James McKain Meek emigrated from Norfolk to Sydney in 1838, possibly as a tutor to the children of Governor Gipps. He arrived in Port Phillip District in July 1847 with his wife and young child. He was a pioneer of the Ballarat goldfields, where he was successful in finding gold, ran a store and also a 'soda water factory' (possibly a sly grog shop). He invested the money he made from these enterprises in a fishing boat at Sandridge, together with a cafe near the pier. This business failed when his three fishing boats were sunk in a storm. He then moved with his family to Curdie's Inlet at Peterborough. By August 1855 he had moved to Warrnambool where he set up a fishmonger's store and established the West Coast Fishing Company (1858), which failed by 1859. Meek then worked as a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, before returning to Curdie's Inlet, where he fished and sold smoked fish to the people of Warrnambool. He sought gold in the area, explored an inland track from Peterborough to Terang, and produced a number of pen and ink illustrations. In 1874 he and the younger members of his family moved to New Zealand, where he was a schoolteacher for a time. In 1890, when he was 75, he returned to Victoria to live with a married daughter. He was 'Assistant Bookkeeper' at the Ballarat Benevolent Home, where he completed a large historical picture of Ballarat. He died in Warrnambool in 1899.

Meek was a draughtsman who delighted in exercising his skill in miniature penmanship. In 1861 Meek's 'Map of Australasia', which gave the history of the Australasian colonies, won first prize at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, It was sent on to the World Fair in London in 1862, and a copy is held by the London Stationers' Hall. He also produced 'The Ballarat Historical Gum Tree', which was also sent to Stationers' Hall. He apparently received a certificate from Queen Victoria declaring him to be 'the best penman in Australia'. To amuse friends, Meek would write the Lord's Prayer on a sixpence or a postage stamp, and whenever there was a family wedding he produced an intricate scroll for the occasion. Meek was also a writer and a poet. In 1869, at Warrnambool, his The Resources of the Western District was published. In 1874 he published a long poem, 'Creation', in Melbourne; he tried to get this set to music by a Ballarat schoolteacher to be performed for the benefit the Benevolent Home. In about 1880 he published (in Warrnambool) Commodore Goodenough's dying words, with an addendum on life and death, and other original poems. He also wrote an epic poem, published in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1886, and a song, Zealandia's Annie Macquaid: Only a Stewardess: Albion's Grace Darling, that was printed in Ballarat in the 1890s. The latter two works are held by the National Library of New Zealand.

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