Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Molloy, Georgiana (1805–1843)

by Alexandra Hasluck

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Georgiana Molloy (1805-1843), amateur botanist, was born on 23 May 1805 near Carlisle, Cumberland, England, one of the five children of David and Elizabeth Kennedy of Crosby Lodge. Both parents came of old Border families. At Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, on 1 August 1829 she married Captain John Molloy and in October they sailed with their household possessions and eight servants to the new colony in Western Australia. After six weeks at Swan River they decided to settle some 200 miles (322 km) farther south at Augusta at the opening of the Blackwood River on Flinders Bay, where her husband was appointed resident magistrate. Two other families with their servants accompanied them. Augusta lay in heavily timbered country and the settlement's early pioneering was lonely and hard. Three daughters and a son were born to Mrs Molloy, but the eldest daughter died at birth and the son at nineteen months, in tragic circumstances. In 1836 most of the settlers began to leave Augusta to look for land easier to develop. The Molloys themselves left in 1839 and moved to the Vasse River, sixty miles (97 km) northward, where a homestead, Fair Lawn, was built, and two more daughters were born.

For relief from her arduous life of pioneering Georgiana Molloy turned to botanizing. She was a keen gardener but soon found greater enjoyment in observing the indigenous flowers which bloomed profusely in spring. At first she gathered, pressed and mounted them in a hortus siccus, but in 1836 Lady Stirling's cousin, Captain James Mangles, R.N., hitherto unknown to Mrs Molloy, wrote from England inviting her to collect and send him seeds of the native plants of the region. This she proceeded to do, accompanying them with written descriptions and with the albums of pressed flowers she had prepared. Most of their correspondence over five years has been preserved. The seeds she sent to Mangles were given by him to various botanical gardens in England, to such well-known private gardeners as Joseph Paxton, and to Dr Lindley, secretary of the Horticultural Society. Plants previously unknown were propagated and developed from them and were scientifically classified. Too often seeds and plants were poorly consigned from the antipodes and did not survive the shipping hazards; but Mrs Molloy's seeds from Western Australia became noted among English enthusiasts for their freshness and careful packing. Each hortus siccus she sent was remarkable for the precision both of mounting and description. Some of them are retained at Kew Herbarium. She won mention in George Bentham's Flora Australiensis … (London, 1863-78) and in Britten and Boulger's A Biographical Index of Deceased British and Irish Botanists, 2nd ed (London, 1931). Had she lived longer she might have added to her botanical fame but soon after the birth of her sixth daughter she died at Fair Lawn, Busselton, on 8 April 1843. Her correspondence with friends, as well as with Captain Mangles, shows her to have had a most sensitive and interesting personality.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Hasluck, Portrait with Background: A Life of Georgiana Molloy (Melb, 1955)
  • W. G. Pickering, ‘The Letters of Georgina Molloy’, Journal and Proceedings (Western Australian Historical Society), vol 1, part 4, 1929, pp 30-84
  • J. Mangles, letter books (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Molloy letters (State Records Office of Western Australia).

Citation details

Alexandra Hasluck, 'Molloy, Georgiana (1805–1843)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 28 October 2016.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2016

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Kennedy, Georgiana

23 May 1805
Carlisle, Cumberland, England


8 April 1843
Busselton, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage