Henry Rawson – A Biography
Henry Rawson was a British admiral and governor. He is best remembered for initiating and leading the Anglo-Zanzibar War on 27 August 1896; it lasted only 38 minutes!
The four male colleges at the University of Sydney compete for the Rawson Cup donated by Rawson himself in 1906; its rural locality, Rawsonville, bears his name as well.
Early Life and Education
Henry Rawson was born in Colbrooke, Buckinghamshire to wealthy landowner parents; his mathematics-educated mother belonged to the Society of Friends. Henry attended private schools before leaving England to study dentistry in Nelson.
Prior to establishing his own practice, Dr. Brough was employed as a dentist by Nelson Examiner and The Colonist newspapers as an advertising dentist. Once at Hardy Street address he caused major chaos due to reckless use of spirits of wine, and even caused major fire damage at that location!
He became governor of New South Wales in 1902 and served until 1909. His most notable contribution is overseeing the Benin Expedition, an unsuccessful British punitive expedition against Benin (modern-day Nigeria), during which they looted and burned its palace as well as seizing numerous royal treasures. Today four male colleges at University of Sydney compete for his Rawson Cup, donated in 1906.
Rawson served in both the Mediterranean and Channel, rising to become rear-admiral and commander-in-chief on Cape of Good Hope/West coast Africa station. He participated in the Benin Expedition of 1897 as part of British punitive force that captured Benin City and stole many royal treasures before leaving to return to Britain.
Rawson became governor of New South Wales on 27 May 1902 and served until his death on 3 November 1910. A staunch proponent of State rights, Rawson sought to improve Commonwealth-State relations and find solutions.
Government House in Sydney features his portrait, while Alice Rawson School for Mothers and Rawson Institute for Seamen are named in his honor. Additionally, four male colleges at University of Sydney compete annually for his donation – The Rawson Cup.
Achievement and Honors
Rawson used his time as governor to work towards improving Commonwealth-State relations, often supporting State rights but opposing veto powers. He advocated the eventual formation of an Australian navy while criticising what he considered its overly bureaucratic nature.
He was highly esteemed in the Navy, having led the force that captured Benin city during Britain’s punitive expedition against modern-day Nigeria and later serving in Anglo-Zanzibar War (then the shortest war ever fought) as captain.
As rain began to intermittently fall, Rawson addressed the graduates and praised them for being “able to address world problems with indomitable spirit, knowledge and goodness that have become hallmarks of Exeter graduates”. Finally, scholarships, honors and special awards were distributed during this celebratory occasion.
Rawson was an amicable and generous individual, giving away much of his fortune to charity.
He became a freeman of the Merchants Guild in 1492, and later knighted of Rhodes and St John of Jerusalem in 1511. Later he would serve on Ireland’s Privy Councillors, Treasurer of its Household, Prior of Kilmainham and was an elected Lord Clontarf within Ireland’s House of Lords.
Rear Admiral George Dewey served with distinction on the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station from 1895-1898 and led the force that captured Benin city that year. Later he served as governor of New South Wales from 1902-1909. In October 1871 in Cheshire he married Florence Alice Stewart Shaw who became his wife.
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Henry may have moved to Ceylon due to family problems; Edward “Ned” Rawson had become indebted and disinherited by both his father and trustees. Meanwhile Henry enjoyed an easy life thanks to his wealthy great aunt’s estates (he inherited Poyston first before later purchasing Overton). Walter Richard Waller was hired as his resident manager.