James’s father, John, came to Manorhamilton from Dungannon, claiming to be directly descended from Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. He married Mary Gregg of Castlemoyle about the year 1800. The couple had seven children, James being the second youngest. James trained as an apothecary (chemist) in Ireland and was granted a professional licence to practise in 1837. Two years later he sailed for Sydney, reportedly as a ship’s surgeon. In December 1839 he married Catherine Barry from Cork whom he had met on the ship. After a short period in Australia they moved to New Zealand. James soon established himself as a medical practitioner in Auckland. Being also somewhat of an entrepreneur, he began importing general merchandise into the country. This proved to be a very profitable business and he gradually amassed a very handsome fortune, which he used to purchase sizable portions of land on Auckland’s North Shore. Some landmarks in the area still retain the O’Neill name today. James was also interested in politics and was elected an MP in 1853 in the first parliament of New Zealand. He resigned his seat in 1869 and was appointed a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council – the upper house of the parliament. He became a justice of the peace for the colony and was a founding member and principal director of the Bank of New Zealand. O’Neill and his family left New Zealand in 1872 and took up residence in England. He died at Southsea on 3rd June 1882.