Introduction

It may seem curious to write a biographical dictionary of relatively small and sparsely settled islands, some, like South Georgia, without any permanent inhabitants. But I believe there is material here to justify a substantial volume and I hope after studying, or simply dipping into, this book the reader will agree.

The Falkland Islands have been the scene of some remarkable feats of exploration and navigation; of scientific research particularly in natural history; of the last classic fleet action in 1914; and of international tension, which became acute in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and then subsided until the second half of the twentieth century. South Georgia was the scene of some epic stories of endurance and survival, but also a centre of the whaling industry, which however distasteful it seems today, was an extraordinary achievement in a bitter environment.

More than that, the domestic history of the Falklands, however Lilliputian it may seem, is of real human interest and illustrates themes which are found in other far larger colonies and dominions, just as, in the heyday of empire, many of the governors and other administrators came from, or were promoted to, other and grander posts. That said, I have deliberately tried to broaden the range of Falklands history beyond simply the story of a
British colony.

Who is included?

Some remarkable individuals from other European countries played outstanding roles in the early years of Falklands history. BOUGAINVILLE is a figure of world importance as are MALASPINA and BELLINGSHAUSEN, while the lesser navigators, naturalists and scientists who followed them are fully worthy of inclusion here. The longest single entry is that for Louis VERNET. He is an iconic figure in the Argentine tradition although his role was far more ambiguous than was realised by the Argentine authorities who judged him worthy of a commemorative postage stamp. The leading colonists he introduced came from northern Europe and he also actively implored the British government to take over his settlement – only to find that when they did so they treated him unworthily. The inclusion of all these personalities does not imperil the British tradition, rather it enriches it, in the same way as immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia and Latin America have enriched the Anglo-Celtic population of the Islands.

Some may feel that there is too much material on such figures as Captain COOK or Charles DARWIN who are covered in standard biographies. But such early visitors were significant on a world scale and it is essential to place them in context. One can imagine the gauchos who rode across east Falkland with the young Darwin in 1833 saying: ‘Ah yes, Don Carlos. He rode across the Camp with us, but then he sailed away on the Beagle and no-one ever heard of him again!’ The DFB aims to show where visitors came from, what they did and what happened to them after they left.

I have not excluded any names which were put forward to me from the Falkland Islands. One or two recent personalities born in the Islands who spent their entire life away from them have been left out, although I am conscious that some Victorian figures who are included, like Ellaline TERRISS or the two HAVERS sisters, spent very little time on the Islands. But in Edwardian days Ellaline featured in local mythology as the most celebrated Falkland Islander, (rather as McDonald HOBLEY did in the 1950s). And the Havers sisters both drew on their early years in the Falklands and Montevideo in their creative careers. Unlike the British Dictionary of National Biography I have included living figures who featured in the history of the years up to 1981 because I believed that without them the story would be incomplete. I invited them to write their own life stories. This is a difficult task to complete objectively, and on some occasion where modesty was clearly inhibiting a full account I invited others to contribute a paragraph or so to make clear the scale of the author’s achievement. Two living personalities asked to be left out and I complied.

Where the editor appeals to contributors to volunteer names, it stands to reason that the more appealing subjects will attract prospective authors. WH SMYLEY and Governor HODSON were oversubscribed; but several doctors and company managers remain unrecorded for want of writers.

The only automatic inclusions by virtue of their position were governors, whatever their nationality. Other officials and members of the establishment – clergymen, doctors, councillors – were included if material was available and if their lives were interesting. The lives of officials are often better recorded than those of farmers or ordinary townsfolk, and material for them is usually available in Britain as well as in Stanley. 

I gave rough guidelines on the length of contributions but was always prepared to relax them if new research was offered, or simply to include a good story. The relative significance of subjects in the history of the Islands cannot be judged simply by a word-count of their entries.
The Timespan
I made a deliberate decision to stop the volume before the Conflict of 1982. Not only did this war introduce literally thousands of new ‘players’ into the Falklands scene (many of them still alive, making impartial assessment difficult), but it would have transformed a study devoted to the history of the Falklands and South Georgia into one dominated by conflict and international relations.
The Flow of Falklands History

This book does not attempt to impose absolute consistency on its authors. In cases where the evidence admits of two interpretations, both may be found among the entries. The events of 1831 (the Lexington raid) and 1833 (the return of British authority) are controversial, but then so are relations between the colonial government and the Falkland Islands Company, or between British governments and Falklands councillors during the 1960s and 1970s.

A biographical dictionary cannot analyse the main trends of Falklands history, but it should certainly shed light on them. In my view the themes which emerge from this work include:

  1. Tension over the ownership of land and attempts by the humbler colonists, often with the support of governors, to obtain farms of their own. They were opposed by the Falkland Islands Company and the established landlords and, until Lord SHACKLETON’s report in the 1970s, they failed to make any progress. The result was that many of the most active colonists saw no place for themselves in the Islands and emigrated to Patagonia or to other British colonies.
  2. Pressure for a larger say in local affairs, particularly from the people of Stanley. This again was a largely unsuccessful struggle until the mid twentieth century.
  3. The steady growth of the Argentine claim, from a state of lapsing in the mid nineteenth century, to become the dominant issue by the late twentieth century. No serious study has yet been done of the development of the claim itself within Argentina (as opposed to much un-historical advocacy) but various advocates of Argentine sovereignty appear in these pages.

