Of the families whose descendants still remain, or who held property up to the middle of the seventeenth century, such as the Savages, Russells, Jordans, Audleys, Fitzsimons, with some others also of British descent, we purpose now entering into a brief memoir; for, though the subject could be greatly enlarged on, we prefer treating it with conciseness, but at the same time with the strictest accuracy.
And first of the SAVAGES; their possessions were principally in the Ardes, where they resided in their Castles of Portaferry, Ardkeen, and Ballygalgot; yet they were occasionally designated 'Lords of Leathcathail,' [Lecale,] but this was only at short intervals, when with the strong-hand they over-ran the territory, until driven back to their peninsular highlands by the yet stronger forces of the O'Neills, and finally by the Fitzgeralds. It does not, indeed, appear, that they were ever able to attain a permanent footing in Lecale, though often making claims to portions, which, even so recently as the time of Mary, the deputy St. Leger, by an order in Council dated 11 Feb. 1553, denounced, in consequence of their attempts to usurp the castle of Kilclief from the Bishop of Down and Connor. This family was the only one of British origin in the County known to have assumed an Irish name, as the great families of De Burgh, Birmingham, de Angulo, and Dexecester did in other parts of Ireland. The name adopted was "Mac Seneschall," from their so often filling the office of Seneschal of Ulster; and Harris says, they had so far degenerated as to fall into rebellion against the Crown. And here we may observe as a singular fact that, except in a very few instances, (some seven or eight,) the British settlers did not Anglicize the local denominations as they did in Louth; – the exceptions being Ballystokes before mentioned, three townlands from the Russels, two from the Jordans, two from the Audleys, and one from the Crollys; while it is still more singular that up till some forty years since, the familiar language of the "lower side of Lecale" was genuine Irish. – The family of Savage has given many distinguished officers to the service of their country, in the army as well as navy, particularly the latter. The Portaferry branch some time since changed its name to Nugent, and is now represented by Patrick John Nugent, Esq. The Ardkeen branch is represented by Clayton Bayly Savage, Esq., D.L., of Norelands, County Kilkenny, who is the present proprietor of the Hollymount Estate, in this Barony, comprising seven townlands. The name is still pretty numerous through the Barony, in families who claim to be of the same stock.
The family of RUSSELL, (indifferently spelled, in the Chancery Rolls, Rosel, Rossel, Russel, and Russell,) we find very early seated in Down, enjoying high offices as Sheriffs, Chancellors, and Barons of the Exchequer of Ulster. In the reign of Charles I., by reference to the Ulster Inquisitions we discover that they had then branched into five or six families, namely, those of Bright, Killough, Rathmullan, Quoniamstown, Ballyvaston, and Ballygallaghan, possessing large conterminous properties along the eastern sea-board of Lecale; one branch of which, (that of Killough,) held the estate of Sheephouse in Meath, and another, that of Seatown, County Dublin. The greater part of these estates was, however, swept away in the time of Cromwell, the only branch that retained its possessions being the family of Quoniamstown; which townland, with the adjoining one of Ballystrew, near Downpatrick, they still enjoy; the present proprietor being Thomas John Russell, Esq., of Dalkey, County Dublin, in whose family this property has, therefore, remained for upwards of six centuries. There are still extant in Lecale, several other families of the name, descendants of junior branches, and enjoying considerable affluence; of one of which, (that of Killough,) the Rev. Doctor Russell – Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Maynooth, and a distinguished writer and Archaeologist, – is a member.
The family of CROLLY, alias SWORDES, originally seated at Ballydonnell, and subsequently at Ballykilbeg, held eight townlands, forming the southern portion of the parish of Down, of which they lost all but Ballykilbeg, during the time of the Commonwealth; the latter being sold about the commencement of the present century. Two families of them still remain in that townland, of whom the late venerated Primate Crolly of Armagh was a younger branch; – the eloquent divine poet and essayist, the Rev. Doctor Croly of St. Greorge's, London, being also a collateral descendant. This family is not to be confounded with that of Croly, or O'Croly, alias O'Crowley, – the former proprietors of Kilshallow, in the Barony of Carbery, County Cork, – which is purely Celtic; though it is not a little strange that the English family at Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of whom Sir Ambrose Crowley was the head, in the first half of the 18th century wrote their name in the same manner as the Irish one appears in the Munster Inquisitions.
