Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Bower R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

John Bower was born in 1813 at Perth, Scotland, the son of John Bower and Janet Allen.

He served as Assistant-Surgeon aboard the frigate Castor during the Egyptian-Ottoman War of 1839-41.

Syria Medal awarded to surgeon John BowerIn 1839 Mehemet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, alarmed European powers by invading the Ottoman province of Syria, even capturing a Turkish fleet. Castor joined a large fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Robert Stopford, which included Austrian, Prussian and Russian vessels. This fleet bombarded Acre and stormed the town on 3 November 1839.

In the subsequent negotiations, Egyptian forces agreed to withdraw from Beirut. Castor also took part in the bombardment of St. Jean d'Acre on 3 November 1840.

John Bower was awarded the Naval General Service medal 1793-1840, 1 clasp, Syria - Spink Auction House


John Bower was employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on three convict ship voyages to Australia -

Voyage of the Emma Eugenia 1851

He was appointed to the convict ship Emma Eugenia on 25 October 1850. The Emma Eugenia transported 170 female convicts to Hobart in 1851. Under Master F. T. Davies the ship departed London on 30 October 1850 and arrived in Hobart on 7 March 1851. John Bower's Medical Journal dated from 25 October 1850 to 15 March 1851. It is held in the National Archives and available to view at Ancestry. Below is an extract from the diary:

'On the 25th October 1850, one hundred and seventy female prisoners with twenty children, were received on board the Emma Eugenia from Millbank Prison. They appeared generally to be in good health.

At the commencement of the voyage nearly all suffered severely from sea sickness; one or two were afflicted by it during the whole passage but all the rest soon recovered. There were also a few cases of catarrh and of sore throat at this time, caused by the changes to which the prisoners had been exposed.

About a month after embarkation several of the more weakly children began to show indications of disease. Nearly all of those under two years of age were pale and scofulous looking when received on board. Several of these gave decided evidence that the voyage was telling against them; some from original faulty organization; some from subsequent bad nursing and some others from the new circumstances in which they were placed.

Diarrhoea in some instances was the form of disease from which these children principally suffered. Four of them died on the voyage and one shortly after the arrival of the vessel at Hobart Town. In addition to the predisposing causes already mentioned these diseased appear to have been excited by the crowding of all the children and their mothers into one division of the prison, and by the improper feeding to which the inexperience or carelessness of some of the mothers subjected them.

Hysterical affections, particularly convulsions were more common during the earlier part of the voyage than towards its termination. In a large number of the prisoners the menstrual discharged was either suppressed or irregular when embarked but had returned or became more regular in nearly all of them before the conclusion of the voyage.

Leucorrhoea was complained of by many of the women. There were a few cases of psora discovered during the passage which yielded readily to the usual remedy.
Shortly after leaving the Southern Tropic the temperature fell very considerably and several cases of diarrhoea appeared but it was not until the middle of February when the cold was much more severe that the greatest number of cases of that complaint occurred.
At this time more than one third of the prisoners were attacked. The great majority of the cases yielded readily to mild purgatives, with diaphorectics and the chalk mixture. In a few, where the biliary secretion was deranged small doses of calomel and opium were likewise employed. The disease appeared to have been caused by the change of temperature experienced in passing from a warm to a cold atmosphere; to guard against which some extra clothing would be desirable.

Some of the children were attached by hooping cough towards the latter end o the voyage and were not sufficiently recovered to be landed with the rest but were placed along with their mothers, in a separate apartment, until it might be safe to allow them to mix with the other children'

Voyage of the Pyrenees 1852

The Pyrenees, Master B. Freeman, departed England on 30 April 1853 and arrived at Fremantle on 2 February 1853. The Medical Journal dated from 22 December 1852 to 16 May 1853.

Extract from the journal of John Bower on the voyage of the Pyrenees - 'The prisoners embarked on board were received from the following prisons – 55 from the Warrior Hulk, 35 from Woolwich Defence hulk, 50 from Portsmouth Prison, 2 from Stirling Castle hulk, 88 from Portland Prison, and 66 from Dartmoor Prison, a total number embarked 296 prisoners. The Surgeon remarks on the difference in appearance between the men received from the hulks and those from Portland and Dartmoor Prisons, he also stated the several children of the guard were ill qualified for so long a voyage, but according to the Surgeon the heavy expense entailed on the pensioner by providing his outfit and great difficulty in repaying the advance made for the purpose renders the rejection of any of the children they were therefore all received on board. The Surgeon makes remarks on the continued fever that occurred on board amongst the prisoners and the ship's company, which he attributed to the combined influence of a sudden change of temperature and the moist close atmosphere in the ship coupled with the disagreeable smell from the airholds'
Source: National Archives

Voyage of the Lord Raglan 1858

He was employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on the Lord Raglan. Master Thomas Hybert, from London to Fremantle arriving 1 June 1858

'Between the years of 1850 and 1868, almost Ten Thousand Convicts were transported to Western Australia, aboard Forty-three Vessels. The Daily Journal of John Bowers M.D., R.N., Surgeon Superintendent, records the events which took place each day on board the Convict Ship Lord Raglan, which, with its most valuable cargo of 270 Male Convicts, made passage from England to Western Australia in the year of 1858'. Read a transcript of the voyage at the Enrolled Pension Force website.


In the 1861 Census John Bower aged 47, was employed as a surgeon on a vessel. Registration district Queensferry.

The Navy List of 1861 records John Bower as surgeon on the Screw Steam Ship Edinburgh, (450 Horse-power), which was employed in the Coast-Guard Service, Queen's Ferry, North Britain. Captain Edwin C. T. D-Eyncourt. A list of all the crew of the Edinburgh is recorded in the 1861 census.

1859 - 1865

In 1859 and 1865 Medical Directories for Scotland) he was recorded resided at Montreal Cottage, Perth, Scotland

OS1/25/64/6 MONTREAL COTTAGE Montreal Cottage Montreal Cottage Mrs. Bower Montreal Cottage Perth P.O. [Post Office] Directory. 098 [Situation] About 5 Chains N.W. [North West] from Boatland House. A neat cottage residence two storeys high with garden and small plot of ornamental ground attached. The residence of Joseph Bower. - Scotland Places


In the 1891 Census, John Bower is recorded residing in Perth with his younger sister Jessie. They employed one servant, Christina Todd.

He died age 79 on 2 November 1891 at Montreal Cottage, Perth, Scotland (3 November 1891 - Evening Telegraph, Dundee) - Medical Pioneeers Index.

The Scottish Probate Index records the following:
Confirmation of John Bower, Montreal Cottage, Isla Road, Perth, retird Fleet Surgeon, R. N., who died 2 November 1891, at Perth, testate, granted at Perth to Jessie Bower, Montreal cottage aforesaid, his sister.

Notes and Links

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