Thursday, 12 November 2009


Over the past ten months since I started this blog I have deliberately not focused on my own family, my own branch of the McIlhagga Clan. It has however cropped up in about 10% of the blogs I have written as and when my attention has been drawn to different people or places. With any certainty I can only trace my McIlhagga line back through five generations to about the turn of the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries. The certain progenitor at that time was William. We do not know who William's father was. If we had either his birth certificate, baptism record or his marriage certificate we would know and it is frankly bad luck that we have none of these. We think he married in Clough Presbyterian Church but that Church's records for this time have been lost or destroyed.

We know that William and his wife Agnes McCosh lived all their working lives and indeed through their 'retirement', if such they had, in the townland of Ballycloughan just north of the mid-Antrim town of Broughshane. Various records describe William as a weaver and farmer, and those records vary the spelling of his surname, including McIlhaggo and McIlhaggie. The earliest reference we have which probably dates to the same time as his marriage is in a document called The Townlands Valuation Book of 1828. It appears to have William in twice, as McIlhaggo, first in Ballycloughan and then in neighbouring Eglish. Ballycloughan has twenty four plots of rentable land of which number 32 (!) is Wm. McIlhaggo 2.3.16. This is a measurement which means two acres, three roods and 16 perches. Its value per acre is 18s/6d, giving an Amount of £2.12.8. His portion of the tithe due to the Church of Ireland was 3s/2d. For a Presbyterian to have to pay a tithe to another Church must have been a bitter pill to swallow! William's plot was the smallest in Ballycloughan where the average size plot is just over 12 acres. He made up for this somewhat by also having a plot in the townland of Eglish. There are 19 plots there of which number 60 is again 'Wm. McIlhaggo, 7 acres, 2 roods, 0 perches. Value per acre 15/-. Amount £5.12.6. Portion of the tithe 7 shillings'.

I have pointed out in an earlier blog, Brick Wall, on 20 February, that it is of interest that in another adjacent townland called Kenbilly we have land being farmed by a James McIlhaggo, and I explored the possibility that James was William's father and that their relationship might be found earlier in Belfast springing from a generation earlier in Islandmagee. This remains an open possibility. However against it is the fact that William did not name any of his sons James!

William and Agnes had all their children baptised at the Presbyterian Church in the nearby 'Garden Village of the County of Antrim', Broughshane. The church is known today as First Presbyterian Church. The minister who baptised the children was the Revd. Robert Stewart. At the baptism of their first five William's wife is recorded as Agnes and thereafter as Nancy, the common 'diminutive' for Agnes. Their attachment to the Presbyterian Church is what makes us think that their marriage would have been in the Presbyterian Church at Clogh, where Agnes came from. The IGI gives a marriage year of 1844 but this is an error. A possible date is 1828. In Ballycloughan land was also rented by John and David McCosh, possibly siblings of Agnes, or indeed brother and father. Sadly there is no McIlhagga Memorial Stone in Broughshane so perhaps we may borrow a little reflected glory from a generation later when a McCosh stone was erected in Broughshane graveyard: "Erected by Jane Ann McCosh in memory of her beloved husband David McCosh of BallyCloughan who departed this life 29th July 1871 aged 35 years...". Next time I will move on to the eldest son of William and Agnes.

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