The DOWDALLS, long subsequent to the reign of Elizabeth, held property in Ardglass and Ballydergan, which they sold early in the reign of Charles I, retiring to their estate of Desert, County Louth; after which they totally disappear from Lecale.
The AUDLEYS, of Audleystown, sold part of their property, in 1643, to the Ward family, to whom, also, they sold the remainder about the beginning of the last century; the latest mention we can find of the name in this locality being a Thomas Audley, residing in Ballynagalliagh in 1732.
The JORDANS, of Dunsford and Ardglass, (the head of which, in Elizabeth's reign, was Simon Jordan, so well known for the noble defence of his castle in Ardglass against the O'Neills,) had large possessions in Dunsford, Lismore, Jordan's Crew, Jordan's Acre, &c., which Simon, his son, sold, in 1656, to Nicholas Fitzsiraons of Kilclief. It does not appear by the Inquisitions that he had any children; but a few families of the name are still to be found in the barony, who claim, and doubtless are of, the same lineage.
The family of FITZSIMONS, in addition to the property acquired by purchase from Jordan, had a large patrimonial estate of their own in Kilclief, Ballynarry, Granagh, &c., which they parted with, in piecemeal, to the Smiths, Wards, Brices, &c. The name, however, we should say, is at present, by far the most prevalent in the barony, particularly the northern part, where there are entire townlands bearing that cognomen, upwards of forty being on the registry of voters, in 1852; nearly double that of any other.
But independent of the British families, before mentioned, whose names appear in Harris and the Inquisitions as early settled in Lecale, there are, at the present time, several others whose ancient standing cannot be disputed – such as the Denvirs, Starkeys, Clintons, Blaneys, and Marmions;c the latter, however, whose name was originally Merriman, only dating from the reign of Elizabeth, at the same time as the Wards and Wests.
The family of DENVIR is unquestionably Anglo-Norman, (said to have come here from Essex;) or, rather it is originally French, being the same name as De Anverso, D'Anvers, Danvers, derived from the town of Anvers, now Antwerp, in Brabant. In the Post Mortem Inquisitions of Edward III., the name is spelled Danvere, and in the same form it is found, in numerous instances, in an old Tithe Book of the Deanery of Down, of the date of 1732:– afterwards it was spelled Denver, and it is only lately the spelling Denvir was adopted. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Denvir, of Belfast, is of this family; and on the list of registered voters, 1852, we find 23 of this name. As a proof of the French origin of this family we may state, that the name Denvers, (pronounced Denver,) is very numerous in Paris; one of them being a member of the Court of Cassation.
The family of STARKEY, of whom there are considerable numbers in Lecale, (there being eight on the registry of voters,) is, also, purely English; many highly respectable houses of the name are to be found in England, particularly in Lancashire and Cheshire, from the latter of which it is probable they came to Ireland with De Courcy. We find a James Starkey of Ardglass, in 1586, joint trustee with Audley, of Audleystown, of the estates of Robert Swordes, alias Croly; but there is little or no mention of them at a subsequent date in the Ulster Inquisitions.
We also find on the registry of voters, of the other English families incidentally mentioned, eleven BLANEYS and two CLINTONS, though their are a great many more of the name in the barony: and here we may observe, once for all, that the same fact holds as to all the other families whose numbers have been given on the authority of these lists – lists which we have no doubt will render invaluable assistance to such persons as are desirous of studying this subject as regards the rest of Ireland.
