He was wounded by the spear of a black, thrown at him in a misunderstanding, as he himself declared, and he would not allow the native on that account to be punished. This wound, the hard work and never-ending anxiety, seriously injured the governor’s health. He applied for leave of absence, and when he left the colony had every intention of returning to continue his work, but his health did not improve enough for this. The Government accepted his resignation with regret, and appointed him to the command of the Swiftsure, with a special pension for his services in New South Wales of L500 a year; in 1801 he was promoted Rear-Admiral of the Blue, in 1804 Rear-Admiral of the White, in 1805 Rear-Admiral of the Red, in 1809 Vice-Admiral of the White, and on July 31st, 1810, Vice-Admiral of the Red.
He died at Bath on August 31st, 1814, and was buried in Bathampton Church. For many years those interested in the subject, especially the New South Wales Government, spent much time in searching for his burial-place, which was only discovered by the Vicar of Bathampton, the Rev. Lancelot J. Fish, in December, 1897, after long and persistent research.
Those by whom the services of the silent, hard-working, and self-contained Arthur Phillip are least appreciated are, curiously enough, the Australian colonists; and it was not until early in 1897 that a statue to him was unveiled in Sydney. At this very time, it is sad to reflect, his last resting-place was unknown. Phillip, like Cook, did his work well and truly, and his true memorial is the country of which he was practically the founder.
Admiral Phillip’s work was, as we have said, the founding of Australia; that of Hunter is mainly important for the service he did under Phillip. From the time he assumed the government of the colony until his return to England, his career showed that, though he had “the heart of a true British sailor,” as the old song says, he somewhat lacked the head of a governor.
John Hunter was born at Leith in 1737, his father being a well-known shipmaster sailing out of that port, while his mother was of a good Edinburgh family, one of her brothers having served as provost of that city. Young Hunter made two or three voyages with his father at an age so young that when shipwrecked on the Norwegian coast a peasant woman took him home in her arms, and seeing what a child he was, put him to bed between two of her daughters.
He had an elder brother, William, who gives a most interesting account of himself in vol. xii. of the Naval Chronicle (1805). William saw some very remarkable service in his forty-five years at sea in the royal and merchant navies. Both brothers knew and were friendly with Falconer, the sea-poet, and John was shipmate in the Royal George with Falconer, who was a townsman of theirs. The brothers supplied many of the particulars of the poet’s life, written by Clarke, and the name Falconer in connection with both Hunters often occurs in the Naval Chronicle.