Monday, 12 April 2021



NEWTOWNHAMILTON, a parish, containing a town of the same name, in the barony of Upper Fews, County Armagh.

This place, which is situated on the roads leading respectively from Dundalk to Armagh, and from Newry to Castleblayney and Monaghan, in the midst of the Fews mountains, owes its origin and importance to Mr Hamilton, who laid the foundation of the present town about 1770, previously to which time, the whole district was a dreary, wild, and uninhabited waste.

About the beginning of the same century an attempt had been made to establish a town at Blackbank, and a castle had been erected for the protection of the new settlers; but the undertaking failed, and soon after an attempt was made for the same purpose at Johnston's Fews, which resulted only in the erection of a few mud cabins.

Dundalk Street, Newtownhamilton

Upon the failure of both enterprises, government erected barracks at those places, and troops were regularly stationed there till the establishment of the present town, when they were removed to this place.

The ruins of the castle and barracks of Blackbank, and also of those of Johnston, within a few miles of the town, are still remaining.

THE whole face of this extensive district was completely changed after the establishment of the town: the lands were brought into cultivation; several roads were opened, and great numbers of persons were induced to settle here under the advantageous leases granted by Mr Hamilton.

The town gradually increased in extent and importance, and the surrounding district was erected into a parish by Archbishop Robinson, who severed it from the parish of Creggan, built a church, and endowed the living.

THERE is a large market every Saturday for provisions; and fairs are held on the last Saturday in every month for cattle, horses, pigs, and butter, and are numerously attended.

A constabulary police force is stationed here; also a body of the revenue police, since the establishment of which, the depot for two companies of the regiments stationed at Armagh, which were quartered in this town, has been broken up, and the military withdrawn.

There is an excellent court-house, in which the quarter-sessions for the county were held till 1826, and sessions are now held by the Assistant Barrister, once a year, in June.

Here is also a bridewell.

Near the town were formerly mills for smelting lead ore, which continued in operation so long as wood lasted for fuel.

THE parish land is very good in some parts, but better adapted for oats than for wheat; the soil is light and friable, and the system of agriculture improving.

Here is abundance of bog for fuel: stone of good quality for building is extensively quarried; there are some quarries of excellent slate, not now worked.

In the mountain district is lead ore of rich quality.

There are many good houses in the parish, the principal of which is Harrymount.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Lord Primate.

Creggan Rectory

The glebe house is a handsome residence, built in 1806, and the glebe comprises 31 acres of arable land.

The church is a plain edifice, erected by Archbishop Robinson, in 1775, out of funds provided by the Board of First Fruits.

There are some remains of an extensive encampment at Clogh-a-mether, said to have been the chief residence of O'Neill of Ulster, between whom and Baltragh, Prince of Louth, a battle is said to have taken place near the town.

In this fort, which is nearly two miles in circuit, the army of Cromwell encamped in the winter of 1645, and was severely harassed by the Irish forces, who hemmed them in on every side, and, cutting off their supplies, reduced them to such distress that many perished through hunger.

THE County Water runs on the western boundary; and the Newtownhamilton river drains most of the interior.

Kiltybane Lough lies on the southern boundary; and Lough Lisleitrim on the southern border.

The parochial surface is partly mountainous, prevailingly hilly, and to a large extent romantic.

The highest ground, Dangary mountain, is situated a little north-west of the town, and has an altitude of 1,093 feet above sea-level.

1st Baron Newtownbutler



"To the north of the Old Library in Trinity College [Dublin] sits a bay of over 1,000 books and pamphlets donated to the library in the late 18th century.

The main contributor was a Dublin politician, Theophilus Butler.

He was born in 1669 in County Cavan.

He had two brothers, James and Brinsley.

On 27 September 1686 Theophilus and Brinsley entered Trinity College as undergraduates.

Later, in March 1718, both were awarded LL.Ds by the university.

Butler’s first year in Trinity coincided with the accession of the Catholic monarch, JAMES II, who increased concessions to Catholics and Protestant dissenters.

After 1689, and with the outbreak of full-scale war, many Protestants, including Brinsley and Theophilus, chose to move to England for their own safety.

Jonathan Swift forged a friendship with both Brinsley and Theophilus during their time at Trinity.

Swift attended Trinity as an MA candidate at the same time as the Butlers.

Theophilus’s future wife, Emily Stopford, was also known to Swift.

In his later correspondence he refers to Theophilus as ‘Ophy’ and to Emily as ‘my mistress’, suggesting closeness between Swift and the Butler couple.

In the years following the Williamite victory, Protestant ascendancy reached its zenith in Ireland.

Theophilus was now back in Dublin and he benefited from being a member of such a privileged group.

In 1703, he was elected MP for County Cavan, a position he held until 1713.

