Saturday, 6 November 2010

Ballygallough, Ballyclare and the Covenant

Our next signature on the Ulster Covenant is the sole clan member from Ballygallough near Ballyclare. It is that of Jenny McIlhagga, a signature which leaves us in no doubt about how she spelled her surname, a matter which is of some importance, as we will see. If we go back a year to the 1911 Census we find Jenny, a single woman of 64, the sister of the head of the household at 52 Ballygallagh (note the slightly different spelling). He was William James McIlhagga, Jenny's younger brother at 62, a widower and a farmer. There is also a younger single woman, Margaret, aged 34 who William James enters as his daughter. This family adhere to the church of The Brethren.

If we now go back to the 1901 Census we find the same family, slightly expanded, still at Ballygallough, though then at number 45, which I wrote about on 6th June last. It immediately becomes clear why a gap of ten years sees them in a different house. In 1901 the head of the household was James McNeilly who at 58 was eight years older than William. The relationships then were defined in relation to James. William was his brother-in-law who had married his sister Mary, in 1901 aged 65, who had had a daughter Maggie whom James rightly calls his niece. The household was completed by two servants, one domestic and one on the farm. My conjecture is that James and William, both farmers, worked in partnership. William was then a member of The Brethren, though all the others were Presbyterians. Clearly during the decade following 1901 James had disappeared, certainly died, and the Presbyterian influence had given way to that of The Brethren.

Not only had James died, but also his sister Mary, William's wife, who had passed away on 16th October 1901, just a few months before the Covenant was signed. We know this from the fact that Mary left a Will, or rather there is an 'Admon' in her name, that is the abstract of the Administration following her death. It is dated 24th April 1912. What I imagine happened is that James McNeilly, unmarried, as we know from the 1901 Census, did leave a Will, leaving the 'estate' which, as we will see, he had inherited from his father, to his sister. Then, naturally enough, she left all her estate to her husband. The abstract reads:

Administration of the Estate of Mary McIlhaggo late of Ballygallough County Antrim who died 16 November 1910 granted at Belfast to William James McIlhaggo Farmer the Husband.

Interestingly here we have William's full name as in the 1901 Census (abbreviated to 'William' in 1911) and also the 1901 spelling of McIlhaggo changed to McIlhagga in both 1911 and in the 1912 Covenant (in the case of Jenny).

The surname McNeilly in 1901 confirms that in a further document I have, the marriage record of Mary McNeilly to William McIlhagar, took place on 15th March 1875. So we have yet a third spelling of the clan name for one person, showing how folk in the 19th and early 20th Century sat lightly to a 'definitive' spelling. The further details on this record doubly confirm that we have the same people as those who appear on the later Censuses. Both were from Ballygallough. William doesn't use his second name James (as in the 1911 Census); he is a bachelor and (interestingly) a Presbyterian. He was the son of William John McIlhagar, a Weaver. Both he and Mary were 'of full age'. She was a Spinster, a Presbyterian and the daughter of Joseph McNeilly, a farmer. So we can see that the farming was inherited from Joseph to his children James and Mary, who were joined by William, probably shortly before he married Mary. They were married at Mountpottinger Presbyterian Church, Knockbreda, County Down.

At their marriage they had two witnesses, one from each family, James McNeilly and Mary Jane McIlhagar. Clearly James was Mary's brother. Perhaps Mary Jane was therefore William's sister. We know from the 1911 Census that William had a sister Jenny, and it is probable that he had two sisters. This would seem to be born out, as I poined out in my blog of 6th June, by the 1901 Census which recorded two sisters living together in Ballynure, Mary Jane McIlhaggo, aged 58, working as a Muslin Lopper, and Jannet McIlhaggo, aged 50, who is listed as the Home Keeper and Head of the family. It would have been natural for the older sister to sign as witness at the marriage. The fact that the younger is 'head' of the family may indicate that she was judged the more competent, of simply that she chose to keep house.

A few further comments may enlarge the picture that we have been building up of this family. It is quite possible that Jannet was known by the name 'Jenny' and that therefore Jenny who signed the Ulster Covenant and Jannet in the 1901 Census were one and the same. Admittedly Jannet was 50 in 1901 and Jenny was 64 in 1911, but we have seen discrepancies of four years before in Census figures, and of course mistakes. If they were not the same person, then this may mean that William had three sisters. Further, we know that the words 'full age' in a marriage record can sometimes hide an age difference between spouses, and this appears to be the case in this family. When they were married it seems from the ages given in subsequent Censuses, that William was about 24 years old and Mary was about 39 when they wed. When she died in 1910 she would have been 74. If Margaret the daughter was born about 1877, when Mary was 41, it is not surprising if William and Mary did not have other offspring. The only birth record I have found which could be that of Margaret is for a Maggy Meneally born on 17th May 1875 to William John and Mary (Meneally) McIlhagga. The name McNeilly has evolved into Meneally and William's second name has become that of his father. These could easily have been mistakes in giving the notice of the birth, by either the reporter or the registrar. If, despite these two 'discrepancies', this is the correct record, William and Mary in fact married when she was seven months pregnant, and we are given a reason why there was an age gap of fifteen years between them. Finally, I also have to add that at present I have not been able to integrate this nuclear family with a larger family grouping.

No comments:

Post a Comment