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Re: Alexander Colville, Ballymena, fl. 17th
Posted by: Christine Alexander Colville Date: January 28, 2001 at 17:04:26
In Reply to: Alexander Colville, Ballymena, fl. 17th by Linde Lunney of 325

Galgorm Castle, Galgorm Road, Ballymenia, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Galgorm Castle and Golf Course is located with in 20 miles of the City of Belfast and the Province’s major ferry ports and 12 miles from the International Airport in Ireland. There is a wonderfully spacious 18 Championship Golf Course is set in the 220 acres of the mature parkland on the grounds of one of Ireland’s most historic Castles. The 6724 yards par 72 course is constructed to the highest standards, with all Tees and Greens built top USGA specification. The course is bordered by the rivers Main and Braid which come into play and include a magnificent oxbow feature and five impressive landscaped lakes. It truly is an exciting course of outstanding beauty, which offer both the novice and low-handicapped Golfer a stimulating challenge and a memorable round of golf. The Course ranks among the top park land courses in Ireland.
The facilities include:
*Galgorm Castle
*18 Bay Floodlit, Landscaped Driving Range
*Championship 18 Hole 2724 yards par 72 Course
*PGA Gold Professional and Staffed Academy
*Golf Shop
Magnificently appointed Clubhouse, Pavilion Bar and Restaurant with wonder views of the course

The founder of the Irish branch of Colville’s was Dr. Alexander Colville (the alchemist) who purchased Galgorm Castle from Sir Faithful Fortisque in 1630. The Family history is well documented in the Montgomery papers.

The Colville Family in Ulster
By John M. Dickson
In these practical days it may seem to many persons a sad waste of time to collect the memorials of a family that is no longer in a position to bestow favors, and whose existence in this province is now almost forgotten; but, as some members of the Ulster branch of the Colville family were striking personalities in themselves, and filled a large place in the history of their times, the write (himself a descendant of that family) had considered it worth while to collect together such notices of them as to be found scattered through existing records, and to add to these such family traditions as yet remain, and have not been published hitherto.
Of the printed records, a large proportion may be found in the notes to the Montgomery Manuscripts, edited by the Rev. George Hill. These notes contain an immense amount of most interesting matter relating to the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the north of Ireland. From these the writer has freely borrowed, and in the way has not only been saved much labor, but had possibly avoided many blunders by following such a master in historical research.
The Colvilles (as the name implies) are of Norman origin; no less than three of the name appearing on the roll of Battle Abbey as having accompanied the Conqueror. The Scottish branch, with which we are more immediately concerned, sprang from Philip de Colville, who settled in Scotland in the twelfth century; and whose descendant, Sir Robert, was Master of the Household to James IV, and fell with his sovereign at Flodden in 1513. The grandson of this Sir Robert, having married Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Douglass of Loch Leven, had two sons--James, his heir, and Alexander, “Commendator of Culross, the title having been granted in 1609, the nest heir being styled “Mater of Colville.” (1) (Douglass’s Scottish Peerage)
The family seem to have since become allied by marriage with most of the Scottish nobility, including the blood royal, their arms displaying the “Stuart fess,” as may be seen on the family tomb in Newtownards.
The founder of the Irish branch of the family, Alexander Colville, D.D., Professor of Divinity at St. Andrew’s, Fife, who came to Ireland in 1630, was, according to Burke, son of the “Commendator” above mentioned, and brother of John, third Lord Colville of Culross. (2) Landed Gentry Supplement, 1850, p 71. It is probable he was induced to settle in the north of Ireland by his kinsman, Bishop Echlin, whose mother was Grissel Colville, daughter of Robert Colville of Clish, in the country of Kinross.
Bishop Echlin, finding himself in a position to grant preferment, and, in the good old Scottish fashion, remembering the “blood is thicker that water,” was probably willing to give a helping hand to this relation of his wife, which could more readily do, as his protege was in his own profession. Accordingly, we find that, after receiving two minor appointments in the diocese of Connor, Dr. Colville obtained, in 1634, the rectory of Skerry, to which was joined, in 1661, the adjoining living of Rathcavan, also in the same diocese.
