Obituaries have been published in The Times and Daily
Telegraph, in The Yemen Times and Al Ayyam, so here I
shall concentrate on the considerable debt which the Society owes to Jim.
I first met him in 1962 in Aden, and his deep knowledge of Yemen and the
very special affinity which he had with Yemenis was instantly clear. After
our departure from Aden in 1967, we remained in touch over the next 25
years, and so it was that in 1993, when I was encouraged to try and start
a British-Yemeni Society, he was one of the first people I turned to. He
was the foundation stone on which the Society was built. His contacts with
his manyYemeni friends and the British who had lived and worked in Yemen
over the last half century ensured that the membership list grew swiftly.
One of the most thankless tasks in a Society such as ours is that of
treasurer, and volunteers are hard to find. For six years Jim produced no
less than three highly competent treasurers to look after the Society’s
finances. I often wondered, but never dared ask, how he persuaded them to
volunteer. I have a suspicion that his military training, as much as his
diplomatic skills, played a part.
He organised the first tour of Yemen for Society members in 1995. So
popular was it that he led two more tours in succeeding years, producing
not only new members for the Society but a healthy addition to Society
funds through his expert manipulation of the dollar/sterling exchange
rate. One member on his first tour was Dr Harry Robertson who had worked
with the Keith Falconer Mission in Sheikh Otliman and Beihan in the 1960s.
As a direct result of his visit, Dr Robertson returned to Aden as the
acting Director of the medical clinic in Tawahi run by the Church of
England, a clinic which has been the subject of the Society’s Christmas
Appeal. Whilst on these visits, Jim did much to foster the Society’s
excellent relations with its sister organisation in Yemen, the Yemeni-British
He made several contributions to this Journal, and with Derek Matthews
produced a booklet entitled Yemen:The Two Parts, which recorded
their early memories and recent impressions of the country and was
published at the time of the Yemen Festival in 1997. He also wrote a
valuable paper on the border between Hadhramaut and Saudi Arabia, as he
knew it in the 1950s, which appears in this edition of the Journal.
Jim was enormously generous with his time. A number of students writing
their theses were directed to his door by the Society, and were warmiy
welcomed. A few months before his death on 12 January, he recorded recollections of his
service in India and South Arabia for the oral history archive of the
British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. He was Patron and energetic
supporter of ‘Friends of Hadhramaut’, another Charity supported by the
Society’s Christmas Appeal. He was a true friend of Yemen and will be
greatly missed. Our sympathy goes out to Joanna and Richard.
|Jim Ellis during his 1996 tour of Yemen.
Photograph: Alan D'Arcy
BILL HEBER PERCY