Saturday, 16 October 2010

Mark Twain - descended from the Dalways of Dalway's Bawn?

When I first read 'Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain as a boy it gripped me like no other book I had ever read. The stories in my other books were very 'English public school' in their setting and dialogue, but Tom Sawyer's world (actually much further away - in Missouri), seemed just like my own. I can still remember the story when Tom couldn't go out to play with his friends on a Saturday because Aunt Polly had told him to whitewash the garden fence first. When his chums called for him, Tom pretended that he would rather paint the fence as he just loved doing it. So his puzzled friends asked to watch. Then, they asked to have a try with the paintbrush, but Tom said he wanted to do it himself. I think his friends ended up paying Tom to let them paint the fence while he sat and watched. This was a rouse I tried out on my own friends one Saturday, and it almost worked, but not quite!

'Mark Twain' was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), a name he took from the leadsman’s call on the Mississippi river. In 1876 he published "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" followed in 1882 by his story of Tudor England "The Prince and the Pauper". However the popularity of Tom Sawyer had readers demanding more, and in 1885 he wrote "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Life on the Mississippi". Huckleberry Finn has been hailed the first ‘Great American Novel’, a concept meaning a novel which most perfectly represents the spirit of life in the United States at the time of its writing. He wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of short stories and essays.

Apparently, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was of Scotch-Irish descent on both his father's and his mother's side of the family. His mother was Jane Lampton who
married John Marshall Clemens in 1823. Jane Lampton's grandfather was Col. William Casey, an early Kentucky pioneer who, in 1789, established the Casey/Butler Fort. This was the first permanent settlement in what is now Adair County and he settled there with his wife (Jane Montgomery) and about 30 other families. The Casey family had migrated to America from Ulster earlier in the century.

On his father's side of the family, the Clemens (originally Clements) were also of 'Scotch-Irish' descent, but this time they came from a more aristocratic Ulster background in east Antrim that had an association with an English army tradition before the American Revolution. Samuel Langhorne Clemens' grandfather was a Samuel B. Clemens, the first of Mark Twain's father's family to make an appearance in the historical record in America. The occasion was in October 1797, with his marriage to Pamela Goggin in Virginia.

Here I jump to the Clements (or 'Clemence') family of 'Clements Hill' between Straid and Ballynure. This district is right at the start of the Dalway's Bawn cattle trail, and in an earlier post ("The Rise of John Dalway's Cattle Empire in East Antrim", 10 July 2010) I described how this area around Ballynure - although quite distant from Dalway's Bawn - was a key part of the Dalway land grants from the early 1600s.

I have re-posted the map here, adding in the location of Clements Hill, south-west of Ballynure (click on the map to enlarge).

Every local history book and tourist guide for Ballynure in east Antrim claims Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) as a 'famous son' of the district. Here is a typical entry:
Mark Twain, as he was known to his worldwide readers was christened Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His family roots were on the edge of Ballyclare and the oldest gravetone in the nearby churchyard in Ballynure is his ancestor Elenor Clemens - 1628. A favourite walk in this part of County Antrim is from the Green Road to the Ballynure Road. It is known as the Back Walks and crosses an area called Clements Hill from whose height there were splendid views across the valley of the Six Mile Water. This was the Clemens family home for many years - the 't' being added at a later date. They were an important family and there are records of their contribution to the town of Carrickfergus where some served on the governing bodies. Samuel himself refers to the family living in this County Antrim valley.
These Clements were not ordinary tenant farmers, but they belonged to the same old-established, English landlord class as the Dalways - and indeed they married into the Dalways in the 1600s.
In the old graveyard of Ballynure Parish Church are two large family vaults belonging to the Dobbs family of Castle Dobbs (who by also marrying into the Dalway family, came to be in possession of much of the former Dalway estate at Ballynure). But the oldest gravestone in the burying ground is that of Ellinor Clements, dated 1698. Here is the full inscription (with the Dalway connection highlighted):

Here lyeth the body of Ellinor,
the wife of Edward Clements of Mvlligan-Hill gent.
and eldest daughter of Alexander Dallvay of Bally Hill Esqr.,
who departed this life
03 Mar 1698 aged 35 years.

The historical connections
between Ballynure and Dalway's Bawn at Ballycarry - although they were at opposite ends of east Antrim and separated by the County of Carrickfergus - were extremely close because of the Dalway cattle trail. It is a bit like the close connections between two trading ports at opposite sides of a sea. This came home to me when I visited the graveyard at Ballynure Parish Church last week. On a ruined stone wall near the Dobbs' family vault, is a blue plaque erected by the Ulster History Circle to "JONATHAN SWIFT author of Gulliver's Travels, Prebendary here 1695-97".