During this time it was common for prominent gentlemen to establish private book collections in their homes.

It appears that Butler became a serious book-collector in the early 1690s.

Many of his books are marked with either his bookplate or his stamp, something that many collectors did to signify that the owner considered himself to be a collector of books and not purely someone who bought books for pleasure.

This period also coincides with a series of trips made by Butler to London.

After a time spent living in England after 1689, Butler regularly returned.

In 1697, he was elected steward to London’s Musical Society.

Butler surely used his time in London to further his book collection.

In 1715, George I was crowned ... was unwilling to return a Tory ministry that failed to acknowledge his legitimacy ... eleven new peerages were created in the House of Lords.

Butler was undoubtedly pro-Whig in his sympathies.

Archbishop William King noted in a letter to the Lord Sunderland that Butler had opposed the Tory ministry ‘in every vote both in parliament and in council’.

Butler was rewarded for his political leanings and on 21 October 1715 was created Lord Newtown-Butler [of County Fermanagh].

Butler’s political preferences may have led to a deterioration of relations between him and Jonathan Swift.

Though Swift’s loyalties shifted according to who was in power, his support mainly lay with the Tories.

Brinsley, Theophilus’s brother, was notoriously pro-Tory, a fact that almost certainly resulted in Swift’s switch of affection from the older brother to the younger.

Indeed, in much of Swift’s correspondence he refers to Brinsley as ‘my Prince Butler’.

On 11th March, 1723, Theophilus Butler died in his house in St Stephen’s Green [Dublin].

His will achieved some notoriety through his request that £13 worth of bread per year be distributed to the poor of St Ann’s parish.

The shelves constructed to hold the loaves of bread can still be seen in the church today, along with a plaque explaining their origin.

He chose books that reflected his gentlemanly status, making purchases likely to increase in value, and marking many of them with his Butler coat-of-arms.

And he wanted it to be used after his death, only expressing concern in his will that, after studying them, persons should place ‘such books againe Regularly’.

Yet he also stipulates that the collection be kept within his family, ‘neither to be sold or lent to any P[er]son Whatsoever’.

It would appear, then, that the very basis of Butler’s (admittedly limited) fame entirely contradicts his own wishes."

First published in June, 2013.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Dromore Palace

THE foundation of this diocese is ascribed to St Colman in the 6th century.

St Colman founded an abbey here for Canons Regular, which afterwards became the head of a see, of which he was made the first bishop.

The abbey had acquired extensive possessions early in the 10th century, and was frequently plundered by the Danes; it also suffered materially from the continued feuds of the powerful septs of the O'Neills, Magennises, and the Macartans.

In the 14th century, Sir John Holt and Sir Robert Belknap, being convicted of treason against RICHARD II, were condemned to death, but on the intercession of the clergy, were banished for life to Dromore, County Down.

At the reformation the cathedral was in ruins, and the town had greatly participated in the devastations of the preceding periods; in this situation it remained till 1610, when JAMES I re-founded the see by letters patent, rebuilt the cathedral, and gave to the bishop extensive landed possessions in this and several adjoining parishes.

An episcopal palace was commenced by Bishop Buckworth, but previously to its completion the war of 1641 broke out, and the cathedral, the unfinished palace, and the town were entirely destroyed by the parliamentarian forces.

From this point the town remained in ruins till the Restoration, when CHARLES II gave the see in commendam to the celebrated Jeremy Taylor, with Down and Connor, by whom the present church, which is also parochial, was built on the site of the ruined cathedral. 

THE SEE of Dromore is extremely compact, and the smallest in extent of any in the island of Ireland, which is not annexed to another see.

It extends only 35 miles from north to south; and 21 from east to west; yet it includes some part of three counties, namely Down, Armagh, and Antrim.

The lordship of Newry claimed the same exemption from episcopal jurisdiction, to which it was entitled when it appertained to a monastery before the Reformation.

The proprietor of the lordship, the EARL OF KILMOREY, exercised the jurisdiction in his peculiar court, granting marriage licences, probates to wills etc under the old monastic seal.

THE PALACE, Dromore, County Down, afterwards called Dromore House or Bishopscourt, was a three-storey, Georgian house built in 1781 by the Rt Rev and Hon William Beresford, Lord Bishop of Dromore, 1780-82.

The palace was enhanced by Bishop Beresford's successor, the Rt Rev Thomas Percy (1729-1811), who laid out plantations, gardens and a glen, adorned with obelisks.

The palace was frequented by a circle of poets and painters during Bishop Percy's time, including Thomas Robinson, a pupil of the portrait painter George Romney.

The last prelate to reside at the palace was the Rt Rev James Saurin, Lord Bishop of Dromore, 1819-42.

It was sold in 1842, when the See of Dromore was merged with Down and Connor.

