For the descendents of Richard Dearie and his son John Russell


"A marriage link with Selangor dating back to 1890 was broken when the widow of the late J. A. Russell, Mrs. Kathleen Gemmill died on 12th August 1992 at the age of nearly 88. Kathleen Gemmill was born in Jamaica on 30th September 1904 which was the year the Wright brothers made their historic first flight in a heavier than air machine.

Her father Colonel Stoney Archer was an army surgeon born in Tipperary, her mother Ethel Beauchamp born in Dublin. Her father’s father had been a P & O Captain who had died on his last voyage home from the East and been buried at sea in the Red Sea. They were stationed at various army outpost of the Empire.

She had childhood memories of India and her father shooting a rabid dog. Her brother was born in Burma and one of her two sisters in Ireland. She was at school at Rodean during the Great War. Her father was at Gallipoli and she said he never recovered from the experience of having to do so many amputations and tend so many maimed.

She studied at the London Art School and got a job at the Army and Navy Stores decorating lampshades and furniture for a salary she could barely live on. She embarked on a life of great adventure she was asked by a school friend to accompany her on a trip to China where her friend was to marry a British Naval Officer serving on a gun boat far up the Yangtze River. On her voyage home her ship called at Penang where her future husband J A Russell always known as Archie joined the boat. She first saw him standing on the wharf talking to a man who was the manager of a gold mine called Panielota in the Celebes. Archie pinned high hopes on this mine but in the end it turned out to have been “salted”. For the rest of her life she kept a flake of gold from it.

She married Archie in Cheltenham where her parents then lived in 1931 and returned with him to live in his house at 2 Syers Road (now 24, Jalan Tunku), where her son Tristan was born in 1932. At that time Archie was developing Boh Estate in Cameron Highlands and on her first visit there, being pregnant, she was carried up the bridle path to the estate in a sedan chair while Archie walked beside her in the pouring rain. On arrival cold and wet with no dry clothes he went down with a bout of malaria.



Kathleen Gemmill, nee Stoney Archer

30 September 1904-

12 August 1992


Archie was faced with great difficulty trying to survive the slump and fell ill with tuberculosis and died in great pain in Singapore in 1933 leaving Kathleen a young widow with a small child and a business which was virtually bankrupt. She was however determined to keep it going, money was very short and she had to live on a very small allowance. Assets had to be sold including the house at 2 Syers Road.

She returned to England took a business course. Her lecturer advised her that when the business was converted from a partnership to a limited liability company, she must obtain governing share. This was written into the article of J A Russell & Co Ltd and in subsequent years proved vital in ensuring control of the Company. On holiday in South Africa she met and a few years later married William Gemmill who was a forceful, brilliant and able six foot six inches tall Scotsman who had come out to South Africa just after the Boer War and who was General Manager of the Transvaal Chamber of Mines. They were married in Durban and departed the same day by sea on a visit to Malaya.

William Gemmill lent a strong hand to control and policy making in J A Russell & Co Ltd. He became chairman of the Company and remained so until the time of his death on a remote place on the Zambesi River. He played a decisive role in rehabilitation of the business after the Japanese occupation.

In Africa she travelled with William Gemmill on horse back into the mountains of Basutoland, frequently on bush trips in specially built vehicles across the Kalahari Desert or up the Zambesi River by native paddle barge often living on what could be shot for the pot to visit recruiting camps for the Witwatersrand mines.


In Kuala Lumpur Kathleen did some very beautiful water colour paintings recording the scenes of those days. She used to paint in Archie’s open Studebaker car but had great trouble with curious crowds of talkative on lookers and found it necessary to erect a screen behind her to stop them putting fingers on her still wet painting.


In 1939 just after the outbreak of the second World War, she moved with her husband to a house called Orange Grove in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, which was to remain her home for the rest of her life. She had a son David and two daughters Mary and Josephine born there.

In the post war era, she visited Malaysia several times and again recorded the contemporary scene in her watercolour paintings. During the sanction years in Rhodesia, she bought a small house in Uzes in Provence in France which she used as a base for painting for several months each year. She drove herself all over Southern Europe on painting expeditions and continued to do this until her sight began to fail. However, even then she remained very active and despite a major cancer operation which removed her entire stomach, she continued to run the large house and garden in Zimbabwe until a couple of months before her death. Right up until the end she maintained a keen interest in what was going on in J. A. Russell & Co."

Kathleen with Tristan at 2 Syers Road in 1932.

Above from top: Kathleen and William on a bush trip. Kathleen & Tristan on "bush trip" with Baobab tree in back-ground.

Left from the top: Kathleen on bush trip in Basutoland (now Lesotho) riding a horse called Mahale, tents in back-ground. William Gemmill somewhere in Southern Africa on a "bush trip". Vehicle on bush road probably in  Bechuanaland , (now Botswana).  Paddle barge on Zambesi. Crossing the Limpopo River in 1936.  Pafuri is on the border between South Africa and Mozambique just South of the Rhodesian border.   William was on this trip but we do not know if Kathleen was.

Right: Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur painted by Kathleen in 1932.
Right: Chinese Temple, Kuala Lumpur 1933. 38cm x 28cm.