Jonathan Swift's period as Church of Ireland Prebend of Kilroot is described in another earlier post ("The original Yahoos at Kilroot", 28 May 2010), but I was unaware then that his ecclesiastical duties extended beyond the 'East of Eden' parishes of Templecorran and Kilroot, to include this distant parish of Ballynure. Swift's literary importance is enormous as he has been described as the greatest satirist of English literature. So it is interesting to speculate about the possible closeness of Swift's friendship, not only with the Dalways and Dobbs at Kilroot (as they were the leading Episcopalian families in a district which was otherwise almost wholly Presbyterian), but also in Ballynure with Alexander Dalway's daughter Ellinor and her husband Edward Clements of Clements Hill (from whom 'Mark Twain' is believed to be descended).

King John in 1210 granted a charter to Henry Clemens and Roger de Preston to lands near the present town of Larne in County Antrim. By the 1600s, the family (sometimes spelled 'Clemence' and sometimes 'Clements') were living in the Ballynure area of the Six-Mile-Water valley.
In 1609, Edward and John Clements settled at Straid, which was then called Thomastown because it had been possessed under Elizabeth I by Thomas Stevenson of Carrickfergus. Edward Clements had just obtained
a deed from John Dalway of the townlands of Ballythomas, Straidballythomas, and Ballymenagh. At the same time his brother John Clements is noticed as also holding lands near Straid.

About 1640, Henry Clements of Straid, who is believed to have been son of the above Edward, was deputy recorder of Carrickfergus. In 1648, we find him a captain in Sir John Clotworthy's regiment of foot, and in the following year in garrison at Carrickfergus, of which town he had been chosen an alderman. He died soon after.

Henry Clements (Junior) and his brother Edward, were among those who signed the Antrim Association in 1688. In 1692, Henry was one of the representatives in parliament for Carrickfergus. On the death of Henry, his brother Edward succeeded to the family estates. In 1707, he resided at Clements-hill, in which year he served the office of high sheriff of the county of Antrim, and in 1715 he was appointed major of a regiment of militia dragoons belonging to the same county, commanded by the Hon. John I. Chichester.

Edward Clements married Ellinor, daughter of Alexander Dalway, Ballyhill
who died March, 1696, and by her had seven sons, and two daughters: Edward, Henry, Hercules, Francis, John, Dalway, Anne and Millicent. In 1716, Edward Clements was high sheriff of the county of Antrim. He died 1733.

The children of Edward Clements and Ellinor Dalway included several that had distinguished military careers. Francis was appointed major of dragoons on the decease of his father, and in 1721, served the office of high sheriff of the county of Antrim. Both John and Dalway Clements were officers in Colonel Skeffington's regiment when it served during the 1689 Siege of Derry. This tradition continued into the 18th century with several of the next generation of the family serving with their regiments in North America.

I have to admit that, swamped under a tide of genealogical information about the early migration of these Clements to America in the wake of Arthur Dobbs' first contingent from this area in 1751, I have not even attempted to trace the direct line of descent to Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain). But it is well worth somebody researching it - if only to justify another blue plaque in Ballynure graveyard. And, of course, also a similar one on Dalway's Bawn!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Portmuck - the end of the Cattle Trail

Sailing into Portmuck harbour from Scotland takes you past the small Isle of Muck - seen here with the north end of the Gobbins Cliffs in Islandmagee behind.

The only landing place on the island is on the landward side, and it was here that smuggled horses from Scotland were landed out of sight of any patrolling customs and excise boats. On the Gobbins coast almost opposite is a cave known as 'horse cave' where the smuggled horses were also hidden. The inward horse trade was the counterbalance to the outgoing cattle boats destined for the great drove roads of Scotland.

Looking down on the island from the high ground in the middle of the peninsula, the small harbour of Portmuck can be seen to the left, hidden from the isle by a small headland with farm buildings on top.

This scene has hardly changed in 100 years since the old photograph below was taken.

The ruins of Portmuck Castle are only the base walls of a stone tower built in the 1590s (see earlier posts "The Big Picture: Eslers and the 'Scotch' Cattle Drove Roads of mid Antrim", and "Dalways Bawn: The Earl of Essex's Plantation in east Antrim). It sits among and behind the farm buildings on the headland, so that it could overlook both the harbour and the 'sound' of water between the headland and Muck Isle. The large building down at the harbour was the Coastguards Building, which in the 1800s replaced the castle as the customs control center for the control of livestock imports and exports.

