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16 October 2014
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So how did Ballynahinch come to be? Who decided that this would be a good place to found a town? Local historian, Horace Reid had some explaining to do…

title image of Lord Moira

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Sir George Rawdon
The founder of Ballynahinch, according to the history books, was Sir George Rawdon, who acquired the district from the McCartens in about 1660. The McCartens came into military contact with the English around 1641, following which they suffered dispossession of their lands and their goods. It’s said that Sir George acquired the district from the McCarten’s by legal purchase, but it’s debatable whether or not this was a voluntary transaction. It was between 1660 and 1683, when Sir George received the patent from Charles II, that he laid out the streets of modern Ballynahinch. He started with the focal-point of the square, and it was here that he established the regular Thursday market where it is still held today.

The Earls of Moira
Sir George’s descendents, known as the Earls of Moira lived in Ballynahinch until 1800 and most of the historical buildings in the town can be attributed to them. These include Montalto House built in 1760, Magheradroll Parish Church in 1772, Ballynahinch windmill in 1773, and the Market house in 1792, all of which are still in use today. Montalto House is still in private ownership, the market house was beautifully restored in 2002, and a few years ago the windmill was dramatically saved by the developers and transformed into a public park complete with walkways and a bench on which to sit and reflect on the view of the town.

Francis Rawdon
The most famous of Rawdon’s descendents was perhaps Francis Rawdon, the second Earl of Moira, also known as the Marquis of Hastings. He had a very long and distinguished career as a diplomat and soldier. He fought against the American colonist in the American war of Independence and against the French revolutionary armies in the low countries in 1793. He was Commander and Chief in Scotland and Constable of the Tower of London. He was a very close friend of the Prince Regent, who in 1812, gave him a shot at being Prime Minister in London. Unfortunately at this stage, he was unable to form a ministry and so as a consolation prize, he was sent to India in 1813 to act as Governor General and Commander of one section of the growing British empire. Even in his sixties, he was an active soldier, fighting against the Gurkhas in Nepal and against the Mahrattas in central India. Victorious in both, he added large chunks of central India to the British empire.

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link to David Ker and Montalto
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photo of the market house

A meeting in the market house
There is an interesting story about Moira in connection to the 1798 uprising in Ballynahinch. As the situation in Ireland became more tense, he became increasingly aware that his tenants in Ballynahinch might well join the rebels.
In a bid to avert this he called a meeting with them in the market house to address the issue.
There he stood facing them – Protestants, Catholics, and dissenters together – and assured them that King George III loved the people of Ballynahinch and cared deeply about their needs.
The meeting ended but not before the tenants passed a resolution of loyalty to the crown, vowing never to rise in rebellion.

Moira was very proud of this achievement and appeared in the Irish house of Lords in February 1798 to assure the Lordships that there was no town more loyal than Ballynahinch.

It was only a few months later that the tenants did indeed rise in rebellion, staging dramatic open warfare on Moira’s own front lawn.
This was of huge embarrassment to him and it is probably no coincidence that he sold the Ballynahinch estate shortly afterwards. But at least the name Moira lives on in Ballynahinch, granted to a new housing development on the outskirts of the town on the Lisburn Road.

photo of the spire of the market house

Do you know anything more about Moira or the origins of Ballynahinch? If so, please don't hesitate to get in touch with the team.





Your responses:

Neil Beverley - Feb 06
I am interested in the name Goilmoira. It does not seem to be a townland, yet my ancestors, James and Patience Arnold lived there around 1836. The rest of the family tree mentions townlands all around Ballynahinch. So I'm wondering if the name Goilmoira is an Irish expression indicating the estates of Moira or something like that.


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