Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Gale Day

There is an 1872 Court Order concerning the Parcel of Land on the West Side of Charles-street South, Sandy Row, Belfast, Ireland, which records that at house number 101 John McIlhaggart was a tenant paying an annual rent of £7.3.0. He was a "weekly tenant, tenancy determinable on Monday in any week". This day was legally known as a Gale Day. There is a marginal note that byways and light are preserved and that the landlord pays all the taxes of the tenants.

I think this could be the John or Jonathan McIlhagga who two years previously had married Margaret Douglas. By 1972 they had had their first two children, daughters Hannah and Jane. These were the first two of eight children. There is no other note of this address that I know of, relating to that time.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Trauma in India?

Some time ago (21 Sep 2011) I wrote about a Belfast family, the 'key' couple we know about being James  McIlhagga, a Flax Dresser, born about 1855 and his wife Rebecca Johnston. I recorded the fact that they had six children, the eldest of whom was Robert James, born 1 Nov 1878 (Ulster Historical Foundation). I had no idea what became of him. We do know that one of his younger brothers, Nathaniel, served in the Royal Irish Rifles for six years, 1902-1908. Recently when looking at Military documents I found not only those for Nathaniel but also both the Attestation Papers and the Discharge Documents for a James McIlhaga, also in the Royal Irish Rifles. I didn't know immediately to which clan family he belonged and at first didn't think of identifying him with the above Belfast family as his age when joining up on 25 Sep 1899, of 19 years 8 months, gave him a birth month and year of January 1880. However, when I came to the record of his next-of-kin, when helpfully he named two brothers, Nathaniel and William (a mistake for Wilson?) and two sisters, Eleanor and Jane, I realised he had to be a son of James and Rebecca, and the spelling of the surname, McIlhaga, was the same. Either he gave a wrong age or he wasn't sure of his age, or possibly there had been a first child Robert James born in 1878 and this Robert had indeed been born in January 1880, the first Robert having died. This is also possible as clearly the 1878 Robert had the second name James and there is no second name in 1880 Robert's Army papers.

In 1899 Robert was given the Military Number 5961 as he Attested on a Short Term Contract of 7 years (plus 5 in the Reserves). However, Robert's Army career was chequered and shortened in an unfortunate way. He had been a labourer living in the Shankill area of Belfast. He was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches in height and weighed 112 lbs. His chest measured 33-34 1/2 inches. He had a scar mark on his left calf and tattoo marks on both arms, cross flags on the right and 'RMC' on the left. Did 'RMC' stand for Robert McIlhaga? A year later, presumably when he was home on leave, he was in a spot of trouble and on 5 Nov 1900 was sentenced by the Civil Power at Belfast for assaulting a policeman, for which he was sentenced to one calendar month. The day after his sentence was over, he was posted with the Royal Irish Rifles, in the 1st Battalion, to India where he served for 3 years 113 days. This takes us to the date of his discharge 'for medical reasons', when he was invalided home on 30 March 1904. He had served a total of 4 years 271 days. His family was living at 25 Fairfax Street, Belfast, but sadly that is not where he went. He was committed to the Union Infirmary in that city. His discharge document refers to his conduct as having been "latterly good since August 1902". He was 'signed off' at Tyzabad, India on 21st February. Clearly there had been problems in 1902 but his state of mental health must have declined for his signature is omitted from the discharge document and in its place the word 'Insane' had been written. This is not a term which would be used today to describe a medical condition. We can only hope that he was helped back in civilian life to get through the traumatic experience of not being able to cope with whatever it was he had to face in India with the Royal Irish Rifles.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Birth date question

I have a 'wee mystery' concerning birth dates. I recently noted in the 1915 Scottish Valuation Rolls that James McIlhaggie's occupation was listed as Merchant Navy Seaman. My record of the family of William Carson McIlhagga and Rachel McLelland is that their fourth and fifth children were both called James and that their birth dates were 19 June 1881 and 19 August 1882. The most reasonable assumption is that the first James died before the second James was born. It was the second James who became the Merchant Seaman. However, in the records of Merchant Seamen on '' James McIlhaggie, born Greenock, has the birth date of 19 June 1881! So the second James appeared to claim the birth date of the first James!

