Monday, 9 April 2018

Kilmore House

JOHN MacDONALD, second son of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, by his wife, the Princess Margaret, daughter of ROBERT II, King of Scotland, was founder, about 1380, of the clan "Ian Vore", or Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg, whose chiefs were also styled Lords of Dunnyveg, Islay, Kintyre, and the Glens of Antrim.

ALEXANDER MacDONALD (c1480-1538) 5th of Dunnyveg, who invaded Ulster with 8,000 men in 1532, had by his wife, a daughter of the Lord of Ardnamurchan, five sons, of whom

JAMES, 6th Chief, married the Lady Agnes Campbell, daughter of Colin, 3rd Earl of Argyll, and was slain in 1565, leaving issue, a son, Angus, Lord of Kintyre.

James MacDonnell transferred, however, his Irish possessions to his brother, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, father to the 1st Earl of Antrim.

COLLA MacDONNELL, brother of James, 6th Chief, wedded Evelyn MacQuillan, Lord of Dunluce, and was father to GILLASPICK, Chief of Iona and Colonsay, whose son, by his wife, a daughter of O'Cahan (O'Kane) of Loughlynch,

COLL McDONALD (1570-1647), was at the head of the clan "Ian Vore", and was besieged in the castle of Dunnyveg and put to death by Archibald, Marquess of Argyll, in 1647.

He married Mary MacDonald, of Sanda, and was father of

SIR ALEXANDER MacDONALD (c1610-47), Montrose's celebrated Lieutenant-General, who having survived the Royal cause in Scotland, was killed in Ireland while second in command of the Royal forces at Knocknanuss, County Cork, 1647.

He wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Hector MacAlister, and had issue,
COLL, his heir;
Archibald.
The elder son,

COLL McDONNELL, married Anne Magee, of Murlough Bay, County Antrim, and was succeeded by his son,

ALEXANDER McDONNELL, of Kilmore, living in 1738, who married firstly, a daughter of McDonnell, of Knappin, and had issue (with another son, Alexander, who died unmarried),
Randal, died unmarried;
Michael;
JOHN, of whom we treat.
The youngest son,

JOHN McDONNELL, of Kilmore, who succeeded by family arrangement to the possession of Kilmore, married Rose, daughter of George Savage, of County Down, and dying in 1803, was succeeded by his son,

RANDAL McDONNELL, of Kilmore and Brackney, who wedded Mary, daughter of Archibald MacElheran, of Glassmullan, County Antrim, granddaughter of Alexander McDonnell, of Glassmullan, and had, with four daughters,
ALEXANDER, his heir;
JOHN, succeeded his brother.
Mr McDonnell was succeeded by his son,

ALEXANDER McDONNELL, of Kilmore and Dublin, who espoused, in 1851, Margaret, daughter of Alexander McMullin, of Cabra House, County Down.

He died in 1862, leaving a daughter,

RACHEL MARY JOSEPHINE McDONNELL (c1855-1908), heir of her mother's estate in County Down, who married, in 1882, Henry Thomas Silvertop, of Minster Acres, Northumberland, and had issue,
FRANCIS SOMERLED JOSEPH (1883-1917), killed in action;
WILLIAM ALEXANDER SILVERTOP;
Charles Ransall;
Margaret.
Mr Alexander McDonnell was succeeded in his own estate by his brother,

COLONEL JOHN McDONNELL JP DL (1823-1905), of Kilmore, Glenariff, County Antrim, a Knight of St Gregory, who wedded, in 1870, Madeleine, daughter of Thomas, 1st Baron O'Hagan, KP.

She dsp 1875.

Colonel McDonnell was succeeded by his nephew,

WILLIAM ALEXANDER SILVERTOP MC (1884-1917), of Kilmore, second son of Henry Thomas Silvertop, of Minster Acres, Northumberland, by Rachel Mary Josephine, only child of Alexander McDonnell, of Kilmore.

Captain Silvertop, 20th Hussars, was killed in action at France.


KILMORE HOUSE, Glenariff, County Antrim, comprises a large two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block with earlier Georgian wings to its southern elevation.

The house was constructed in stages, and parts of the building may date from as early as the 18th century.

The current fa├žade of the house, however, was built in 1907-8.

The first recorded occupant of the site was Coll McDonnell, a gentleman who leased 10 acres of land in Kilmore from his kinsman, Lord Antrim, and established a dwelling there in 1706.

The site passed to Coll’s son Alexander in 1742; and then to his grandson, John, in 1803 before being occupied by his great-grandson Randal in 1815.

The McDonnells initially resided in an early-Georgian house which had been constructed in the townland ca 1706.

The two-storey, four-bay farmhouse (at the south side of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block) had been constructed by 1832.

A thatched building (which predated the rest of the farmhouse) was presumably the McDonnell family’s previous dwelling on the site, however it cannot be confirmed with certainty whether any trace of this structure survives at the site.

The farmhouse at Kilmore was originally known as Ballinlig.

By the mid-19th century Ballinlig had passed to Randal McDonnell’s eldest son Alexander; following whose decease, in 1862, Ballinlig was occupied by his younger brother, Colonel John McDonnell, who remained at the site until his own death in 1905.

McDonnell’s residence became known as "Kilmore House" by at least the turn of the 20th century.

Following the death of Colonel McDonnell in 1905, Kilmore House passed to his nephew, Captain William Alexander Silvertop.

The Silvertop family extended the house in 1907-8.


The Edwardian extension was designed by Nicholas Fitzsimmons (1869-c1940), a Belfast-based architect who entered into partnership with Robert Graeme Watt and Frederick Tulloch in 1909.

Fitzsimons’s original plans show that the extension consisted of the two-and-a-half-storey Edwardian block to the north side of the Georgian farmhouse.

The plans of Kilmore House record that the interior floor-plan of the original farmhouse was altered to incorporate the kitchen, dining-room, a study and private chapel; whilst the new block consisted of a drawing-room and billiards-room (at ground floor), bedrooms and bathrooms (at first floor) and servants quarters (in the attic storey).

Captain Silvertop served in France during the 1st World War, but following his death, in 1917, the house was sold and passed out of the McDonnell family.

Kilmore House had lain vacant from 1910 until 1919, when it was purchased by Joseph Maguire, a senator in the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont.

The De La Salle Order purchased Kilmore in 1958, when it was occupied by the Most Rev Dr  D Mageean, RC Bishop of Down and Connor (1882-1962).

The Bishop resided at Kilmore House until ca 1960, when the building was converted into a holiday home for visitors to the North Coast, administered by the Trustees of Kilmore Holiday House.


Kilmore House was listed in 1980 and is now a country house hotel.

Today the house is set in thirteen acres.

It has fourteen bedrooms.


A stained-glass window at the landing still has the McDonnell and Silvertop armorial bearings.

First published in April, 2016. Select bibliography: Northern Ireland Department for Communities Historic Buildings survey.

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