On Saturday 10 December author Lyn M Fergusson spoke to us about the life and times of Admiral Arthur Phillip. The man who was the first Governor of the Colony went on to a distinguished career in the Royal Navy. Lyn’s research into the man himself delivers insights into his personality and sheds new light on an enigmatic figure in Australian history.
It also illustrates the level of dedication and determination that is needed for a history researcher such as Lyn to track down all the relevant facts about her subject.
An extract from the talk:
Arthur Phillip – we all know who he was but what do we actually know about him? Phillip lived to the age of 76, spending a mere 4 years 10 months and 15 days here – what did he do with the rest of his life?
Compared to his contemporaries there have been few publications regarding our first governor. What is available concentrates on either his career with the Royal Navy, his governorship or both. My biography aims to introduce the reader to Arthur Phillip – The Man. To do this I travelled to Europe with a heightened imagination (to transport me back to Georgian England) to walk, a little, in his footsteps. I also spent time in Germany believing the parents of a biographical subject are just as important as the subject himself. Jacob Phillip, Arthur's father, is initially recorded as coming from "Frankfort"; over the years historians changed this to "Frankfurt-am- Main". The realisation there are a number of Frankfurts in Germany led me to reconsider Phillip's lineage. With no documents to definitely confirm Jacob was Jewish, or indeed, German, through research it became apparent Phillip could have French Huguenot blood. Research into Elizabeth Phillip, née Breach, uncovered a hitherto undocumented line of her family who were, in fact, very close to Phillip through his life and featured in his Will.
Arthur Phillip was born in the Bread Street Ward of London . Phillip’s service with the Royal Navy is documented but it was not until translation of The Rebello Transcripts we learnt the detail of his service with the Portuguese Navy – a courageous service that distinguished him as a living legend. Phillip’s term as governor highlighted his humanitarianism. He enjoyed spending time with the indigenous people around their fires, learning something of their culture and tribal laws.
Phillip and his second wife, Isabella, lived in Bath following his retirement; and here is a memorial to Phillip in Bath Abbey and a service is held at St Nicholas Church, Bathampton, the place of his burial, attended by Australian dignitaries once a year. A plaque is also at the entrance of 19 Bennett Street, his and Isabella’s residence in Bath. It was also here I learnt of the mystery surrounding his death in 1814.
Admiral Arthur Phillip, the Man
SID HARTA Publishers