Families with goldfields link reconnect

Frank and David Nowlan are pictured with one of the vases given to their relative Sergeant Daniel Nowlan.

Bendigo resident and keen historian Lynne Cooper is delighted to report that she has tracked down the descendants of former Castlemaine Goldfields police sergeant, Daniel Nowlan.

As featured in the Midland Express last October, Lynne is currently in the final stages of completing a fascinating biography on the colourful life of her great grandfather and former Castlemaine Goldfields police sergeant, Henry William Frood, who served on the goldfields for 32 years and was presented with a gold medallion by the local Chinese community on his retirement in 1889.

Lynne approached the Express to assist with tracking down the descendants of her great grandfather’s colleague and fellow medallion recipient, Daniel Nowlan.

An article in the Midland Express and subsequent interview on ABC Radio Central Victoria garnered widespread interest and encouraged Lynne to continue her search.

“Ultimately I was able to find a contact for the Nowlan family with the help of local genealogist Betty Jackman,” Lynne said. “Betty found David Nowlan online. David is an archivist working for a Melbourne council. 

“When I called the council and spoke to David, he confirmed he is the great, great grandson of Sergeant Daniel Nowlan and put me in touch with his dad and retired lawyer Frank Nowlan.”

The Nowlan family was not aware of the medallion presentation and it appears Sgt Nowlan’s medallion has been lost. However, family members do have two Japanese Satsuma vases in their possession, which they have since learned were also gifted to the policeman by the Chinese delegation at the time.

Lynne travelled to Melbourne in January to meet Frank and David in person and view one of the two stunning vases, the other being with family at Daylesford.

Bendigo Chinese Association’s Dennis O’Hoy AM has kindly provided an assessment of the vases.

Mr O’Hoy said that of the many types of Japanese ceramics produced, perhaps one of the most popular wares known and collected by the West – particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – were the Satsuma wares. Satsuma takes its name from the pottery that was established about 1600 AD at the town of Satsuma, on the island of Kyushu.

Unfortunately the Nowlan vases do not have any distinguishing markings that would reveal the artist and time period they were made. However, Mr O’Hoy said they were highly sought after at the time.

“The rich and affluent in the Australian colonies had the need to acquire Satsuma wares to decorate their homes. So it is not surprising that the pair of Nowlan vases may have been on sale in one of the Castlemaine businesses and were subsequently purchased by the grateful local Chinese community for the presentation to Sergeant Nowlan,” he said.

Frank and David Nowlan are hastily researching the life of Daniel so they can make a contribution to Lynne’s book and also have plans to have a replica of the gold medallion made in honour of Sgt Nowlan. 

Frank said they were extremely grateful to Lynne for tracking them down and were delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about Daniel and share some of his story in the book.

“My son David has done a wonderful job poring over our family tree, his police records and articles on Trove to compile the information on Daniel,” he said.

“It seems the pair (Frood and Nowlan) worked together for many years and were good mates. In fact, Daniel was at the railway station to farewell his old friend when Frood retired to Melbourne.”