Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Sir George White VC

© National Museums Northern Ireland

George Stuart White was a son of James White, of White Hall, County Antrim, and his wife Frances Ann, daughter of George Stewart, Surgeon-General to the Army in Ireland and his wife Frances (daughter of Colonel William Stewart MP, of Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone).

He was born at Low Rock Castle, Portstewart, County Londonderry, in 1835.

He was educated at Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire, and later at King William's College on the Isle of Man.

From 1850, he attended the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he was commissioned into the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot in 1853, prior to serving at the Indian Mutiny.

In 1874, he married Amelia, daughter of the Ven Joseph Baly, Archdeacon of Calcutta, with whom he had one son and four daughters.

Major White fought in the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War in 1879 as second-in-command of the 92nd Regiment of Foot (later The Gordon Highlanders).

He was 44 years old when the following deeds took place in Afghanistan, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

For conspicuous bravery during the engagement at Charasiah on the 6th October, 1879, when, finding that the artillery and rifle fire failed to dislodge the enemy from a fortified hill which it was necessary to capture, Major White led an attack upon it in person.

Advancing with two companies of his regiment; and climbing from one steep ledge to another, he came upon a body of the enemy, strongly posted, and outnumbering his force by about 8 to 1. His men being much exhausted, and immediate action being necessary, Major White took a rifle, and, going on by himself, shot the leader of the enemy. This act so intimidated the rest that they fled round the side of the hill, and the position was won.

Again, on the 1st September, 1880, at the battle of Candahar, Major White, in leading, the final charge, under a heavy fire from the enemy, who held a strong position and were supported by two guns, rode straight up to within a few yards of them, and seeing the guns, dashed forward and secured one, immediately after which the enemy retired.
He became the commanding officer of the 92nd Foot in 1881.

He commanded a brigade during the 3rd Anglo-Burmese War of 1885, as a result of which he was promoted to major-general and was knighted in 1886.

In 1889 he took command at Quetta District.

Sir George became Commander-in-Chief, India, in 1893.
He was appointed Quartermaster-General to the Forces in 1898, holding that post until the following year. He was commander of the forces in Natal during the opening of the 2nd Boer War; and commanded the garrison at the Siege of Ladysmith 1899–1900, for which he was appointed GCMG.
General White became Governor of Gibraltar, 1900-04, and was promoted to field marshal in 1903.

He was Governor of the Royal Chelsea Hospital from 1905 until his death there in 1912.

Sir George was buried at Broughshane, County Antrim, his ancestral home, where a memorial now stands.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen.

First published in May, 2013.

Low Rock Castle

LOW ROCK CASTLE, Portstewart, County Londonderry, was thus called in order to distinguish it from its larger neighbour further along the coast, Rock Castle (a school since 1917, known locally as O'Hara's Castle).

Low Rock Castle was a two-storey, late-Georgian seaside villa of ca 1820, with two bows like round towers at either end of its front.

The house was originally battlemented, hence its "castle" nomenclature.

The bows contained circular rooms.

Low Rock Castle was famous for having been the birth-place, in 1835, of Field-Marshal Sir George White VC, the defender of Ladysmith.

It was built by Henry O'Hara who later constructed the dwelling known as "O'Hara's Castle" on a promontory further to the north.

Low Rock Castle is referred to in 1835 as a bathing residence that was usually let during the summer.

The house was rented to James Robert White, of White Hall, County Antrim, during the summer of 1835.

The building was vacant in 1856 and was the property of Alexander Shuldham.
The house was let out for some years and, in 1885, was sold to Thomas Mackey, a wine merchant of Coleraine, at which time it was said to comprise twenty-three rooms, including three reception rooms, nine bedrooms, kitchen, pantries and two WCs. 
Extensive outbuildings comprised a large coach-house, stable, byre, and a house for the coachman, the whole "romantically situated on an acre of ground".
In 1908, it was recorded that the house was let for the summer season of three months a year and was otherwise vacant.

