Cooks forgotten men; Matra(Magra)

James Mario Matra (Magra)

Matra was one of  three American born members of the ships company aboard the “Endeavour” on Cooks voyage of 1768/1771.  Born in New York in 1746 he settled in London.

He signed on as a midshipman for the voyage. He became lifelong friends with Mr. Joseph (later Sir Joseph) Banks, the leader and financier (he put up the £10.000. required ) of the expedition to chart the ‘Transit of Venus’ of 1769 from Tahiti.


It was Matra who put forward the  proposal to set up a penal settlement in  New South Wales. He also had plans for ‘loyal’ Americans to leave the newly formed United States of America, to join in the settling of the new colony.


Not being averse to a little bit of money he petitioned the King to change his name back to Magra to enable him to cash in on a Corsican inheritance. His father migrated from Corsica to Ireland and then on to New York where he changed the name to Matra.


James Magra was British Consul at Teneriff in the Canary Isles and later Tangier, Morocco. He didn’t marry ’til late in life; he was 47. He died in Tangier at age 62, he left no issue.


He is vaguely remembered in Australia by the township of Matraville situated on Botany Bay.



4 thoughts on “Cooks forgotten men; Matra(Magra)

  1. Interesting information and good presentation! I enjoyed reading this.

    I appreciate your comment on my latest blog post, and I do appreciate you following my blog. I am honored by it, actually. I did not start a novel, and I am obviously “behind” on the blog-a-day goal for this month.

    But hey. I will return the courtesy of following and commenting. Keep up the good work!


    1. Thank you Pamela I like to follow bloggers like me, the non prolific ones 🙂 I know there are those that never stop and have huge followings, trouble is coming up with something fresh and original must be a nightmare that I can well do with out. I plod away just for the fun of it, and hope you;ll get fun out of it too. Cheers, Brian


  2. Brian, there is something very suspicious about this fellow Matra/Magra/Marra/Marr. He was the prime suspect in the case of Richard Orton having his ears cut off (some say wrongly accused), but since Orton said nought (probably because he was too drunk to remember, who was in his cabin at the time) we’ll never know. It also seems he had thoughts of deserting the expedition in Tahiti. There was another slippery fellow from Corsica, who marched across Europe, they named a cake after him.


    1. I agree Neill, but you must admit he was a pretty smart fellow, probably a cousin twice removed from your Corsican who marched across Europe but got held up in Russia as did another smart chappie in the 1940’s.

      Nice to see you back your comments always looked forward too and welcomed 🙂

      Cheers Brian


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