This was the end of the cattle trail as far as the old drove road from Ballynure, across the Commons of Carrickfergus and past Dalway's Bawn, but it was the beginning of the horse trail in the opposite direction, for Ballynure's horse fair was one of the biggest in the county.
When I was a boy, the shore opposite Muck Isle could only be accessed by climbing over the limestone rocks at the headland (there is a footpath now).

From this headland, where the castle ruins are, the shore is a limestone platform of white rocks which contrast completely with the black basalt rocks of the Gobbins cliffs. The castle wall rises straight from this headland on the Isle of Muck side, so that it had a clear view of the 'sound' and the causeway that linked the island. This natural causeway can be waded across at low tide, and of course, livestock could be driven across at this point too.

There is a very interesting account of how (because of the smuggling trade) the locals were unwilling to admit, even to Scots 'plantation' landlords, that there were any horses 'to be had' in the district in the early 1600s. The source is a letter of 1631 from J. Montgomery of Newton (Lord Montgomery of the Ards in County Down) to Archibald Edmonston of Red Hall, Ballycarry. Of course there were plenty of horses about, but the fact that they were all busy working sounds like a typical Ulster-Scots bargaining tool to effect a sale at an extortionate price.

"J. Montgomerie to Archibald Edmonstone of Duntreath. Requesting the loan of some horses.

1631, April 21st, Knockfergus [Carrickfergus]. - 'Worshipfull and loving coosen, It hathe so falne out that in my passage from Dunstey I have been forced to land far doun in Iyeland McGhie [Portmuck, Islandmagee] so as I ame forced to employ my freinds for supplie of horses, and in regarde the countrey is upoun the heate of there labour, I must intreate yow for the laine of some three or four garreins [small work horses] for the transporting of myself and company to the Newtoun [Newtownards] ... Signed, Montgomerie

[Reply on same page] Right honourable my, I sent your Lordship thrie garreins and for this present I have non els exept my gray hors that rane ane cours yeisterday, and I dar nott ventur him so schoune efter the race. My Lord, I tak very unkindly that ye suld have gone by this cottage, always I hop your Lordship vill mak ane amends. Thus in quhat I am able I remain ... Signed, Ar. Edmonstoun. "
Of course, I should have repeated in this post that the names of Portmuck and of Muck Isle are both derived from the Irish Gaelic word for 'pig' (muc) and the names have nothing to do with the state of cleanliness of the place! But it also shows that the so-called 'cattle trail' was frequented by other livestock as well - particularly horses and swine.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Gobbins Cliffs

The Gobbins cliffs in Islandmagee run almost continuously between the sea-ports of Whitehead and Portmuck, so that these two tiny harbours were the only places the cattle trade from Dalway's Bawn to Scotland could operate from. This 100-year old romantic painting of the Gobbins does not capture the terror which these cliffs held for me as a young boy. There were sea caves that could only be explored by boat, and I remember being taken in a local fishing boat from Boneybefore - the only time I ever saw those caves up close.

In the 1960s we could still walk along parts of a cliff path from the Whitehead end, but the footbridges had collapsed before the stretch where the caves were.

The Gobbins path was built as a tourist attraction for visitors traveling from Belfast to Whitehead on the newly constructed railway in the late 1800s. It was a marvel of engineering with iron suspension bridges giving spectacular access.

As a boy, we could actually 'tight-rope' walk across some of the remaining girders, until the whole path was closed off for safety reasons in 1961.

But the real terror for me was when we would walk along the cliff tops. I had - and still have - a fear of heights, but the Boneybefore boys were intent on adding seagulls eggs to our collection. Egg-collecting is of course illegal and regarded as 'bad behaviour' now. But we thought it was only bad if you ignored the 'one-egg-only-per-nest' rule.

It was the other lads who went down the cliff, not me! But that wasn't because of any scruples I might have had about egg-collecting. The last time we tried it my friends got stuck half-way down, and called up above to me to go and get a rope from a farm. So off I went to the nearest farm across a few fields as fast as my trembling legs could take me. The two men in the farmyard just shrugged their shoulders as if a cow had got out of the field again, lifted two ropes hanging ready, and effected a rescue. Hardly a word was spoken, even back at the farmhouse where we were given a cup of tea. "Ye'll stick to the road in future then?" the older man said. "Ay", I said, and meant it.