Many people worked for Victoria's separation from New South Wales but it was Edward Curr who became known as the "Father of Separation". He adopted the cause in 1844 and actively promoted it for the following six years.
Edward was born in 1798 in Sheffield, England, the son of John Curr, a civil engineer who managed the estate of the Duke of Norfolk. After working in a Liverpool office for two years and making a brief visit to Brazil he returned to Sheffield where he married Elizabeth Micklethwait.
Edward and Elizabeth sailed for Van Diemen's Land, arriving in Hobart in February 1820 per "Claudine". Here Edward pursued mercantile interests in partnerships with John Raine and Horatio William Mason. He also obtained a grant of 1,500 acres of land at Cross Marsh from Lieut-Governor Sorrell.
Curr returned to England in 1823 and published his "Account of the Colony of Van Diemen's Land, principally designed for the use of emigrants". He also met up with the promoters of the Van Diemen's Land Company and was appointed their chief agent. He also became a large shareholder in his own right. Arriving back in Hobart in May 1826, Curr set about surveying the borders of the 250,000 acres the company had been promised in the north-west corner of VDL. Circular Head was chosen as the company's base.
My ancestor, William Saunders, was brought out to Circular Head in 1833 by the Van Diemen's Land Company. William was a blacksmith from Tiverton in Devon and travelled on the "Sir Thomas Munro" with Martha his wife and their sons William and James. Shortly after the ship left England their daughter, Emily, was born on board. When William drowned in East Bay at Circular Head in early May 1835, Edward Curr instucted his men to care for the bereaved family. He also wrote of his intention to provide Martha with an annuity and obtain places in the Orphan School for the two youngest children.
In September 1839 Edward visited Port Phillip from Circular Head per "Minerva" with his son Edward Micklethwait Curr. He visited Melbourne again in December 1840 and bought the "Wolfscrag" pastoral run which was located about 70 miles from Melbourne, not far from the present town of Heathcote. On his return to VDL he arranged for his son Edward M. Curr to travel to Port Phillip and manage it for him.
Edward returned to Melbourne with his wife and family in March 1842 per "Eagle" and they took up residence at "St. Helier's" on the Yarra River at Abbotsford. As chairman of the Separation League he prepared many petitions and chaired many public meetings. When Earl Grey, having been nominated by Thomas McCombie and John Pascoe Fawkner, was elected as Melbourne's representative in the New South Wales Legislative Council it was Edward Curr who wrote to the Earl in London advising him of his win.
Edward died on 16 November 1850, five days after news of Separation reached Melbourne on the "Lysander". He was survived by his wife and eleven of their children.
Further details about his life can be found in the "Australian Dictionary of Biography".
Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes (PPPG Member No. 52)
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