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There's More to this Locket than Meets the Eye

This beautiful little locket stands about six centimetres high and contains a hand painted water colour miniature of early colonist Captain William Allen.

The subject of this fascinating miniature had already lived a remarkable life that was spiced with adventure during the years prior to his arrival on South Australian shores.

Born in Dover around 1790, Allen, at the age of 15, entered the navy of the East India Company and served in his first ship, the Sullimany, for three years.  Later, he transferred to the company’s merchant service and as a proficient officer, rose rapidly to command.  

In 1834, while master of the Ann, bound from Canton to Bombay, the Lascar seamen mutinied and one of the vessel’s mates was killed.  Displaying great courage and defiance, Captain Allen knocked the leader down with an oar and practically quelled the mutiny single-handed.  Order restored, he took his ship to Singapore where the mutineers were tried and their leaders executed. 

Allen traded from India for about 25 years, returning to England in 1837.  In search of new adventure, he sailed for South Australia in the Buckinghamshire, arriving in March 1839. Allen was to become better known in the colony as a pastoralist, mining investor and a generous philanthropist.

In the back of the gold locket is a plait of brown hair and the filigree gold initials ‘WA’.  Both this and the charming hand painted miniature remain as a small testimonial to a gentleman who was indeed, an esteemed South Australian.

However, one question still remains – as William never married, who was it that commissioned the creation of this beautiful locket and had the plait of hair placed within?



In those days, it was not uncommon to give such lockets to family members. Looking at the clothing and hairstyle, the portrait could have been done anywhere between 1810 and 1820. A possibility might be 1815, when Allen received his first independent command. By that time, he would have been away from home some 5 years, and would finally have started to make enough money to live comfortably. It is not inconceivable that he had this portrait made himself, and sent home to his parents, for their comfort, to look upon when they wanted to think of him. Upon the death of his parents in 1837, he would have inherited his own locket among their belongings.
An interesting and well thought out theory Bas.  I'm inclined to agree with you as it seems very logical.  Apparently his parents back in England were land owners and quite well off.  Hence, when they died and he took up his inheritance, he headed off to Australia with substantial funds... and most probably the locket safely tucked away in his chest too!

Delighted to come across this! The subject is my great-great-grandmother's older brother, who, aa you point out , mad quite a lot of money in South Australia. Among his numerous bequests were sums of sharea and money to his nieces, "the daughters of my sister Annie" - so perhaps the lock of hair is hers. Most of his siblings died young, and his brother died before his will was made. His father also was generous to the women of his family in his will, and there is a codicil amking arrangements for William's absence "beyond the seas".

Corinne Ball's picture

That is great extra detail, Judith, thankyou.

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