John McDouall Stuart - Explorer

Stuart Portrait
Section of John McDouall Stuart portrait from the Adelaide City Council Civic Collection.
Stuart Memorial
The Stuart memorial in Alice Springs.

John McDouall Stuart was born in Dysart, Scotland, in 1815 and came to Australia in 1838 to seek his fortune. A draughtsman, he accompanied Captain Charles Sturt on his 1844 expedition to Central Australia, after surveying extensively throughout South Australia.
The South Australian government was keen to open a route from Adelaide to the north coast and offered a reward of $4,000 to the first person to achieve it. In 1860, Stuart, accompanied by William Kekwick and Ben Head, set out on their first attempt. The party reached Attack Creek, north of Tennant Creek, before being forced back through lack of supplies and hostile natives on June 27th 1860.
Stuart, with Kekwick and 10 others, set out again on New Year's Day 1861, and reached Newcastle Waters, but was again forced to return, this time because of the dense bushland.
They left Adelaide again in December, 1861 and seven months later, on July 24th 1862, finally reached the north coast at a place which they named Chambers Bay, after a sponsor of their expeditions.
Stuart suffered from the gruelling effort required on these journeys and returned to Scotland shortly after.
For a time he tried to lecture on his exploits and achievements in Australia but his poor health, and failing eyesight and memory, proved an embarrasment. He retired to the home of his sister in London and died in June, 1866. He is buried in Kensal Green cemetery.
The highway from Adelaide to Darwin bears his name, as does Central Mount Stuart, almost the geographical centre of Australia. Alice Springs was first named Stuart after him, and there is a small museum in Dysart, Kirkcaldy, Fife, at the home where he was born.

© Copyright Peter W. Wilkins