JOHN MacDONALD, also called John Mor, styled in 1472 "heir apparent to his father", was in treaty with EDWARD IV.
He married Sabina, daughter of Phelim O'Neill, surnamed Bacach, or the Lame, by whom he had a son,
SIR JOHN MacDONALD, surnamed Cathanach, from being fostered by the O'Cathans in Ulster.
In 1493 he was at the head of the clan Iain Mhòr, when the Lordship of the Isles was finally forfeited.
He married Cecelia, daughter of Robert Savage, Lord of the Ardes, and had issue,
ALEXANDER, of whom hereafter;The eldest son,
John Mor, executed 1499;
John Og, executed 1499;
Donald Balloch, executed 1499;
Angus Ileach, fled to Ireland;
ALEXANDER (c1480-1536), fled to Ireland with his surviving brother, Angus Ileach, after the execution of their father and brothers.
In 1517 he supported Sir Donald MacDonald, of Lochalsh, who was in rebellion against the government, and in 1529 he was again in rebellion, and ravaged the lands of the Campbells with fire and sword, but obtained a pardon for himself and his followers in 1531, and a grant of lands in the South Isles and Kintyre.
The next year he was sent with 8,000 men to assist the Scots of Ulster, then at war with England.He married Catherine, daughter of John MacDonald, of Ardnamurchan, and had, with three daughters (Alice married Sir Moses Hill),
Donald, born blind;The fifth son,
Maeve; Mary; Alice.
SORLEY BOY MacDONNELL (c1505-90), was appointed by his eldest brother Lord of the Route, County Antrim, in 1558.
On his brother's death, he seized on the Ulster estates of his family, and after various conflicts with the native Irish and the English forces, he became a faithful subject of ELIZABETH I, and being of Scottish birth was made a free denizen of Ireland in 1573.He wedded Mary, daughter of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, and had, among other issue,
Alaster, dsp;Sorley Boy died at Dunaneeny Castle, near Ballycastle, County Antrim.
RANDAL MacSORLEY, 1st EARL OF ANTRIM;
James MacSorley (Sir), dsp;
His eldest surviving son,
SIR RANDAL MacSORLEY MacDONNELL KB, of Dunluce, County Antrim, having zealously promoted the English interest in Ireland in the reigns of ELIZABETH I and JAMES I, was created by the latter, in 1618, Viscount Dunluce.
His lordship was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1620, as EARL OF ANTRIM.
He was also sworn of the Privy Council and appointed to the command of a regiment.
His lordship married Alice, daughter of Hugh O'Neill, and sister of Hugh, the last Earl of Tyrone.
Dying in 1636, he was succeeded by his elder son,
RANDAL, 2nd Earl (1609-82).
This nobleman, for the many essential services he had rendered to the Crown, was advanced to the dignity of a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF ANTRIM, by CHARLES I, in 1644.
His lordship wedded firstly, in 1635, Lady Katherine Manners, daughter and heir of Francis, 6th Earl of Rutland, and widow of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.
He espoused secondly, Rose, daughter of Sir Henry O'Neill, Knight, of Shane's Castle, County Antrim, but had no issue.
When his lordship died in 1683 the marquessate expired, but the other honours devolved upon his brother,
ALEXANDER, 3rd Earl (1615-99), who, actively espousing King JAMES II in Ireland, in the war of the Revolution, was attainted of high treason; but, being subsequently included in the treaty of Limerick, his lands and honours were restored.
His lordship espoused firstly, Lady Elizabeth Annesley, second daughter of Arthur, 1st Earl of Anglesey, by whom, who died in 1669, he had no issue.
He married secondly, Helena, third daughter of Sir John Burke, Knight, of Derrymaclachtney, County Galway.
The 3rd Earl was succeeded by his only son,
RANDAL, 4th Earl (1680-1721), who wedded Rachael, eldest daughter of Clotworthy, Viscount Massereene, and was succeeded by his only son,
ALEXANDER, 5th Earl (1713-55), who, being in minority at his father's decease, was left under the guardianship of the Dowager Lady Massereene and Lord Massereene, who brought him up in the reformed religion (his predecessors had previously adhered to the church of Rome).
His lordship espoused firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Pennefather, Comptroller and Accountant-general of Ireland, but by her had no surviving issue.
He married secondly, in 1739, Anne, eldest daughter and heir of Charles Patrick Plunket MP, of Dillonstown, County Louth, by whom he had one son and two daughters.
He wedded thirdly, Catherine, youngest daughter of Thomas Meredyth, of Newtown, County Meath, without issue.
