Eccleston was a public servant and patron of exploration and arts, was born on 14 September 1832 in London, son of Frederick Du Faur and his wife Mary Elizabeth; his ancestors had migrated from Gascony to England in 1765. He was educated at Brighton and in 1846-50 at Harrow but ill health prevented his entrance to Cambridge. He arrived at Melbourne in February 1853 and went to Bendigo. After a bout of ‘colonial fever’ he worked his way to Sydney where he joined the Railway Department. In 1856 he returned to London and found his father dead and himself involved in a Chancery suit. After travel on the Continent and advancement of his cultural interests he sailed for Sydney in the Whitehall and arrived in July 1863. Next month he joined the Surveyor-General’s Office as a draftsman and in 1866 transferred to the Occupation of Crown Lands Office where he initiated a systematic surveying and mapping of runs available for selection. His claim in 1872 that ‘I expended not merely an amount of zeal but my private time and energies, not limited by consideration of the mere requirements of my position’ was still valid when he resigned as chief draftsman in September 1881, but his map of New South Wales, after ten years of preparation, was destroyed in the Garden Palace fire in September 1882. He ran a pastoralists’ agency with J. B. Donkin in 1881-83, with Francis Gerard in 1885-89, and by himself until 1901. On a visit to Europe in 1887 he talked with friends and Berlin professors, in the interests of his clients, about the possibility of destroying rabbits bacteriologically.
Du Faur was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1873 and became chairman of its geographical section. In 1874 he helped to finance the last expedition under Andrew Hume to ascertain the fate of Ludwig Leichhardt. He shared in equipping a party under Wilfred Powell for exploration in New Britain in 1875 and the expedition under Captain H. C. Everill to the Fly River in 1885. He had been elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London in 1875. Soon afterwards he suggested that the Australian climate was affected by weather conditions in the Antarctic and hoped that the colonies would share in exploration there. He revived the subject when he helped to found the Geographical Society of Australia and became its first chairman in 1883. In a paper to the society in 1892 he proposed that fifty adventurous young men should charter a steamer and tour in Antarctic waters in the Christmas holidays. Much scientific interest was aroused and in 1907 he renewed his proposal in a paper, ‘The effect of Polar Ice on the weather’, to the Royal Society of New South Wales. By 1910 Scott, Shackleton and others had joined the ‘polar steeplechase’, and an Australasian Association, with Du Faur on its committee, was raising funds in support of (Sir) Douglas Mawson’s expedition.
In December 1874 Du Faur had been chosen as an observer of the transit of Venus at Woodford. Impressed by the scenery and vegetation in the Blue Mountains, he had already bought land at Mount Wilson where he entertained a wide variety of friends including the artist William Piguenit and the photographer Bischoff, made many excursions in river valleys and was active in developing other beauty spots in the ranges. After living for years in the western suburbs, he built a new home at Turramurra. The reservation of Yellowstone Park and his own ramblings in rugged country inspired him to advocate the preservation of Ku-ring-gai Chase; it was dedicated as a national park in 1894 with Du Faur as managing trustee.
Du Faur published his translations into English verse of Horace’s Odes, Epodes (Selected) and Carmen Saeculare in 1906 and the Quatrains of Seigneur de Pibrac in 1907. His most outstanding work, however, was in the art movement in Sydney. An original member of the New South Wales Academy of Art in 1871, he joined its council in 1873 and was honorary secretary and treasurer until 1881. When the National Art Gallery was established in 1876 he was appointed one of the five trustees on its board, acted as secretary and treasurer until 1886 and served as president in 1892-1915. Its progress owed much to his energy, taste and administrative ability.
In 1866 Du Faur married Augusta Louisa, daughter of Major James Crummer; she died on 23 July 1867. At St Mark’s Church, Darling Point, on 23 January 1878 he married Blanche Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Professor John Woolley. Du Faur died at Turramurra on 24 April 1915 and was buried in the Anglican churchyard at Gordon. Predeceased by his second wife, he was survived by three of their four children.
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