James McDonald was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, in 1892, the son of James and Mary McDonald. He married Mary Brown at All Saints Church, Liverpool, on Christmas Day 1912, and they lived at 21, Elias Street, Liverpool, Lancashire.
He engaged as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania on 12th April 1915 at Liverpool at a monthly wage of £6-0s-0d., and was killed when she was sunk. He was aged 23 years.
His body was not recovered and identified afterwards and as a result, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
In keeping with all crew members serving on the Lusitania, Cunard paid James McDonald up to and until 24 hours after the sinking and in August 1915, the balance of wages owing to him was allotted to his widow Mary. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to his widow to compensate her for the loss of her husband. This amounted to £37-10s-3d. (£37.51p.) which was payable at the rate of £3-2s-7d. (£3.13p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Commonwealth War Grave Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.