BOOK REVIEWS

 

ACROSS ANCESTRAL GROUND: James G. Kenny

It’s not every Mid-Antrim farmer who, around the sixty mark, exchanges the pitchfork for the pen, but then his fellows know that James G. Kenny is exceptional. Often involved in consciously controversial correspondence in the local press, he must be more profitably occupied when digging into the history of the townlands of his fathers. And that’s what he has been doing on a grand scale in the latest book to emerge from ‘The Cottage’ in sometimes notorious Ballygarvey (which name, as interpreted by our folksy scribe, means ‘rough terrain’). This time, moreover, he has published an especially bulky volume, to which Rev. Dr. Tom Simpson, the Craigbilly man who is Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, contributes a happy foreword.

This “third endeavour in the Thorntown series”, from a man who regularly traverses the ancestral ground, is a very well-illustrated hardback which gathers together, from many quarters, multifarious material about the sons and daughters, wherever they be, of his district near Ballymena. So as the Crow flies over Rough Terrain is the readily-recognisable title under which JGK, true to his established theme, sends forth this latest miscellany. But note also the sub-title, for this is a compilation “incorporating the Diary, 1927/28, and more of a Divine”, namely Rev. Robert Magill, the Broughshane-born minister of Millrow, First Antrim. That particular piece (of which more in a moment) itself commands above 100 pages and is only the most extensive of many items which JGK has begged, borrowed and assiduously imported from elsewhere. For, in the terms of a review of his first book in 1983, he has striven manfully to “record more fully rural conditions through the lives of several generations in Mid-Antrim”. And, because one thing leads to another, he has obviously been out a wee fortune in petrol and postage, tracking down folk in the diaspora who have been able to pull back the veil on former days.

Read Professor Fergus B Wilson on his uncle Guy, the Daffodil King, and on others from Knowehead and the Knockan. Hear how the Dewsbury Reporter praised Dr. Robert Beattie (d. 1931), twice Mayor of that town. Or what his namesake, once Presbyterian minister of Convoy, County Donegal, had seriously to say about local life in the 1830s, or, indeed, about both the Famine and the 1859 Revival in Connaught. Then there’s the Canadian connection; not to overlook, either, what South Carolina has to declare about Broughshane. Of course, underneath and round about these ‘local’ offerings from further afield are the many products of JGK’s own bucolic pen. And, in general, these represent a qualitative advance on the contents of his Kirkmeraily Ramblings (1984). Perhaps the regular cross-reference to this one and that one may not be immediately easy for the incoming reader? Perhaps there is sometimes required a dilution to suit taste? On the other hand, let him that is without scribal sin cast the first critical stone?

Here are the details of Buicks, one of‘Newgrove’ as much as of Ahoghill; of their kinsfolk Mortons; of (in a random selection) Thomas G McMaster, Sir Samuel McCaughey, the Ballygarvey Volunteers, Broughshane Fair Day (1926), Master Kenny of Bailee School, Matthew and many another Montgomery, Miss Kenny’s Ballymena Dairy in Bridge Street, linen lords of this locality, Kirkinriola Corner and, never to be forgotten, Parade School; of Campbells, Davisons, Currells, McKillops, Cunninghams, Knoxes and, as already hinted, Magills aplenty.

Above all, here is further proof of JGK’s filial devotion, what in 1983 was requested as “an illustrated chronicle of ‘The Cottage’ and its clan”. In the piece called “Field Names and other places”, for example, there is a fascination study of the very terrain itself. This must be JGK’s grand tribute to familiar fields. And here the half has not been told, so numerous (and diverse) are the items which have been drafted because of demonstrable connections.

If accurate, all are items well worth recording, especially for genealogists in future generations.

 

OCCURENCES OF THE PASSING DAY: Magill’s Diary

As already intimated, the most extensive document to be reproduced by J G Kenny is the diary ( 1827-8) of Rev. Robert Magill. This record of twenty-four months in the life of a busy pastor makes marvellous reading. For a start, those interested in nineteenth-century Presbyterianism will relish this more intimate acquaintance with one whom they have known from afar as a controversial divine.

