You May Recall The Name W H Cullen. He compiled the Flora Sidostiensis That The SVBG Used as a Baseline in our 2021 Flowering Herbaceous Survey. Here is Information On Cullen’s Background Written by John Tench 

William Henry Cullen was born in on 23 January 18131. He was adopted and we have no record of his birth. His adoptive father was Charles Cullen, an officer in the London customs house.

Charles was the son of Dr William Cullen, Professor of Chemistry and Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Dr Cullen was a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, and friendly with Adam Smith and David Hume. He was influential at the time through his systematic catalogue (nosology) of diseases which continued in use into the 19th century. One of his terms and major classifications has survived within modern medicine and popular usage: neurosis. Amongst other notable achievements, in 1748 he made the first public demonstration of refrigeration. William Henry’s mother was Margaret, likely Margaret Goodinge, about whom little is known.

William Henry was brought up in Camberwell, in what is now South London. He was sent to board at the Rev Stephen Freeman’s Academy at Forty Hill near Enfield. His father died when he was 19. William Henry went on to study medicine at the University of St Andrews and graduated in 1837. The following year he married Sarah Henrietta Edlin, the younger sister of Edward Edlin2, a schoolfriend from both Freeman’s and St Andrews.

The Edlin family operated a toy store at 37 New Bond Street in London’s West End from 1794 to 1854. It offered “Games of every description for exercise, amusement, and instruction including Chessmen, Chessboards, and Backgammon Tables.” In addition, the “juvenile department embraces an extended assortment of English and Foreign Toys, elegantly dressed Dolls, and improved Rocking Horses…”

Practising as a Doctor and qualified Surgeon, William Henry started out in Paddington, West London before relocating to Sidmouth in Devon. He remained in Sidmouth for over 10 years. William Henry and Sarah had five children: three daughters and two boys. He invested in the Bridport and Exeter, or South Coast Junction Railway, and wrote two books on the locality: “Flora Sidostiensis; or, a Catalogue of the plants indigenous to the vicinity of Sidmouth”3 and “The Climate of Sidmouth”.

By 1860, we know that William Henry had emigrated to become Medical Officer for the Black Sea port of Kustendjie4, Bulgaria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. He was likely appointed by the Danube and Black Sea Railway Company in 1858 when the British started building the Ottoman Empire’s first European railway to run between Kustendjie and Cernavodă on the Danube. The line would enable shippers from central Europe to bypass the difficult Danube delta. In March 1859, his wife Sarah died in Bursa, Turkey. His youngest daughter Elisabeth Evelyn also died during his 18 to 20 years in Kustendjie.

Flora Marion, his eldest daughter, married William Campion around 1862. William was Insurance Agent to the Northern Assurance company in Kustendjie. Also in Kustendjie, his eldest son Charles Edward married Jenny Fanchette Patthey. Though of British extraction, Jenny was born in Switzerland and had worked in New Jersey as a nurse.

Dr William Cullen 1710-1790 (University of Glasgow)



Edward Edlin by Richard James Lane, after C. Grant 1850 (National Portrait Gallery)


The Morning Post London, June 23, 1838

William Henry married for the second time in 1865, to
Jane Elisabeth Bourke Fellowes at a ceremony in the
British Embassy in Constantinople. His new wife was
the daughter of the late Rev Henry Fellowes, the vicar of
Sidbury, a village 3 miles north of Sidmouth in Devon.
The Fellowes were a well-connected family. William Fellowes, the Reverend Henry’s father (and Jane’s grandfather) had been Physician Extraordinary to King George IV when Prince Regent.

While in Kustendjie, William Henry indulged in his passion for ornithology. In 1865 he had an article published in The Ibis, the journal of the British Ornithologist Union: On the Gular Pouch of the Male Bustard5. Within his submission he demonstrated that the great throat pouch of the male bustard was not used to hold water but to issue a distinctive breeding call. The article attracted the attention of Charles Darwin who referenced it within his second great work on evolution: The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex6.

