James McDonald took over the job at Ayr in August 1919 having been the manager at Kilmarnock between 1910 and 1919 who presented him with a’ handsome timepiece ’on his first return to Rugby Park for a match on 3rd January 1920 (which Ayr lost by 2-1). He was a grafter and set out to enhance the already strong Ayr United squad. He signed future international full-back and Beith farmer, Jock Smith from Neilston Victoria.
Post war attendances were booming and war demands for manpower reducing. This led to increasing prosperity for the Honest Men and during McDonalds reign, United bought Somerset Park in January 1920.
McDonald had a richness of individual talent at his disposal and a notable result during his tenure was a 4-1 win at Celtic Park in November 1922. He also led Ayr to a superb 2-0 win against Rangers in the Scottish Cup in front of a then record attendance at Somerset of 15,853 in a season the Glasgow team were chasing the league and cup double.
As with other Ayr United managers before and after him, McDonald had little authority in the matter of team selection, that task being the responsibility of the board. There is no documentary evidence to tell why he quit the Honest Men but it was harmonious as a presentation was made to him by the club on 11th December 1923 in the Market Inn