Skip to main content

Sir John Young

1807 – 1876

Sir John Young, 1st Baron Lisgar (1807-1876), governor of New South Wales from 1861 to 1867, was the son of a director of the East India Co. Educated at Eton and Oxford, whence he graduated in 1829, he was called to the Bar in 1834. While member for County Cavan from 1831 to 1855, he served as secretary of the treasury and chief secretary for Ireland. After a spell as lord high commissioner of the Ionian Islands he was appointed governor of New South Wales at the beginning of 1861. As he arrived, the Legislative Council was passing through a crisis, in which he intervened, offending the secretary of state for the colonies; nineteen members resigned, and the council had to be reconstructed. In 1865, he alienated Sir James Martin and caused the resignation of the colonial secretary, but the Colonial Office supported his actions. Throughout his term he gave frequent advice on policy; Henry Parkes wrote that ‘Fully informed on political subjects, he was frank and modest in communicating to others the lessons of his experience … in intercourse with him one received instruction unawares’. However, with his history of involvement in the hurly-burly of the Commons, Young chafed at his ‘cipher’ status in New South Wales. Described as a gentleman and a scholar, he was a dedicated Anglican but chaired a meeting to organise repairs to the burned St Mary’s Cathedral in 1865; he worked on behalf of the Sydney Ragged Schools, the Society for the Relief of Destitute Children, the Sydney Female Refuge Society, the Female School of Industry and the House of the Good Shepherd. At the end of 1867 Young and his wife left Sydney; he became governor-general of Canada in 1869, but ill health forced his resignation by 1872. During his time in Canada he was created Baron Lisgar of Lisgar and Bailieborough, County Cavan. The New South Wales town of Lambing Flat was re-named Young in his honour.

Updated 2018