Dromore House was in use for some years in the late 1800s as a Jesuit school, when it was known as Loyola House.

Thereafter the old episcopal palace remained "untenanted and desolate."

After 1945 the trees and woods were all cut down and the house was left to decay.

First published in January, 2013.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Freemen of Belfast: 1940-50


44  Dr James Dunlop Williamson JP DL ~ 1942

45  The Rt Hon Bernard Law Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG GCB DSO PC ~ 1944

46  General Dwight D Eisenhower ~ 1945

47  The Rt Hon Harold Rupert Leofric George Earl Alexander of Tunis, KG GCB OM GCMG CSI DSO MC CD PC ~ 1945

48  The Rt Hon Alan Francis Viscount Alanbrooke, KG GCB OM GCVO DSO ~ 1945

49  HRH The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh [HM The Queen] ~ 1949

50  HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh ~ 1949

51  Sir William Frederick Neill JP DL ~ 1949

52  Lady Neill ~ 1949

53  The Rt Hon Basil Stanlake Viscount Brookeborough, KG CBE MC PC ~ 1950

54  The Rt Hon Cynthia Mary Viscountess Brookeborough, DBE ~ 1950

First published in 2012.

Friday, 9 April 2021

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, 1921-2021

I am profoundly sorry to learn of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, KG KT OM GCVO GBE, two months before his one hundredth birthday.

God Save The Queen.

The Ferguson Baronetcy

This family formerly resided in Scotland, but settled in the late 17th century at Burt, a parish in the barony of Inishowen, County Donegal (Burt is six miles from Derry).

THE REV ANDREW FERGUSON (1655-1725), of Burt House, a Presbyterian minister, established himself in Ulster, and left issue by his wife Sarah,
John, his heir;
Victor (Rev);
ANDREW (Rev), of Burt;
Dorcas; Ann; a daughter.
The third son, 

THE REV ANDREW FERGUSON (c1699-1787), married and had issue,

JOHN FERGUSON (1730-95), of Londonderry, who wedded Sarah Harvey and had issue,
ANDREW, of whom presently;
Mary; Anne.
It is said that Mr Ferguson was "a poor Londonderry surgeon or apothecary who, according to a later election squib, "had the shop in the whole of the wal [hole in the wall?] with three shillings worth of medicine."

The second son,

ANDREW FERGUSON (1761-1808), banker, of The Farm, Derry, Mayor of Londonderry, 1796-98, MP for Londonderry City (in the Caledon interest), 1798-1800.

Mr Ferguson was created a baronet in 1801, designated of The Farm, County Londonderry.

The hereditary baronetcy was perhaps in compensation for the loss of his seat (which went briefly to his brother-in-law Henry Alexander) following the Act of Union.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Alexander, of Boom Hall (niece of the 1st Earl of Caledon), and had issue,
John, died young;
Harvey, dsp;
Anne, m Lt-Col Wm Blacker;
Jane, m  John Montgomery, of Benvarden;
Sarah, m Rev W Knox (son of Bishop Knox);
Eliza, m J G Smyly.
Sir Andrew died in an accident caused by his driving ‘with incautious rapidity over a bridge wanting some repairs’ in 1808, when his younger son Harvey (1824) survived unharmed.

He was succeeded by his only surviving son,

SIR ROBERT ALEXANDER FERGUSON, 2nd Baronet (1796-1860), of The Farm, and Castlederg, County Tyrone, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1818, County Tyrone, 1825, MP for Londonderry City, 1831-60, Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, 1840-60.

Sir Robert died unmarried, in 1860, when the title expired.

Statue of 2nd Baronet in Brooke Park, Derry

There is a stained glass window in St Columb's Cathedral in memory of Sir Robert.

The Farm (Image: Boomhall Trust)

THE FARM was located at Culmore Road in Derry, adjacent to Boom Hall.

It was subsequently acquired by the McFarlands prior to demolition for a housing development.

Prospect of The Farm from the Foyle (Image: Boomhall Trust)

J A K Dean, in his indispensable Gate Lodges of Ulster gazetteer, describes it thus: 
For many years the residence of Sir Robert Ferguson, long-standing MP for the city. His lodge, square Georgian house with noble Grecian portico, and "adjacent Pleasure ground, tout ensemble of the home view" have all been overrun by city sprawl.

The Farm, adjacent to Boom Hall, features in J A K Dean's 2020 publication The Plight of the Big House in Northern Ireland

I am particularly grateful to Bart of the Boomhall Trust for the receipt of images of The Farm.

First published in 2013.

Thursday, 8 April 2021



GLENARM, a small market and post town, in the parish of Tickmacrevan, barony of Lower Glenarm, County Antrim.

It stands at the influx of the Glenarm rivulet to Glenarm Bay, eight miles north-west of Larne, ten east-north-east of Broughshane, and 25½ north of Belfast.

