Captain George Martin

George Martin (1778 – 1842) was born in England. He married Mary Brett in 1817 when he was 39 and she was 22. By 1835 Mary had given birth to eleven children, three of whom did not survive past infancy.

Martin was a continual wanderer and an experienced ship’s captain. His childrens’ birthplaces read like a world tour and include London, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Hobart, and Valparaiso in Chile. In 1823 Martin and his growing family set up home in Hobart, purchasing 800 acres of land and joining the local Freemasons Lodge. Martin also spent some time in Sydney and by 1836 was very familiar with colonial conditions and the sea route between Britain and Australia.

Martin was a deeply religious man. He was involved in the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society and he most likely met George Fife Angas who was the Society’s founding joint treasurer in 1833.

In 1836 Martin was appointed Master of the John Pirie, owned by the South Australian Company. The vessel was to take company personnel and settlers to Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island. Martin joined the departing John Pirie on 23 February 1836 on the River Thames.

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One Response to “Captain George Martin”

  1. Max August 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    The tragic death of Captain George Martin in 1842 resulted in his being one of the very few pioneers whose epitaph at West Terrace Cemetery was actually censored by the Trustees thereof.

    Just prior to his death he had been imprisoned for in Adelaide Gaol for being an insolvent debtor. The Register newspaper of 26 February 1842, page 2, recounts:

    “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.”

    His widow and friends were obviously 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. An extract from the Register newspaper, 12 September 1891, page 5, recalling the history of West Terrace Cemetery, reads:

    “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.”

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