Arthur Cowell Stark was born at Torquay, Devon in 1866, the eldest son of John Cowell Stark and Ann Wilkinson. Arthur. His father was a successful ironmonger and sometime manufacturer of teak furniture.
John Stark died in 1863 and it fell to his oldest son at the age of sixteen to take over responsibility for the family business which he did for the next ten years until both of his younger brothers reached the age of majority.
In 1872 Arthur married his distant cousin Rosa Catherine Cox and in 1864 their first daughter Hilda was born at Torquay. In 1877 the couple were at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset where second daughter Winfred was born.
It was only now at the age of 30 that Arthur became a student of medicine, a career that was probably curtailed by the early death of his father. He graduated in 1881.
Rosa was to die in 1892 at Salisbury, Wiltshire. After the death of his wife he settled in Cape Town, while his daughters remained in England.
Besides practicing as medical doctor he travelled regularly to collect animal specimens for the South African Museum and made sketches and extensive notes of his observations. He moved from Cape Town to Durban shortly before the outbreak of the Boer War and travelled to England in 1899 to oversee the printing of the first volume of his ornithological work, The Birds of South Africa. The completed series was meant to form part of a wider project under the editorship of William Sclater, director of the South African Museum, describing the fauna of southern Africa. Dr Stark returned to the Colony of Natal in September, 1899, where he volunteered as medical officer for the British forces when the Boer War broke out.
During the siege of Ladysmith he was resident in the Royal Hotel, but spent the days in shell-proof dugouts along the Klip River, or fishing, while the town was being shelled by Boer forces. Dr Stark had just returned and was standing on the hotel’s veranda on the evening of November 18th, 1899, when at 19:30 the Long Tom cannon stationed on Pepworth Hill fired two shots at the hotel. These were aimed at important persons who may have assembled there, probably Dr. Jameson and Colonel Rhodes who were known to be in town.
Dr Stark’s legs were mangled by the second shell and he died shortly afterwards on the operating table. Dr Stark was buried in Ladysmith. H.W. Nivenson who was present records the irony of him being a strong opponent of the Chamberlain policy, and a vigorous denouncer of the war’s injustice.
For more information on the ancestry of Arthur Cowell Stark you can find his family tree at http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Arthur_Stark_%281%29