Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights
Having order in society is of fundamental importance. Fairness and equity depends to a large extent on the creation and enforcement of reasonable laws. The Canadian legal fabric -- still evolving -- is based on almost a thousand years of nurture -- and, at times, struggle -- in Britain. The political leaders who have been making our laws, the activists, advocates and professionals who strive to improve them, the lawyers, police officers and other professionals who argue, interpret and enforce the laws must all be commended for helping to make Canada the best country on earth.
The Scarboro Heights Record V10 #11
Scarboro's Loyal Farmers
...I proceeded immediately to the house of Colonel Maclean... I found Colonel Maclean standing on the new line of the Kingston road in company with Captain James Gibson... About three oclock Mr. Frederick Stow arrived from Toronto City and personally gave a true narrative of the Rebellion. There was no longer any hesitation respecting the line of conduct to be adopted. Orders signed by Colonel Maclean were immediately dispatched to the different officers of the Scarborough Regiment of Militia, directing them to assemble what men and arms they could muster by six oclock that evening [Dec. 5 1837] and either rendezvous at Mr. Gates Tavern or march directly onto Toronto City. In the meantime Colonel Maclean and myself agreed that he should collect what men and arms he could on the Kingston road... Thus we were undoubtedly the first Militia that came from any Township to the assistance of Toronto City.
From a letter to the Palladium, March 19 1838,
The Late Lord Justice Sir Anthony McCowan
We are saddened to hear of the passing of The Right Honourable Sir Anthony McCowan on July 3 2003, at the age of 75.
Called to the bar in 1951, Sir Anthony has been a pillar of the English legal system for several decades.
Anthony James Denys McCowan was appointed Deputy Chairman of the East Sussex Quarter Sessions in 1969 and leader of the South Eastern Circuit in 1978. In 1981 he was appointed to the High Court Bench and served as Senior Presiding Judge of England and Wales between 1991 and 1995. From 1989 until 1997 he was a Lord Justice of Appeal.
One of his earlier achievements was the 1952 publication of Coloured Peoples In Britain which ultimately helped re-shape British immigration policy. Born in Georgetown, British Guiana, Anthony was the son of a Senior Magistrate in the colonial administration. He was educated at Epsom College and won a history scholarship at Brasenose College in Oxford.
Sir Anthony had a sincere interest in his family history and kindly consented to be an Honorary Chairman of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society.
A more detailed obituary is at
John Roche McCowen (1843-1908)
John Roche McCowen was born in 1843 at County Limerick in Ireland, the son of a British Army Officer. He served in the British Army for a short period attaining the rank of Sergeant. He then joined the Royal Irish Constabulary where he served for a period of nine years with distinction: he was wounded twice in riots in Belfast and once in Cork. In 1871 he resigned from the RIC and was appointed to the Constabulary in Newfoundland.
In 1872 while stationed at Harbour Grace as an Acting Sergeant he, along with several other Constabulary members, twice received rewards for zeal and firmness in the line of duty. On January 1st, 1874 he was promoted to the rank of 1st Class Head Constable. He solely reorganized, drilled, and commanded the Constabulary Mounted Force for seven years.
In 1876 he married Elizabeth S. Netten, daughter of the Reverend William Netten and they had a family of four sons and two daughters. His four sons served in the British Armed Forces and his second son at the early age of 13 years became the first native Newfoundlander to successfully pass the examinations of the Royal Navy. His youngest daughter, Alice May, married John Shannon Munn, a St. John's businessman and philanthropist of note, who was lost on board the S.S. Florizel on February 24, 1918.
McCowen was transferred to Catalina in 1877. In 1879 he was also appointed as Governor of Her Majesty's Penitentiary.
John McCowen was appointed Commanding Officer of the Newfoundland Constabulary on March 26, 1895 and became the first member of the Constabulary to hold the rank of Inspector General. In that same year he moved into a new home built for him at Fort Townshend and remained there until his death.