The house passed to James Leslie ca 1920; and then to the Wilson family in the 1930s.

It was run as a boarding-house in the summer, though was closed during the winter.

Notes of this period show the house with bays and porch, a rear return with dining room; pantry and scullery; and a stable block to the south which had been converted into rooms for boarders and staff.

In 1945, the property was purchased for £3,000 by Robina Young, when the interior was completely modernised, part of the building accommodating an overflow of visitors from the Strand Hotel.

Low Rock Castle was demolished overnight in 2001 without permission during the construction of a block of apartments that now occupy the site:
"Planners were under fire today after ruling out legal action over the flattening of a protected historic building. The listed 19th century [Low] Rock Castle in Portstewart was pulled down in the summer of 2001 to make way for an apartment complex.

It has taken the DoE's Planning Service almost four years to decide against prosecution. The Department had previously referred to the demolition as an "offence" and stressed that the "necessary legal procedures" were under way.

Its decision not to go to court has been revealed in a letter to Coleraine Council. The DoE said it had been firmly advised by its lawyers that there was "no reasonable prospect" of a conviction.

Works to Rock Castle had been "urgently necessary" on health and safety grounds and the developer had carried out the "minimum measures necessary", the letter stated.

The Department also said that Planning Service chiefs had decided after "careful consideration" that pursuing the case "would not be in the overall public interest". The DoE took a much tougher stance in the immediate wake of the removal of the historic building. 

In a letter to the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in October 2001, the office of the then Environment Minister, Sam Foster, stated: "The Planning Service has initiated the necessary legal procedures with a view to pursuing prosecution." 

The Minister's office also stated that the demolition was "at variance" with a Planning Service consent, which required the "retention of the original front section of Rock Castle".

Rita Harkin from the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society said at the time:
"This fine listed building was demolished without consent, to the detriment and dismay of the community. We shared their clear expectation that a prosecution would follow. To maintain that the Department's inaction is in the public interest is risible. Will it not simply prompt others to demolish and reason later, cheating towns and villages of cherished historic buildings?"

I photographed Low Rock Castle's successor during a visit to Portstewart in July, 2013.

The picture was taken from the shore.

At the entrance there remains a tiny fisherman's cottage of ca 1600.

First published in July, 2013.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The McCutcheon's Field Acquisition


PROPERTY: McCutcheon's Field, near Groomsport, Co Down

DATE:  2000

EXTENT: 9.17 acres

DONOR:  North Down Borough Council

1st Earl of Ranfurly

The patriarch of the family of KNOX is Adam, the son of Uchtred, who, in the reign of ALEXANDER II, King of Scotland, obtained the lands of Knox in Renfrewshire, whence he assumed his surname. 
Uchtred Knox, his descendant, had a charter of the lands of Ranfurly, in 1474, from JAMES III. They were inherited by three Uchtreds: his son, grandson, and great-grandson; and alienated by the daughter and heir of the last, in 1665. 
William, the grandson of the first, and younger son of the second, Uchtred Knox of Ranfurly, was ancestor in the fifth degree of two brothers, THOMAS and JOHN KNOX, who both settled in Ulster about the period of the Revolution.
THE RT HON THOMAS KNOX (c1640-1728), the elder brother, who was a zealous promoter of the Hanovarian succession, obtained lands at Dungannon, in County Tyrone.

He was MP for Newtownards, 1692-3, and Dungannon, 1695-1727; was appointed a privy counsellor by GEORGE I, and declined the offer of a peerage, leaving no male issue.

Mr Knox married Mary, daughter of Robert Bruce, of Kilroot, County Antrim, by whom he had two daughters,
Mary, m to Rt Hon Oliver St George;
Anne, to Charles Echlin.
JOHN KNOX, the younger brother, marrying Elizabeth, daughter of Hugh Keith, of County Down, was succeeded at his decease, in 1722, by his only son,

THOMAS KNOX, of Dungannon, who inherited the fortune of his uncle, William Knox, of Glasgow.

