Background and early life
James Douglas was born in 1790. Little is known about his early life, except that by his early twenties he was the only son of a widowed mother.
Commercial Bank of Scotland
In 1812 Douglas secured a job in the accountant's office of the recently-established Commercial Bank of Scotland. He remained there for the rest of his career, serving from 1823 until his retirement in 1853 as the bank's accountant.
Although he was not one of Commercial Bank's founding staff, Douglas joined the bank barely more than a year after it started trading. The first generation of the bank's workers became a second family to each other. When Alexander MacArtney, retired manager of the bank, died in 1838, Douglas began wearing a memorial ring in his memory. He continued to wear it for the rest of his life.
James Douglas married Martha Brook on 15 March 1821. Their first child, William Fettes Douglas, was born in 1822. He went to work for Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1836 but left in 1847 to become an artist. He became principal curator of National Gallery of Scotland in 1877 and president of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1882. He was knighted in the same year, and died in 1891.
James and Martha had five further children, the youngest of whom was Charles Edward Douglas, born in 1840. Like his eldest brother, he initially went to work in Commercial Bank of Scotland, but in 1862 he emigrated to New Zealand, where he became a well-known explorer and surveyor, nicknamed 'Mr Explorer Douglas', discovering and recording New Zealand’s landscape, flora and fauna. He died in 1916.
James Douglas, like his sons William and Charles, was a talented painter, although his interest remained no more than a hobby.
James Douglas died at home in Edinburgh on 26 March 1869.