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James was born about 1863 and was a teacher at Boreray School at the time of his marriage to Janet MacLean of Rubha Mor in 1886. They had at least three sons together and moved to Drinishader.
It is likely that the family moved to various locations with James’ work, since their sons transferred from Baleshare Primary School to Berneray School for three months in 1909, and then transferred to Saltcoats Primary School. In November 1913 the family seems to have returned to Berneray for a while.