James was the second son of Mrs Mary McColgin, 54 Bangor Street, South Redddish. His father, also called James, is presumed to have died, but was listed on the 1901 Census as then aged 39 and working as a yarn stoker. He had been born in Gosport.
The Census also notes that Mary, who had been born in Liverpool, was also aged 39. They had several children. Rose (13, born Dover), Mary (11, born Ireland), James (then 9, born Ireland), George (7, born Portsmouth), Annie (5, born Reddish) and Lizzie (2, born Reddish). An older son, John, appears to have been staying with family members in Portsmouth at the time of the Census.
James worked at Harlow's brass foundry, Stockport and was a pre-war member of the Territorials, having joined when he was 14. He was mobilised when war was declared in 1914 (the Battalion's early months are described here). His time as a Territorial expired on 11 April 1916 and he returned home, re-enlisting on 14 July 1916. By this time, his brother, George, had been killed in action (and is remembered on the memorial).
James was killed in the Battalion's first major attack. An account is here. His body was never found and identified and he is commemorated on the nearby Memorial to the Missing. His brother, John, by now a Company Sergeant Major in the Battalion, would have also taken part in the attack and is believed to have survived the War.