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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Victor, James Conway (1792–1864)

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

James Conway Victor (1792-1864), soldier and engineer, was born on 17 March 1792 in London. He entered the Royal Military College in 1807, became a second lieutenant in 1810, first lieutenant in 1811, and served in the Peninsular war in 1812-14, seeing action in three major battles. In 1821 he was promoted captain, and on 10 April 1834 married Anne Dashwood, youngest daughter of Alexander Young of Harburn, Midlothian. He had been brigade major for five years when he sailed from London with his wife and daughter in the Emily. On arrival in Hobart Town in November 1842 as commander of the Royal Engineers he was immediately appointed to the Board of Public Works and with W. P. Kay and Major Sydney Cotton he reported on the water supplies of Hobart and Launceston. A year later the departments of public works and of roads and bridges were amalgamated and Victor was appointed director, at a salary of £300, in addition to his military duties. After some months Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Eardley-Wilmot reported that the amalgamation was not working well and the two departments were separated. Victor was offered the directorship of public works at £300, but refused because these civil duties interfered with his military service. Soon afterwards he was asked by Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison to superintend the building of Franklin's wharf. Again Victor demurred, but Denison insisted and later interfered with professional details of the work. In July 1847 Victor wrote to his superiors in London, claiming that misrepresentations from Hobart had induced the Colonial Office to sanction the building of a wharf which was neither necessary nor likely to pay; most of all he objected to civil authority demanding his obedience. The letter was sent to the Colonial Office where Earl Grey deplored the unpleasant tone of Victor's complaints and his unusual reluctance to co-operate in colonial works. The affair finished amicably, but in December 1848 Victor sold the furniture of his Hampden Road house and left for England in the Calcutta with his wife and daughter. In 1854 he was promoted major-general and died at Edinburgh on 4 February 1864. His wife died on 5 September 1876, survived by her only daughter Sophia.

Victor's best memorial in Hobart was some fine architecture. He designed and built the gaol at the barracks, the convict hospital in Campbell Street, and the out-buildings and cottages at Government House.

Select Bibliography

  • GO 1/69/15 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

'Victor, James Conway (1792–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 8 August 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 2

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