He died in 1755, and was succeeded by his son,
RANDAL WILLIAM, 6th Earl (1749-91), who espoused firstly, in 1774, Letitia, eldest daughter of Harvey, 1st Viscount Mountmorres, and widow of the Hon Arthur Trevor, only son of Arthur, Viscount Dungannon, by whom he had issue,
ANNE CATHERINE, his successor;The 6th Earl, having no male issue, obtained a new patent, dated 1785, creating him Viscount Dunluce and EARL OF ANTRIM, with remainder to his daughters primogeniturely.
CHARLOTTE, late Countess.
ANNE CATHERINE, as COUNTESS OF ANTRIM in her own right (1775-1834).
Her ladyship married firstly, in 1799, Sir Henry Vane-Tempest Bt, of Wynyard, County Durham, and by him had an only daughter, LADY FRANCES ANNE EMILY VANE, who inherited her father's great estates, and wedded Charles William, Marquess of Londonderry.
Lady Antrim wedded secondly, in 1817, Edmund Phelps, who assumed the surname of MacDonnell.
Her ladyship was succeeded by her sister,
CHARLOTTE KERR, as Countess of Antrim; who espoused, in 1799, Vice-Admiral Lord Mark Robert Kerr, third son of William, 5th Marquess of Lothian, and had surviving issue,
HUGH SEYMOUR, her successor;Her ladyship was succeeded by her eldest son,
Georgiana Emily Jane; Caroline Mary;
Charlotte Elizabeth; Fanny.
HUGH SEYMOUR, 9th Earl (1812-55);
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Randal Alexander St John McDonnell, styled Viscount Dunluce (b 1967).
- Anne Catherine MacDonnell, Countess of Antrim (1775–1834)
- Charlotte Kerr, Countes of Antrim (1779–1835)
- Hugh Seymour McDonnell, 9th Earl (1812–55)
- Mark McDonnell, 10th Earl (1814–69)
- William Randal McDonnell, 11th Earl (1851–1918)
- Randal Mark Kerr McDonnell, 12th Earl (1878–1932)
- Randal John Somerled McDonnell, 13th Earl (1911–77)
- Alexander Randal Mark McDonnell, 14h Earl (b 1935)
THE EARL OF ANTRIM'S estates were vast, comprising in excess of 330,000 acres (the four northern baronies of County Antrim) in the early 17th century.
A hundred years later the estates had shrunk to 152,000 acres.
The detailed history of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, is held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Their history is complex, with several extinct marquessates.
The 1st Earl of Antrim was the son of Sorley Boy MacDonnell, ELIZABETH I's strongest Irish foe after the great Earl of Tyrone.
The 1st Earl (Sir Randal MacDonnell) originally built a castle at Glenarm, a charming village on the coast of County Antrim, in 1603 as a hunting lodge or secondary residence.
THE CASTLE, Glenarm, County Antrim, became the principal seat of the family after Dunluce Castle was abandoned.
The mansion house was rebuilt ca 1750 as a 3-storey double gable-ended block, joined by pavilions with high roofs and cupolas.
The main block had a pedimented breakfront with three windows in the top storey, a Venetian window below and a tripartite doorway below again, flanked on either side by a Venetian window in each of the two lower storeys and a triple window above.
The interior remained Classical though, in 1929, the Castle was virtually gutted by fire.
Subsequently, the pointed and mullioned windows were replaced with rectangular Georgian sashes. so the interior now dates largely from the post-fire rebuilding.
Some of the rooms have ceilings painted by the present Lady Antrim. The service wing was reconstructed after yet another fire in 1967.
This is a remarkable demesne, noted for its great beauty and large extent, occupying much of the lower reaches of the picturesque valley of the River Glenarm, extending some five miles from the sea and about half a mile wide.
The original castle, built by the Bysets in the 13th century, was broken down in 1597 and a new castle was begun by Sir Randal ‘Arranach’ MacDonnell, later 1st Earl of Antrim, from 1603 on the opposite bank of the river, away from the village.
The building was enlarged into a double pile house in 1636 but, in 1642, ‘Lord Antrim’s pleasant house’ was destroyed by invading Scots armies.
It remained a gutted ruin for over a century, but the demesne continued to be used by the family, particularly during the hunting season.
In the 1660s Alexander, later 3rd Earl of Antrim, added a wing to the ruined house to accommodate the family, while at this period created two enclosed deer parks, namely the Small Deer Park and the Grand Deer Park, the latter occupying much of the present demesne and large enough to accommodate deer hunting.
In 1682, a ‘handsome stone bridge’ was erected over the river to carry the public road and, a year later, Richard Dobbs visited Glenarm and noted the glen was ‘clad with underwood’ and the village contained ‘all thatched houses, except the earl of Antrim’s, the Church and one more’.
In the 1740s Alexander, 5th Earl, then living at Ballymagarry, near Dunluce, carried out improvements at Glenarm, including tree planting, the building of a ‘horse course’, a stable for race horses, a hexagonal gazebo lying close to the river and a grotto ‘in which there are a great number of fine & curious Shells, & many of the pinna, which are found off the north east point of Ireland’.
