WM minister, born at Oldham on 20 December 1770. Though brought up as an Anglican, he joined the Methodists in 1785 through the influence of an aunt. Following a conversion experience that year he began leading prayer meetings in local villages. On John Wesley's visit to the area in 1786 Buckley followed him from place to place and became involved in Sunday School work. In 1787 he attended the Conference in Manchester and began preaching in the Halifax and Oldham circuits.Liverpool was changed to the scattered Colne Circuit and he took lodgings at Heptonstall. Discouraged by the arduous nature of the work in a large circuit, he was persuaded to continue by his landlord. With help from Dr James Hamilton at Leeds, he soon resumed his duties despite facing persecution from mobs and harsh travelling conditions during the winter months. In 1793 he was appointed to the Glamorgan Circuit, which extended from Chepstow to Llanelli. While attempting to cross the river at Loughor near Llanelli, he was swept away by the tide and in danger of drowning. A nearby pub at Loughor is still called 'The Reverend James' in his memory.
Received into full connexion in 1796, he was posted to Brecon as Superintendent of a circuit stretching from Merthyr Tydfil to Welshpool. His two years there saw the work extended into Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and parts of Shropshire and Hereford. He raised the funds for chapels to be built at Merthyr Tydfil (1797) and Pentre Llifior (1798), between Newtown and Welshpool (a Grade II listed building, now the oldest WM chapel still in use in North Wales and recently restored as a Methodist Heritage Site).
On 5 October 1813, while serving as Superintendent of the Wakefield Circuit in the Leeds District, he preached the inaugural sermon at the launch of the first District Missionary Society at Armley and proposed the first motion at the meeting next day in the Boggard House, Leeds. He later served as missionary secretary in London; and as such was responsible for sending the firs Wesleyan missionaries to Haiti. With Thomas Roberts he initiated the plaque commemorating Thomas Coke in Brecon cathedral.
In 1798 he married the eldest daughter of Henry Child, a staunch Methodist and maltster at Llanelli. After serving in English circuits, he returned to Wales in 1823 and inherited the family brewery on his father-in-law's death the following year. His two sons ran the business until he retired to Llanelli in 1831. He died on 24 August 1839, a few days after attending the Conference at Liverpool. The brewery remained in the hands of the Buckley family until it was sold in 1996 to S.A. Brain & Co. A premium ale called 'The Rev. James', first brewed in 1991 to mark the bicentenary of his entry into the ministry, continues to be produced.