The two parishes must have brought in a very comfortable income; but could not have accounted for the large means for those times, which Dr. Colville certainly possessed. The most probable explanation is that a very large sum, derived from he sale of a Scottish estate, had been bequeathed to him by a wealthy kinsman, who ended his days under the doctor’s roof. Many of his neighbors in the County Antrim, probably envious, and certainly uncharitable, accounted for his wealth in a very different way. They reputed him a sorcerer, who had obtained supernatural powers by selling himself to the devil.
We must remember that, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the belief in witchcraft and “black arts” was very general, and was nowhere stronger than amount the strict Convenanters in the south of Scotland, many of whom had by that time settled in the country of Antrim, and had doubtless brought this belief over with them.
We find in the Memorials of the Rev. Robert Law, 1638-1684, and amusing story, in which Dr. Colville’s names occurs in this connection. A servant girl in the employment of Major-General Montgomery, residing at Irvine, having been charged with the crime of raising the devil (for the excusable purpose apparently of discovering the whereabouts of some stolen silver), pleaded guilty to the charges, adding the she had learned the art in Dr. Colville’s house in Ireland, “who used to practice it.”
As the local account of the doctor’s transactions with the evil one was very circumstantial in its details, and very widely believed, we may be allowed to repeat it as a illustration of the credulity prevailing in County Antrim two hundred and fifty years ago.
Late one summer’s evening, it appears the doctor was fishing along the river Maine, in the neighborhood of Galgorm Castle, when suddenly a gentlemen of distinguished appearance and rather dark complexion presented himself before him. Whether or not the apparition was on this occasion voluntarily “raised” by the doctor is not reported; but anglers will understand that “raising” is the first object in trout fishing, and possibly this “rise” from the lower regions may have been in response to some lure on this part; but as the whole story is rather “fishy,” we need no discuss the point. At all events, it seems the devil proceeded to make offers for the reversion of the doctor’s soul; and after the customary haggling, the price was fixed at just as many “spare guineas” as would fill one of the top boots which the doctor was wearing at the time. Possibly the boot may have been suggested by him as the largest receptacle just then “at hand,” if such a bull may be excused; and the time of payment was arranged to be at twelve o’clock on the same night in the doctor’s study. Now, it appears that this study was on the second story of the castle, and it occurred to the doctor that he might contrive to get a little more “to boot,” as it were, besides his bargain is this way. Having cut a large hole in the sole of the boot to be filled, he fastened it securely to the floor of his study, having it fitted over a corresponding hole in the floor under it, so that when the devil proceeded to fill the boot with guineas he had also to fill the rather roomy apartment of the ground floor! So far, the doctor had clearly the best of it; but in the course of time, the night cane round when “the due and forfeit of his bond” had to be met. Now when, the devil, who is a model of punctuality on these occasions, appeared in the doctor’s study, he found him engaged in reading his Bible by the light of an inch of candle, which, in order to follow the text more closely, he held between his finger and thumb. His satanic majesty, reflecting doubtless on the extremely stiff figure he had been obliged to pay on this previous visit, and, like Malvolio, “quenching his familiar smile with a austere regard of control,” order the doctor to come along. On being summoned, the latter requested one further small favor from his old confederate--namely, to be allowed to reaming until the small remnant of candle which he held in his hand should be burned out. This moderate request being granted, he dropped the candle into the Bible, which he promptly closed upon it! The devil, though able to quote scripture on occasion to serve his turn, is, it seems, on no account permitted to touch the sacred volume himself; so realizing too late the was no match for his reverence, he disappeared for good, leaving the doctor in the dark to be sure, but no incommoded further that by a slight perfume of brimstone, which, under the circumstance was perhaps unavoidable.
Similar visitations of other castles are reported in mediaeval times, in which a great breach in the wall remains to show the violent means of exit adopted; but in those cases the devil carried off the corpus delicti with him. As this was not so at Galgorm, there was no injury to the masonry of the castle: the devil on this occasion having carried away nothing except, perhaps, a very natural resolution to make no more “time bargains” with doctors in divinity. It is agreeable to notice that charming simplicity ascribed to the devil in he old legends, and his scrupulous respect for his promises: in fact, the sharp practices always appear on the other side. If we to believe the hard things reported of the devil by the theological faculty nowadays, we are driven to infer that his sad falling off in his originally fine character must be due to his dealings “in the way of business” with mankind, both lay and clerical, since those good old times.
