George Martin was born 1778 in England to Richard Martin and Sarah Colden and died 24 February 1842 Adelaide, South Australia, Australia of a gun shot wound to the head.

Captain George Martin

George Martin was an experienced ship's captain.

He married Mary Brett in 1817 in London when he was 39 and she was 22. After marriage he often sailed with his wife. By 1835 Mary had given birth to 11 children in places including London, Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso in Chile, Hobart, and Sydney. 3 of their 11 children did not survive infancy.

In 1821 George Martin was Master (Captain) of the "Jupiter". In September 1821 he sailed from Hobart to Sydney (Hobart Town Gazette, 8 September 1821). In November 1821 he sailed from Sydney to Hobart first for freight (Sydney Gazette, 10 November 1821), and then sailing back to England from Hobart with freight and passengers in January 1822 (Hobart Town Gazette, 19 January 1822).

In 1823 George Martin and his family settled in Hobart, Tasmania where he purchased 800 acres of land and joined the local Freemasons Lodge. Whilst retaining ownership of this 800 acres (he mentions it ina letter to his wife dated 29 october 1836), he next moved his family to Sydney where son Robert Terence was born in 1824 and daughter Isabella was born in 1826. In 1836 he became "one of the earliest colonists in South Australia" after sailing the "John Pirie" with settlers, livestock and supplies to help in the establishment of the new Colony.

On a list of subscribers for the building if the first church in Adelaide, Trinity Church, published in the South Australian Gazette of 8 July 1837, "Captain Martin of the schooner John Pirie" is listed as having pledged £1. The Governor of the Colony had pledged £5.

The voyages of the "John Pirie" from 1836 to 1839

From the letter's that he wrote it can be seen that George Martin was a deeply religious man. He was involved in the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society where he will have become acquainted with George Fife Angas (1789-1879) who was the Society’s founding joint treasurer in 1833, and who was instrumental in founding the South Australian Company in 1835.

By 1836 George Martin was familiar with the sea route between Britain and Australia, and having spent time in both Hobart annd Sydney was also familiar with colonial conditions. He was appointed Master (Captain) of the ship the "John Pirie", owned by the South Australian Company, which was to be part of a "first fleet" of 5 ships taking settlers to establish the new Colony of South Australia.

George Martin with his 2 eldest sons, Robert Terence, 11, & George Jnr, 6, joined the "John Pirie" in February 1836 on the Thames River, London. His wife Mary and their other 6 children remained behind in London with family. These 6 children included baby Thomas Henry born in 1835 in London, like his big sister Marian. (Many references state that Mary sailed with her husband George Martin aboard the "John Pirie" but this is incorrect. George Martin's letter to Mary from Hobart on 29 October 1836 describing the circumstances of the voyage, and what she needed to do to sail to the Colony of South Australia, proves that she was not on the voyage. This leter also mentions their sons Robert Terence and George who were at that time with George Martin in Hobart.)

SOUTH AUSTRALIA. –Yesterday morning at five o'clock the ship John Pirie, Capt. Martin, left the London Dock, and was taken in tow by a steamer to Gravesend, from which place she is to set sail this morning for the new colony of South Australia. She has on board 20 agricultural emigrants, whose passage money is nearly all paid by government from the fund derived from the sale of land in the colony, and who intend settling in South Australia. They are accompanied by Mr. John Brown, late of South Shields, who goes out as Superintendent The vessel has taken out 12 months provisions for the use of the emigrants, including a large quantity of sheep, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, &c, and various necessaries for the new settlement. The arrangements connected with the sailing of this vessel were under the direction of A. F. Angus, Esq. We understand that Captain Hindmarsh, the appointed Governor of the new colony, with other officers, accompanied by upwards of 100 emigrants, will sail in a few weeks to take possession of the settlement. –Morning Herald, Feb. 23 (1836)

The Hobart Town Courier, 19 August 1836

The "John Pirie" departed London on 22 February, departed Gravesend on 23 February, was at the Downs in the English Channel on 25 February, at Falmouth from 4-19 March, and then after weathering a violent storm at sea returned to England at Dartmouth from 2-16 April for repairs and restocking of lost supplies and livestock. (The date of departure from England that was printed in The Sydney Monitor of 18 June 1836 was 1 March 1836, but on 27 July had been corrected to 23 February, the date of leaving Gravesend.) The ship was 1 of 5 vessels, 4 of whom were taking passengers who worked for the South Australian Company as settlers to the new Colony of South Australia. The "John Pirie" arrived at Kangaroo Island, South Australia, on 16 August 1836. Whaleboats were then sent to meet the "John Pirie". Whale boats were hired and/or borrowed from the Kangaroo Island sealers and whalers to meet the newly arrived ships carrying emigrants to the Colony.

With a crew of 10 including Captain George Martin and his 11 year old son Robert Terence Martin, and possibly 22 passengers including Martin's son George, 6, there were possibly 32 souls on board the ship when it left Dartmouth. (The number stated in "A Folder of Newspaper Clippings" available at the State Library of South Australia, SLSA Source 58, is lower at 29 - the Captain plus 28 others.) Mrs. Elizabeth Chandler died during the voyage.

