Saturday, 21 November 2009

Ballycloughan Family: An Overview

First Presbyterian Church, Broughshane, Co.Antrim

William and Agnes (nee McCosh) McIlhagga of Ballycloughan had eight children. The eldest was William. The first boy in Ireland was often named for the paternal grandfather, which raises the question (against my earlier mooting the possibility of James) whether both William's father and grandfather were also William? This is just a possibility to be kept in mind for the future. We have already met the eldest son, William, in the 2% sample which has survived of the 1851 Census (see 'A Problem Solved? on 15th August last) where he is William McElhagga. He is the ancestor of two branches of this family, one based in Canada and the other in the United Kingdom. He was a Weaver and a Presbyterian who, on 14th July 1851 married Elizabeth Carson of Gortfadd, daughter of James Carson and Elizabeth McEwan. They married at Portglemone Presbyterian Church. We can calculate that he must have been born about 1830 and hence that his parents probably married at the end of the 1820s, giving them birth years around the turn of the Century.

William and Agnes' second son John was born a couple of years later. He was to marry Mary Stewart at Broughshane Presbyterian Church on 15th July 1851, the day after his brother married a few miles away at Portglenone! Mary came from Ballygarvey. Both she and John 'made their mark' during the marriage ceremony. William and Agnes' third child and first daughter was Jane, born about 1833. Like her father and two older brothers, she too became a weaver. She married Robert Wade of Ballycloughan at Broughshane on 16th May 1854. Two years later the marriage took place of the family's second daughter, Mary, to Robert Dickey, yet another weaver, on 13th June. He brother John was her witness at the wedding. Mary was probably born in 1835. Next came the third son, Crawford, who was to become ancestor of the second branch of the family now to be found in England. He was born about 1837 and on 1st September 1865 married Eliza(beth) Smith of Port Glasgow at The Free Church of Scotland there. Ann was the third daughter to be born 1838/9 and be baptised 16th January 1839. She married Robert Linton on 8th October 1864, moving afterwards to live first in Ballymena. Interestingly she chose to be married at Clogh which is where her mother came from. Nancy, fourth daughter was born and baptised (on 17th October) in 1841 and when she was twenty-one, on 15th May 1863 married William John McCleary in Broughshane. Both the Lintons and the McClearys moved to Central Scotland. Finally William and Agnes' fifth daughter and eighth child was Margaret, baptised 16th June 1844. She married Alexander Scott from Port Glasgow on 26th June 1866, in the Church of Scotland there. They became ancestors of a large Australian branch of the family.

Most of this family were baptised and married at what is now called the First Presbyterian Church in Broughshane. The minister who baptised all the McIlhagga children was the Revd. Dr. Robert Stewart (1783-1852). S. Alex Blair in his County Antrim Characters (3), Mid-Antrim Historical Group: 36, 1997, writes of him, '...Stewart was one of the great personalities in the Irish Presbyterian Church of the last century. A noted conversationalist and debater, as well as a famous preacher, he.. "excelled in quick repartee, in clear discrimination and in far-seeing sagacity" (Prof. W.D.Killen). He was a native of Tullybane, near Clough.. in [1816] he [was] Moderator of the General Synod [and of] the General Assembly in 1843... "Mr. Stewart [was] rough in appearance... [but] celebrated for wit, humour and logical acumen.. an original genius whose arguments were elaborated from facts by his own mind, and not borrowed from books, of which he had very few in his possession". (W.T. Latimer)... In his own congregation Dr. Stewart was greatly beloved... To his pastoral duties he added unwearied efforts in the cause of secular and scriptural education, erecting appropriate school houses, selecting well-qualified teachers and watchfully superintending the progress of the rising generation.'

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