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Edward Cowling (1869–1932)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Edward Cowling, 1900 [far left]

Edward Cowling, 1900 [far left]

from Worker (Brisbane), 22 December 1900

Edward Cowling (1869-1932) labourer, gaoled trade unionist and miner

Birth: 20 July 1869 at Castle Camps, near Linton, Cambridgeshire, England, son of Thomas Cowling, farm labourer, and Martha, née Wilson, who signed with a mark. Marriage: 1 September 1902 at St George’s Church, Queenton, Charters Towers, Queensland, to Sarah Greening, born in Monmouth, Wales. They had one daughter. Death: 4 August 1932 at Charters Towers, Queensland. Religion: Anglican. 

  • According a later account by his fellow prisoner Jim Martin, Cowling was up the Fly River, New Guinea, "prospecting in 1884 with Dr Morrison, the Times correspondent.
  • Arrived in Townsville, Queensland, as an assisted immigrant aboard the Roma on 27 April 1888.
  • Arrested at Maxwellton on 16 January 1896 and kept in police custody at Richmond, then Hughenden, where he was handcuffed to a bunk for five weeks before being released on 27 March. He obtained work travelling sheep but on 31 March was rearrested, charged with burning the Ayrshire Downs woolshed on 3 July 1894 and remanded to Muttaburra where he was brought before the court on 1 April 1896 and remanded to Rockhampton.
  • With James Martin, David Bowes and John Loyola he was convicted at the District Court Rockhampton on very dubious evidence, despite the prosecution agreeing that the grass had been wet with rain. Sentenced to 10 years penal servitude by judge Granville Miller on 8 June 1896.
  • Prison records describe him as a native of England aged 23, who could read and write, was of slight build, 5 ft 6 ¼ inches (168 cm) tall, with dark hair and brown eyes. He had several scars and three vaccination marks. His weight on admission was recorded as 9 stone 13lbs (63.05 kilograms) and on discharge as 9 stone 7lb (60.33 kilograms).
  • According to his fellow inmate Martin, in gaol “Cowling became in turn a tailor, a carpenter and ultimately a bootmaker”. He was discharged with special remission – in view of the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia – on 14 December 1900.
  • On release the four men received from the Union Prisoners’ Defence fund a total of £103 13 shillings, which was divided among them. In August 1901 Cowling was reported to be “somewhere up north”.
  • He was a mining prospector in the 1920s and early 1930s at Cloncurry, then Charters Towers, Queensland.
  • Cause of death: miners’ phthisis, from which he had suffered for many years, and myocardial degeneration.
  • Cowling consistently denied ever being at Ayrshire Downs.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Cowling, Edward (1869–1932)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Edward Cowling, 1900 [far left]

Edward Cowling, 1900 [far left]

from Worker (Brisbane), 22 December 1900

Life Summary [details]


20 July, 1869
Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire, England


4 August, 1932 (aged 63)
Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

miners' phthisis

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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