The ‘Register of Emigrant Labourers Applying for a Free Passage to South Australia’ lists those considering life in the new colony and generally indicates on which ship those deciding to proceed were embarked. However uncertainty arises from clerical errors, last minute changes, and desertions. Together with the South Australian Company’s other officers and servants, the John Pirie’s crew was considered to be an addition to the colony’s population, so those eligible are named in the ‘Register of Emigrant Labourers’ as well as the Directors’ Minutes, which recorded all engagements. An anonymous log of the voyage and Captain Martin’s letters to George Fife Angas (1789-1879) from the Downs and Dartmouth, and later from Hobart about the voyage to his wife Mary back in London, throw further light on the persons on board. Also Samuel Stephens’ diary records William C Staple as being one of the crew on the occasion of his marriage to Mary Ann Powell at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island. George Martin Jr, aged 6, was mentioned in the letter that his father wrote to his mother, and he also stated that both of his sons, George and Robert Terence, were taught to read and write on board by mate Henry Simpson. Although it is impossible to be sure of the exact composition of persons on board the "John Pirie" a list complied from those sources follows.

10 crewmen of the "John Pirie"

  • ( 1) MARTIN, George - Master (Captain), 57
  • ( 2) DAVIS, Thomas - 1st Mate, 36
  • ( 3) SIMPSON, Henry - 2nd Mate, 32
  • ( 4) CLARK, George Baker - Seaman, 38
  • ( 5) SINKSON, William - Seaman, 40
  • ( 6) STAPLE, William C - Seaman (replacement)
  • ( 7) THOMPSON, Frederick - Seaman, 20
  • ( 8) MARTIN, Robert Terence - Apprentice Seaman - son of Captain George Martin, 11
  • ( 9) UNKNOWN REPLACEMENT - Cook, Seaman

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  • CANTILLION, James - Seaman, 25 (deserted Dartmouth 10 April & replaced)
  • GRANSMORE, John - Cook, Seaman 32 (deserted Dartmouth 10 April & replaced)
  • WOOD, William - Seaman, 25 (deserted Dartmouth 3 April & replaced)


  • ( 1) ALFORD, Henry - labourer, 20, employee of S.A.Co.
  • ( 2) BROWN, John - supervisor, 28, employee of S.A.Co.
  • ( 3) CHANDLER, Charles - ploughman, 30, employee of S.A.Co.
  • ( 4) CHANDLER, Mrs. Elizabeth, 28 - wife of Charles - died during voyage
  • (5-8) 4 children of Mr & Mrs Chandler:
    • CHANDLER, Elizabeth, 10 - later married James Collins who, according to his death notice of 16 June 1882, immigrated in 1837 at the age of 13. Elizabeth's death notice of 7 October 1907 states that she was then 81 years of age (in her 82nd year). Her obituary of 8 october 1907 states that she arrived on the "John Pirie" and mentions the storm that landed the vessel at Dartmouth.
    • CHANDLER, William Henry, 5
    • CHANDLER, Sarah Eleanor, 3
    • CHANDLER, Harriet 12m - suddenly weaned by the circumstances that lead to her mother's death on 1 July
  • ( 9) JONES, James - labourer, 24, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (10) JONES, Joseph - labourer, 20, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (11) JONES, Mrs. Harriet (nee Wallace), 22 - wife of Joseph Jones
  • (12) MARTIN, George Jnr., 6 - son of Captain George Martin
  • (13) NASH, John - carpenter, 22, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (14) NEVILL, Samuel - bricklayer, 30, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (15) NEVILL, Harriet (nee Masters), 26 - wife of Samuel
  • (16) POWELL, Charles - gardener, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (17) POWELL, Mrs. - wife of Mr. Powell
  • (18) 1 child of Mr & Mrs Powell
  • (19) POWELL, James - brother of Charles, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (20) POWELL, Mary Ann - domestic servant, 15, sister of Charles, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (21) TINDALL, Thomas - smith, 22, employee of S.A.Co.
  • (22) WALDRON, Thomas - agriculturalist, 22, employee of S.A.Co.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  • SESSONS, Stephen - labourer, 20, employee of S.A.Co. (deserted Dartmouth 3 April & not replaced)

The first wedding in South Australia was held aboard the "John Pirie", offshore from the new settlement of Kingscote, on 28 August 1836 by Captain George Martin 12 days after the ship arrived at Kangaroo Island. The wedding was between Samuel Stephens, 30, manager of the South Australian Company, and Charlotte Beare, 56, sister of the South Australian Company's Superintendent of buildings, neither of whom had arrived on borad the "John Pirie". The marriage provoked considerable gossip, as Charlotte was much older then her husband.

The second wedding in South Australia was also held aboard the "John Pirie", offshore from the new settlement of Kingscote by Captain George Martin. The wedding was between William C Staple and 15 year old Mary Ann Powell.

