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James Henry Esmond Dorney (1906 - 1991)

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James Henry Esmond (Esmond) Dorney
Born in Ascot Vale, Victoria, Australiamap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] in Hobart, Tasmania, Australiamap
Husband of — married in Melbourne, Victoria, Australiamap
[children unknown]
Died in Hobart, Tasmania, Australiamap
Profile manager: Mark Dorney private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 21 Feb 2017
This page has been accessed 79 times.


Esmond was born in Melbourne in 1906.

At school and University he was the captain of so many teams that he became known as Skipper. He also did well in athletics competitions. Esmond went to Melbourne University where he studied architecture. He was an apprentice to Walter Burley Griffin, the architect of Canberra. His uncle, Esmond Kiernan, arranged for him to enter Griffin’s office, having previously engaged Griffin to design his new furniture store in 1923.

He married his first wife Margaret Lambie in Melbourne in 1931. Margaret and Esmond had two sons together; John Farrel born in 1935 and Earl David born in 1939.

In World War II Esmond was too old to join the Australian RAAF, so he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve instead in 1941. He was assigned to Singapore. While on the troop ship there he offered to fight any man on board and was referred to as the Pocket Hercules (a reference to his height). He was assigned to airfield demolition as the Japanese advanced. Esmond was mentioned in dispatches.

He escaped from Singapore in the days before it fell but eventually gave himself up to the Japanese in Java as one of his party was very ill and they felt any help they could get would be worth it. He escaped three times, all ultimately unsuccessful.

After Esmond’s capture his wife, Margaret, received a telegram stating that Esmond was missing, presumed dead. Consequently, and with two young boys to look after, Margaret remarried.

After the war and his imprisonment, Esmond was very unwell. His mother’s first comments, on hs return from captivity at Spencer Street Station, weighing 5 stone, were ‘You look terrible, what have you been doing to yourself?’

He was in the Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne where he was nursed by his future wife, Joan Mesley. He proposed to her before moving to Hobart where he was nursed in Hobart by his brother Paul and Paul’s wife Mollie, while his two sons stayed with their’ uncle Kiernan. Joan followed him to Hobart at a later date.

Esmond married his second wife, Joan Mesley in Hobart in 194x. Together Esmond and Joan had three children - Lee Barbara born in 1950, Shane Paul born in 1951 and Patrick Esmond born in 1955.

Esmond built several houses on the top of Porters Hill, on the ruins of Fort Nelson. He built one house in 1949, and a second, separate one in 1966, but both were destroyed by separate bushfires. The third, and still existing house, was built in 1978. It was purchased by the Hobart City Council in 2006 as both the house and the ruins were considered to be of significant heritage value.

Esmond died in Hobart in 1991 at the age of 85.

His unusual architectural style wasn’t recognised until he was in his eighties, when Universities recognised the aesthetic importance of his work to Australian architecture. He was the first twentieth century architect to gain Heritage listing in Victoria. An annual architectural prize is now given in his honour in Tasmania.


  • Birth: Registry Index 1906/23264

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Esmond by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Esmond:

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Esmond is 25 degrees from SJ Baty, 30 degrees from Orville Redenbacher and 22 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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