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.

The producers of the certificate were Fergusson & Mitchell, a Melbourne organisation established by 1858 that was an engraver, lithographer and printer.

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...."


The bronze medal and accompanying certificate of the Royal Humane Society of Australasia recognise the bravery of James Patten, a Warrnambool citizen who risked his life in the attempt to save the life of his friend Joseph Lowe.

Physical description

Certificate, cream paper, rectangular, decorative border and headings, printed and handwritten in pen and ink. Letterhead of The Royal Humane Society of Australasia.
Awarded on 21st May 1890 to James Patten of Warrnambool. for his bravery on 18th April 1890.

Inscriptions & markings

Print and writing includes - "The Royal Humane Society of Australia under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen and their excellencies, the Governors of all the Australian Colonies and Fiji. At a general court of directors holden at the Offices of the Society Melbourne on the 21st day of May 1890, it was resolves that the courage and humanity displayed by James Patten, aged 20 years, labourer Warrnambool in attempting to rescue Joseph Lowe from drowning in the North Eastern bight of Lady Bay 18th April 1890. Call for the admiration of this court and justly, entitles him to the Bronze Medal of this society which is hereby awarded."
Signatures [Secretary] and [President]