Born near Broughshane, where he was a young witness of the local upset in ’98, this protégé of Henry Cooke’s lieutenant, Rev. Robert Stewart, became a satirical defender of trinitarian faith in the Synod of Ulster. Thus R F H Holmes, Cooke’s modern biographer, can rightly represent Magill as a “fiery evangelical”, making an “impassioned speech”, about alleged Arianism in their midst, to the fathers and brethern who were assembled at Strabane.

Magill’s diary, in contrast, offers a fascinating picture of many more mundane activities in the daily, often unpolemical round of ministerial life. And, again of advantage to the genealogically inclined, it records the names of so many then to be encountered in an ordinary day in Antrim, Ballymena or places round about. So what was the minister of Millrow really like? And how does his diary reflect life hereabouts in the third decade of the nineteenth century? Here, to whet the appetite, are a few extracts from J G Kenny’s “literal transcript”:

January 5, 1827: Attended the funeral of James Carley. Wore a scarf and gloves. Went to John Johnson’s (late of Styles, but now Killead) and baptised his daughter Sarah Jane. She was born 13th Dec. — Dined there. William Molyneaux next neighbour to him was wounded in the arm by his gun unexpectedly going off. Went over to see him. He had lost several quarts of blood. Walked from thence to Joseph Cinnamons. Mrs. Cinnamon gave me 5s to be distributed for missionary purposes. Returned home at 8 o’clock. A fíne thaw commenced. His Royal Highness the Duke of York died at 20 minutes past nine o’clock at night aged 63 years.

March 4: The whole of this morning was a dreadful storm. Ground deeply covered with snow and the wind tempestuous. The floor of the Meeting house was covered with water. Only a very few individuals could attend. I gave them a short address from the Pulpit and after Prayer dismissed them. The Clerk was unable to attend. We took up no collection. Visited old James Wright near the market house, he is near death. Visited Henry Campbell. Baptised Samuel Charles Cowan, son of Peter Cowan and Sophia McDonald of Antrim Castle. He was born 19th February. William Craig and I drank tea there.

May 13: Sacramental Sabbath in Glenwherry — we entered the Meeting house at I I o’clock. Mr. Montgomery explained the Psalm commencing thus. “I waited for the Lord my God”, etc. — He had served the 1st table a quarter before 3 o’clock. I then served 3 tables in succession. There were upward of 30 communicants at the last table. Preached in the evening from Ephesians 1st Chapter — “That in the dispensation of the fullness of time,” etc., etc. Sermon ended at half past 7 o’clock. Collection £ 1.4s. Od. Dined in Mr. Bryans. Mr. Montgomery’s father and mother there.

June 5: Walked to Cravary new school house — Met Rev. Mr. Henry and Committee there — Examined Mr. Hainey and Leghton as candidates for being teacher. 27 voted for Leghton, 12 for Hainey.

July 24: J G Brown and I went in to Thomas Story’s gig to Ballymena to hear the Controversial discussion between Messrs. Stewart and McCauly. It commenced at 12 o’clock in the Markethouse and ended at 4. Dined in Mr. McCrory’s and returned in gig to Antrim with Mr. Brown.

October 9: At 9 o’clock this morning Messrs Wray, Montgomery and I left Antrim in Devlin’s car for Ahoghill to meet the Presbytery. Left the car at Enoch Craigs, Gracehill. I delivered the licence to William Dool Killen who gave in a confession of his faith consisting of 8 articles, after the business of the Presbytery ended, Messrs. Wray, Montgomery, Samuel Wray and I dined and drank tea in Enoch Craigs. Proceeded to Ballymena and staid in Joseph McCrory’s all night.

October 18: Subscribed £1 to Mr. McCauley for his chapel.

March 20: This morning about 2 miles from Antrim on the road leading to Shervock a man was discovered in McAnally’s field lying with his throat cut, but still living. He was brought to Antrim Doctors Letham and Molyneaux bathed his feet in warm water — put bricks to his feet and arm pits — and gave him a few spoonfuls of spirits which he swallowed — Dr. Letham then stitched the wound which was not deep; in the course however of a few hours the stranger whose name is unknown died — from the effects of the cold of the night.

