James Patterson’s Diary
Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site

© Rosalind Davies 2001
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James Patterson’s Diary

In 1827 James Patterson set sail from New York with his soon-to-be father in –law, Daniel Large, on a fact-finding trip to England and Ireland. In 1799, Patterson had made the opposite journey as a six-week old baby along with his parents, Gawin and James Patterson, who had emigrated to America from Killinchy. In this extract the voyage across the Atlantic and meeting his long-lost relatives.

Set sail in the ship Pacific (Captain Croker) from new York, 16th day of October 1827 at 10 am with a fine fair wind. Parted with the Pilot at 3 o’clock and lost sight of land five minutes before 2 o’clock but next day the wind changed and we continued to have light head winds the greater part of our time.

Nothing remarkable occurred during the voyage. I enjoyed very good health and Mr. Large also, with the exception of occasional seasickness. The first land we made was the rocks on the north side of Ireland. We were all awakened about 3 or 4 am by the noise of putting about the ship. Upon going on deck found we were close to a very large high rock and a very foggy morning. The captain and mate were both at a loss to say where we were.

It continued very foggy and calm and about 10 o’clock we found ourselves very close to another large rock and so situated that we could not talk. The ship was backed for some distance and again we found ourselves nearing another rock when a little breeze sprang up and we cleared them all. Had fine weather up channel- got some fish and potatoes from an Irish boat and gave them port in exchange.

Sunday 11th November 1827 was a very fine day, and at about 3 o’clock we came in to the Princess Dock, Liverpool. The captain, having taken a liking to us, took us to a house to meet a very fine woman, a Mrs. Richards, an American lady, and found them at dinner. We sat down and I partook for the first time of an English ham and some roast beef of Old England. I relished it very much and afterwards washed it down with some good old port and felt thankful for our safe arrival.

At 3 o’clock we went aboard The Chieftain bound for Bossart in company with the steamer, Sheffield. We arrived at Belfast at about 2 p.m. We put up at The Donegall Arms and found Belfast much larger and with many more fine houses that I had expected. Found our hotel- a poor one and very expensive. Next day we walked through town and went as far out as the cotton works.

At 5 p.m. took our seats on top of the coach for Killinchy, and after a cold ride were put down at Mrs. Lowrie’s Inn at 7 o’clock on Friday the 16th November 1827, where we got supper and slept all night. The next morning after breakfast, walked out, went on the hill by the windmill, through the village of Killinchy and had a fine view of the surrounding country and of Strangford Lough.

Went in the Close, where James and Jack McCann live, and a Carse- it stands on a high ground and everything looks clean and comfortable. We made ourselves known to non and kept on the road again and came round. Went through the village, past Mr Ward’s and down to the white rock past Uncle Alexander’s (McCann). Returned the same way and crossed the fields to Uncle Robert’s (McCann) and rested ourselves on a log sometime. Went past the door and met an old grey-headed man who saluted us and we entered into conversation with him about the McCanns and the neighbours. He gave then a very good name. Ewe continued on past Uncle Thomas’ (McCann) and saw a number of them at the door. As it was getting late in the afternoon, we returned to our inn and got dinner. After taking a walk in the evening and getting tea, went to bed.

The next day being Sunday, we went to Killinchy. Walked through the graveyard in expectation of some of my mother’s relations. They were all interred in the churchyard. The Sexton showed us where the McCanns sat. We remained in the yard and saw the congregation gather and were much pleased to see them all so clean and decent. We also remarked on the great size of many of them. Being informed by the Sexton that the Parson’s seat was never full, that strangers sat in it commonly, and as it gave us much better view of the people in the house, we went into it upon the commencement of the service; my object being to see as many of my friends (relatives) as possible, without being known to them. As it was a dull day and likely for rain and some of them having far to come, there was not many of them there.

Upon the service being over, and as we were coming out, Mr. Watson, the Parson, introduced himself to us very politely and invited us into the session room to have a conversation with him. After staying with him for some time, he walked almost all the way home with us and them parted saying he would take another opportunity to see us again. After dinner we again walked as far as the white rock and passed Uncle Alexander’s and sat till after dark on the rock. At tea we had the company of Mrs. Lowrie and had a long chat with her about the McCanns etc. etc.

I cannot describe my feelings upon thus walking through my native place, and seeing the houses of my mother’s friends (relatives) who were so dear to her, the church in which I was christened and walking over places that had so often been trodden over by my father and mother and which I had so long wished to see. It was one of the greatest gratifications I had every enjoyed.

In this evening I concluded in the morning to make myself known to them. I was principally induced to do this on this account; I heard this evening that there had been an estrangement. On the morrow after breakfast we walked past Uncle Thomas’ to Robert’s. Mr Large stayed out to take a view of S. Castle. I walked in and inquired of a woman I saw if Mr Robert McCann lived there. He came out of a room and introduced me into a parlour and sat a chair for me. After talking with him for some time, I told him who I was. He was very surprises and received me very kindly. He was affected even to tears. He after introduced me to his wife and to Grace Geddas who happened to be there.

When he went out of the room it gave me a great deal of pleasure to see Grace and to see her look so well. Uncle Robert (McCann) looked much younger and larger than I expected to find him. The child is a fine stout lad. After chatting a while and after Mr Large had been brought in sometime, we, in company with Robert, walked down towards Thomas’. When we got there, Robert parted with us, but not until he made me promise we would come and spend the evening and night with him. Mr Large and I went together into Thomas’ and found him in, with my two aunts and cousins- part of them at their wheel. When I made myself known, the wheels were soon put aside and we had plenty of laughing and crying, and both at once. Saw Hannah, Jack’s daughter and her mother, and I was much gratified by the manner in which they appeared to be affected by seeing em, even those who had never seen me.

