Chadwick, John Cooper- (1864–1948), colonial policeman and Rhodesian pioneer, was born 13 May 1864 in Baggotstown, Bruff, Co. Limerick, second son of Richard Austin Cooper-Chadwick (1831–92) of Ballinard House, Emly, Co. Tipperary, and his second wife, Charlotte Sophia (d. 1912), only daughter of John Bouchier, BA, JP, of Lough Gur Castle, Baggotstown. The family, of Yorkshire and Cromwellian origin, was widely connected to landed and military families in the counties of Limerick and Tipperary. In keeping with family tradition, he attended the Royal School, Armagh until the age of 16, when, much against his will, he was sent by his parents to work as a clerk in a London office. Poorly paid by German employers, with boredom relieved only by football, after four years he decided to escape. By 1884 he was serving with the Warren expedition against the Boers in Stellaland and Goshen. Arriving at Cape Town, he was enrolled in ‘A’ Troop of the 1st Mounted Rifles (Methuen's Horse), nicknamed ‘the Jam-eaters’. He had grown dubious about prospects in Africa, which he set out in a cynical ballad, ‘The Bechuanaland tinpot medal’; on disbandment he refused free passage back to England, joining instead Sir Frederick Carrington's Bechuanaland Border Police, which was active in assisting Khama, paramount chief of the Ngwato, to punish rebellious villages.
In August 1887 Cooper-Chadwick was discharged from the police and arrived in Johannesburg, then in the early throes of the gold rush. Lacking a useful trade or profession, he tried his hand at mining and construction, losing his capital in the depression of 1888. Through sheer bluff, he managed to gain employment as a surveyor, helping to lay the telegraph wire between Pretoria and Lichtenburg. Back in Johannesburg he teamed up with two adventurers, Benjamin Wilson and Alexander Boggie, and set off to gain a gold concession from Lobengula, king of the Ndebele (Matabele). After an arduous journey, hampered by heavy rains and mud, they arrived at Bulawayo (12 August 1888) only to find the town full of European fortune hunters. Nevertheless, he quickly became a successful trader and managed to stay for over three years. His memories of this time, later published as Three years with Lobengula (1894), provide unique insights into colonialist machinations. During this time he gained the particular affection of Lobengula, who nicknamed him ‘Charlie’. He organised the first local St Patrick's day celebration in 1890, driving a wagon load of champagne to the royal enclosure (heralded by Trumpeter Condon from Tipperary) where the king and his wives were regaled with stories of St Patrick's expulsion of snakes from Ireland, and the saint's honour drunk in repeated toasts. Meanwhile, Cecil Rhodes, diamond magnate and prime minister of the Cape Colony, was determined to obtain a dominant interest in the country, sending personal confidants, including another Limerick man James Rochfort Maguire (qv), to negotiate a mining concession with Lobengula. Cooper-Chadwick eventually threw in his lot with Rhodes, assisting his lieutenant, Leander Starr Jameson, in the delivery of 1,000 rifles to Lobengula to secure the king's compliance. The king, however, rejected the firearms, signalling his rejection of Rhodes's overtures.
Three years with Lobengula provides the most complete, if occasionally partisan, account of life at the doomed court of Lobengula, as well as the leading European personalities in attendance. It includes detailed descriptions of hemp making, the preparation of beer, the smelting of iron, and the preparation of food, as well as of relations with such peoples as the Tonga, the Ila, and the Ngwato. There are extensive discussions of Lobengula: Cooper-Chadwick sometimes describes him as a savage and arbitrary ruler, sometimes as a good-tempered and intelligent monarch possessing some degree of natural nobility. Despite references to Ndebele shortcomings, these writings are marked by an essential respect for them as a people. Cooper-Chadwick witnessed the growing tension in Bulawayo in mid 1890, as younger warriors grew hostile towards the Europeans in the town, and he attempted to escape, but was intercepted. Somewhat unjustifiably, for he was now a Rhodes partisan, he still enjoyed the confidence of the king, who entrusted him with a letter of protest to Col. Edward Pennefather (also Irish), who was by then leading Rhodes's pioneer column across Matabeleland against the wishes of the king.
Late in 1890 Cooper-Chadwick was joined by his brother Dick in taking out a prospecting licence at Mazoe (now Mazowe), in Mashonaland, but the venture was a failure. Still, he managed to organise successfully a committee for the celebration of St Patrick's day, this time in Fort Salisbury (latterly Harare), attended by local grandees at a guinea a ticket. This became the nucleus of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The following May, while out walking, his gun accidentally discharged and damaged his hands severely. He was found by local Shona tribespeople, who soon abandoned him and stole his gun. He managed to reach Fort Salisbury, some 40 km (25 miles) away, where the only surgeon in Mashonaland amputated both hands. He took five months to recover. Lobengula sent a message of sympathy, and he became immensely popular with the local Europeans. He returned to Dublin, where both arms were further amputated. With considerable fortitude he set about writing Three years with Lobengula with a pen attached to his arm. On 17 October 1896 he married Wilhelmina (‘Ina’; d. 20 February 1929), second daughter of Samuel Heuston, JP, of Barrowstown, Co. Tipperary; they had three sons. He spent his final years living in Northern Ireland during the second world war, where he lectured to troops on his pioneering days in southern Africa. He died 5 June 1948.