Matthew Flinders was a Royal Navy officer and an English navigator and cartographer of very special talent who led the second circumnavigation of what was then called in equal parts New Holland (named by Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer) and New South Wales. The name Australia derives from Latin australis meaning southern, and dates back to 2nd century legends of an “unknown southern land” . The explorer Matthew Flinders renamed the land Terra Australis, which was later abbreviated to the current form. The name Australia stuck, there is still a part of Australia called New South Wales but there is no New Holland. There is a Tasmania of course.
Although he was modest enough to never name for any feature in all his discoveries, Flinders’ name is now associated with over one hundred geographical features and places in Australia and after Queen Victoria there are more statues of Flinders in Australia than anyone else.
In February 2020 my blogging pal John from Australia came to the UK and we met up. I took him to the village of his birthplace, Donington in Lincolnshire…
We visited the village market square where he was born. The house is sadly now gone, demolished a hundred years ago or so and then on to the Parish Church with a soaring tower and steeple which is a sort of museum about his life and achievements.
There is an interesting story about his coffin. his coffin. England is currently building an unnecessary and very expensive new high speed rail service from London to the north and during excavations near Euston Station in London the coffin of Matthew Flinders was discovered in a graveyard that had been built over a hundred years or so ago. The discovery was almost as big a thing as finding King Richard III underneath a car park in Leicester.
The coffin and the remains are currently undergoing scientific analysis but once this is complete the body will be returned to Donington and interred with special rejoicing and appropriate reverence in the church in the village.
Donington is miles and miles away from anywhere that tourists normally go but will almost certainly become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from Australia.
Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…