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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Stirling, Admiral Sir James

Stirling, Admiral Sir James, first Governor of Western Australia, fifth son of Andrew Stirling, of Drumpellier, oo. Lanark, by Anne, only daughter of Sir Walter Stirling, Bart., of Faskine, co. Lanark, was born at Drumpellier in 1791. Having entered the navy, and served with distinction during the French and American wars, he was employed in the survey of the Australian coast, and was the first to cross the Monaro plains in New South Wales. In 1827 he was sent by Governor Darling to what is now Western Australia, with the dual view of selecting a suitable site for a penal settlement on the Swan River, and of anticipating the French in their reported intention to annex that portion of the mainland of Australia. H.M.S. Success, of which he was in command, dropped anchor on March 6th; and so favourable was his report of the capabilities of the country that on his return to Sydney he was sent back to England with a despatch from Sir Ralph Darling recommending the formation of a settlement on the Swan River. In the result the Imperial Government adopted the suggestion, and appointed Captain Stirling Governor of the inchoate settlement, with a grant of 100,000 acres of land for his services in exploring it. When, after narrowly escaping shipwreck, Captain Stirling landed on June 1st, 1829 (from which time his administration as Governor dated), with the first band of British colonists, the hopes formed from a previous hasty inspection of the land near the coast were far from being realised. Imperfectly sheltered in tents and huts, the colonists remained for months at Garden Island, ultimately selecting Perth as the site of the capital and Fremantle as the port of the settlement. In 1830 a thousand additional settlers arrived, and towards the end of the year the capital was rendered suitable for habitation. Captain Stirling did much valuable exploring work; but all his efforts were unavailing to prevent the disastrous failure of the settlement. His first term of office as Governor expired in Sept. 1832, when he left the colony to render an account of his stewardship to the Home Government. This he most have done satisfactorily, as he was knighted, and two years later was again appointee! Governor of the settlement, which had been administered during his absence by Captains Irwin and Daniel. On his return, in August 1834, experience enabled him to repair past errors; and so energetic was his administration that he not only prevented the projected abandonment of the colony, but put it in a fair way of future success. Sir James finally resigned the Governorship in Dec. 1838, and, resuming the naval profession, was a Junior Lord of the Admiralty for a short time in 1852, and Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese squadron during the Russian war. He died on April 22nd, 1865.