If space had permitted, we purposed entering on the subject of the later English and Scotch colonists, inhabitants of this district, as well as of the Irish families, descendants of its lords previous to the advent of De Courcy; but the subject is too extensive for the limits of this paper, and, for the present, we must rest content with a few hurried observations. It is highly probable that little or no change occurred in the population of Lecale until after 1641, when the new proprietors introduced a number of Scotch settlers, and a portion of the army of Munroe made it their home. There is no means of ascertaining the names of these new colonists in full; but from the list of Presbyterian landholders of Ulster proposed to be transplanted into Leinster and Munster, in 1653, on account of their attachment to monarchical and Presbyterian principles, – for which list we are indebted to the research of the late Doctor Reid, the historian of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, – we obtain the names of those who were to be removed from Lecale Quarters:– they were Lieutenants Hugh Montgomery, Launcelot Greecé, (Gracey,) Thomas Lindsay, ------ Woodney, John Reynolds, Capt. John Wooll, James Stewart, John Dunbarr, John Tenant, James Porter, Stephen Masor, (Mercer?) and John McDowell. Of these there still exist in the barony the families of Gracey, Stewart, and Lindsay; and, up to very lately, that of Mercer and McDowell: the Mercers and McDowells being highly respectable citizens of Downpatrick. However, the Scottish populuation does not seem to have been at that time very numerous, if we may judge from the fact, that in the list of Ministers receiving stipends from the Civil Establishment in 1655,d there is only one, the Rev. Robert Echlin of Strangford, returned for Lecale. This paucity of numbers may have arisen from the circumstance that during the Cromwellian wars several regiments had been raised in Lecale, one of which was stationed in Dundalk in 1647; which regiments, we may fairly presume, were raised exclusively out of the Scottish population, and which, no doubt, largely contributed to drain the strength of those colonists in the barony. At the period of the Revolution, in 1688, after the "Break of Dromore," Lecale was overrun by the regiment of Magenis, Lord Iveagh, who had his head-quarters at Downpatrick; when many of the adherents of King William, previous to the blockade of the ports, were taken prisoners, and others fled to England and the Isle of Man. Several petty skirmishes ensued; the Iveagh troops were defeated, and Iveagh's prisoners liberated by Captain Hunter, who, in turn, was overthrown by Major General Buchan. In August 1689, Schomberg landed in Groomsport when many of the inhabitants of the barony, who had been supporters of King James, abandoned the country for Connaught. Amid such scenes it is only natural to expect that the country would become desolate and greatly depopulated; and though, when peace was restored, many families returned to their former homes, yet numbers deserted it altogether. To remedy this, several Eiiglisli and Scots, and some farmers from the Ards, were invited here, and had large tracts of land allotted to them. Of the English fimilies the principal were Moore, Hunter, Swail, Porter, Jennings, Hunter, Neill, Nesbitt and Cochran; to which we may add the families of Seeds, Polly, Elsinor, (now changed to Nelson,) Coates, and Quaile, who were brought over from England, early in the 18th century, by the Hon. Justice Ward, and several of whose descendants are still very numerous in the parish of Ballyculter. The second colony of the Scots were chiefly Martins, Henrys, Lowres, (now Lewis,) Hoggs, Carsons, and Newwlls, whose descendants are also numerous in difierent parts of Lecale; and it is remarkable that, although the Scottish idiom never prevailed here, owing, no doubt, to the English and Scots "mixing, intermarrying, and communicating with each other, in so many different ways" so as to become one people, – yet they preserved intact some of their native customs, habits, modes of life and agriculture, up to a recent period, to such an extent, that by looking at the face of the country and observing its plantations, it could be told whether the proprietor was of Scotch or English descent, the Scotch principally planting ash trees, the English oak, elm, birch and beech. From 1725 to 1758, Primate Boulter states, in his letters, there was a continuous series of bad harvests all over Ireland, but principally in Ulster; where provisions, particularly oatmeal, (which he mentions as the staple subsistence of the inhabitants,) rose to a high price; which, conjoined to uneasiness about the exactions of the tithe farmers, induced great numbers of the northern farmers to emigrate to America and the West Indies. The emigrants, it appears, were chiefly Presbyterians, and, it may be assumed, of Scottish origin; which circumstance contributed largely to the reduction of that class of colonists, and the increase of the old English and native population in Lecale.
