Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Griffiths Revisited

Ballycloghan Plot 21

My personal genealogical brick wall surrounds my great-great-grandfather William McIlhagga. On my recent visit to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI, in its wonderful new building in Belfast's Titanic Quarter) and having had the chance to do a bit more work on Griffith's land and property valuation, I will attempt yet another summary of the situation. First, all the references to William indicate that he lived all his married, working and retirement life in the townland of Ballycloghan, in the parish of Skerry, ,just north of the town of Broughshane in central County Antrim. I think he married about 1830 possibly in Clogh where unfortunately the marriage records for the period have been destroyed. His wife Agnes McCosh died in 1844 the year their eighth child was born. The birth and baptism records of his children call him either a Weaver or a Farmer or a Labourer. This probably means that he worked on his own smallholding or worked for another tenant farmer and also had a Weaving loom in his own house. The three records relevant to this are first an entry in the Tithe Applotment Books of 1828-37, second the Griffiths Valuation of 1862 and third any references in subsequent Revision Books kept by the land owner.

In 1828 there were twenty-four small-holding plots in Ballycloghan of which William McIlhaggo had one of modest size, 2 acres, 3 roods and 16 perches. He paid a rent of £2.12.8 in addition to which he paid a tithe of 3/2d. He also had a larger plot of 7 acres and 2 roods in the adjacent townland of Eglish. To the best of my knowledge there is just one other clan member living and working locally at that time, namely James in nearby 'Kenbilly'. It is an open question how James and William relate to one another. By the time we come to the Griffiths Valuation William had not only married and had a family, but three of the six children had been married, William and John in 1851, William on the 14th July and John on the 15th and Jane in 1854.

There were no fewer than six clan names in Griffiths Valuation for the parish of Skerry. It may be a reasonable assumption that all six were members of the same family. Two were in Ballycloughan, two in Killygore, one in Rathkenny and one in Kinbally. The family name is recorded in five cases as McElhagan and in two in the shortened form of McElhag. The one in Kinbally which I'm sure is the same as the 1828 Kenbilly one is still renting in the name of James, though recorded with the prefix 'Rep.', presumably meaning that James paid his rent through a representative, maybe because age had overtaken him. He still had a house, offices and land totalling 3 acres, 2 roods and 15 perches for which he paid £2.15.0 for the land and 10/- for the house. House rents ranged from 5/- (one) to 10/- (three) to 15/- (one) to £1.0.0. (one), so James's was on the small side. His landlord was John W. Fulton.

If we now move to Ballycloghan we find two men named, William whom we may assume was the same William as 1828, who by 1862 would have been at least 55. He was in a 15/- house but no longer had any land. Maybe the potato famine had defeated him and he was relying on whatever weaving he could do. He certainly described himself as a Weaver in 1851 at his sons William's and John's marriages, though three years later at Jane's he is a Farmer. William's landlord was Elizabeth Glynn. She was also landlord to the second clan member in Ballycloghan, John who is living in a smaller 10/- house, which from the map references appears to be next door to William. In fact, as an enlargement of the above map shows, there were six houses grouped together in the Quarrytown area of Ballycloghan, none of the other tenants having any apparent relationship to William or John.

Now, who was this additional John living in the smaller house? William and Agnes' second son was John, born in 1832. He would have been 30 and married to Mary Stewart for eleven years. They and their first four children in fact migrated to Greenock, Scotland, where they had their fifth child on 27 November 1862. They must have left earlier that year if they were the family living next door to William. But no they weren't! When I was in PRONI I was able to examine the Griffiths Revision books for Ballycloghan, and both William and John were in the same group of houses, paying the same rents in 1877, fifteen years later! In fact John was still there in 1897, having moved to one of the larger houses, though his name has been deleted by 1900. By 1897 the name of William had disappeared and by 1913 both houses are recorded as being in ruins. Just one of the six was left occupied by 1923, the latest date I could examine. If John was not William's son, was he perhaps his brother? It is a possibility. By 1877 William would have been 70+ and must have died before 1897. Presumably John was younger.

If however we now move south west from Ballycloghan approximately a mile to the townlands of Killygore and Rathkenny, just north of Ballymena, we meet further dilemmas to complicate our story. In Killygore we find both a male and a female renting separate houses, though neither renting any land. Mary McElhagan was renting a small house for 10/- in 1862. The man is a second John! He too rents a house only but for the much larger sum of £1.0.0. Are both Mary and John 'retired'? And if so are either or both of them the parents of William and/or John of Ballycloghan? Surely both were not their parents or they would have been living together? If we look at the naming pattern of the children of William and Agnes (McCosh) we find that the second daughter is Mary, the one usually named after the paternal grandmother. So perhaps Mary in Killygore was the mother of William and John in Ballycloghan. But, one may ask, where does that leave James of Kinbally? Presumably not as the father of William and John! Sadly the 1862 maps of Killygore and of Rathkenny, unlike those of Ballycloghan and Kinbally do not have the plot numbers and the houses drawn, so we cannot deduce anything from them.

Finally we come to the man who is renting a large plot of land in Rathkenny, namely 16 acres, 2 roods and 28 perches. It is costing him the large sum of £8/5/0. He was Robert McElhag. and his landlord was the Revd. William C. O'Neill. The map references indicate that there is a house on the plot but that Robert did not live in it. He was in fact its landlord and was recouping a (low) rent of 5/- from a John Aull. But Robert must have been living somewhere. Rathkenny is immediately adjacent to Killygore, so is Robert living with Mary, whose husband he is - in which case is Robert the father of William and John? I think this somewhat unlikely. Why is Mary's house not in Robert's name, and why is a man of an earlier generation still farming such a large acreage? It is more likely that Robert was a son of John of Killygore, and was sharing the very large house that was in John's name, and no doubt contributing towards its rent.

Do the above considerations give us a possible extension to what I have heretofore referred to as the Ballycloghan family? William, my g-g-grandfather would have had a brother John (of Ballycloghan). Their mother would have been Mary (of Killygore). She would have been married to a McIlhagga not named above, but whose name was probably William for whom the eldest son of William and Agnes was named. He would have had a brother John (of Killygore) who had a son Robert (of Rathkenny). Robert would therefore have been a cousin of William and John. I have to admit that such a scenario is very tentative, but it is a possibility. Perhaps I have loosened a few bricks in my brick wall, but that is all. I think I'll have to go back and spend a lot more time in PRONI.

No comments:

Post a Comment