Ritchie's Memoirs Two (see Memoirs One)
[From Nola Robertson. scanned by Michael Cole The typing in her copy suggests that it may not be absolutely accurate. Underscores I assume to be dashes and have changed accordingly. Spelling of proper names I have left as typed, as with the use of capital letters.]
Commenced or got its name from the Ash and other trees my grandfather and my Father in his young days planted, that grew to a great height and their girth, I remember two of my Uncles who were big men, standing on each side and stretching out their arms and trying to make their hands meet around one of their trunks, and during my lifetime, there was a great rookery of crows and built their nests in the trees, it was conspicuous being the only rookery in all the County around. Once on a time the land belonged to the Danes for in one of our fields they had a fort and many times it had been ploughed up and harrowed, still I presume to this day the ring of the Fort remains. It is a perfect circle, about say 30 or 40 yards in diameter. It was called "The Fort Field" after the Danes cleared out. Sir John De Coursey was sent by the then King of England to conquer the "County Down" lived and I think built "Inch Abbey" and "Grey Abbey" (in the Ards) and Black Abbey. These were his Headquarters, he conquered "Down" then instead of recognising the King of England, made himself King, so England sent over troops under an Officer to reconquer De Coursey who was a giant in size, and strength, after a long time he was taken, long betrayed in Downpatrick Cathedral (where St. Patrick is buried) he went there at night to pray, not having his sword with him, he pulled up a wooden Cross from a grave and killed a dozen of the soldiers that surrounded him before they took him, he was made a prisoner in England until England wanted a man to fight for Normandy.
County Down was given to the Officer of the Army who conquered it. The Maxwells got the part where our Grove was made and lived at Finnebrogue so my Grandfather Thomas Ritchie became a tenant of the Maxwells, his other relations settling in Belfast. My Grandfather Thomas Ritchie (who I was named after him) married Miss Rose Hutton of Troughleigh owned their own land, had no rent to pay to anyone. My Grandfather and Grandmother, their family, of two sons and one daughter, eldest son John inherited Ritchies Grove, James became landstewart of the Maxwells Finnebrogue (had command of 100 men on the estate.) After resigning that he went to Belfast and was a partner of Frank Ritchie(Mount Pottinger) they contracted and built the Queen's Bridge across the Logan River, a great aqueduct at Cushendail Called "Glendun" and other great buildings. My Aunt, their sister married James Roney (Rooney) of Ballycruttle. Roney owned not only his own farm but many others around. The Roney family, one son John (called after my Father) and two daughters, one died after she was grown up, and the daughter died later, John the only son and his Mother lived during my time at Home. James Roney and my Father lived and loved each other as long as he lived and his sister until my Grandmother's death. My Father never spoke or referred to what occurred between them but I got it all from our old Servants who lived with my Grandfather and Father from their Boyhood.
James Roney was a churchman, he and my Father equally together built a large underground Tomb for burial in Ballycruttle Churchyard, above ground an Ornamental square Pyramid of Granet stone with marble slabs. On the sides were the names of those buried underground. It is still there - my Grandfather first then my Grandmother sleep in it also James Roney, his two daughters were there when I came away in 1863, Aunt Roney and Cousin John and Uncle James, I only knew John Roney as he was pointed out to me on Market days at Downpatrick, so like my Father, I heard all about the cause of it from our old Servants Jamie Copland and Tom Taylor. My Father never forgave his Sister over the death of his Mother, she went on a visit to Ballycruttle took ill and died there, my Father found out that when his Mother fell unwell, she wanted to come Home as always declared she would never die Happy unless she died in the same bed her Tammie died in. My Father did not hear of her being ill till her Death.
Jamie Copland never stopped talking and praising my Grandmother, what a grand old Lady she must have been, liked and loved by everyone who knew her, Copland used to say. Old Phill the great coachman, who drove the Mail Coach with his 4 Grand Horses between Downpatrick and Belfast every day, when my Grandmother travelled in his Coach, he would drive his Coach and passengers of the road, up to the Grove House and let her out in the Court, which he never did for anyone else. My Father was married to my Mother Eliza McMurray (daughter of Dr. Murray of Termimane) while my Grandmother was alive and had made and got no end of Baby clothes ready when she went on her fatal visit to Ballycruttle.
Jamie Copland said, "You come for me at once as soon as I let you know", but says Copland "The old Lady was all time wanting to come Home and Mrs. Roney would not let her send any word for me to come till she died there. No wonder your father was furious".
"Well" said Copland, on the day of the funeral your father took me and Tom Taylor and two others, he took the 4 us with him, all dressed in Black Suits, Belltopper with white scarfs on them, and white gloves on our hands to carry the Coffin to the Hearse and from the Hearse into the Church then into the Tomb. When it came to the time to carry the Coffin to the Hearse, your Father called us and we marched after him, when we came to the Coffin, Mrs. Roney had her 4 men lined up already there your father ordered them back and us to take the Coffin, we took it to the Hearse, marched after to the Church and Tomb, when it was over your Father drove away Home and from that day to this your Father has never seen or spoken to Mrs. Roney, his sister".
