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Festing Colson Knight (c. 1824–1885)

Captain Festing Colsor Knight died of apoplexy in his residence, Pyrmont, on Sunday evening. He went to church in the morning, as was his usual custom, and seemed to enjoy good health. But at about 2.30 p.m. he was suddenly taken ill, and shortly afterward became unconscious and expired at about 6.15 p.m. Medical advice was called in, but no hopes were entertained of his recovery. Captain Knight was the second son of Edward Butt Knight, and was born in Colorton, Ashby-de-la-Zonch, Leicestershire, England, in 1824. He was apprenticed to the sea at any early age. He was first known in Australia about '48 or '49, and was then in the command of a schooner, which was running between here and China and among the islands of the Pacific. In June, 1853, he was in London, and was engaged as a commander by Mr. Patterson, then manager of the A.S.N. Company, who was in England also, to bring out the steamer Boomerang. This he accomplished successfully, and on his arrival here he was placed in command of the Waratah. He was one of the first to navigate the Mary River in the old days, and owing to his long connection with the Queensland trade he was known to almost everyone in the northern colony. At different times he had charge of the Telegraph, Yarra Yarra, City of Adelaide and others, but chiefly the City of Brisbane, of which vessel he took command on her arrival in the colony, in 1864, and he held the position till he retired from active service on the sea in 1880. In the latter year he succeeded Captain Munro, as marine superintendent of the A.S.N. Co. This position he held till December 31, 1884. Captain Knight is said by those, who knew him best to have been one of the most competent commanders whoever sailed along the coast of this continent. His manner upon acquaintance was not very genial, but this only covered the natural and simple goodness of the man's heart. His own crew would (says a good authority) sail with him to the death, for he was a father to them. He was brave and self possessed in moments of danger, and had great presence of mind. Several characteristic anecdotes are told of him. In the early days when he used to trade up the Mary River the natives frequently threw their spears on board the vessel at one spot where she was compelled to go close to shore. When passing this point Captain Knight always took the precaution to put on a couple of peajackets, which he called his coat of mail. Afterward, when the natives knew him better, enmity and hatred gave place to friendship and devotion. The incident in which he 'sat on' Sir George Bowen, then Governor of Queensland, is well-known. Sir G. Bowen was a passenger on Captain Knight's ship, and finding the cabin closed he sent a man to put his mattress on the skylight, which his aide-de-camp lowered. Several ladies complained of this, and the complaints reached the captains ears, and he ordered a quarter master to raise the skylight. The Governor's aide-de-camp objected, and the man went back to the captain, who at once put the aide-de-camp in his right place. The skylight was raised, and the Governor's feet stuck in the air, and he had his choice either to sleep in that position or move.

Original publication

Citation details

'Knight, Festing Colson (c. 1824–1885)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


c. 1824
Coleorton, Leicestershire, England


26 July, 1885 (aged ~ 61)
Pyrmont, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.