A long-lost gold watch, presented in 1859 to Australia’s greatest inland explorer, John McDouall Stuart, following his first expedition into the Outback, has finally been returned Down Under.
The John McDouall Stuart Society in Adelaide, whose members include descendents of the exploration team that finally opened the Continent from south to north, is urging the SA Government to bid for the relic when it is auctioned by Bonham’s in Sydney at the end of November.
The watch had been presented by the prestigious Royal Geographical Society (RGS) of London, who then awarded John McDouall Stuart their Patron’s Medal following his fourth expedition two years later, making him the only explorer to ever receive both a watch and the Patron’s Medal from that Society.
The watch, expected to fetch between $40-60,000, was located in 2011 by a Society member, a family descendant of Stuart’s sister, in the Edinburgh home of a distant cousin. Some papers of Stuart’s accompany the watch. “The opportunity to secure this important artefact for the state is unique,” says Society President Rick Moore.
“The culture and history of Adelaide is increasingly recognised as contributing towards Adelaide’s status as a top place to live and visit.”
“The purchase of this item would add significantly to the integrity of this strong position.”
“It would be of much greater value and importance for the gold watch to be held here in SA than any other state or location.”
McDouall Stuart’s expeditions, finally taking him and his men from Adelaide to the shores of Van Diemen’s Gulf, ultimately paved the way for the Ghan railway and international communication for Australia via the Overland Telegraph Line.
Mr Moore said the John McDouall Stuart Society was discussing all options with SA government departments in a bid to bring the relic back to Adelaide.
“It is possible that a joint funding arrangement could secure the watch and documents,” he suggested. “ Funding partners could include the SA Museum, History SA, John McDouall Stuart Society, Royal Geographical Society of SA and the National Museum of Australia.
“But timelines to secure such commitment are tight!”
The Scottish family connected to Stuart are keen for the watch to be in Australia,” Mr Moore said.
“I believe they plan to use the proceeds to come and visit Australia and visit the land that John McDouall Stuart explored.”
The item can be viewed on line here: