Matthew Flinders is remembered in Donington

The memorial and exhibition in Donington church which is looked after by Alan James. Photo: SG150813-333NG
The memorial and exhibition in Donington church which is looked after by Alan James. Photo: SG150813-333NG
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There is just one statue in Britain of Matthew Flinders, the first man to circumnavigate Australia.

It’s in Donington, his home town, where there is also a memorial dedicated to him in the parish church of St Mary and the Holy Rood.

However, other than Donington’s contribution to its most famous son, Matthew Flinders is pretty much ignored in this country.

That contrasts sharply with Australia, where there are over 100 statues devoted to his legacy, a university named after him and where he is an acknowledged part of the country’s history.

Alan James, who lives next door to the church in Donington and looks after the memorial, believes this is due in part to the fact that Flinders was detained by the French in Mauritius for six-and-a-half years.

By the time he returned to Britain with his charts and maps – containing hundreds of place names he used because of his own personal associations with them – his achievements were overshadowed by the fame Nelson had gained as a result of his naval battle victories .

Consequently, publication of Flinders’ charts was severely delayed, which effectively ended his career, age 29.

He died a painful death at the age of 40 in 1814 – 200 years ago next year.

That anniversary is being used by the Britain-Australian community to ensure that his achievements are not forgotten.

A memorial statue to the little-known navigator is to be erected on the concourse of Euston Station in London, where his bones remain entombed beneath the station.

Bill Muirhead, South Australia’s Agent-General, said: “Late last year, we were approached by a retired naval officer who requested help with commemorating the bicentenary of Matthew Flinders’ passing.

“There was something very adventurous and determined about Flinders, qualities which I consider to be very South Australian – those of triumphing against the odds.”

Sculptor Mark Richards has produced a limited number of bronze maquettes, available for purchase – and the money raised will contribute to the cost of the statue.

Mr James, who has contributed his own research material and photographs from his many visits to Australia to an exhibition to accompany the church memorial, has also written a booklet about the life of Matthew Flinders.