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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Heath, Commander George Poynter

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Heath, Commander George Poynter, R.N., was born at Hanworth, Norfolk, on June 19th, 1830, being the younger son of the Rev. Charles Heath, vicar of Hanworth, rector of Gunton, Suffield, and rural dean, and grandson of Dr. George Heath, head master of Eton College. He married, on Feb. 23rd, 1860, at Trinity Church, Bayswater, Elizabeth Jane, the eldest daughter of Capt. J. Long Innes, of H.M.'s 39th Regiment. Entered H.M. navy as a cadet, in July 1845, on board H.M.S. Cyclops, employed on the home station with the Channel Squadron, and on the south-east coast of America. Arriving in Sydney in June 1847, in H.M.S. Rattlesnake, he was employed upon the survey of the inner route to Torres Straits and the south coast of New Guinea, under the late Capt. Owen Stanley. Returned again to the Australian station in H.M.S. Fantome he served in H.M.S. Calliope, under Sir Everard Home, on the coast of Australia, and New Zealand and in the Western Pacific. On his return to England he was employed by the Hydrographic Office in preparing charts of the Pacific Ocean. Suffering from an affection of the throat, he had to retire from active service afloat, and on the separation of Queensland from New South Wales, was appointed, in Jan. 1860, Marine Surveyor and a member of the Pilot Board of the new colony. In 1862 he was made Portmaster of Queensland and a member of the Marine Board, and in 1869 Chairman of the Marine Board. He was also for many years a member of the Immigration Board, and latterly a member of the Defence Committee of the colony. Capt. Heath took an active interest in Church matters, and was for many years a member of the Diocesan Council and Chairman of Committees of Synod. These offices, together with those of Portmaster of the colony, Chairman of the Marine Board, and member of the Defence Committee, he resigned in Jane 1890, when he accepted a pension under the Civil Service Act, his health necessitating rest and change. On commencing his duties in 1860, shortly after the separation of the colony, there was one lighthouse and one lightship in existence, those being in Moreton Bay. On giving up charge in 1890, the coast was lighted by thirty-five lighthouses, six lightships, and some one hundred and sixty smaller lights; eighteen ports were open with a thousand miles of buoyed and beaconed channels, including the intricate navigation of the passage through the coral waters of the inner route. On his leaving Queensland, he received a presentation of plate as an evidence of the esteem and regard of the officers and men of the department over which he had presided, and also the thanks of the Government for his long and valuable services and for the admirable manner in which the pilot and lighthouse services of the colony had been organised and controlled by him.