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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dobie, John (1794–1866)

by Louise T. Daley

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

John Dobie (1794-1866), naval surgeon and grazier, entered the navy in 1806 and was appointed an assistant surgeon in October 1813. In 1820 he was placed in medical charge of the naval department at Trincomalee. In July 1824 he sailed from England as surgeon of the transport Princess Charlotte, and in November reached Hobart Town with his charges in good health. After a brief stay in Sydney he was appointed to the Warspite, 1825, the Boadicea, 1826, the Java, 1827, the Madagascar, 1828, and the convict ship, Lady Nugent, June 1836. On arrival at Hobart in November, he again could report no deaths among the 286 convicts on board.

In 1837 Governor Sir Richard Bourke sent him to England with personal letters to Glenelg, secretary of state for the colonies, and instructions to use his own judgment in recruiting free immigrants for New South Wales. When he was returning in the Duncan with 272 free settlers, the ship encountered bad weather and docked at Rio de Janeiro where Bourke, returning home, commended his management of the passengers. In December 1838 he was appointed by Governor Sir George Gipps as first health officer in Sydney and received a grant of land in the Cassilis district. To the governor's regret he resigned in November 1839 to lead an expedition into the unsettled Clarence River valley, where he took up Ramornie station in June 1840, Stratheden station in the Richmond River valley in 1842, and exchanged Ramornie for Gordon Brook station in 1845. He was a magistrate of the territory in 1840, and was listed among the 'Largest Occupiers of Crown Lands and Largest Holders of Stock' in 1844. He contributed greatly to the early development of the Clarence squatting district. Dobie's dispenser, John Campbell Shannon, became his station manager. At the same time he took an active part in political and government affairs. At the squatters' meeting on 9 April 1844, called to protest against the new land regulations, Dobie seconded the motion for the formation of the Pastoral Association of New South Wales, and in 1850 he signed the Armidale petition to include New England and the Clarence district in the proposed state of Queensland. On 8 January 1851 he attended the Moreton Bay and Northern Districts Separation Association as a member of the committee. He was a witness at select committees on immigration in 1838, 1845 and 1852, on the upset price of land in 1847 and on crown lands in 1854.

Dobie was a member of the Australian Medical Board from 1844 to 1864. He was appointed a non-official nominee member of the Legislative Council on 13 October 1851, and served on eight more select committees before his resignation in March 1855. After selling his properties on the Clarence and Richmond Rivers he returned to England where he died on 17 July 1866. He was unmarried.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 18-20, 22, 24, 26
  • W. G. Armstrong, ‘The First Australian Health Officer’, Medical Journal of Australia, 24 June 1939, pp 928-29
  • Clarence River Historical Society Records, 1 (1932-35), 2 (1938)
  • Clarence River Historical Society Bawden Lectures, nos 53, 87, 100, 101, 111, 115, 116
  • Adm 104/15 (National Archives of the United Kingdom).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Louise T. Daley, 'Dobie, John (1794–1866)', 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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