Historical information

The Bronze Medal and Certificate of Merit of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia were awarded to James Patten for the bravery he displayed on 18th April 1890, and presented to him on 21st May 1890.

The Royal Humane Society of Australasia was founded in 1874 with the aim to recognise those who risked their lives to save others and to assist those whose acts of bravery caused them or their surviving dependants to be disadvantaged in some way.

Details of the incident were published in the Argus, Saturday 19 April 1890, page 11 -
A fatal boating disaster occurred in Lady Bay this morning, the victim being Joseph Lowe, licensee of the Bay View Hotel, South Warrnambool. The deceased, in company with two lads named James Ferrier and James Patten, went out in a small dingy to shoot musk ducks. The water was perfectly smooth, and the party were tempted to proceed as far as the mouth of the Hopkins River. In their eagerness they neglected to keep clear of the breakers, and were presently carried in on the crest of a large wave, and the boat cap sized within a cable's length of the shore, precipitating the occupants into the water. Patten and Lowe stuck to the overturned boat, Ferrier striking out for the shore, which he reached in an exhausted state. In the meantime his companions had been washed off the boat, and were struggling in the breakers. Lowe was unable to swim, and Patten kept him afloat, at the same time making gallant attempts to get him ashore, but finally had to leave him to his fate. Ferrier, seeing Lowe's danger, undressed and swam out, but became exhausted. Ferrier and Patten were both found in a fainting condition by persons who saw the catastrophe from the jetty, and ran along the beach to render assistance. Attempts were subsequently made to rescue Lowe's body, which could be seen washing abort in the surf. These proved unsuccessful, and no hope is now entertained of recovering it. Lowe was a smart young man, 28 years of age, and unmarried. He was formerly bar-man at the Commercial Hotel here, having been engaged in Melbourne ..."


This medal recognises the bravery of James Patten, a local citizen who risked his life to save the life of his friend Joseph Lowe whilst at sea and was recognised for this act by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia.

Physical description

Medal awarded to James Patten by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia for his bravery on18 April 1890 and presented to him on 21 May 1890.
Bronze medal in hard black rectangular case. Lid and base have centre hinge and brass spring button catch. Case is padded and lined with blue silk and has a fitted hook.
The round medal has a bronze bar with pin closure, dark blue, braided ribbon with brass swivel mount. The case has a gold embossed rectangular border on the lid and base. Embossed inscription on lid.
The obverse shows a woman on the left in long robe placing a wreath on the head of a kneeling man at right, with the five stars of the Southern Cross constellation above his head. A motto is inscribed around the edge. The reverse has inscriptions around the edge, a wreath of two overlapping olive branches, and engraved text.

Inscriptions & markings

REVERSE: Embossed on the medal around the edge "ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA INSTD. A.D. 1874", in the centre "AWARDED TO"
Engraved in the centre "James Patten/ 18th April / 1890"