Tuesday, 14 August 2012


When visiting the University of Melbourne Medical Museum recently I was intrigued to see exhibited there a brass plaque commemorating the death in 1910 of a University of Melbourne Medical School student.  He was Canute Henry Clowes (died 1910). The arrow points him out in this detail from a photograph of fifth year medical students in 1910, also on exhibition in the museum.

No degree exists to acknowledge Canute Henry Clowes’ Medical Course. He died soon after the final exams in 1910. There are records of his death at his home in Tylden, Victoria, on the 27th of December 1910, contrary to what the plaque states. He had one more exam to sit that was to be held in March 1911. The Argus newspaper of Melbourne on Wednesday 4 March 1908, carried the notice that Canute Henry Clowes passed a supplementary examination in Anatomy. Remarkably little else can be found about Canute Henry Clowes' life or cause of death on the web...

He is buried in Tylden Cemetery (the photo is from the webpage of the cemetery that you can find here and it lists him as interred in the one of the graves there). The photo of the cemetery is from the website. Tylden is a small country town in central Victoria, Australia in the Shire of Macedon Ranges Local Government Area, 83 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. At the 2006 census, Tylden has a population of 350. Tylden Post Office opened on 7 January 1860.

This post is part of Julie's Taphophile Tragics meme.


  1. Such a sad story of a life cut too short and the questions left unanswered! Thanks for sharing, Nick!

  2. He had a remarkable name!

    Now Ancestry tells me more, Nick. Canute was born in 1878, making him 32 at his death. In 1902, he married Minnie Service (born 1877). However, Minnie died in 1903, aged 26.

    That is all that I can find; there are family trees including them, however no extra detail re death. My guess is that Minnie died in child-birth.

  3. Very interesting post today! So much history...thanks for the research. That makes it so much more meaningful, and I always enjoy the efforts everyone puts forth to find these things!

  4. How very sad that his life was cut short when he may have had an illustrious career in the wings.

  5. The name Canute is such an austere, dignified name! I can't help but recall King Canute, from Viking worlds! Amazing that even as a student, Melbourne's Canute left such a lasting impression!

  6. Such an interesting post. However I cannot get the imagine of him finally finishing his course, then dropping stone dead. I like the line, 'his manilness of character'.

    Beneath Thy Feet

  7. What a tragedy he died so soon after completing his study. But he has a nice tribute by the plaque.

  8. Reading Julie's comment, I wonder whether Canute studied medicine because his wife died so young and he wanted to try and prevent this from happening to others. We can only speculate after reading your fascinating post.

  9. What a sad tale. I guess there are many along the taphophile trail.

  10. how sad!! dying immediately after! im curious why his fellow students wrote that so prominently on the plaque... almost like they believe the 2 things are interconnected. while they are doctors and should see a more medical reason.. no?

  11. This is from the Cowes family tree..."Following death of his wife, Minnie Service, after 7 months of marriage, Canute went University Melbourne 1903 to do a medical course. 1903-1910.
    Was a prime mover at University in starting the stports Union and football team, and treasurer for same.
    Died immediately after completing his medical course.
    He had come hom on Christmas eve with Gladys Hunt to whom he was engaged, being unwell went to bed.
    Attended by Dr Duncan & Dr Colqonhoun. The latter being a friend & fellow student.
    he died from quinsy and septicemia."
    There are other doctors in Canute's ancestry including doctors to Elizabeth 1 and Charles 1, Canute's granfather on his mothers side was Knud Peter Hanson, Knud was born in Denmark. Canute's father Joesph Edward Clowes (according to his headstone in Tylden cemetry)was the first "white person born in the district".


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