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James (1896-1964) was a son of Alexander and Isabella Macdonald, 9 Habost. He was educated at Kershader School until leaving at the age of 14 years when he went to work at Manor Farm, Stornoway. Later on he followed the herring fishing and from there he joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the First World War, where he served as Petty Officer until the end of the hostilities.
After the war, like most of his contemporaries, he went to sea. After a while he came ashore to work in Edinburgh. While there he answered an advertisement for a commercial traveler for a job with J & J Todd, Wholesale Provision Merchant, Leith for work in Lewis. He started his Commission Agency with a bicycle but soon obtained a car. The firm then built a new store at 10 Francis Street, Stornoway (the premises subsequently occupied by the Stornoway Gazette).
As a native of the Lochs area of the island James was conversant with the making of Harris Tweed, and so he started a business as a Harris Tweed small producer, buying his yarn supplies from the existing spinners in Stornoway and on the mainland.
In the late 1920s James and his boss, Mr Archer from Leith, took over the disused canning factory left by Lord Leverhulme and installed landing spinning and finishing machinery and campaigned for the amending of the Orb Harris Tweed trade mark to include mill spun yarn. The Orb mark was amended in 1933 and James' mill was the only one that had furnished machinery. He left Stornoway in the 1940s and built another large tweed mill in Oban.