Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

George Fletcher Moore (1798 - 1886):
Lawyer; pioneer settler and farmer

George Fletcher Moore, lawyer, landed proprietor and diarist, was born in Bond's Glen, Donemana, County Tyrone, Ireland, the second son of Joseph Moore and his wife Anne, née Fletcher. He was educated at Foyle College, Londonderry, and at the University of Dublin where he graduated in Law in 1820. He was called to the Irish Bar and practised for six years on the north-western circuit. His application for a legal position in the proposed Swan River settlement in Australia - which later became the territory of Western Australia - was turned down by the Colonial Office, which felt that the governor should be free to make his own recommendations but nevertheless wrote in support of him. Moore proceeded to the colony, landing at Fremantle in October 1830 and obtained a grant of land, which he called Millendon, on the Upper Swan river.

Moore's interests expanded from the law to farming, and starting with 34 merinos and 10 lambs in 1832, he built up a stock of 800 fine-wool sheep and the lease of a farm at York in the Avon valley in the same territory. By 1884 he owned 24,000 acres of land, including valuable town allotments. He was a dedicated diarist who kept a journal from his arrival in Australia, and was also a keen correspondent. His letters were later published as Extracts from the Letters and Journals of George Fletcher Moore, Esq., now Filling a Judicial Office at the Swan River Settlement, edited by M. Doyle (London, 1834), and Diary of Ten Years Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia (London, 1884). These describe the various difficulties he encountered while developing his property, such as labour problems, frequent food shortages and inflated prices. While there were settlers who became discouraged and left the colony, Moore stuck to his ambitions.

Less than a month after his arrival Moore accompanied the colonial secretary and party in search of Aboriginals concerned in a robbery. His sympathetic concern for the Aboriginals grew as he learned their language and listened to their stories, though "he wished sadly that they would not steal his pigs". He published A Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language in Common Use Amongst the Aborigines of Western Australia, with Copious Meanings, Embodying Much Interesting Information Regarding the Habits, Manners and Customs of the Natives and the Natural History of the Country (London, 1842), and Evidences of an Inland Sea Collected from the Natives of the Swan River Settlement (Dublin, 1837).

Committed to the territory, Moore became an explorer, following the course of the Swan River to its junction with the Avon. Already in 1831 he had accompanied Ensign Dale when the York district was discovered. In 1835 he went northwards and in May 1836 discovered a river which came to be named for him as Moore River, and Moore River nature reserve was established later. He also explored the coast around Champion Bay, towards the north-west of the territory, and Moore Point nearby was named after him.

He had not, though, given up his legal interests. On 10 February 1832 the colony's first legislative ordinance established a civil court, and Moore was sworn in as commissioner on 17 February 1832. In 1834 the Colonial Office decided to combine the offices of chairman of Quarter Sessions and civil court commissioner, whereupon Moore was appointed advocate-general. By virtue of this office he became an early member of the Legislative and Executive Councils acted as parliamentary draftsman. In 1840 he travelled back to Ulster to visit his father. On his return to Australia he continued in office until 1846, when he became acting Colonial Secretary. In 1852 Moore again travelled home to visit his father, and after some disputation with the Colonial Office he resigned his position and did not return to the colony; thus ended a distinguished public career. He remained in England, caring for his wife, who was in poor health, and after her death on 24 October 1863, he lived on in London in what he later described as an "isolated unfriended position. Even in this great city I am almost alone, in my eighty-fifth year".

Moore was a religious man of strong convictions and was appointed one of the trustees of Anglican Church property in 1838; in this capacity he was involved in the building of a church in Perth. Before there was an ordained clergyman in the Swan valley, Moore acted as a lay preacher, and would swim across the river from his property on the east bank of the Swan river to conduct services. He was also a supporter of All Saints' Church, Upper Swan, the oldest still-standing church in Western Australia, which has a memorial tablet to him.

Born: 10 December 1798
Died: 13 December 1886
Richard Froggatt

Wesley McCann


Australian Dictionary of Biography (Alfred H. Chate); Biographical Archive, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, County Tyrone