Descendants of Jack Gawn: Donegore and Ballyboley


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This was written by Jack's great-grandson Robert Gawn of Ballyboley regarding what he had been told about his ancestry.

I cannot boast of an ancestry that came over the sea with King William, but I know that my ancestors were living in Ulster about the year seventeen and eighty.

Two brothers came from Scotland. One of them settled down in Ballyboley (near Ballynure) and the other in or about the district of Donegore. My Great Grandfather was called John (or Jack) Gawn. He had a small holding in Ballyboley of unbroken land, which to look at in those early days was scarcely worth the breaking up. However, that may be, he eked out an existence in a sort of pleasurable misery.

My Great Grandmother's name was Lawler. They had a family of two sons and three daughters. Of them I know but little, nor am I going into details about them except to say that the eldest son was called Thomas (my Grandfather) and the youngest boy, John, Thomas or Tom as he was called, learned to be a nailor to trade, and, in the course of time, married Sarah (or Sally) Wallace of Kilwaughter. Her Father was a yeoman under Squire Agnew in the troublesome times of ninety eight and her mother was a McCullough from the Braid.

When the Rebellion (1798) started with its horrors, her mother went to her own people in the Braid, taking the child with her, while her father went with the "Yeows", as they were called, to the battle of Antrim.

Old Jack Gawn was an old Rebel, or, at least he was forced to take the Rebel ranks, willing or not. The Rebels gathered up in force as they came from Larne. They forced the peasantry to go (willing or not) with them.

Whether or not my Great Grandfather was willing to go I cannot say, but I do know that, after the defeat of Antrim, when the Rebels mustered at Donegore Hill, he thought discretion was the better part of valour, so he made his escape on that eventful night. It took him three days and nights getting to his home in Ballyboley, owing to having to hide in ditches, and brambles during the day and travelling during the night. For about six weeks he had to hide with others in a little scroggy at the foot of a neighbouring field till the times settled down and quiet began to reign.

Coming back to my Grandfather and Grandmother. They had a family of four sons and five daughters.

When my Grandfather married he rented a small portion of land, with a little home on it, from his Father. But alas (the greed for bettering his own condition) his Father charged him as much rent for, the small portion as he gave for the whole farm. On it becoming known to the Landlord he raised the rent of the farm to more than twice the original price so my Great Grandfather did not show nearly as much discretion in the letting of his farm as he did at escaping from the Redcoats at Donegore Hill. My Father was the second son of the family. In his early days he was a linen weaver but wages became so low that he gave it up and, being a handy man, became a stonemason which trade he followed while he was able to work.

My Grandfather, on my Mother's side, was James Hunter, a man of fairly good education and great discernment and it is possibly through his early tuition that I began to try to study and think out for myself the problems that worried and vexed me in my early years.

I had three brothers and one sister. I was put to learn the trade of boot and shoemaking before I was eleven years of age. I used to try my hand making rhymes on local incidents and at some length of time was advised to send some contributions to the "Belfast Telegraph", which appeared always  in the next issue of the paper. You may be sure I wan elated at my success, so after some little time I was advised by my well wishers to publish a little booklet of verse, by subscription I had five hundred printed which soon all disappeared among the public. Shortly after this my mother died and a little time after that I married and gave up writing poetry.

Robert Gawn Ballyboley



Robert Gawn married Isabella Hoey and had four sons and one daughter. When his wife died he later married Matilda Boyd of Ballyalbana, Ballyclare. They had two sons and two daughters. He died in 1930 and his wife died in 1941. A few years after his second marriage he again took to writing poetry.


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