Early life and career
Lanyon was born in County Antrim, Ireland, to Sir Charles Lanyon and his wife Elizabeth Helen Owen. He was educated at Bromsgrove School before joining the ; he was commissioned into the 6th Foot in 1860, but transferred to the 2nd West India Regiment in 1866. He became private secretary to Sir John Peter Grant, Governor of Jamaica from 1868 to 1873, and was invalided in the Ashanti campaign in West Africa.
Colonial administration in Africa
Administrator of the Griqualand West Colony (1873- Feb. 1879)
In South Africa, he served as Lieutenant Governor of Griqualand West from 1873 until 1879. Known at the time as "the Major", his term in office was beset with controversy. Racial tensions, law suits as well as territorial disputes with neighbouring states caused immense turmoil. He was also extremely unpopular with the local inhabitants and had to subdue armed rebellions. The neighbouring Cape Colony, semi-independent and the largest state in the region, was considered the only local entity with the resources to govern Griqualand West. The Cape Prime Minister John Molteno, after repeatedly refusing to annex the costly and unstable territory, eventually consented to incorporate it. With the Cape signing of the Griqualand West Annexation Act, direct British rule over the territory ended. Lanyon famously referred to Griqualand West as the most "hideous and disgusting" place he had ever seen.
Acting-Administrator of the Transvaal Colony (1879-1881)
He then took over administration of Transvaal from Sir Theophilus Shepstone on 4 March 1879, and assisted the Governor Henry Bartle Frere in dealing with the restive Boer population. As in his previous position, Lanyon was immensely unpopular, with both the Boer and the Black African populations. Boer unrest steadily increased but Lanyon remained in his position until 8 August 1881, when the disastrous outbreak of the First Boer War took place. This saw the British defeated and evicted from the Transvaal, which returned to being an independent state.
Lanyon then served in the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War.
Later life and death
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Owen Lanyon.|
- Selections from the correspondence of J. X. Merriman. Van Riebeeck Society. Cape Town. (1960)
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Stearn, Roger T. (May 2006). "Lanyon, Sir (William) Owen (1842–1887)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16060. Retrieved 25 October 2009. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Basic data from worldstatesmen.org
- Background from wakkerstroom.org.za
- Ulster biography