Donald Trump becomes President of the United States of America this afternoon but have you heard about the Bishop Street carpenter whose company owns real estate beside the White House?
James Campbell, was born the son of a cabinet maker in Bishop Street in 1826.
He left Ireland for Canada as a teenager and eventually found his way to New York.
But in his early twenties he boarded a whaler bound for the South Seas and ended up on an incredible adventure after being shipwrecked in Polynesia. “Only two people survived the shipwreck.
They managed to get over the barrier reef and on to the island but to their horror they realised the native people were there waiting for them - not a greeting party - but it was fresh food,” said local historian Frank Carey during a lecture on ‘Notable Ulster-Scots Women and Men’ and their legacy in the Tower Museum, a few years ago.
According to Mr. Carey, Campbell used all his wiles to persuade the head of the islanders that as a cabinet maker he could repair a broken rifle he had spotted on one of the leaders.
He ended up staying for three months and participating in the local society before escaping on a Tahiti bound ship. He ultimately settled in Hawaii where he married the daughter of an innkeeper who sadly passed away at just 19.
Noticing the undercultivation of sugar on the islands despite their favourable climate he set about amassing a large fortune through cane plantations and was later dubbed ‘James the Millionaire’ by the locals.
He took a second wife happened to be Abigail Kuaihealani Maipinepine of the Kalanikini line of Maui chieftains - effectively a member of the Hawaiian royal family. And the company he founded - Pioneer Mills - continued producing sugar right up until the late 20th century, when it diversified into real estate.
The James Campbell Company LLC, which succeeded the Estate of James Campbell, a 107-year-old private trust that was the legacy of one of Hawaii’s foremost business pioneers and a native son of Bishop Street, now has a property portfolio across 15 states and Washington DC valued at 3 billion dollars.
Mr Carey said: “Before the international crash they moved into property and they own property in something like 18 or 20 different states right across America. “If you ever see a portrait of Washington DC and the White House, looking directly behind it you’ll see a line of houses and buildings. That’s owned by his company.
“They own that block. Just directly behind the White House. I wonder does that company realise that their founder, that they’re very proud of came, from Bishop Street.”