Frank Linsly James was born in Liverpool on 21st April 1851, the son of American businessman Daniel James and his second wife Sophia Hitchcock. At the time of his birth the family were living at 3 Huskisson Street L8, later moving to Oakwood House, Elmswood Road L17 (now demolished) and then in the mid 1860’s to Beaconsfield House, Beaconsfield Road L25.
He attended Cambridge University and whilst admitted at the Inner Temple in 1874 he never practised law. upon his father’s death in 1876 he inherited £100,000 (about £15 million 2023 terms) which allowed him to pursue his passion for travel and exploration. His first travels were prompted by the need of his younger brother, William, to winter in warm climates. Trips along the Nile were followed by visits to India, Abyssinia and Mexico. In the winter of 1884-85 he undertook a very successful expedition into Somalia, recounting his experiences in the book The Unknown Horn of Africa. The trip required him to lead 100 men and over 100 camels across a virtually waterless waste. In 1886 he took up yachting and sailed far and wide across the globe in his vessel Lancashire Witch. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society he was held in high esteem by his peers in what was the ‘Golden Age’ of Victorian exploration. He is commemorated in the name of the three-streaked tchagra (a bird of the shrike family) tchagra jamesi. A now closed hospital in Cowes on the Isle of Wight was named after him.
James was killed, on his 39th birthday, by a wounded elephant in Gabon, West Africa. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery but in 1917 was exhumed and re-buried in the family plot at West Dean, West Sussex.
The James' family home at the time of Frank's birth
The James' home from 1866
Frank L James' yacht, Lancashire Witch. It was later sold to the Admiralty and re-named HMS Waterwitch.
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