Was he brought up to believe this was his birthday? Did he claim the earlier date (for which there would have been a birth certificate) in order to get in to the Navy a year earlier that he was permitted to with his real birth date? Or is there some other explanation? This 'wee mystery' deepens because his true birth date is recorded in the National Archives' Documents on line. I doubt whether there are any descendants who can throw any light on this. James and his wife Mary (Young) had two children. John Young McIlhagga/ie born 1909/10 married Margaret Smellie Allan in 1931 and they had one daughter, Margaret Allan McIlhagga who died as a young child. James and Mary's second child was Jane Young McIlhagga/ie who was born in 1911 and if she is still alive will be over 100 years old. I have no information that she ever married.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Titanic

Today is 100 years since the sinking of The Titanic, built at the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard in Belfast. The photograph above was taken as the liner left Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage. The only evidence I have of a clan member being associated with the ship comes from a family tradition handed down. It concerns a shipwright having worked on the building of the vessel, and possibly having lost his life on the job. I do not have any documentation to prove this and would be most interested to know if anyone has. I have looked on the Internet and can find no list of men who worked as shipwrights, nor even of those, apparently very few, who died 'on the job'. It seems to be uncertain how many lost their lives in the shipyard. I have seen Internet sites claiming two, eight and seventeen!

The man who apparently worked on the Titanic was William G. McIlhagga. I have a Civil Record of his marriage on 25 June 1890 when he was 23, giving him a birth year of 1867 and an age of 45 in 1912 when the ship left Belfast. Why he gave his age as 23 when apparently he was 25, born 30 Jun 1865, I do not know. Unfortunately the record only gives the initial G for his second name, though there is some evidence that it was Gage, though another record says George. In 1890 he was a Carpenter and lived at 53 Berlin Street, Belfast. His father is recorded as John McIlhagga, Farmer. As usual with such records no mother's name was entered, but she was probably Elizabeth McCullough.

John was born in 1830 and died in 1912, so if William also died shortly before, this would have been a double tragedy for the family. William was one of twelve siblings. He married Jane Todd, a Weaver, four years his senior, of 12 Summer Street, Belfast. She was the daughter of James Todd, a Mechanic. Their witnesses were Joseph and Elizabeth Courtney at Belfast Civil Register Office. I don't know if William was working in the shipyards in 1890 but he certainly was two years later when the birth of one of his nine children was registered. By the time of the 1911 Census he is described as a Shipwright. Perhaps if I return to Belfast to do more research I will be able to find more information.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Ireland's Memorial Records

The Naval & Military Press publishes many books for the 'student of conflict', not least about The Great War, and one of which they 'reprint' for a mere £285.00 is the official Roll of Honour from 1914-1918 listing over 49,000 of Irish birth or residence at the time of death, who served and died in the First World War. The original, published in 1923 in 8 volumes, has beautiful symbolic borders to each page designed by a famous stained glass artist, Harry Clarke. I have reproduced above the page which contains our two clan name entries. Unfortunately, as I will point out, both have small spelling errors in their names.

M'Ilhagga, John H. is recorded "Canadian Infantry; killed in action, October 26, 1917". He was John Hutchison McIlhagga, son of Nathaniel Owens and Henrietta McIlhagga, No 781528 in the 46th Bn, Saskatchewan Infantry, who died at Passchendale. He is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium.

McIlhagger, Robert is recorded "Reg. No. 7536. Rank, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles; died of wounds, France, September 4th, 1917, born Ballyportery, Co. Antrim". He was Robert Wright McIlhagga, son of Daniel Maitland and Annie Eliza McIlhagga. He is buried at Rocquigny, Somme, France.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Decadal Anniversaries

For some reason we seem to think that if an anniversary has a zero at the end of it, then it has some extra significance. So today is a 'double' for me. 90 years ago my great uncle John died on this day, 12 April 1922. He has always been a rather shadowy figure for me. I have never known much about him, though as the youngest of six siblings he gave the notice of both his mother's death in 1906 (Elizabeth Smith) and his father's, my great-grandfather's, Crawford McIlhagga, in 1907. John was employed as a Clerk, never married, and died at the age of 42. There are three things that shed a little light on him. For some reason he gave himself the middle name of Stirrit. Where did that come from? It is recorded on his death certificate, though of course not on his birth certificate. Second, his death must have occurred unexpectedly, and perhaps in mysterious circumstances, as it was the subject of an Inquest on 13 April 1922. The post-mortem said he died of natural causes. Unfortunately I have not found a record of the Inquest despite having searched both Court records and the local Newspapers. Third, I have found a ship's passenger record of a J. McIlhagga who was single and 'English' on a vessel which arrived in London on 26 August 1898 when John would have been 19. There is no one else to whom I can apply this record, and the intriguing thing is that he boarded the ship at Bombay, India.

