Orders, Decorations & Medals - Australian Singles
GHUZNEE MEDAL 1839, with suspension brooch bar inscribed, 'Jan 1826/Siege of Bhurtpoor'. Capt C.W.Cowley 35th Bengal N.I. Engraved in running script. Some minor edge nicks, otherwise nicely toned, nearly extremely fine and a rare medal, unique to an officer born in colonial Australia in 1793.
Ex Dix Noonan Webb sale 22 Jul 2015 (lot 127).
Constantine William Cowley was born in New South Wales, Australia on 1 May 1793, the same year that Andrew Douglas White (23 September 1793), the son of Surgeon General White was born, also in New South Wales. Both went on to become Military Officers, White serving with the Royal Engineers in the Peninsular Wars and Cowley with the British Forces in India. Both had mothers who were convicts, and like White, Cowley rose to officer status. His father was a prominent surgeon, his mother a convict, and his name an alias (not so with White). Let us examine the players in this story.
His father, Dennis Considen was born in Ireland and sailed with the First Fleet as surgeon on the Scarborough. After landing at Sydney Cove, Considen, like the principal surgeon, John White, studied the natural history of the surrounding area and put to good use his discoveries by using the products of the indigenous plants to alleviate dysentery, scurvy and other diseases which plagued the early settlement. In November 1788 he proclaimed himself to Sir Joseph Banks as the colony's pharmaceutical pioneer, although these claims were disputed by others, Considen is at least credited with the discovery of eucalyptus oil for medicinal purposes. In November 1791, after a period of working on Norfolk Island with D'Arcy Wentworth, Considen was relieved by William Balmain. During his time in Australia, Dennis Considen was also legal guardian to the children of Balmain, an assistant surgeon on the First Fleet and the successor to principal surgeon John White. Dennis returned to Sydney where he continued his clandestine relationship with a convict woman, Ann Green (nee Cowley). Between 1790 and 1791 Ann was to have a baby girl, Constance Cowley, and records indicate that Dennis Considen was the father but they also indicate that the baby was born at Norfolk Island. Was Ann working there as an indentured servant to Considen?
What of Ann Green? She was born in England in about 1759 to a working class family and as a new mother whose husband died just three months before her child was born and with no money, she turned to crime to support herself and infant child. She attempted to steal a quantity of China so she could sell it and get some money but was caught by the shop owner and his wife and escorted to the police station. Ann Green was charged and tried for Theft - Grand Larceny 13 December 1786. The case was tried and although Ann, and even the Prosecutor, pleaded for the court to show her mercy, she was sentenced to Transportation for Seven Years. Ann and her newborn were on the First Fleet convict ship Lady Penryn that left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787. Unfortunately her new baby, William, died before the ship sailed and during the voyage the grieving Ann formed a relationship with the ship's captain, William Sever. The product of their union was a daughter born on 9 November 1788 and baptised Letitia Green.
Ann had married William Bladdy (also recorded as Bledy and Blady), another convict, on 31 March 1793, however her relationship with Dennis Considen resulted in another pregnancy and a son, Constantine, was born at the tented hospital in Sydney Cove on 1 May 1793. How she hid this from her new husband, is unknown. Or did he know she was pregnant when they married and didn't care? The potential scandal for Dennis would do irreparable damage to his career but he did the honourable thing and did not desert his son. Rather, he referred to him in correspondence with his peers as his nephew. When his health declined, Dennis returned to Ireland on the Kitty departing the colony in June 1793. He made arrangements with Ann, probably of a monetary nature, and she agreed to allow Constantine to accompany his father to Ireland and no doubt a better life. It is unknown what became of Constance Cowley when Dennis left New South Wales. Once in Ireland, Dennis re-registered his son's birth to avoid the stigma of a convict mother in Sydney and recorded Ann's maiden name of Cowley as his son's last surname. Dennis then raised Constantine as his son but under the guise of being his uncle.
Considen put his botanical studies in New South Wales to good use when he wrote a thesis titled De Tetano and on 24 June 1804 he graduated from the University of Edinburgh as a doctor of medicine. He then went to London trying to decide where to practise but soon moved to County Clare in Ireland. However it was not meant to be because he was called to Cork to join an expedition bound for the Cape. Even from afar his interest in the fledgling colony and its indigenous plants was keen and he may well have returned but his request for a grant of land was refused by Governor King. He maintained contact with his friends there, Thomas Arndell, George Johnston and D'Arcy Wentworth but declared astonishment at the conduct of the last two when Governor William Bligh was overthrown. On 6 January 1812 he was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians. He died on 29 December 1815. His name will forever be remembered because in 1904 the government botanist at the time, Joseph Maiden, dedicated 'eucalyptus consideniana' in his memory in recognition of his pioneer work with eucalyptus oil.
Meanwhile Constantine received a first rate education at Newington and an upbringing free from any links to his convict mother. In 1812 he applied to be an Ensign in the Honourable East India Company with the support of his father's recommendation. On his application, Constantine listed Dennis Considen as his next-of-kin and his 'uncle's' occupation as Physician to the Forces. His application was accepted and on 30 September 1814 he began a lifetime in India, first as part of the 1/17th Bengal Native Infantry and after service with the Mirzapur Local Battalion he transferred to the 2/17th Bengal NI.
As an officer, Constantine flourished and was promoted to Lieutenant in March 1818. He served at the siege and capture of Bhurtpore and was Adjutant of the 35th Bengal NI (late 2/17th). He was promoted to Captain in November 1827 and served with the 35th Bengal NI during the first Afghan War at the capture of Ghuznee in 1839, for which he was awarded the medal being offered here. In 1831 he married Katherine Meiselbach in India. She was the daughter of Colonel Johan Frederick Meiselbach of the Dutch East India Company and whose father was the Dutch explorer of the same name who was involved in Dutch expeditions in the 1760s to the west coast of New Holland (previous name for Australia).
What became of Constantine's convict mother? She already had two daughters when Constantine was born, Letitia Green born in 1788 and Constance Cowley, also fathered by Dennis Considen, born between 1790 and 1791 on Norfolk Island, and she then had two more children, a daughter Jane born on 7 January 1795 and a son, Thomas born on 24 April 1797. Ann had been granted 50 acres of land at Mulgrave Place in 1797 and her husband William Bladdy received a grant in 1802 and by 1820 the family held 70 acres on the Hawksbury River. In 1812 Ann Bladdy was recorded as housekeeper at Government House, Windsor. She died in 1820 at age 67.
One of Constantine's half-sisters, Letitia, married in 1804 at the age of 16 to a Hawksbury settler named Roger Twyfield who was 38 at the time. Letitia may well have been the first colonial born girl to marry in the colony. She died in 1827. Constantine's other half sister, Jane, married Richard Ballard, second officer on Hunter and in 1813 they had a daughter, Jane Ann, and the details of his sister, Constance Cowley, are unknown. The history of his half brother Thomas is also unknown. One source in Ireland indicated that Constantine Cowley did attempt to find his mother and half sister, Letitia, in the 1820s however it was a failure, probably because his mother had already died and due to Australia's remote location.
It is also probably no coincidence that the children fathered by Dennis Considen were named Constance and Constantine, both starting with Cons.
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GHUZNEE MEDAL 1839, with suspension brooch bar inscribed, 'Jan 1826/Siege of Bhurtpoor'. Capt C.W.Cowley 35th ...