With a name like John McDouall Stuart it will come as no surprise to my reader that this chap was of Scottish extraction. He was, indeed, born in Scotland in 1815 and emigrated to Australia and Adelaide in January 1839.
A surveyor by trade, Stuart got a taste for exploration on Captain Charles Sturt’s 1844-45 expedition and subsequently undertook six major inland expeditions of his own. Stuart’s primary focus from 1860 onwards was to cross Australia from south to north – a task that I found arduous enough when I did a similar trip nearly 150 years later using a combination of luxury train and air conditioned four wheel drive vehicle.
On his first attempt in 1860, Stuart made it to the centre of the continent only to be turned back by Warumunga people at a place now called Attack Creek. A second attempt a year later also failed.
On his third attempt, which he commenced on 25 October 1861, he succeeded in reaching the Indian Ocean sightly to the east of modern day Darwin, getting there on 24 July 1862. This journey, however, exerted a great health toll on Stuart who was, for the final five weeks of the return trip to Adelaide, carried on a stretcher, having succumbed to the severe bout of scurvy. Stuart, shortly after this trip returned to the United Kingdom where he died in London on 5 June 1866.
The simple inscription on this stature of Stuart refers to this third successful trip:
John McDouall Stuart
Adelaide to Indian Ocean 1861-62
This Italian (Carrara) marble statue of the explorer was jointly funded by the Royal Caledonian Society and the State Government. It was designed by William Maxwell though, dying in 1903, he did not see the final statute unveiled in Victoria Square on 4 June 1904.
Though hard to make out from my pictures, the New South Wales trachyte pedestal features a globe showing Australia and, on it, the epic route across the continent taken by Stuart.
Sadly, the unveiling of the statue was marred by controversy as none of the four surviving members of Stuart’s final expedition attended the ceremony, in protest against Maxwell’s design. They argued that the statue bore no resemblance to Stuart and was a mere artistic representation and ‘for the public and posterity we would like Stuart to appear as the typical bushman he undoubtedly was’. They were equally, if not more, upset that the names of the nine members of Stuart’s party were relegated to appear on the side of the memorial as opposed to the front.
The 2,834km long Stuart Highway, which today connects Adelaide (or more correctly Port Augusta) and Darwin, is an enduring memory to Stuart and approximates the actual route he took on his epic journey.
My final picture is a 1904 photograph of the unveiling of the statue, courtesy of the Royal Caledonian Society.
Address: Victoria Square
Directions: Northeast corner of the Square