Hugh Bowen James

The SA Health Museum holds several items of interest in its collection with the name “H.B. JAMES” recorded on the items. This includes several boxes of pathology slides, and a set of wooden leg splints engraved with the same name, and a partial address. This provided a useful starting point to establish exactly who Hugh Bowen James was, and what was his story. This is the research that has been compiled to date (March 2023) by volunteer Karyn Baker.


Hugh Bowen James was born on July 28, 1886, in Moonta, South Australia.  His father, Dr Thomas James, was 38 and his mother, Georgina (nee Malpas), was 26 at the time of his birth. His sister Winifred was born on April 16, 1888, in Moonta, South Australia, when Hugh was 1 year old. His brother Roy Basil was born on October 17, 1889, in Moonta, South Australia, when Hugh was 3 years old. Another sister, Frieda Gwendoline, was born on September 20, 1891, also in Moonta, South Australia, when Hugh was 5 years old.


Primary & Secondary

Hugh James attended Moonta Boys School from 1892-1895.  There is also a record of his attending St. Peter’s Collegiate school in 1903, with passes recorded in the following subjects: English literature, English history, Geography, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Chemistry. 


Hugh Bowen James studied medicine at Trinity College, Melbourne from 1907 until 1914.  During this time, he was one of the Editors of the College magazine, the ‘Fleur-de-Lys’

The People’s Weekly, Moonta, reported on Saturday January 21, 1911, that “Mr Hugh B. James, son of Dr James, of this town, who is an undergraduate of the University of Melbourne, has successfully completed the third year of the medical course, obtaining distinction in anatomy”. It was also reported in the same publication on Saturday November 21, 1914, that “Dr Hugh Bowen James, son of Dr James, of Moonta, has been registered as a medical practitioner in South Australia.  The young doctor took his M.B. degree in Melbourne some few weeks ago”.

Senior anatomy class of 1910 (MHM00442). James is pictured in the middle row, sixth from right.
Image Courtesy of the Medical History Museum, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne Copyright (c) The University of Melbourne 2023.


According to the Division of Melbourne Electoral Rolls in 1909 – 1914, Hugh Bowen James resided at Trinity College, Carlton, Melbourne, while studying medicine.

A news article in the Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser, under the heading ‘Farewells’, gave a moving tribute to Dr H. B. James and his wife who was leaving Moonta. This was dated Friday 30 June 1922.  There was no mention of where they were moving to, but the reason for their leaving was due to his wife’s ill health. 

The name ‘H B James’ and the initials ‘MBBS’ with an address, Victoria Ave Rose Park, is engraved on two wooden leg splints held in the SA Health Museum (AR#5971).  Based on this information, subsequent research of the South Australian 1943 Electoral Rolls recorded that Dr Hugh Bowen James, and his wife Ethel May James, were living at 2 Victoria Avenue, Rose Park, South Australia. It would appear he was also living at this address in 1928. The News (Adelaide, SA) reported a fire at his property on 2 March 1928:


Hugh Bowen James married Ethel May Clutterbuck (1894–1954) in South Australia, on May 29, 1917, when he was 30 years old.  They were married at St Andrew’s Church, Walkerville, South Australia. The married couple returned to Moonta in June of 1917.

His wife, Ethel May Clutterbuck was born on 16 Jun 1894 in Kapunda, South Australia. Hugh & Ethel James had two children.  Their daughter Helen Winifred was born in 1918, and son Colin Thomas was born on September 6, 1920 (both born in Moonta SA).

His mother Georgina passed away on January 13, 1920, in Adelaide, South Australia, at the age of 60. His father, Dr Thomas James, passed away on November 21, 1926, in Royston Park, South Australia, at the age of 78.

His wife Ethel May passed away on March 31, 1954, in Victor Harbor, South Australia, at the age of 59. At the time of her death, they had been married for 36 years. Notice of her cremation was published in The Advertiser on Saturday 3 April 1954. His son Colin Thomas James died in 2009 (no death records found for Helen Winifred James, daughter).


H.B. James was mentioned in the ‘Fleur de Lys’ Trinity College magazine in 1914, where he completed his MB degree.  The magazine reported that Hugh James had just finished a year at the Children’s Hospital in Perth.

After his marriage, Dr Hugh James worked in Moonta, and in 1920-21, he was appointed as a medical practitioner to attend destitute persons, according to the SA Police Gazette, December 6th, 1919.

SA Police Gazette, December 6th, 1919

An article published in The People’s Weekly, Moonta, on Friday April 14, 1922, recorded that:

“Dr H.B. James has disposed of his practice at Moonta and is leaving here in the course of two or three months.  About four years ago the doctor took over the practice which his father (Dr T. James) had conducted for something over 40 years, and has won the esteem and confidence of his patients throughout the district, as well as of citizens generally.  Dr Mayo, of Lameroo, will take over the practice here”.

Hugh Bowen James travelled from Western Australia on the Norwegian ship ‘S.S. Talabot’, departing from Fremantle on the 16 August 1939, and returning to Adelaide. The ship’s quarantine notice noted his port of embarkation as Lourenço Marques, the capital of Mozambique, Africa. According to the ‘Moonta People’s Weekly’ (12 August 1939) he was touring South Africa with his elder sister, Winnie (listed as Miss Winifred James).  There is no further information about the reason for his travel to Mozambique, whether work related or leisure.


The People’s Weekly, Moonta (December 18, 1915) reported that “Dr Hugh James, of Moonta, volunteered for the front, and will go into camp as a doctor early in January”. However, there are no Australian War Memorial records to indicate that he served overseas.

Hugh Bowen James was given the title of Honorary Captain in the 4th Military District of the Australian Army Medical Corps, on the 1st January 1916. 

It was reported in The People’s Weekly, Moonta (May 6, 1916) that Captain Hugh James was listed in the Moonta Roll of Honor under ‘Home Service’ during the First World War.


No records found as yet detailing his later life, working career after he left Moonta in 1922, or his retirement, but his wife’s death notice refers to them living in Cornhill Road, Victor Harbor at the time of her death in 1954. 


Hugh Bowen James died on February 8, 1963, in Adelaide, South Australia, at the age of 76.  He was cremated, and his ashes were interred in the West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

(Information sourced from Trove, University of Melbourne, Moonta National Trust, Ancestry, SA Health Museum collection, and West Terrace Cemetery.  Copies of all newspaper articles and other relevant documents are available on request).

Karyn Baker, SA Health Museum Volunteer, compiled March 2023