Of the old native Irish tribes, branches of the Dal Fiatach, mentioned by Dudley M. Firbis as residing at Dun-da-leathglas, (Downpatrick,) it would be folly to attempt tracing any direct descendants at the present time; particularly as surnames were not adopted by the Irish until the tenth century, and from there being so many migrations of the Ulidian tribes to Leinster and other parts of Ireland: for even in 1666, when Mr. Firbis wrote, he states that they had become "extinct ultimately, except a few of them who are a long time in insignificance." The principal tribes of the Dal Fiatach were the Cinel Aengus, the Clan Fiachaidh, the O'Cairill, and the O'Connmaigh; but, unless they adopted other tlian the tribe-names, there are none of them now in Lecale. From the Clanna Rudhraidhe, of which Magenis and Macartan are branches, was descended Cathal, living in the 8th century, from whom Leath Cathail (Lecale) derives its name, and whose descendants long held its lordship; and from the same Cathal was descended the family of O'Morna, otherwise MacGiolla Muire, who frequently appear as lords of the territory, even subsequent to the English invasion. The name, in the Irish Annals, is sometimes written MacGillmurray, MacGilmorie, or Gilmor, (Dr. Reeves in his researcbes, stating Gilmor as the present equivalent;) but, though some of the descendants of these "lords" may have so Anglicized the name, the original one of MacGiolla Muire, written M'llmurray, is still common in the barony, and was pretty numerous, in that part of Rathmullan called Scollogstown, up to a recent date. A family called MacMilmorie was resident in Kilwater, County Westmeath, in the reign of James I., whether an offshot of the Lecale family is uncertain; but it has been suggested, and is very probable, that the various families of Murrays in Carrickmannon in Castlereagh, and Slieveaniskey in Iveagh, are so. We have before observed, that the King of Ulidia, in de Courcy's time, was Duinnshleibhe O'h-Eochadha, also of the Dal Fiatach race; and whose descendants, according to the topographical poem of O'Dagan, afterwards branched into the two families of O'Dunlevie and O'Heochy, which last very singularly Anglicized their name, not to Hoey, but Hawkins. The name Dunlevy is now unknown in Lecale; but up to a late period there were several families named O'Heoghy. The only proprietor of Irish lineage we find in Lecale, in the reign of Elizabeth, is Donat Magrory or MacRory, (as the chief of the Kilwarlin branch of Magenis was called,) who died in 1599 seized of the lands of Clogher, near Downpatrick, and of the Odd Hall and several messuages in that town, and which lands Owen his son, and Donnell his grandson, successively held up to 1662. It is probable it was sold shortly afterwards; as, in the Letters Patent creating the manor of Killough, granted to Sir Robert Ward, Knt., dated 29th May, 1671, we find the lands of "Clougher" included in the grant. But, although there were no native proprietors for the last two centuries, the rural population was extensively Irish, continuing so to the present day; thus proving the correctness of the theory, that, in the country districts, the population is, or rather was, averse to migration, while, in towns, it was ever changing. A very slight examination of the Tithe Book previously referred to, in conjunction with the Rental of the Cromwell estate in 1708, (then comprising the town of Downpatrick and aabout 70 different denominations,) shews at once that, whilst not more than seven or eight of the families resident in Downpatrick now remain, the same names and families which resided throughout the Barony are still to be found in the same identical localities. The principal Irish families now inhabiting the territory, which we wish to state as nearly as possible according to their relative numbers, are the McKeatins, Hynds, Maglenons, (in other parts of Ireland this family have dropped the Mac, and are simply Glennon,) Hannets, (who have Scotticized their name to Hanna,) Connors, Magreevys, Taggarte, McConveys, Crangles, McKeameys, (who latterly have dropped the Mac,) Killens, McIlmeals, and McCumuskeys, (Mac Cumuseagh), a name which we have found in no other part of Ireland with the Mac prefixed, excepting Dublin, and there they are natives of Downpatrick. This name, Cumuscagh, was frequent amongst the Picts, or Cruithnians, who, at an early period, made Lecale one of their habitats; the townland, Ballytrostem, being derived from Trostem the Druid who accompanied the first of the Cruithenians who settled in Ireland. Another name, Curoe, common in Lecale, is also we believe peculiar to it, as we have not found it elsewhere, but whether of Pictish or Milesian origin is uncertain.
J. W. H.
[c] The Down Survey returns William Merryman as having been possessed of seven townlands in the Parish of Kilclief, principally episcopal lands. The Merrymans and Wards frequently appear as trustees of the Russells, and other Lecale families, and several intermarriages between the Russells and Wards are recorded. – See Lodge, vol. vi. p. 68, and Ulst. Mg.
[d] Reid. vol. IT., p. 498.
[e] Journal of the House of Commons, March 1647.
The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 1, 1853.