My second 'zero' anniversary is for my own late wife, Kate (Catharine Anne McCrae) who died ten years ago today. The year she died I planted some trees in her memory on the Isle of Mull, and I have done the same this month by the River Tweed in Northumberland where she died. Interestingly and appropriately I received through the post this morning a contract from a publisher for a book in which the author wants to include a 'poem-prayer' she wrote, entitled Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses. It reads as follows:

Each occasion
we glimpse them:
that turn of a head,
that smile,
the way she walked,
his sense of humour,
each time
a knife turns
in our heart.

In time,
through the windows of our tears
we see them
and smile.
In time we let go of sorrow.
In time
beauty and music,
remembered places,
bring solace not pain.
In your time,
God of all time,
may what we have sown in pain
be reaped in joy.

Postal Service and a Marriage Bann

The Internet site '' has published a number of recently digitised resources two of which have produced results for 'McIlhag*'. The first is the British Postal Service Appointment Books, 1737-1969. There are three clan members listed, one each in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The earliest is Margt McIlhagga who was in fact my Aunt Margaret. She was appointed on 9 March 1915 as a Typist in Liverpool. She would have been only 17 at the time. I know that she became a telephonist so I might have misread the handwriting of the original. The second person was James McIlhagga who was appointed as a Wireless Operator in June 1941 in Scotland. No town is mentioned. He couldn't have been James my 3rd Cousin, son of Greenock parents, for he was born in 1926 in America! So who was he? The third person was Eva K. McIlhagger appointed as a typist in Belfast in 1933. In December 1942 she was promoted to Traffic Assistant. She was only 16 in 1933, so would have been 25 when she was promoted. My understanding is that she was to marry William Charles Clinton Pelham-Fynes, though when I do not know. She must have been over 25 when they married. Eva Kathleen was daughter of David McIlhagger and Elizabeth Sherwood. She was born in 1917 and died in 2002 in Lisburn, aged 84.

The final 'clan' reference is a bit of a mystery. I'm sure it is an error. Arthur McIlhagga is listed in the West Yorkshire, England, Marriages and Banns 1813-1935. His name is on a Banns Certificate dated 11 June 1905, with no proof that he ever married one Annie Turner, in the parish of Bradshaw, St. John. I have looked carefully at the original and I'm sure the surname is not McIlhagga, though I cannot decipher the poor handwriting. The only clan 'Arthur' known to me is Arthur Joseph McIlhagga AKA Darwood, born in 1927 to John Joseph McIlhagga AKA Norman John Darwood and Margaret Lillian Fink, and, apart from the time scale being wrong, he was born in America!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Galway middle name

The National Archives has published its new 'Discovery' Catalogue. I searched 'McIlhagga' and got a few familiar things. I then searched 'McIlhagger' and got one new reference, to Samuel Galway McIlhagger from the Records of The Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies from the year 1886 - Ref: BT 351/1/672. The 'subjects' covered included 'Merchant seamen, Medals, Operations, battles and campaigns, Conflict'. Unfortunately when I tried to get more detail I encountered an 'internal error'. Apparently Samuel Galway is in a Registry of Shipping and Seamen: Index of First World War Mercantile Marine Medals and the British War Medal. I have to confess that I have not come across this person before, so any information on him would be most welcome.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The name David

On a couple of occasions I have looked in some detail at a given name to see whether any of its features, like frequency, can offer us any clues about particular clan family trees. I have done this with the male names Francis and Nathan. I have yet to do so with a female name. My last blog has suggested to me that I might look at the name David.

So I have searched through 15 clan family trees of which 7 have no examples of the name David. They were those who had their earliest known progenitors in Ballycloghan, Islandmagee, Templepatrick, Ballee and Belfast (3), all in County Antrin, Ireland. Two trees had just one David, both from the twentieth century, from Tullygarley and Belfast. One had two Davids, from Ballymena in the late twentieth century. Two trees had three Davids, all from the twentieth Century, from Carnmoney and Connor. I really don't think any of these examples are likely to help us in relating the trees to each other and possibly find more information about origins.

We are left with three trees which may be more worth looking at, one in Scotland and two in Ireland. However, I am going to discount one family, despite the fact that the name David comes down through five generations, back to 1826. It is the family which spells our surname McIlhagger, and my judgement is that the first David must have come from the side of the family which had a different surname to our clan name. I would of course be pleased to be proved wrong on this matter.

