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James, Humphrey [aka Whirlpool VC, Frederick]  
Grave Details
Name:  Humphrey James [aka Frederick Whirlpool VC]
Died:  24th June 1899
Age:  70 years
Cemetery:  Windsor Presbyterian Cemetery, Windsor
Location:  unknown

Additional Notes:

Humphrey JAMES alias Frederick WHIRLPOOL (Imperial Army Pensioner) aged 70 years, died 24 June 1899 from failure of heart action (verdict of coroners jury Magisterial inquiry held at McGraths Hill Windsor on the 28th June 1899) at McGraths Hill, Windsor NSW. Father unknown and mother unknown. Born at Ireland (town unknown), unknown how long in the Colonies. Marriage and children unknown.

Buried on 29 June 1899 at Presbyterian Cemetery Windsor. Undertaker listed as Richard W. JOHNSTON; J.D. SMITH, Albert BUTLER listed as witnesses of burial.

Certified by Jas.B.Johnston [ Note : James Bligh Johnston ] (Coroner, Windsor) listed as informant.


  • NSWBDM Death Certificate #1899/7920 contributed by Anthony Staunton - February 2011

The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officers and private soldier of her Majesty’s Indian Military Forces, whose claims to the same have been submitted for her Majesty’s approval, on account of acts of bravery performed by them in India, as recorded against their several names, viz. :…
3rd Bombay Europeans Regiment. – Private Frederick Whirlpool – For gallantly volunteering, on the 3rd of April, 1858, in the attach of Jhansi, to return and carry away several killed and wounded, which he did twice under a very heavy fire from the wall ; also, for devoted bravery at the assault at Lohari on the 2nd of May, 1858, in rushing to the rescue of Lieutenant Doune, of the regiment, who was dangerously wounded. In the service Private Whirlpool received seventeen desperate wounds, one of which nearly severed his head from his body. The gallant example shown by this man is considered to have greatly contributed to the success of the day."

Private Frederick Whirlpool, whose achievements we shortly narrated on Monday, in noticing that the Queen had graciously awarded him the Victoria Cross, may congratulate himself; on having received such " honourable mention " as he may well prize next to the favour of the Queen herself. We are assured that Sir Hugh Rose has declared (in conversation, we believe, with the Commander-in-Chief) that if he were asked who was the bravest soldier in his whole force, he should point to Frederick Whirlpool - he had never seen such wondrous daring as his.
Whirlpool is now in Australia, having accepted a pension. It was 9d. per day, but by the special representation of Sir Hugh Rose has been raised to 1s. 3d. The rules of the service are no doubt necessarily very stringent. We must hope the gallant fellow's wounds will not incapacitate him from adding to his fifteen-pences.- Bombay Standard, December 21."

The following interesting facts concerning an old resident, who died suddenly early this week at his residence, McGrath’s Hill, may prove interesting to our readers. The late Mr Humphrey James was a native of the North of Ireland. When quite a lad he enlisted in the British Army, assuming the name of Frederick Humphrey James Whirlpool. His reason for doing this, he used to tell his friends, was owing to his being a youth of violent passions, and becoming estranged from his father, owing to a quarrel, he left his home, his father telling him he had a temper like a “whirlpool.” ‘And henceforth that shall be my name,’ said the hasty young fellow, as the vessel left his seaport home, and his name be ever afterwards was known by. Mr James served through the Indian Mutiny, and in that bloodthirsty conflict received severe sword gashes on the head and face, scars from which remained ever after. He was an educated and well-informed man, having been, when in the service, an Army schoolmaster for a portion of his military career. During the Indian Mutiny, he distinguished himself by his valour, and he obtained the highest prize a soldier strives for – the “Victoria Cross.” Different to most old soldiers, it was difficult to get him to talk of his achievements – so says one who knew him well. Not long ago a gentlemen in England, who was writing a book upon the “Victoria Cross Heroes,” communicated with him, asking for his portrait and an account of the achievements which won him his special decoration ‘ but to show the innate modesty of the man, he declined to forward the desired information. During his career in this country extending over a period of thirty years, he at one time kept a school in the vicinity of Wiseman’s Ferry and also at Pitt Town. From here he removed to McGrath’s Hill, where he lived the life of a hermit, being very rarely seen. His age was about 70 years. Mr James had a brother in America, with whom he communicated some time ago, and to whom Mr J Dick Smith is writing, informing him of his brother’s sudden death. Deceased did not make a will, and leaves a sum of about £160 in the local Savings Bank. An inquest was on Wednesday afternoon before the Coroner (Mr J B Johnson), a Carey’s Hotel. The finding of the jury was that deceased died from heart disease. It appears that a man in the employ of Mr J D Smith called upon the old man with his weekly grocery supply on Tuesday last, and could not make him hear. Fearing that something had happened to him, he went to Mr Carey, who in company with Mr Cornwell, returned and found the old man dead. He was last seen alive on Friday night. The funeral took place on Thursday morning Mr R W Dunstan conducting it. Mr J Dick Smith was the only person to pay his last respect to the memory of the old soldier."

