John Cameron "Jack" Finlay was born in Ayre, Scotland in 1884. His father was a coachman for Hutchings Shipping Company of Glasgow.
Jack had studied plumbing in trade school before coming to America with a consignment of draft stallions at age 15. Jack worked for the consignee, Singmaster and Sons of Keota, Iowa, for several years, traveling throughout the United States selling horses and stallion services. On arrival in California he decided to stay. In Hanford at the time of the Quake of '06, he purchased a four-mule team and wagon, taking it to San Francisco to clean up rubble. There he sold his outfit and then returned to Scotland for a visit. On his return to the US in 1907, he worked for a number of California livestock men over a period of years, including Miller and Lux, the Coopers of Salinas, and Ruby and Bowers, stable owners in Davis. While in this last position, he started a freight service on the side, located between the SP Depot and the University Farm.
Subsequent employers were Tim Gibson, purebred cattle breeder in Woodland and Jack London in the Valley of the Moon. Finlay worked for London for a number of years fitting and showing prize- winning animals, including the Grand Champion Belgian at the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1916. One of his periodic tasks for London was bringing a sack of gold coin from town out to the ranch to pay the men working there.
About 1917 Jack came to the University Farm as service foreman, then took a position managing holdings in Arizona in 1918, where he met and married Henrie King. After his marriage, he returned with his bride to California as manager for Caladonia Farms, a purebred cattle ranch in West Sacramento owned by Ralph Cebrian. He later joined Straloch Farms in Davis as Superintendant for J.I. Thompson. Subsequently, he purchased some acreage adjoining Straloch and raised purebred Hampshire sheep while concurrently working for T.S. Glide. In later years Jack worked as a steamfitter for the University, but continued raising Hampshire sheep.
Very highly regarded over the years as a breeder, fitter, and showman of all classes of livestock, Jack produced and showed many winners for his employers and later for himself.