During SALA the ST Gill Room will feature a small exhibition of explorer John McDouall Stuart artefacts that have been gathered together to mark the 150th anniversary of the safe return of the 1862 expedition south to north and back, the route subsequently followed by the overland telegraph line. Burra Art Gallery is the site of the old Telegraph Station from where the telegram was sent, informing authorities in Adelaide of the mission’s success.
John McDouall Stuart officially set out on the 25th October 1861 from “Montefiore House”, the residence of James and Catherine Chambers in North Adelaide, on his sixth expedition. This was his third, and ultimately successful attempt to cross Australia. Nine months after leaving Adelaide, the British Flag (Union Jack) was raised on the northern shore at Chambers Bay, east of present day Darwin. The men and horses were weary from the nine months travelling, camping out in the open and surviving on severely limited rations and poor water. Stuart’s journal for the return contains a vivid record of his sufferings. The Expedition completed the first European crossing of Australia, from Adelaide to Van Diemen Gulf, passing through the Centre of the Continent, and returning along the same route without loss of life.
John McDouall Stuart spent half his life, 25 years, in South Australia. Mona Stuart Webster once wrote:-
The most important thing that Stuart gave his “adopted country,” as he called South Australia, is the route across the Continent! The search for it dominated the later years of his life to such an extent that nothing else — health, or money, or home and family — mattered to him so much as finding a way to reach the northern shore. When he had found it, his health was gone and with it all hope of wealth or a home of his own, but to the end he was confident that he had achieved something of real value for which his name would be remembered.
For a comprehensive look at Stuarts life go to the John McDouall Stuart Society website.