Mr Knox represented Dungannon in parliament for several years, and was Deputy Governor of County Tyrone.

He married Hester, daughter of John Echlin, of Ardquin, County Down, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
John, m only daughter of H Waring, of Waringstown;
Hester, m to James Mountray MP, of Favour Royal;
Elizabeth, m to Mathew Forde, of Seaforde.
Mr Knox dying in 1769, was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

THOMAS KNOX (1729-1818), MP for Dungannon, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1781, as Baron Wells; and advanced to a viscountcy, in 1791, as Viscount Northland.

His lordship wedded, in 1753, Anne, second daughter of John, 1st Lord Knapton, and aunt of John, 2nd Viscount de Vesci, by whom he had issue,
THOMAS, his successor;
John, major-general and Governor of Jamaica;
Vesey, m Catherine, daughter of General Gisborne;
William (Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Derry;
George (Rt Hon), MP;
Charles, in holy orders;
Edmund (Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Limerick.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS, 2nd Viscount (1754-1840), who espoused, in 1785, Diana Jane, eldest daughter and co-heir of Edmund, 1st Viscount Pery (Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, 1771, 1776, and 1783).

In 1826, he was created Baron Ranfurly, of Ramphorlie in the County of Renfrew, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, which entitled him and his successors to a seat in the upper chamber of parliament.

He was further advanced the the dignity of an earldom, in 1831, as  EARL OF RANFURLY.
    The heir apparent is the present holder's son Edward John Knox, styled Viscount Northland.

IN 1692 the town of Dungannon and surrounding estates in County Tyrone, then reputedly worth £1,000 a year, were sold by Arthur Chichester, 3rd Earl of Donegall, to Thomas Knox, a Glasgow merchant who had settled in Belfast prior to 1669.

Knox had been elected a free burgess of the corporation of Belfast in 1680, and he had then served as sovereign (mayor) of Belfast for the year ending Michaelmas, 1686.

In 1692, the year in which he purchased the manor of Dungannon, he was returned as MP for Newtownards, County Down.

In 1695, he changed his place of residence from Belfast to Dungannon.

Interestingly, the Earls of Ranfurly owned land in east Belfast and it is believed that business men such as Sir Thomas McClure Bt purchased land from them in the vicinity of Strandtown (Ranfurly Drive still exists there).

In 1707, Knox registered his arms in Ulster's Office, Dublin Castle, as the male representative of the Scottish landed family of Knox of Ramphorlie, or Ranfurly, Renfrewshire. He died in 1728.

According to John Marshall's History of Dungannon, the original house of Thomas Knox was on the western side of Market Square, which is now occupied by shops.

The second residence was known as the Farmhouse and stood in the demesne, on the outskirts of the town.

The third residence, known variously as Northland House, Northland Park and Dungannon Park, was built by Thomas Knox, 1st Viscount Northland, for his eldest son and heir, Thomas Knox, 2nd Viscount and 1st Earl of Ranfurly, on his marriage.

A letter from Elizabeth J Knox on 31 July 1842 (quoted in Marshall's ‘Dungannon’) reads:

I had a long letter from Mary the other day, with an account of the improvements uncle R[anfurly] is making at Dungannon. Part of the Park house is to be converted into a dairy, and 40 cows bought to begin with.

They are setting up three new schools - in short they seem to be doing much good there. They never see any company even at dinner, on account of the house not being in reception order. However I think they like being there. The house is no longer to be called 'Northland House', but 'Dungannon Park.

Northland House was a three-storey, irregular classical mansion, dating in its final form from ca 1840.

The principal front consisted of five bays between two projecting pedimented end bays, extended to the left by a nine-bay wing of the same height and style, but set a little back.

At the junction of the main block and the wing was a single-storey projecting porch of three bays, fronted by a portico of four Ionic columns.

