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Cowie, James (1809–1892)

The obituary columns of the Argus of yesterday contained the notice of the death of Mr. James Cowie, which took place on Monday at his late residence, Glenmore, Elsternwick. He was 84 years of age, and death ensued from a general break up of the system. His demise has removed the sole survivor of the 30 members who constituted the first Legislative Council of Victoria. The late Mr Cowie was a son of Mr James Cowie, brewer, of Falkirk, Scotland, and was born in 1809. His education was entrusted to a private tutor, and after a few years, and while yet in his teens, he was apprenticed to the trade of a saddler and harness maker in London. In the year 1840 he sailed for Port Phillip in the ship Midlothian, and arrived here in the latter part of that year. Amongst his fellow passengers was the late Mr. W. Westgarth. He almost immediately proceeded to Van Diemen's Land, but a few months' sojourn in the island satisfied him that greater facilities offered for his trade across the straits. In July, 1841, he returned, and proceeded to Geelong - then known as Corio - and a more important town than Melbourne. There, prior to and during the gold fever, he embarked in a combination of businesses which at once included a saddler's shop, a general store, and a shipping and mining agency. In a dozen years he had amassed a fortune, and though he retired from the cares of trade he was always among the progressive men of the day. In 1849 he was one of the first to assist in the formation of the Geelong municipality and joined others in becoming security for £4,000 to provide for the first works carried out by the new corporation. At the first election he headed the poll by double the number of votes recorded for any other candidate. In November, 1852, he was elected mayor of Geelong, and upon his retirement was entertained and presented with a valuable souvenir. Upon the increase in the number of members of Parliament in 1853 the late Mr. Cowie was selected to represent Geelong in the old nominee Council, and served in that capacity for two years. He resigned, in consequence of a desire to visit his native place, and after a short sojourn there he returned to the colony in the ship Schomburg, which was lost off Port Campbell, in the vicinity of so many wrecks of recent years. Mr. Cowie was one of the survivors taken off the wreck by the boats of a small steamer trading to Warrnambool named the Queen. In October, 1856, after the introduction of responsible government, Mr. Cowie was selected to represent the Southwestern Province in the Legislative Council, and in the year 1859 he, with 29 others was returned as a representative in the Legislative Assembly of the first Victorian Parliament after the separation. Among his confreres elected the same day were the late Messrs. J. P. Fawkner, W. J. T. Clark, James Henty, and H. Miller. Mr. Cowie was one of the first at the Ballarat goldfields, and was also prominent in establishing the first fleet of steamers in the Geelong and Melbourne trade. He was mayor of Geelong when Governor La Trobe laid the foundation stone of the railway terminus at Geelong, the first country railway line constructed, and was also one of the directors of the company. In 1850 he was a member of the anti-convict committee. In 1848, when the owner of a store at the Elephant bridge, now the township of Darlington, he issued a paper currency of 5s, and 10s, all of which was regarded in the district as equal to any bank note. In politics the late gentleman was regarded as a moderate protectionist and even in those early days was a strong advocate for the federation of the colonies. His funeral takes place to-day at Geelong.

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'Cowie, James (1809–1892)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cowie-james-255/text256, accessed 16 November 2018.

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