Dawes, William

William Dawes (1762-1836), officer of marines who volunteered for service with the First Fleet in New South Wales. He was a competent astronomer and was employed ashore as engineer and surveyor.  He constructed an observatory on Tarra (now Dawes Point).

He undertook a number of exploratory journeys to the west of Sydney and attempted to travel into the Blue Mountains.  Dawes was a keen observer of the local people and compiled an extensive vocabulary and grammar.

In December 1790 Dawes had refused to do duty on a punitive expedition ordered by Phillip following the murder of his game- shooter John McEntire. Dawes relented only after discussion with Rev. Richard Johnson, and later incensed Phillip by stating publicly that he was sorry that he complied with the order. He refused to retract and sailed with the marines in December 1791.

Dawes subsequently travelled to Sierra Leone as councillor to the governor, whom he succeeded in December. He was three times governor for the Sierra Leone Company.

While in England between 1804 and 1808 he helped to train missionaries for the Church Missionary Society. About 1812 Wilberforce suggested that he might work for the anti-slavery cause in Antigua and in 1813 he took his only daughter to that island. There he was a correspondent of the Church Missionary Society and established schools for the children of slaves. Dawes died in Antigua in 1836. He had married first Miss Rutter, who died about 1800. They had a daughter, Judith, who married in Antigua, and two sons. In Antigua Dawes married Grace Gilbert, who survived him.

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