After George Martin in a whaleboat helped to survey the coast of South Australia to help to find a position to establish the first settlement on the mainland of South Australia, Holdast Bay, at the site of the present day suburb of Adelaide of Glenelg, was decided upon by Surveyor Colonel William Light. Most of the colonists and their livestock and supplies were then landed there, and they then began to build what became the city of Adelaide, today's capital of the state of South Australia

Before the main settlement was moved from Kingscote at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island to Holdfast Bay on the mainland, however, Captain George Martin and the "John Pirie" had departed Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island for Hobart. This was to be the first of many trips to and fro Tasmania, and later Sydney, to pick up necessary supplies for the new Colony of South Australia.

  • 27 September 1836 sails from Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island for Hobart with passengers.
  • 8 October 1836 - 8 November 1836, Hobart.
    • The "John Pirie" arrived in Hobart "in ballast". "In Ballast" is an empty ship looking for a cargo.
    • Whilst in Hobart it was commented that Captain Martin would be remembered by its residents as master of the "Jupiter" from "some years ago".
    • Also whilst in Hobart George Martin enrolled his sons Robert Terence and George Jnr in what he described as "a very good school at New Town" where he was to leave them when he returned to South Australia. They began their formal schooling on 30 October 1836.
    • On 5 November the "John Pirie" departed Hobart, put back on 6th due to adverse conditions, and left again on the 8th
    • The "John Pirie" was carrying for the new Colony of South Australia: 30 sheep, 2 horses 2 bullocks, 9 packs furniture, 1 ton hay, 20,000 shingles, 30,000 feet timber, 2 casks crockery, 1 ton sugar, 1 box starch, 1 box currants, 7 boxes glass, lead pump and pipes, 1 jar linseed oil, 1 case turpentine, 9 bundles leather, 1 bale slops 2 hhds. stout, 6 casks ale,  2 pieces junk, 1i bundle canvass, 1 cask rosin, 3 iron pots, 1 bag hops, 4 bundles oakum, 1 box tin, 1 cask rosin, 3 boxes candles, 1 box pickles, 2 tons sugar, 6 cases wine, 4 half chests, and 4 chests tea, 6 boxes soap, 1 box containining 2 cats, 6 boxes glass, 2 pieces lead, 1 piece solder, 6 pieces lead pipe, 1 pump, 4 soldering irons, 3 tins oil, 6 frying pans, 1 sieve, I tin cannister, 1 tea tray, 1 package groceries, 1 box glass ware, 1 box whiting, 10 hides, 1 box soap, 6 kegs nails, 32 bags biscuit, 2 boxes raisins, 1 bag coffee, 2 hinds Cape wine, 1 hbd. Geneva, 1 hbd. brandy, 1 package cigars, 14 baskets tobacco, 1 case port wine, all shipped by William M Orr, to order.

Capt. Martin of the John Pirie now in our harbour has explored the new territory for nearly a hundred miles, and reports it to be one of the finest on the globe. The climate is delightful, the soil fertile, watered with numerous streams and rivers.

The Hobart Town Courier, 21 October 1836

  • 8 November 1836 sails from Hobart for South Australia with general cargo and passengers.
  • 27 November 1836 - 27 December 1836, Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island and then Adelaide.
  • 27 December 1836 sails from Adelide for Hobart with passengers.
  • 4 January 1837, Hobart.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies.
  • 13 March 1837, Hobart.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies. The ship, however, was sent onto Launceston as Hobart was unable to fill the request.
  • 18 March 1837, Launceston.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies.
  • 26 September 1837, Hobart.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies.
  • 14 November 1837, Adelaide.
    • The "John Pirie" with "Martin, master" was reported as arriving in Port Adelaide from Hobart Town "with stock and general cargo".

In the interim, George's wife Mary, 40, came out to South Australia with their 6 remaining children on board the "Hartley" arriving in Port Adelaide on 20 October 1837. These children were Marian, 16, Georgiana, 15, Isabella, 8 (she was 10), Mary, 6, Stewart (daughter), 4, and Thomas Henry, 1½ when the voyage began on 18 May 1837.

