James Polland was born in New Cumnock ca. 1854, son of Robert Poland and Mary Ann Gilchrist. (There is no baptism record in the Old Parish Records). As a 7-year-old he lived with his uncle, Irish-born Francis McCroan, coal-miner and his family at Garlaff Row, Old Cumnock on lands owned by the Marquis of Bute. Also living with the McCroan’s was 18-year-old James Gilchrist, surely a relative of James’s mother.
At some time the McCroan family and their nephew James Polland moved to Coalburn in the parish of New Cumnock on lands also owned by the Marquis of Bute. At this time John McGavin Nichol, who managed the Marquis of Bute’s Cumnock Pottery, held a lease to work the minerals at Coalburn.
As a 14 year-old James worked as a drawer at Coalburn pit pushing hutches of coal. On the 24th August 1867 he was killed from ‘injuries sustained from fall of shale from roof’. His death certificate was witnessed by his uncle-in-law, Francis McCroan and the occupation of his father Robert Polland was given as furnaceman.