GREGORY, Sir Augustus Charles (1819-1905)

GREGORY, Sir Augustus Charles (1819-1905)
was born at Farnsfield, Nottingham, England, on 1 August 1819. He was the son of Joshua Gregory and his wife, Frances Churchman. Gregory was educated privately and was taken by his parents to Western Australia in 1829. In 1841 he entered the government survey office, and in 1846, with his two brothers, F. T. Gregory (q.v.) and H. C. Gregory, made his first exploration. With four horses and seven weeks' provisions they left T. N. Yule's station 60 miles north-east of Perth on 7 August 1846 and explored a considerable amount of the country to the north of Perth. A coal-seam was discovered on the Irwin River and the party returned after an absence of 47 days during which they had covered 953 miles. Two years later Gregory took command of another expedition with instructions to proceed north to the Gascoyne River, to examine its course, and especially to look for new pasture land. It left on 2 September 1848 and the Murchison River was crossed on 25 September, but the country everywhere was very dry and great difficulty was found in getting sufficient water for the horses. Gregory decided to turn south again in the beginning of October, and on 6 October it was found necessary to rest the horses for five days by the Murchison River. The river was then followed for some distance and various tributaries were explored. The party then returned to Perth, which was reached on 12 November. Good pastoral country had been found, but Gregory came to the conclusion that expeditions to that district should start in July rather than September. In spite of water difficulties about 1500 miles were covered in a period of 10 weeks.
In 1854 Gregory was asked to lead an expedition to the interior starting from the north. Gregory had his brother, H. C. Gregory, as second in command and Baron von Mueller (q.v.) as botanist. There were 18 men altogether, with 50 horses and 200 sheep. Moreton Bay was left by sea on 12 August 1855, and Port Essington was sighted on l September. On the next day their vessel grounded on a reef and it was found impossible to float her off until 10 September. At the end of the month the party was split in two, one going up the river in a schooner, while Gregory led the other over the range, and it was not until 20 October that they were reunited. It was found necessary to repair the schooner, which caused a delay of some weeks. It was not until 3 January 1856 that Gregory and eight others started on the inland journey, the others being in charge of the camp. The course steered was generally south-west, on 29 January a depot camp was made, and Gregory and three others pushed on towards the head-waters of the Victoria. On 8 February, finding nothing in sight but barren country, a turn north was made, but 10 days later the south-west course was again being followed. On 21 February it was necessary to turn north again, and a return was made to the depot, which was reached on 28 March. The country to the east of the Victoria was then explored by a party of four, starting on 2 April and finishing on 17 April. A return was then made to the principal camp which was reached on 9 May. Careful preparations were made for a journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria and on 21 June a party of seven under Gregory started. On 13 July the party came upon the remains of a camp where trees had been cut down with iron axes, but Gregory came to the conclusion that it could not have been one of Leichhardt's camps in 1845 as it was 100 miles south-west of his route, though it might have been one of a later date. No identifying marks of any kind could be found. Two days later the Roper River was crossed, a south-east course was followed, and the McArthur River was reached on 4 August. On 31 August the Albert River was found and four and nine days later respectively the Leichhardt and Flinders rivers. Keeping generally a south-east or east course the Burdekin River was reached on 16 October, the Mackenzie on 15 November, the Dawson on 21 November and next day the explorers found themselves in occupied country. They reached Brisbane on 16 December 1856.
In September 1857 Gregory was asked by the government of New South Wales, to make an estimate of the cost of an expedition to search for traces of Lelchhardt. His estimate was that it could be done for less than £4500. A party of nine was formed with A. C. Gregory in command and his brother, C. F. Gregory, as second in command. On 24 March 1858 the expedition left Juandah, the range was crossed and the Maranoa River reached by 5 April. On 21 April a tree marked with an L was found in latitude 24 degrees 35 min. and longitude 146 degrees 6 min. The Barcoo River was then followed to its junction with the Thompson River. On 15 May the country was so dry the expedition was obliged to turn south to save the horses. As Leichhardt might have found himself similarly placed Cooper's Creek was followed until it was close to the South Australian border. Gregory came to Strzelecki Creek on 14 June. Continuing his course mostly to the south, on 26 June he decided to proceed to Adelaide, which was reached at the end of July 1858.
Gregory did no further exploring but was appointed surveyor-general of Queensland in 1859 and held the position until 1879 when he retired. In 1882 he was made a member of the legislative council and continued to be a member until his death. He had a wide knowledge of the colony and was always listened to with attention. He was never a member of a cabinet, preferring to be an independent member free to vote for measures of which he approved. He was interested in scientific research and was a trustee of the Queensland museum. He died unmarried on 25 June 1905. He was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1858 and was created a K.C.M.G. in 1903. With his brother, F. T. Gregory, he published In 1884 their Journals of Australian Exploration.
Gregory was of an unassuming and cheerful disposition. He ranks among the most competent, prudent and successful of Australian explorers. Everything was carefully worked out before each stage of the journey, nothing was left to chance, conflicts with aborigines were avoided, and though less spectacular than some of the other explorers he was an admirable leader who usually succeeded in carrying out what he set out to do, and brought his men back without loss of life.
Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891; A. C. Gregory, and F. T. Gregory, Journals of Australian Exploration; The Brisbane Courier, 26 June 1905; The West Australian, 27 June 1905; R. L. Jack, Northmost Australia, pp. 266-73.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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