  • December 1837.
    • The "John Pirie" sought shelter from a storm in Rosetta Harbour, Encounter Bay, South Australia with the "Solway". The "Solway" broke her moorings was pushed on a reef and was wrecked. “The John Pirie was driven on shore in a better position, and was expected when the last accounts left to be got off.”
  • 8 January 1838 sails from South Australia for Hobart with a cargo of beef and pork.
  • 16 January 1838, Hobart.
  • 16 March 1838 sails from Hobart for Adelaide with general cargo and passengers including his wife Mrs Martin & 4 children.
  • 29 March 1838, Adelaide.
  • 24 May 1838, Kingscote, Kangaroo Island.
    • "HER Majesty's natal day was celebrated at Kingscote by several boat races, of which a capital view was had from the beach. The vessels in the harbour were ornamented with a great variety of flags as also were the principal quarters of the town. The Company's schooner John Pirie fired a royal salute of 21 guns, as also did the battery in the town. In the evening there was a splendid display of fire-works and a general illumination. The prizes for the boat races amounted to upwards of £50." (The John Pirie came 4th in the square sterned boats—rowing race)
  • 10 June 1838 sailed from Kangaroo Island for Sydney.
  • 24 June 1838 - 18 July 1838, Sydney.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies.
  • 18 July 1838 sailed from Sydney for Adelaide.
  • 18 August 1838, Adelaide.
    • Arrived carrying passengers and general cargo: 7100 feet cedar, 19 hogsheads stout, 25 chests 10 half chests tea, 8 casks bottled beer, 24 cases wine, 205 bushel maize, l8 boxes raisins, 6 drums figs, 3 mat dates, 4 casks salt, 2 bags nuts, 2 casks almonds, 2 bags walnuts, 350 fruit trees, 140 flagstones, 3 tons flour, 8 kegs butter, 4 boxes specie, ½ ton cheese, 1 cask sperm oil, l8 boxes candles, 1 cask lard, 30 hogsheads 30 quarter casks Cape wine, 6 casks oranges, 1 package cigars, ½ ton oakum, 1 case jams, 50 barrels pork.
  • 14 September 1838 sailed from Adelaide for Kangaroo Island with passengers.
  • 20 September 1838 sailed from Kangaroo island for Sydney with passengers.
  • 1 October 1838, Sydney.
    • The ship arrived "in ballast" for supplies.
  • 25 October 1838 sailed from Sydney for Adelaide.
  • 13 November 1838, Adelaide.
    • Arrived with passengers, animal stock, and general cargo: 7 cases merchandise, 2 casks earthenware, 120 bags maize, 29 bags sugar, 2 kegs tobacco, 10 boxes fruit, 898 cedar boards, 44 packages furniture, 120 flagstones, 134 bags flour, 20 bags 4 casks salt, 129 boards Sassafras wood.
  • 24 November 1838.
    • Lying at anchor off Glenelg.
  • 3 December 1838 sails from Adelaide for Encounter Bay and then Hobart.
  • 8 January 1839 sails from Hobart for Sydney.
  • 18 January 1839, Sydney.
    • Arrived with a cargo of 65 bags of wool and 82 casks of black oil.
  • 27 February 1839 sails from Sydney for Adelaide with general cargo and passengers.
  • 29 March 1839, Adelaide.
    • Arrived with passengers and general cargo: l wool press, 1 cask glue, 5 cases saddlery, I cask glass, 2 bales paper, 11 cases 17 casks sundries, 1 cask pork, 1 cask sherry, I barrel bread, I keg butter, I case pickles, 5 boxes candles, 14 barrels 36 bags I hogshead flour, 4 mats 1 hogs. head sugar, 4 half-chests 2 chests 1 box tea, 6 boxes 1 cask glass, 1 cask pewter ware, 6 kegs 20 bags nails,-359 cedar boards, 3 cases 2 boxes 1 cask apparel, 3 cases hats, 1 bedstead, 1 sign post, 4 cases 1 matted package, 21 casks bottled .beer, 5 bags saltpetre, 8 bundles frying pans, 10 quarter casks wine, 4 kits fish, 44 cedar boards, 38 packages 17 cases furniture, 5 bags grain, 2 cases stationery, 128 flag stones, 2 wooden houses in frames.

News Reports on George Martin, the "John Pirie", and the new colony of South Australia


We have much satisfaction in announcing that the "first fleet" of the expedition for settling another free Colony on the great Continent of New Holland, has arrived safely at its destination.

It is highly gratifying to the friends of humanity to perceive that the very idea of white slavery, let its advantage be ever so great to the slave holders, is considered so revolting, as that it has been made an express condition with the British Government, that the possibility of its introduction should be carefully provided against in the Act of Parliament.

The new Colony established under such favorable auspices is called "South Australia," and is situated between the territory of the Swan River and that of New South Wales. It includes the whole of the country between the 132nd and 142nd meridians of East longitude, and the 24th and 28th parallels of South latitude, the latter being defined by the trend of the coast. Thus it will be seen, that it possesses the varieties of climate from that of Spain and Italy, to the Tropic, and of course, every production which can be cultivated within those limits, will be available to the new Colonists. It comprehends the whole coast from Fowler's Bay, to within a short distance of Port Phillip, including those noble inlets Coffin's Bay, Port Lincoln ,Spencer's Gulph, the Gulph of St Vincents, and Encounter Bay - above all, that magnificent Mediterranean, Lake Alexandria, the extent and boundaries of which are not yet ascertained, but which, communicating with the sea by Encounter Bay, communicates with New South Wales, by the great rivers, Murray, Darling, and others, which flow, (having been traced by Captain Sturt, of the 39th Regiment, to the Embouchure in Lake Alexandria,) upwards of 1500 miles! This noble Colony possesses also the northern portion of Kangaroo Island, which is separated from its continental territory, by Investigator's Strait. It is unnecessary to say one word as to the infinite natural advantages the Colony of South Australia thus possesses.

