It is rare when a law firm discovers a legacy of particular importance, so when the BBC reported recently that Carey Olsen – an English law firm – has actually uncovered the legacy of a fairly prominent Victorian explorer – Edward Hamilton Stirling – we couldn't help but be a little bit interested.
The Glasgow-born explorer died in the latter half of the 19th Century as a wealthy divorcee; however, what was unknown to his relatives at the time is that Stirling actually owned a large tract of outback over in Australia.
As the years passed and no relatives stepped forward to claim the land, it amassed decades worth of unpaid bills which the local council collected by selling the property. The land was bought by Litchfield Council, a northern Australian local authority, and sold to recover costs of £50,000 with around £230,000 left to divide between the remaining descendants.
The discovery was described as "somewhat surprising" by the Jersey Royal Court (where Stirling died), and 83 individuals have been identified as entitled to the remaining money made by the sale. Each of these individuals is expected to receive around £1,800 after the solicitor's firm takes its 30% fee and VAT charges are taken into account.
It is quite common for properties and land sold to London explorers in the 1860's to be forgotten and they are known commonly as 'Dead Man's Lands', according to the article. Stirling worked for the East India Company and is thought to have been the first European to return from northern Afghanistan, and is therefore credited with discovering the region.