If a clan family set sail from the west of Scotland to Ulster the nearest port of arrival could have been Larne, on the 'mainland' opposite the toe of the peninsula known as Islandmagee. We are fortunate in having some good documention about the McIlhaggo family of Islandmagee. We have one of out earliest Irish Memorial Inscriptions from Ballypriormore Graveyard on the peninsula. It reads
Erected by Samuel McIlhaggo
in memory of
Ellon McWhinney his wife
who departed this life
on 23 Dec 1829 aged 52 years.
Also the above Samuel McIlhaggo
who departed this life on 13 Sep
1837 aged 57 years.
Also their son William
who departed this life
on the 16 Feb 1839
aged 23 years.
This gravestone gives us a birth year for Samuel of 1780, for Ellon his wife of 1777 and for William their son of 1816. Where did they live and what did they do? The answers to these questions lie in the details of an Indenture dated 22nd December 1824, to be found in the Provincial Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast. It was made on 22nd December 1824, but interestingly was backdated to 1st November 1823, possibly the date the family settled in a Townland called Portmuck, literally the 'Bay of the Pig', so named from the shape of a small island in a sheltered cove on the east coast of Islandmagee. The Indenture was made between landowner Viscount Dungannon and Samuel McIlhago. It was for 10 acres in that very fertile area. Samuel and his heirs could farm the land for an annual rent of £12 for 31 years. It is signed in a very neat hand by 'Samul Mchagg'.
Samuel was certainly farming there 11 years later when his name appears in the Portmuck Tithe Applotment Book, as it does also in the Tithe Book for Kilkoan, a nearby townland on the peninsula's west coast. In 1823 Samuel was 43 years old and married with a seven year old son. We would dearly like to know where he was farming before he moved to Portmuck. Maybe in Scotland. We know from the Memorial Inscription that William lost his mother when he was 21 and Samuel was widowed when he was 49. Information from a private correspondent indicates that William probably had a sister who was ten years his senior, namely Catherine, who had married an Arthur Forbes. Sadly William died only two years after his mother as far as we know without issue. Arthur and Catherine certainly have descendants today. They had four sons and two daughters. We know of one grand-daughter, three great- grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Also, as we will see, Samuel wasn't the only clan member thereabouts and may have had siblings.