Someday, someone might wonder why I chose Kilwaughter of all places as the focal point for my local study. With over 60, 000 townlands in Ireland, there’s a lot of choice. So, like lots of other folk, I simply chose the place that part of my family came from. Not only that, but it’s not too far from where I live. Although my dad’s family came from the Kilkenny/Tipperary border, and have their own fascinating stories to tell, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get much opportunity to chase off down there too often over the next few months. So Kilwaughter, which is located in County Antrim, just outside the town of Larne, about 25 miles north of Belfast, seemed the perfect choice.
And as I did some initial hoking around, Kilwaughter began to look more and more promising. From the family angle, there was a bit of a mystery. I don’t know if you know, but immigrants treasure every little scrap of paper from the ‘old country’. We’ve had this postcard (below) of ‘Kilwaughter Castle’ knocking around our house for years. On the back, my grandad has written in blue biro ‘Great Grandpa was gardener here’. So, part of my project will be to determine who he meant and trying to find out whether he really was a gardener, or if that was just a bit of selective memory.
Then, from a professional historian’s perspective, Kilwaughter has lots going for it. It has a diversity of land types, including lowland farms and remote hills and bogs. It has a small (now derelict) landed estate, the Kilwaughter Castle of my family postcard, that would help illustrate how land had been owned, and how society had been organised, in the past. Although it continues to be a largely rural area, it has long had some industrial development, in this case a limeworks and a textile factory. There was a small hospital and workhouse nearby, that would help to explore how the poor fared. Not only that, but it would seem from my digging in the 1901/1911 Censuses, that there was a reasonable mix of Protestants and Catholics living there.
So when I checked PRONI’s online catalogue and punched ‘Kilwaughter’ into the keyword search engine, I was pleasantly surprised to find over 400 ‘hit’s’. With this solid source base, even if some turn out to be irrelevant or not very useful, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find more than enough to keep this project going.
Over the next seven months, then, I’ll be doing researching the history of Kilwaughter and, more interestingly, the people who lived there.