Though it might ne thought in these more enlighten days unnecessary to treat such a legend as the above seriously, yet the writer learns that it is still currently reported in the neighborhood, that when, some fifty years ago, the present owners entered Galgorm Castle, they found there an iron box, in which, when opened, were found the Bible and bit of candle!!
But there were other reasons besides his unaccountable wealth that may have given rise to these charges of occult practices. Dr. Colville, having been “a true Church and King man,” a doughty champion of Prelacy, and a constant thorn in the side of the Presbytery, must have made many enemies, who, finding him generally to strong for them, hated him accordingly. There is a passage in the Reid’s History of Presbyterianism (vol. ii, p. 603) that throws so much light on this aspect of the questions that we quote it in extenso. It relates to the time when a Presbytery was first formed in Ulster under Munro’s military auspices, and the Scotch Presbyterians, under Parliamentarians patronage, were pushing matters with a high hand in Church and State, gathering to themselves all the tithes and church property, and claiming almost papal control.
“Although a Scotchman, he was an eager and intolerant prelatist...He had been one of the few clergymen who joined in the petition to Strafford to impose the black oath on his countrymen in Ulster, and he now railed against the Presbyterian ministers as intruders, not only into the ministry, but into the province. He possessed considerable property in the country, yet, notwithstanding his wealth and influence and his contempt for their authority, the Presbytery determined to proceed against him. Their process, however, was suspended in consequence of the English Commissioners, who were anxious to bring over a person of his weight to the side of Parliament.”
Their proceedings against this formidable opponent are thus recorded in the artless narrative of Adair:
“The presbytery at this time, and a while before, did us great diligence to convince Dr. Colville of divers unsuitable carriages, both in private discourse with some of their number, and by summoning him before the Presbytery; and had witnesses to prove their allegations against him. But he never appeared, except for one time before the Commissioners at Belfast, at which time he would not direct his speech to the Moderator, but to the Commissioners. He has also beforehand applied to the Commissioners, vindication himself and insinuating on them. Upon this they desired the Presbytery to deal with him as favorably as they could, in regard that they had use for the doctor in reference to their affairs in the county, he being a man knowing that way. The Presbytery had gone so far before the Commissioners cane over, that he was publicly prayed for, in order to excommunication: yet thereafter they found it convenient to proceed not further; and some knowing friends thought is had been greater prudence to have let him alone”
Truly, a terrible doctor this to deal with, who treats the Presbytery with contempt; will not even “direct” his speech to the Moderator”; who defies the powers be, treating the Lord Protector Cromwell as little better than a usurper; yet whose Commissioners, when sent down specially, will no interfere with him: would rather, “have him on their side.” Clearly not a man to be encountered with carnal weapons; to be “prayed for” rather, as one in league with the powers of darkness! It is to be feared that the “unsuitable carriages” went on after this visit of the Commissioners just as before, that he continued to dispute every inch of ground with the Presbytery; and the help the distressed Royalists during the usurpation, and even to lend them money in their extremity. It does not appear, however, that he lent any money in that way without adequate security, being probably “knowing that way” also. At all events, he did not impoverish himself, as about that time he had been able to purchase the Galgorm estate; containing some twenty-one townlands.
We find is stated distantly in Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of County Antrim that Galgorm Castle was built by Dr. Colville; and this the writer consider most probable. It was known for a century afterwards as “Mount Colville”; and as his two immediate predecessors—Mr. William Edmondson and Sir Faithful Fortesque—can only have been about twenty years in possession, it seem improbable that either of them should have undertaken such a work.
On the other hand, it’s present owner, the Right Hon. John Young (to the courtesy of whose family I am much indebted) is of opinion that the builder of the castle was Sir Faithful Fortesque, on account of the care taken to render it defensible—a matter not likely to ne so carefully attended to by a clergyman. But, whoever may have been the builder of Galgorm Castle, the fact that is remains perfectly habitable after weathering the storm of two hundred and fifty years, speaks volumes for the substantial character of work.
