|In an artfully if not theatrically posed photograph Captain William Owen Lanyon (standing left) poses with a seated political dignitary and a woman who is probably the seated
gentleman's wife. At first I thought that the seated man may be Sir John Peter Grant who served as governor of Jamaica from 1866 to 1874 but he bears little resemblance to the fully
bearded photographs of Grant from the same time period.
Carte de Visite
Russell Brothers & Moncrief - Photographer
Cosmopolitan Galleries, Corner of East & Harbour Streets, Kingston, Jamaica
Usually going by the name of Owen Lanyon, William Owen Lanyon was born on 21 July 1842 in county Antrim, Ireland to Sir Charles Lanyon and the former Elizabeth Helen Owen.
Receiving his education at Bromsgrove school he was commissioned as Ensign by purchase in the 6th (Royal Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot on 21 December 1860.
In 1865 Lanyon was appointed aide-de-camp to the general in command of the West Indies. Purchasing a lieutenancy in 1866 he transferred to the 2nd West India Regiment. This
transfer may have been opportune in more ways than one since he was soon appointed (1868) as the private secretary and aide-de-camp to the governor of Jamaica Sir John Peter
Grant, KCB. Lanyon held that post until being seconded to the Staff of Sir Garnet Woseley during the Ashanti Campaign of 1873-74. In recognition for his service he was breveted
Major but apparently was invalided home before the end of the campaign on 21 January, 1874. For service in the Ashanti Campaign he received the Ashanti Campaign Medal with the
clasp “Coomassie” and also received a Mention in Despatches in Wolseley's report to the Commander in Chief.
Owen Lanyon seems to have been a member of the so-call “Wolseley Ring” or “Africa Ring”. This unofficial group was comprised of officers – mostly serving in African campaigns –
who had attached themselves to Sir Garnet Wolseley’s rising star.
Soon after recovering Lanyon returned again to West Africa (the Gold Coast) as part of the commission to oversee the abolition of the slave trade. His efforts seem to have borne fruit
as he was appointed a Companion to the Order of St Michael and St George. In 1875 Lanyon was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Griqualand West. In 1878 he raised and
successfully led a local volunteer force against the Batlapin chief Botlasitsie. Lanyon also raised volunteer forces for service in the 9th Cape Frontier War. Never letting his opinions
go unnoticed Lanyon referred to Griqualand West as the most "hideous and disgusting" place he had misfortune of ever being posted to. Again his success as an administrator and in
the field brought recognition with Lanyon being appointed a Companion to the Order of the Bath and receiving thanks from both the home government and the Cape legislature. He
also received the South Africa Medal with the “1877-78” Clasp. In 1880 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.
He replaced Sir Theophilus Shepstone as administrator of the Transvaal in March 1879 serving in that position until April 1881. In spite of his official successes Lanyon seems to have
had a way of alienating local populations, both colonial and native. The seeming personality quirk and may have contributed to the outbreak of the Transvaal War in 1880. Despised by
the Boers, Paul Kruger described Lanyon in his memoirs as being “absolutely unfitted for this difficult task” Regardless he held his post until the end of the war in 1881.
Lanyon Owen would again serve under Garnet Woseley during the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 as part of Wolseley’s staff and again with Wolseley’s failed attempt to save Gordon at
Khartoum during the Nile Campaign of 1884-85. For service in Egypt Lanyon was entitled to the Egypt Medal with the clasp "The Nile" and possibly that of "Tel el Kebir", the Order
of Osmanie 3rd Class and the Khedive’s Star.
William Owen Lanyon died in New York City from cancer on 6 April 1887 at the age of 45. He was predeceased by his wife Florence Levy who died in 1883 after less than a year of
Sir William Owen Lanyon’s promotions dated:
Ensign (by purchase) -21 December, 1960
Lieutenant (by purchase) – 27 July, 1866
Captain (by purchase) – 15 July, 1868
Brevet Major – 1 April, 1874
Major – 25 November, 1874,
Lieutenant Colonel, - February, 1878
Colonel – 11 November, 1878
|Above: The reverse side of the photograph showing an attached portion of Head Quarters House stationary and bearing the date of 1867.