Along the adjoining front stood an Ionic colonnade with a central pediment, running into an orangery at one end.

Jutting out from the orangery was a conservatory of graceful curving glass, in the Crystal Palace manner.

Rising from the corner of the main body of the house, behind the orangery, was a belfry with Ionic columns.

The House was, sadly, completely demolished, though one of its classical gate lodges survives.

In 1880 the 5th Earl (above) married Constance Elizabeth Caulfeild (1858-1932), only child of James Alfred Caulfield, 7th Viscount Charlemont.

In 1883 the Ranfurly Estate consisted of 9,647 acres in County Tyrone and 506 acres in County Fermanagh.

This amounted to a total of 10,153 acres.

However, the 5th Earl died in comparative poverty and was the last earl to live at Dungannon Park.

The contents of Northland House were put up for sale in 1922, and the house and demesne were sold either in 1927 or at his death in 1933.

Due to the premature death of the 5th Earl's son, Lord Northland, in 1915, the earldom passed in 1933 from Lord Ranfurly directly to his grandson, Thomas Daniel Knox (1913-1988) who, according to his widow, inherited nothing but the obligation to pay a pension to the retired butler from Northland Park!

According to Lady Ranfurly, her husband, the 6th Earl (following their very successful term of office in the Bahamas), was offered the governorship of Northern Ireland, but declined.

His reasons were (a) that he needed to go into the City in order to retrieve the family fortunes, and (b) that he felt that his having been installed as an Orangeman by his grandfather in the mid-1920s might prove an embarrassment to the Queen's Representative in Northern Ireland if it came to light!

The 6th Earl and Countess's wartime experiences have been recounted, humorously and movingly, in ‘To War with Whitaker: the Wartime Diaries of Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, 1939-1945’ (London, 1994).

I have this book at home and can thoroughly recommend it!

The present and 7th Earl lives at the family seat, Maltings Chase, near Nayland in Suffolk.

First published in April, 2009.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Craig Baronets


The 1st Baronet, later to become the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, was created Viscount Craigavon in 1927, when the baronetcy merged with the viscountcy.

I have written an article about his family here.

Born at Sydenham, a suburb of Belfast, Craig was the youngest of six sons of James Craig JP, of Craigavon and Tyrella, County Down, a successful whisky distiller and businessman in Belfast.

Educated at a private school in Holywood, County Down and afterwards at Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh, the younger Craig became a stockbroker.

However, with the start of the Boer War in 1899 he ceased formally to be a member of the Belfast Stock Exchange and took a commission in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Serving with distinction as a lieutenant with the Imperial Yeomanry, he was captured by the Boers but survived the barren conditions of a concentration camp and returned home with a firm and lasting conviction of the British way of life.
The 1st Viscount was still prime minister when he died peacefully at his home, Glencraig, County Down, in 1940.

He was buried at the Stormont Estate.

James Craig (1906-74), 2nd Baronet and 2nd Viscount, was educated at Eton. He was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and fought in the Second World War.

Janric Fraser Craig (b 1944), 3rd and present Baronet and 3rd Viscount, was born in 1944; educated at Eton; graduated from London University with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts.

Lord Craigavon was invested as a Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants and was an Elected Member of the House of Lords in 1999; lives in London.

There is no heir to the viscountcy.

First published in July, 2010.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Tall Ships Belfast 2015

A stiff restorative is now the Order of the Day for self.

I spent the afternoon at the Tall Ships festival at the Belfast docks.

I cycled in the trusty two-wheeler through Titanic Quarter and found a discreet parking space under the Lagan railway bridge, at Queen's Quay.

Thence I joined a queue for the shuttle bus, which took us to the County Antrim side of the river Lagan, specifically Pollock Dock, where HMS Northumberland is presently docked.

Northumberland, a Type 23 frigate, was commissioned in 1994; has a complement of 185; and weighs about 5,000 tons.

