James Francis Oliver Barclay was the son of James Barclay, a watchmaker, and his wife Anne Stephenson. He was born at 'Albion House', St John Street, Launceston, and was christened on 5 Jan 1841. James attended Horton College at Ross in 1856-57. After leaving school he was apprenticed to Brisbane Street ironmonger Thomas Corbett. Later, he entered into a partnership with John C Ferguson and acquired Corbett's business. At the time of the Tasmanian Exhibition in 1891-92, the James Barclay Furnishing and General Ironmonger business premises was on the corner of Brisbane and St John streets, Launceston. They specialised in electro-plated ware for presentation, sold ammunition for breech-loading guns, fishing tackle, dynamite and sewing machines. The company displayed plated goods in the gold and silversmith's work section of the Exhibition.
James Barclay was a founder of the Equitable Building Society in 1870 and one of the original shareholders of the Tasmanian Permanent Executors and Trustees Association. He studied elocution under RK Ewing, and was a member of the XYZ Dramatic Club. He collected curios, old silver and jewellery, prints and engravings. On 9 Apr 1874, in Hobart, James married Sarah Elizabeth Sherwin, the sister of the well-known singer Amy Sherwin. Their six children were born between 1875 and 1889. His wife and four of the children are also pictured in the Family Album. James Barclay retired in 1918 and died on 21 Jun 1926 at the age of 85. See The Examiner 5 August 2006, p.34.