Two years later he captured an unusual eagle which he had delivered to the zoological gardens in Antwerp. Again, he published his findings in The Ibis. The bird attracted attention and was included as a distinct species in Charles Robert Bree’s A History of the Birds of Europe7, where it was named aquila culleni (Cullen’s Tawny Eagle) in his honour. Usage of this name continued into the 20th century though now it is classified as a Steppe Eagle.

The building of the railway and the linked expansion of Kustendjie as a major port, unearthed much evidence of prior Greek and Roman occupation. William Henry made a study of exposed artifacts and assembled a collection of ancient coins. Many of these were sold to the British Museum, where they remain in its possession.8

There was an outbreak of cholera in eastern Europe in 1865. According to a report in The Lancet9:

The disease appears to have travelled from Constantinople to this place (Kustendjie), and commenced here on Aug. 5th. Since that time twenty cases have occurred among the English residents, eleven of which have been fatal. The number of cases in the native town cannot be ascertained, but of these 121 have died. There are only eighty-four English living here, so that the mortality has been very great, and but for the indefatigable exertions of Dr. Cullen, the English medical resident and officer to the company, I am sure that the number of deaths would have been very much larger.

With the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in 1877, Dr Cullen volunteered as a surgeon to the Stafford House Committee which dedicated itself to caring for wounded Turkish soldiers10. Subsequently he transferred to the Red Crescent and jointly managed the Red Crescent Hospital in Varna, Bulgaria. At the same time, his son Charles Edward operated as transport staff moving the wounded and hospital supplies.

In 1880 his youngest daughter Emily married Bourke Fellowes, a nephew of his second wife. The following year the death of his wife, Jane, was registered in Cyprus, now a British Protectorate. He was now 68 years old, and had spent over 20 years in Eastern Europe, losing two wives and a daughter.

In early 1885, William Henry married for the third time in Driffield, Yorkshire.
His new bride was Caroline Elizabeth Easther, who, at 42, was thirty years his junior. Caroline was the daughter of Rev. Charles Easther, the headmaster of Beverley Grammar School in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Her father had, three years earlier, remarried to a niece of Jane Elizabeth Bourke, establishing a relationship between the families.


Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post May 31, 1865


Cullen’s Tawny Eagle (Bree, A History of the Birds of Europe) 1875


Dr. Cullen (Red Crescent Hospital at Varna) detail from British Charitable Work in Turkey by Alfred Chantrey Corbould

In April, within weeks of their marriage, William Henry and Caroline set sail for a new life in Canada. His grandchildren Marion (18), William (14) and Lizzie Campion (12) emigrated during the same period, though oddly there isn’t any evidence of their parents accompanying them. The trigger for the relocation was his son, Charles Edward Cullen, who was promoting emigration from newly-independent Romania to Canada. That same year, Charles Edward induced some 135 Romanian Germans to settle in Balgonie, east of Regina in what is now Saskatchewan but was then the North West Territories of Canada.

William Henry and Charles Edward both made Homestead Land Grant applications in the North West Territories. The Canadian Homestead Act gave 160 acres for a nominal $10 administration fee provided that 40 acres were cultivated and that a permanent dwelling built within three years11. By 1890 Charles Edward had been appointed North West Immigration Agent in Europe at $5 per day for four months, later extended by a further four months. The assignment did not go well. While Charles Edward was in Europe, the Legislature of the North West Territories was concerned that they didn’t know what was happening. A letter presented to the Legislature reported that ” …the fact that he (Mr C.E. Cullen) seems to deal chiefly with Jews, who have a bad reputation in this country in connection with the immoral traffic in young girls and other infamous modes of commerce…”12. His appointment was discontinued.

On the 1891 Canadian census William Henry and Caroline Cullen were resident in Moose Jaw, Assiniboia West in the North West Territories. Shortly later they returned to England where, in 1892, William Henry’s extraordinary life ended at Bridlington on the east coast of Yorkshire. His gravestone reads “In Memory of William Henry Cullen MD Grandson of Professor William Cullen MD of Edinburgh”13. It took Caroline 18 years to obtain probate over his Canadian estate. She died in Felixstowe, Suffolk in 1911.

