Saturday, 29 August 2009

The end of a farm in Maxwellswalls

On 15th August I listed the wills of three McIlhagga siblings from Maxwellswalls in the order in which they were proved, those made by John Wilson, Archibald and Nathaniel Owens. This is the order in which those three siblings died, though not necessarily the order in which they were born. There is some evidence from the marriage registers where 'full age' is recorded, that Nathaniel Owens was born about 1845 and Archibald between 1853 and 1864. This could make Nathaniel the oldest sibling. There is some slight evidence from names that John Wilson is the youngest. Where does John's second name come from? The only Wilson family we know is that into which Nathaniel married. I think it is unlikely that one of these siblings would have been given this second name unless as the youngest it was to honour a long standing family friendship. I did say slight evidence.

However, back to the Wills. What do we learn from John's? Here is a transcript of his Will:

I John Wilson McIlhagga of Maxwellswalls in the County of Antrim Farmer declare this to be my last will and Testament I revoke all other wills and Testamentary dispositions heretofore made by me Whereas I and my brother Archibald and my sister Margaret reside in occupy and cultivate and for a considerable number of years past have resided on occupied and cultivated a farm of land in Maxwellswalls held under Lord Masereene and the same and the furniture chattels stock and crop thereon and used therewith have belonged and do belong to me and my said brother and sister in equal shares as tenants in common Now I hereby give devise and bequeath all my share and interest in the said farm and the tenancy therein and in the furniture stock crop chattels and effects thereon and therein and also all my other real and personal estate if any to my brother Nathaniel Owens McIlhagga and appoint my said brother Nathaniel Owens McIlhagga the Executor of this my will In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March One thousand eight hundred and ninety six......John Wilson McIlhagga........Signed by the Testator the above named John Wilson McIlhagga as and for his last Will and Testament in presence of us both present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses...George Gardiner farmer Archibald Duncan farmer.

It would appear that John, Archibald and Margaret lived and worked together on one farm and that they had done so 'for many years'. I wonder how many? Perhaps a quarter of a century? This would only take us back to about 1870. Perhaps the Masereene Estate papers will tell us, if ever I have the chance to examine them. Indeed maybe they had lived on the same farm since they were born and had taken over the tenancy from their father William. In this case the 'many' could be up to fifty years. It is interesting that the family life of William and his wife and children became an 'extended' family when Archibald married Agnes Jamieson in 1885. By the time John died in 1896 Archibald and Agnes had had all six of their children. The place must once again have felt as it did when Nathaniel, Archibald, Margaret and John were children, though this 'extended family' was not to last for long.

Clearly the three siblings were equal business partners. It might therefore have seemed logical for John to have left his share of the farm equally to Archie and Maggie, but he didn't. He left his share to the brother who had left home and had gone into a very different kind of industry, and who, they must have known, was doing rather well in it. Also clearly the three farmed together for quite some time before Archibald got married. They didn't then treat his wife as a 'partner', though when Archibald died only a year later and left everything he had to Agnes, Margaret must have had to treat her as an equal business partner. It is interesting that by the beginning of 1898 the farm was in the hands of the two women, Margaret and Agnes, for we have no evidence of Nathaniel leaving his Belfast business and becoming 'hands on' in Maxwellswalls, though no doubt he kept an eye on his inheritance from John. How long the farm continued we do not know, though it cannot have been very long, as we will see from the evidence of the 1911 Census. Perhaps they left the farm after Archibald's Will was proved in 1901.

Archibald's Will reads as follows:

I Archibald McIlhagga of Maxwellswalls in the County of Antrim farmer hereby revoke all wills and testamentary dispositions heretofore made by me and declare this to be my last will and testament. I hereby devise and bequeath all my real and personal estate unto my wife Agnes McIlhagga absolutely and appoint her sole executrix of this my will. In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand this 24th day of December 1897.... Archibald McIlhagga..... Signed and acknowledged by the above named Archibald McIlhagga as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us both present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses. .........This is the last will of Archibald McIlhagga referred to in my affidavit sworn this 21st day of September 1901. Agnes McIlhagga.

What happened to Agnes and her children after the untimely death of Archibald? The answer is that at some time in the ensuing twelve years they moved into Belfast, perhaps assisted by Nathaniel. The 1901 Census will tell us something when it is available. In 1911 when the Census was taken on Sunday 2nd April Agnes was a 45 year old widow with her six children living with her at 3 Diamond Street, Shankill, Belfast. She had been a minor aged 19 when she married and six months pregnant with William who was born on the 2nd September 1885. He died on 10th January 1968 aged 82. At present I do not know whether he married or had any offspring. Jane (known I think as Jeanie) was born in 1888. In 1911 she was a Linen Weaver. Later in 1911, on 23rd June, she married Thomas Smyth, a Provision Dealer., at the Belfast Registrar's Office. At present I do not know of any offspring. Her witness at the marriage was her sister Margaret. Her address was 9 Diamond Street, so either the family had moved three doors down the road, or Jeanie was lodging with someone else. Robert (known as Bob) was Agnes' third child born in 1890. In 1911 he was a General Labourer. He died on 4th September 1917 when he was 27. I think it is certain that he had served in the First World War and had been killed in action.

The fourth child of Archibald and Agnes was Margaret born two years after Robert in 1892. In 1911 she was a 19 years old Linen Weaver. At present we know nothing more about Margaret. The last two children were boys, both of whom married. John was born in 1894. A General Labourer in 1911, he married Elizabeth Kerr who after his death in December 1946 emigrated to Australia, later going to New Zealand where she died on 11th July 1988 aged 80. John and Elizabeth have eighteen descendants, seventeen of whom are alive today 'down under'. The youngest son of Archibald and Agnes was Nathaniel who in 1911 was a 15 year old Office Boy. Clearly all the family had had to find work and contribute to a household without a main bread winner. Nathaniel married Charlotte and had two sons. Nathaniel died on 23rd March 1937 aged 41. One of his sons, Archibald, born in 1932, died in Belfast on 14th April 1983 aged 51. He had two daughters who we believe live in Northern Ireland today.

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