Sunday, 17 October 2010

Maxwell's Walls in The Ulster Covenant

There are just two people who signed The Ulster Covenant as from the townland of Maxwell's Walls. The first was Henrietta McIlhagga, the second Eliza McIlhagga. And again their signatures perhaps reveal something of these two women. Our assumption must be that Henrietta and Eliza were mother and daughter, a fact we know from our earlier references to this family. Henrietta in 1912 was the widow of Nathaniel Owens McIlhagga. Eliza was to marry Hugh Minford, a farmer and a future MP. I have compared Henrietta's signature with that on the letter she wrote to her son, to which I referred on the 8th and 19th May, and I am sure the two are written by the same hand. The 'M' is identical. The surprising thing is that clearly on The Ulster Covenant Henrietta signed for both of them, and to make this clear, against Eliza's name Henrietta added her initials. However, I have to add that we have no evidence that any of the offspring of this family could not write, and indeed the indications are that they were well educated. It is certainly surprising that a woman who was to become the wife of a Member of Parliament couldn't write. There are of course other possible explanations for Henrietta signing Eliza's name. Eliza might have been temporarily unable to write for some physical reason. There is however another possible reason. There were no fewer than six signatures together from Maxwell's Walls on the Covenant. The two preceding that of Henrietta were initialled by someone as 'illiterate'. Perhaps Eliza asked her mother to sign for her so as not to embarrass her two friends whose names preceded theirs.

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