Copland often used to tell me, he would begin "on the 5th July 1843, I remember so well what a hot day, at feeding time of the horse, I was ordered to go to Downpatrick and tell Dr. Young he was wanted. Off I went on foot, 2 miles, and told Dr. Young of course he knew what he was wanted for, I started back, he had to get his horse but I beat him, I was home here before him. My it was a hot day, the sweat did run off me".
It was the day I was born.
My Aunt Roney was alive and her son John when I came away to New Zealand in 1863. My Cousin Sarah (Mrs. Pretty.) my Uncle James came every summer with her little daughter Annie (afterwards my Brother Jame's wife) came to the Grove. I used to drive them about everywhere, one day she ordered me to drive her to Ballycruttle, I wanted to see what my Aunt is like and I wanted to catch Jonnie Roney and give my mind how he treats our Uncle and she would I know, as she had an awful sharp tongue. When I arrived at the place, and drove up the Avenue, I saw a small gate that lead into the garden in front of the house so I stopped, if I had gone any further, I would have gone into a large yard surrounded by buildings, a lot of men in it and women. Cousin Sarah little Annie, her daughter got out and went up to the House, leaving me to think over my Father would say when he came to hear of it. After a long time she came back saying "Oh, I saw her, she looks very old but was glad to see me, kissed us and was very good and kind, gave us wine and c & c (coffee and cake). I asked to see John but she did not know where he was, I told her how he was in the treatment of his Uncle, she said she had never bid or forbid him, many years I leave him to himself, my Cousin wanted me to go and see the old woman but I didn't. Oh I"m sorry I could not see John, I would have made him look small, big a man as he thinks himself, the old lady made me promise to come back and see her again for c & c. When we got home she told my Father that she made me drive her to see Aunt Roney, my Father looked at her sternly while she continued to tell him about it, at last he burst out in a great laugh, then I saw it was all right. My Father never talked about them, all I got from our old servants and people who knew them.
John Roney went to Oxford served and passed to be a Barrister but never practised, he did not want too as he died worth many thousands of Pounds, leaving it all to Benevolent Purposes, you can see his Death in my scraps from newspapers.
My Fathers full cousins were The Huttons. William Perry, Taylors, the Martins, about six of them all Gentlemen Farmers and I am sure they or their progeny would have liked to have seen my son John when he went Home but poor boy, he only saw Mrs. Orr, who is of my Mothers side of the House
My Uncle James Ritchie had two sons, James and Thomas and one daughter Sarah (Mrs. Pretty). All these I saw knew, James the eldest son, when upwards of Twenty, such a fine looking man, was engaged to be married to Agnes Ritchie (his second cousin) when at a Ball burst a blood vessel, which caused his death. Agnes Ritchie of Mt Pottinger, never got married after his death, so my Uncles only son, Thomas came to N.Z. afterwards to the Chatham Islands then, Auckland, when he sued me and my brother for a Co. Partnership in the Supreme Court in Auckland, before he would pay costs, went into the Bankruptcy Court, afterwards went Home and lived and died in his, Father's Home Sea View House. Belfast, leaving 8 or 9 Daughters, no son - my Uncle James died when his son was on the Chathams, my Father died when I was at the Law case 1871.
Re - Aunty Roney, she was as everyone told me, a very proud woman and insisted upon her son John being sent to Oxford and getting a College Education and afterwards studied and came out as a Barrister but never practised as he had plenty of money and lived a retired life, took no part in public affairs.
Copland told me there was a great Enmity between my Grandfather and Dr. McMurray after buying Terminnen Farm which joined onto their two farms. There stood a house on the Boundaries, one half of the house on Dr. McMurry's farm and the other half on my Grandfather and Father's farm but Dr. McMurry had a bad family of grown up young men who used to maim and injured our cattle. Dr. McMurry would not turn them out of the house. There came a Law Suit between them costing a lot of money. Dr. McMurray lost his case or Suit. Copland said "the day after the suit your Father took me with all the men, we went to the house with crowbars and we levelled one half of the aforesaid House, level with the ground, of course we had to be very careful not to injure the other half and all them that were living in it, had to clear out". I often saw the ruins of Said house and if with Copland or Tom Taylor who were there would relate all about that great day they had, so Dr. McMurry was an enemy of ours afterwards. It was after his death my Father married my Mother, they said Mrs. Roney didn't like it. Copland always spoke in the very highest about my Grandfather, such a good old man and he often said to them "never make an enemy of a bad man".
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