Hornsby Shire Library Digital Historical Collection
James Charles (Jimmy) Bancks is one of Hornsby’s most famous sons. He was born in 1889 in Enmore to John and Margaret Bancks. His father was a cleaner with the railways, and the family moved to Hornsby in 1892. At the time the town was just beginning to develop around the new railway junction while orchards and other agricultural activities still thrived in district.
Jimmy Bancks and his family left Hornsby in 1910. While working as a clerk and a lift driver he had begun to sketch, and his first drawings were published in 1914. His most famous creation, a young Aussie larrikin, was introduced in the Sunday Sun in 1921. Originally called Ginger Smith, he took on the household name of Ginger Meggs the following year.
In creating this comic strip, Jimmy Bancks drew on his childhood experiences growing up in Hornsby. Names and places of the old neighbourhood were used without alteration. Frank Buckle, who became the first captain of the Northern District Cricket Team, scored a mention. So did George Lumby, a childhood friend who was now operating a hardware store in Hornsby. Ginger and his mates frequently stole fruit from Foster’s or Higgins’ orchard, which were local landmarks.
Even the hero of the cartoon was based in a real Hornsby identity. According to Hedley Somerville, “Those who knew both Bancks and my father accepted that the character of Ginger Meggs was based on Charles Somerville, who was one of Jimmy Bancks’ best mates’ (A Taste of Ginger, p 68). By the time the comic strip was appearing, however, Charles Somerville was no longer the boisterous boy that Bancks had known: in fact he was a councillor on Hornsby Shire Council.
Bancks died in 1952, but the comic strip was carried on by others.
While Hornsby has changed dramatically from the town of a century ago depicted by Jimmy Bancks, the larrikin spirit of Ginger Meggs lives on in the hearts of his many local fans.