Ulster Scots Towns and Villlages throughout Ards and North Down
Who lived in Ards and north Down before the Ulster Scots migrated to Ireland?
Many of the towns and villages in the Ards and north Down areas existed before the arrival of the lowland Ulster Scots migrants. Over the centuries, waves of people – local Gaelic Irish, early Christians and monks, Viking invaders and Anglo-Norma lords – have all left traces on our landscape. The dominant families in the area had been the Anglo-Norman Savages and Gaelic Clandeboye O’Neills.
Ulster Scots Founding Fathers
The rapid development of the Ards and north Down was due to certain Ulster-Scots gentlemen, namely James Hamilton, Hugh Montgomery and their Scottish tenants, known as "The Founding Fathers of the Ulster-Scots.” They arrived in May 1606, and these Ulster Scots settlers, Hamilton and Montgomery acquired two thirds of the huge O’Neill estates; one third was given to Hugh Montgomery by the O’Neills as a reward for freeing Con O’Neill from jail in Carrickfergus and for securing him a Royal pardon from Montgomery’s friend the new King James I. James Hamilton, friend of the King used his influence to acquire one third of the O’Neill estate. These new Ulster Scots settlers arrived several years before the Plantation of Ulster occured.
Grey Abbey, Co.Down
Over 150 years later, a census of 1764 recorded that the Ards and north Down were 95% Presbyterian – a legacy of enormous Scottish migration and as a result of this initial Ulster Scots wave in 1606. Migration between the Ards, north Down and Scotland has continued ever since.
There are many common Scottish surnames from the 1600 which still exist in the area and across Northern Ireland today. Is your surname an original Ulster-Scots name?
Allen, Abercrombie, Adair, Adams, Agnew, Aicken, Armstrong, Anderson, Austin, Bailie, Barkley, Bell, Blackwood, Blair, Boyd, Boyle, Byers, Buchanan, Caldwell, Campbell, Carmichael, Carson, Cathcart, Catherwood/Calderwood, Cleland, Cooper, Crawford, Cunningham, Dickson, Dunbar, Duncan, Dundas, Dunlop, Gibson, Ferguson, Forsyth, Frazer, Gemmil, Glen, Gordon, Greenshields, Harper, Harvey, Hogg, Hunter, Johnston, Keith, Kelso, Kennedy, Kyle, Lindsay, Logan, Martin, Maxwell, McCartney, McCormick, McDougal, McDowell, McEwen, McGill, McIlveyne, McIlrath, McKee, McMechan, McMillen, Millin, Moneypenny, Moore, Mowlane, Munro, Murray, Nesbit, Nevin, Nicholson, Orr, Peacock, Peebles, Pollock, Ramsay, Reid, Robinson, Ross, Scott, Semple, Secton, Shaw, Sinclair, Sloan, Spier, Stanhouse, Stevenson, Stewart, Thompson, Waddell, Wachop/Wanchop, Wallace, Warnock, Watson, Williamson, Wylie, Wyms.
You can find out more about the Ulster Scots settlers names and tracing your family tree within the website.
Ulster Scots settlements in Ards and North Down
Many of the towns and villages in the Ards and North Down areas did exist before the arrival of these lowland Scots in 1604, but the majority only in a very small way. Looking back at old documentation and records can provide a flavour as to what life was like for these Ulster Scots settlers.
Ballyhalbert (settled by Hamilton)
Ballyhalbert was part of James Hamilton’s original Ulster Scots estate in 1606. However the surviving Thomas Raven maps of the estate do not include a map of Ballyhalbert. It is also referred to as “Talpestown or Talbotstown” in the Hamilton Manuscripts.
Ballywalter (settled by Hamilton)
Ballywalter was part of James Hamilton’s estate in 1606. However the surving Thomas Raven maps of the estate do not include a map of Ballywalter. Bangor, Killyleagh and Ballywalter were used by the Ulster -Scots settlers as their three main ports.
Carrowdore developed much later than the other villages of the Ards which grew with the first Ulster-Scots settlement of 1606. However the townlands where Carrowdore now stands – Grangee, Ballyrawe, Carney’s Hill, Sloanstown, Islandhill and Ballyboley were quickly settled with Scottish families.
Cloughey/Kirkistown (settled by Savage and Montgomery)
Kirkistown Castle, also called Eren Castle was built in 1622 by Rowland Savage who was “an officer of the Queen’s army against the Irish.” He left the castle, along with a grant of 30 acres at Rathallowe (Ratallagh) between Cloughey and Portavogie to his son John who in turn left it to his son Patrick. Patrick died in 1660 and left the castle to his brother James.
Comber (1/3 Hamilton & 2/3 Montgomery)
Comber was divided between the original Ulster Scots settlers to the area, Hamilton and Montgomery. Hamilton established a short-lived new town called “New Comber.” They split the cost of rebuilding the ruined abbey as a church, 1/3 by Hamilton and 2/3 by Montgomery. Some of the old abbey stone was used around 1623 by Montgomery to build Mount Alexander house for his son and his new wife, Jean Alexander. A few surviving Abbey stones are on display in St Mary’s Parish Church, located in The Square today.
Donaghadee (settled by Montgomery)
Donaghadee was an ancient Christian site just north of Templepatrick where centuries of local tradition say St Patrick landed in the 5th century having sailed from Portpatrick in Scotland.
