James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Move to Malaya

Immediately after their marriage, John and Trixi sailed on the P & O steamer Sundra arriving in "British Malaya" in December 1910 where John was to take up a position as a Rubber Plantation Manager. This was an area where throughout the 19th century, Britain had increased its influence and control and by 1914 it had either direct or indirect colonial rule over all of what is now mainland Malaysia. To increase its revenues, the British had expanded tin mining in the late 1800s and had introduced rubber trees from Brazil, establishing rubber plantations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Agriculture (largely rubber production), and mining (mainly of tin) expanded and dominated the economy and the Federated Malay States and Malaya became the main supplier of rubber and tin to Britain. There was a massive increase in foreign trade between 1910 and 1920 and the expanding number of rubber estates or plantations, largely British owned, began to make use of immigrant workers from Southern India.

It may be that John went out to work with his first cousin, George Lionel O'Hara Hickson (1887-1946) (aka ‘Hicky’), who became a manager of a rubber planation, Bhutan Estate, Selangor. Hicky left Ireland in 1906. It is not clear when he settled in Selangor but he became a prominant figure in rubber production there and a distinguished chairman (1922-24) of the Incorporated Society of Planters. John's half brother, William Bertrand de Lautour (b 18 Aug. 1885), had by 1916 become divisional manager of the nearby Jindaram Estate, Nilai; he too might have arrived there in 1906. In April 1916 William met a violent death and in reporting the event The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser stated:"Mr Lautour was a half brother of Mr J F Day, late of the Byrne Curing Process, and a first cousin of Mr G L O'Hara Hickson of Bhutan Estate." (see next page for information on the Byrne Curing Process) Hicky remained in Malaya until the Japanese invasion forced his evacuation to New Zealand in 1942, where he died in 1946.

It may be that John went out to work for The Dunlop Rubber Company. It bought its first plantation in Malaya in 1910 (though Dunlop Rubber Plantation Co were operating in SE Asia before then) and by 1915 Dunlop Plantations Ltd. had the largest group of estates in Malaya. Furthermore, its roots lay in Dublin; the potential for John Boyd Dunlop's pneumatic tyre had been seen by some Dublin businessmen. They and Dunlop created ‘Pneumatic Tyre and Booth's Cycle Agency Ltd’ in Dublin, the place where commercial production began in 1889. Although the company rapidly outgrew its Dublin premises and expanded abroad, acquiring other companies and undergoing various name changes, Dunlop himself died in Dublin in 1921.