James William Duck was born in 1832 in County Wiltshire, England. At the age of twenty-four he married Mary Jane Hawker who was three years his junior. Almost immediately after the wedding James and Mary Duck left for South Australia, most likely attracted by the opportunity offered through the assisted passage scheme. They, and two of Duck's brothers, Albert and Edwin, arrived aboard the Lady Ann in November 1857 at Port Adelaide.
No sooner had they looked around the busy port than they were on the move once more. This time it was to the Inman Valley where James obtained work as a farmer. They arrived just in time for Mary Duck to give birth to their first son, James William. Another son was born on 8 August 1858, and
on 24 June 1862 the Duck family had their first daughter whom they called Mary Jane. Some time after this happy event the whole family, including their three young children moved to the Northern Flinders Ranges, which was already in the grip of a severe drought.
It is unknown why they made this move, but we must assume that it was in the hope of better prospects. Maybe Duck was interested in mining or in a
pastoral career. Whatever the reasons may have been, he found a job as a shepherd on Mount Serle station. This was certainly not a case of upward economic or social mobility as wages for shepherds were lower than those for farmers. While still at Mount Serle, James and Mary Duck had their fourth child, a boy named Henry, born on 8 March 1865.
Before Henry was fifteen months old however, his mother, who was only thirty-one, died of the fever and Mr Duck was left with three youngsters and
a baby. Even today this would be a major disaster, although there are all kinds of support systems available. In 1866 there were no such things and Mr Duck would have found it very hard and difficult to do his job and have his children cared for during his long days away from the homestead. Luckily for him and his children, he met Mary Ann James, and after a short courtship they married at Blinman in 1867.
After James found employment at Blinman as a bricklayer, the Duck family lived there for a number of years. However with the uncertain prospects at the mine, which provided the main source of employment and income in the town, Mr Duck decided to try his luck in 1873 at the mining town of Sliding Rock. Here the Duck family did much better. During their stay at Sliding Rock James Duck improved both his job prospects and social standing.
On 24 March 1875, at the age of 43, he secured the job of Bailiff at the newly opened local court at Sliding Rock. He also became the owner of several townsites and the publican of the Rock Hotel, the licence of hich he held until 1889. James William Junior, now 21 and still living in Blinman, took over the store from Charles Faulkner in Sliding Rock and in 1888, at the age of thirty, became the owner and manager of a rival company, Duck's Sliding Rock Mining Co. Beltana Ltd. to mine copper at Sliding Rock. Unfortunately this short-lived venture did not turn out to be a financial success, but this did not deter him.
By the end of 1889 Mr and Mrs Duck had left Sliding Rock and settled at Leigh's Creek (Copley) where James Duck had bought the business of Tom Pierce. He also acted as an agent for Beresford, a land and mining surveyor, and issued miner's rights for prospectors going to the newly discovered Worturpa Goldfield. Many of the Duck family members were involved in mining, either as lease or share holders. JW Duck owned shares in the Ediacara Silver Mining Company, formed in 1888. As late as 1912, JW and Mary Ann Duck held shares in the Radium Extraction Company of South Australia, which was involved in the mining of Uranium at Mount Painter.
As if this did not provide enough work JW Duck later added a butcher and wine selling business to his "emporium". By the turn of the nineteenth century the Duck family, including children and grand children had become so large, and its social standing in Copley so respected, that at times the town was referred to as Ducktown or even Duckville. In 1901 JW Duck became the patron of the newly formed Copley cricket club. Many of Mr Duck's grandchildren were born in the Northern Flinders Ranges and beyond, particularly in Farina.