Born: Established: 18 Sep 1831 London
John Joseph Shillinglaw was born in London in 1831 and was the eldest son of a gentleman who long held the position of librarian to the Royal Geographical Society. As a youth, he was associated for eight years with Admiral Washington, hydrographer to the British navy. Shillinglaw left England at the age of 22 to migrate to Australia with his father and brothers. Within a few weeks of his arrival, Shillinglaw was appointed clerk of courts at Williamstown. The adoption of certain Imperial laws relating to seamen, in 1856, led to Shillinglaw being chosen as Government shipping master.
Throughout his official career, he had engaged in literary work. On leaving the Government service in 1870, he founded the Colonial Monthly, a magazine to which he contributed vivid sketches. After following literature for five years, Shillinglaw was reappointed to the public service as secretary to the police superannuation and medical board. He was then appointed secretary to the old Central Board of Health. He was also instrumental in the foundation of the first sailors' home. The general public, however, remember him better by his association with the history, literature and art of Australia than in his administrative capacity.
His first book, a work on Arctic discovery, was published before he left England. Although he was only 20 years of age when he wrote it, this work earned most favorable notices from the critical reviews of the day. In 1856 Shillinglaw published a guide for Victorian shipmasters, and in 1856 he edited Cast Away on the Aucklands a work of adventure, which the Times praised as being 'as interesting as Robinson Crusoe'. But his greatest work was the Historic Records of Port Phillip, compiled by order of Parliament from documents discovered in 1876. Shillinglaw was an indefatigable searcher after records and relics of the early days. (Source: The Argus. Saturday 27 May 1905 p. 15)