Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Lidgbird Ball (1756–1818)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

Henry Lidgbird Ball (1756-1818), naval officer, was baptized on 7 December 1756 at Woodchurch, Cheshire, son of George Ball, gentleman, and his wife Lucy. Henry commanded H.M.S. Supply in the First Fleet. Arthur Phillip praised his navigational skill, sent him to assist La Pérouse to enter Botany Bay in January 1788, and next month entrusted him with conveying the first settlers to Norfolk Island. He helped Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King settle there after a hazardous landing, and on the return voyage explored a small island sighted previously, which he named after Lord Howe. During the next two years he took part in exploring parties around Port Jackson, was one of those who captured Arabanoo on 31 December 1788, made another voyage to Lord Howe Island in an unsuccessful search for turtles to supplement the meagre diet at Sydney, and three times visited Norfolk Island. These activities are commemorated by the naming of Ball's Pyramid on Lord Howe Island, Ball's Bay on Norfolk Island and Ball's Point in Sydney Harbour. He also made a sketch of Lord Howe Island which Phillip sent to England.

In April 1790, after the Sirius had been wrecked and when food was running low, Phillip sent Ball in the Supply to Batavia for supplies. He returned in October, having, according to Watkin Tench, 'well stored his little bark with every necessary and conveniency', and having chartered the Waaksamheyd, which arrived two months later with more provisions. In January 1791 Ball was ordered to bring back John Hunter and the crew of the Sirius from Norfolk Island, but he became ill with a complaint that had originated in a fever he had caught at Batavia. In March he sought leave to return to England both to recover his health and to attend to family affairs. He also wanted to relieve his crew and to make repairs to his ship which could not be done in the colony owing to the poor timber and dearth of shipwrights. Sailing in November, he arrived at Plymouth in April 1792, carrying the first kangaroo to be shipped to England.

He had sufficiently recovered to return to duty in December 1792 and in 1795 was promoted captain. He served in the Ariadne 1795-97, Daedalus 1797-1801, Trident 1801, Zealand 1806-07, Gibraltar 1808-10, and Christian VII 1812-13. He then went on half-pay, but on 4 June 1814 was made a rear admiral of the Blue. He kept up an interest in New South Wales and in January 1808 Elizabeth Bligh wrote to Sir Joseph Banks that he, like General Francis Grose, had applied for the governorship of the colony; they were both rejected on the grounds that no change was intended. On 17 June 1802 in London Ball had married Charlotte Foster (d.1803); on 19 July 1810 at Kingston-upon-Thames he married Anne Georgianna Henrietta Johnston. He died on 22 October 1818 at Mitcham, Surrey, survived by his wife and by his daughter Ann Maria (b. c.1797) whose mother was the convict Sarah Partridge.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 1, part 2, and vol 2
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 1
  • A. Phillip, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay (Lond, 1790)
  • G. Mackaness, Admiral Arthur Phillip (Syd 1937)
  • manuscript catalogue under H. L. Ball (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Ball, Henry Lidgbird (1756–1818)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Henry Ball, c.1792

Henry Ball, c.1792

National Library of Australia, 4549405

Life Summary [details]




22 October, 1818 (aged ~ 62)
Mitcham, Surrey, England

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