May 12: Mr. (Alexander Kernoghan) Brownlees of Connor was murdered near Ecclestown on his way home from Antrim Fair — old Mr. Couper and his son were also much abused.

August 5: Rev. William D Killen dined with us — I signed a document that his principles were sound. He is to be polled for in Kilraughts on Tuesday first. Spoke to Mrs. Forbes on behalf of Humphries McCracken who had a dispute in the beginning of the seek with one of the maid servants in the house.

September 7: I am this day 40 years of age — Baptized Sarah Allen daughter of William Allen and Sarah Clark, Antrim.

November 20: Gave Margret Redmond (Widow Davison) a Certificate prior to her sailing for Carolina.

It will be clear that Magill’s diary is a veritable treasury of names. Who of us, for example, had forebears present to hear the amazing, because impossibly recondite, sermon which he preached in (First) Ballymena Meeting House on January 27 1928? Why, moreover, did Magill keep his daily record? “I intend so long as I am preserved in life to note down the occurrences of the passing day as it greatly reminds me of the fleeting nature of time and affords an interesting lesson to the contemplative man.” For more of these ministerial moments, see the complete diary forthwith.

While some of Magill’s papers were preserved by his grandson, R(obert) M(agill) Young, the Belfast antiquary, his ‘new’ diary had stayed put in the Braid and was made available to the publisher by W J Dunlop, Magill’s great-grand nephew. Are there, one wonders, other original items of equal import which have yet to be uncovered in that ‘rough terrain’? And what of Magill’s verses? His ‘The Thinking Few’, a most witty broadside against Arianism, is also included in JCK’s compilation. Its twenty-three pages contain many learned allusions, the very stuff of theological controversy. But are there not other, more personal verses from the publicly controversial Magill, tender tributes from the pastor who was not always polemical and whose memorial they also are? They will also bring us close to a memorable figure in Ulster Presbyterianism who was reared near Kenbally, Broughshane.

To summarise, then? There’s a powerful lot, as we say, in these 429 pages of art paper. Many people get a mention, both the quick and the dead, and always, we assume, by kind permission. Information can come at the reader pell-mell, so how best are we to work this sometimes heavy text? Here’s one positive point, from a sympathetic quarter. A comprehensive index of people and places would come in very handy. But is our individualistic compiler easily reducible to straight lines? By what leap of the imagination might James G Kenny be transfered to floppy disk? Not till Slemish be moved to Pillar Brae Road, or long years thereafter? One fact, however, is already assured. His Crow, for genealogical reasons, at least, will fly far beyond Raceview of Craighwarren, Dunfane or Lisnamurrican.

Eull Dunlop

THINE IN STORM AND CALM: AN AMANDA MCKITTRICK ROS READER. ed. Frank Ormsby

East Antrim’s euphuistic eccentric! Larne lady’s aggressive artifice and verbal vagaries! Mrs ‘Ros’ (1860-1939), with all the anachronistic affectation represented by that single ‘s’, justifies eminently expostulatory headlines. “I expect I will be talked about at the end of 1000 years”, she said with confidence. A mere half-century after her translation from “Iddesleigh, Ireland” to one destination (“should it be Above”) or other (“Perchance it should be down below”), this anthology introduces a formidable female to a new generation. It demonstrates to that rising readership how a dame from Drumaness, sometime monitor in Millbrook National School, Larne, and second wife of a (Ballymena-born?) stationmaster at that port, could construct an individualistic universe. Except that the world populated by Delina Delaney, Helen Huddleson, Irene Iddesleigh and others sometimes had (exaggerated) basis in provincial and even domestic reality.

Early editions of the penwoman pilloried as “the world’s worst novelist” are scarce enough and her autograph letters no less so. Full marks, then, to Larne library for its display (1990) of original items. “My chief object of writing is, and always has been, to write, if possible, contemplating the shrines in Westminster Abbey:

Holy Moses! Have a look!

Flesh decayed in every nook!

Some rare bits of brain lie here;

Mortal loads of beef and beer;

Some of whom are turned to dust;

Every one bids lost to lust;

Royal flesh so tinged with ‘blue’,

Undergoes the same as you.

