James was born on 25 February 1925, the second son of William and Cissie Sefton.
He left school at fourteen and was , like many of his contemporaries, apprenticed in Harland and Wolff.
Despite being good at maths he was in love with literature and history. He read three books each week, borrowed from Shankill Road public library.
When I was eight, he took me there and signed me up. We went to the childrens’ section. “Here is a book you might like”. It was a Tale of Two Cities. I remember taking it home and reading the opening lines. How inspirational is that for any boy?
James wanted to be a teacher but his circumstances did not permit.
He was always smart and well turned out and eventually found his way into the RUC.
Not your usual officer, he completed a crossword every day and counted Paddy Devlin amongst his friends. That friendship may not be surprising in that James was a socialist and Paddy was born a few streets away.
Never an unthinking loyalist, he used to take amusement in observing that the Orangemen were having their ‘ annual’ church visit,
He married my mother , Ellen, a beauty and rich , and a year older than him in 1949. That must have made his friends jealous.
They were in love right to the end.
They represented all that was good about Northern Ireland in those years that many observers have rubbished. They had honeymooned in Dublin [ where I was made] and visited the Republic regularly.
James had a dry sense of humour that could convey a concept. I remember reading out my letter of offer of a place to read law at QUB, at the breakfast table.
His reply was “anyone who gets a university place and fails should be shot” That got my attention and is probably explained by his wish to have been a teacher.
When I explained that I was prosecuting my first historic sex abuse trial, he remarked that “those people steal childrens’ childhoods”. It was the first time I really understood abuse.
James served uncomplainingly in B division for many years.
The rector of St Matthew’s, with whom he loved to debate , said of him and my mother; “they were ordinary decent caring people…[James] was not the sort of man to talk about politics, he was a tolerant sort of individual who didn’t hold any unyielding views”
I still hold the memory of him going out on night duty , after the Anglo Irish Agreement, when he was more likely to be attacked by loyalists.
I never told him how much I loved him.
I know that I am not alone in my loss and that many people suffered more than I did.
But he was my Dad, the bravest man I ever knew and I’m only half the man he was.