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John Garrett Bussell (1803–1875)

The Late John Garrett Bussell—Explorers tell us that there is a strange sort of fascination, an indescribable excitement and pleasure in wandering through new lands. They tell us that the man who pushes his way over tracts of country where the foot of civilised man has never trod, who feels that it is his privilege to become a messenger, a medium of communication, between the primeval forest and the world at large, enjoys pleasures all his own, unknown to, and unsuspected by, the dwellers in the well-beaten paths of ordinary life. These pleasures were tasted by many in this land something like half a century ago; and of the persons thus privileged several have remained amongst us up to a comparatively recent day. But the number of such persons dwindles down rapidly. Of late they have been following one another away from us in somewhat quick succession. They have gone off again upon their discoveries, — discoveries widely different from those which they delighted in in years gone by, and, what is more, they come not back to make known to us the nature of those discoveries. One of the band we speak of has left us within the last few days. His name has already been mentioned above. More than forty five years ago he landed on these shores, and, during the whole of the time which has since intervened, he has been identified with that tract of country which lies in the S.W. corner of this continent. He ever looked upon the beauties of Nature with intense admiration; and in the early days referred to he was ever forward and fearless in penetrating those pathless forests which characterise that portion of the country in which he had cast his lot. He was one of that little band of bold settlers who first pitched their tents at Augusta — a most picturesque spot near the mouth of the river Blackwood, and not far from the well-known Cape Leuwin. Subsequently Augusta was abandoned as a settlement. It was found to be too remote from the capital, and difficult of access. Most of the settlers, chiefly through the instrumentality of Mr. Bussel, moved to the Vasse district, in Geographe Bay. Then a thriving little township grew up which perpetuates the name of our departed friend. The founders of that settlement were not unmindful of their responsibilities and duties as Christians in a new land. They had a care for God's honor, and funds were collected, chiefly through the exertions of the Bussell family, for the erection of a church, and long before any clergyman was settled in the district that church was used habitually for Divine Service, Mr. Bussell sharing with the Resident Magistrate, Colonel Molloy, the duty, or rather the privilege, of leading the Sunday services for the benefit of themselves, their families, and their neighbours. Mr. Bussell was at a very early period male a Magistrate, and, at the time of his decease, was, we believe, with only one exception, the J.P. of oldest standing in the colony. There was one circumstance in the late Mr. Bussell's case so remarkable that the mention of it can never be omitted whenever his name is called to mind, i.e., his devoted attachment to the classical training of his early life. He was entered at Winchester as a very small boy, and worked his way from the lowest form to the highest when the school was enjoying its palmy days under the famous Dr. Gabell. From Winchester be went to Trinity College, Oxford, where his career was alike honorable to himself and beneficial to others, and in due time proceeded to his degree; and this is the remarkable fact of his after life, that notwithstanding his five and forty years' of colonial life, including many years of 'roughing it' in the bush, he seemed never to have forgotten anything that he learned in his early days. If his learning had been a load upon him, or a burden to him, he would have done as other University men have done by thousands — he would have cast it from him, or, at any rate, laid it aside. But his classical lore abode with him as a never-failing source of enjoyment, and not to himself only, but to others also his literary tastes were ever a source of pleasure. These tastes and attainments together with the warmth of his attachments, his firm and unchanging friendship, and his pure and high tone of mind, endeared him greatly to those who were privileged to be his intimate friends, and secured the respect and esteem of all who came in contact with him. But it was his deep, although unobtrusive, religious feeling which constituted the foundation of all his excellence. From, time to time he would give indications of the principles which guided him and the hopes which sustained him, and he would speak in a way characteristic of himself. He happened to be staying at the house of a friend in Perth at Easter-time some three or four years ago, and his meditations found utterance in the following little stanzas, after the manner of medieval hymns. It may be useful to some readers to mention that the first and second stanzas are a free paraphrase of the beginning of the second Psalm (one of the proper psalms for Easter Day), and that the third stanza is the exclamation of triumph suitable to Easter-time. The last word points plainly enough to our English word resurrection. Such were our friend's songs of triumph here on earth. They are finished now. He shall sing in higher strains for evermore: —

Quare fremuerunt gentes
Quare populi frequentes,
Contra Christi vim nitentes?

Divellantur funes horum,
Dentur flatibus ventorum
Ligamenta vinculorum.

Gratias, quas Deus vexit,
Peccans turba nune aspexit
Jesus nobis resurrexit.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Bussell, John Garrett (1803–1875)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 August, 1803
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England


21 September, 1875 (aged 72)
Busselton, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

lung congestion

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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