Collins, David (DNB00)

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COLLINS, DAVID (1756–1810), lieutenant-colonel and colonial governor, was the eldest son of Major-general Arthur Tooker Collins, of Pack, in the King's County, by his wife Harriet Fraser, and the grandson of Arthur Collins, the antiquary. Born on 3 March 1756, he received his education at Exeter grammar school, and in 1770, when only fourteen, was gazetted to a lieutenant's commission in the marines. In 1775 he was present at Bunker's Hill; two years later he was acting as adjutant of the Chatham division; and in 1782, as captain of marines on board the Courageux, he took part in the action for the relief of Gibraltar. On the proclamation of peace in the last-mentioned year, he returned home on half-pay and settled at Rochester; but in May 1787, after five years' retirement, he sailed with Governor Arthur Phillip, as secretary and judge-advocate, on the expedition to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay, New South Wales, lately discovered by Captain Cook. A more suitable locality, Port Jackson, was eventually selected, and there Sydney was founded. Collins stayed in Australia for nine years, and on his return wrote 'An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales. … To which are added some particulars of New Zealand, compiled … from the MSS. of Governor King' (with many engravings), 2 vols. 4to, London, 1798-1802, 2nd edition (abridged and edited by Maria Collins), 4to, London, 1804). The work, apart from its singular, almost painful interest as a narrative, is of especial value as the first official account of the infant colony. It includes an account of the discovery of Bass's Strait from Bass's 'Journal.' Collins, however, found that his appointment abroad had cost him the loss of many years' rank at home; he died a captain instead of a colonel-commandant, his rank in the army being merely brevet. His remarks on what he termed 'the peculiar hardship of my case,' at the close of the second volume of his book, appear to have awakened the sympathy of those in power; and almost immediately after its publication he was offered and accepted the governorship of another projected settlement in Australia. An attempt to found one on the south-eastern coast of Port Phillip proving a failure, he crossed to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), and there, on 19 Feb. 1804, he laid the first stone of the present city of Hobart Town. Collins continued governor until his death, which occurred almost suddenly on 24 March 1810, at the age of fifty-four. By his wife, an American lady who survived him, he left no issue. In person he was remarkably handsome, his manners were delightful, while in a post of difficulty and danger he showed himself a wise and enlightened administrator. A portrait of Collins is prefixed to the second edition of his book.

[Gent. Mag. lxix. i. 282-3, lxxx. ii. 489-90; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, pp. 552-583; Allibone's Dictionary; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8th edit.]

G. G.