Runciman, James (DNB00)

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RUNCIMAN, JAMES (1852–1891), journalist, son of a coastguardsman, was born at Cresswell, a village near Morpeth in Northumberland, in August 1852. He was educated at Ellington school, and then for two years (1863–5) in the naval school at Greenwich, Kent, becoming afterwards a pupil-teacher at North Shields ragged school. After an interval spent at the British and Foreign School Society's Training College for Teachers in the Borough Road (now at Isleworth), he entered the service of the London School Board, acting as master successively of schools at Hale Street, Deptford, at South Street, Greenwich, and at Blackheath Hill. While still a schoolmaster he read for himself at night, and attempted journalism. He soon wrote regularly for the ‘Teacher,’ the ‘Schoolmaster,’ and ‘Vanity Fair;’ of the last paper he became sub-editor in 1874. In January 1874 he matriculated at the university of London, and passed the first bachelor of science examination in 1876. About 1880, while continuing his school-work, he was sub-editor of ‘London,’ a clever but short-lived little newspaper, edited by Mr. W. E. Henley.

Subsequently he confined himself solely to the profession of journalism. As a writer on social or ethical topics, he proved himself equally vigorous and versatile, but his best literary work described the life of the fishermen of the North Sea, with whom he spent many of his vacations. An admirable series of seafaring sketches, which he contributed to the ‘St. James's Gazette,’ was reprinted in 1883 as ‘The Romance of the Coast.’ Of his ‘Dream of the North Sea,’ 1889, a vivid account of the fishermen's perils, the queen accepted the dedication. He died prematurely, of overwork, at Tyneside, Minerva Road, Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, on 6 July 1891.

Besides the works already mentioned he wrote:

  1. ‘Grace Balmaign's Sweetheart,’ 1885.
  2. ‘Skippers and Shellbacks,’ 1885.
  3. ‘School Board Idylls,’ 1885.
  4. ‘Schools and Scholars,’ 1887.
  5. ‘The Chequers, being the Natural History of a Public House set forth in a Loafer's Diary,’ 1888.
  6. ‘Joints in our Social Armour,’ 1890; reprinted as ‘The Ethics of Drink and Social Questions, or Joints in our Social Armour,’ 1892.
  7. ‘Side-Lights, with Memoir by Grant Allen, and Introduction by W. T. Stead; edited by J. F. Runciman,’ 1893.

[Mr. Grant Allen's Memoir in ‘Side Lights,’ 1893; Schoolmaster, 11 July 1891, pp. 44–5; Illustr. London News, 18 July 1891, p. 71, with portrait; Pall Mall Gazette, 9 July 1891, p. 6.]

G. C. B.