Charles Edward Cullen left Canada to work for Jewish philanthropist Maurice de Hirsch who had founded the Jewish Colonization Association in order to sponsor large-scale immigration to Argentina. He surveyed potential destinations north of Buenos Aires, though within the year his project was cancelled, and he again lost his position. He died in Croydon, England in 1900 at the age of 53.

Three of William Henry’s grandchildren, offspring of William and Flora Marian Campion, remained in Canada. Marian Frances Campion married a Hugh Cameron from Scotland and lived in Saskatchewan until her death in 1961. William Richard Felton Campion moved to Nelson, British Columbia where he married Sarah McDonald from New York state, became a School Trustee and later Alderman, dying in 1947. Lizzie presumably died young as we have no further record of her. The other two Campion children stayed in England: Walter Cullen Campion became an Accountant living in London and Robert Forbes Campion was a Bootmaker living in Manchester14.

John Tench March 2022


William Henry Cullen – Land Grant Oct 8, 1888


Bridlington Cemetery headstone

Thanks To Ed Dolphin For Supplying The Text For This Article 



1 His tombstone specifies his date of birth as 23rd January 1817, yet there is good evidence that he was born in 1813. The will of his father, signed November 1828, states “… the youngest (son) is of about the age of sixteen years …”. And the 1851 English census, taken on March 20 of that year, provides his age as 38.

2 After graduation, Edward Edlin joined the British Army and served in India during the First and Second Anglo-Sikh wars. He also founded and edited The India Register of Medical Science. In 1849 he was court-martialled for accusing a fellow officer of cheating. However, his punishment was reduced once it became apparent that he had good justification. “Dr. Edlin died on 6th April 1850, his death being, it is to be feared, hastened, if not caused by this sad affair.” (Records of the Indian Command of General Sir Charles James Napier, G. C. B., John Mawson, R.C. Lepage and Company, Calcutta, 1851, Page xxxiv)

3 Flora Sidostiensis lists 509 herbaceous wildflower species growing in the local area, together with 88 different sedges, rushes, and grasses, 47 woody species, and 18 non-flowering ferns and clubmosses. In 2021, the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group attempted to find all the flowers on this list. group-wildlife-hunt-8303334

4 Kustendjie (also known as Kustandjie, Kystendji, Kustendjeh or Kara-I-Deniz) is now the port city of Constanța, Romania. Historically it was the Greek city of Tomis and it is the oldest continuously inhabited city within Romania.

5 On the Gular Pouch of the Male Bustard (Otis tarda, Linn) – Cullen – 1865 – Ibis. Wiley Online Library Accessed 6 Dec. 2020. His son-in-law, William Campion, provided the drawings.

6 The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd Edition, 1874, Chapter XIII, Charles Darwin, John Murray Publisher, London, page 373. Cullen’s work on the Great Bustards was used to support Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.

7 A History of the Birds of Europe, Not Observed in the British Isles, Volume 1, Charles Robert Bree, G. Bell & Sons, 1875, page 89. The beautifully illustrated eagle is the same bird that William Henry delivered to Antwerp.

8 See for a listing of 44 Greek and Roman coins of bronze and gold that originated from his collection that were sold to The British Museum. His sister-in-law, Albina Bourke Fellowes, provided 21 of these.

9 The Lancet, Sep 23, 1865 THE CHOLERA IN EASTERN EUROPE. Letter from Harry Leach. Page 350. retrieved January 1, 2022

10 Report and Record of the Operations of the Stafford House Committee for the Relief of Sick and Wounded Turkish Soldiers, Spottiswoode & Co, London 1879: Pages 19, 20, 21, 44, 46.

11 The region was the traditional territory of the Cree and Saulteaux.

12 Journals of the First Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories, 31st October to the 11th of December, 1890, page 72.

13 The gravestone is a piece of vanity. It takes four years off his age, likely to make it more acceptable to his young wife. It also commemorates a link to his famous grandfather, who died 23 years before he was born.

14 Robert Forbes Campion died in 1934 when my mother, his granddaughter, was 6. She remembers he had a moustache that tickled.

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