Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

Collins, David, Col.

Colonel David Collins, 1756-1810, First Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania

A plaque in Gandy Street, Exeter, EX4 3LF, reads:

Gandy Street was the childhood home of both Colonel David COLLINS RM first Judge Advocate of New South Wales (1788-96) and first Lieut. Governor of Tasmania (1804-10) and George P HARRIS first Deputy Surveyor General of Tasmania (1804-10) and previously with Col. Collins at Port Phillip.
Erected 1999 by the Exeter Civic Society, the Royal Overseas League and the Collins Site Committee in Australia.
Plaque unveiled 24 March 1999 by Mr David Ritchie, Deputy High Commissioner for Australia.
Reminiscing one evening in a tent at the convict settlement in South Australia, the two men discovered they had grown up in the same Exeter street.

DAVID COLLINS was born on 3 March 1756 in London. His father, Arthur Tooker Collins, was commandant of the Plymouth Division of the marines. David was destined to go—literally—a long way.  He left Exeter Grammar School at 14 and was commissioned as an ensign in his father’s division. An eventful career as a young officer saw him at the battle of Bunker’s Hill in the American War of Independence and then stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he married. Although he was promoted to be a captain, he complained he hated “the salt sea ocean” and accepted a posting at Chatham on half pay.

Collins was passed over for a military career (his rank of colonel was honorary) but he wrote himself into Australian history through two separate spells of office. He was responsible, as Judge Advocate, for the legal establishment of the new colony of New South Wales although he was not legally trained; and his perseverance against many obstacles as the first Lieutenant Governor of Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) led to the foundation of the colony there.

The strain was very great and, at the age of 55, he caught a cold and died suddenly on 24 March 1810, in Hobart, the city he did so much to help found. According to some sources, Collins was embalmed and buried in full military uniform with medals and decorations, and his sword. He wrote An Account of the English Colony in New South WalesJM

Information from the Australian Dictionary of Biography online at http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collins-david-1912 and other sites.

See also George Harris