Cairns was named after Sir William Wellington Cairns. Will was born in Ireland in 1828 and served in various senior civil servant postings before being appointed Governor of Queensland in 1875. Cairns was founded in 1876 so he must have scored naming rights being the head honcho of the time. He only stayed until 1877, then did a stint as acting Governor of South Australia and then returned to England to die in London aged 60. He certainly sported some rather fashionable facial hair!
Incidentally, Cairns was the fourth Governor of Queensland – the fifth was a career ‘governor’ by the name of Sir Arthur Kennedy. Arthur was the Governor of Sierra Leone, then Western Australia, then Vancouver Island, then the West African Settlements, then Hong Kong and his final posting was to be Governor of Queensland from 1877 to 1883. He had a fairly typical attitude to being a successful governor – do as little as possible and be nice to everyone. After resigning as Governor he opted to take a luxury cruise back to England on The Orient but he died on board, aged 74, and was buried at sea.
The electorate of Kennedy (between Cairns and Townsville) is not named after him, but after the explorer Edmund Kennedy. Poor Ed chose the wrong career - he only made it to age 30, having been speared by Aborigines in Cape York.