If the anthologist is ultimately uneasy about “creative impulses and energies gone awry” and is “haunted by a sense of authentic frustrated pressures struggling for outlet”, others will still identify with his early delight in her deliberate doings !

Eull Dunlop

 

AHOGHILL: PART TWO, AHOGHILL FOLK, PHOTOGRAPHS OF PEOPLE OF THE FOURTOWNS AND ROUNDABOUT, MOSTLY FROM THE STEVENSON COLLECTION.  Ahoghill:

Compiled by Eull Dunlop, Sandy Kernohan, Jack Dunlop.

The book is certainly a credit to those who contributed to the textual authority of over one hundred well printed photographs with any caption uncertainties clearly indicated. I was aware from relatives before the book came out that considerable efforts had been made to have the captions complete and correct. The frequent use of documents in facsimile form makes them very much easier to decipher than a photograph of similar detail. The page four map makes a less positive contribution, lacking scale, status key, bearing, and date, though clearly a work of considerable dexterity.

The reader’s journey begins in the Diamond, passes the Ahoghill Music Class, and carries on around the Churches, to education and associations. The many personalities include local soldiers, clergy, players, trades, teachers, teams and visitors.

Eull Dunlop

HANNA, REV. ROBERT: THE ARMOY ATHLETES. ed. Eull Dunlop

The Armoy Athletes — Charlie and Steve McCooke — were born too soon; if these great runners were competing today they would certainly be offered scholarships by some American University and their names would be known world-wide. They were, unfortunately, performing in the years between 1936 and 1956, which included the War years (1939-1945) as well as the post-war years when food was still in short supply and travel was difficult because petrol was rationed. Despite these handicaps the McCookes competed in many international events and collected a string of important titles between them. Steve McCooke represented Britain in the 1948 Olympic Games.

Robert Hanna’s book tells the story of these supermen who could do a morning’s work as farm labourers and then cycle to Ballyclare to take part in the cross-country championships, winning all before them. Steve McCooke, on a morning, threw out two large dams of flax for James Gillan of Carncairn, Armoy and then went on to the Lammas Fair Sports in Ballycastle to win the Half-Mile, the Mile and the Two Mile races. The members of the Ballycastle Regatta, Sports and Amusements Committee scarcely realised that their event was important enough to attract an Olympic champion.

Locals still talk of the time when Charlie McCooke rode a bicycle from Mosside to Belfast (a distance of forty-four miles), then caught the train to Dublin, where he took first place in the All-Ireland Senior Championships, caught the train back to Belfast and cycled home to Mosside.

The athletic McCookes were legendary in North Antrim, yet until now they had gone unheralded and unsung. Robert Hanna is to be congratulated on preserving and presenting the exploits of the Dalriadic champions, worthy successors of Finn McCool and the Red Branch Knights.

Cahal Dallat

 

THE ROAD TO THE GLENS by Cahal Dallat

This is a fine collection of photographs—historical, archaeological, agricultural and social — of the area traversed by the famous Antrim coast road and depicting many features of the Antrim Glens. It was extracted by Mr. Dallat from the W. A. Green collection in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra, Co. Down and includes some of the most attractive of W. A. Green’s photographic talent, taken at the beginning of this century.  

Mr. Dallat, in his preface to The Road to the Glens, quotes H. V. Morton’s fine tribute to the Antrim coast scenery, which is such a delightful feature of this coastal locality. One might add to this tribute that of the late Lord Northcliffe, who described this scenic highway as the second finest in Europe, being, in his opinion, exceeded only in grandeur and picturesqueness by the Grande Corniche in the south of France and bordering the Mediterranean.

The photographic area covered comprehends what for all practical purposes constituted the ancient territory of Irish Dalriada, as defined in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, LXIII (1933), p. 11 and Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (1937), Fig. 17.

One of the views entitled “Ballycastle Harbour” (on page 83) is rightly depicted as the port from which (according to Rev. George Hill in his Macdonnells of Antrim) the three local chieftains — Loarne, Angus and Fergus — set out to colonise Scottish Dalriada in 495 A.D.