The "first fleet" sailed from Portsmouth on the 20th April, it consisted of His Majesty's surveying ships, Rapid and Cygnet and the South Australian Colonial ships, Duke of York, Lady Mary Pelham and John Pirie, the latter commanded by Captain Martin, a gentleman well known and highly respected here, who has been warmly greeted on his return to this port by his numerous friends. The three Colonial ships arrived nearly together, about the 16th of August, at the rendezvous at Nepean Bay, in Kangaroo Island. A small settlement was formed which was called "King's Cote." On the 20th His Majesty's ship Rapid arrived with the Surveyor General, Colonel Light, and two of his Assistants. Colonel Light, who has old intimate friends here, served with high distinction in the Quarter master Generals Department, of the second division of the Peninsula Army. He was one of those officers especially appointed by Lord Hill to be "in advance," and was consequently within the shortest possible distance of the enemy's posts, so as that Lord Hill depended upon them for information of every, even the slightest movement. His abilities, as a Military Surveyor and Draftsman, are of very high order, and we rejoice to find that he has received a lucrative and honorable appointment in the new Colony. His Majesty's ship Buffalo with His Excellency Governor Hindmarsh, Captain R. N., and the whole of the functionaries, civil and military on board, including a Captain, two Subalterns, and sixty privates of the Royal Marines, was to sail, at the latest, in the first week of June, and is therefore of course long ere now at her destination. It is remarkable that Captain Martin and the other Commanders, although their passage was of nearly four months, and their vessels crowded with passengers and stock, particularly pure Saxon sheep of the best description which could be obtained, landed the whole in perfect safety. The attention which these excellent officers must have shewn to their duties, needs no comment.

After a short stay at Nepean Bay, the expedition proceeded to the Gulph of St Vincents, in search of a position where to establish the first settlement. Colonel Light, with one of his Assistants surveyed the coast in a whale boat, from Cape Jervis upwards - so also Captain Martin and the Commanders of the other ships. The gulph boundary was found to be composed of continued bays, forming excellent harbours and anchorage, abounding in fine rivers and with a country of the best description, suited for every purpose of colonization. Nothing was finally decided upon as to the permanent seat of the Colony, as the arrival of Captain Hindmarsh was awaited for that purpose, but after much careful examination, Colonel Light fixed upon a spot for the formation of the first settlement. It is a small bay, forming in arch of a circle of about three miles circumference, with a fine river emptying itself in the centre. The Colonel describes it as "the most delightful spot he ever saw!" The whole of the new Colonists and their families with the live stock, frames of houses, agricultural materials - in a word, the whole contents of the little fleet were landed, and the work of colonization was set about with the utmost zeal and alacrity, the most perfect harmony prevailing amongst all.

So soon as the ships were cleared, the Duke of York, Lady Mary Pelham, and John Pirie, were dispatched to this port for supplies being furnished abundantly with pecuniary resources to purchase whatever may be considered necessary. Mr Orr is appointed agent here for the Colony. Every exertion is making to return with the least possible delay, and a regular intercourse will be kept up between the two Colonies by means of the Colonial ships.

This is so hasty a notice of the establishment of another admirable "offset" of the beloved "Father land," that it is of necessity a mere outline .We shall not fail to make public the proceedings at this interesting Colony as they from time to time reach us, and we have the satisfaction of having an established correspondence, upon which we can rely for the best and fullest information. It is a fact not unworthy notice, that the Chief Colonization Commissioner, the opulent Mr Montefiore, is the first gentleman of the Jewish persuasion who has ever been honored with a Royal Commission, directly addressed to him. Few men in the city of London are more highly, or more deservedly respected.

We close this notice with the announcement of the first South Australian marriage. It took place at "Kingscote," on the 24th September, by the union of Samuel Stephens Esq., Chief Agent of the Colonization Company to Miss Charlotte Hudson Beare, daughter of Thomas Beare, Esq , of Winchester. –Tasmanian.

Tasmanian story reported in The Sydney Herald of 3 November 1836.
(Some sections in the above have been bolded for added emphasis.)

Sept. 16. [1836]—I was preparing, by getting our tents, &c. from the shore, to start for the next day, when Captain Martin, of the John Pirie schooner came, and I now hasten to conclude this report, as he was going direct to his vessel in Nepean Bay, from whence he sails in a day or two for Hobart Town and I hope you will receive this through that channel. Captain Martin has been in a whale boat several miles up the gulph, and landed in several places. He says the whole shore is like this, composed of fine land; and he found no want of water but once, and thereby digging about two feet they got abundance. I regret very much that want of time prevents my sending a plan of the bay and valley, but that you may form a better idea of the whole, I will send a hasty sketch of it. I remain, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
P.S. I am so much pleased with this place, that I have written to my agents to request them to purchase 500 acres for me.

