Out of Antrim Came

The story of the search for the origins of the McClintocks, their motivation for leaving Antrim and going to New Zealand, how they proceded and whether it is true that branches of the family went to the US and well as New Zealand.

Record Hunting in Northern Ireland

We drove from Bowness-on-Windamere to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, after topping up on Beatrix Potter magic.  Having seen the Lakes area and looking at the Beatrix Potter sites, I have to say I am even more impressed with the movie Miss Potter.  Poo hoo to the critics who think Renee Zellwegger made her too eccentric!

We had an occasional sighting of the Irish Sea on the flight from Liverpool to Belfast with glimpses of the wind generators we had seen off Maryport and ships sailing between England and Ireland.

Wind Turbines in the Sea

We had several objectives in travelling to Ireland; see if we could find birth, death or marriage records for the McClintocks; see if we could locate Penny Plain, Ballymena; see if we could evidence one McClintock brother going to New Zealand and the other to America; work out what the family did in Ireland; get an understanding of what made the family Members seek new lives over the sea; see if could understand the McClintock Scottish connection.

We knew we were in for a tough assignment and were very likely to have to be satisfied with a ‘feel’ for what the world of Andrew McClintock might have been like in 1881.

Andrew McClintock left Belfast in 1881 bound for Littleton in New Zealand aboard the Coptic, which was one of the fleet of seagoing steamers operated by the White Star Line of Titanic fame.  Fortunately for us, he made it to New Zealand and his new life.

After arriving at Belfast International airport, we headed for the Holiday Inn Express in the town of Antrim just to the north, without the aid of our GPS which would not cooperate because we set the country for Ireland instead of the UK.  It worked pretty well after that except for not being able to locate Belfast International airports as a POI, which we wanted to catch our plane to London.

We came to Ireland with a solid record of failure in trying to find birth death or marriage records for Andrew, his father James and his mother Jane Mills despite subscribing to the best Irish Family History site at paying 8 Euro a pop to try.

North of Ireland Family History Society

You never know – we could have our share of the luck of the Irish actually being in Ireland.  Well, as it happens, we did.

Lynette was busily uploading MYOB for the office in Brisbane and Bill went downstairs to get access to Wi-Fi for the I Pad and came up with the website of the Northern of Ireland Family History Society.  They were open for 2 hours a week and they were open RIGHT NOW.  We threw everything into our cases and beat a hasty retreat from our hotel.

Armed with an address and a GPS now set for the UK we made it to NIRHS base in Belfast and came across some really friendly and helpful people.  Unfortunately, they found as much as we did in terms of birth, death and marriage records for the McClintocks.  None – they just don’t exist before the mid-1860’s.  Andrew McClintock was born in 1859 – just too early.  But we did get some tips, we now have a contact who we have met and we will join the Society as associate members.  We also know the Society has a branch in Ballymena, where the McClintocks came from.

Having confirmed that our skills in tracking down records wasn’t too bad since the locals couldn’t find the McClintocks either, we decided to retrace our steps back up through Antrim and have  look at Ballymena.

Ballymena – Home Town of the Scot-Irish McClintocks

Welcome to Ballymena

Having failed to find any formal documentation of the McClintocks, we hoped we might at least get a feel for their home town of Ballymena.  The feel mightn’t be that useful because it is 150 years after they left –  but you never never know, if you never never go.  With a lot of luck we might find some reference to ‘Penny Plain’.  Penny Platn was a reference we found in relation to Andrew McClintock.  Perhaps the name of a farm, locality or suburb.  We decided to have a look for ourselves.

Driving around the one-way streets of the centre of Ballymenawas interesting to say the least.   We had to cope with some different driving practices that require more patience and courtesy than you woud generally get in Australia.  Drivers can park on either side of the road, which means that someone apparently randomly spears over to your side of the road to snap up a tiny park on your side of the road.

