Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Quaigh of Rev Daniel Gunn Brown

The quaighs were deep, the liquor strong. Sir Walter Scott: Marmion

I recently noticed – once again - a photo in my collection of a quaigh (aka quaich - sounds like quake). It was amongst the first scans of documents and photos that I did in 2005 at Gilford Castle. The image is indistinct, but seeing it anew made me think of a more recent conversation with Aislin Hunter.
History is shifty, Aislin wrote, it looks out for itself, moves when you least expect it. In her acclaimed novel, The World Before Us, she takes us into a place where the past and the present collide. It is the story of an archivist, in her thirties, obsessed with how the circumstances of a missing child echo the known facts of a similar event a century earlier.

A few years ago, when Aislin and I were both at a party playing bocce, she did her best to explain thing theory to me. Between quaffing wine and tossing bocce balls, what I gathered was that Heidigger had claimed that an object becomes a thing when it can no longer serve its common function. That’s just part of it, but I have decided for the purposes of this post that the quaigh in the photo is now a thing not an object. After all, for the past 150 years, it probably hasn’t been used for imbibing strong liquor at a social occasion, but it has opened the door to hearing new stories.

Included with the photo of this quaigh was a description, written on September 24th, 1920, by James Francis Wright (1874-1954). A couple of decades earlier, the quaigh had been given to Sir Thomas Jackson. It was Jackson’s sister, Mary Griffin - mother-in-law to James Wright - who had kept it at the old family home at Urker, near Crossmaglen in South Armagh. Perhaps her belongings were being catalogued, to be put into some sort of order, sinceshe died a year later, August 9th, 1921, aged 77.

James Wright notes that this quaigh was made of Laburnum Wood, and was 2 ¼” high, 4 ½” in diameter, and 7” over the handles. There were 12 staves, tapered from 1” to 0” curved in & fastened at bottom by a large embossed silver rivet – the staves are held in place by a silver hoop 1” from the top.  In the last paragraph, we have a clue as to the thingness of it:

It was given by Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne of Newtownhamilton to Sir Thomas Jackson brother of Mrs. Griffin, in 1900. Mr Brown claims kinship with the Boyd’s of Kilmarnock & the Kirkpatricks Scottish [a word I can’t make out].
These two branches of Rev. Daniel Gunn Brown’s family both originated from Scotland, but they also had previous ancestral connections to Antrim. The name Kirkpatrick aka Kilpatrick translates as: church of Patrick. This has more resonance than one might think

It is easy to see on a map how close the early settlements on the west coast of Scotland are to similar settlements in Northern Ireland. It would have taken less than a day’s sail or paddle to get there. Dumfries, the ancestral home of the Kirkpatricks, is only 60 miles south of Kilmarnock, home of the Boyds. It is also one of the many alleged birthplaces of St. Patrick. Given that the Kirkpatricks supposedly descended from one of the many tribes of Scots who had emigrated to Scotland from Northern Ireland around 280 AD, or maybe a bit later, it would seem that St. Patrick was heading to Ireland close to when the Kilpatricks were heading in the other direction.

A Gaelic kingdom, which roughly covered the territory of modern day Antrim in Northern Ireland as well as Argyll in Scotland, was known as Dál Riata. People crossed the Northern Channel of the Irish Sea all the time. It was easier than travelling by land. Whether Hugh Kirkpatrick knew it or not, his move to Antrim to minister at Ballymoney, was actually a kind of home-coming, albeit more than 1,000 years after the first move of his family in the other direction. Probably, as St. Patrick did, at least according to legend, the back and forthing happened repeatedly.

Taking a big leap forward in time, Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne (1808-1892) was not only an uncle to Thomas Jackson (1841-1915), but he was also Jackson’s most significant mentor. Browne had been born in Ireland more or less by accident. When his father, Rev. William Browne, had set sail for Persia in the early 1800s, planning to do missionary work there with his friend Daniel Gunn, he was shipwrecked just off the Skerries. He decided that God was sending him a message: Start your mission closer to home. So he settled in Tyrone, and named his only son after his friend and fellow missionary, Daniel Gunn.

