John Ainsworth Horrocks – Biography


John Ainsworth Horrocks

John Ainsworth Horrocks sought after Eyre’s advice where best to take up land north of Adelaide. He liked the prospects near the Hutt River, where he established and named Penwortham village. Tall, with piercing blue eyes, a rugged constitution and direct manner, he was a commanding figure and a natural leader. Other pastoralists followed him into the area. He is believed to have established the first vineyard in the Clare Valley.

Though a pastoralist, he became bored and rented out the majority of his properties. “I want a more stirring life”, he explained, and proposed an expedition to search for new agricultural lands across the Flinders Range near to Lake Torrens. He bought and brought a camel to Australia to assist, the first man to do so, knowing from Eyre’s descriptions how difficult water could be to find in the Flinders region.

The expedition left in July 1846. His party included the well-known artist Samuel Thomas Gill, who depicted both Horrocks and the scenery in striking watercolours and sketches.

Horrocks found that his camel was temperamental, biting both goats and men. In its favour, it could carry a much heavier load than horses could without a similar need for regular watering.

On the 21st August the party reached Depot Creek, Eyre’s old campsite. The horses had been without water for two days and were distressed. The camel, though, was showing no signs of significant distress.

From here several exploratory trips were made and the expedition was on track to achieve a great deal.

On the 1st September, Horrocks was preparing to shoot a bird. The kneeling camel moved while he was reloading his gun, releasing the cock. The gun fired, removing a row of teeth and the middle fingers of his right hand.

He was rushed back to Penwortham, arriving on the 19th September. Suffering terribly, Horrocks ordered the camel to be shot. He died of his wounds on the 23rd September, only 28 years old. Unfortunately, the talented Horrocks became best known as the explorer who was shot by his own camel!

Mount Horrocks and Horrocks Pass, a natural roadway that he discovered through the barrier-like Flinders ranges, are named after him.