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[this post last edited and / or new information added 1 January 2013]

James Henry ORMSBY was born 18 January 1890 in McLellan St., Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Scotland to Henry ORMSBY and his wife Mary Jane LAMONT. After his mother’s death in 1892, he lived with his father, Uncle Andrew Ormsby [Andrew ORMSBY] and paternal grandmother Helen Ormsby [Helen STEEL] at Gibbsyard in Ayr. He attended a four year Mechanical Engineering course at Glasgow Technical College. Upon completion of five years apprenticeship in mechanical engineering (steam, internal combustion, gas) by 1911 James, 21, was a Marine Engineer. At some point he also took a seven month ‘aeroplane construction including aero engines’ course.

In September 1911 James went to Singapore in the Straits Settlements, a separate Crown colony, directly overseen by the Colonial Office in London. At the time Singapore had established itself as an important trading port and developed into a major city with rapid increase in population. In Singapore James worked for the Heap Eng Moh Steamship Company owned by Chinese millionaire Oei Tiong Ham known as the ‘Java Sugar King’ but his business was far more diverse than the title suggested as his ships traded rice, sugar, rubber, opium and other supplies throughout the region. It was a time of rapid expansion for the company which later was described as a ‘vast business empire’. James no doubt saw the potential for work and progress and likely encouraged his younger brother Robert [Robert Lamont ORMSBY] to join him in the region.

James spent nearly three years in Singapore. During the time he also learned the local language as his military service records noted that he spoke “Malay, Chinese (Coolie)”. In July 1914, just a month before WWI broke out, James returned to Britain.

In April 1915 James joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He was appointed an Acceptance Officer at the Admiralty where he acted as an Observer and Inspector. He moved to Ealing, a borough of London, England and worked at the Admiralty office in Hotel Cecil, The Strand, London. Ealing was about a twenty minute ride from the Hotel Cecil where James was posted.

On 18 December 18, 1915 James married Agnes Anderson DRUMMOND in Edinburgh according to a Sheriff’s Warrant. Agnes, born about 1889, was from Cupar, Fife, Scotland, the daughter of retired Marine Engineer David DRUMMOND and his wife Georgina DAVIDSON so it is likely that James met Agnes in Scotland through his work and social connections. James’ address at the time of his marriage was 41 The Avenue in Ealing, a building with flats or apartments. After their marriage Agnes moved to Ealing with James.

On April 1, 1918 James transferred from the RNAS to the newly formed Royal Air Force (RAF). Service record phrases “NI”, ‘Section Air Dept”, “housed/working at the Hotel Cecil / HMS President” have led to the conclusion that James was in Naval Intelligence (NI) based at the Admiralty. The Hotel Cecil was requisitioned for the war effort and served as the headquarters for the newly formed RAF and ‘HMS President’ was used to designate the Admiralty.

A daughter [still alive?] was born to James and Agnes in Dundee, Scotland March 23, 1918. Agnes’ address on April 1, 1918 was still in Ealing so it is likely she had returned to Scotland to her family or friends for the birth.

Sometime toward the end of WWI, James was posted to Dundee, Scotland. On January 1, 1920 Captain James Henry Ormsby left the RAF. He was awarded a British War Medal for his WWI efforts. Generally this medal was awarded only to those who had served outside the UK, however exceptions were sometimes made for particular services.

After James left the RAF he and his family lived at 1 St. Johns Wood Terrace, Park Rd, Dundee, Scotland. Post war work may have been difficult to find and he looked for overseas opportunities. He sailed from London for Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), Australia on September 7, 1922 on the P&O ship S. S. Bendigo. He arrived in Sydney November 2, 1922. Agnes and her five year old daughter followed him to Sydney June 19, 1923. Their address when they left Scotland was 3 Gowrie St., Dundee.

NSW Electoral Rolls, 1930 to 1980, provide a picture of the family in Australia. James and Agnes lived at 14 Clifford St., in Parramatta, NSW from 1930 – 1954. James is listed as ‘engineer’ with no indication whether he used the ‘marine’ aspect of his qualifications, however the Paramatta River is the main tributary of Sydney Harbour so it would have been natural for him to do so. James died in 1956, presumably in Parramatta. From 1958-1963 Agnes lived at Taylor Street, West Pennant Hills, Castle Hill, Mitchell, NSW with her daughter and son-in-law. Agnes died in 1964. It is not known whether any children were born to James and Agnes in Australia.

Hopefully this blog will reach descendants of James and Agnes Ormsby and information can be added to their story.

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