LANE, JAMES

fl 1854 - 1865 from England


FIC manager, may have been the son of a Theophilus Lane, a solicitor in Hereford at the end of the eighteenth century. James Lane appears in the Law year book from the 1840s as an attorney working in the City of London. In 1857 the directors of the FIC discussed sending him out to the Falklands to examine the Company's affairs. Lane had evidently transgressed in some manner and was living on the continent, but the FIC lawyer, Bischoff, met him in Paris and said he 'appears to be quite master of the task which he has undertaken'. Lane asked for £300 for the job.

Lane arrived in the Islands on 29 August 1858 and found that his predecessor Thomas HAVERS had left the accounts in confusion. 'On arrival in Stanley,' he wrote, looking back ten years later, 'I found the undertaking almost at a standstill and in a general state of discredit'. The directors instructed that Lane should take over as manager, at first in an acting capacity, but he soon became established. In February 1859 the board agreed that Lane should not be asked for security as he 'has commenced his undertaking at start with an energy that has commanded the praise and respect of all who have seen the difficulties he has had to contend against'. Lane indeed was an energetic boss and rode around the Company's estates in 1861, accompanied in Lafonia by John RUDD. Lane promoted the rearing of sheep and in his ten years in the Islands, the Company's flock rose from 5,200 to 27,200 head.

The Company, along with other landowners, had been fined for the slaughter of wild cattle (supposedly owned by the crown) on their lands. In 1862 FIC (and others) were fined. But on appeal to the Privy Council in England the ruling of the Stanley court was overturned by the Privy Council and in a judgement of 23 July 1864 the FIC were repaid £1080.

Lane was frustrated by his inability to compete with the store of JM DEAN. He lacked Dean's ability to buy on his own authority and was frustrated that the Company's store was at the east end of town, while Dean's was more convenient and a social centre. Dean seemed to receive a steady flow of supplies, while the FIC store was understocked. In 1860 Lane refused to sit on the bench as a magistrate if Dean were also serving. Lane was also displaying a taste for litigation and for asserting the Company's rights against all comers. Governor MOORE noted that the Company opposed the interests of individual colonists and suspected Lane of wishing to acquire all land of economic value.

Accusations of peculation were made against Lane, as they had been against Havers, and he returned home in 1866 to defend himself before the directors. He succeeded in clearing his name in London, but then returned to Stanley without permission and alienated the board. The Company's manager in London, Cripps, had been intriguing with Lane's clerk Forster behind his back and when Lane got back to Stanley he sacked Forster, accusing him of peculation. However Forster then received a power of attorney from Cripps instructing him to dismiss Lane - which he did. When Lane finally left Stanley in 1867 it was with ill feeling all round.

Lane had proved an unpopular manager, litigious and ill-natured. But he had sorted out the Company's affairs and shown impressive energy when John Rudd was murdered in 1864. He had also made the FIC head office aware of the failings in their handling of business. It was during his term that the company paid its first dividends (of three per cent in 1863, 1864 and 1865).

Authors

David Tatham