Little did young James Finnegan know or care when he boarded a tall ship in Newry in 1850, that 170 years later his name would become a top Google search word! Well that's exactly what's happened as the world clambers to find out as much as they possibly can about one of the Great Grandfathers of the next President of the United States!

James listed as 7 year old in the list of passengers on the Marchioness of Bute **  (although he may have been older) is in the spotlight along with the Finnegan family descendants from Templeton/ Lordship County Louth, following the news that one of the clan Joe Biden is in line to be elected the 46th President of the USA in January.

The Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
The Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

The Albert Basin in Newry was the embarkation point for many people travelling to their new lives in the new world in the 1800's. They left to escape the worst effects of the great hunger. Many would have travelled down the Newry Ship Canal, out into Carlingford Lough, the Irish Sea and then the wild Atlantic where the journey to New York could have taken anything up to 12 weeks depending on wind conditions. Some ships because of their size also departed from Warrenpoint although Newry was always named as the point of departure.

James along with his mother Jane and brother's Stephen and Patrick left Newry in March 1850 bound for New York on the Marchioness of Bute. The departure of the 1,500 ton ship was delayed until 11th March 1850 due to "the very severe state of the weather" An advertisement in the Dundalk Democrat said "Her accommodations will be found not to be surpassed by any Emigrant Vessel" * It's not known if it actually did depart on the 11th but we do know it arrived in America 15th of May 1850.

James' father Owen (Joe Biden's Great Great Grandfather) had left Ireland in the year/ years previously also from Newry while another son Michael made the journey too.

James married Catherine Roche and their son Ambrose Finnegan married Geraldine Blewitt who's daughter Jean Finnegan married Joseph Biden snr, Joes father.

The passenger list for Marchioness of Bute in 1850.
The passenger list for Marchioness of Bute in 1850 with the Finnegan family included.

When the President elect was Vice President in 2016 he visited Ireland and during a speech in Dublin Castle in June 2016 the President elect said "We’ll visit the church where my great-great grandfather, Owen Finnegan, and his family were baptized. They were in the Cooley Peninsula, down at the very tip, near Carlingford where they made their living from the land and the sea. Later Owen became a shoemaker.

"In May of 1849, Owen traveled to Newry, where he boarded the Brothers, another ship bound for America. And a year later, Owen’s wife, Jane, and their children -- they had at the time, including my great-grandfather James, who was in the census books in New York listed as a blind fiddler -— boarded the Marchioness of Bute to join him."

Standing waving goodbye on the Quayside in Newry to cousins and friends that you knew you would never see again must have been so incredibly emotional. No doubt people tried to hide their tears but as the saying goes 'there was no going back' and life would have changed so much for all concerned.

We have endeavoured to make sure there is no 'fake news' in any of the above but if you do find an error please be sure to tell us and we will correct.



Pin It



Please consider supporting


FOLLOW NEWRY.IE require Cookies on some parts of our site to enable full functionality. By using you consent to our use of Cookies. You can use your browser settings to disable cookies on this or any other website.