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The first premier of South Australia, Boyle Finniss (1807-1893), was in kinship care as a child.

Boyle Travers Finniss was born at sea. His parents, Susanna and John Finniss, were travelling to Bombay with the Essex Regiment at the time; John was paymaster of the 1st Battalion.

In 1815, Susanna died. By then, Susanna, Boyle and his sisters, Fanny (b. 1809) and Eliza (b. 1806), were living back in England. Susanna had set sail with her three youngest children. Eliza was left in England with aunts when she was twelve months old while her parents went to India, but the youngest child, Caroline (b. circa 1811) died in 1812 during the long trip home.

In England, Susanna and her children stayed with Susanna’s sisters in Kent. After Susanna returned to India—where she died in 1815—the Finniss children stayed on with their aunts.

Young Boyle attended school in Rochester, Kent until he was about ten years old, after which he was sent to London. Thereafter, he saw little of his aunts, but his maternal uncle, Thomas Major “took charge of young Boyle’s welfare” (Booth & Borrow p. 9).

In 1822, when he was fifteen, Boyle Finniss was enrolled at the Royal Military Academy. Three years later he was “appointed ensign in the 88th Regiment” (ADB) and promoted to lieutenant in 1827. He transferred to the 82nd Regiment in 1833 and traveled with it to Mauritius when he was superintendent of the construction of a significant bridge.

Boyle Finniss and his wife, Anne, arrived in South Australia in 1836, the year the colony was founded. He joined the party surveying the city of Adelaide in 1837, working with William Light. After a couple of failed business ventures, he returned to public service, serving as commissioner of police, police magistrate, registrar-general, and treasurer.

In 1847, Finniss was appointed colonial secretary, serving in that role until he became the first premier of South Australia on 24 October 1856.


Booth, J. and Borrow, K. B.T.Finnis: First Premier of South Australia. Adelaide, South Australia, 2001

“Finniss, Boyle Travers (1807-1893).” Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1 (1966).

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