Friday, 4 November 2011

Island Magee Pre-National School

I have been blogging about some things I have found in Dixon Donaldson's History of Island Magee, and I come to the last point of interest. It is a Roll of Pupils enrolled in the Island School during the years 1826 and 1831. This includes two children who are said to live in the townland of Lower Kilcoan, namely Wm. McIlhago and Mary McIlhaggo. Despite the difference in surname spelling there is no reason to think they are not siblings. I must presume that William and Mary were the children of Samuel McIlhaggo and Ellon McWhinney.

In addition to the McIlhag(g)o siblings, of particular interest to us also are three pupils in Carnspindle, two in Gransha, one in Ballymuildre, two in Balle, one in Ballymoney and one in Ballycronan, any of which could relate through future marriage, though this has yet to be demonstrated. The surnames are simply ones which appear to have clan links. They are, Carnspindle: And., Thos. and Saml. Mawhinney; Gransha: Jenny Napier and Hy Brennan; Ballymuildre: Abby Brennan; Balle: John and David Aiken; Ballymoney: James Forsythe; and in Ballycronan: Robert Hay.

The school teacher was John Montgomery. I quote Dixon Donaldson: 'John Montgomery was one of the earliest of the.. pre-national teachers... Born in 1783.. (he was brought up on a) farm at Brownsbay... In those days it was the custom for rural schoolmasters to move about the country from house to house giving a little instruction to individual pupils on their rounds; sometimes, when a suitable room could be found, he resided at that house for several days together, the scholars in the vicinity coming in the day time, and grown-ups attending in the fore-suppers to take advantage of his presence in their neighbourhood to improve their own scant education..... It is also known that at a later period he occupied premises as a schoolhouse on the farmstead of Betty Huggan in the townland of Drumgurland..'.

John Montgomery was also a Justice of the Peace and in the Journal he kept there is a declaration as follows: 'M - M - of Islandmagee cometh before me, one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the said County [of Antrim] and maketh oath on the Holy Evangelists and saith that she is pregnant with child, and that the father of the said child is R - T - of Islandmagee, and none else'. Dated April 5th 1831. Might this be Mary McIlhaggo? Could the date have been right? By my reckoning she might have been as young as twelve at the time. Or could it have referred to the Mary who had a son John, named in the Will of Samuel McIlhagga who died in 1818? Or might this oath refer to Margaret Montgomery, John Montgomery's own daughter, who married a Robert Templeton? Certainly the initials are right.

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