Saturday, 6 June 2009

Portmuck, Ballytober and Larne


We have met husband and wife Samuel McIlhaggo (b.1780) and Ellon McWhinney (b.1777) and their son William (b.1816), farming on Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northern Ireland from at least 1823 to 1834. The 1828 Land Valuation Book contains two other McIlhaggos, James and William in addition to Samuel. Also there exist Indentures for James, a James Junior and a William (not the son of Samuel). We can hypothesize that James (senior) was probably the father of James Junior, Samuel and William. However, before we see them all on Islandmagee we must go to the nearby port of Larne and its Mill producing the famous Irish Linen. 

There is a lease signed by James McElhaggo describing him as a bleacher at the Mill. This is the first of three leases in James's name. It is dated 16th June 1786 and it is for a Mill Tenement (Apartment) with a garden opposite. It cost James £8.11.0 per annum. The owner of the Tenement was a John White of Larne. In the document James's name is spelled McElhago, though he signs McElhaggo. The second lease is dated a mere two months later, on 1st August, for four houses and a garden. This time it is James leasing these properties in Larne to a farmer, Charles Bohannan. James seems to have got into the property market very quickly! A third lease nine years later (1795) has him leasing these same properties to Francis Shaw, a shoemaker in Larne. Significantly this lease describes James as 'of Islandmagee'. So, by 1795, when Samuel would have been 15, James had moved on to the peninsula, presumably to farm. We don't know exactly when the family moved but it appears to have been sometime between 1786 and 1795.

We need to compare three farming leases in Islandmagee, all on Viscount Dungannon's land. Samuel's lease was for land in Portmuck, dated 2nd December 1824, rent £10. His name is spelled McIlhago in the lease, but is signed with two 'g's. James Junior's lease was for land in Ballytober (a townland on the west of the peninsula) dated 29th November 1822, rent £16. His name is spelled McIlhago in the lease but signed with a double 'g'. Both were for 10 acres. Third, William's lease on 20th December 1824 was also for land in Ballytober, but just for 3 acres at £5 per annum. His name is spelled and signed McIlhago. All three leases included 'multure', a fee, probably paid in kind, for grinding corn, to the Mill of Islandmagee.

We do not have certain birth dates for James Junior or William. As James Junior's lease was made two years before that of Samuel we may presume that he was a couple of years older and born about 1778. William had a farm of half the size of his (presumed) brothers so perhaps he was the youngest, born about 1782. If James senior was the father of James Junior, Samuel and William we may presume he married about 1777, perhaps at the age of twenty-two, giving us a birth year for him of 1755.

There is the interesting question of what happened to James senior. We do not have a lease on land for him, though if he were one and the same as James of Larne, when he is described in 1795 as 'of Islandmagee', maybe he was living with and working alongside one or more of his sons. However, in 1824, when James senior was about 69 we have a reference in Pigott's Directory of Larne to a James McElhago who is listed amongst the Publicans of New Town. Had he moved back to Larne, or was he an absentee landlord still living in Islandmagee, or are we perhaps talking about two different Jamses? These are open questions.  

We have now met at least six clan members living in Islandmagee (and Larne). There are however, possibly another ten who are revealed in the an early 19th Century Will. I will describe these in a subsequent blog. 

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