William Robert Ancketill (1820–1889) lived in the Ards, at Quintin Castle which he rented from his in-laws. His wife Madelina Selina Ker was the daughter of David Ker MP of Portavo, Donaghadee and Montalto. They married at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, in October 1844 (his brother Matthew-John Ancketill had married her sister, Catherine-Ann-Francis Ker, in 1840). By the late 1850s he was a JP, based in Ballynahinch it seems, presiding over local events such as sectarian skirmishes in the town. He was also a member of the Board of Guardians for the workhouse in Downpatrick. Around this time he had sub-let the castle including the rights for ‘sea-bathing’ on its shoreline.
On 11 June 1874 William Robert, and a number of his relatives who were living in England as well as Monaghan, changed their surname spelling from Anketell back to what is said to have been the more ancient spelling, Ancketill.
According to the Belfast News Letter on 31 July 1874 he bought Quintin Castle and estate (the townlands of Newcastle, Dooey, Kearney, Knockinelder and Ballymartyr - totalling 1013 statute acres) at auction for £2650. The estate was reckoned to be worth £1283 per annum in yearly rent to tenants. In 1879 he was reported in the Belfast Weekly News of having given in Portaferry ‘a very able lecture on tenant right’, of which he was said to be ‘one of the best authorities on the Irish land question’.
The year he bought the castle he published his first book. The Adventures of Mick Callighin, M.P. is interesting as it uses the shamrock, rose & thistle device to communicate our three cultural traditions. It includes a character from Killinchy called Campbell who speaks excellent Ulster-Scots:
"I'm frae the Noarth, frae Killinchy in the coonty o' Doon, an' I'm wan o' thae lint instructors that's sent doun frae Belfast to lairn the folk in the wast to grow lint; hae ma doots aboot it ... Cawmil thay ca' me in Coonty Doon; we're a' Scoatch in thae pairts … A’m a covenanter, an’ aye adjure wi’ uplifted haun’ … Mr. Campbell is a type of that active, intelligent class of Irish-Scotchmen who have made Ulster what it is ; they are always moving, always "aff" about their business. Were all Ireland inhabited by such a race, it would be second to no other country in the world ...".
It also includes a brilliant reference to Old Comber / Auld Cummer whiskey –
On page 85, the 'Honourable Member for Dheree' says that he is 'sib' to Margaret Wilson the Covenanter martyr. And so on.
DIGITAL EDITIONS & REVIEWS:
The Pall Mall Gazette was not impressed. It said ‘a worse novel than “Mick Callighan” it has not been our lot to meet with for many years’.
• The adventures of Mick Callighin, M.P., a Story of Home Rule (1874) is online here.
* His next novel, Dowdenham, a Tale of High Life in the Present Period (1879) is online here and has a has a five page Glossary of Scots words, spoken by a Scottish character in the book. However one reviewer called it ‘a dull and maundering book’, another said it was ‘pleasantly written, but not strong enough’.
Ancketill, despite being ‘landed gentry’, was therefore publishing Ards Peninsula Ulster-Scots six years earlier than May Crommelin (1880) and four years before WG Lyttle’s first newspaper stories appeared in 1878, and 12 years before Lyttle’s first novel, Sons of the Sod, was printed in 1886.
• The reviews below include one presumably by Rev Henry Henderson of Holywood, whose nom-de-plume in the local press at the time was 'Ulster Scot'
William Robert Ancketill was seemingly born at the family seat of Anketell Grove in Monaghan, on 31 March 1820. His father was William Anketell, and his mother was Sarah Maxwell of Finnebrogue, near Downpatrick (whose grandfather was Robert Stewart, the First Marquis of Londonderry).
W.R. went to Trinity College in 1838, he later served as Captain with the Monaghan Militia. He became a JP, but died (perhaps in London) on 9 March 1889, aged 69.
His son, Amyatt William Ancketill, joined the Royal North Down Rifles around 1874 and served for five years, resigning his commission in 1879. He continued to live at Quintin Castle until his death in August 1915. He was one of a large contingent chosen to represent Portaferry at the Ulster Unionist Convention of June 1892.
In September 1916 W.R's daughter Ada Ancketill is recorded as one of the hundreds of donor to the ‘UVF Patriotic Fund’ from the Portaferry district.
They and their sister Constance (d. 11 June 1914) are all buried in the family plot at Ardquin Parish Church between Portaferry and Kircubbin. Constance had signed the Ulster Covenant in Portaferry.
The three siblings had helped in the dramatic rescue of the crew of an Italian ship - the Terazesna – which was wrecked on the coast beside the Castle, in January 1895, saving the lives of 8 men.