In Flinders’ French footsteps

Dr Gillian Dooley returned from Mauritius in December, where she explored the old haunts of Captain Matthew Flinders and shared her insights with the local community.

Unknown to many, Matthew Flinders lived on the French island for almost seven years – the longest time he spent in any country as an adult. He was detained at Mauritius from 1803 to 1810 as a result of a failing ship, political suspicion of the time, and possibly wounded pride brought on by a snubbed dinner invitation.

During her visit, Dr Dooley delivered a talk at the University of Mauritius and contributed articles to local Mauritius newspaper, Week-End.

She said her lecture focused on Matthew Flinders’ experiences during his detention, “and what they tell us about Mauritius during the Napoleonic era just before the British occupied the island in 1810.”

Site of Maison Despeaux (Garden Prison), where Matthew Flinders lived for almost two years before he was permitted to live with the d’Arifat family at Vacoas.

A highlight of her trip was a visit to the site of a country estate where Flinders lived with the d’Arifat family, accompanied by a descendant of his hostess Mme d’Arifat. He built a strong friendship with the family during his stay, which was the longest time he spent at any single residence in his adult life.

Dr Dooley is co-editor of ‘Matthew Flinders Private Journal (in collaboration with Anthony Brown), which provides a unique record of the great explorers’ life as an Englishman on Mauritius in the early 1800s, through to nine days before his death in London in 1814. Together with Flinders’ own comprehensive historical notes and personal reflections, the book includes historical and biographical additions, appendices and illustrations.

Dr Dooley will continue to share her intriguing insights on Flinders University’s famous namesake later in the year, with a three-month UK trip kicking off in April featuring a presentation on Trim, Matthew Flinders cat, at the Maritime Animals Conference in Greenwich.

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