Our readers will recollect the death of an old military pensioner named Humphrey James, … known as Whirlpool, who lived the life of a recluse in a hut at McGrath’s Hill, and who was found dead in his bed on June 24th last. We gave an account of his strange life and death at the time, and the local papers were sent by Mr J Dick Smith, to a brother of Whirlpool’s in America, along with a letter conveying tidings of his death. Mr Smith took a friendly interest in the old man, and was the only one to pay the last respects at the grave. Recently Mr Smith received a reply to his communication, addressed from Humphrey’s brother Samuel, who is employed in a large wholesale boot merchants warehouse at Pittsburgh, United States. He writes that of their family there is still living Josiah, who resides at Bradford, England ; a sister, Mrs Samuel Manifold, of Liverpool, England ; the writer, Samuel ; a sister, Mrs W Prescott, Dublin, Ireland ; a brother Benjamin, who was out in the Indian Mutiny with Humphrey, after which they separated and never met again. Benjamin went back to England after the Mutiny and then left for the United States, joined the army there, served two terms of enlistment, and is now a pensioner of the U S A, and living in Patton, California. The writer says that their father died in1875, and their mother some years later. He always wanted to get a photo of Humphrey, for strange as it may seem, he says : “I have not the slightest recollection of his personal appearance, he having joined the army and left home when I was only a baby, or little more. Another brother (Tom) did the same thing almost, only he went to sea and died in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I practically have never seen him either. I have in my pocket Humphrey’s last letter to his relations, written to my brother Josiah ; it is on two leaves of foolscap about the size of a little newspaper you sent me (the W and R GAZETTE). He began it on the 31st January last and finished it on the 4th May, (about six weeks before his death), so you see he took his time about it, and he has given us a pen picture of himself, as well as he could, and told us all about his habits and about your man bringing him his weekly supply of groceries (Mr Smith supplied him with these, and it was in calling for his orders that Mr Smith’s employee discovered the death of the old man) ; what exercise he took, calisthenics, and moderate walking ; said he was as straight in carriage as he ever had been, and we were congratulating ourselves on the fact that he was going to be a regular correspondent and more sociable, when now it is all over and that was the last flare up of the expiring embers – and he is gone. I do not know why he would not go back to England and live within reach of his friends and relatives ; why he should choose such a lonesome life is a mystery to me. I know I could not stand it. But then I am married and have a family, and (as far as I know) he was a bachelor. I hope I shall meet him in the sweet bye and bye, and if I do we certainly will have to be introduced. The writer then gratefully thanked Mr Smith for attending to the obsequies of his late brother, and for his many kindnesses. The writer’s final appeal to Mr Smith is a sad one, what might be asked about a brother ; “Had Humphrey no intimate friends ; did no one call at his lonely shanty to talk to him ; what did he do when he wanted company ; did he ever go to church ; was he profane, pleasant, or irritated ? . . . I will send the newspaper to England, so that my brother Josiah and sister Deborah can read how he died, all alone, without a friend near to say a cheering word, or ever help him to his couch to die. I wonder if he was in bed when he died, or did he fall on the floor ? It is a foolish question to ask.” The writer in conclusion says he wishes he had some little trinket that belonged to him."


  • 1859 “THE VICTORIA CROSS.”, Daily News (London, England), Saturday, October 22, 1859; Issue 4194.
  • 1860 'INDIA.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), 22 February, p. 5, viewed 16 February, 2011, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5677630
  • 1899 “Obituary”, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 1 July 1899, page 4 column 4
  • 1899 “Pensonal”, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 9 December 1899, page 6 column 4


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