James was the son of Trevor Vincent Gould Gilfillan and Gertrude Rennoldson who were married in St Hilda’s Church, South Shields on 26 February 1919. He was born in China.

She had been born there in 1891. Her father was James H Rennoldson, a solicitor and notary in South Shields where Rennoldsons owned a shipyard and were shipbuilders.

Trevor Gilfillan was born in 1888 in Auckland, New Zealand. It is not known when he came to England, but he was ordained a Deacon in the Diocese of Durham on 22 September 1912 and a Priest in the Parish of St. Hilda’s, South Shields on 21 December 1913. He was back in New Zealand in 1915 when a local newspaper mentioned him being at Te Matuku Bay, Waiheke Island. He served as a Chaplain to the Forces at some time during the First World War.

When the Gilfillans left England has not been traced, but Trevor was appointed Principal of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Boys' School in Peking. James was born there in 1924 and his sister, Janet, in 1926.

In March 1926, the Waiapu Church Gazette reported that “The Rev Trevor Gilfillan, M.A., (North China), is doing organising work after Easter for a month in the Christchurch Diocese, and for a fortnight in Auckland”. A later report said that he,
“had been a recent visitor to the Diocese. He preached in the cathedral and several of the city Churches, and spoke, at a public meeting in Jellicoe Hall on Monday, May 10.”

In June 1927, Gertrude arrived in England from Kobe with James and Janet and gave the address of her parents at Ingleside, Westoe, South Shields. Whether or not she remained in England is not known, but passenger lists of the 1930s and later, show the Reverend Gilfillan arriving, alone, in the United Kingdom in 1933 and 1936, giving an address in Eastbourne in April 1940, in 1952 with an address in Newick and in 1956 living in Petersfield. Gertrude died in 1952. The Reverend Gilfillan had a second marriage in 1958 and died in Petersfield in 1971.

James was educated at Radley and Matriculated in 1942.

He joined the RAF VR and his name is listed in the London Gazette on 6 August 1943.

He was a Flight Lieutenant [Pilot] when he was killed in an air crash in Nigeria on 8 June 1946.

He is buried in Yaba Cemetery, Lagos. Plot 4. Row K. Grave 4.