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Henry Ayers: The Man Who Became a Rock

Henry Ayers: The Man Who Became a Rock
Jason Shute

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'The most wonderful natural feature I have ever seen.' With these words the explorer William Gosse expressed the awe he and many others have felt at the natural phenomenon of Uluru. The first white person to reach the central Australian monolith, he gave it the name 'Ayers Rock'. But who was Henry Ayers, the man whose name is forever associated with Australia's most recognisable natural icon? And why should he still be remembered today? Although the rock now carries its ancient indigenous name, Uluru, the name of Ayers is still linked with the the Rock's 'discovery' in 1873. Indeed, 'Ayers Rock' is one of the most famous natural wonders on earth and, despite its remote location, attracts over 400,000 visitors each year. This book, the first biography of Henry Ayers, focuses attention on the complex character behind the name and examines all aspects of his life - from his humble origins in the naval city of Portsmouth in southern England, his migration to Australia and his career as a miner, businessman and eventually as Premier of South Australia - a post to which he was elected seven times.

It provides a fascinating insight into Australian history through the life of a man who was consistently in the upper echelons of influence and authority in colonial society and whose legacy lives through his association with the most famous and recognisable natural feature of his adopted country.

Table of Contents

Introduction '…in search of a place to ascend…'
1. New life for old
2. The Secretary
3. Friends when and where you need them
4. The Year of Evolutions - taking hold of the reins
5. All that glisters
6. A cuckoo in the nest?
7. '… into Parliament he shall go!'
8. Two arrivals and – sadly – two departures
9. 'Betsey' no longer as free with her favours
10. The cuckoo exercises his wings
11. Keeping the political train on the rails – figuratively and literally
12. The first Royal Visit
13. Anticlimax, black-edged borders, then excitement renewed
14. A change is as good as a rest?
15. Meanwhile, back in the colony
16. Telegraphs, Honours, and the hard slog of government once more
17. Accolade from the Red Centre: The Rock
18. Career and reputation in tatters?
19. A lonely apotheosis – raw young emigrant become Grand Old Man
20. Sunset, twilight and the dark
Appendix I. £/s/d, comparative values, Imperial measure, etc.
Appendix II. Outline of the Westminster system
Appendix III. The ultimate fate of the SAMA

Author Info

Jason Shute is an acknowledged expert on immigrant communities in South Australia and on Henry Ayers. He is a graduate of London's Royal College of Music, where he won a number of prizes and carried out further studies in opera. He has lived with his family in South Australia for nearly two decades where he continues to work as a composer and conductor.


This biography breathes wonderful new life into a forgotten giant of colonial South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers: mining tycoon, leading politician, women’s rights and education reformer, coloniser of the Northern Territory, and godfather of the overland telegraph which first tethered Australian cable communications to the wider world.
– Carl Bridge, Head of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781848855632
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2010
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 234
Width: 156
Illustrations: 16 bw integrated illustrations

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