Hannah and Jack and the rest of my cousins kept laughing and crying for an hour or two. Aunt and Uncle Carse were sent for and Mr Patton and his wife. I could not leave them until it was time for me to fulfil my promise to Uncle Robert. And it was with great difficulty I could then leave. I was much pleased with their reception of me. Aunt and Uncle Carse walked up with us to Robert’s where we found Aunt and Uncle Alexander McCann and their two daughters, Ellen and Jane, two very fine looking young women, and their mother so young looking that until I was told could not tell which was my aunt or cousin.

In this 2nd part, James describes meeting more of his relatives in the Killinchy area and his visits to Downpatrick & Newry.

After breakfast, Uncle Robert McCann saddled two horses for us to go and see Aunt Jelly and to call on Mr Patton, who was to go with us to Aunt’s. Stopped at Uncle Thomas’ as we went by and saw Hannah and Jane etc. Stopped at Mr Patton’s and found him very handsomely situated

He has a very fine house and farm. His wife is a very healthy, frank looking woman and the youngest looking I ever saw for her age. She has had eleven or twelve children, nine alive now. We got at Aunt Carse’s about ten o’clock. Her daughter, Mrs Patton, had informed her of my intended visit to her and so she was prepared to see me. She has not so good health as the rest of them, but found her a very fine old woman, and she and her husband received me very kindly. Prepared dinner for us and sent for Aunt Sallie’s two daughters, one of whom is married and has a child about fifteen or eighteen months old.

Aunt has two daughters grown up, one a very fine looking girl called Sarah. The oldest made me a present of a handkerchief. Their father has been dead about two years or more. James Jelly appears a very fine young man about twenty years old. They all pressed me very hard to stay at least one night with them. I had been pressed very hard to the same effect by Alexander and Thomas and Aunt Carse and as I could not gratify all (and which would have been equally gratifying to myself) I concluded I would leave at once that night for Downpatrick.

I did this on account of Mr Large, who had not seen his parents for so long a time and who of course felt very anxious to see them now that he was so nigh to them. So we took leave of them about dark, Mr Patton undertaking to make my excuse to them all.

James Jelly rode behind me to Mrs. Lowrie’s, took tea with us, and was to take back the horses to Uncle Robert. The stage was coming past at eight o’clock and we took out leave for Downpatrick. So ended my visit to Killinchy, with which I was highly pleased and the only thing I regretted was being obliged to leave them all so soon. May the Lord bless them all.

After a very cold drive we arrived at Downpatrick about eleven o’clock at night. Tuesday 20th November. Got supper at a very good house kept by a widow. Next morn after breakfast, I walked out to find Mr. William Patterson and left Mr Large to his won rambles. I found the house and saw Mrs Patterson but the old gentleman was in the fields. I inquired for Dorcas. The old woman guesses that I was Dorcas’ cousin from America and I said I was.

I found Dorcas was learning the mantua and millinery trade with a woman some little distance off and I had her sent for, but told them not to let her know of my being there. When she came, which was shortly, she did not know me, and I would not have known her. She is much thinner and not nearly so rosy as I expected to find her. She is, however, a very interesting little girl and I found had a very strong recollection of me and my mother and brother and sister.

She expressed willingness to go to America with me. I gave her the Bible my sister sent for her and the full work of Goldsmith’s ‘Animated Nature’, with which she was very highly pleased and got me to write her name and age in them, as she did not know her age. She appeared to have a great deal of affection for me. In the afternoon, she and Mr Large and I took a walk out of town and round it and took tea with them in the evening. She gives ten pounds for her trade and sews three years. She complains of not being so well since she went to learn her trade. After spending the evening with her, we parted. I promised to write her and she to me. I felt much pleased with her and feel now, as I always have done, much interested in her welfare.

Next morn at four o’clock we started with a fine morning on top of a two-horse coach for Newry, and our road passed over the Mourne Mountains which looked very grand up on rising of the sun. At the foot of the mountains is a nobleman’s estate, who resides upon it and has done a magnificent amount of good to the poor people of his neighbourhood. He has within the last three years planted 750,000 trees on his estate and made other great improvements. ( Tollymore Estate, Bryansford , The Earl of Rodin)

It was very cold on the mountains and it being market day at Newry, passed a great many poor people going to market. They were taking what little they had to sell and many women were carrying in it their apron or under their arm, the men on their back or under their arm and a few had a car drawn by an old horse with a bag or two on it.

All along the road, even in the most barren part, we saw their little cots (huts) and gardens being cultivated in some manner or other. It made me feel so mournful to see them. When on the mountain we had some snow and then rain and previous to our getting to Newry, we had it very unpleasant and uncomfortable, but many of them were barelegged and poorly clad.

Newry is a much larger and more thriving looking place than I expected to see. We got breakfast there and finding stage mail was then to start for Dublin, we took seats inside and departed for Dublin. We found a very agreeable gentleman inside and a Mr Hamilton also, whose brother had just run for a Member of Parliament and lost it and twenty thousand pounds. The old gentleman was a cousin of Sir Jona Barrington.

Contact Earl Patterson at [email protected] if you have a connection here.

Ros Davies

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