Some folks in Cornwall today regret the fact that our young people have to leave the county to seek work and make their mark in the world. This is nothing new….
Philip Gidley King was born in Southgate Street, Launceston, in 1758. His father, a draper, married a daughter of John Gidley (an attorney of Exeter). When he was twelve Philip entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman, and his first duty appears to have been a captain’s servant, aboard H.M.S. Swallow. His earliest voyages were in Indian waters, but in 1775 he sailed with H.M.S. Liverpool for Virginia, and served Britain along the American coasts during the War of Independence.
When Captain Arthur Phillip commanded the “First Fleet” to New South Wales, to form the first British colony and convict settlement on the Great Southern Continent, he had chosen King as his second lieutenant and navigator in his ship H.M.S. Sirius. The fleet left Portsmouth on 13th May, 1787, and the first ship arrived on 18th January, 1788, in Botany Bay. Shortly after the fleet arrived in New South Wales in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip sent King, with a small party of convicts to settle Norfolk Island and act as the island’s commandant.
King’s successful administration of Norfolk Island between 1788 and 1796, later contributed to his promotion to the rank of commander and lieutenant-governor. In 1800, King was appointed governor of New South Wales. the eastern half of “Australia”, that included Van Diemen’s Land (named Tasmania in 1854). He also transferred some free settlers from the Norfolk Island settlement to Van Diemen’s Land. He kept food prices reasonable and tried to stabilise money in the colony, but was unable to control the officers of the New South Wales Corps. In 1806, Captain King returned to England in had health, and died at Tooting two years later.
King had a relationship with a female prisoner, Ann Inett, and they had two sons named Norfolk and Sydney. Norfolk was the first child born on the island. King supervised their education and up-bringing, and the start of their successful careers in new South Wales. He later married Anna Coombe of Hatherleigh, aged 26, and brought her to Australia. They had a daughter Elizabeth and a son Phillip. His son Phillip became Admiral Phillip Parker King, a senior Royal Naval officer, an explorer and hydrographer, internationally renowned.
A monument to Captain Philip Gidley King on the Tooting parish church wall reads:
In a vault near this place are interred the remains of Philip Gillet’ King, Captain R.N., late Governor of His Majesty’s Territory, New South Wales, who died September 3, 1808 aged 49 years.
The Kings never forgot their Cornish origins, their family estate near Sydney was called Dunheved, and there is a Dunheved Golf Club in the town of St. Mary’s (named after King’s native parish). The main memorial is the city of Laun-ces-ton, Tasmania. This was founded by Col. William Paterson, whom King sent on a surveying trip into Van Diemen’s Land in 1804. It was first known as Patersonia but soon changed to Launceston, in honour of his chief’s birthplace. There is King Island in the Bass Straits, and Melbourne was once called Port King.
In honour of the Australian Bicentenary, Launceston Town Council prepared an illuminated address for presentation to Launceston City Council. It bears the coats of arms of each town, a pennant “God Save The Queen”, and included in the border are the words “Friendship Fraternity Co-operation Understanding”. The illuminated address reads:
Launceston Cornwall & Tasmania
Philip Gidley King
Hereby the Mayor Council and people c)1. Dunheved otherwise Launceston, Ancient Capital of the County of Cornwall send their warmest congratulations and good wishes to the inhabitants of the City of Launceston Tasmania on the occasion of the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of European Settlement. Also commemorated are the ministrations of Philip Gidley-King, Son of Launceston, Cornwall and Governor of New South Wales 1800 – 1806 who gave you our name and so honoured us both. It is most sincerely hoped that the seed of .fraternity which he sowed will continue to .flourish and bind our two communities even more closely together in friendship and co-operation. Signatories:
Mayor Councillor J. Hughes
Town Clerk, P.J. Freestone.