Rock of ages, cleft by Ayres

Ayres Rock named after a man of Portsea.
Ayres Rock named after a man of Portsea.
Passchendaele. Picture: Imperial War Museum

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I received a Christmas card from a friend in Australia who told me about Henry Ayres of whom I knew nothing until I did some research.

If I asked you what the connection was between the Beneficial School, Portsea, and a massive sandstone rock in the middle of Australia, you might plead ignorance.

But a young man educated at that school and who later emigrated to Australia becoming the premier of South Australia also had Ayres Rock named after him. He was Henry Ayres who was born about 1815, the son of William, a dockyardman and his wife Elizabeth.

At 19 he emigrated to the former colony and settled in South Australia, working as a lawyer’s clerk before becoming secretary of a copper mine in charge of 1,000 men. He later became the mine’s wealthy managing director.

When Ayres Rock was ‘discovered’ in 1873 by surveyor William Gosse he named it Ayres Rock although the aboriginal name is Uluru by which it is now known.

Ayres died in Adelaide in 1897.