Fairford History Society

November 19 2015: Those adventurous Cowleys by Chris Barrett

Chris Barrett, a descendant of Robert Cowley and Mary Sandling through Jacob the eldest son of 12 children gave a fascinating account of the Cowleys who left the small town of Fairford and travelled out in to the wider world in the mid 19th century.

Jonathan Cowley (1784-1865) from the previous generation was a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and served in the 82nd Regiment of Foot from 1806 to when he was wounded at the Battle of Vitoria, 1813.

His son Robert (1805 -1865) was one of the ‘Machine breakers’ in Fairford in 1830 and was transported to Tasmania and after five years was released and went mining to Dunnolly, Victoria where he died

Isaac Cowley (1813 – 1892) set off with his family to D’Urban, S. Africa where he was responsible for building the first stone buildings in the town (he had been a mason) and founded and built the Baptist Church. He became know has Pastor Cowley.

Jesse (1837-1909), Isaac’s eldest son went off to Australia in 1856 and became a town clerk for Paddington and Newton in Sydney for many years. His grandson Cecil Cowley and his son met an unfortunate end in the volcanic eruption of Mount Laming ton in 1951. His wife and daughter survived.

Isaac’s son Alfred Sandlings Cowley (1848-1926) went to Australia and became a member of the Queensland parliament. His son Campbell Cowley (1881-1919) served in the Boer Wars in South Africa, had a game hunting venture then went back to Australia where his obtained some land in Papua New Guinea. Unbeknown to his Australian family he had a a liaison with a PNG lady Bagunai, and had a son in 1916. he then went of the to WW2 and served in the Middle East, came back returned to PNG and while on the search for labour contracted ‘blackwater fever’ and died. Campbell’s son Punch was well educated and set up a successful township in PNG until the country gained its Independence and Australia withdrew its support. He had three ‘wives’ and children by two of them.

Abraham Cowley (1818-1887) (went of to Canada was a Church of England missionary. Fairford, Manitoba was named in honour of him. he had 12 children and Chris met a descendant John Peter Cowley when he visited Fairford, Manitoba. Fairford, Manitoba is keen to reopen links with Fairford, Gloucestershire.

This is just small snapshot of a very adventurous family that came from a small Gloucestershire town and there were others whose story Chris did not have time to to tell.