Friday, 26 February 2010

The Plantation of Ulster

The 'Plantation of Ulster' in the 17th Century was in reality a series of plantations. The first and the 'official' one, from 1610, did not include Antrim, the county in which the majority and perhaps all of the McIlhagga clan settled. Then 'private plantations' in Antrim and Down saw the migration of English and Scottish settlers. As early as 1611 Randal MacDonnell, a Scots Catholic who had been granted land, invited lowland Scots to settle on his land. In a village he created near his castle at Dunluce this included the McIlhargeys who might or might not have been related to the McIlhaggas. Both certainly came from mid and southern Ayrshire and Galloway. It was over 50 years later that we find our earliest clan settlers to whom I have referred on the 13th April and the 18th May last, in the townland of Cogry, just four miles west of the village of Ballyclare in the district of Newtownabbey, about ten miles north of Belfast and fifteen miles inland from the port of Larne. Cogry was a 'Mill settlement' and it may be that the two men we find there on the Hearth Tax Roll in 1669 worked at the mill, namely Allexander McIlhago and James McIlhaga. They could have been born in the 1640s, possibly in Ayrshire.

Sadly we have found no further clan reference for another three generations (at least seventy years). There is apparently no known clan continuity of the name Alexander, though there certainly is of the name James. This is one of the names found in the mid-1700s in Larne and on nearby Islandmagee, as I have shown in an earlier blog, which was an entirely 'Scots' area. Samuel McIlhaggo/a of Islandmagee was born about 1740 and James about 1755. In County Antrim there are two other men born about the same time. Nathan McIlhaggar is found as progenitor of a family in Carnmoney and an as yet unnamed father of four farming brother was to be found in the townland of Maxwell's Walls. Then the clan clearly spread out across the county in the second half of the eighteenth century. The evidence for this is some ten names of clan members with birth dates in the late 1700s. We are on steadier ground when we name the progenitors of other known clan families after the turn into the 19th Century, though of course they may all have been branches of those who arrived during the 'plantations' of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

In approximate chronological order we have Henry in Maxwell's Walls, David in Newtowncromelin, William in Ballycloughan, Francis is Ballymuckvea, John and William in Maxwell's Walls, Henry in an as yet unidentified place, Samuel in Carnmoney, William in Tulleygarley, another Henry, William John in Armoy, Samuel in Belfast and Andrew in Ballymena. The task of trying to find the links between all these families continues.

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