The estate of Galgorm, purchased by Dr., Colville, was the moiety of the district of “Clananhertie,” granted by King James I in 1608, in capite, to Rory Oge MacQuillan, “in consideration of the loss of his inheritance” of the MacQuillan consisted of the much more extensive and fertile territory know as “The Route.” South of Coleraine, which had been included in the wholesale confiscation that followed the Elizabethan wars in Ulster; although its owner, Edward MacQuillan had never taken any part in the rebellion. Finding that, in case of wrongful seizure, no Irish landowner had any legal remedy in his own country, MacQuillan (being then 102 years of age, and quite blind) made his way to London, in 1605, to seek for justice from the king himself, who must have been moved by this pathetic figure, as he gave him promises of some compensation, which the old man did not live to see carried out. However, in 1608, King James commissioned his deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, to inform his grandson Rory Oge MacQuillan, that the territory of Inisowen, is Donegal) confiscated from Sir Cahir O’Dogherty) should be transformed to him. It seems that the idea of entering on the patrimony of his friend and fellow-sufferer, O’Dogherty, was repulsive to MacQuillan’s sense of honor. This sentimental reluctance was very convenient for the wily Chichester, who doubtless warmly encouraged it, as he had already determined to have Inisowen for himself. Having already, among other pickings, got the lands of Clanaghertie assigned to himself, he induced MacQuillan to take it in exchange for the much more valuable Inisowen. Chichester evidently considered that even Clanaghertie was much too good for a “mere Irish-man” like MacQuillan; for we find that, eleven years after, the king was induced upon some pretext to issue a royal letter demanding the surrender of the property; and the nephew of Sir Arthur Chichester, “Sir Faithful Fortesque, received back the estate of Clanaghertie.” However, on this occasion, Sir Arthur Chichester gave a sum of money to Rory Oge MacQuillan, “in consideration of the advantage that had accrued to his family through the other’s loss”! Fortesque, a short time after, having divided the Clanaghertie family, and the remainder to William Edmondson of Redhall, who again sold his portion to Dr. Colville before the middle of the century.
This portion contained twenty-one large townlands; and when Lord Mountcashel sold it through the Encumbered Estates Court, in 1851, it realized about 80,000 pounds, although lands values were greatly depressed owing to the famine: the estate having thus remained in the possession of Dr. Colville and his descendants for upwards of two centuries.
As he was succeeded in the livings of Skerry and Rathcavan, in 1679, by Andrew Aytoun, we may conclude that Dr. Colville died that year.
The writer has been unable to discover any reference to the marriage of Dr. Colville, but assumes that is had taken place before he left Scotland in 1630, as his son Robert, “sole heir of his body,” whom had entered the Army, was a captain in 1651. This we learn from the following letter, addressed by Major Rawdon to Lord Conway, and dated Nov. 25, 1651.
“My daughter Pen will make it a wedding with Captain Colville within ten to twelve days. The doctor (Colville) is your servant very much.”
This “wedding” was the first of four recorded of Sir Robert Colville, and his lady was, from the name, probably mother of his daughter Penelope, who was afterwards first wife of Sir Robert Adair of Ballymenia, as well as his son and heir Francis, who, having married (Nov. 7, 1682) Dorothy, daughter of Sire John Temple, and sister of the first Viscount Palmerston, died shortly afterwards sine prole (Lodge, 1754)
Captain Colville seems to have resided with his father at Galgorm, being described as “of Mount Colville, in the Country Antrim,” in 1675, the year in which be bought the estates of Newtown and Greyabbey, being knighted apparently some tine between that year and 1679, when he also purchased the Comber estate, and now forming the County Down estate of the Marquis of Londonberry.
Having acquired these large estates in County Down, Sir Robert Colville proceeded to rebuild himself Newton House, the former residence of the Montgomery family, which had been burned in 1664 “by the carelessness of servants.” This house, which had been “fully finished” in 1618, and stood between the present ivy-covered ruin and the “castle garden,” “made three sides of a quadrangle (the south side of the church, being contiguous, made the fourth side), with coigns, and window-frames, and chimney-pieces, and funnels of freestone, all covered, and the floors beamed with main oak timber and clad with boards; the roofs with oak plank from his lordship’s own woods, and slated with slates out of Scotland: and the floors laid with deals our of Norway: the windows were fitly glazed, and the edifice thoroughly furnished within.” On the same site, Sir Robert Colville built “from the foundations one double-roofed house, stables, and coach-houses, and all other necessary or convenient edifices for brewing, baking, washing, hunting, hawking, pleasure-rooms, and pigeon-houses.”
As from this time forward Sir Robert Colville is most frequently mentioned in connection with the politics of County Down, we will defer his further history to a future paper.


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