George Fletcher Moore

George Fletcher Moore
1798 – 1886

George Fletcher Moore was born on 10 December 1798 in Bond’s Glen, Donemana, County Tyrone, Ireland. He was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, and at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduating in 1820 he was called to the Irish Bar where he practised for six years until he decided to apply for a legal position in the proposed Swan River settlement. This was refused by the Colonial Office as it was felt that the governor should be free to make his own recommendations. The Office did, however, supply a letter of recommendation to Sir James Stirling as did several of his Irish legal colleagues and Moore made his own way to the Colony in the brig Cleopatra. Accompanied by four servants he landed at Fremantle in October 1830 and obtained a grant, which he called Millendon, on the Upper Swan.

In his new home, he did not practice law. Instead he became interested in farming, purchasing 34 merinos and 10 lambs. By 1836 he owned 800 fine-woolled sheep and had leased a farm at York. By 1884 he owned 24,000 acres of land, including valuable town allotments. Moore documented the difficulties he encountered in developing his property including labour and food shortages and inflated prices. He joined the Agricultural and Horticultural Society formed on 16 July 1831 and for a while was its secretary. He attended the governor’s first big ball, writing a song for the occasion and singing it during the evening.

Less than a month after his arrival Moore accompanied the Colonial Secretary and party in search of Aboriginal people concerned in a robbery. Developing an interest in the language and culture of local Noongar people, he published A Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language in Common Use Amongst the Aborigines of Western Australia, with Copious Meanings, Embodying Much Interesting Information Regarding the Habits, Manners and Customs of the Natives and the Natural History of the Country (London, 1842), and Evidences of an Inland Sea Collected from the Natives of the Swan River Settlement(Dublin, 1837). Moore had regular and amicable contact with some Aboriginals but he also believed that harsh measures should be employed to induce them to conform to European laws. ‘They are troublesome friends and dangerous enemies’, he wrote, ‘a drawback upon our success which we had not calculated upon, a charge upon our lands which we were not apprised of, and a thorn in our sides which we cannot get rid of and which constantly reminds us of the inconvenience of its presence’.

Moore was a keen explorer and traced the course of the Swan River to its junction with the Avon. In 1831 he accompanied Ensign Dale to the York district, previously unseen by Europeans. In 1835 Moore went northwards and in May 1836 reached the river named after him. Later in the same year, with the Colonial Secretary, Peter Broun, and George Leake, he crossed grazing and agricultural land east and north of Northam. As a result of Lieutenant George Greys reports of his 1839 expedition Moore was sent to examine the coastal district round Champion Bay and Point Moore (also named after him). Moore also visited Houtman Abrolhos in 1839.

On 10 February 1832 the Colony’s first legislative ordinance (2 Wm IV, no 1) established a civil court. Moore was sworn in as commissioner on 17 February 1832. He was then appointed advocate general and became an early member of the Legislative and Executive Council. It appears Moore never worked in private practice in Western Australia. He did, however, act as commissioner of works, roads and bridges, and with Surveyor-General John Roe, waded among the ‘Flats’ of Perth waters in December 1834 and again early in 1838, probing about with sticks. Together they were responsible for determining the site of the original Perth Causeway across the ‘Flats’ to the south bank of the river.

Moore was appointed to act as Colonial Secretary in July 1846. In October the same year, he married Fanny Mary Jane Jackson (1814-1863), the stepdaughter of Governor Clarke. In 1852 he was granted leave to visit his father in Ireland and whilst gone he discovered a misunderstanding over his absentee pay. He resigned and did not return to the Colony. Thus ended a distinguished public career.

Moore’s wife spent many years chronically ill and he felt he would never be able to return to Western Australia. On 16 June 1859 he wrote, ‘I fear my chance of seeing Millendon again is feeble and remote’. After his wife’s death on 24 October 1863, he lived in London and twenty years later wrote of his ‘isolated unfriended position. Even in this great city I am almost alone, in my eighty-fifth year’. He died at Kensington in England on 30 December 1886.

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