Introduction to the 2021 website version of Dictionary of Falklands Biography :
(for the Introduction to the 2008 printed version of the Dictionary see below)
When I completed the printed volume of the Dictionary of Falklands Biography in 2008 I mentioned the possibilities offered by a website and several reviewers also referred to the advantages of the internet.
As I see it the DFB website is capable of almost infinite expansion and this has allowed us to include references, comments, links and additional photographs. We have also added newcomers to the Dictionary, many of them mentioned or recommended by reviewers of the book in 2008. In particular the naturalist Ian STRANGE, whose absence from the printed volume was noted by most reviewers, had unfortunately died so his preference not to be included could be respectfully ignored and a very full appreciation completed. As for illustrations, the original 365 have increased to 1700.
In one respect, some of the newcomers have altered my perception of Falklands history. The entries for Admiral Sir William ANDREWES and colonial secretary Colin CAMPBELL cast light on a more muscular British policy in the Falkland Islands Dependencies during 1952-3. Andrewes’ flagship HMS Superb remained in the Falklands for six weeks, while Campbell accompanied the guard ship HMS Snipe to expel an Argentine party from Deception Island on 15 February 1953. Dr Stephen Palmer, who contributed both biographies, has also written more fully on this incident in the Falkland Islands Journal (2019).
I considered whether to update the 1981 date of closure for the DFB, but decided against. As I wrote in the Introduction to the printed volume, the number of those involved in the 1982 conflict would change the whole character of the DFB while biographies of those still living, whether written by the subjects themselves or by others, are not always satisfactory.
In the years since the publication of the DFB in 2008 it has been gratifying to see how many times the work has been cited by other authorities. It is particularly satisfying to note how frequently the DFB is quoted in the references column of entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography where there are Falklands connections.
Introduction to the printed version of the Dictionary (published 2008)
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
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.
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:
Other subjects which recur through these biographies are:
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.
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.
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.