William Robert Ancketill (1820–1889) lived in the Ards, at Quinton Castle which he rented from his in-laws. His wife Madelina Selina Ker was the daughter of David Ker MP of Portavo, Donaghadee and Montalto. They married at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, in October 1844. His brother Matthew-John Ancketill had married her sister, Catherine-Ann-Francis Ker, in 1840.
This novel is interesting as it uses a fair bit of Ulster-Scots, and also the shamrock, rose & thistle device to communicate our three cultural traditions. It includes a character from Killinchy called Campbell:
"I'm frae the Noarth, frae Killinchy in the coonty o' Doon, an' I'm wan o' thae lint instructors that's sent doun frae Belfast to lairn the folk in the wast to grow lint; hae ma doots aboot it ... Cawmil thay ca' me in Coonty Doon; we're a' Scoatch in thae pairts … A’m a covenanter, an’ aye adjure wi’ uplifted haun’ … Mr. Campbell is a type of that active, intelligent class of Irish-Scotchmen who have made Ulster what it is ; they are always moving, always "aff" about their business. Were all Ireland inhabited by such a race, it would be second to no other country in the world ...".
It also includes a brilliant reference to Old Comber / Auld Cummer whiskey –
On page 85, the 'Honourable Member for Dheree' says that he is 'sib' to Margaret Wilson the Covenanter martyr. And so on.
The Pall Mall Gazette was not impressed. It said ‘a worse novel than “Mick Callighan” it has not been our lot to meet with for many years’. His 1879 novel Dowdenham: A Tale of High Life in the Present Period has a Glossary of Scots words.
• An electronic version of the novel is online here.
• Ancketill, despite being ‘landed gentry’, was therefore publishing Ards Peninsula Ulster-Scots six years earlier than May Crommelin (1880) and four years before WG Lyttle’s first newspaper stories appeared in 1878, and 12 years before Lyttle’s first novel, Sons of the Sod, was printed in 1886.
• The reviews below include one presumably by Rev Henry Henderson of Holywood, whose nom-de-plume in the local press at the time was 'Ulster Scot'
………………...FAMILY BACKGROUND William Robert Ancketill was seemingly born at the family seat of Anketell Grove in Monaghan, on 31 March 1820. His father was William Anketell, and his mother was Sarah Maxwell of Finnebrogue, near Downpatrick (whose grandfather was Robert Stewart, the First Marquis of Londonderry).
W.R. went to Trinity College in 1838, he later served as Captain with the Monaghan Militia. He became a JP, but died in London on 9 March 1889. His body was returned to the Ards and was buried in Ardquin Parish Church graveyard.