Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bishop, Peter (?–?)

by Louis R. Cranfield

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

Peter Bishop (flourished 1803-1829), soldier and explorer, came from Bishopscourt, Waterford, Ireland. He joined the 5th Regiment as an ensign on 24 November 1803 and was promoted lieutenant in December 1804 and captain in March 1812. He transferred to the 40th Regiment and was present at several major engagements in the Peninsular war and at Waterloo. On 7 September 1815 he married Julia, daughter of William Talbot of Castle Talbot, County Wexford.

Bishop came with his regiment to New South Wales early in 1824 and in December was appointed to command the Moreton Bay penal settlement. He took over from Lieutenant Henry Miller immediately after the station was transferred from Redcliffe Point. Miller remained at Moreton Bay as Bishop's second-in-command and both were present at the station when Major Edmund Lockyer paid a visit in the Mermaid in September 1825. They accompanied him on a journey of exploration up the Brisbane River in the Mermaid, named Redbank after the colour of the soil on the river bank, and discovered either the Bremer River or the Lockyer Creek. At Moreton Bay Bishop laid the foundations of the commissariat stores which later became the State stores building in William Street, Brisbane, and also drew up plans for the hospital which was built by his successor, Captain Patrick Logan. Plans for the settlement were fairly well under way in March 1826 when Bishop handed over to Logan.

After returning to Sydney, Bishop was sent to quell disturbances among Aboriginals in the almost unexplored regions of southern New South Wales. Three stockmen were known to have been killed in the Lake Bathurst district and word had arrived that the Aboriginals were assembling in unusually large numbers. Bishop with a detachment of soldiers travelled more than 800 miles (1287 km) in a month, and at one stage they were estimated to be more than 300 miles (483 km) from Sydney. On the approach of the troops, the Aboriginals usually made off into the ranges, but Bishop came across one of their chiefs beyond Lake George and through an interpreter told him that any further attacks on the settlers would not be tolerated and that the chief was to inform his tribe that Bishop had orders to destroy all Aboriginals in the area if they disobeyed the government's order. Bishop was commended by Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling, and the Sydney Gazette commented that Bishop had completed a dangerous task without spilling a drop of human blood.

Bishop was created a magistrate, and in July 1826 the governor entrusted him with the task of founding a military station at the Five Islands in the Illawarra district, because of fears in Sydney that the French would attempt an invasion of Australia. Bishop remained at the Five Islands for five months and, when he left to rejoin his regiment in Van Diemen's Land, was thanked by the residents for the courtesy he had shown them and for removing bad characters that had been troubling the district.

Settlers in parts of Van Diemen's Land were living in fear of bushrangers and Aboriginals, and men of the 40th Regiment were kept busy in the interior of the island trying to maintain order. In January 1828 the regiment was ordered to India. As this would have left the settlers of Van Diemen's Land unprotected, Governor Darling at first declined to allow the regiment to go and it did not sail until December 1829. Bishop, who had been promoted major in January 1828, retired from the army on half-pay in June 1829 and in 1837 was appointed K.H.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 12
  • Sydney Gazette, 22 Apr, 6 May, 5 July, 27 Dec 1826
  • WO 31/152.

Citation details

Louis R. Cranfield, 'Bishop, Peter (?–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bishop-peter-1788/text2017, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 31 October 2014.

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

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