Friday, January 21, 2011

Ballymena Adair Castle, circa 1900

Readers from mid Antrim and the Braid will know more about this castle than I do. But here's a summary from what I do know.

The Adairs Scottish roots go back to 1315, when they were granted large area of land of Kilhilt/Kinhilt on the Mull of Galloway by King Robert the Bruce, as a reward for having fought alongside him. After seven years of battling the English, Scotland (and Bruce) was close to broke - but there was plenty of land and so he granted many of his closest allies large estates.

Move on 300 years to the early 1600s and the entrepreneurial Ayrshireman Sir Hugh Montgomery, already well established in County Down, wanted to control the major Ulster-Scottish sea route between Donaghadee and Portpatrick. So he bought much of the Adairs Galloway estates. They pocketed the money and, like so many of their generation, left south west Scotland for east Ulster - they headed to mid Antrim where they bought some of the old McQuillan estate (the superbly-named Faithful Fortescue also had a holding there). They built a castle in Ballymena, and streets in the town are still called Kinhilt today.

The photo below was taken around 1900, of the second Adair castle which was built around 1850 by Lord Waveney, Robert Adair, on the site of the original one. Folk have told me that the last wheen o' stanes of the castle were removed in the late 1980s to make way for the Seven Towers Leisure Centre and the other retail outlets that surround it. But apparently the stone coat of arms from the castle was salvaged and is now in a dentist's surgery somewhere in the town.

Click to enlarge:

The Adair's home castle on Galloway had been Dunskey Castle, which Montgomery acquired with the estate. It was said to be a haven for strange wee Scottish ghosts...!

(NB - you'll see from this previous post that Robert Adair, even though well established in Ballymena by 1638, was present at the great Glasgow Assembly of that year, representing Kinhilt as an elder within the Presbytery of Stranraer)


Philip Robinson said...

Great post Mark, and the Adairs also had Stranraer Castle and I think a small one near PortPatrick, alongside the nearby Agnew Castle at Lochnaw.
Of course, the Adairs and Agnews at Ballymena and Kilwaughter (Larne)respectively did a county Antrim version of the 'Montgomery' trick in Down to control the Ulster-Scottish cattle trade routes.

four-stroke said...

In 1957 Major General Sir Allan Adair acquired Holy Hill House,78,Ballee Rd.,Strabane.He had the windows of the (Ballymena)castle installed there.Holy Hill House is open to the public on European Heritage Days.These ten stained glass windows depict various Adairs through the centuries. First is Robert Fitzgerald of Adare Co. Limerick to No. ten, Robert Shafto Adair.