The queue for Northumberland was hundreds of yards long and it took an hour to reach the gangway, or whatever it's called these days.

Alas, Belmont was not whistled aboard (!), though we had a fairly free run of the main deck.

The interior messes, cabins and quarters were closed to the general public today.

A number of the ship's crew hail from Northern Ireland.

I gather that the new captain is Commander Patricia Kohn RN, and judging by the duty rostrum, she was aboard or afloat this afternoon.

You shall be relieved to hear that the two-wheeler was in situ when I walked back (quicker to walk - the bus queue was hundreds of yards long).

Derreen House


The Earls of Kerry trace their origin to a common ancestor in the direct line with the eminent houses of FitzGerald, Windsor, Carew, McKenzie, etc; namely, Walter FitzOtho, Castellan of Windsor in the 11th century; whose eldest son,

GERALD FITZWALTER, obtained a grant from HENRY I, of Moulsford, Berkshire.

This Gerald wedded Nest ferch Rhys, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales, and had issue,
MAURICE, ancestor of the ducal house of LEINSTER;
WILLIAM, of whom presently;
David, Bishop of St David's.
The second son,

called by Giraldus Cambrensis the eldest son; but the pedigree of the family of LEINSTER setting forth the contrary, his mother's inheritance, and assuming that surname, bespeak him a younger son, which is confirmed by the unerring testimony of the addition of chief, ermine, to his coat armour (a certain sign of cadence, to distinguish him and his posterity from the elder branch of the family. 
This William was sent, in 1171, by Strongbow, into Ireland, with his son, Raymond, where, for a time, he assisted in the reduction of that kingdom; but returning to his native country, died there in 1173, leaving issue by Catherine, daughter of Sir Adam de Kingsley, of Cheshire, seven sons and a daughter.
The eldest son,

RAYMOND FITZGERALD, surnamed, from his corpulence, Le Gros, having, as stated above, accompanied his father into Ireland, was a principal in the reduction of that kingdom.

He married Basilia, sister of Strongbow, and had, as a marriage portion with her, a large territorial grant and the constableship of Leinster.

After this, we find him aiding MacCarthy, King of Cork, against his rebellious son, and acquiring for his services a large tract of land in County Kerry, where he settled his eldest son,

MAURICE FITZRAYMOND, who espoused firstly, Johanna, daughter of Meiler Fitzhenry, founder of Great Connell Priory, County Kildare, and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, by whom he had a son,

THOMAS, who assumed the surname of FITZMAURICE, and became Baron Kerry.

This Thomas founded the Grey Franciscan abbey of Ardfert in 1253.

He married Grace, daughter of MacMurrough Kavanagh, son of the king of Leinster; and dying in 1280, was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAURICE FITZTHOMAS, 2nd Baron; who sat in the parliament held at Dublin in 1295, and attended a writ of summons of EDWARD I in 1297, with horse and arms, in an expedition against Scotland.

He wedded Mary, daughter and heir of Sir John McLeod, of Galway; and dying in 1303, was succeeded by his son,

NICHOLAS, 3rd Baron; whose son,

MAURICE, 4th Baron,
having a dispute with Desmond Oge MacCarthy, killed him upon the bench before the judge of assize, at Tralee, in 1325, for which he was tried and attainted by the parliament of Dublin, but was not put to death. 
His lands were, however, forfeited, but restored, after his death, to his brother and successor,

JOHN, 5th Baron; from whose time, we are obliged, by our limits, to pass over almost four centuries, and to come to

THOMAS, 21st Baron (1668-1741), who was created, in 1722, Viscount Clanmorris and EARL OF KERRY.

