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Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833–1870)

An exceedingly painful feeling was created yesterday morning in Melbourne, particularly among literary and sporting circles, by a report that Mr. A. L. [Adam Lindsay] Gordon, the well-known poet and gentleman steeplechase rider, had committed suicide by shooting himself in the scrub near the Brighton beach. At first the rumour was very generally disbelieved, but on making inquiries it turned out to be too true. Mr. Gordon was in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon, and was seen by a large number of his acquaintances. Nothing unusual was noticed in his manner, except that he seemed more cheerful than was usual with him. He went home about half-past 5 o'clock, and took tea with Mrs. Gordon, having taken with him a package of cartridges for his rifle. He spoke to Mr. Kelly, with whom he lodged, about going out to practise the next morning, as he had made a match to shoot with some person whom he did not name. They also conversed about the Brighton Artillery Corps, of which they both were members. During the evening, and in fact all through the night, Mr. Gordon seemed extremely restless, and was in and out of the house several times, but there was nothing so peculiar in his manner as to excite apprehensions in the mind of his wife or the persons in the house. Early on Friday he was missed, but still nothing serious was apprehended until it was found that he had taken his rifle with him. From the little that is known of him after he left the house, it appears that about half-past 7 o'clock in the morning he called at the Marine Hotel, and asked for Mr. Prendergast, the landlord, and was informed by his son that he was not then up. On being asked if he should awake him, Mr. Gordon said it was of no great consequence. He then had a glass of brandy, and left the house. Going down Park-street, a fisherman named Harrison met him about a quarter of a mile from the Marine Hotel, and bade him "Good morning," to which he made no reply, and passed on. This was within 60 yards from where the body was found. After passing the fisherman, Mr. Gordon must have turned off Park-street, into the thick scrub. He had then loaded the rifle with the only cartridge he had with him, as the empty cartridge-case was found a few yards from the body. From the position in which the body was found, Mr. Gordon must have seated himself on the ground, and placing the butt of the rifle firmly in the sand, between his foot, put the muzzle to his mouth, and with a forked tea-tree twig pushed the trigger and thus exploded the rifle. The bullet passed through his brain and out of the back of the head, carrying away a piece of the skull about an inch in circumference. Death must have been instantaneous, as when the body was found the gun was still between the legs, one hand clasping the barrel to his breast, while the prong of the twig was still on the trigger. His hat was lying a few yards off, having evidently been placed there before the gun was fired, as it contained his knife, pipe, some tobacco, and one shilling. The suicide must have been committed between 8 and 9 o'clock, as the body was discovered at the latter hour by Mr. A. P. Allen, a grocer living in New-street, Brighton. Mr. Allen was out looking for a cow, and finding the sand in Park-street heavy walking, he turned off into the scrub, and had not gone far when he was startled by seeing the lifeless body of Mr. Gordon lying on the ground. He at once went to the police station, and gave information to Senior-constable O'Donnell, who placed a guard over the body until the coroner's warrant was received, when he conveyed it to the Marine Hotel, where it now lies awaiting inquest. Mr. Gordon, who was 42 years of age, was a native of Cotswold, Gloucestershire, where he was considered the best rider in the county, and was the son of Professor Gordon, a university man of some repute. He was educated partly at Cambridge and partly at Glasgow University, and was a very elegant scholar, of refined tastes, and poetical tendencies. He came to South Australia from the old country in the year 1852, and soon after his arrival had a fortune left him, with which he bought land and speculated to some extent. He accepted an invitation to enter the Legislature of South Australia, in which he represented the district of Victoria for some years, conjointly with Mr. Priddock. In Adelaide he earned the reputation of being a dashing and fearless steeple-chase rider, and has retained that reputation in this colony, though his shortness of sight was the cause of his meeting with many falls, some of a very dangerous nature. On leaving Adelaide he came to Victoria, where he has been engaged as a horse dealer. Recently he has been very heavily in debt, and sold all his horses. He was heir to a wealthy baronetcy, and on the strength of this, it is said, very large credit was given him in business transactions. Recently he told a very intimate friend that he meant to relinquish steeplechase-riding on account of the falls he had sustained. Yesterday morning he was to have paid a bill of £30, which he appears to have been unable to meet, as he was very closely run for money. At any rate, the money was not paid. As a poet he had obtained considerable repute, a volume entitled Sea Spray and Smoke Drift having been very favourably noticed by the colonial and British press. A new volume of poetry by Mr. Gordon, entitled Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes has just been published, and the author, who was of an excitable temperament, was in a very nervous state of excitement all the day before his death on account of having been shown by the intimate friend before referred to, who is himself a poet, a review in The Australasian newspaper of this week, in which the newly-issued volume is very favourably criticised. He was highly pleased with the notice, which was shown him in a proof copy, and this makes his suicide so soon afterwards the more strange. The deceased usually walked home to his residence at North Brighton, but on Thursday he said he would go by the train, and at 4 o'clock he parted with that intention from the literary friend already more than once referred to. Mr. Gordon was an extremely temperate man, but if induced to take spirits the effect produced by a small quantity on his frame, weakened by the serious injuries he had received in the hunting field and in steeplechasing, was very great, and this was considered to account for his restlessness on Thursday night. He was a fatalist in the fullest sense of the word, and had frequently stated that on more than one occasion he had put a pistol to his temple with suicidal intentions, but was restrained by the thought of his wife, to whom he was devotedly attached. He had had four children, but they are all, we believe, now dead.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Gordon, Adam Lindsay (1833–1870)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Adam Lindsay Gordon,

Adam Lindsay Gordon,

State Library of South Australia, 13450

Life Summary [details]


19 October, 1833
Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire, England


24 June, 1870 (aged 36)
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

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