Five Ships from Ulster, and What They Left Behind

In the summer of 1718, the first organized company of this class (Presbyterians), of which we have any knowledge, left the shores of Ireland in 5 vessels, containing 120 families, for the new world, and arrived safely in Boston, August 4, 1718. Here all was new, the wilderness and the world before them. Imagine this little colony, strangers in a strange land, seeking new homes and not knowing whither to turn. There they lie at the little wharf at the foot of State Street in the town of Boston, which then contained about 12,000 inhabitants, taking counsel where to go, and how to dispose of themselves and their little ones, to begin the world anew. With their wonted energy, they were soon astir.  

Source: New England Historical and Genealogical Society, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register for the year 1858, Volume XII, Samuel Drake, Publisher, Boston, 1858, Page 234.


On August  4, 1718 the “Five Ships from Ulster” landed in Boston, carrying many of the Ulster-Scots who had earlier signed the petition to Governor Shute. The number of passengers is not known, nor their names, as the passenger lists and other ship’s papers have never been found though searched for again and again. Tradition has it, they filled five small ships and that the sailing was from Port Rush, a few miles below Colrain, at the mouth of the Bann River. In those days it took the better part of two months for a small sailing ship to cross the Atlantic from the northern coast of Ireland to Boston.”

Source:  Henry A. Ferguson, A History of the Ferguson Family


Rebecca J. Graham, Chair of the Maine Ulster Scots Project ( shared with us “a document of the names of ships extracted from Ships from Ireland to Early America 1623-1850, Volumes 1-4 by David Dobson as well as Scotch Irish Pioneers by C E Bolton. This is the list we have been working from for our research… Dobson spent a great deal of time combing the newspapers to collect the reports of ships entering.”

Here are the 5 ships from Northern Ireland arriving in Boston that might well have carried those 25 families who made their way to Worcester later in the year 1718:

  • MACCALLUM, Captain James Law, arrived in Boston from Londonderry with 100 passengers on 2 September 1718 (Scotch Irish Pioneers by C E Bolton)
  • MARY AND ELIZABETH, 45 tons, Captain Alexander Miller, arrived in Boston from Londonderry with 100 passengers in October 1718 (Boston Newsletter, 20 October 1718)
  • WILLIAM, Captain Archibald Hunter, arrived in Boston from Coleraine with passengers on 4 August 1718 (Scotch Irish Pioneers by C E Bolton)
  • WILLIAM AND ELIZABETH, Captain John Wilson, arrived in Boston with passengers from Londonderry on 29 July 1718 (Boston Newsletter, 28 July 1718)
  •  WILLIAM AND MARY, a snow, Captain James Montgomery, arrived in Boston from Coleraine or Portrush, Ireland with passengers on 25 July 1718 (Boston Newsletter, 28 July 1718)


Coleraine, Irish Cúil Raithin, town and former district (1973–2015) astride the former counties of Antrim and Londonderry, now part of the Causeway Coast and Glens district, Northern Ireland. Coleraine town is located near the mouth of the River Bann. It is the administrative centre of the Causeway Coast and Glens district.

Flint implements dating back to nearly 7000 BCE have been found in the vicinity; they provide the earliest evidence of human occupation in Ireland.

The main town, on the east bank, radiates from a central square, The Diamond. Modern Coleraine (from the Irish, meaning “ferry corner”) owes its foundation to the companies of the City of London who undertook the colonization of County Londonderry in the 17th century under the scheme for the Plantation of Ulster. A road and rail junction, Coleraine is also the seat of the New University of Ulster (founded 1965). Its harbour accommodates small vessels.

The former district of Coleraine was bordered by the former districts of Limavady to the west, Magherafelt to the south, and Ballymoney and Moyle to the east and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Western Coleraine is composed of wooded hilly terrain that slopes eastward to the River Bann valley. Eastern Coleraine is rich agricultural country, producing barley, poultry, and livestock (pigs and sheep). The whiskey and linen industries contribute to the economy as well. Portrush and Portstewart, located on the Atlantic coast northeast of the mouth of the Bann, are popular resort towns with a line of reefs known as The Skerries directly offshore. Area former district, 189 square miles (490 square km). Pop. (2001) town, 24,042; (2011) town, 24,630.

Source:  Encyclopedia Britannica 


Here are some images of the region the 1718 settlers were leaving behind:

Fig. 1
Coleraine, from the West Shore of the River Bann, by John Huybers, undated. Coleraine is slightly inland; their departure point of Portrush is right on the coast.


Fig. 2
Map showing present-day configuration of Northern Ireland. You will find Coleraine on the northern shore, where the Bann River empties into the ocean.


Fig. 3
Contemporary photograph of Portrush, County Antrim, Ireland on a bright blue-sky summer day, perhaps the very weather that met the travellers as they landed in Boston in August of 1718.


And an artist’s impression of what these passengers would have seen as they approached the end of their long journey:

A South-East View of the City of Boston in North America, by Thomas Carwitham (c. 1723-30)

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