The earliest examples of the name are in Scotland, all in the village of Kirkmichael in Ayrshire. David McE/Ilhagow was born in 1634 and married Katherin Baird. The second was David McElhagow, born 1675 who was a first cousin once removed to the first David. He was son of Thomas. The third was David McIllhago, born 1702, the grandson of the first David, so was in a family that was following the Scottish naming pattern. He was the father of William about whom I wrote in my last blog, who as I said, may well be the 'missing link' between the clan's existence in Scotland, and its existence in Ireland. With three generations of Davids in the 17th and early 18th Centuries in Scotland I wouldn't be surprised if later Davids in Ireland relate back to them. But do they?

I have to admit that there is no other David known to me for another hundred years, but one of the earliest clan members in Ireland in the 19th Century was a David. He was born in 1806 in Newtowncromelin. He married twice, to two Marys, and had six children by his first wife and four by his second. One of his six was also called David, born in 1843. He and his family emigrated to Jamestown, Pensylvania. He married a Maria and had three children, all girls, hence the name, which they spelled McIlhagga, died out. Before they emigrated this family lived in the townland of Lisnacrogher in County Antrim, near enough to the town of Broughshane to relate to the First Presbyterian Church there for baptisms and marriages.

Can we draw any possible inferences from this information? David born in 1702 had a son William born in 1743. If he was following the naming pattern which was transferred to Ireland, we could expect William's first son (if he had one) to be called David. There is no evidence that William married in Scotland, and it is possible that he was unmarried when he first appeared in Ireland in 1781. On the assumption that he did marry and produce a son this could take us to say 1785 and then another generation to the time of the birth of David in Newtowncromelin in 1806. Admittedly this gives us a couple of unusually long generation gaps and it distorts the naming pattern! So I'm afraid we have to leave this theoretical though interesting speculation at this point and wait for more evidence to turn up to link our clan families more positively.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Scotland-Ireland missing link?

On 7 November last I noted a reference in the Belfast Newsletter to William McIllhago in 1781. He appears in Ireland 'out of the blue'. Where has he come from? On 15 February I raised the question whether he had moved into Connor from Islandmagee? I now think this unlikely. Why? Because I have now asked myself whether there was another William with whom he could be identified. In filing a paper copy of the Newspaper report I have realised that he could be the William born on 9 January 1743 in Dalmellington, Ayrshire. One reason for this is that the spelling of the surname McIllhago is the same in the Belfast Newspaper and in the Ayrshire Old Parish Records, both in the Baptism Register, and indeed in the Marriage Register where his parents appear in 1740. His father was David McIllhago; his mother Elizabeth Dunbar.

I am aware that spelling variations were to be found frequently in the 18th Century, but surely it is significant to find the same very distinctive spelling in the same time frame? If William in Connor had been born in 1743 he would have been 38 in 1781, a man in his prime as a farmer making a new start in a new country. If this identification is correct, he had a sister Mary born in 1744. His father David was born in 1702 and his grandfather John in 1666, both in the village of Kirkmichael. John's father was another David, born 1634 and his grandfather Thomas, born 1610. That is as far back as we can go with absolute certainty, but I have postulated in another blog that Thomas' father was a Robert known to be in Tradidnell, Ayrshire in 1597, possibly son of Patrick, known in Kyle in 1533, possibly son of Michael, known in 1527 in the village of Colmonell. Michael could have been born in the 15th Century.

Have we now found a near certain link between Scotland and Ireland?

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Summer Soldiers

On 2 November last I wrote about The United Irishmen and about Andrew McIlhagga from Islandmagee who joined them. I have recently been reading A.T.Q. Stewart's The Summer Soldiers (The Blackstaff Press, Belfast 1995) which is probably the best historical account of the year 1798 when the Battle of Antrim took place and the United Irishmen's attempt to establish a viable Republican Movement was defeated by the troops of the British Government.

There is a section in Stewart's book (pp. 92-95) which gives some background to Andrew's 'enthusiasm'. Clearly the men of Islandmagee had something of a 'reputation' - "the savage disposition of these people being particularly dreaded" (Massereene/Foster MSS in PRONI - D562/3038). 'Sixty or so pikemen...(seen) on the hills of Islandmagee were only a portion of the insurgent force which had mobilised there...' A Prof Atkinson has calculated that 180 Islandmagee men.. took part in the Rising (Atkinson, Between Two Revolutions, pp. 2, 180 note 20, in Stewart p.269 note 42).

