James McKelvie was born on 2 September 1896 in Mossend in the registration district of Bothwell in Lanarkshire, Scotland. His parents Duncan McKelvie and Jessie McKean were both born in nearby Muirmadkin. At the time of the 1881 census Duncan was lodging with Jessie’s widowed mother Janet and some of her siblings in Bothwell where he was working as a furnace man while Jessie was working as a domestic servant for Gavin and Mary Ann Lawrie in New Monkland. Duncan and Jessie married on 31 December 1883 in Mossend. Making Mossend their home, Duncan worked as a iron puddler in an iron works. The couple gave birth to eight known children, Janet (1884), John (1886), Jane Elizabeth (Lizzie) (1890), Catherine (Kate) (1893), James, twins Samuel and Duncan (1898), and Alexander (1904).
During WW1 James served as a Private with the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry in France. Although exact details of his service are not known, the 2nd Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 5th Brigade in the 2nd Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front. It saw action at the Battle of Aisne in September 1914, the Battle of Ypres in November 1914, the Battle of Loos in October 1915, the Battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, the Battle of Arras in April 1917, the Battle of Cambrai in December 1917 and the advance to the Hindenburg Line in September 1918. James was awarded the Victory Medal, British War Medal, and the 1914-1915 Star Medal for his service.
James’ brother Samuel enlisted in June of 1917 with the 4th Battalion Highland Light Infantry. Further details of his service are unknown.
It appears that James had returned to Scotland prior to the end of the war. On 24 May 1918, in the district of Anderston in the burgh of Glasgow, he married Janet Sneddon Hamilton. Born on 13 March 1898 in Mossend, Janet was the daughter of Thomas Hamilton, an engine driver for a steel works, and Sarah Williamson. At the time of the marriage James was living in Mossend and working as a steel worker while Janet was living in Glasgow and working as a domestic servant. Later that year they gave birth to daughter Jessie followed by sons Duncan in 1920 and Thomas in 1922, all in the registration district of Bellshill in Lanarkshire. Sadly Duncan, aged four months, died in November of 1920 of pneumonia.
James’ sister Catherine was the first to immigrate to Canada, marrying Thomas Markham in 1915 in Winnipeg and settling in Kenora in northwestern Ontario. James, Janet, and the two children immigrated in 1927, arriving in Quebec aboard the Melita on November 27th. The passenger list indicated that they were on their way to Kenora and gave James’ occupation in Scotland as steel worker and intended one in Canada as farmer. Once in Kenora James was employed by the Town of Kenora Sanitary Division for thirty years, retiring in December of 1962. He was a member of the First Baptist Church.
During WW2, James and Janet’s son Tom served in the Royal Canadian Navy as a gunner on a landing craft, operating in the English Channel. He fought off of the coast of France during the invasion at Normandy.
James died suddenly on 14 September 1966 at his home on Second Avenue South in Kenora. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Janet, son Thomas of Keewatin, daughter Jessie (John) Laliberte of Kenora West, and six grandchildren and one great grandchild. Also surviving were siblings John, Samuel, Alexander, and Janet (Alexander) Birch back in Scotland and Catherine Markham of Kenora. He was predeceased by his father Duncan (1920), mother Jessie (1947), siblings Duncan (1946), and Lizzie. James’ wife Janet moved to Winnipeg in 1974 where she died on 20 November 1983. Their son Tom died in 2004 in Kenora and daughter Jessie Laliberte in 2008 in Winnipeg. James and Janet as well as Tom and his wife Edna are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.