Friday, 18 November 2016

Ballygally Castle

JAMES SHAW established himself in the early 1600s at Greenock, in Scotland.

In 1605, his son, 

JOHN or JAMES SHAW, and Patrick Montgomery, were appointed as attorneys to act on behalf of Hugh Montgomery, in the division of Con O’Neill’s estate.

This John or James is described in The Montgomery Manuscripts as one of Hugh Montgomery’s ‘prime friends’.

In 1606, one of the first members of the family to accompany Sir Hugh Montgomery to Ulster was his wife’s uncle,

PATRICK SHAW, who later became laird of Kelsoland (Greenock).

The Montgomerys and Shaws were closely related through marriage: Sir Hugh married James Shaw’s eldest daughter Elizabeth.

Sir Hugh’s sister, Jean, married Patrick Shaw (2nd son of John Shaw, of Greenock).

As the Scots settlement in east Ulster expanded, some of the original Montgomery tenants moved to County Antrim.

James Shaw (possibly the John Shaw mentioned above) and his wife, Isabella Brisbane, moved to Ballygally, near Larne, County Antrim.

After Shaw came to Ballygally in 1613, he came into possession of a sub-grant of land, at the low rent of 24 pounds per annum, from the Earl of Antrim.

It was on this land that Ballygally Castle was built, in 1625.

In 1657, the Shaws acquired the Brisbane Estate (James Shaw, son of James Shaw of Ballygally, married his cousin, Elizabeth Brisbane).


BALLYGALLY CASTLE, near Larne, County Antrim, is a four-storey, rectangular tower in Scottish style with a steeply-pitched roof.

There are cone-topped corner bartizans and gable lucernes.

The walls are of a rough-cast render, though some stonework is exposed.

Over the main entrance door, leading to the tower, is a carved stone tablet bearing the date 1625, and the legend God's Providence Is My Inheritance.


It is likely that the original tower-house was more extensive than the current remains of the ancient Castle indicate.

It served as a place of refuge for protestants during the civil wars.

During the rebellion of 1641 the Irish garrison, stationed at Glenarm, tried, on many occasions, to take the castle, though they never succeeded in gaining entry.

Ballygally passed through many troubles and was used again as a fortress in the 18th Century.

Towards the mid-18th Century, considerable additions were made to the castle.

Henry Shaw married a Miss Hamilton, accompanied by her two sisters, all of whom resided at the castle.

In 1799, William Shaw, the last member of the family to live at the castle, succeeded to the estate.


In the early 1800s, the Shaws lost their lands and wealth, and the estate was sold to the Agnew family for £15,400.

Anna Shaw, of Ballygally, was married to Patrick Agnew, who died in 1667

At one time it was known as Shaw's Castle.

The castle, for some years, served as a coastguard station; then became the residence of the Rev Classon Porter and his family, who lived there for many years.


It was subsequently acquired by the Moore family who, in turn, sold Ballygally to Mr Cyril Lord in the early 1950s.

Mr Lord refurbished it as a hotel.

The well-known hotelier Sir William Hastings, CBE, purchased  Ballygally Castle Hotel from Mr Lord in 1966 for £40,000.

*****

WHEN BALLYGALLY CASTLE was built, it was known that Ulster was unsettled, so the castle was designed as a place of defence as well as one of residence.

This is a 17th century plantation castle, largely unchanged and intact, apart from sash windows.

It was originally constructed mostly local stone, in the style of a French chateau, with high walls, a steep roof, dormer windows and corner turrets.

The walls were about five feet thick, with loopholes for musketry.

The stairs were built of stone, and spiral in construction.

Through the outer hall ran an open stream of water for the use of the inhabitants, in case of siege; and above the dormer windows were carvings, still traceable today.

Outside were originally two courtyards, one surrounded by high walls; the other inside the higher walls.

The inner courtyard was marked by two stone pillar mounted with round stone balls.

Inside the courtyard were stables, coach houses, byres, sheep pens, a brew-house and dovecot.

Outside the courtyard there was a wash-house and a scutching-mill and, in the little glen on the other side of the river, was a corn mill.


Today, Ballygally Castle is much enlarged and modernised with 54 en suite bedrooms.

Nevertheless, the old castle has been preserved and retains many of its original features, including several turreted bedrooms.

First published in October, 2012.

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