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Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy 1855-1862

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Arthur Edward Kennedy

Sir Arthur was the third Irishman in a row to be appointed Governor of WA.

He was a retired infantry officer who attained the rank of Captain before becoming the County Inspector of the Board of Works and later Relief Inspector during the Irish famine.

His first appointment in the Colonial Service was the office of Governor of the Gambia Settlements, which had previously been held by Captain Fitzgerald, the former Governor of WA.

In 1854, he was appointed Consul-General of Sherborough County and then a year later WA's Governor.

Sir Arthur reputedly had a commanding presence and an autocratic manner that made him very unpopular with the settlers. He also found the bureaucracy difficult which meant "many of his acts bore the impress of autocracy". He was a skilled orator and apparently had "charming manners" but these qualities did not endow him to the majority. In fact, it is said that he was overwhelmed by what he considered his position and that "his excess of dignity" militated against his success.

Had he been allowed to follow his views a land tax would have been implemented in WA to help overcome, what he viewed with alarm as, the alienation of large blocks of land so early in the history of the colony. He also was a great admirer of the educational system known as the Irish National and this brought him into serious conflict with the Roman Catholic priesthood.

At the time, the colony was flourishing with big sums of Imperial money being spent under the convict system. But Captain Kennedy had the view that the government was his own and as his despotism grew, so did public anger against him. In fact, in August 1856, the colony's citizens held a public meeting in Perth to protest against his Excellency's arbitrary methods.

Governor Kennedy relinquished the reins of office in 1862 and claimed much of the colony's success on his legislative efforts. He was appointed Governor of Vancouver Island by the Home Office and then of Sierre Leone where he also was Commissioner for the abolition of the slave trade. In 1872, he became Governor of Hong Kong, then five years later Governor of Queensland.

He resigned that position in 1883 and died while returning to England in the same year.

Reviewed 2012 - 2013

Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.