Frank Linsly James

Frank Linsly James, frontispiece from The Unknown Horn of Africa

Frank Linsly James FRGS (21 April 1851 – 21 April 1890) was an English explorer. He was the son of American parents: Liverpool based merchant Daniel James and Sophia Hall (Hitchcock) James.

He was born and raised in Liverpool; the 1861 census shows him living at his parents home Oakwood House, Elmswood Road, Aigburth, Liverpool. The 1871 census shows him again living at his parents home, but now at Beaconsfield House, Woolton, occupation "Under Graduate, Cambridge". In 1890 his home was 14 Great Stanhope Street,[1] in the county of Middlesex (Possibly now Stanhope Gate London W1).

James explored in Sudan, Somalia, India and Mexico often using his private yacht Lancashire Witch, often accompanied by one or both of his brothers - John Arthur James and William (Willie) Dodge James. After Frank's death Willie James used the Lancashire Witch for a period.[2] The yacht was formerly owned by Sir Thomas Hesketh.[3][4] In 1894 the Lancashire Witch was purchased by the Admiralty and became the survey vessel HMS Waterwitch.

Frank James wrote Wild Tribes of the Sudan (1883)[5] and The Unknown Horn of Africa (1888).[6] He was killed in Gabon, West Africa by a wounded elephant. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, exhumed in 1917 and re-interred in the family plot at West Dean, West Sussex.[7]

Lancashire Witch RYS, sold to Admiralty in 1893 and renamed l HMS Waterwitch

His writing was not without humour and in The Unknown Horn of Africa (p. 20), when seeking advice from British Agent - Langton Prendergast Walsh - on how best to procure camels and handlers for the expedition, he recalls: "Well, I felt I was nowhere and nohow. Berbera is hot place, and the superior physique of Mr. Walsh was beginning to tell; his energy and emphasis were oppressing without impressing me, and seemed to increase, as though he were receiving all I was losing. Another minute and I might have abandoned hope; but he paused for breath and Dualla shot in to the rescue". Obviously not amused, forty two years later Walsh devoted a chapter in his book Under the Flag - and Somali Coast Stories to the James expedition. He considers that he had been "held up to obloquy for my actions and attitude towards the James party". He is critical of the way the expedition was organised, and writes that he had to intervene to prevent the party being "wiped out and looted".[8]

Frank James is commemorated in the name of the three-streaked tchagra (Tchagra jamesi) and the Frank James Hospital, East Cowes, Isle of Wight.


  1. "Frank Linsly James deceased". The London Gazette (26063): 22. 20 June 1890.
  3. "(unknown)". Straits Times Overland Journal. 25 October 1879. p. 5.
  4. "Aquatics / Sailing Notes". The Sidney Mail. 24 May 1890. p. 1165, Column 1, para 2. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  5. James, Frank (1883). The Wild Tribes of the Soudan. New York: Dodd Mead & Company. p. vi.
  6. James, Frank (1888). The Unknown Horn of Africa. Fleet St: George Phillips & Son. p. Title page/Frontispiece.
  7. "NON HABEMUS CORPUS : NOT RESTING AT ALL SOULS, KENSAL GREEN". Friends of Kensal Green. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  8. Walsh, Langton Prendergast (c. 1924). Under the Flag - and Somali Coast Stories. London: Andrew Melrose. p. 290.

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