Sydney Gazette 18 July 1837

South Australia.—

Extract from a letter dated Hobart Town, October 14 [1836], received from Captain Martin, in command, of the John Pirie, whaler, in the employ of the South Australian Company: —

'I hired a boat (August, 1836), manned it with Islanders [Europeans Whalers living on] (Kangaroo Island), took two of the natives [aboriginal wives of the European Whalers] with me, and, proceeded over to Cape Jarvis, where Colonel Light soon joined me in the Rapid. I landed in a fine bay round the Cape, about eight miles up St. Vincent's Gulf, in one of the loveliest spots I ever beheld, with a fine stream of water running through the middle of a level plain, and Colonel Light at once pronounced it to be one of the best situations possible for a town. This bay is well sheltered from all winds, except those from down the Gulf, and from the W. and N. W.; but it does not appear that the winds blow home; and from the appearance of the beach and the shore, I should say there was never any sea running. The anchorage is good holding-ground, and I should not hesitate to ride all the year round in from 10 to 3 fathoms water. Colonel Light pitched his tents on shore, made a garden, and put in it seeds and plants. He set to work surveying the bay. The country all about is delightful, and well watered. I proceeded up St. Vincent's Gulf, on the east side, about 70 or 80 miles, till I got into a river sufficient for the John Pirie to enter at high water, and when in, there is plenty of water. I went about 12 miles up this river; it runs up to Mount Lofty. The banks are low, composed of small islets, with low mangrove trees growing in the water; but a little way inland we came to a beautiful open county, fine plains as far as the eye can reach, very moderately wooded, as are also the hills, and fine rich dark brown soil, with a yellow clay of from two to four feet under it, and runs of fine water in all directions All from this part to the Cape is a continuation of fine land, plenty of grass for food for cattle and sheep; fine shady hills, moderately timbered. The principle wood is the oak and mimosa; the greatest difficulty I see is the want of large timber for sawing. I have not seen one stringy-bark tree in all my journey. There are abundance of kangaroos and emus. There is one large plain of fine land between this river and the Cape, with three rivers running through. From this to the Lake Alexandrina is about twenty-two miles, across the finest country that eyes ever beheld.'
— Weekly Chronicle, March 19 (1837).

The Australian (Sydney) 28 July 1837

[Critisism of George Martin’s description of South Australia]

...There is enough of real, substantial encouragement in the present and future prospects of our Colony, to render fanciful and high flown descriptions equally unnecessary and mischievous.

As an instance, we may notice the story sent home by a person named MARTIN, who commands a small Schooner belonging to the South Australian Company, and representing to be the result of observations made on the eastern shores of Gulph St. Vincent. Now this person's story is full of inaccuracies. He speaks of going "twelve miles up a river which runs close up to Mount Lofty." Mr. Martin, we suppose, alludes to the estuary which forms the present Harbour of Port Adelaide. Now there is room on the bar at low water for craft of the size of the John Pirie to enter; and at high water for ships of 350 tons at least. In what direction, or where this estuary extends, has not yet so far as we know, been ascertained—further than that it does not run close up to Mount Lofty, or within ten miles of it at least. Then again, Mr. Martin asserts that "from this (the river) to Lake Alexandrina, is about twenty two miles across the finest country that eyes ever beheld." Mr. Martin pretends to state here what he saw. But did he really travel over land to Lake Alexandrina? The hills between the river and the lake over which his course lay, so far as known, are covered with Stringy Bark; yet Mr. Martin declares in the same story, that "he has not seen one stringy bark tree in all his journey!" How then is he authorised to describe the road to Lake Alexandrina, as being through the finest country eyes ever beheld? In good sooth, a pretty gentleman for an explorer of a new country, this same Mr. Martin, appears to be!...

South Australian Gazette 11 November 1837

Drama aboard the "John Pirie" leads to a death. A case of post-natal depression?

Mrs. Elizabeth Chandler died aboard the "John Pirie" on 1 July 1836. Elizabeth Chandler was the wife of Charles Chandler, a ploughman from East Acton, Middlesex. Also aboard the ship were her 4 young children. The youngest was a baby that had not yet been weaned, according to a letter written by George Martin on 29 October 1836 that included details about the death.

The story of Elizabeth's death is also documented in the log of an unidentified seaman. He recorded that ‘the temper of this woman is most violent, and when in a passion, she is shockingly wicked’.

On 2 June Mrs. [Elizabeth] Chandler and Messrs. [Charles & James] Powell were engaged in a heated brawl in which the log-keeper recorded ‘the most disgusting and aggravating language, was made use of by both parties’. Charles Chandler tried in vain to pacify his wife but, with a bundle of clothes in her arms she made towards the ship’s rail threatening to drown herself. Captain George Martin caught hold of her to prevent her from doing so.

At 8 o'clock the next morning the helmsman cried out that a woman had jumped overboard. In the words of the log-keeper: ‘It appears that while we were in the cabin, she took the opportunity of coming on deck, with the bundle still in her Arm’s, and went to the fore part of the Vessel, in a terrible rage, but at which both her Husband, and others who were present, took little notice, thinking the woman, could not actually mean to destroy herself, however, when at the fore-chains She suddenly stop’d, threw the bundle overboard, and giving a momentary glance at Chandler, She sprang over the bulwark herself, to the horror, and amazement of all who beheld the sight’.

