WHITINGTON, GEORGE THOMAS

1808 - after 1859 from England


merchant and colonial promoter, was baptised on 22 June 1808 in Merrow, Surrey, the son of Peter Whitington of Whitmore Hall, Guildford. As a merchant he was involved in the Australian trade and seems in the late 1830s to have sailed home via the Falkland Islands. He was linked to Captain LANGDON RN, who had received a grant of land from Louis VERNET. Langdon sold his land - ten square miles - to Whitington in 1833 for £500 and in December 1833 the latter wrote to Vernet seeking his confirmation, which he received. The following year Whitington wrote again to Vernet to inform him of the proposed foundation of a Falkland Islands Association and offering to arrange the transfer of Vernet's property and rights to the new British administration; the Association soon foundered.

He started writing to the Colonial Office in 1834 urging colonisation and at one stage threatening to sell his rights to the US Government. In 1835 Whitington was declared bankrupt. In October 1839, Lord John Russell, secretary of state, told Whitington that HMG had no intention of moving to colonise the Islands. In 1840 Whitington founded the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association, and advertised in several newspapers. In April 1840 he wrote to the Secretary of State proposing colonisation by the FICFAA. He also published his booklet of 82 pages on The Falkland Islands etc. compiled from ten years investigation of the subject, drawing largely on the most optimistic phrases from the reports and accounts of naval officers and other visitors. This was followed by a petition to government signed by 100 city merchants proposing a public meeting on colonisation of the Islands. In May 1840, following a succession of letters from Whitington, Lord John Russell declared that HMG was 'desirous of colonising' the Islands and instructed officials to report on the best way of doing so.

In October 1840, George Whitington sent his 23 year old brother John Bull WHITINGTON out to the Falklands with a party of emigrants and livestock in two ships which he owned - the Mary Ann and the Susan: he claimed the expedition cost him £10,000. The party arrived in January 1841. When Richard MOODY was appointed lieutenant-governor in August 1841, Whitington was very pressing that Moody and his party should travel out in his brig Alarm. The papers suggest that Whitington may have offered him a corrupt kickback, but Moody declined. In March 1842, Whitington brought a case in the Irish Court of Admiralty at Cork against John Hartnell who had captained the Mary Ann in 1840. Hartnell was accused of making off with the ship's cargo in Port Louis and of taking illegal possession of the ship. Also in 1842 a report from the Times was forwarded to the Colonial Office giving details of a civil dispute concerning Whitington who was found guilty of having taken improper salvage of the ship Quail in Australia. The following year Whitington was again declared bankrupt and accused of sending threatening letters to city merchants. There was, the Times reported, 'general hilarity in court' when Whitington maintained that he had been granted land in the Falklands worth £200,000 by the Buenos Aires government

From that stage on, the Colonial Office handled Whitington with even more reserve. In May 1845 an official noted on a letter seeking an interview: 'the writer does not bear at all a high character' and recommended that the secretary of state should not receive him. In May 1848 he was again turned down and told to put his request in writing. In 1852 he wrote two offensive letters to the junior minister and an official minuted: 'Mr Whitington has always been known to be anything but a respectable person'. He also wrote bitter letters to Louis Vernet who was visiting London. In October 1859, Whitington wrote to the foreign secretary, Lord John Russell, on 'The Malvinas or Falklands' but was again brushed off.

He drops out of the record at that stage. Clearly of doubtful morality, he did at least organise the first non-official British colonisation of the Islands.

Authors

David Tatham