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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Douglas, Alexander Douglas (1843–1914)

by Jacqueline Bell and A. A. Morrison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Alexander Douglas Douglas (1843-1914), inspector of police and explorer, was born at St Helier, Channel Islands, son of Alexander Douglas Douglas, army officer, and his wife Ann, née Rouse. His joined the navy in 1857 as a cadet and served in the Tientsin campaign and the Taiping rebellion. His experiences gave him a taste for wandering and adventure. In 1865 he left the navy and migrated to Rockhampton, Queensland. For a time he satisfied his wanderlust by working as a teamster and drover. Attracted by police work he became an officer in the Queensland Native Police in 1872, and soon won promotion to sub-inspector in charge of the area from Cooktown to the Palmer River goldfield. In 1874 he was ordered to blaze a new trail from the goldfields to Cooktown, a task which suited his taste. His success secured him a second commission to find a practicable route to the new Normanby field, and in 1876 to yet another new goldfield, the Hodgkinson. For these achievements he ranks with the important explorers of the north.

In 1879 Douglas moved to a new station, Jundah, in the west, but next year was sent back to the north, this time to Biboohra on the Atherton Tableland. His services were much in demand and he was brought to Brisbane in 1881 to take charge of white police, but in 1882 he was sent to Herberton in the north. Once again exploratory duties called him: with four troopers, two old gold diggers and five Chinese, he blazed yet another trail, this time from Herberton to Mourilyan. On this trip the party was without rations and in continuous rain for twenty days, living mainly on roots, but the leadership of Douglas brought them through. He established a new native police camp at Mourilyan, and the government allocated to him a small steamship Vigilant to assist his patrols of the coast. At the end of 1884 he was given charge of the Townsville district, but from May to September 1885, during the Russian scare, because of his naval experience he was appointed commander of H.M.S. Otter in the Queensland navy. His next move was to Roma but in 1886 he was sent north to Georgetown in charge of the Gulf district. There he took charge of the largest gold escort, 26,000 oz., ever recorded in Queensland. In 1888 he moved his headquarters to Normanton where he remained until 1891. In 1893 he returned to Roma but in May 1898 became senior inspector of the Northern district, stationed at Townsville. In 1900 he was transferred to Brisbane and on 1 July succeeded John Stuart as chief inspector of the Queensland Police. He acted as commissioner four times and in 1902 went to Roma to investigate the Patrick Kenniff case. In 1905 Douglas was superannuated and returned to England where he died on 5 February 1914 in a private hospital near Portsmouth.

On 19 April 1884 at Charters Towers as a widower he had married Lucy, who at 3 had come to Australia in 1858 with her father Abraham Street, of Alva, Stirlingshire. They had no children. She died on 13 May 1905.

Select Bibliography

  • J. W. Collinson, Early Days of Cairns (Brisb, 1939)
  • H. A. Borland, From Wilderness to Wealth: Featuring the Storied History of the District of Cairns (Cairns, 1940)
  • H. A. Borland, Roadway of Many Memories, 1876-1951: Cairns District Jubilee Souvenir (Brisb, 1951)
  • Queensland Police Department, A Centenary History of the Queensland Police Force 1864-1963 (Brisb, 1964)
  • H. Holthouse, River of Gold (Syd, 1967)
  • R. A. Johnstone, ‘Memoirs’, Queenslander, 2 May 1903–11 Mar 1905.

Citation details

Jacqueline Bell and A. A. Morrison, 'Douglas, Alexander Douglas (1843–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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