Its site is the lowest ground in the deep and sequestered glen, almost overhung on each side by the glen's lofty hill-screens, and naturally all but inaccessible, except by the sea, or by the narrow pass along the glen.

The rivulet is spanned by a handsome stone bridge of several arches; and on one bank stands the village, with its whitened cottages, its salt-works, and its lime quarries; on the other, the imposing though fanciful form of GLENARM CASTLE, and the parish church, with its modest but gracefully rising spire.

The village presents in its inn, its neat church, its chapel, its prettily situated meeting-house, its clean and prosperous appearance, and the romantic character of its situation, a very pleasing object to the eye; and has been compared to the Welsh villages of Beddgelert and Tremadog, but out-rivalling the former with its bold, sea-beaten shore, and the latter with its closely impending hills.

"Glenarm, the most interesting of all the little towns on the northern coast," says Mr Fraser, "is picturesquely situated at the foot of a lovely glen, which separates the mountains connected with Collin Top and Slemish."

"It is washed by the mountain wave on the north, protected on the west from boisterous winds by the hills of Nachore, which blend with the beetling promontory of Garron Point; and beautifully on the south, by the trees which adorn the residence of the Earls of Antrim."

The town is a very eligible and rather favourite retreat of sea-bathers; and it does considerable business in the shipping of provisions, corn, salt, flint, and chalk - the last locally miscalled lime - to Scotland.

St Patrick's Parish Church, Glenarm (Image: William Alfred Green)

The parish church stands on the beach, near one of the entrances to Lord Antrim's demesne; and is surrounded with a small enclosed cemetery, whose tombstones make an ostentatious display of armorial sculpturing, and record an unusually large proportion of instances of longevity.

The living was a rectory and vicarage, the former annexed in 1609 to the chancellorship of Connor, and the latter episcopally united in 1768 to the rectory of Templeoughter (which is completely enclosed with Tickmacrevan); but on the death of Dr Trail, the late chancellor, in 1830, the two parishes were consolidated under the provisions of Dr Mant's act, into a single rectory, in the diocese of Connor, and placed under the patronage of the Bishop.

The church, which occupies the site of an ancient monastery close to the shore near the town, was built in 1768, at the expense of the noble family of McDonnell, and was enlarged in 1822.

It is a plain building with a tower and spire.

Within the cemetery stand some insignificant remains of a cruciform building, formerly a Franciscan friary, founded in 1465 by the Scotsman Robert Bissett, who was expatriated for taking part in the murder of the Duke of Atholl. 

This monastery appears to have been retained for a time by the Crown, and granted in 1557 to Alexander MacDonnell, of the family of the Lords of the Isles.

The Castle and the Barbican, Glenarm: an Engraving by J P Neale

GLENARM CASTLE, the modern mansion of the Earls of Antrim, occupies the site of the proud feudal castellated stronghold of the MacDonnells of Antrim; and is a stately, spacious, ancient-looking pile, on a rising ground in the glen, and presenting an exterior somewhat similar to that of a baronial castle of the 15th century.

"The approach to the castle," says the Guide to the Giant's Causeway, "is by a lofty barbican, standing on the northern extremity of the bridge."

"passing through this, a long terrace, overhanging the river, and confined on the opposite side by a lofty embattled curtain-wall, leads through an avenue of ancient lime trees to the principal front of the castle; the appearance of which, from this approach, is very impressive."

"Lofty towers, terminated with cupolas and gilded vanes, occupy the angles of the building; the parapets are crowned with gables, decorated with carved pinnacles, and exhibiting various heraldic ornaments."

"The hall is a noble apartment, 44 feet in length by 20 in breadth, and 30 feet high; in the centre of which stands a handsome billiards-table."

"Across one end passes a gallery, communicating with the bedchambers, and supported by richly ornamented columns, from the grotesque ornaments of which springs a beautiful groined ceiling."

"On the principal floor are several noble apartments; the dining parlour 40 feet by 24, and the drawing-room 44 by 22, are the most spacious; the small drawing-room, library etc, though of considerably less dimensions, are most commodious apartments."

"The demesne of Glenarm is very extensive, and beautifully wooded: it has latterly been much improved, and many obstructions to the view removed."

"There is also an enclosure in the glen, called the Great Deer Park, which is generally supposed to be the most comprehensive park in the kingdom, and the venison fed there the choicest."

The Little Deer Park on the south side of the bay, east of the foot of the glen, consists of a large natural platform, partly girt by sea-washed and cavern-perforated cliffs, and partly bounded by high mural precipices of basalt, and diversified athwart its verdant surface with boulders and huge debris, scattered in irregular and wild magnificence.

Area of the town, 29 acres. Population in 1831, 880; in 1841, 881. Houses, 111.