The United Irishmen was an organisation which brought together Catholics and Presbyterians and Stewart says 'there was.. no doubt about the solidly Scottish and Presbyterian character of Islandmagee by 1798. Probably no reason beyond the homogeneity of the Islanders need to adduced to explain their response to the 'turn out' (of the United Irishmen gathering for the Battle of Antrim).... Early on the Thursday morning (of 7 June) a large body of men assembled at the Knowhead Brae, under the command of William McClelland... whose family had fifty-eight acres at Portmuck.... With contingents from other parts of Islandmagee they were to muster before Redfall. The two columns from Islandmagee converged at the causeway near Ballykeel point and went on to join up with the United men from Ballycarry.' It was of course in Portmuck that a McIlhagga family farmed.

We do not know what happened to Andrew and it is unlikely that he is to be identified with a rebel who appeared in Ballymena, after the Battle of Antrim, but it may be worth recording that, according to Stewart, along with a Volunteer captain called James Brown, 'a group of insurgents from Broughshane was heard calling for sledge-hammers to smash open the lower gates of the market house. "Get tar barrels", he cried, "try it with fire". One McIlhatton got a tar barrel from the premises of a dealer in Mill Street'. McIlhatton is of course a different Scottish name from McIlhagga, though the fact that there was a McIlhagga family settled just outside Broughshane, at Ballycloghan, and that I do not know of a McIlhatton there, raises the possibility of a confusion of names in a time of great confusion in County Antrim.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

1915 Valuation Roll, Scotland

ScotlandsPeople has put the Scotland 1915 Property Valuation Roll on line. This is a useful Census substitute for the period of the First World War, though it appears to be only the heads of households who are listed. I entered McIlhag* in the search box and received five responses, all related to houses, as follows:

1. Clark MacIlhagga, 97 George Street, Govan, Glasgow. Ref: VR102/1097/101;
2. Marion MacIlhagga, 31 Lyle Street, Greenock. Ref: VR36/71/41;
3. James MacIlhaggie, 22 Blackburn Street, Govan, Glasgow. Ref: VR102/1091/147;
4. John MacIlhaggie, 10 White Street, Partick, Govan, Glasgow. Ref: VR102/1095/109;
5. George MacIlhago, 40 Murano Street, Glasgow. Ref: VR102/1089/260.

You will note that all the names are spelled Mac, rather than Mc. All these references were for people who were Tenant Occupiers. For a small amount (£3.50) I could view the actual documents, which I have printed and which reveal a little more information, as follows:

1. Clark was living in a house owned by The Shepherds' Society Investment Committee, per John Marr & Sons, 16 Merkland Street, Partick, Glasgow. He was one of 11 tenants in that property, mostly craftsmen, though Clark's occupation is left blank. It could be that he was unemployed in 1915. By 1919 he was a Coal Dealer. The annual rents varied from £7/10/- per annum to £11/15/- per annum. Clark was paying £7/15/-.

2. Marion was a tenant of the Executors of the late William Sinclair, Steamboat Agent, per James Kinnaird, 19 Bogle Street. She was listed as a 'Spinster' among 11 tenants. They were paying rents of between £10/9/- and £14/11/-. Marion was paying £11/18/- per annum.

3. James was a tenant of the Trustees of John Smillie, per James Wilson & Son, 777 Govan Road, Glasgow. James was listed as a Seaman, one of 15 tenants in the house paying between £6/-/- and £9/19/- per annum rent. James was paying £8/10/-. Interestingly James was living next to John Young, Carpenter who was paying £9/19/- per annum. John Young was James' father-in-law. It was clearly good that when James was away at sea that his wife and two children had her parents next door.

4. John was a tenant of Marion Aitken, c/o Allan C. Miller, 1130W (Y.O.U.) San Francisco, California, per D.C. Fletcher & Co, 187/189 Byers road, Partick, Glasgow. He was one of 11 tenants in the house, paying between £17/10/- and £21/5/- per annum. John was paying £20/-/- per annum. Unfortunately no occupation is given for John, so again it may be that he was unemployed, though of course it may be that he was serving in the War. I cannot positively identify this John, though I think he was the 18 year old son of William and Agnes, who four years later was to marry Jeannie Anderson Hay. It is possible that she was living in the property while John was serving in the forces, and waiting for him to return, but this is conjecture.

5. George was a tenant of Mrs. Isabella Tolmie, Kelburn, Richmond Drive, Cambuslang, per Murdo Tolmie, Kelburn, Richmond Drive, Cambuslang. He was one of 13 tenants in the house paying between £9/9/- and £17/15/- per annum. George, who was a railwayman, was paying £9/17/- per annum. He had a wife, Isabella and three children.