Bill parking on the WRONG side because he could

Drivers seems quite OK to stop and allow other drivers to sqeeze into these tiny little spaces.  This is not just Irish behaviour – the English do it too.  But there was something familiar – an ever-present parking officer enthusiastically policing the 30 minute parking limit.  In spite of these new experiences, we did manage to park without being abused.  All the better to get some internet and drink to the health of the McClintocks.

Presbyterian Church Ballymena

Being good Presbyterians, the McClintocks would probably not have joined us in drinking to their helath, but we found a Wetherspoons pub, and we drank to their health anyway.  And right in the middle of old downtown Ballymena.

Ballymena in County Antrim harks back to ancient times.  There is evidence of the early Christian occupation in the 5th to 7th centuries.  That Christian heritage led to the name of the Town of the Seven Towers.

The Town of Seven Towers

County Antim and Down were part of the area conquered by the Normans in the 11th century which created the core of the Earldom of Ulster.  The English were firmly in control by the 1,500’s.

The earlier McClintocks as Presbyterians, were numbered with the ‘dissenters’ along with the Catholics and just anybody other than Church of England members.  Dissenters were denied the vote,  public office and bore other discriminatory sanctions up until the early 19th century.   It helps give some understanding on why founding fathers in the ‘new world’ gave so much emphasis on separation of church and state.

The McClintock families’ Presbyterian denominational affiliation gives a strong indication of Scottish roots for the McClintocks.  Some 100,000 Scottish plantation settlers moved to Ireland from Scotland in the 17th century.  They bought their Presbyterian religion with them.  This history explains the McClintock family story of being Irish with Scottish heritage and why the family assumes them to have been farmers.  So a farm or an area called ‘Penny Plain’ would make sense.

Looking at Scotland from Ireland

Ireland has ever been a hotbed of contention about religion.  This seems quite understandable against the background of the penal laws that operated in the past and discriminated on the basis of religion.  There are strongly Catholics suburbs in Ballymena today, although you wouldn’t notice simply driving around as we were.  Some commentators regard Ballyena as the equivalent of ‘the Bible belt’ of Ireland.  In the Troubles, 11 people in or around Ballymena were killed.

Sailing to Scotland is Easy

Interestingly, religion and religious disharmoney, still disturb the town.  Liam Neeson, a notive of Ballymena, when he was offered the ‘freedom of the borough’ in 2000 ended up declining because of the disharmony it brought.   There were some objections to Neeson from Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party.  Ironically, Ian Paisley was offered ‘freedom of the Borough’ in 2004.  The Electric Light Orchestra were banned because they would attract the 4 D’s – drink, devil, drugs and debauchery.  The council forbade the screening of Brokeback Mountain.  Interestingly, Ballymena has the 3rd highest level of gun ownership in Northern Ireland.  Hmm, sounds like the land of the free.

Ballymena Town Hall

By that as it may, disharmony  didn’t effect our day in Ballymena.   We loved droving around the town which was clean and tidy, had a great (through crowded) city centre, some lovely churches and other stately buildings,  As a bonus for us,  the town was enjoying the first indications of autumn turning the first leaves to gold.

Around Ballymena

We did not succeed in any way with looking for a place past or present called Penny Plain.  We looked on maps, Google and asked people.  Blank.  We will have to go back to first base and see where we found the reference to it.

The population of Ballymena is around 28,000 which is a lot higher than when Andrew McClintock left town in the early 1880’s.  At that time, it was around 6,000.  As a result of this growth, there is a significant newer part of the town.

To us seekers, Ballymena was enjoyable – it was clean and modern alongside the ancient.  The surrounding countryside was rich.  The roads of course were narrow and with trees changing their colours made it even more charming.  It was a real treat to drive through the surrounding villages and look through the forests at babbling brooks that must have inspired the poets.

Ballymena Logo

We have more yet to do with Ballymena as we dig deeper in our bid to discover more about the McClintocks and with Andrew in particular, who went on from Littleton to settle down and raise a large family in Timaru, South New Zealand.


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