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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur, Charles (1808–1884)

by Roger Page

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Charles Arthur (1808-1884), public servant, was born on 5 February 1808, the youngest son of John Arthur, of Norley House, the collector of customs in Plymouth, England. At 16 he sailed for Van Diemen's Land in the Adrian as one of the retinue of his uncle, Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur.

Arthur's working career had two phases. During his uncle's administration, he was employed first as private secretary, then as 'Barrack Master in the room of Captain M. L. Smith', and finally for six years as colonial aide-de-camp to his uncle at 10s. a day, a position held concurrently with that of barrack master. Once he achieved notoriety by bursting into a ladies' dressing room at the theatre, in company with a friend, during a concert organized by John Philip Deane. His action provoked a mild rebuke from the Independent, which regretted 'he should have so forgotten himself', but averred that 'his youth and many other circumstances plead in his favour'. Except for this blunder, he appeared to lead a humdrum dutiful life. By the lieutenant-governor's authorization in 1825 he became a landowner in the Ouse district and in 1836 he was appointed a justice of the peace. On 28 June 1836 he married Mary Allen, the only daughter of Thomas Reibey of Entally.

Arthur's second phase began soon after the departure of his uncle in 1836, when he offered to take over the job of police magistrate at New Norfolk. In 1837 he transferred to the police magistracy in his wife's home district of Norfolk Plains, where he took on the duties of commissioner of the Court of Requests and chairman of Quarter Sessions. He was appointed at £300 a year and, apart from leave of absence on half-pay while visiting England in 1838-40, he retained the position until his retirement in 1862. His long office was quiet and undistinguished, but some controversy was created by the amount of his retiring pension. According to the colonial secretary, he was entitled only to £154 10s. 7d. for twenty-three years as magistrate. Arthur claimed, however, that his 'active, zealous service in responsible offices for 31½ years', including the three posts held during his uncle's governorship, merited a pension of £283. The correspondence about this affair was placed before parliament, where a committee awarded £197, an acceptable compromise.

In his last years Arthur lived at Norley Cottage, Longford, taking things easily because of a lung complaint, and concerning himself with family affairs. Of his six boys and three girls, he had a special affinity for his son John Lake Allen Arthur, one of the most gifted cricketers of his generation, who died in mysterious circumstances in 1877, a fortnight after being invited to tour England with the first Australian team. This early death shocked his father, who had himself been a member of the Tasmanian side in the maiden inter-colonial match against Victoria in 1851. Charles Arthur died of a severe chill on 29 July 1884 at Longford.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Page, A History of Tasmanian Cricket (Hob. 1957)
  • Journals (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1862 (8), 1863 (9, 10)
  • Independent (Launceston), 4 Aug 1832
  • Launceston Examiner, 30 July 1884
  • GO 33/27/187, CSO 1 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Roger Page, 'Arthur, Charles (1808–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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