Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Storied Homes of Ulster – Killyleagh Castle

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.


Killyleagh Castle

The storms of centuries have left it unshaken.

BEYOND the little harbour and the straggling factories of Killyleagh's narrow main street, one is surprised to find the curtain wall of a great grey castle dominating the town‘s tiny square.

To those who visit this busy town for the first time, the sight of the Castle, overpowering the huddled houses, comes as something of a shock, for gatehouse and town are in close proximity, not separated by vast parklands as is the more usual case.

These battlemented walls were built to ensure security for the inhabitants of the humbler dwellings that cluster round their base. Their strength and grandeur are portrayed in Raven's map of 1625. an excellent reproduction of which appears in Stevenson's "Two Centuries of Life in Down."

The fabric of Killyleagh has been excellently preserved, since for centuries it has been used as a home. The Earl of Abercorn, writing to his Master, James I, said that James Hamilton was building "a very strong castell, the lyk not in the north." These words could well be used to-day for nowhere is there a castle of such age in a like state of repair.

At the time when Lord Abercorn wrote to his King, James Hamilton was really making additions to a stronghold built by the Normans, probably some 400 years previously.

Hamilton, that shrewd Scots adventurer, had bought the Duffryn territory, which included Killyleagh, from the Whyte family about 1610. He reported to his monarch that the territory had been purchased for "a good valuable consideration."

The purchase of the territory did not, however, include the goodwill of the Whyte family, for we learn from Hamilton's later complaints that one Christopher Whyte had joined himself with Constantine O'Neale in rebellion against the new landlord. As later events disclosed that James Hamilton's "good valuable consideration" was a mere £40, the dissatisfaction of the Whyte family is not surprising.

The ill-fated Henry, Earl of Clanbrassil, Hamilton’s successor, restored Killyleagh in 1666. The castle was the scene of much disturbance when the rising of 1798 shocked the North with its bitterness. For a third time, in 1850, the Castle was restored on this occasion under the direction of Sir Charles Lanyon.

Some nine years later, the gatehouse section was rebuilt by the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, as a gift for Lady Dufferin's brother, Mr. Gavin Hamilton. The annual rental is one of the most romantic in the Province, the tenant having the right to offer "a red rose to the Lady, or a pair of gilt spurs to the Master of Clandeboye."


Next Week — Hockley Lodge, County Armagh.

Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday, 11 November 1953

Storied Homes of Ulster – Bank of Ireland, Armagh

The following is part of a series of articles which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in 1953 under the pen name 'Fina'.


Bank of Ireland, Armagh

Site of St. Patrick's first church, legend says

ARMAGH has so many beautiful examples of Georgian architecture, both in the city itself and in the surrounding countryside, that it is difficult to select the most outstanding.

Remarkable for its simplicity of form is the Beak of Ireland. The building is set back a little way from the road, and its elegance is admirably enhanced by beautiful wrought iron work, a tribute to the skill of local craftsmen.

The serenity of the plain white front is offset by the richness of a charmingly curved handrail, and the delicate tracery of the lamp standards that flank the gate.

The house, completed about 1812, is attributed to the architect Francis Johnson. It was built for Leonard Dobbin, M.P. for the borough of Armagh. The lovely ceiling in the main reception room, where public business is now transacted, incorporates amongst its flowing arabesques, the Dobbin coat of arms.

At first, Leonard Dobbin carried out banking business in his new residence in a private capacity, but on January 1, 1827, he and his nephew Thomas became joint agents in Armagh lor the Bank of Ireland. Leonard Dobbin retained his seat in Parliament, and whilst he was at Westminster the business of banking was in his nephews complete charge.

Some difficulty about his political activities arose in 1834, and he resigned his seat in Parliament. He wrote to the Directors of the Bank of Ireland that he regarded the office of agent as a "position of honour and dignity."

Mr. Dobbin and his nephew continued as agents after this slight altercation, but they appear to have been retained mainly on account of their influential standing, for a manager was now appointed to undertake the more intricate part of the business,

Mr. Leonard Dubbin made one further effort to dabble in politics in 1841 when he carried out a whirlwind campaign on behalf of a certain Mr. Rawden. Upon the complaint of Mr. Rawden's opponent, Mr. George Fox, the Directors of the Bank intimated that Mr. Dobbin's political activities embarrassed them and thereafter these activities ceased, and the agent devoted himself entirely to banking.

Among the records still preserved at the bank are a lodgment docket dated 4th September, 1834, and an account book, filled with beautiful, faded copperplate, which dates from 1830.

It is said that St. Patrick had his first church in the tiny garden at the back of this Georgian house, long before Armagh became a city, and that later his sister founded a religious house in the same place.

Whatever the truth of this legend, it is certain that the garden was once a burying ground, since human remains have been discovered there within living memory.


Next Week — Killyleagh Castle.


Belfast Telegraph, Wednesday 4 November 1953