McCoy, Alexander (Mounted Police)

Date of Birth/Death:


Alexander McCoy was born in Portsmouth, England in 1821 and baptised in 1822. His father, who was a paymaster in the Royal Navy, died when his son was only eleven years old. At the age of thirteen, at his own request, Alexander was sent on board a vessel as an apprentice and spent his fourteenth birthday in Sydney Harbour. Not liking the treatment he received on board the vessel, he ran away and shipped on board another craft. He had an adventurous life, including experiencing a shipwreck and whaling in the Pacific.

Alexander McCoy joined the Mounted Police on 21 March 21 1848 and resigned on 12 January 1852.  His obituaries also note that he went to the Victorian goldfields, where he was moderately successful. His goldfields experience would have occurred after he left the Mounted Police in South Australia, and, in fact, his resignation may have been prompted by a desire to go prospecting.

Mounted Constable McCoy was posted to Willunga around 1849 after performing his duties in Adelaide. He was then posted to Yorke Peninsula, Kapunda and Gawler.   In 1850, another mounted constable, John Guy, stated that his reason for resigning was “that McCoy, a junior constable, had been put over his head.” (1) Guy was reproved by the police authorities, as his name had often appeared in the defaulters’ book for lapses in his performance. It is clear, however, that Alexander McCoy was a conscientious constable. Police records contain the following note concerning his service, “Has been Concerned in Eleven Cases of Felony. A very trustworthy and well behaved officer, Has never appeared in the Defaulter Book”.(2)

Gawler appears to have been his last posting as a mounted constable. He then became a small landholder in Gawler, perhaps buying land on the proceeds of his gold field adventures, and later was involved in coastal shipping. In 1875 or late 1874, he proposed a new steamship company on the Adelaide to Melbourne run to other Adelaide businessmen, and a proposal was made to float shares for the Adelaide Steamship Company (ASC). He commanded a number of vessels in the Company, married and had a family. He became very well-known around Port Adelaide. He was a member of the Marine Board Enquiry into the Star of Greece shipwreck.

One of his obituaries said, “Captain McCoy could work a craft into and out of Port Elliot better than any of his contemporaries.” (2)  Captain McCoy died on September 29, 1895. At the news of his death, the flags at the Port Adelaide Custom House, the commercial houses and all the vessels in the Port Adelaide harbour were flown at half-mast during the day out of respect to the deceased mariner. He is buried at the Nailsworth cemetery.


(1) 1850 ‘POLICE COURT.’South Australian, 15 August, p. 4, viewed 20 Dec 2023

(2) GRG5/16 Defaulter and good conduct book. p. 21, State Records

1888 ‘WRECK OF THE STAR OF GREECE.’Evening Journal , 18 July, p. 3. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 20 Dec 2023

(3) 1895 ‘DEATH OF CAPTAIN McCOY.’, Adelaide Observer, 5 October, p. 43. , viewed 20 Dec 2023,


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