James Kelly


Captain Kelly's cottage in Collins St (centre left with chimney), about 1930 (W.L. Crowther Library, SLT)

James Kelly (17911859), mariner, explorer, sealer, whaler, harbourmaster and entrepreneur, was born at Parramatta. He began his apprenticeship in 1804 and was probably the first Australian-born white to become a master mariner. In 1815 Kelly circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land in a whale-boat, and is credited with discovering Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour. Pilot and harbourmaster at the Derwent for a decade from 1819, he transported convicts to the new penal station at Macquarie Harbour, and helped set up the Maria Island penal station.

By the early 1830s, Kelly was a prosperous local identity through his whaling activities, but he was hard-hit by the 1840s Depression. He was acknowledged as the 'father and founder of whaling' in Tasmania, and his name lives on in Kelly's Steps in Battery Point and Kelly Basin at Macquarie Harbour.

Further reading: ADB 2; K Bowden, Captain James Kelly of Hobart Town, London, 1964.

Wendy Rimon