Due to its proximity to the south west of Scotland, Donaghadee had long been an important landing place on the Irish side of the North Channel, especially for these Ulster Scots settlers. During the course of his preparations for moving to north-east County Down, Sir Hugh Montgomery dispatched to Donaghadee some hewn freestone, timber and iron which he used to build a low stone walled house for his reception and lodging, when he came from or went to Scotland. Sir Hugh’s house was the first stone dwelling in Donaghadee.
Sir Hugh’s rival, James Hamilton acquired the Copeland Islands which were mapped for him by Thomas Raven in 1625. In 1626 Montgomery built the first major harbour at Donaghadee, and bought Portpatrick from the Adairs in order to control the Ulster-Scots trade route. Donaghadee continued to be an important port in the second half of the 17th century and vessels from Donaghadee sailed to many different ports in Continental Europe. It was the principle port from which cattle were exported to England, and trade in horses also remained important.
Greyabbey (settled by Montgomery)
Greyabbey was part of Sir Hugh Montgomery’s estate in 1606. He repaired the ruined abbey for use as a parish church and installed David M’Gill, son of the Lord Advocate of Scotland as its first curate. Montgomery’s second oldest son James settled here on 20 April 1629 and built the first “Rosemount” (Greyabbey House) close to the abbey.
Rosemount (Greyabbey House)
home to the Montgomery family
Killinchy (settled by Hamilton)
Killinchy was part of Sir James Hamilton’s estate and appears as “Killincha” on one of Thomas Raven’s maps of 1625. In 1630 John Livingstone was called by Sir James Hamilton from Scotland to minister to the local Ulster-Scots where he ministered until the Eagle Wing (ship to carry migrants to America) set sail on 9 September 1636.
Kircubbin (settled by Hamilton/Savage)
The development of Kircubbin is thought to have been later than other villages in the Ards and north Down, probably in the mid 1700s when the Ward family built the harbour. However there have been ancient Christian sites here for centuries. It appears that Roland Savage leased Kircubbin from the Ulster-Scot James Hamilton and is further evidence of the co-operation that existed between the incoming Scots and the resident Irish/Anglo-Norman families of the area.
Newtownards (settled by Montgomery)
Newtownards was founded when the Priory was built in 1244. When the Scots arrived in 1606 it was in ruins. Sir Hugh Montgomery founded his “headquarters” at Newtownards, he had the Priory rebuilt and by 1607 it was ready for use. He and his wife masterminded the building of Newtownards. Newtownards quickly became an important market centre. The Market Cross is the second on the site, the first having been built under Montgomery’s direction as a replica of the Market Cross in Edinburgh. In 1644 the Montgomery’s house in Newtownards was destroyed in a fire through the negligence of servants. In 1675 the manor of Newtown, including the town was sold to Sir Robert Colville and in 1744 the ownership of Newtownards passed to the Stewarts, later Lords Londonderry.
Portaferry (settled by Savage/Montgomery)
Portaferry and the southern end of the Ards Peninsula, was controlled by the old Anglo-Norman Savage family when the Scots arrived. Their castles included Portaferry, Quintin, Ardkeen and Sketrick and they later built Kirkistown. A branch of the family had large estates across the Lough in Lecale.
Bishop Robert Echlin of Fife arrived in 1613 and lived at Ardquin Abbacy. The Montgomeries and Savages co-operated and intermarried. Sir James Montgomery (second son of Sir Hugh Montgomery) restored Portaferry Castle around 1623 as a wedding present for his sister Jean and her new husband Patrick Savage.
Portavogie (settled by Hamilton)
Portavogie was part of James Hamilton’s estate in 1606 and is shown on one of the maps drawn for Hamilton by Thomas Raven in 1625. The map shows a boundary with no houses or buildings and eight rabbits – five white and three black!
Millisle developed much later than the other villages of the Ards which grew with the first Ulster-Scots settlement of 1606. The townlands where Millisle now stands – Ballymacruise, Ballycopeland and Ballyrolly – were quickly settled with Scottish families.
Out and about exploring the Ulster Scots legacy in North Down and Ards
If you are interested in finding out more after reading this about the Ulster Scots settlers, it is easy to get out and about and explore many of the sites. A new Ulster Scots Audio Trail is now available and can be downloaded via this website, or you can contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
with your postal address and we will happily send you a copy. You can download the tour from the Ulster Scots Audio Trail page
The Ulster Scots audio trail winds its way around the many Ulster Scots sites dotted across North Down and Ards. There are three unique and fascinating audio tours which guide you along the highways and byways, tracing the footsteps of the Ulster Scots settlers.
All you have to do is put in the CD in your car or connect your MP3 player and off you go. You can stop, start or pause the Ulster Scots tour as you wish to enable you to visit the points of interest included on the tour.
Find out a little more about the Ulster Scots
For further information on the Ulster Scots and their impact on this area, download the Ulster Scots Maps and biographies and factsheets on how to go about tracing your family tree which are all included in the publications section of this website. Please click here to access these publications: Ulster Scots Biographies
Ulster Scots Interactive Website
This website provides more information as to the Ulster Scots settlers and provides a guide to twenty-five of the sites connected with the settlers and suggests a variety of themed routes that you can follow as part of the the trail. Go to http://www.ulsterscotstrail.com/
for more Ulster Scots heritage trail information.