James McCoan was born in Dunlow, County Tyrone, and was educated in Dungannon, County Tyrone, and Homerton. He was called to the Bar in 1856 and was war correspondent of the Daily News during the Crimean War. The first newspaper in English in Turkey, the Levant Herald, was founded by him in 1864. He was member of parliament for County Wicklow from 1880 to 1885. He died in London.