His lordship wedded, in 1692, Anne, only daughter of Sir William Petty, physician-general to the army in Ireland in 1652.
Sir William was celebrated for his extraordinary talents, and surprising fortune. In 1664, he undertook the survey of Ireland; and, in 1666, he had completed the measurement of 2,008,000 acres of forfeited land, for which, by contract, he was to receive one penny per acre, and did actually acquire an estate of £6,000 a year. This eminent and distinguished person died of gangrene in his foot, in 1687.
The Earl of Kerry had issue,
JOHN, of whom presently;
Elizabeth Anne; Arabella;
His lordship's second son,

having inherited the Petty estates upon the demise of his maternal uncle, Henry Petty, Earl of Shelburne, in 1751 (when that earldom expired), assumed the surname and arms of PETTY, and was advanced to the peerage as Baron Dunkeron and Viscount FitzMaurice.
His lordship was further promoted, in 1753, to an earldom, as EARL OF SHELBURNE.

He married, in 1734, his first cousin Mary, daughter of the Hon William FitzMaurice, by whom he had issue, WILLIAM, his successor; and Thomas, who married Mary, Countess of Orkney, a peeress in her own right.

The Earl of Shelburne was created a peer of Great Britain, as Baron Wycombe; and dying in 1761, was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM, 2nd Earl (1737-1805), KG, a general in the army, and a distinguished statesman in the reign of GEORGE III. In 1782, his lordship, after the death of the Marquess of Rockingham (under whom he filled the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs), was nominated Prime Minister.

In 1784, Lord Shelburne was advanced to the dignities of Earl of Wycombe, Viscount Calne and Calstone, and MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE.

The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin is named after the 1st Marquess.

Lord Lansdowne married firstly, in 1765, Sophia, daughter of John, Earl Granville, by whom he left one son, JOHN, his successor; and secondly, in 1779, Louisa, daughter of John, Earl of Upper Ossory, by whom he had another son, HENRY, 3rd Marquess; and a daughter, Louisa, who died young.

His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

JOHN, 2nd Marquess (1765-1809), who espoused, in 1805, Lady Gifford, widow of Sir Duke Gifford, of Castle Jordan, in Ireland; but dying without issue, the honours devolved upon his half-brother, LORD HENRY PETTY, who had already distinguished himself as an eloquent public speaker, and had attained considerable popularity by his enlightened views as a statesman.

His lordship succeeded also to the honours of the house of KERRY upon the demise of his cousin.

The heir apparent is the present holder's elder son, Simon Henry George Petty-Fitzmaurice, styled Earl of Kerry.

The 3rd Marquess declined a dukedom.

DERREEN HOUSE, near Lauragh, County Kerry, sits in a particularly beautiful site at the River Kenmare.

It was enlarged between 1863-66 by the 4th Marquess of Lansdowne, who built a new wing.

The house was further enlarged after 1870 by the 5th Marquess, who was subsequently Governor-General of Canada, Viceroy of India and HM Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Derreen underwent further work following an attack of dry rot in 1925-6.

It comprises two storeys over a basement, with white rendered walls and dormer gables.

DERREEN GARDEN extends over the greater part of the peninsula on which it lies.

It covers an area of 60 acres and includes nearly eight miles of paths, which wind through mature and varied woodland.

In the moist and mild climate, tender and exotic plants flourish.

Many of the paths in the garden provide marvellous glimpses of the sea (Bay of Kilmakilloge) and the distant mountains (Caha Mountains, Macgillycuddy's Reeks).

Derreen garden is particularly noted for its rhododendrons and tree ferns.

Throughout the garden a rich patina of moss, lichens ferns and saxifrages gives a sub-tropical feel to the whole area.

As a foil to the luxuriant plantings, there are great natural outcrops of rocks.

The garden is open to the public every day from April to October.

Following the 2nd World War, Dereen passed to the 12th Lady Nairne, Viscountess Mersey, sister of the 7th Marquess of Lansdowne (who was killed in action in 1944).

It eventually passed to her son, the Hon David Bigham.

The seat of the Marquesses of Lansdowne is now Bowood House, Wiltshire.

Former town house ~ Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London.

First published in July, 2013.   Lansdowne arms courtesy of European Heraldry.