Record Type
Person/Corporate Type
Date Born/Est
30 Jul 1848
Date Died/Ceased
Place Of Birth
Biographical Display
Ellis Rowan (nee Ryan) was one of Australia's most celebrated flower painters. While most of her work was done on Australian flora she did spend several years in the frontier outpost at Pukearuhe, north Taranaki, where her husband, Captain Frereick Rowan, was the commander of the Armed Constabluary garrison there.

The two had met in Melbourne in 1873 when Frederick, a keen amateur botanist, was on leave from his New Zealand command. Rowan had originally come to New Zealand with the 43rd Regiment and had then joined the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers. He was severely wounded in the attack on Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu in 1868. The nearby small settlement of Rowan in south Taranaki is named after him and it was he who began the project to install the military hatchments in St Mary's Church, New Plymouth.

After they were married the couple returned to the primitive commander's quarters at PUekaruhe until 1877. They then retuned to Melbourne where Frederick became a successful businessman and Ellis began botanical painting in earnest.

Frederick was a director of the company that, in 1886 published the massive three-volume part-work, 'Picturesque Atlas of Australasia'. Ellis did over 100 of the illustrations for the work.

After her husband died in 1892 Ellis returned to tour New Zeland in 1893-94. She spend several days in Taranaki where she revisited Pukearuhe "...and now we rode under the self-same tree of snow-white blossoms where long ago I had pulled my first wild flowers and crowned my hat with them". Old acquaintances were looked up in Urenui, Opunake and Hawera, and she visited Parihaka where she met both Te Whiti and Tohu.

The intrepid exploration of the wilds of Queensland and New Guinea she made while in her fifties found her revelling in crocodile-infested rivers, climbing rainforest covered hills and crawling into caves.


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