Charles Stewart Addis was born in Edinburgh on 23 November 1861. He remained in the city and was educated at Edinburgh Academy before moving on to work for Peter Dowie and Co., Grain Importers (Leith) between 1876 and 1880. Addis then relocated to London, where he joined the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The bank had been founded in Hong Kong in 1865 by Thomas Sutherland, another Scot, who sought to support the emerging Asian markets with a bank established on Scottish principles. It was the move to London and the HSBC that was to bring Addis out to the Far East a few years later, making him one of the Scottish sojourners there. This was a group of temporary migrants who never sought to permanently relocate to Asia, but rather saw it as a stepping stone to making a good life for themselves, always being intent on returning home to Scotland or the British Isles eventually. Among these sojourners we can also find those Scots engaged in work for the East India Company, including for instance, Sir Hector Munro of Novar; sojourners like him who made a large fortune while in the Far East are referred to as ‘nabobs’.
Addis first went to Asia in 1883, when he was posted to Singapore. Typical of many employed in the financial and business sector, Addis did not remain in Singapore for long, soon moving on to the HSBC head office in Hong Kong. He then became one of the first bankers from the West to live in Beijing, arriving in the city in 1886. Addis was very interested in what went on around him, so was delighted when Alexander Michie, a fellow Scot with a long history of working in the East and the then editor of the Chinese Times which was published in Tientsin, asked him to write contributions for the paper.
Addis’s life as a sojourner continued as he went on to work in a several Asian cities between 1889 and 1900, including Tientsin (1889), Shanghai (1889-1891), Calcutta (1891) and Rangoon (1892). Addis then broke his sojourn with a return trip home in 1894, meeting Eba McIsaac, the woman who was to become his wife. After his marriage, Addis was again sent to work in Shanghai, before being appointed HSBC agent in Hankow (1896) and Calcutta (1897). In the final years of his time in the Far East, Addis was sub-manager in Shanghai.
His illustrious career did not end in Asia, however, with Addis returning to the London Office of HSBC as Junior Manager in 1905; he became Senior Manager six years later. Crowning his career, Addis was made Director of the Bank of England in 1918. The Far East remained, however, one of his main interests. Addis was heavily involved, for example, in a number of organisations that sought to facilitate links between Britain and Asia, including the British and Chinese Corporation. Addis died in Sussex on 14 December 1945.