A lasting tribute to a very intrepid traveller

John McDouall Stuart, famous explorer born in Dysart, walked across Australia
John McDouall Stuart, famous explorer born in Dysart, walked across Australia

a MEMORIAL to John McDouall Stuart, the man credited with ‘linking up Australia’, is to be created in his home town of Dysart.

The famous explorer who is regarded as a hero down under, but who remains relatively unknown in his birthplace, is to be commemorated with a plaque and landscaped park area opposite the building where he was born, marking the 150th anniversary of his great achievement.

The former McDouall Stuart museum in Dysart

The former McDouall Stuart museum in Dysart

Until three years ago it housed a museum on his life and achievements, but it was closed because of lack of visitors.

The building, which belongs to Fife Historic Buildings Trust, is now being transformed into a luxury holiday home which is expected to attract visitors from Australia, the land where, in 1862, he completed the first European crossing from Adelaide to Van Diemen Gulf, mapping out the previously unexplored interior of the country.

The Dysart memorial, which will be a bronze plaque in the shape of Australia with an inscription on McDouall Stuart’s achievements, is to be inlaid into paving slabs at a landscaped area with benches looking out over the Forth, on the corner of Rectory Lane and Howard Place, near to his birthplace.

It is being designed by Fife-based landscape designer and planner, Gill Baldwin, the person behind the mining memorial at the top of Edington Place in the village, in consultation with the Dysart Trust.

A planning application for its installation has been lodged with Fife Council which is paying for the new landmark, and it is hoped it will be put in place early next year.

Carol McNeill, vice chairman of Dysart Trust, said: “This will be a really nice, lasting memorial to a very important man who, although he is widely recognised in Australia is not so well known in the place he was born.

“We are still working on finalising the inscription for the plaque, as there is limited space, and there is another meeting of the Trust being held next week to add the final touches.”

Kay Carrington, councillor for the area, added: “This is a beautiful spot with fantastic views and it will be a very fitting tribute in his birthplace.

“Hopefully it will help bring his achievements to the fore and a lot of local children will realise that they don’t need to be limited by geography.”

McDouall Stuart was born in Dysart in 1815 where his father was a customs officer. Both his parents died when he was just a teenager and, after training as a civil engineer at the Scottish Naval and Military Academy, he emigrated to Australia in 1838, aged 23.

During his short life (he died at the age of 50), he made six expeditions into the then wild interior of the country from 1858 to 1862, succeeding in crossing it from south to north but sacrificing his fragile health in the process.

The Adelaide-based McDouall Stuart Society holds regular events in his memory, including exhibitions, lectures and tours, and The Stuart Collection, also based in Adelaide contains equipment, books, maps, charts, photographs, portraits, personal items and memorabilia associated with Stuart and his explorer companions.

As a result of Stuart’s expeditions:

The riddle of the geographical nature of the centre of Australia was solved.

The western border of South Australia was moved from the 132 degree east longitude to 129 degree east longitude.

Control of the Northern Territory was transferred to South Australia.

The overland telegraph line, linking Adelaide to the world via Darwin, was constructed along his route.

The original Central Australia Railway from Adelaide to Alice 
Springs followed a similar route.

South Australia established settlement on the north coast at Darwin and vast areas of the north were opened up for pastoral and mineral development.