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The Making of the Montgomery Manuscripts

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 02, 1986


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By Raymond Gillespie

"A striking, though little commented on, feature of late seventeenth-century Ulster society was the writing of family histories. The two best examples of the phenomenon are the histories of the families of Montgomery, written by William Montgomery of Rosemount, Co. Down in the years 1697 to 1704, and of Hamilton, written by William Hamilton in the 1690s. Both of these texts have long been available in print.

The Hamilton Manuscripts as they are known first appeared in the pages of the Ulster Journal of Archaeology and later in book form edited by T. K. Lowry in 1867.

Perhaps better known are The Montgomery Manuscripts, selections from which appeared in the columns of the Belfast Newsletter in 1785 and 1786 and were reprinted in the Newsletter in 1822.

These extracts were subsequently published in book form together with a preface by William McKnight in 1830. Over thirty years later George Hill, Librarian of Queen's College, Belfast and indefatigable Ulster historian prepared a new edition and included some fragments omitted from the 1830 edition.

Hill's edition was published in 1869 by James Cleeland of Arthur Street and Thomas Dargan of Castle Lane in Belfast. It was published as a volume of 472 pages although it was never com­pleted, because Hill never compiled the appendices which were to occupy the final ten pages."

This article looks at the history of The Montgomery Manuscripts - a history of the Montgomery family that provides a contemporary, graphic, and colourful account of their experiences in 17th-century Ulster.