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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tregurtha, Edward Primrose (1803–1880)

by Decie Denholm

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

Edward Primrose Tregurtha (1803-1880), sea captain, was born at Newlyn, Cornwall, England, the son of Captain Edward Primrose Tregurtha, R.N., and his wife Mary, née Burgess. Edward was a turbulent youth and after a brief spell in the navy left it for the East India Co.'s maritime service. He sailed the barque Caroline from Calcutta to Hobart Town by way of Sydney in 1831 and then took her whaling for two years in the western Pacific. He returned to England in 1833, when his account of prospects in Australia encouraged the Dennis and Wettenhall families, with whom he was connected, to emigrate. Alexander Dennis, whose wife Emma was Tregurtha's sister, founded the Tarndwarncoort property in Victoria.

Tregurtha married Elizabeth Bussell in England in 1835 and returned to Van Diemen's Land later that year in the Derwent as a prospective colonist, with plans for establishing a fishery. After a fortnight's trawling in D'Entrecasteaux Channel, he gave up the fishing plan and decided to start farming. Instead he went into partnership with Captain Edwin Whiting, who was looking for financial backing to operate the brig Henry. This was the beginning of five years' successful operations between northern Tasmania and the new settlements in Port Phillip and South Australia. Their first cargo was 37 cattle for John Wedge of Snake Banks, and in May 1836 the Henry transported 750 sheep to Hobson's Bay. A consignment of 380 sheep taken to Adelaide in July 1837 was sold in lots of ten to small farmers at 55s. each. Tregurtha and Whiting doubled their carrying capacity by acquiring the Charlotte, and with the two vessels landed 55,000 sheep, hundreds of cattle and horses and about 2000 passengers on the Australian mainland. On one voyage Tregurtha landed a party at Geelong and claimed to have then surveyed the harbour as far as Point Henry, naming the point after the brig. Thereafter most of his operations centred on Geelong.

Tregurtha retired from the sea in 1839 and began business in Launceston as a shipping agent, but in 1850 he became master of the tug Gipsy on the Tamar. He was appointed shipping master of the port of Launceston in 1858 and held the position until his death. He was a consistent supporter of St John's Church of England, Launceston. He died in Launceston on 6 August 1880, survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 2 (Lond, 1952)
  • Victorian Historical Magazine, 21 (1945-46), 31, 32
  • Examiner (Launceston), 21 Nov 1868, 7 Aug 1880, GO 33/78 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Decie Denholm, 'Tregurtha, Edward Primrose (1803–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 27 October 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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