Elizabeth Chandler was rescued and pulled back on board ‘but almost in a lifeless state, having been in the Water, at least 10, minutes, however the usual remedies for recovering Person’s, apparantly drown’d, were made use of’. She soon recovered but blamed Captain George Martin for saving her. During June, after refused to take any food or nurishment, Elizabeth Chandler became dangerously ill. On 18 June ‘it was deem’d advisable to take half a pint of blood from her’. On 27 June she was ‘quite delirious at intervals, and the smell that comes from her breath, is uncommonly strong, and most disagreeably sickening’. At about 8pm on the 1 July 1836 Elizabeth Chandler died. The next morning all persons aboard were mustered on deck to see her body ‘sew’d up in two or three old Sack’s, with a weight of old Iron, (in a Bag), made fast to the Feet, for the purpose of making it sink ’ committed to the deep at 8 o'clock in the morning of 2 July 1836.

More about the "John Pirie" & the voyage of 1836

The “John Pirie” was built by Alexander Hall and Company at Aberdeen, Scotland 1827 and rigged as a schooner. It was named after the London merchant and alderman John Pirie who owned half of the shares in the vessel. The other half were owned by a group of investors from Macduff in north-eastern Scotland. In its early years the “John Pirie” carried cargo from Britain to Palermo in Italy, the Canary Islands, Riga, Santa Domingo, Vera Cruz, Halifax and St Helena. By 1833 Alderman John Pirie had become the sole owner of the vessel. Two years later he became deputy chairman of the South Australian Company. He was approached by Samuel Stephens, the manager of the South Australian Company, seeking vessels for the new colony. One of Pirie’s other ships, Emma, was hired for the voyage to South Australia but the “John Pirie” was purchased by the Company.

The “John Pirie”, with a carrying capacity of 106 tons, was the smallest of the nine ships that arrived in South Australia in 1836. It was just 19m (62’3“) long and 6.1m (20’1”) wide, a tiny ship. It’s depth of hold was 3.4m (11’1”). By comparison, this equates in length to 1½ of today’s standard 12.5m public buses, to just more than 2 buses side by side in width, and to just more than 1 bus in height of depth of hold.

The "John Pirie" first sailed for South Australia from Gravesend on 23 February 1836, but soon needed to call into Falmouth to shelter from the weather. Then at daylight on 19 March 1836 the ship, loaded with farm animals and stores for the new colony of South Australia and over 30 passengers and crew, sailed from Falmouth with a 'fine breeze'  and and 'proceeded to sea in company with several other outward bound vessels'. This proved to be one of the few fine days in the month of March, and the weather quickly again turned foul. Many aboard the "John Pirie" thought they would not survive what was described as a hurricane: a storm in this unsettled month of March 1836 that pounded the seas just outside the English Channel. When the waves pounded the tiny “John Pirie” from both sides, it was swamped and the passengers and crew, livestock and provisions were tossed about violently. It was a frightening start to a five-month journey from one side of the world - with its freezing winters, abject poverty and cramped cities - to the other - a new colony, devised on paper but not yet built. This storm was the reason for the defection of 3 of the crew and 1 of the passengers after they floundered into Dartmouth on 2 April. A letter was written by George Martin on 6 April 1836 to George Fife Angas (1789-1879) after the ordeal. This letter describes the storm, and the worst part for the "John Pirie" when it was completely submerged under water including the steps taken to bring the ship back to the surface. In this letter George Martin complained in an exaggeration that "I have not had two fine day all the month of March".

Extract from the log kept by an unnamed seaman aboard the “John Pirie”

Monday 28 March 1836 At 2, A,M, a most tremendous Sea, overlap’d the Vessel, and giving her such a violent Shock, as caused both the Capt and every Soul on board, to suppose She must founder, being for a time completely buried under Water, however, after a few Moments, of the most horrible suspense, the little Vessel again arose out of the angry Deep, when both Pump’s were set to work, and which to our unutterable satisfaction, very soon sucked her dry, but the loss sustained by that dreadful Sea, is truly lamentable ____The two Sheep-pen’s, were swept away from their fastenings, and One of them dashed to pieces, when all the poor Sheep which it contain’d, were washed overboard, the other Pen is also greatly injured, and thus were 12 of our Sheep either kill’d or drown’d, likewise, 3 Pig’s 23 Fowls, 2 Turkey’s, and 2 Rabbits, shared the same hard fate, besides 5 Sacks of Fodder, and all the Turnips also, 1 Barrel of Beef, 1 Tierce of Pork, the Log-reel, and several other Articles, were all swept off the Decks, along with the Bulwark &c, after which Capt Martin, order’d all the Hay to be thrown overboard, deeming such a course expedient for the safety of the Vessel, as the Sea was now making a regular passage over her, every Minute, and filling the Cabin with Water, through the Panes of Skylight , which it had broken, although they were defended all round, by strong Canvas, not even leaving a place uncover’d by which to see the Compass, nor daring to steer in any other direction, than right before the Wind, At 4, A,M, the Foreyard gave way, breaking into two pieces by the Slings, and the close reef’d Fore-top-sail, split into Ribbon’s, which was the only Canvass, we had set, at the time, our stern Boat also got stove, Thus did this most desperate of all Gale’s, continue to blow, without the least sign of abating until Noon, when it became rather less violent, and at 4, P,M, we ventured to heave-too , although the Sea was most terribly high, and the Squalls still uncommonly heavy, causing the Vessel to labour exceedingly, and ship a great deal of Water, but we had either to do this, or run down upon a lee Shore in the Bay of Biscay

