James was born on 10 March 1854 and baptized on 26 April 1854 at Kingston, Gorbals, Lanarkshire, now part of Glasgow. He was the son of James Alison and Jane Smith. (The name is found as both Alison and Allison; which is preferred?) His family appears to have moved to Stranraer, Wigtownshire, where they were shown in the 1861 and 1901 UK censuses - if those are indeed the same people. 
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