Searching for Kenneth Brown

KENNETH BROWN ESQ (1837-1876)

Kenneth Brown’s family was one of the first to settle in WA’s Victoria District (Geraldton and its hinterland).  They arrived in WA in 1841 (Kenneth aged 4) and established themselves farming in York before shifting to Glengarry in 1851 (20km east of Geraldton on the Greenough River).

Kenneth was the eldest child. Brought up on the land he became a highly skilled and experienced frontiers man, agriculturist, explorer, horse breeder, horse racer, turf club steward.  A leading settler in terms of social and commercial standing, his life ended mournfully at the end of a rope at the Old Perth Gaol on 10 June 1876 for murdering his second wife Mary-Ann Tindall. He shot her in Champion Bay less than 3 months after having returned from three years away in Melbourne and Auckland.

His reputation and inglorious end appears to have obscured the historical significance of his life. His claims to fame are numerous and include: being a member of a prominent settler family (his father Thomas and brother Maitland were both Magistrates and his first wife was Mary Wittenoom the Reverend’s daughter); being a successful explorer (in 1854 aged 17 with Robert Austin across the Murchison and in 1863 aged 26 as the leader of an expedition to the Glenelg River in the West Kimberley inland from Camden Sound); having Mount Kenneth and the Kenneth Ranges named in his honour; collecting the night parrot scientific type specimen (Pezoporus occidentalis); being Edith Cowan’s father (the first female elected to an Australian parliament and an ardent social justice campaigner notably for gender equality); being a senior WATC steward; being the first WA thorough-bred owner to race the Melbourne Cup; and, ignominiously, being the first high standing settler to be hanged in WA for murder.

Perhaps his inglorious end cast such a shadow on his standing and that of his parents, siblings, children and later descendants that his life was more conveniently obscured by those closest to him and over subsequent generations? Based on recent research, Aidan Kelly has assembled a portrait of the life and times of Kenneth Brown.

The presentation on the life and times of Kenneth Brown was given at Geraldton Library, Karrakatta Club, Swan Guildford History Society, Royal WA Historical Society, St Louis retirement home and ABC Radio).

Here is the ABC radio interview done 31 October 2015 with Russell Woolf about Kenneth’s success in racing the 1873 Melbourne Cup.

Here is the presentation – Power point Searching for Kenneth Brown 1837-1876 Version 12

Aidan Kelly is a lawyer who works on regulatory approvals for development projects and related policy matters. He graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science (specialising in plant mineral nutrition, including mine site rehabilitation). He then worked in rangeland management and environmental impact assessment in northern Australia (WA and NT). In 1997 he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws. He now manages Matrix Approvals, a specialised project based regulatory approvals consultancy. Prior to establishing Matrix Approvals he worked with Karara Mining, Gindalbie Metals, Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Freehills, the WA and NT Governments and Murdoch University. His interests include the history of development including WA colonial development projects (early linear development projects such as roads, stock routes, tram lines, railway lines, water pipe lines etc.), orchestrating the Fremantle Ukulele Collective and producing the Purple Circus Pod Cast (a weekly show on the Dockers’ AFL season). 

Photograph of Kenneth Brown circa 1874  (courtesy of the Royal WA Historical Society #3836)

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1875 photograph Kenneth Brown 95 Swanston Street cropped

Kenneth Brown – photo taken 1874 Melbourne – newly married he would travel to NZ buy a hotel licence and lose his way