News from 1930: Death of James Ismay

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
On 24 January 1930, James H. Ismay, a retired partner in Ismay, Imrie & Co., manager of the White Star Line, died. This obituary was published the next day.

The Times (London), 25 January 1930


We regret to announce that Mr. James Hainsworth Ismay died at Iwerne
Minster House, Blandford, Dorset, yesterday. He belonged to the
well-known family of shipowners, and was himself formerly a partner in
the family firm of Ismay, Imrie, and Co. But he was perhaps better
known, especially in later years, as an agriculturalist and
stockbreeder, and in him the farming industry has lost a warm and
valuable friend.

James Hainsworth Ismay was born on March 4, 1867. His grandfather,
Joseph Ismay, was a builder of small boats at Maryport, Cumberland, and
his father, Thomas Henry Ismay, joining a firm of Liverpool shipowners,
ultimately founded the White Star Line. James was educated at Elstree,
Harrow, and Exeter College, Oxford, and in due course entered his
father's firm, to become a partner. His health later broke down, and to
recover it he went on a long sea voyage round the Empire. It was then
that his great interest in farming was first aroused, and when, while
still in his thirties, in 1902, he retired from business he determined
to take up agriculture. He acquired the Iwerne Minister [sic] Estate
near Blandford, Dorset, and without loss of time he set himself to
develop the farming side of the property. The history of his farming
enterprise, exceeding 20 years, is remarkable. It would be difficult to
describe minutely or adequately either the quantity or quality of the
work he carried out on his home farm. But from the first it was of a
kind planned and conducted primarily with a view to investigating and
testing the industrial and economic merits of the different systems
applicable to the district.

He did not restrict his scheme to the local custom and known
attainments, for he broadened the scope of his experiments enough to
ensure that all reasonable procedures might be subjected to practical
proof. At first, as has been said, things were planned on a
comprehensive scale and as experience directed. The procedure was
contracted until a really workable scheme was established on solid and
enduring lines.

Work of any kind on a farm, but especially that of the type of Iwerne
Minster, proceeds slowly, and, although the system that was moulded out
of the extensive trials had assumed definite shape, it was still only in
its early stages at the death of the owner. While the methods of arable
farming adopted were extremely intelligent and enlightened, the
outstanding features at Iwerne Minster were the herd of dairy Shorthorn
cattle, the herd of Berkshire and Middle White pigs, the bacon factory,
and latterly the poultry farm. For many years Mr. Ismay owned one of
the most successful flocks of Hampshire Down sheep, but it was dispersed
some years ago to allow of greater development of the herds of cattle
and pigs. He had already achieved great success with his Shorthorn
cattle, but in this case also both in breeding and management the
evolutionary stage had not long been passed, so that the full fruition
of the preliminary work was not yet experienced, although strains and
individuals of high merit abound in the herd. The herds of pigs had
long occupied places of distinction in their respective spheres, and the
system of crossing breeds---large white boars being used chiefly---in
producing pigs for the bacon factory also was the outcome of careful
observation and practical experience.

The Iwerne Minster farming enterprises were exceptionally noteworthy in
that they marked the diversion of a mind and energy that had undergone a
thorough business training to the affairs of the land.

There was no adherence to convention in the scheme, and yet in the
directing light of practical experience the alert mind and strong will
of the astute business man had to bend by degrees to the dominating
influences of environment. Mr. Ismay's connexion with the farming
industry will be remembered with deep appreciation of the important
services rendered in an unostentatious manner, for his aim was ever to
point the way for his neighbors and farmers in general. He was actively
associated with many movements for the improvement of livestock and
dairying, and was a former President of the Dairy Shorthorn Association.
He disliked publicity, however, and on this account his strength and the
value of his work for the farming industry greatly exceeded what is
generally known.

The interest Mr. Ismay manifested in the village of Iwerne equalled that
devoted to his own mansion, grounds, and farm. No village was ever more
fortunate in its owner. Not only was every building repaired or
replaced as occasion suggested, but houses were added if required, and
the community was provided with buildings for its social well-being in a
manner rarely seen elsewhere. The village hall especially is enduring
evidence of his generous, even indulgent, consideration for dwellers on
the estate, all of whom will deeply deplore his death. Mr. Ismay served
as High Sheriff of Dorset in 1912. In 1914 he took a commission in the
Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry, and in 1916 transferred to the Dorset

Mr. Ismay was twice married. His first wife, Lady Margaret Alice
Seymour, eldest daughter of the 6th Marquess of Hertford, died in 1901.
His second wife, by whom he is survived, is the daughter of
Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonald Moreton, late Coldstream Guards. He leaves
also five daughters. Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay is his elder brother.
Another brother, Mr. C. B. Ismay, died in 1924.

The funeral will be on Monday at Iwerne Minster Church at 2.15.

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