Roe, John Septimus (DNB00)

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ROE, JOHN SEPTIMUS (1797–1878), explorer, seventh son of the Rev. James Roe, and his wife, Sophia Brookes, was born at Newbury, Berkshire, 8 May 1797. He was educated in the royal mathematical school at Christ's Hospital, and entered the navy as midshipman on 11 June 1813, being ‘apprenticed to Sir Christopher Cole, captain of H.M.S. Rippon.’ Under Captain Phillip Parker King he served in the expedition to survey the north-west coast of Australia in 1818, and again in King's fourth expedition in 1821. He was promoted lieutenant on 21 April 1822. He went through the Burmese war of 1825–7, for which he received the medal in 1851, and was engaged at the siege of Ava. In December 1828 Roe was appointed surveyor-general of Western Australia. Accompanied by his wife, he sailed in the Parmelia with Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir) James Stirling, and was one of the first to land, on 1 June 1829, in the colony of Western Australia. He held his appointment for forty-two years, and fulfilled its duties with eminent success, surveying and exploring the coasts and unknown tracts in the interior, until he made the long and eventful journey from the Swan river to the south coast at Cape Pasley in 1848–9. During the journey he received injuries that incapacitated him from further active work in the field. Accounts of this expedition, apparently the only productions from his pen, appeared in the ‘Journal of the Royal Geographical Society’ for 1852, and in Hooker's ‘Journal of Botany,’ vols. vi. and vii.

It was on Roe's advice that the sites for the capital, Perth and its port, Fremantle, were selected. He also founded the public museum at Perth and a mechanics' institute, of which he was for many years the president. He became a member of the executive and legislative council of the colony, was an associate of the Royal Geographical Society and a fellow of the Linnean Society (1 April 1828). He died at Perth, Western Australia, on 28 May 1878. He married in England, on 8 Jan. 1828, Matilda Bennett, who died on 22 July 1870.

[Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, new ser. i. 277; Mennell's Dict. Australasian Biogr.; Britten and Boulger's British Botanists; Tablettes Biographiques; Royal Society's Catalogue; information kindly supplied by Robert Little, receiver, Christ's Hospital, and by B. H. Woodward, curator of the Perth Museum.]

B. B. W.