In the early months of 1892, James got married to Eliza Wood. This was in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. It is probably that the couple were Roman Catholics - at the time Catholic churches were not licensed for weddings although the couple would, no doubt, have also had a ceremony in church. Over the years, they would live at 44 Bowden Street, Shaw Heath and, later, at 74 York Street, Edgeley. The couple would have ten children together. James worked as a doubler in the Gorsey Bank cotton mill of Samuel Bunting & Co Ltd.
Although James had been born in Stockport, his name suggests the family background was Irish and it is, perhaps, no surprise then that he chose to volunteer for an Irish Regiment. In the late spring of 1915, the newly formed Battalion was in training near Basingstoke and, towards the end of June, it received orders to prepare to leave Britain to go into action at Gallipoli. A few days later, the men left from Liverpool initially for the Greek island of Lemnos where final preparations were made.
They landed on 7 August and, for the remainder of that day and the next, the men undertook fatigues carrying water and ammunition. On the day James was killed, the Battalion moved forward to positions near Chocolate Hill ready to support an attack by other battalions in the Brigade. Few details of the day still exist but it appears that the Battalion was not called upon to go into action. Nearly 40 soldiers were killed, however; most probably by enemy shellfire. James probably never fired his gun in anger.