Mr Clark was a wealthy Scottish textile industrialist. He married Annie (daughter of John Smiley and sister of Sir Hugh Houston Smiley Bt). Their daughter Edith married Sir Thomas Dixon in 1906.Cairndhu comprises two storeys and many gables; though it's style is slightly Oriental, given that it boasts ornate, openwork bargeboards and an elaborate wooden veranda and balcony running for most of the frontage.
SIR THOMAS DIXON, 2nd Baronet, married Edith, youngest daughter of Mr Stewart Clark, of Dundas Castle, South Queensferry, Scotland, and Cairndhu, in 1906, at Dalmeny Church, South Queensferry.
Edith Clark was the sister of Sir John Stewart-Clark, 1st Baronet.
After their marriage, the Dixons lived for varying periods at Graymount House, Hillsborough Castle, Drumadarragh, Luttrelstown, and Lucan, before purchasing Lady Dixon’s childhood summer residence, Cairndhu.
The estate increased in size to nearly 500 acres when the adjoining properties of Droagh (formerly Sir Edward Coey’s estate) and Carnfunnock (William Chaine’s property) were purchased.
The Dixon family held many house and garden parties and entertained public dignitaries with grouse shooting in the Antrim Hills.
More improvements were made to the house including the servants' dining hall.
The house was beautiful and Cairndhu had a large workforce, with 20 indoors staff, kitchen staff, ladies maids and upstairs staff .
Sir Thomas occupied his time with livestock farming, including a herd of dairy cows.
The farm office, stables and cattle byres were based at Hillhead Farm, now the clubhouse of Cairndhu Golf Club.
Mr. Frank Brownlow was responsible for looking after the extensive herds of cattle and sheep at Carnfunnock, Cairndhu and hill land at Ballyboley.
He travelled to auctions all over Ireland to purchase cattle for Sir Thomas and managed the farm at Cairndhu.
The land at Cairndhu was used for grazing cattle, mainly Shorthorns and Galloway cattle, which were bred for beef.
Two or three mornings per week they would inspect the cattle together and if Mr Brownlow pointed out to Sir Thomas that neighbouring farms were for sale, such as Droagh Farm, Sir Thomas would buy them and knock down hedges to have his fields extended for grazing.
Sir Thomas often had his chauffeur, Sandy Moreland, drive him round the fields in his yellow and black Rolls-Royce to see his cattle, land stewards and head gardeners.
There were twenty-two gardeners and estate workers.
In 1937, when Carnfunnock was merged with Cairndhu, Mr Brownlow was responsible for the management of the whole estate, which consisted of 500 acres.
In September, 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, Sir Thomas, as Mayor of Larne (1939-41), handed over his Larne residence for use as a War Hospital Supply Depot and organised the YMCA canteen at the harbour.
Lady Dixon was president of the Ulster Fund and War Hospital Supply Depot for Serving Forces (Larne Depot) with donations requested in October 1939 to purchase necessary materials.
Sir Thomas provided his land, though he and Lady Dixon were able to live independently in Cairndhu without being affected.
The Carnfunnock walled garden grew cabbage, cauliflower and other vegetables that were used in Cairndhu or taken to Lady Dixon’s friends and family.
In 1940 Lady Dixon gave one of their three Rolls-Royces to be converted into an ambulance for first-aid parties to the Larne A.R.P. Ambulance Service.
In May, 1947, Sir Thomas celebrated his 79th birthday, and the occasion was marked by announcing a generous gift: After forty years at Cairndhu, the Dixons donated their 60-room family home, with 100 acres of the estate, to the Ministry of Health and Local Government for use as a convalescent home and hospital.
At the time, Lady Dixon said that she was very sorry to be going away from the house that her father built: “It’s too big for us now, though. It was different in the days when we could entertain.”
Sir Thomas died on holiday at the Majestic Hotel, Harrogate, on 10th May, 1950, aged 81.
His body was brought back on the Stranraer steam-boat en route to his last residence, Wilmont House in Dunmurry.
The funeral service was held at Belfast Cathedral before burial at Dundonald Cemetery.
His younger brother Herbert, who had already been elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Glentoran, succeeded him in the baronetcy.
At the time of Sir Thomas’s death, his effects were valued at over £389,000.
Cairndhu was officially opened as a convalescent hospital in 1950, but funding difficulties meant that, in 1986, it was closed down by the Department of Health and Social Services.
In 1995, the Lord Rana purchased Cairndhu House and the surrounding gardens from the council.
Cairndhu was originally built as a summer residence in 1875 on a beautiful site overlooking the sea, which hitherto had a small amount of planting around a former smaller house called Sea View.
The trees, forming an effective shelter-belt, date from the late 19th century.
The site benefited initially from the shelter-belts of the adjoining property, Carncastle Lodge (now Carnfunnock Country Park).
These adjacent sites are now both administered by Larne Borough Council.
Gardens developed round the house with steeply terraced lawns. The grounds rise on a steep slope from sea level, east to west.
The productive gardens were to the west side of the house at the most elevated level.
Vestiges of these remain and some dilapidated glass-houses.
There are good specimens of mature trees, shrub planting and lawns. The northern end is now a golf course.
First published in August, 2010.