COCHRAN, JAMES (he signed Cochran, but his family in Ireland used Cocoran or Corcoran), merchant and politician; b. 1802 at Granard, County Longford, Ireland, son of Timothy Cocoran (or Corcoran) and Margaret Flood; d. at Camp Hill Cottage, Halifax, N.S., 6 March 1877.
In 1825, when he was 23, James Cochran emigrated from Ireland to Halifax, where he was employed by the ship chandlery firm of Temple Piers* and his brother Lewis. The firm sold sailcloth, cordage, nails, spikes, and supplies needed by sailing ships; it also owned a ropewalk. Later Cochran operated as a commission merchant dealing in tobacco, tea, flour, sugar, and brandy. Cochran married Catherine Walsh at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral on 28 Sept. 1829; they had four children, all of whom died without issue.
The accumulation of capital in Halifax during the American Civil War led to the incorporation of the People’s Bank in 1864. George H. Starr was the bank’s president with James Cochran, William J. Coleman, Benjamin Wier*, John Doull, and others serving as directors. By 1868 the bank had agencies at Wolfville and New Glasgow, and in 1875 established a branch at Lockeport, centre for the West Indies trade. In 1870 James Cochran also became one of the directors of the Acadia Fire Insurance Company which paid dividends as high as 15 per cent. Always an astute investor, Cochran died with a personal estate valued at $202,508 mostly in bank stock and debentures of the city of Halifax.
In 1835 James Cochran was admitted to the Charitable Irish Society, an organization founded in 1786 by prosperous Irish (both Protestant and Catholic) to help immigrants and to assist the poor and indigent among their countrymen in Nova Scotia. Cochran served as president of the society in 1853 and 1867; he was a generous contributor to its charities until his death. The Irish Roman Catholic population of Halifax had trebled before the influx caused by the potato famine of 1846, and continued to increase in succeeding decades. Cochran belonged to the influential class of Irish Catholics who acted with the Reform party and continued to support the Liberals after the Gourley Shanty Riots, but he took no active part in public life until 1867 when he was persuaded by his fellow anti-confederates to accept a nomination as one of the local candidates for Halifax County. Although he was in Europe for part of the campaign, he was elected to the assembly.
On 18 Feb. 1868 Cochran became a minister without portfolio in William Annand*’s anti-confederate government; in the assembly he served as chairman of the committee on trade and manufactures, where he worried about the adverse effect of higher federal tariffs on Maritime business. Annand’s government was concerned with efforts to obtain the repeal of the British North America Act, but reluctantly accepted better financial terms from the Canadian government in 1869. Although Cochran favoured Nova Scotia’s returning to independent colonial status, he refused to support annexation to the United States, and said that “the man who would not be loyal to this country [Britain] must be a fool or an idiot.” He was a member of the education committee when the assembly considered separate schools, but “believed that the temper of the country would not admit of separate schools, and therefore I took but little trouble in the matter.” He decided not to contest another election, and on 6 June 1871 was appointed to a seat in the Legislative Council to replace William James Stairs*. Cochran continued as a member of the Executive Council in Philip C. Hill*’s government where his opinions were valued because of his sound judgement and his integrity.
James Cochran was respected in the community for his benevolence, for his shrewd common sense in business and politics, and as an example of a poor, Roman Catholic, Irish immigrant who had become a financially successful, influential citizen.
Archdiocese of Halifax, Chancery Office, marriage registers of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, 28 Sept. 1829. Halifax County Court of Probate, will of James Cochran. PANS, Charitable Irish Society, Minutes, 1850–66; Halifax County death registrations, June quarter, 1874; March quarter, 1877. Acadian Recorder (Halifax), 25 July 1872, 4 April 1874, 6 March 1877. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 7 March 1877. Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and proceedings, 1868–71. George Mullane, Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, Canada, founded 1786; sketch of some of the foundation members of the Charitable Irish Society, including remarks on the “Morris family”: being a paper read at a meeting of the society on November 20th, 1918 ([Halifax, 1918]), 8–9.