McGregor, John James (c.1773–1834), historian and topographer, was born 24 February c.1773 in Limerick city, the seventh son and youngest of seventeen children (many of whom did not survive to adulthood) of John McGregor (d. 1796), native of Scotland, probably by his wife Susanna (d. 1803); it is possible that his father married twice. John McGregor senior served in the 43rd Highland Regiment at the battle of Fontenoy (1745) and siege of Bergin-op-Zoom before the regiment was garrisoned in Ireland (1747–56), initially in Athlone and then in Limerick; he settled in Limerick city while still in service as an army gunner (attaining the rank of sergeant), and later worked in the city as a chandler (with premises at Newgate in 1769). He converted to methodism (1761), and was an active and successful methodist leader for many years. As a child John James was blessed by John Wesley (qv) on one of Wesley's visits to his parents' house in Limerick. Successful at school, he thought of taking up medicine, but instead was apprenticed to a printing and book-selling business. Only a few years later, at the young age of 19, he became editor of the Waterford Herald. Notwithstanding the duties of producing the thrice (at times) weekly newspaper, he was active in the methodist church and in many Waterford charities. A keen historian and topographer, and a prolific writer, he published an eleven-volume History of the French revolution . . . (1816–27). Other major works included New picture of Dublin (1821), containing maps and views; The history, topography and antiquities of . . . Limerick . . . (2 vols., 1826–7), written with Rev. Patrick Fitzgerald; and True stories from the history of Ireland (3 vols., 1829–33).
After many years in Waterford, McGregor moved to Dublin in 1821. Sole editor of the quarterly Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Magazine from its commencement (1823) until his death, in 1829 he became literary assistant to the Kildare Place Education Society. McGregor was married, and had children. He was ill (possibly with tuberculosis) for the last few years of his life, and from December 1833 was confined to his house. He died 22 August 1834 at his home in Mount Pleasant Terrace, Ranelagh, Dublin, and was buried in St Patrick's burial ground, Dublin. His son, John James McGregor, MD, published a memoir of him (c.1840). A miniature by Edward Purcell (fl.1812–31) may have been painted during his years in Waterford; an engraving based on the miniature was executed by S. Freeman.