Papers of John Henry Lockhart Cowin (Advocate and Notary) of Gelling and Cowin, 29 Athol St, Douglas and Cowin and Co. of 62 Athol Street, Douglas

Scope and Content

The content consists of hand written notes, legal documents, correspondence, memos, invoices and printed material relating to various legal cases. Cowin’s advocate work included individual estates (last will and testament), the sale of properties, representing people on behalf of the board of guardian authorities, a bigamy case, larceny, injury at work, illegitimacy, a battery and assault case and divorce cases. Other clients Cowin represented included Dr Sir Alex Cannon (Ballamoar Castle) Second World War internees (Emilio Cassettari, Carlo Farnocchi, Alfredo Fontana and Judah Schryer), various companies and J.H Higgins’ estate and the law suit connected to the crash and his death while flying for Mannin Airways Limited. Further legal documents include pro-forma example documents on how to format legal documentation and records of Cowin’s clients for billing purposes.

Further correspondence includes communication with Donald Stephenson (BBC Controller North Region, 1949-1950) in relation to the various talks Cowin wrote on the Isle of Man. Other correspondence relates to personal letters to D.A. Lindsay.

Miscellaneous printed material includes a second interim report of the committee of Tynwald appointed to consider the establishment of a brine spa at Ramsey, a schedule inventory of household furniture and effects of a Douglas property and an Isle of Man Daily Times (29 November 1930) article reporting a murder case in which Cowin defended.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Henry (Harry) Lockhart Cowin (1899-1973), son of Thomas Henry Cowin (c.1873-1955), draper and Alice Maud Jane née Caine (c.1873-1946), was a prominent advocate on the Isle of Man in the twentieth century. During Cowin’s legal studies the First World War broke out. After joining the Royal Flying Corps he attained the rank of second Lieutenant. Cowin’s name is inscribed on the Law Society War Memorial, Douglas (1917-1918). Cowin served his articles with Reginald Douglas Farrant (c.1878-1952), later First Deemster and Clerk of the Rolls and in March 1923 he became a member of the Manx Bar. In May 1924 Cowin established a partnership with Henry Robert Gelling (c.1874-1961) of Castletown and set up the law firm Gelling & Cowin, Advocates, operating from 29 Athol Street, Douglas (Cowin later moved to 62 Athol Street).

As a member of the Law Society, Cowin became one of the top law professionals on the Island. In February 1936 however Cowin had his advocate’s licence withdrawn for alleged professional misconduct. The suspension lasted three months and he was reinstated by May of that year. In December 1937 Henry Gelling retired, after which Cowin conducted the business independently. In January 1951 the Manx Law Society handed a petition to Geoffrey Rhodes Bromet (1891-1983), Lieutenant Governor (1945-1952), with a complaint against Cowin and his standing in the legal profession. Cowin again had his licence revoked but was re-admitted to the Manx Bar by August 1951.

Cowin also had a varied political career on the Island, representing the sheading of Middle as a member of the House of Keys from 1933 to 1946. In 1946 he was elected to the Legislative Council before resigning in 1950. In the early 1950s Cowin gave up his law practice, left the Island and settled in London. During his time in London he became a prominent member of the London Manx Society, eventually becoming its president. Cowin was thrice married, once in 1928, secondly in 1947 and finally in 1965. Cowin died in 1973 in London.

Access Information

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Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from the Manx newspapers the Ramsey Chronicle (2 May 1924), the Isle of Man Examiner (22 May 1936, 16 January 1942 and 10 August 1951), the Mona’s Herald (28 December 1937, 21 October 1947 and 16 January 1951), the Ramsey Courier (3 August 1951) and the Isle of Man Times (11 August 1951).

Isle of Man newspapers available online at

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), August 2016.