Tuesday, 1 November 2011

18th Century Tenancy

About a year ago (25 Sep 2010) I wrote about an advertisement that was in the Belfast Newsletter on 13 February 1770 which had taken me back a generation on Island Magee. It referred, among other people, to 'McIlhago, Nathaniel' whose lease on land owned by Viscount Dungannon was coming to an end. Nathaniel was releasing a tenancy in the townland of Ballytober. I had not come across a Nathaniel in Island Magee so wondered whether he might be the Nathan McIlhaggar born about 1750-58 in Carnmoney. However, the Island Magee tenants about whom I do know rather indicate that Nathaniel was the father of siblings Samuel and James who had later tenancies, giving Nathaniel a probable birth date as early as 1720-30.

For the past twelve months I have had it in mind to find a book called History of IslandMagee by Dixon Donaldson and one of my aims on my recent visit to Northern Ireland was to find it in the Linen Hall Library. Unfortunately I couldn't fit that into my schedule so I have cut my losses and purchased a paperback facsimile of the book published in 1927. Interestingly in an early chapter Donaldson mentions the Belfast Newsletter advertisement of 1770 without any detail. However, in Article XVI (Chapter 16, page 50) he has a full reference to the newspaper's 'Notice relating to the Islandmagee Tenantry...':

"Out of Lease and to be let for Terms of Years, a large Tract of Land now in the Occupation of the under-named Tenants in Island Magee and County of Antrim. The Lands lie in the rich Corn Country and the Soil is remarkable for producing all Kinds of Grain, such as Wheat, Barley, Beans, Pease, and most excellent Oats. There is a great Plenty of Limestone in or contiguous to every Holding and the whole being nearly surrounded by the Sea, Coals are to be had at a moderate expence; moreover, there are constant Opportunities, in all Seasons, of Water Carriage from the fine Harbour of Larne which adjoins the said Island of carrying Commodities to Belfast and other Markets abroad. Proposals for any of the said Lands may be immediately made to the Lord Viscount Dungannon in Dublin, or to Edward Brice Esq.; in Belfast, who can give all necessary Information, and will direct an understanding Person on the Spot, to show the Grounds. The Proposals shall be kept secret, and shall be answered before the 25th of March. Dated this 5th February, 1770"

The list following includes, in the townland of Ballytober, Nathaniel McIllhago with 7 acres 1 rood 20 perches. If a lease was coming to an end in 1770, when was it taken up? The only earler list of names relating to Island Magee is that of people paying Hearth Money in 1669 which does not include any of our clan, so at some time between 1670 and 1770 Nathaniel McIllhago would have taken over a tenancy, at a guess, perhaps in about 1740-50. The list of people after that of the Tenants is a list of inhabitants of people founding a Christian Congregation (a 'Meeting House', so I take it Presbyterian) in 1772. Sadly there is no clan name there which makes me think that Nathaniel McIllhago did not renew his tenancy in 1770.

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