Joy Braybrook author of "John Batman: An Inside Story of the Birth of Melbourne" has made a study of John Pascoe Fawkner, a man she feared was 'hard to make nice.' She describes him as being like water - he could find a way around every problem. Garryowen wrote that he had the "agility of a wallaby." He could be ruthless and vindictive.
John Pascoe Fawkner was born in 1792 with the name John Fawkner. His parents John Fawkner senior and Hannah Pascoe were both unwell when he was born and he was brought up by his wealthy Pascoe grandparents. At the age of eight he was sent to boarding school which he considered the worst experience of his life.
When he was 10, his father was sentenced to transportation to Australia for receiving stolen goods and whilst waiting to travel to Sorrento under the command of Lieutenant Governor David Collins, three of John Fawkner junior's grandparents died including the Pascoes. John Fawkner, called 'Jonny' had no choice but to join his parents and his sister Elizabeth on their voyage to Australia.
On 13th January 1804 David Collins abandoned Sullivan Bay at Sorrento and moved to Hobart. John Fawkner senior was given land at Glenorchy in 1806 and started a farm whilst Hannah Fawkner returned to England to claim her inheritance. She returned in 1809.
With their inheritance the Fawkners hired servants and bought businesses in Hobart. Jonny was caught foolishly helping some convicts escape, received fifty lashes and was sent to Coal River Prison near Newcastle in New South Wales.
When he returned home in 1817 he decided to get his life in order and find a wife. When a ship load of convict women arrived on 11th October 1818 he later said that he rushed to catch the prettiest girl. After a fight at the dock, he ended up with the plainest girl, Eliza Cobb, who had pock marked skin and a turned eye. She had been sentenced to transportation for stealing a baby.
John Fawkner senior was in trouble with the law again and John junior and Eliza decided in 1819 to move to Launceston. They married in 1822, Eliza signing her name with a cross. Over the years they opened many businesses including a bakery, a timber yard and published a newspaper, the "Launceston Advertiser."
They opened the Cornwall Hotel where John Batman, John Wedge and Joseph Gellibrand used to meet. For 10 years they talked about croosing to the Port Phillip District. Eventually banker Charles Swanston offered to finance the expedition. Fawkner desperately tried to be included but was not, so he purchased his own ship, the "Enterprize."
By the time Fawkner was ready to sail John Batman had crossed to Port Phillip, made his treaty with the aborigines, and returned to Tasmania to arrange the first shipment of sheep, etc.
Fawkner, who after his mother's death in 1825 called himself John Pascoe Fawkner, loaded up his ship with an assortment of animals and goods. With Captain John Lancey and others he was ready to leave when creditors appeared and stopped him. Lancey continued on, arriving at the Yarra on 15th August 1835. Fawkner arrived on 16th October 1835 and built a house where the Customs Building now stands.
When Governor Richard Bourke proclaimed the settlement to be legitimate and named it Melbourne in March 1837, William Hoddle drew up plans and organised land sales. Fawkner bought the first block for 32 pounds.
He opened the first hotel in Melbourne on the corner of William Street and Flinders Lane.
He produced the first newspaper, "The Melbourne Advertiser" which was hand written until his printing press arrived from Launceston. Because he didn't have a licence it was closed down. In 1839 he started the "Port Phillip Patriot." When Thomas Strode and George Arden arrived from Sydney to start the "Port Phillip Gazette," Fawkner was furious and was relentless in his persecution of Strode.
In 1839 Fawkner bought 1,750 acres in Coburg, part of which he called Pascoe Vale and the rest he sold. He said he was worth twenty thousand pounds, but in 1842 he became insolvent with a debt of nine thousand pounds.
In 1842 he was elected a Market Commissioner and in 1843 a Town Councillor. On 18th September 1851 he was elected to the first Victorian Legislative Council and in 1856 he was elected to the first Parliament in the colony of Victoria.
Fawkner did not want convicts coming to Melbourne. He wanted separation from New South Wales and he supported miners' rights. He formed a Land Cooperative Society to help the 'ordinary man' and he introduced perforated postage stamps.
He set up a free library and a Congregational Church in Collingwood, helped establish a Parliamentary Library and allowed one of his houses to be used as a hospital. He helped set up Melbourne University and the State Library.
In 1856, Fawkner's father and his third wife came to Melbourne. They moved into the Pascoe Vale house whilst Jonny and Eliza lived at 226 Smith Street, Collingwood.
With no children of their own, John and Eliza adopted an orphan they named Eliza Ann Fawkner. They also adopted Sarah Jane Walsh, the daughter of their wealthy friend, barrister John Joseph Walsh. His first wife had died and he wished to remarry.
They looked after and educated Ann Lucas, the daughter of John's sister, Elizabeth Lucas. Also Amelia Lancey, the daughter of Captain John Lancey, lived with them.
With his health deteriorating, Fawkner attended a session of Parliament on the 10th August 1869 and died on the 4th September 1869. The funeral procession of some 228 carriages which proceeded from his Smith Street residence attracted a third of the population of Melbourne. He was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery.
Eliza was now aged 71 and she decided to learn to write. In 1871 she married John Joseph Walsh, whose second wife had died, and they lived happily until her death on 8th July 1879. Eliza was buried with Jonny Fawkner. Walsh went on the marry the Fawkner's niece, Ann Lucas.
From very humble beginnings and despite making many enemies over the years, John Pascoe Fawkner became known as the grand old man of the colony and was recognised for his achievements. The people were very proud of him.
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