Extract from one of 2 letters written on 6 April by Captain George Martin to George Fife Angas (1789-1879)

The following day being Sunday [3 April 1836, day after making Dartmouth], I requested all the Passengers with some of the crew, to come on shore to church, to render thanks for our safe delivery from the dangers we had escaped; when to my great surprise one of them (Steven Session) has absconded & I have not seen or heard of him since, he being completely terrified to death at the sea, & which I don’t wonder at, I am sorry that he is gone, as he was one of the best of the company’s servants on board,

One of the ship’s passengers said the vessel was ‘only a washing tub with a tiller’. It was a very small and uncomfortable ship for a long voyage. It was also said that the schooner was ‘built for stowing rather than sailing; one end of her is very much like a packing case’. That comment no doubt referred to the blunt outline of the schooner’s bows. The John Pirie’s shape, however, made it buoyant, a quality had saved the lives of those onboard during the storm after the ship had been completely submerged underwater on 28 March 1836. Unlike the passengers who had no experience of sea-travel could see only the negatives, Captain George Martin claimed in a letter home to his wife that the the "John Pirie" was 'a very fine sea boat'.

The flag that flew on the "John Pirie" in 1836 was a white ensign with three kangaroos across the bottom half of the flag. It is not known if this was a flag of the South Australian Company, a flag specific to the "John Pirie", or something else entirely.

Captain George Martin was Master of the “John Pirie” from February 1836 to at least March 1839.

The “John Pirie” is reported to have been wrecked near Goose Island in Bass Strait in September 1850.

Read more about the voyage of the “John Pirie” in 1836 and the very early days in South Australia from the journals and letters of those who were on the voyage at – “Bound for South Australia – the John Pirie”

George Martin's tragic death

Just prior to his death in Adelaide in 1842, George Martin had been imprisoned in Adelaide Gaol for being an insolvent debtor.

“LAMENTABLE SUICIDE. — Thursday morning, we regret to hear, that Captain Martin, one of the earliest colonists of South Australia, put an end to his existence, at the rooms he lately occupied in Currie Street, as a store for agricultural produce. The dreadful deed was accomplished by means of a pistol, the bullet from which entered below the chin and passed out the back of the head. The first person on the spot, after the fatal event, was Mr Solomon, who was residing at the next door, but who found the victim all but dead at the time he reached the spot. The awful deed is attributed to depression of spirits, under which Mr Martin has been laboring for some time, occasioned by a reverse of fortune, and more immediately to a verdict for £20, which had been obtained against him in the Resident Magistrate’s Court on the previous day. His widow and large family are left totally unprovided for, and without any present means of support. An inquest was held last evening : verdict “Temporary Insanity.” A subscription for the widow and children is being got up, with the view of enabling them to commence some little business.” The Register, 26 February 1842.

His widow and friends were very bitter at those whom they believed had precipitated this deed, and had no qualms about expressing their thoughts in an inscription on Captain Martin’s gravestone. This epitaph was then censored by the Trustees of the West Terrace Cemetery.

“All inscriptions intended to be placed on headstones had in the first instance to be submitted to the trustees, who, if they approved, would signify to that effect in writing. This regulation led to complications, and on one occasion resulted in strife, for in August, 1842, a stone had been erected with the consent of only two of the trustees bearing the following inscription: — ‘Sacred to the memory of Captain ? , who departed this life February 24, 1842, aged fifty eight years,’ underneath being the words — ‘ His death was accelerated by disappointment.’ ‘ They have spoken against me with a lying tongue, and fought against me without a cause.’ After a little wrangling the stone was ordered to be removed. But the controversy did not end here, for in 1847 a letter was received by the trustees from a gentleman (presumably a lawyer) complaining on behalf of a relative that the tombstone had been removed, and after holding a special meeting to consider their position it was decided to put up another stone at the cost of the trustees, minus inscription, except such as might be approved of by them.” The Register, 12 September 1891.


Offspring of George Martin and Mary Brett (1796-1873)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Marian Martin (1820-1884) 1820 London, England 12 November 1884 Strawberry Hills, New South Wales, Australia George James Andrews (1820-1850) George James Andrews (1820-1850) Henry Oliver Steed (1815-1877)
Georgiana Martin (c1821-)
Robert Terence Martin (1824-)
Isabella Carmelita Martin (1826-1911)
George Martin (c1829-)
Mary Martin (c1830-)
Stewart Kerr Martin (c1832-1915)
Thomas Henry Martin (1835-)


Footnotes (including sources)