Other subjects which recur through these biographies are:

    1. Mails and posts. The perennial difficulty of communicating with the outside world and tension between the carriers of post, often the Falkland Islands Company, and government.
    2. Agricultural and other economic development. The search for alternatives to a wool-based monoculture and attempts to make wool production more efficient and more sustainable are a feature of the late nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries. Numerous experts who sought to improve matters are included.
    3. Social factors. These include the role of Anglican chaplains and the arrival of Roman Catholic and non-conformist clergymen; the foundation of schools and the difficulties of providing education to a scattered rural community; the provision of medical care.
    4. Defence. Isolated and with a tiny population, the Islands felt vulnerable whenever the Royal Navy was preoccupied elsewhere. The subject of defence recurs during the Anglo-Argentine struggles of the 1840s (the River War), the Crimean War, the American Civil War, in Chilean civil conflict in the 1890s and of course during the two World Wars. Finally it resurfaced in the 1960s and 1970s as the Argentine threat, both official and freelance, loomed larger.
    5. The environment. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, exploration and scientific investigation quickly gave way to exploitation, of seals, whales, penguin and sheep. In the early twentieth century, conservation became a pre-occupation of government in limited sectors – from the whaling industry to the harvesting of penguin eggs. Eventually, in the second half of the twentieth century, government and public opinion expressed a broader concern with the protection of the environment and animal welfare in general.
    Illustrations
    I have tried to ensure that the Dictionary is well illustrated, although it soon became apparent that relying on galleries or museums for pictures would become expensive, while commercial picture agencies were prohibitive. I am grateful to those galleries who reduced their rates for the DFB as a non-profitmaking project. Every effort has been made to trace the owners of copyright, but some attractive illustrations have been omitted because their copyright could not be traced. The captions to the illustrations are my own.
    Limitations

    I must confess to a very limited knowledge of Spanish and total ignorance of Norwegian. While the Spanish colonial period in the Falklands and the Norwegian whaling industry in South Georgia are covered, their treatment is inevitably less detailed than that of the British period. Nor can I claim that every contributor has read all there is of relevance in the archives in Stanley and London – the distance means that very few contributors have been able to study in both centres. Shortage of funds has meant that we have been unable to imitate the Oxford DNB and collect the birth, marriage and death certificates of all our subjects, although the Registrar in Stanley has been particularly helpful. Nonetheless I believe a great deal of new information has been unearthed and much relevant material gathered together. A second edition with the inevitable corrections will certainly be desirable, though it is difficult to believe that it will be commercially viable. A website will be worth considering to update material and make available lists of references and suggestions for further reading, together with space for additional material, including further illustrations.

    The existing website was intended not just to publicise the project, but also to provide a forum in which contributors and others interested could exchange information and views. But the high price of telecommunications in the Falklands means that relatively few Islanders browse the web, and this role never developed. However the website was useful in attracting suggestions and contributors from elsewhere in the world.

    Conventions

    I have tried to follow the model of the new Oxford DNB and address male subjects simply by their surnames. But I have relaxed this rule where a subject was well known to the contributor. I considered including details of subjects’ wills, but this seemed unreasonably intrusive in a small community, so I did not ask contributors to pursue this line of research. Again following the Oxford DNB I have minimized the use of capital letters for titles. I have also minimised the use of fullstops with initials. 

    The need to keep the book as short as possible meant there was no space for contributors to include their references, acknowledgements or thanks. But they and I remain profoundly grateful to everyone who has helped us. See also the section ‘How to Use the Dictionary of Falklands Biography’ which follows this Introduction.

    Conclusion

    There are plenty of keen amateur historians in the Islands and I hope that the material collected here will assist the serious study of local history in the schools in Stanley. To design a syllabus for a few hundred pupils is bound to be expensive and time-consuming but Lord Shackleton’s first report pointed to the ‘lack of local content and relevance in subjects such as history and geography’ (volume I p305). I hope that this Dictionary will help people to build on the imaginative work which has been done in the primary school in Stanley and by the entrants for the Alastair Cameron Prize.

    A word of caution on the dangers of hindsight is particularly necessary in Falklands history. It is essential to guard against reading the past through today’s lenses. The outlook for the Islands has changed radically at least three times in the last generation.

    1. The 1970s saw an apparently remorseless slide into the arms of Argentina. By 1980 most Islanders could reasonably have assumed that a bloodless Argentine takeover was only a matter of years away. Many emigrated and the birth rate dropped.
    2. After the conflict of 1982, there was the relief of victory but tempered by dismay at the poor economic outlook and the expense of Fortress Falkland. Doubts persisted over the longer-term viability of the Islands.
    3. 1987 saw the introduction of the fishing zone and the economic prosperity which followed has brought growing self-confidence and optimism as other possible sources of income – oil resources and tourism – emerge.
    Things could always change again, but at present the people of the Islands are enjoying greater prosperity and are possessed of more self-confidence than ever before in their history. It is to be hoped that they will be allowed to determine their own future unhindered by the distinctly dubious historical claims of a predatory neighbour. May the Islanders be encouraged by the outstanding achievements of past figures in Falklands history and by the enterprise of the ancestors who settled their homeland five or six generations ago!

    David Tatham, England