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William Gore (1765–1845)

by Hazel King

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William Gore (1765-1845), provost-marshal, lived in Ireland, where he had property interests, before coming to Australia. In 1798 he and his wife and others were imprisoned by Irish rebels but were well treated and soon released. On 1 August 1805, on the recommendation of the earl of Harrington, Gore was appointed provost-marshal of New South Wales with fees and emoluments in addition to his salary of £91 5s. The duties of his office were regarded as comparable to those of a sheriff in England.

Gore travelled to Sydney with Governor William Bligh and took up his duties in August 1806. In so doing, he ousted from office Garnham Blaxcell, who had been acting provost-marshal since 1804 and whom Governor Philip Gidley King had recommended be confirmed in the appointment. Gore earned the approbation of Bligh, whose instructions he diligently put into effect, but he became the bête noire of Bligh's opponents and was often referred to as 'the odious Gore' or in other unflattering terms. In 1807 Deputy-Commissary Robert Fitz described him as 'the principal source of the present dissensions'. In October that year Gore was charged with having uttered a forged note to the value of 15s. and with having stolen an ornament which, according to Bligh, was of but 'trifling value'. Gore was acquitted on both charges which, Bligh thought, had been brought against him only to discredit him.

In his official capacity Gore was inevitably involved in the arrest and imprisonment of John Macarthur in 1808. He acted as an intermediary on 25 January between Bligh and the court of officers assembled to hear the charges against John Macarthur, and late that day at Bligh's behest Gore swore before the magistrates that Macarthur had been illegally at large from the time that the court had adjourned. Macarthur was arrested next day by virtue of a warrant given on this oath of Gore's. When the New South Wales Corps released Macarthur and deposed Bligh, they arrested Gore and on 21 March charged him with perjury for having sworn that Macarthur had been out of custody after 4 p.m. on 25 January. Gore denied the authority of the rebel court, would not give bail and refused to plead; he was kept in gaol without trial for more than two months, and in a letter to Bligh unfavourably compared his treatment by the New South Wales rebels with that by the Irish rebels ten years before. On 30 May Gore was again brought before a rebel court and again refused to plead. He was sentenced to transportation for seven years and was sent to Coal River (Newcastle) where he laboured side by side with ordinary convicts. His wife and four children, meanwhile, were dependent upon the charity of friends.

In 1810, after Governor Lachlan Macquarie had arrived, all trials held by the revolutionary government were declared invalid and Gore was restored to his former office. He left the colony in May 1810 as a Crown witness at the trial of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston in London, but resumed duty in Sydney in October 1812. In 1817, through the influence of D'Arcy Wentworth, he was appointed a director of the newly established Bank of New South Wales, but did not remain long on the board, for he was in grave financial difficulties. While overseas in 1810-12 he had received his salary but no fees; he suffered a further loss of fees after his return when the sittings of the courts were suspended by Ellis and Jeffery Bent. Gore had seven children, his salary was still only £91 5s., and his financial embarrassments became more and more acute. He was imprisoned for debt in 1818, escaped and made his way to Van Diemen's Land, was arrested and brought back to Sydney. On 8 March 1819 Macquarie suspended him from office, and reported that Gore was not only in gaol and thus unable to attend to his duties, but also that there had been continuous complaints to the courts of the tardy, oppressive, inefficient and dishonest manner in which his official business had for some time been conducted. His suspension was confirmed and he lived in retirement upon land previously granted him on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour.

In January 1824 Gore was charged before the Criminal Court in Sydney with wilfully shooting at and wounding a soldier of the 48th Regiment. His defence was that he had shot at the soldier to prevent him from stealing grass from one of his paddocks, but he was found guilty and sentenced to transportation to the penal settlement at Newcastle for life. Upon representations from Earl Bathurst and Palmerston, to whom Gore was personally known, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane pardoned him in June 1825. Thereafter Gore lived on his property at Artarmon, which was probably named after his home in Ireland. It was heavily mortgaged, and Gore was declared insolvent in April 1843. He died in August 1845 at the age of 80. For some years his body, together with those of his wife and daughter, remained unburied; their coffins lay under palings on his Artarmon property. Gore Cove and Gore Hill, near Sydney, were named after him.

Throughout his career Gore was widely disliked and distrusted but a few people, including Bligh, thought well of him. Historians have held as conflicting views about Gore as did his contemporaries. Bert Evatt, for example, wrote that 'there is no reliable evidence that he was anything but an honest, as well as a courageous man'. Malcolm Ellis, by contrast, regards Gore as 'odious'. He was certainly the victim of injustice in 1808 and the treatment meted out to him by the rebels was harsh and vindictive. Events over which he had no control deprived him for years of the fees of his office, upon which he was financially dependent. 'Odious' he may or may not have been; unfortunate he most certainly was.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 6
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 5-11, 26
  • H. V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion (Syd, 1939)
  • M. H. Ellis, John Macarthur (Syd, 1955)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3, 20 Apr 1843, 28 Aug 1845
  • CO 201/413
  • manuscript catalogue under William Gore (State Library of New South Wales).

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Citation details

Hazel King, 'Gore, William (1765–1845)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 May 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

Life Summary [details]




August, 1845 (aged ~ 80)
New South Wales, Australia

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