The Glenarm section shows to great advantage the Castle and its Barbican Tower entrance, the latter so typical architecturally of an entrance gateway to an Oxford or Cambridge college. As for the castellated wall in the vicinity of the Barbican and along which is the left bank of the Glenarm river, it is reminiscent of the architecture of part of the Bishop’s Palace at Wells.

There follow views of Carnlough, Waterfoot, the tea-house at the head of Glenariffe Glen, Cushendall and Cushendun; as for the view from the parapet of Glendun viaduct and leading up what was once described as the most inaccessible of the nine glens in days before there were highways as we understand them today, one is reminded of its marked resemblance to that of Borrowdale in the English Lake District.

The Torr Head view has great historical significance, inasmuch as it is mentioned by the Rathbreasail Fathers as one of the boundaries or landmarks of the diocese of Connor, delineated in 1110 when diocesan episcopacy superseded the ancient and (by the twelfth century) largely effete Celtic form, based on Celtic monasticism. See Archivium Hibemicum, Vol. 3 (1914), p. 32.

Modern Carnlough is represented in the collection to very good effect. Indeed, it is heightened by the view of the Cushendall and Ballycastle double horse-drawn tourist car as it prepares to set out from the Londonderry Arms Hotel on its scheduled journey to Cushendall and “over the mountain” to Ballycastle.

No fewer than twelve views are associated with the Ballycastle area, all of which show “the wee town” in Edwardian days; the amenities of the place, sometimes referred to as “The Garden of the Glens”, with its Quay Road trees and bathing- boxes on the strand and Nicholls brickfield and the M’Gildowy pier and Railway Station are all shown to great advantage.  As for Ann Street, Mr. Dallat describes it as no ordinary street. There was then the toy industry at Mr. Stephen Clark’s premises. Its wood-carving instructor was Anton Lang, who played the part of Christus in the Oberamagau Passion plays of 1900, 1910 and 1922.

The views include those of a territory of great character, beauty and charm, all of which are featured in this altogether admirable photographic collection. Mr. Dallat rightly comments in his reference to the photographic collection that there is an atmosphere in it which seldom appears in collections of Green’s contemporaries.

In a word, the views, mostly dated 1900—1934, are greatly enhanced in value by Mr. Dallat’s excellently expressed commentaries at the foot of each photograph. This is a feature of great importance and significance —and Mr. Dallat has succeeded in making it “all his own” in that regard.

Eull Dunlop

 

SCOTS KITH AND KIN: A COMPREHENSIVE A-Z GUIDE TO THE SURNAMES OF SCOTLAND, THE CLANS AND THE TARTANS.  Pub. Collins

Ulster folk of every creed and class are interested in their surnames and their origins and an old Gaelic proverb says “Remember the men from whence you came”. Scots Kith and Kin has information on over 4,000 Scottish surnames and a fair percentage of these are Highland names, many of which now exist, in the Glens of Antrim, as has been pointed out in Alisdair Robert’s article on pages of this journal. As well as linking these names to their respective clans, the book contains thirty-two pages of information on the clans of Scotland and their origins.

A sample of the names dealt with includes:

Agnew, Alexander, Andrson, Bailey, Beggs, Black, Blair, Boyd, Blair, Bradley, Brogan, Burns, Campbell, Clarke, Connolly, Darragh, Dennis, Doherty, Duffy, Duncan, Fyffe Finlay, Fisher, Gibson, Gillan, Hunter, Jolly, Lamont, McAlister, McAuley, McAlonan, McAfee, McBride, McCambridge, McCarry, McCahan, McCollum, McConaghy, McCook, McCuaig, McCurdy, McDonnell, McElheran, McFetridge, McGeahey, McGuire, McHenry, Mcllroy, McKay, McKeague, McKillop, McKeown, McKinley, McLarty, McLister, McClintock, McLaverty, McMichael, McNaughton, McNeill, McSparran, Mitchell, Morton, Murray, etc. The list is endless ! 

A very useful book for those wanting to know more about their family origins.

Cahal Dallat

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