Part of The Dundee Oral History Project
He was born in 1935 as an only child in Lochee, in a nursing home. When he was 6 he moved to 35 Boldoven Terrace which he recalls liking, especially the neighbours and the dog. His father worked in the Jute industry until he went to fight in the War and James went to live with his grandparents and aunts.
He began school at the age of 6, initially attending Cleblands and then attending The Morgan in 1947. While Teachers were sparse he believes the War had no impact on the quality of his education.
His loyal cinema was The Royalty, only a few minutes walk from where he lived. Mr Butcher was a projectionist there and used to give James small clippings of film. When he couldn't afford to watch a film, Mr Butcher would open a window to let him listen. The cinema was very popular with the kids and James recalls the worst punishment being not being allowed to go and watch the films. It used to cost 6 pence to sit downstairs and 9 pence to sit upstairs.
He felt special when he attended Clebland, as he was top 3 in his class and was very creative. However when he moved to The Morgans he became a "sheep" and was known by Smith, which made him feel like he was loosing his identity. He started writing and selling comics when he was young which he believed catapulted him into his love for printing. He left in year 7 and attended Art College for 4 years and then taught for 10. He didn't enjoy teaching much but it aided his lifestyle financially
He worked in the Dundee Rep Theatre with some friends from school. James notes his preference for the entertainment industry and specifically the level of presentation involved in this. He recalls the late nights and fish suppers he would get after the shows and how he felt almost in a daze
After teacher training he was given a trial run, doing 2 and a half days at 'Grove' and two and a half days at 'Logie'. He was employed at Broughty Eater Primary School, he didn't enjoy working here and he felt unwanted. He then worked in the 'Rainbow' Primary School.
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To escape national service he moved to secondary teaching in St Michaels where he taught geography for two years before moving to art. Recalls Mr Moore, the head of his, department being a very kind man and the moment he knew teaching wasn't for him. He also reflects on corporal punishment and that many problems arose once this had been stopped.
He believes children today are being let down by todays education system. When he left teaching, he continued printing by renting two rooms on Form Street for 3 years. He printed for businesses and his church and became one of the biggest suppliers for youth and community services which later moved onto the council. He recalls his aunts experience with war work and her musical talent.
Aged 10 he took piano lessons and found playing to be very thereputic. However, when he moved to highschool he focused more on writing. He had played the organ at church after the organist suffered an injury but never stuck with it as he found it to be too intricate.
In college he started a film circle. While living in south Tay Street he made one of his rooms into a small cinema room. He set up a cinema at the foot of Roseangle and called it 'The New Electric Junction Picture Palace' before he was forced to move out. He found himself in partnership with someone "less than honest" years later he had to leave again. He described this as "jumping out the frying pan into the fire". He opened another on West Bell street and called it 'The Britannia'
In 1977 he married a "country lass", and moved from Eden street to live in Whitefield. Around 2008 he heard that Whitfield was getting a new building and wanted to turn one of the rooms into a cinema come lecture room with tiered seating. At first they didn't have a license and showed only public domain short films. When they got their license the first picture they showed was 'The Artist' (2011). People were not charged to see the film as company 'Link Up' funded it, however people were asked to make a small donation and food and drink was sold.
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They had a children's club and James disliked it because the children wouldn't settle. He doesn't believe that big chain cinemas should be called cinemas because they lack the behind the scenes talent because everything its done digitally and no projectionists are needed now. He also recalls a film called 'The Smallest Show on Earth' about lower budget cinemas.
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When asked about his favourite films he recalls 'Laxdale Hall' and talks about how its was the people's favourite, recalling how his friend would rent it over and over until the store sold him it. He was in a Dundee cinema society and loosely considered filming his own movie. He is a member of the Scottish Association of Movie Makers, an umbrella group of all camcorder groups in Scotland. He enjoys editing and appreciates modern editing and the fact that nothing is ever lost, unlike with old fashioned editing. His only ambition is death and credits cinema to one of the few reasons he's alive after his wife's death.