In 1750, Ballymagarry was burnt ‘by the carelessness of servants’ and the 5th Earl resolved to move to Glenarm. An engineer from Cumbria, Christopher Myers, was engaged to rebuild the house, the old walls of which were ‘entire and for the most part sound’ in 1740.
The house was re-fashioned in 1756 with a fusion of Baroque and Palladian styles, its front fenestration being punctured by rows of Venetian windows and joined by curving colonnades to pavilions with pyramidal roofs (that closest to the river contained a banqueting house).
The new house and its surrounding demesne were depicted on two panoramic oil paintings of ca 1770, presently in the house.
At this time the formal demesne extended up the hillside, while around the building lay a network of walled courts and gardens, including a circular grass sweep in front of the house with a ‘statue of Hercules of esteemed workmanship’ in the centre [as described by Milton] and a walled garden to the north of the house with espaliers on the walls and a glasshouse in the centre.
A number of houses of the village, including a mill, still occupied an area south of the house, while the public road crossed over the 1682 bridge and around the house to Ballymena.
In 1775 Randal, 6th Earl, succeeded to the property and, although he spent most of his time in Dublin, started creating a landscape park to the south of the house, complete with a cottage orné (the Rustic Cottage), and carried out alterations to the house roof, castellating the rear parapets and altering the upper front windows.
These changes to the house were depicted by James Nixon (c.1785) and by Milton (published 1793), the latter described the demesne as then consisting ‘of several hundred acres of meadow well improved.
The flower, fruit and kitchen gardens have suitable hot houses and are near a mile in circumference
… The house from the rear commands a fine view of the sea … the front looks to the glen or Great Park, 13 miles extremely romantic and beautiful; consisting of woods, and broken rock; with several waterfalls, and salmon leaps, formed by a large serpentine river, winding through the grounds, its banks adorned with various evergreens, myrtles and the arbutus, or strawberry tree, almost continuously in blossom...’.In 1803-07 a programme of modernisation was carried out on the house by Anne Katherine, 2nd Countess of Antrim in her own right; she gothicized the lower windows, altered the interior, remodelled the wing, and removed the pavilions and colonnades.
At the same time the leases of the remaining village houses were bought up and the landscape park allowed to extend up to the house windows.
However, this period also witnessed extensive tree felling in the Great Deer Park, presumably in support of the war effort.
Between 1823-32, Richard Morrison remodelled the exterior of the main house, transforming it into a romantic neo-Jacobean residence with a forest of lofty cupolas, gilded vanes, tall chimneys and finials.
Morrison also designed the barbican gate, completed in 1825, together with its associated river walls and towers, behind which was planted a fine beech walk.
He also added buildings to the demesne, notably a gate lodge and The Deer Park Cottage, subsequently remodelled.
The present walled kitchen garden was added in the 1820s complete with its potting houses; the adjacent frame yard was added in the 1840s and the gardener’s house in the 1850s.
It was around this time that a lean-to glasshouse was built, later rebuilt ca 1870.
Also during the 1840s or early 1850s the lawn area immediately north of the house, once occupied by the old 18th century kitchen garden, was transformed with a network of radiating paths and numerous flower beds.
The mansion was burnt in 1929, later rebuilt by Imrie and Angell of London, while in 1967 a fire destroyed the wing of the house, much of which was subsequently reconstructed in much reduced form by Donald Insall.
Since 1993 Lord Dunluce and his family have lived in the Castle.
He has embarked on improvements to the house and parkland, including the walled garden, which is now open to the public in the summer months and has a tea-room.
The Barbican gate lodge has recently been restored by the Landmark Trust and is used as a holiday house.
I have already written articles about the present Lord Antrim and Lord Dunluce.
The Antrim Estates now comprise some 1,300 acres.
Glenarm Castle is still one of Northern Ireland’s oldest estates.
Today visitors can enjoy Glenarm Castle’s historic Walled Garden, open to the public between May and September and the charming Tea Room, open from Easter until mid October.
The Walled Garden is also open for events at Christmas and at other times throughout the year.
I am grateful to Lord Dunluce, who has provided me with the following information:
First published in 2009. Antrim arms courtesy of European Heraldry.
- The demesne is not administered by the Department of Agriculture - the land remains in hand;
- The farm has converted to organic status and in the process of building up a pedigree herd of beef short-horn cattle;
- Lord Dunluce is at Sarasin & Partners (not Sarasin Chiswell since 2008); chairman of Northern Salmon Company; a Trustee of Clan Donald Lands Trust;
- Lord & Lady Dunluce also have a daughter called Helena (b 2008).