Fremantle Stuff > people > Francis Henry Vincent

henry vincent gravestoneHenry Vincent

From the Cemetery tour guide
Henry Vincent (1796-1869) arrived in the colony in 1830 as servant to a retired soldier. He had lost one eye fighting in the Battle of Waterloo [but see below]. He worked for a period of time in Fremantle as a police constable and gaoler at the Round House.
Although not highly literate, Vincent had a talent for construction. He was appointed superintendent of the Native Establishment at Rottnest Island from 1838-1849. Vincent won praise for a surge of construction on the island, but many saw him as overly strict and cruel in his dealing with Aboriginal prisoners. He was constantly worried about his safety and kept a sentry at hand.
Eventually Vincent was investigated by the Protector of Aborigines but was never formally charged. He and his prisoners returned to the mainland when Rottnest was leased to Captain Dempster. For a period of time, Vincent supervised some extensive road-building in the South-West. He spared neither his prisoners nor himself on the task.
From 1855-1867 Vincent returned to Rottnest as superintendent on an annual salary of 200 pounds. The handsome salary apparently did not improve his savage temper. Vincent died a sad man. He was sick, disillusioned that he hadn’t been granted a full pension, and Louisa, his wife of more than 30 years, had filed for divorce.
Text (probably by Ron Davidson) and photo of Vincent's gravestone in Fremantle Cemetery, MCB.

Henry Vincent was born 20 August 1797 in Broadwindsor, eastern Dorset (near Beaminster) as were all of his siblings, tho his parents John and Jane (nee Cleale) were married five miles away in South Perrott (on the River Parrett [sic]).

He joined the 18th (King's) Irish Regiment of Light Dragoons (Hussars) on 14 November 1817, aged 19, and was discharged - because of the ophthalmia which had made him nearly blind in his right eye - on 10 September 1821, at 23. His period of service was therefore after the Napoleonic Wars were over, and he did not lose his eye in battle.

Vincent's gravestone was removed to the Heritage Trail in the Carrington St cemetery, but not his remains, which are still under the John Curtin school playing field (with another 800 people), which is ironical considering the respect demanded for the remains of the people buried at Rottnest who died on Vincent's watch. Note also that Louisa is not said to be his 'loving' wife on the tombstone - and also that her name is spelt wrongly! It says, 'ALSO LOUSIA HIS WIFE'.

Lake Vincent and Vincent Way on Rottnest Island are named for Henry Vincent, tho it has been suggested that those names be changed to Nyoongar ones.

Henry Vincent was brought to life in the 2016 Cemetery Heritage Tour by actor James Hagan.

References, links, acknowledgements

Many thanks to researcher Mike Murray and to Richard Fox for the biographical information cited above.

Rottnest Island historical tour describing the buildings constructed by Vincent

Wikipedia page


Garry Gillard | New: 26 June, 2015 | Now: 16 November, 2019