(1821 or 1822 - 9 September 1896)
James Orkney was born in Rothesay in either 1821 or 1822 to Robert Orkney and Janet (nee McPhee). He married Margaret Hoban, they had no children and he died on the 9 September 1896 at St Kilda.
Orkney had experience of railway construction in England; arrived Melbourne 1852 and became a hotel proprietor (of the Sir Charles Hotham Hotel on Flinders-street and the Esplanade Hiotel, St Kilda); president of the Victorian Licensed Victuallers' Association 1862; commissioner of the Melbourne Harbor Trust 1877-1878; a founder of the Victorian branch of the Geographical Society of Australasia; assisted in search for the Burke and Wills party by sending his own steamer round to the Gulf of Carpentaria; visited New Guinea in his own yacht. He was a prominent member of Scots Church and supporter of Charles Strong.
He was a Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1861-1864 and 1880-1885.
• MLA West Melbourne, August 1861 - August 1864.
• MLA West Melbourne, May 1880 - October 1885 (resigned).
James Orkney, MLA for West Melbourne, built the steamer SS Sir Charles Hotham (16 tons) from a model of the SS Great Eastern.
On Friday, 5 July 1861 at an Adjourned meeting of the Exploration Committee held at the Royal Society hall, Mr Orkney placed his steamer, SS Hotham at the disposal of the Committee as he thought it would take too long to send the Victoria to the Gulf. Norman thought the Hotham too small to be of much use. Selwyn proposed and Gillbee seconded the motion that the Victoria be sent to the Gulf as speedily as possible and she should co-operate with Walker's land party from Rockhampton.
The Hotham left the Railway Pier at Sandridge at 1.00 pm on Monday 8 July 1861 and was towed through the heads of Port Phillip Bay by the Australian Steam Navigation Company steamer Rungatira. Captain Ebenezer Wyse was in command and the intention was to call at Sydney for despatches and then go via Rockhampton to the Gulf. Dr Mueller, Dr Wilkie and others witnessed the departure.
[Wyse commanded Lord Dufferin's yacht during his Arctic voyage, see Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Letters from High Latitudes, (London: Richard Murray, 1856].
Extract from, Wills, 'A successful exploration,' (1863) p 256.
James Orkney Esq, MLA for West Melbourne, had a small steamer of sixteen tons, built by himself from a model of the Great Eastern, which was quite ready for sea; and having also a captain willing to embark in her, he undertook to send her round to the Gulf of Carpentaria at his own charge. The adventurous gentleman who offered his services was no less a personage than Wyse, the skipper of Lord Dufferin's yacht on his celebrated voyage to the North Seas, which his lordship has commemorated in his delightful little book entitled, 'Letters from High Latitudes.'
The Sir Charles Hotham, for so the little craft was called, was intended to precede Captain Norman, as the Victoria would take at least a fortnight in equipping. She was expected, from her light draught of water, to render much aid in exploring the rivers and steaming against currents. She left on the 6th of July, towed out of Hudson's Bay by the Sydney steamer. The weather became stormy, and the steamer was compelled to cut her adrift during the night. Left to herself and her gallant captain, with a crew of two men only, she made her way to Sydney. During this time the coast was visited by severe gales, and much anxiety was felt for the Sir Charles Hotham. The agents of the Sydney steamer regretted that they had not heard of the proposed arrangement a few hours earlier, as they would readily have taken her on deck. But they did all that was in their power.
Mr Orkney soon received the pleasing intelligence that his little craft was safe in Sydney Harbour, but requiring some repairs. These were completed with as much speed as possible, Mr Orkney bearing every expense, including that of the telegrams, which was considerable. Again the miniature steamer proceeded from Sydney, northward; but after some progress, Wyse, steering her into shallow water, near shore, to anchor for the night, ran her on the peak of the anchor, which made a hole in her bottom, and quite incapacitated her from further service. Thus Mr Orkney lost the hope he entertained and the satisfaction he would have enjoyed, of being serviceable to the lost explorers; but the credit due to him is far from being diminished by his want of success, and the patriotic effort deserves to be recorded to his eternal honour. Through this incident I made his acquaintance, and ever since we have been, and I, hope shall continue to be, sincere friends.