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Governor George Gawler

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1795
Place of birth England
Date of arrival 1838
Principal occupation Soldier, Governor of South Australia
Date of departure 1841
Date of death 1869
Place of decease England

George Gawler was born on 21 July 1795. He was the only child of Samuel Gawler, a captain of the 73rd Regiment, and his wife Julia (nee Russell). At the age of thirteen, after a short education, George entered the Royal Military College. In 1810 he was commissioned as Ensign in the 52nd Light Infantry.

George Gawler served in the Peninsular War of 1808-1814 and was mentioned in the Duke of Wellington's dispatches. Promoted to Lieutenant he took part in several major battles and minor engagements and was awarded the Peninsular Medal with seven clasps. In 1815, at just twenty years of age, he led his company in charges on the French Imperial Guard at Waterloo. He was part of the ocupying army in France but was given sick leave after three years. He returned to duty in 1819 and in 1820, George Gawler married Maria Cox. Together they had twelve children, five of whom survived childhood.

The Gawler family resided in Ireland where George was stationed until 1823. He was promoted to Captain in 1825 and by 1834, when he left the regiment, he was a lieutenant-colonel, a rank which he purchased.

Gawler was, in 1837, appointed Knight, Hanoverian Order (KH) by King William IV. At this time he was also appointed as the second governor of South Australia and tasked with rendering viable the experiment in systematic, self-supporting colonisation which had been devised by Edward Gibbon Wakefield and modified by Colonel Robert Torrens.

Prior to his departure from England, Gawler was alarmed by the limitations to expenditure that were being enforced. He was forbidden to undertake public works and any extraordinary expenditure without prior authority from London except in the case of emergency.

Upon arrival in Adelaide in 1838, Gawler discovered a dire situation where one-and-a- half times the annual allowable expenditure had been spent in six months. Public servants were not being paid, accounts were in disarray, the Treasury was empty and land surveys were in arrears. As a result, most of the population of 4000 was living under makeshift conditions, unable to take up their country lands because capital was being diverted from rural development to urban speculation.

Governor Gawler viewed the situation as an emergency and on his own authority committed the funds to rectify the situation. He increased the number of public officials, raised the salaries of juniors and recommended increases for the rest; he organised and then expanded a police force; and he re-organised the Survey Department and hired surveyors to undertake the much-needed surveys which would allow settlers to take up their promised holdings.

After 31 months in office, Gawler had drawn bills on the South Australian Colonisation Commission for over two hundred thousand pounds. This was considered reckless and in 1841 he was recalled. Upon his arrival back in England he found that in his absence he had been judged harshly and found wanting. He tried desperately to clear his name. Unable to do so, he retired to private life and spent his least years at Southsea where he died on 7 May 1869.

The town of Gawler was named after George Gawler. Portraits of Gawler hang in the Council Chambers and the Reading Room of Gawler Public Library. In 1863, The Town of Gawler adopted the armorial bearings of Governor Gawler as its 'Coat of Arms'. However, in 1979, enquiries made to the College of Arms in England revealed that George Gawler was not officially registered as being entitled to use the Armorial Bearings and because it does not comply with the principles of heraldry or the laws of arms, it can only be used as the emblem of the Town of Gawler.

According to Sharron Gawler in her SMS to Brian Thom 12/2016, Walter Duffield's grandson Walter Geoffrey Duffield [1879 to 1929] married Governor Gawler's great grand-daughter Doris Boult at Glenelg in 1909. Doris was the daughter of Arthur Boult and Maud [nee Gawler]. Maud was the eldest child of Henry Gawler and Henry was the 4th child of Gov George Gawler. [see Trove Adelaide Observer Dec 1894]. The father of Doris was the 1st organist of St Peter's Cathedral. Doris's husband, Dr Walter Geoffrey Duffield was an eminent scientist and was 1st Director of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory at Mt Stromlo. The Canberra Times obituary on 2nd August 1929 claimed that he was born in Gawler on 12th August 1879.

An interesting article relating to an Anglican Cemetery in Tel-Aviv has been provided by Samuel Giler - his correspondents (with minor edit) to Mayor Redman:

Dear Mayor, In a recent renovation of the old Anglican cemetery at Jaffa, Tel-Aviv, I uncovered underground a grave of a 2 day old baby, one of twins. He was Samuel George Hall, the son of Rev. John Robert Longley Hall and Emily Denis (nee Gawler), the daughter of George Gawler. They were born on December 30 1887. His brother John Robert Henry Hall died 7 month later, and his grave was found in Jerusalem. Rev. Hall served as the secretary of the Christian Missionary Society. I am involved in the research of Jaffa in the late 19th century, and would like to find out more about the Gawler family, and if there are any descendants whom I can get in touch with. I'll appreciate your assistance in referring me to those who can assist me. Sincerely, Samuel Giler, Architect Tel-Aviv

For more photos relating to Governor George Gawler, please click here

Related Articles

External Links


  • Gawler Public Library Historical Pamphlet "George Gawler and Gawler's Crest"
George Gawler, date unknown
George Gawler, date unknown
George Gawler, date unknown
George Gawler, date unknown
Town of Gawler emblem
Town of Gawler emblem

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