Monday, March 28, 2011

The long-lost Presidential cottage


There are four well-known ancestral homes of American Presidents in Northern Ireland (see here for the list). I'm told that there are others, off the beaten-track, not on the tourist maps, but well known to locals in specific places. Some folk I know from north Antrim told me a while ago about the ancestral home of President William McKinley (1843-1901), the 25th President of the United States, at Conagher near Ballymoney. I have a postcard of it, a classic Ulster long low cottage with thatched roof and some outbuildings. The sketch of it shown here was scanned from an old book. It's a place that American tourists still visit.

However, you can't visit this particular ancestral cottage. Why? Because it was dismantled in the mid 1990s and has been in storage ever since. Maybe one day it can be rebuilt.

• Intriguingly, the contents of the cottage were removed in 1908 and became part of a reconstructed exhibition village in London, called 'Ballymaclinton'. It was created by McClinton's Soap Company from County Tyrone. You can read more about Ballymaclinton here. From this illustration, and plenty of others than Google will exhume for you, Ballymaclinton looks like it was the most artificial pastiche imaginable!