McCowen played a major role in the reorganization of Constabulary, and in the establishment of the St. John's Fire Department on July 8, 1895. The Fire Department came under the control of the Newfoundland Constabulary with Inspector General McCowen as its first Commanding Officer.
He reorganized the Constabulary and brought in District Policing and divided St. John's into three Districts, each with its own station. Each Station manned its own district and the non-commissioned officers and men were strictly held accountable for peace and good order of their respective precincts. Some 63 Constables were stationed in the Outports.
He established the first Constabulary Police Brass Band. McCowen was also responsible for the establishment of a detective branch of the Constabulary which would be later known as the Criminal Investigation Division. He was instrumental in having The Constabulary Widows' and Orphans Fund established. For the last seven years of this life he was an Aide de Camp to successive Governors in Newfoundland.
Inspector General McCowen died at the age of 63 years while still an active member of the Newfoundland Constabulary on February 8th, 1908 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal where he had been sent for treatment for pneumonia. He was buried at the Anglican Cemetery on Forest Road.
Medals Presented to Constable McCowen
1. Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal was presented to Head Constable J. R. McCowen and six others for bravery in saving the lives of the crew of the brig, "Eric Carbonear" on the 7th of April, 1878 at Birds' Island Cove, Trinity Bay. There was a ship wreck, strong wind and sea and a heavy snow-storm and the crew got on a string of ice. McCowen and the others descended the dangerous cliff, crossed a gulch of pan-ice and threw ropes to the crew and saved their lives.
2. On June 24, 1897, McCowen and four others received silver medals for conspicuous bravery in putting out a fire aboard the S. S. Aurora, a wooden ship, loaded with dynamite and gun powder, which was docked in St. John's Harbour. At the time, Archdean Botwood said that McCowen should have been given the Victoria Cross for valour because "Never have I seen or read of such prolonged display of cool, determined and rightly directed heroism in the presence of appalling danger as that which I saw at the fire on board the ship Aurora".
3. In 1902 McCowen received the Imperial Service Order Medal which was awarded for faithful services rendered to the Government. This medal was instituted by Edward V11 in 1902 in recognition of long and efficient service by both home and overseas civil servants.
Preamble - Medal Acquisition
Several weeks before Christmas Mr. Kevin Hutchings, local businessman and close friend of the Constabulary, called Acting Chief of Police Gary Browne advising him that the three medals originally awarded to Inspector General John R. McCowen of the Newfoundland Constabulary were going up for auction in London, England, within weeks.
Chief Browne was astounded to learn of the whereabouts of McCowen's medals. Mr. Hutchings discovery was of immense importance to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary because of the prominent role McCowen played in the history of the Province and in particular the history of the Force.
Chief Browne immediately contacted RNC Sergeant John House, private artefact collector, and advised him to contact the Auction House in London and to put in a bid for the medals. Several days before Christmas, Chief Browne received the very disappointing news that the Force was outbid in their efforts to attain the medals.
Chief Browne was not about to give up on this historic find so he wrote a personal letter to the owners of the Auction House asking them to forward a correspondence to the successful bidder. In his letter to the successful bidder Chief Browne explained the importance of Inspector General McCowen's medals to the RNC and the major disappointment for the Constabulary in not obtaining same.
On 2001-01-03 Chief Browne received a correspondence from the successful Canadian bidder who knew the importance of the medals to the Province and to the RNC and that he would be willing to sell the medals to the Force.
Chief Browne, through the immediate assistance of Mr. Hutchings, bought the medals and had them couriered to their rightful home at Police Headquarters, historic Fort Townshend. The medals will come under the watchful protection of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society Incorporated and will eventually be put on public display in the RNC Museum.
Chief Browne gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Mr. Kevin Hutchings, Colonel Bill Mahoney and others for their part in bringing this historic medal collection back to the RNC and to the people of the Newfoundland and Labrador.
The McCowans' Who's Who, Vol. 11
When you go to Newfoundland, please visit:
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society Archives and Museum