James Bolam's father was Thomas Bolam (born about 1804 in Elsdon, Northumberland) who was a coachman, and his mother was Jane Bolam (born about 1797 also in Elsdon). He had several siblings: Elizabeth (born about 1830), William (born about 1835) and Mary Jane (born about 1835). In 1851, when James was 12 years old, he was living at Haywards Yard, Cloth Market, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland.
Bolam was educated in Newcastle, the city of his birth. His first post was at the Trinity Navigation School of Newcastle and from there he went to Leith, the port for the city of Edinburgh, where he taught at the Government Navigation School.
When James Bolam become a founder member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in 1883 he was head of the Government Navigation School in Leith:-
... a significant group of trained navigation teachers having their own bond of common origin were planted in the nautical community and, although many became private teachers, the hopes for a broader educational base to navigation teaching were not forgotten. James Bolam served as head at Leith for 63 years until 1924, building up his school to such an extent that it was designated a Central Institution in 1903.
The Government Navigation School became Leith Nautical College in 1903 and Bolam remained as head until he retired in 1924. He was then made an honorary member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and, on retirement from the College, moved to St Helen's, Drumchapel, Dumbartonshire where he lived with his son.
For more information see Bolam's Scotsman Obituary at THIS LINK.
Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson