Major James Ernest Wild Harrison VD was born in 1855, one of eleven children born to James William and Harriet Wyatt Harrison (née Wild). He married Margaret Ella Drakeley. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a printer and publisher, joining and later becoming a managing partner of the family firm of Harrison & Sons in St Martin’s Lane. He joined the firm along with his brothers Cecil Reeves Harrison (his twin brother) and Bernard Bowles Harrison, and their cousins Edgar and Alan, the sons of James’s uncle Thomas. This represented the sixth generation of the family inn the firm. After his father’s death his mother Harriett was considered the “Doyenne of the Family”.
The origins of the family firm go back to 1557 when Richard Harrison was recorded as a freeman of “the mystery and art of printing”. The company itself was founded in 1750 by James Harrison. It gained and held Government contracts from then on and started printing “The London Gazette” from 1765. By 1839 they had also taken on maintaining the private presses at the Foreign Office and the War Office (1856). They also became ‘Printers in Ordinary to HM Queen Victoria’ (1867), established a private press at Scotland Yard for the Metropolitan Police (1870) the publishers of Burke’s Peerage. In 1911 they started printing postage stamps. They became a public limited company, and were taken over by Lonrho in 1979. The Harrisons name remained until De La Rue bought the business in 1997.1
The family were great supporters of the rifle volunteer movement and the history of the firm “the House of Harrison” (published in 1914 bu Harrison & Sons) records that the family were all members of Victoria Rifles:
“In the great days of the Volunteer movement, when the Rifle Corps derived their chief support from the upper-middle classes, the Harrisons not only did much of the printing, but all the members of the Firm were volunteers in the 1st Middlesex Rifles, who had the Duke of Wellington as their Honorary Colonel.
There was considerable enthusiasm in those days for drill and for marksmanship, and the Annual Camp at Wimbledon was a great function ; not only in respect of the keen competition in shooting, but also on account of the social side, for there was much entertaining done and there the womenfolk used to appear in all the glories of the costumes of the sixties.
At the camp the Harrisons used to provide a tent for the sale of military books, newspapers and stationery, and Harrisons’ boys running about all parts of the camp with their newspapers were known as the ” Light Infantry.” Here also was published a magazine which gave the latest camp news and the best camp humour. The humour, we think, predominated, and that no doubt was the reason why the paper was called The Earwig, for the Riflemen had found from experience that much of the humour of dwelling in tents was derived from the ubiquitous earwig, which appeared in the morning upon their bread and butter, and at night upon their pillows.
James Harrison [J E W Harrison’s father] was a good marksman with the old Enfield muzzle-loading rifle. On occasions, he and a friend would resort for practice to one of the County Rifle Ranges during their summer holidays and the local Non-Com would invariably turn out an instruction squad of Regulars to see the young riflemen from London shoot.”
He was initiated into the Lodge in 1905 at the same meeting as Foster Nash.
- Source: Grace’s Guide