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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mountgarrett, Jacob (1773–1828)

by Isabella J. Mead

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Jacob Mountgarrett (1773?-1828), colonial surgeon, was probably the son of Rev. John Mountgarrett, curate of Drumbanagher, near Killeavy, County Armagh, Ireland. He was admitted as a member of the Company of Surgeons, London, on 17 May 1798, and thus qualified as a naval surgeon third rate, for he had been in the navy since 1790, and had seen service in the Mediterranean and at Cape St Vincent. After being paid off in 1802, he joined H.M.S. Glatton carrying convicts to New South Wales, as surgeon. He arrived in March 1803 and was immediately appointed surgeon to the new settlement proposed at the Derwent. He sailed with Lieutenant John Bowen but when Lieutenant-Governor David Collins arrived next February he told Mountgarrett that his medical staff was complete and gave him the opportunity to return to Sydney. Mountgarrett refused and asked that he should be considered a settler. He was the first to harvest wheat in the colony.

In August 1804 he was appointed surgeon to the new settlement about to be founded at Port Dalrymple by Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson and sailed with Paterson's party from Sydney in November. With Ensign Hugh Piper he undertook the early exploration of the country to the north-west of Port Dalrymple, and received a grant of 600 acres (243 ha) in Norfolk Plains on the South Esk River, for services which Paterson praised highly. He accompanied Governor Lachlan Macquarie around the Port Dalrymple area in December 1811, and the governor and his wife visited his farm, seventeen miles (27 km) from Launceston. But after the departure of Paterson and the death of Collins conditions throughout the island deteriorated and Mountgarrett became associated with many doubtful activities. He was accused of assisting Peter Mills, surveyor and harbour-master, in his bushranging activities, and in 1815 was sent to Sydney for trial. He was acquitted but while in Sydney he had to have his arm amputated and sought permission to retire on a pension. When the pension was refused Mountgarrett returned to duty in December 1817, while Macquarie repeated his request for it to the Colonial Office. Next year it was approved, but by then Macquarie was unwilling to grant it and in September he recommended that Mountgarrett be dismissed. The surgeon was naturally handicapped by the loss of his arm, but Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell had constantly complained of his neglect of duty. He was notorious as a bad debtor and was suspected of cattle stealing and misappropriating the stores and medicines for which he was responsible. Finally in 1821 he was succeeded as surgeon at Port Dalrymple by Robert Espie and was placed on half-pay. He died insolvent on 27 January 1828 and was buried in the old Church of England burial ground, Launceston. In 1811 he had married Bridget Edwards who was left destitute and died in April 1829.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 4-10, series 3, vols 1-4
  • W. E. L. Crowther ‘Mr Jacob Mountgarret, R.N.: The Pioneer Colonial Surgeon of Van Diemen's Land’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 34, part 1, 1948, pp 1-35
  • correspondence file under Jacob Mountgarrett (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • manuscript catalogue under Jacob Mountgarret (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Isabella J. Mead, 'Mountgarrett, Jacob (1773–1828)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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