By Cian Manning

In 19th-century Waterford, James Francis Power followed in his father’s seafaring footsteps, and left Ireland’s oldest city in the early 1880s. Young James’s career began aboard a local Graves boat, which brought him to an area that would later become Vancouver, Canada. He noted that “There was nothing there then but two sawmills, Hastings and Moody’s, on the opposite banks of the river,” before evolving into that great city of British Columbia.

While employed by Graves, Power helped ship timber to Panama, as the French attempted to build the Canal there. Work stopped on this effort in 1881, due to lack of investors and an alarmingly high worker mortality rate.

Nevertheless, this was the start of a remarkable career for Power which saw him serve in the United States Army, before transferring to that country’s navy.

The Waterford-man then made his livelihood from trading with Native Americans, working in Costa Rica and Peru, and was later employed on the Panama Railroads for nine years. However, his greatest career feat was yet to come, it would see him move to Ecuador in South America.

While there, Power was appointed Commodore of the Armada del Ecuador, that country’s navy, in the early 20th-century. Today, the Irishman is considered a modernising figure in the history of the navy of the República which looks out on to the Pacific Ocean.

Retrospectively, the Evening Echo’s James A. Whelan noted that James F. Power “had occupied at one time one of the most influential, difficult and dangerous positions in the Republic of Ecuador.” During his time based in the capital San Francisco de Quito, he became the ‘watchdog’ to the South American country’s President, José Eloy Alfaro Delgado.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own