James Patrick Nolan was born in Coolnamara, County Carlow, Ireland, to Bridget Dalton and Robert Nolan. The 1901 Census Ireland records show that James lived on a farm with his mother Bridget (37), three younger brothers, Patrick (14), Robert (12) and Michael (10) and their aunt Johanna (65). There is some discrepancy in James’ date of birth with the police application file listing it as 15 November 1888, the AIF file showing it as 1 November 1888, and the Irish records indicating that he was born in 1883. The reason for this discrepancy may be due to age restrictions for police recruits’ eligibility which was 30 years at the time of Nolan’s application. By changing his birth year from 1883 to 1888 (which would have been an easy fix), Nolan lowered his age from 31 years 10 months to 26 years.
Ten years later, Nolan was living in St Helens, Lancashire where he worked at the Glass Works as a labourer carrying glass.
In April 1914, Nolan arrived in Brisbane via Rockhampton on Waipara.
James Patrick Nolan joined the Queensland Police Force as a supernumerary on 24 June 1915. He was sworn in as a constable on 10 August 1915. His first transfer was to Maryborough, where he stayed for nearly two years before relocating to Gympie at the end of October 1917. While stationed in Maryborough, Constable Nolan was awarded the Police Medal for stopping a runaway horse attached to a spring cart in Kent Street on 20 June 1916. According to his statement, Constable Nolan was on street duty on the corner of Richmond and Kent Streets when at 11:15am he saw a horse attached to a spring cart ‘suddenly dash up Richmond St and turn the corner into Kent St, [and] at this interval [he] noticed a man in the cart who appeared to be on his back against some empty cases.’ Having realised the man’s position, Nolan caught the animal but was carried for a ‘distance of 65 yards down Kent St until he suddenly swerved the horse across the street in the direction of the righthand footpath where he succeeded in bringing the horse to a standstill close to a verandah opposite Mr J Berkley, Chemist.’ Mr H F Brennan (of Brennan & Co, Wholesale and Retail Grocers and General Merchants), who was in the cart during the incident, informed Nolan that the horse got restless and while trying to control the animal ‘he had the misfortune to break the reins which was attached to its headdress leaving him powerless to control the animal.’ No one was injured in the accident and ‘no breach of the Traffic committed’. (QSA AF3344)
There are few details of his service available, but in November 1916, Constable Nolan had his first reprimand recorded against him. He was found drunk on the night of the 5th, first at the Railway Station and then at Kent Street. He was fined £1 for the second breach in September 1918 while stationed in Gympie. A month later, he was found drunk and unfit for duty again and fined £2. (QSA AF3344) The fourth offence would have likely resulted in his dismissal.
Despite the blanket ban on leave following the October 1916 Memo, Constable Nolan was granted leave of absence to join the AIF from 31 October 1918.
Nolan enlisted in the AIF on 4 November 1918 (24831). He listed his brother Michael as the next of kin. Nolan was ‘30 years’ old at the time, of fair complexion, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and weighing 195 pounds. The application also disclosed that he had two tattoos on each forearm, a crucifix, a heart and a shamrock.
A week later, on 11 November 1918, the Armistice of Compiègne between the Allies and Germany came into effect at 11am. The guns fell silent on the Western Front and after more than four years continuous combat. Nolan was discharged without leaving Australian shores in December. (NAA Item 8002446)
After the War
Constable Nolan was re-appointed to Queensland Police on 2 December 1918 and transferred to Proserpine 10 days later. Just over a year later, on 21 January 19120, he was fined again for being drunk in the main street while off duty. In addition to a fine, he received a warning against further lapses due to drink. Any subsequent breaches would have led to a dismissal. Nolan chose to resign on 31 August 1920.
It is clear the service career did not agree with Nolan. However, on 6 December 1920, despite the setbacks, he married Mary Elizabeth Agnes Murphy (neé McNeill), a widow of Patrick James Murphy, and adopted her son Patrick. Nolan died in Proserpine in 1973.