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by Anne Casement
"IN THE AUTUMN of 1846, as the effects of the widespread attack of the fungus Phytophthora infestans on the potato crop in Ulster began to be felt, the Londonderry family of Mount Stewart, County Down, owned or were co-lessees of several significant properties in the province. These comprised the Ballylawn estate, near Manorcunningham on the eastern shore of Lough Swilly in County Donegal, an estate of almost 1,700 statute acres founded upon land acquired by a Scottish ancestor following the Plantation of Ulster.
This was managed in conjunction with approximately 2,200 statute acres 3 west of Muff (now Eglinton) in County Londonderry, and some property in Londonderry city itself, acquired through a subsequent marriage into the Cowan family. In 1744 the Stewart family purchased the manors of Newtownards and Comber on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down, which by 1848 had been significantly enlarged by the acquisition of adjoining townlands, together with the Florida estate near Killinchy, to comprise an estate of some 23,000 statute acres.
In 1786 the family bought a half-share in a lease of the 23,000 statute-acre Salters’ portion at Magherafelt in County Londonderry. This was situated on the western shore of Lough Neagh, and was bounded, roughly speaking, by the settlements of Castledawson to the north, Salterstown (Ballyronan) to the south and Moneymore to the west."
This article looks at the management of the Londonderry Estates in Ulster during the Great Famine, and aims to help form a more accurate, informed and fair judgement of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry's actions and conduct at that time.