George Stevenson

George Stevenson was born on 13 April 1799 in the Scottish-English border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. By the time he was 31 he had been to sea in an East Indiaman, studied medicine in Scotland, worked in Canada and visited Central America and the West Indies. By the mid-1830s he was working in newspapers as joint editor of the Globe and Traveller.

On 12 May 1836 Stevenson married Margaret Hutton (nee Gorton). She was also a writer, and the daughter of John Gorton, an assistant editor at the Globe and Traveller. Some time in 1836 Stevenson went into partnership with Robert Thomas in R. Thomas & Co, publishers of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, the first edition of which appeared in London on 18 June 1836. Stevenson was responsible for content, Thomas for printing. The company also secured the role of Government Printer before the partners left London for South Australia. Robert Thomas, his wife Mary and their family, along with the printing equipment, departed in the Africaine.

In May 1836 Stevenson had been appointed personal secretary to the Governor of the new Province, John Hindmarsh. He also held a number of other offices including clerk of council, clerk of court, and postmaster and customs officer, as well as his unofficial, but influential, position as editor of the South Australian Register and Colonial Gazette.

George and Margaret Stevenson joined the official party sailing to South Australia on the Buffalo.

George Stevenson’s journal reveals an observant but judgemental character, with strong liberal and even radical tendencies. He was a trenchant critic of Hindmarsh on land and formed  an alliance with John Hurtle Fisher to thwart the Governor’s more autocratic  tendencies. During the voyage he drafted several pieces of early legislation and, most significantly, the Governor’s first proclamation, which he read to assembled colonists on 28 December.

After the Buffalo arrived at Holdfast Bay on 28 December 1836, Stevenson continued on as editor of the South Australian Register and Colonial Gazette, where he didn’t shy away from controversy. Stevenson was one of the colonists who did not support Light’s choice for the site of Adelaide. As well as other government appointments Stevenson was twice elected to the Municipal Corporation of Adelaide. After withdrawing from the South Australian Register and Colonial Gazette in 1842, he returned three years later and stayed with the newspaper until 1852 when it ceased publication. After visiting the Goldfields in Victoria for a short period he was appointed coroner of Adelaide.

George Stevenson died at his home on 19 October 1856.

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