Monday, July 18, 2011

McGimpsey Family Historical Background

A while back I was contacted by a distant cousin David McGimpsey from the NewTonards, Ireland area. He was kind of enough to put together this information on the McGimpsey family:

The McGimpseys are a small family group or ‘Sept’, which broke away from the O’Dhiomasiagh Clan, now called O’Dempsey or Dempsey, who still live in Southern Ireland. We were too proud to sign the Treaty offered to us by the English and as a result we were forced to seek refuge in Ulster and then on to Scotland where we finally settled in the rural area around Kirkcudbright as tenants of Lord Kirkcudbright and Clan McLellan in the Scottish Borders.

At that time Scotland was constantly at war with England and there was always a shortage of fighting men in the border areas, so much so that it is interesting to note that at one stage in 1616, there is a record of only one McGimpsey man having children in Scotland and it could very well be that this man was the only young McGimpsey man left, and that we all are descended from him. However we will never know for sure but at that time the family was as small as that.

Lord Kirkcudbright was a very rich and powerful land owner with extensive land interests in both Scotland and Ireland and he had two regiments of fighting men, the Galloway Regiment and the Kirkcudbright Regiment, mostly made up from his tenant farmers and their families.

During the English Civil War both regiments were sent down into England to fight on the side of Oliver Cromwell. They performed with distinction and returned to Scotland in good order.Soon after that for some reason Lord Kircudbright fell out with Oliver Cromwell who was in Ireland at the time and he sent his two regiments over to Ulster, presumably to protect his land interests there. They were ambushed by Oliver Cromwell’s forces at the battle of Lisnagarvey and cut to pieces. The remaining few men limped back to Scotland, but the result of the whole thing was that there was now not enough men left to work the land.

Land prices slumped, two Villages had to be abandoned because there were no men and Lord Kircudbright lost his fortune and most of his land. Indeed his ancestors ended up having to make their living from running a Pub in the grounds of the Castle that they used to live in and his Title went out of existence.

Being tenants of Lord Kirkcudbright, the McGimpseys would have been badly affected by all these events and we can only assume that the eight men who fought in the Seige of Derry were in Ulster to look after the remains of Lord Kirkcudbright’s land interests there when the Seige took place.

You can see that these eight men, who fought in the siege of Derry in 1688, would all have been close relatives and were referred to ‘as brothers’.

When the seven remaining men settled in the rural area around Newtownards they settled mainly in Drumawhy, Loughriscouse, and Ballyhay.

One man, probably my (David's) relative went back to Scotland, most likely on the death of his parents, to take over a farm or settle up his affairs. There is evidence of this man’s family in Scotland for a long period before some of them appear to have gone to America around 1770, and the rest came back to Ulster and settled in Antrim, at the Village of Connor near Ballymena.

My Great Grandfather, David McGimpsey, was born in Antrim in 1812, but travelled back to Newtownards as a young man, to be with the other McGimpseys there. He married Mary McAuley in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church on 26th August 1837, and they farmed a small farm of 15 acres in Loughriscouse. They later increased the size of their farm to 34 acres. William Martin McGimpsey and his wife Margaret (Martin) were their next door neighbours. William Martin McGimpsey (known as the Blackbird) had a son called Martin McGimpsey who fell in love with and married my Great Grandfathers daughter Ellen and they had a number of children.

The townlands of Drumawhy and Loughriscouse adjoin each other, but the townland of Ballyhay is about a mile away on the way to Donaghadee, so over the intervening years the family groups in the different townlands developed separately but still felt very much kin to each other.

The social structure at the time in the farming community was such that these small farms should not be broken up or sold and that the land had to be held on to.If a farmer had say seven children, the farm would be left in his will to his oldest son. He would endeavour to make enough money in his life time to buy his second son a farm as well and if he had enough money left he would ensure that his youngest son got a good education so that he could be a benefit to the family. If his daughters did not get married, they would help around the farm and he would ensure that they had a room of their own to sleep in and food to eat, and coal for their fire, for the rest of their lives. If there were any other sons they could be Blacksmiths, or just farm labourers with very little prospects except to work on the farm or to go to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, to seek their fortune, as many of them did.

Your relative Henry James would not be a brother of John McGimpsey who lived in Coal Valley but they would certainly have been related and may have been something like second cousins or something like that as John McGimpsey’s father was a McGimpsey from Drumawhy, and his mother was a McGimpsey from Ballyhay.The last person to be born at the farm in Ballyhay was Pipe Major John McGimpsey Johnston. He died just after Christmas last year.

Wow--what a facinating look into our McGimpsey history that we in America wouldn't have the slightest notion about! Thank you so much David for putting the story together and sending it to us.

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