James was Born to Patrick and Johanna Cotter nee O’keeffe in the Townland of Glannagaul new Rathcormac, Co Cork Ireland in 1828. He worked on the family farm after leaving School, however the difficulties he and his parents faced brought on by the Irish famine forced his departure to the Gold Fields. He arrived in Sydney ( Port Jackson ) in 1853 and made his way to Ballarat, he was joined by his brother John in December 1854. James was educated by a Catholic Curate in Rathcormac and after, at Mount Sion Secondary School in Waterford Ireland founded by Edmund Rice where he was taught Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry, Mensuration, Drawing, English and Navigation (which included Astronomy, Chart Reading, Tides, Trigonometry and Plotting of Courses).
His Brother John was also active as a Director in some of the Gold Mining enterprises managed by James.
John was later to move to Port Albert where he selected a great deal of grazing land and became a successful beef grazier. His younger brother William also joined him in 1856 and was also a director of mining companies before returning in 1866 to Ireland where he died leaving a Will worth in excess of 6000 pounds.
Goldfields Involvement, 1854
According to his obituary James Cotter was with a contingent of men from Creswick who supported the miners.
Post 1854 Experiences
"The death occurred yesterday at his residence, Errard Street South of Mr James Cotter, one of the best known legal managers and mining men of the 1860's.
The deceased who was 77 years of age, was a native of County Cork Ireland and arrived in Ballarat in 1853 prior to the Eureka Stockade. He was at Creswick when the news of the intended riot was received, and was one of a party of diggers who set out to assist the stockaders. On the morning of the riot, they arrived at the foot of Black Hill in time to hear the shots, and when they reached the stockade, the famous stockade was over.
He was actively associated in the early days with most mines of the Ballarat and Sebastopol fields, but will perhaps be best remembered by his connection as legal manager with the KOHINOOR and HAND and BAND mines. He was a great believer in the Sebastopol field as a gold producer and was one of the promoters of the central plateau and the Buninyong estate; He was also connected with the Red Jacket, Great Extended, Royal Don and other gold mining companies.
When legal manager of the Hand and band, Mr James Cotter together with the directorate became involved in one of the biggest lawsuits in the history of Victorian mining. The case was strung out for years and involved an expenditure of 60,000 pounds. It was sent to the Privy Council for final settlement and went against the company. All the leading council of the day were involved or associated with the case at one time or another including Trench, Higginbotham, Walshe, R.G.Hyland, Box, Finlayson, and Townsend Mc Dermott.
Many of the points raised in the decisions given in connection with the case are in the Statute books and are quoted as authorities on mining cases.
The deceased was a quite and unassuming man and never took a very active part in public matters, but anything which had for it's object the welfare of the City of Ballarat found in him a warm supporter. He was one of the first trustees of St Patrick's cathedral, a foundation member of the Ballarat Turf Club and a promoter of the Commercial Club.
About twenty years ago, Mr Cotter met with an accident from which he never fully recovered. He was confined to his residence for the past few years, and some three months ago took a very bad turn, which on Sunday developed so acutely as to cause his death.
He leaves a Widow and a grown up family of one son and five daughters, His son Mr P.W Cotter is associated with the Geelong branch of the Bank of New South Wales. Another daughter some years ago joined the Loreto nuns and is at present attached to the Perth W.A. convent, whilst another is the wife of Mr J S Hanlon from The Ballarat Courier. Mary was the youngest and married John Hanlon at St Patricks cathedral Ballarat March 29 1909 The same year James died.
The funeral will take place tomorrow at the Old Cemetery Ballarat " 
Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- Notes by Peter J. Cotter
- Notes from Peter J. Cotter