmest interest in all the business of the Chamber, and has been ever a prominent figure in its debates. It was his custom to sit on what became known as the Opposition benches in order, as he said, that he might the more freely criticise the various measures brought forward. At the same time he cordially supported any proposal which recommended itself to his judgment. His intimate knowledge of the country, its characteristics and resources, his vast fund of information, particularly in connection with science, and his patriotic regard for his adopted country, secured for him an attentive hearing, even from those who differed with him. Personally, Sir Augustus Gregory has endeared himself to a wide circle of friends all over Australia. Unassuming in manner, he was still bright and cheerful in all his social intercourse, though not easily to be turned from any course he deemed it necessary to adopt. He possessed a clear memory of numerous eventful periods in his life, and was ever ready to draw upon his recollections for the entertainment or instruction of those who sought and enjoyed his company.

On 9th November, 1903, his Majesty King Edward was pleased to confer on the subject of this notice the distinction of Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Sir Augustus received the hearty congratulations, not only of the Legislative Council, but also of his fellow-colonists throughout Queensland. With characteristic modesty, whilst expressing thanks for the kind things said of him on that occasion by the Secretary for Public Instruction, he attributed to others the merit of all he had been able to do, remarking. "I can only look upon myself in the light of a general who has conducted a number of brave soldiers who ably performed their duty. They were successful, and I get the honour." He was, however, by no means lacking in appreciation either of the honour conferred upon him by the King, or of the goodwill of his fellow-colonists, and this was made apparent in his remarks shortly afterwards, when he was entertained on board the Lucinda to mark this notable event in his life. The deceased gentleman has cut his name deep in Australian history, particularly in the States of Western Australia and Queensland. On his first expedition, in 1840, he pushed his way into the wastes where the great goldfields of Coolgardie were discovered many years afterwards. He discovered the first coal in Western Australia, on the Irwin River, and also a valuable lead mine on the Murchison.

His services were ever at command in the advancement of scientific research. The knowledge he possessed was always available in the elucidation of any public question within the range of hin extensive powers, and though never anxious for publicity, he readily communicated through the columns of the Press any information which he thought would be of value. He has also been called upon by the Government of Queensland on a number of occasions for special reports, and for assistance of various kinds in the investigation of subjects having a geological or geographical bearing. In this connection, too, may be mentioned his long association with the Royal Geographical Society, the Queensland branch of which was proud to number him amongst its honorary councillors. Other learned societies and private investigators in various branches of science had in him a steadfast helper. Of his work in connection with the Masonic order, no more than mention is needed here, as it is referred to at greater length in the course of this article.

During his busy life the deceased gentleman also found time to take an active interest in local government affairs. He was one of the first members of the Toowong Shire Council, and occupied the position of president on several occasions. When the shire was gazetted a town under the Local Government Act of 1902, Sir Augustus Gregory was unhesitatingly chosen first Mayor of the new borough.

Original publication

  • Queenslander, 1 July 1905, p 9

Citation details

'Gregory, Sir Augustus Charles (1819–1905)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/gregory-sir-augustus-charles-3663/text28660, accessed 25 November 2017.

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