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Fuller, Sir John Michael Fleetwood (1864–1915)

by L. R. Gardiner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Sir John Michael Fleetwood Fuller (1864-1915), governor, was born on 21 October 1864 at Neston Park, Corsham, Wiltshire, England, eldest son of George Pargiter Fuller, landed gentleman, and his wife Emily Georgina Jane, daughter of Sir Michael Hicks Hicks-Beach, eighth baronet. He was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford; in 1887 he obtained third-class honours in history (B.A.; M.A., 1900), and was a polo blue. On a world trip in 1891 he spent a few weeks in Australia, moving in vice-regal circles. In 1894-95 he was aide-de-camp to the viceroy of India. On 5 July 1898 at Holy Trinity Church, Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire, he married 19-year-old Norah Jacintha Phipps. After three unsuccessful parliamentary bids, in 1900-11 he was Liberal member of parliament for the Westbury division of Wiltshire. He was a junior lord of the treasury in 1906-07, vice-chamberlain of the Royal household in 1907-11 and a government whip for five years. He was created baronet in 1910 and appointed K.C.M.G. in 1911.

In February 1911 Fuller was appointed governor of Victoria to succeed Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael. He arrived in Melbourne on 24 May with his wife, two sons and four daughters. The Times, 14 January 1913, declared of Australians that 'A Governor of the right sort educates them, widens their views, eliminates their provincialisms, keeps them in touch with the Empire and the world. As Long as Great Britain sends out Governors who can do this, the most benighted and thrifty Australian will not grudge the expense or chafe at the ceremonialism'. Fuller, however, admitted 'I went to Melbourne much in the manner the “new boy” approaches his public school. I knew practically nothing of Australian life. When I got there I found it was impossible to know anything from merely English experience'.

Fuller had described himself to an Australian interviewer as 'just an ordinary type of English country gentleman and a good sportsman … fond of hunting, shooting, stalking and the rest'; he had a reputation as an active politician, and a 'cheerily stubborn Liberal'. While he performed his duties amiably, there were minor controversies in office. In April 1913 he was reprimanded by the minister for external affairs for supposedly interfering in Federal matters by publicly suggesting the dispatch of an expedition to rescue (Sir Douglas) Mawson in the Antarctic. In July 1913 the Argus replied to Fuller's disappointment that his speeches were not proving good newspaper copy: 'His sense of humour' was more developed than 'his gift of humour'.

Fuller had difficulties with the Colonial Office over permission to escort his wife back from England where she had settled three daughters at school. Three months leave was later allowed and Fuller left Melbourne on 27 August 1913. An accident prevented him from returning to Melbourne with Lady Fuller, and on 24 November his resignation for health and family reasons was announced. He died at his home, Cottles Park, Atworth, Wiltshire, on 4 September 1915.

Select Bibliography

  • 'A Portrait of Sir John Fuller', British Australasian, 18 May 1911, p 12
  • Argus (Melbourne), 6 Feb, 8 Mar, 17 May 1911, 8 Apr, 30 July, 6, 28 Aug, 3, 19, 24, 25 Nov 1913, 6, 13, 14 Jan 1914, 7 Sept 1915
  • 'The Australian State Governorships', Times (London), 14 Jan 1913, p 5
  • 'Death of Sir John Fuller', Times (London), 6 Sept 1915, p 5
  • 'Funeral of Sir John Fuller', Times (London), 9 Sept 1915, p 9
  • Fuller file (newsclippings, 1911-13, State Library of Victoria)
  • CO 418/116/158-163, 196-211.

Citation details

L. R. Gardiner, 'Fuller, Sir John Michael Fleetwood (1864–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fuller-sir-john-michael-fleetwood-6257/text10777, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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