28. James Lilly (1845-1905), ship owner
James Lilly was born in Launceston in 1845. In 1869 he sailed for Victoria, where he married Hannah Dillon of Hawthorn. He soon established himself as a shipping agent at Port Fairy on the south west coast of the state.
Lilly later looked west and saw opportunities in WA’s isolation. In 1876 he negotiated a lucrative WA Government subsidy to provide a regular coastal shipping service to meet the mail steamers at Albany. The following year when he came to Fremantle in his steamer, the Rob Roy, he was already a man of considerable wealth and standing. Lilly quickly expanded his fleet before selling out to the Adelaide Steamship Company. He remained their manager.
Lilly co-founded the Fremantle Gas and Coke Company in 1895. He was involved in community affairs as a member of the Fremantle Hospital Board. Around Fremantle he was known as the “father of WA shipping”. He built a vast Federation bungalow, Ivanhoe, overlooking Fremantle Prison.
In later life Lilly’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. Eventually he bought a bottle of strychnine from a Claremont chemist and took a fatal dose of the poison.