Saturday, 30 May 2015

1st Baron Dunleath

THE BARONS DUNLEATH WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY DOWN, WITH 6,769 ACRES
The Mulhollands claim to be a branch of the ancient sept of Maclallan, Argyllshire, and were first established in Ulster, in County Antrim, whence they spread into counties Londonderry, Carlow, Kilkenny and Monaghan. In the last-named county, Captain John Mulholland held the estate of Conaghy by grant from the Crown; and his lineal descendant, John Mulholland, served as High Sheriff in 1766.
THOMAS MULHOLLAND (1756-1820), of Belfast, had two sons,
ANDREW, of whom hereafter;
St Clair Kelburn, of Eglantine, Hillsborough.
The elder son,

ANDREW MULHOLLAND JP DL (1792-1866), of Ballywalter Park, married, in 1818, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas McDonnell, of Belfast, by whom he had issue,
JOHN, created BARON DUNLEATH;
Thomas (1832-52);
Annie; Sarah Jane; Mary; Elizabeth; Andrina.
Mr Mulholland's elder son,

JOHN MULHOLLAND JP DL (1819-95), MP for Downpatrick, 1874-85, was elevated to the peerage as BARON DUNLEATH in 1892.

This gentleman married, in 1851, Frances Louisa, daughter of Hugh Lyle, of Knocktana, County Londonderry, and had issue,
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon Andrew Henry Mulholland (b 1981).

*****

IN 1803, Thomas Mulholland, described as a dealer, bought two houses in Upper Church Lane, Belfast, signing the contract with a simple cross (X), an indication of illiteracy and, presumably, of fairly modest origins.

About 1815, the family entered the flourishing cotton industry by purchasing a mill.

Thomas died in 1820, but the business continued to expand: in 1822 his sons built a huge spinning mill in the Point Field, near York Street.

One Sunday morning in June, 1828, however, disaster struck when this mill was almost totally destroyed by fire. Yet in fact time was to prove this a most fortuitous disaster for the Mulhollands. The brothers, Thomas, Andrew and St Clair, with the support of their partner John Hind, decided to rebuild the mill, but for the spinning of flax not of cotton.

In addition to their business interests, the Mulhollands also took an active part in civic affairs: St Clair was a JP for County Down and High Sheriff of County Louth and in 1865 he donated money for the erection of a new wing at what was to become the Royal Victoria Hospital.

His elder brother, Andrew, had married Elizabeth McDonnell in 1818 and had one son and four daughters. He was elected Mayor of Belfast for the year 1845.

He built Ballywalter Park, to which he moved in 1846; and he is perhaps best remembered in Belfast today for having provided the Ulster Hall with its fine Grand Organ in 1862.

Andrew Mulholland bought the Ballywalter estate from the Matthews family in 1846 for the sum of £23,000 (£2 million in 2010).

Andrew's eldest and only son John (1819-95) was educated at the Royal Academy in Belfast and eventually assumed control of the family interests, which aside from the mills included a substantial amount of land: 13,500 acres in County Down and over 1,000 acres near Cookstown in County Tyrone.

John was noted for his business and financial acumen which carried him well beyond the linen industry.

He was, for instance, involved in 1860 in advising HM Government during negotiations with the French over an important commercial treaty regulating trade between the two countries – and, among various other provisions, lowering French duties on flax and linen.

He also played a prominent part in organising the finances of the Church of Ireland after it was disestablished in 1869. He was a JP and High Sheriff for both counties Down and Tyrone.

In 1868 he stood as a Conservative candidate, with Sir Charles Lanyon, the architect of Ballywalter, for the seat of Belfast. Both, however, were defeated, with John coming bottom of the poll. Yet John persevered and in 1874 he was returned unopposed for Downpatrick, a seat he retained until 1885 [and where his influence, as ground landlord of most of the town, was very strong].

Although he held no political office, he spoke frequently on Irish questions and was a strong supporter of Tory policies.

In 1892 Mr Mulholland was raised to the peerage, as BARON DUNLEATH, of Ballywalter, on the recommendation of the outgoing Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury.

Following his decease in 1895, the 1st Baron's estate was valued at almost £600,000, the equivalent of almost £71 million today.

The 4th Baron was instrumental in the restoration of the grand Mulholland organ in Belfast's Ulster Hall.

The present 6th Baron Dunleath is also the 3rd Mulholland Baronet.

The 6th Baron's father, the 5th Baron, was better known as Sir Michael Mulholland Bt, and lived formerly at Storbrooke House in Massey Avenue, Belfast.

When Sir Michael succeeded to the barony, it merged with the baronetcy.

The Dunleath Papers are held at PRONI.


BALLYWALTER PARK, one of the finest stately homes in Northern Ireland, is on the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

The estate today comprises about 1,000 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland and forest.

The present Lord Dunleath formerly managed the Duke of Abercorn's Belle Isle estate in County Fermanagh until he succeeded to the barony of Dunleath.

Lord Dunleath has three children: his eldest son and heir, the Hon Andrew Mulholland; the Hon Tara Mulholland; and the Hon William Mulholland.

First published in June, 2010.

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