This bootlegger was Portland’s original crafty brewer

James McGlinchy
Died 1880 at age 56

Greetings from Portland. Sweater weather is here. Every day this month I’m telling a story that bridges the gap between this world, and the next. I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side by posting one video each day, relating the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”

“Big” Jim McGlinchy was born in Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland in 1822. He showed up in Portland in 1841, when he was 19.

By the time he died, nearly 40 years later, he’d made a fortune selling illegal booze.

“Big” Jim McGlinchy was born in Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland in 1822. He showed up in Portland in 1841, when he was 19. By the time he died, nearly 40 years later, he’d made a fortune selling illegal booze. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“Big” Jim McGlinchy was born in Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland in 1822.  He made a fortune selling illegal booze and is buried in South Portland’s Calvary Cemetery. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

You see, In 1851, led by Portland Mayor Neal Dow, Maine was declared a dry state. The new law made the sale and consumption of hooch illegal. It didn’t say anything about the manufacture of liquor, though.

McGlinchy owned more than one brewery and continued to sell intoxicating beverages — officially only out of state, but in reality, right here, to thirsty Portlanders. He outran the law for years, exploiting loopholes, threatening witnesses and making money, hand-over-fist.

James McGlinchy owned more than one brewery while Maine was a dry state and continued to sell intoxicating beverages — officially only out of state, but in reality, right here, to thirsty Portlanders.Troy R. Bennett | BDN

James McGlinchy owned more than one brewery while Maine was a dry state and continued to sell intoxicating beverages — officially only out of state, but in reality, right here, to thirsty Portlanders.Troy R. Bennett | BDN

He outlived three wives, had 17 children and died with an estate worth $200,000. That’s almost $5 million in today’s money. Not bad for a bootlegger from the auld sod.

Today’s story is brought to you, in part, by Matthew Jude Barker and his amazingly researched Maine Irish Heritage Trail.

Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.

“Big” Jim McGlinchy was born in Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland in 1822. He showed up in Portland in 1841, when he was 19. By the time he died, nearly 40 years later, he’d made a fortune selling illegal booze. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

“Big” Jim McGlinchy was born in Cumber Parish, County Derry, Ireland in 1822. He showed up in Portland in 1841, when he was 19. By the time he died, nearly 40 years later, he’d made a fortune selling illegal booze. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.