George BatesPrint Page Print this page

The headstone over the grave commemorates George Bates (1800 -1895) who was a pioneer settler on Kangaroo Island.

George Bates was a sealer and trader, was born possibly on 13 April 1800 at Cheapside, London, son of a militiaman.  In 1823 in the crew of the convict ship Commodore Hayes he reached Hobart Town, where he joined the sealing vessel Nereus, which operated in Bass Strait and beyond. While anchored in one of Kangaroo Island's sheltered bays in January 1824, he and a mate stole ashore and hid in the scrub.

At first Bates planned to return to England, but soon joined other renegades and remained on the island. His impressive figure, red hair and beard earned him the nickname 'Fireball'. Many of the fugitives, including Bates, abducted Aboriginal women from Van Diemen's Land and the mainland. Using their traditional skills, these captive women helped islanders to gather seal, kangaroo and wallaby skins and salt from the lagoons.

 In July 1836 he shared the dismay of other unofficial settlers as the South Australian Company's official colonists disembarked from the Duke of York. William Light hired Bates and his women. The islanders' uncivilized appearance alarmed the newcomers who, to survive, eventually adapted some of their unconventional companions' skills. Bates chose to retain his independence and bypass authority. He retreated to Hog Bay (Penneshaw) where he continued to live by trading. 

On 7 August 1848 at Holy Trinity Church of England, Adelaide, Bates married illiterate, English-born Elizabeth Mainstone. In the 1850s he joined in the rush to the Victorian goldfields but had little success and returned to island life. Building a stone cottage at Hog Bay he settled into a degree of conformity. By 1870 he was unable to support his wife; neighbours arranged for the frail couple to receive government assistance. Aged 87, Bates was an honoured 'Old Colonist' at the Jubilee Exhibition in Adelaide, where his reminiscences of the lawless years entertained the staid citizens. Predeceased by his wife, Bates died in the Destitute Asylum, Adelaide, on 8 September 1895. His remains were buried in the hilltop cemetery above his former dwelling at Penneshaw.

The burial of the late George Bates took place at Hog Bay, Kangaroo Island, yesterday morning. The coffin was placed on board the launch Defiance, and left the Semaphore jetty on Wednesday afternoon at a quarter past 1 o'clock. Besides Mr. T. Coward, Captain Quin and other old acquaintances of "Old George" went down in the launch, which reached Hog Bay at about half-past 8. After passing Cape Jervis lighthouse very rough weather was experienced until Hog Bay was reached.Then owing to the high sea great difficulty was experienced in getting the coffin into the boat; but at last it was safely landed, and was met on the beach by about twenty people. The remains were conveyed up to the little church, and the numerous wreaths sent by friends were placedby Mr. Coward on the coffin. Mr. Coward having to return by the launch early yesterday morning it was arranged that the postmaster at Hog Bay should see that the burial service was carried out. Most of the old inhabitants of the island were waiting at Hog Bay on Wednesday for the launch, but not sighting the boat they had to leave for their farms with the intention of returning next morning to attend the funeral, which took place in the little cemetery at Hog Bay. Mr. Coward came back on Thursday morning after a rough passage in the launch, which was placed at his disposal by Messrs. Cave & Co. He states that the islanders were very pleased to think that the old man so well known to them for so many years had found his last resting-place on the island. Mr. Coward intends, if funds permit after the expenses of the funeral are paid, to erect a neat headstone and iron railing over the grave.
Express and Telegraph (Adelaide), 13 September 1895.


Address:Hog Bay Road & William Walker Way, Penneshaw Pioneer Cemetery, Penneshaw, 5222
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -35.722619
Long: 137.921851
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Grave
Monument Theme:People


Front Inscription
In memory of George Bates
Born at Old S. Luke's London 
April 30th 1800
Died in Adelaide Sep 8th 1895 
An old colonist and for 71 years
A settler on Kangaroo lsland.
Previous to which he served in H.M. Navy 1811. 
Erected by a few old colonists.
Source: MA, ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au