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George King (1813–1899)

by K. J. Cable and Hazel King

This article was published:

George King (1813-1899), Church of England clergyman, was born on 20 March 1813 at Fintona, County Tyrone, Ireland, second son of William King, linen merchant, and his wife Anne, née West. He was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, and Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1836; M.A., 1854; LL.D., 1885), made deacon in September 1836 and ordained priest in June 1837 by Bishop Mant of Down and Connor. After curacies at Larne and Portstewart, King became incumbent of Holywood in 1840. On 9 July he married a widow, Jane Stewart Mathewson (d.1900).

Although his bishop was ready to forward King's interests, Mrs King's asthma prompted him to migrate to Western Australia where he arrived with his family in October 1841 as an Society for the Propagation of the Gospel missionary. He settled at Fremantle and built a church in 1843, conducted day and Sunday schools and held services in the gaol and outlying districts. Unable to secure a government stipend or set up his projected district schools, he ran an institution for Aboriginal children and severely criticized the indifference of the settlers and the misguided policy of the government towards Aboriginals. Enthusiastic and hard-working, King already showed strong personal feelings and impatience with authority. In 1846 his health began to deteriorate and in 1847 he was permitted to leave the colony.

King hoped to serve in New Zealand under Bishop G. A. Selwyn, but on arrival at Sydney he was persuaded by Bishop William Grant Broughton to take temporary charge of St Andrew's parish. His appointment was made permanent in July 1848. King succeeded in restoring morale and in building up a loyal lay following, after the secession to Rome of his predecessor, Robert Sconce He became enthusiastically involved in the development of St Andrew's Cathedral. Episcopal opposition did not prevent him from helping to form the Anglican affiliated university college of St Paul in 1852-55. He was elected a fellow and served on the college council in 1855-93. At missionary meetings he pleaded the cause of Aboriginals in December 1853 and June 1856 and sent several to Selwyn's South Seas institution. With Augustus Morris King tried to found an Aboriginal establishment under Rev. William Ridley.

In 1852 King had voted against the episcopal veto embodied in Broughton's scheme for a church constitution and renewed his opposition in November 1858 when Bishop Frederic Barker summoned a conference to prepare a draft constitution for submission to parliament. In 1859 King told a Legislative Council select committee that no legal enactment was needed and that episcopal powers were excessive. His personal interests had become entangled in these matters of principle. He resented the infringement of his rights as incumbent when in 1858 Barker appointed Rev. William Cowper dean of St Andrew's Cathedral. In January 1860 his wardens, anxious to preserve the parochial character of the church, petitioned the Legislative Assembly. A select committee was sympathetic but inactive. In September, when told that he was not needed to assist at an ordination, he had the cathedral doors locked. This protest caused a public stir and, since the legal position of the Church of England was then under debate, he aroused some sympathy. He declined to recognize the episcopal tribunal of inquiry into the incident and appealed to the Supreme Court. In January 1861 the Banco Court upheld his appeal but ruled that the bishop could solely hear King's case. He then appeared under protest and his licence was revoked. Barker restored the licence and in 1863 King was appointed to St Peter's, Cook's River.

King did not figure in any further controversies but remained a loyal churchman. He travelled widely and continued to advocate his special interests. Although a staunch Ulsterman, he disapproved the growing activity of the Orange lodges. He was a founder and sometime president of the New South Wales Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, and a director of the Society for the Relief of Destitute Children. In 1872 he moved to St Thomas's, Enfield, but resigned in 1879, retaining only the chaplaincy of the Anglican cemetery at Rookwood until 1886. In 1887 he published a pamphlet of his Reminiscences. He died at Homebush on 20 March 1899, survived by his wife, two of his five daughters and one of his two sons. He was buried in the churchyard of St Thomas's, Enfield. His estate was valued at £3200.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Norris, Annals of the Diocese of Adelaide (Lond, 1852)
  • J. G. Legge (ed), A Selection of Supreme Court Cases in New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1896)
  • R. Border, Church and State in Australia 1788-1872 (Lond, 1962)
  • S. M. Johnstone, The Book of St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney (Syd, 1968)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1859-60, 3, 1205
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1859-60, 1, 667
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 1852, 10 Dec 1853, 20 June 1856, 20 July 1860
  • Empire (Sydney), 8 Nov 1860
  • G. King, diary and papers (held by family)
  • SPG records, diocese of Adelaide, Australia and Sydney (SPG Archives, Westminster)
  • CSO records (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

K. J. Cable and Hazel King, 'King, George (1813–1899)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 March, 1813
Fintona, Tyrone, Ireland


20 March, 1899 (aged 86)
Homebush, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.