Born to Reginald Milburn James, a baker and confectioner in Whitby, and Winnifred Mary James, a milliner from Nottingham, he had begun riding and competing on ponies as a child – initially for George Puckrin, a chemist in Whitby. His association with the Goathland also dated back to that pre-war period.
His war years were spent in Burma, as a captain and later a Major in the Royal Artillery. His friend, Michael Mennim, rote a book, An Indian Odyssey, about their experiences. They used mules to carry their guns, and he was fond of retelling the story of getting a particularly stubborn one to cross the Irrawaddy River.
He married Meryol Violet Botham in 1949, and they had two children, Carolyn and Mark. They settled in Acomb, York, and Reg worked as an auctioneer and valuer at Ripon and Wetherby markets.
The family moved to Whitby in the 1960s, where he remained.
His passion for hounds and hunting never waned and he became secretary at Goathland for many years, before becoming Master from 1986-96.
When age stopped him riding, he followed in the car, and had a hound, Reggie, named after him.