Sir James Stirling was the first Governor of WA. He was born in 1791 in Lanarkshire,Scotland, and came from a family well-known and celebrated in the naval history of the 18th century.
Sir James followed in his grandfather's footsteps to join the Navy in 1803 as a first class volunteer on a store ship called the Camel. During the next nine years, he joined a series of ships that fought in action. In 1812, he was involved in the American War and cruised off the mouth of the Mississippi, damaging the commerce of the American gulf ports and making the coast very insecure for the enemy.
Such was his reputation by this stage that he was then sent to protect the Hudson Bay settlements that had been menaced by the Americans. This involved sailing from the Tropics to the Arctic circle.
In 1823, he married Ellen Mangles, the daughter of James Mangles of Woodbridge, Guildford, the High Sheriff for Surrey.
He was appointed to the ship Success and sent to form a settlement in Raffles Bay in the Torres Strait, a job that earned him high praise from the Governor of New South Wales. While in command of the ship he visited WA and made a report on the Swan River.
In October 1828, nine months after he relinquished command of the Success, he was sent to form a settlement in WA and became the colony's first Governor until 1839.
According to writings from the time, he was enthusiastic and worked hard in the role. He was finally rewarded with a knighthood that the colonists supported, writing that Stirling had "been highly and deservedly popular" and was "...a friend of warm sympathy with individual distress, and an entire and liberal promoter of every good and liberal institution..."
In later years, he was criticised for not always acting in the best interests of the colony, accused of being elitist and arrogant in the use of his powers.
He resigned as Governor in 1839 due to the threat of war with France. It was considered desirable for all officers of the Royal Navy to return to the active list if war loomed. He commanded a series of ships from 1840 to 1850 and then became Commander-in-Chief in China and the East Indies until 1856. He was appointed an Admiral in 1862. Three years later he died.
Reviewed 2012 - 2013