Celebrating our South Australian Pioneering Spirit

John McDouall Stuart (Wikipedia)

John McDouall Stuart (Wikipedia)

On this very day, 150 years ago, my 26 year old Great Great Grandmother, Susan (Kelleher) Nicholls was plying her Needlework talents to feed her 3 daughters, Catherine Ann, Mary Anne and Margaret. Widowed for 2years, Susan had recently purchased a nearby block of land at Armagh, close to Clare in the mid-north of South Australia, and I do wonder if she had any inkling that 12months later she would marry my Great Great Grandfather, Timothy Rowen.

What seems most likely however is that, living so far out in the country, Susan would not yet have known about the excitement, celebration and jubilation that was playing out on the streets of Adelaide as she went about her daily work.

The South Australian Advertiser reports:

“WEDNESDAY, January 21, 1863, will be one of the most memorable days of South Australia. On that day the explorer, John McDouall Stuart, accompanied by his gallant band of fellow travellers, made his formal entry into the City of Adelaide, after having crossed the continent from the southern to the northern shore (and return). Stuart had arrived in town some time previously, with one or two of his companions – but the formal entry of the whole party – as such – was arranged to take place on Wednesday, and the citizens determined to give them a true South Australian welcome home.

It is not, however, merely the fact that Stuart has crossed from shore to shore, which entitles him to be placed amongst the heroes of discovery; – of still greater significance is the fact that he wrested from the interior its long hidden secret. What was the map of Australia in our school days? What was it ten years ago? It was a vast blank, having no line traced upon it, no mark by which an opinion might be formed of the nature of the vast interior.”


John Mc Douall Stuart-map

This was an amazing feat and of HUGE benefit not just to South Australia, but to the whole of Australia and even further afield.

Flinders Ranges Research. logo.

The “Flinders Ranges Research” website tells us that:

“As a result of this journey, the opening up of the Northern Territory was made possible, and a route discovered for an Overland Telegraph Line linking South Australia with England and the rest of the world in 1872.

In 1863 Britain added the whole of the Northern Territory to South Australia, a decision greeted with great enthusiasm by most South Australians. George Fife Angas though believed the new area to be too big a responsibility for South Australia.”

It grieves me that this intrepid (Scottish born) South Australian explorer goes largely un-recognised not just in Australia but also South Australia. In my schooldays, during the 1950’s, we were still so attached to the British Empire/ Commonwealth that our History lessons were all about the Kings and Queens, of England, and I seem to remember something about some battles in a far off land somewhere.

John McDouall Stuart arrived in the fledgling Colony of South Australia in 1839, just 3 years after European settlement/ colonisation. My Susan arrived just 16 years later and I’m fascinated that they shared the same space in time as well as geographically.

This is a story I’m not going to be able to let go… how was my Susan’s life playing out as our intrepid explorer’s life was also unfolding?… be prepared for some follow up posts folks as the research continues 🙂



Copyright © 2013. Catherine Ann Crout-Habel

5 thoughts on “Celebrating our South Australian Pioneering Spirit

  1. An interesting history… why Australia and why South Australia, when so many went to NSW or Victoria? Questions without answers fascinate me… I did learn about the history of Stuart’s explorations, but if someone had asked me his name, I would have had to check. There was so much more emphasis on explorers like Hume and Blaxland, and Wentworth and John Oxley…

    • Questions, especially those which seemingly have no answers, sure do fascinate me too Chris. Whilst I’m all but over-loaded do have to confess that I’m “hooked” re: linking the life of Stuart to that of my Susan. Both were South Australian Pioneers, although in different fields and at slightly different times but with some over-lapping.
      re: Hume etc… well Australia always has been somewhat “Eastern-centric” 😉

  2. Last year was a big year with celebrations of the Overland Telegraph Line. We probably remember John McDouall Stuart up here since it’s a rare day when we don’t use “his” road. And so too the long links between the NT and SA even though geographically there are more similarities with the top parts of Qld and WA.

    • That’s so interesting Pauleen. Stuart was an amazing explorer and his south-north trek, and back again, is probably the most recognised. However, he achieved SO much more and what a sad “ending”, for a man who deserved far greater recognition for his life’s work.
      Absolutely agree that the top half of Oz has much more in common than with those of us in the south, and in more way than one 🙂 You guys must be very grateful that “Pig Iron Bob” didn’t get his way, during World War 2, and pass the top half of Australia over to Japan. Phew!!! 😉

  3. Pingback: Australia Day 2013 ~ Remembering Susan Kelleher & Harry Crout… | Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

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