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John, known as Johnnie, was the son of Johnnie MacLeod and Mary MacAskill of Baile, born in May 1901, a few months after his father was drowned. He was a pupil at Berneray School between 1907 and 1909, then attending Obbe School for a while. By 1911 he had returned to Baile, living with his maternal grandmother, and school records show that he was a pupil at Berneray School in 1913. His mother later moved with him to Leverburgh.
Johnnie later married Margaret Ann MacDonald from 17 Seilebost.