After Browne’s death, Jackson paid for a large grave marker to be erected at the Creggan Parish Church. Even though Jackson had become a wealthy banker decades before Browne’s death, the gift of this quaigh can be seen as some kind of passing of the ethical torch. As a child, Jackson would have heard many of the stories of the Boyds and Kirkpatricks. He couldn’t have avoided it. These men were still legends in the tight-knit Presbyterian community, even more than a century after their deaths. When Browne lay on his death bed, Jackson had dropped all his business in London and hurried to his side. The two men were soul-mates.

The photo of this quaigh made me curious to learn even more, so I asked some cousins in England if they had heard of it. They went one better. It stood on their mantel piece. I must have seen it there when I visited, as I often did, although I had missed its significance.

Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
This quaigh had been handed down to the Browne family because Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne’s mother was a Beatrice Boyd (?-1850). We know little about her, other than the fact that she married Rev. William Brown (1770-1844). The Browne and Boyde families were thick with ministers, generation after generation. Sometimes they kept the letter e at the end of their names – as in Browne and Boyde – sometimes they dropped it. Also, sometimes the Kirkpatricks were referred to as Kilpatricks. This shape-shifting of names can be challenging.

Beatrice Boyd’s father, Hugh Kirkpatrick Boyde had been baptized at 1st Armagh Presbyterian on October 8, 1726, and was a son of Dr. Joseph Boyde, a medical doctor of Armagh and his wife Christine Kirkpatrick. His grandparents were Rev. William Boyd (d.1701) and Rev Hugh Kirkpatrick (d. 1712). There is one more family connection to this quaigh that often flies under the radar, even amongst those who know these histories: Dr. Joseph Boyde’s sister, Elizabeth, married a Richard Jackson (1673-1730), son of William Jackson and Susan Beresford. Elizabeth Boyde then became the mother of the Richard Jackson (1722-1787) of Forkhill, who set up the Forkhill Trust. When Sir Thomas Jackson contributed to this Trust in 1912, he referred to these Forkhill Jacksons as kin. I wish that I knew what he meant by this, but more detective work is still needed. All I know is that those Jacksons had come from Coleraine.

Nonetheless, these two great-great-grandfathers – Boyde & Kirkpatrick - would have given Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne bragging rights to two families who had long fought for justice in Northern Ireland. One thing that has always struck me about Browne’s written and recorded statements, as he championed the rights of both Catholic and Presbyterian tenant farmers, is how much his language echoed the language of Karl Marx. Or perhaps it worked the other way round. As children, both men’s family’s traditions had included regular Bible readings. Browne’s family focused on the New Testament; Marx’s on the Old. Since there is a connection in Browne’s statements to stances taken by his earlier relations, it is worth comparing a few quotes:

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne being questioned at the Crime and Outrage Committee. 1852.
            Q: Did you, upon that occasion speak, as you felt, severely of the conduct of landlords?
A: I do not think I ever spoke severely, either then or at any other time.
Q: There are degrees of severity?
A: Yes, as you are well aware…
Q: Did you on that occasion speak of landlords as exterminators?
A: I do not remember that I used the term; but if I had used the term, I do not think it would be contrary to the fact.’

Karl Marx in NYT June 28, 1853
The agrarian murders in Ireland cannot be suppressed because and as long as they are the only effective remedy against the extermination of the people by the landlords. ...
The needy Irish tenant belongs to the soil, while the soil belongs to the English lord. As well you might call the relation between the robber who presents his pistol, and the traveller who presents his purse, a relation between two traders.

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne.
I mean by a social wrong this kind of case: that if I take a farm and improve it, the improved value would be absorbed by an increase in rent, without giving me compensation for what I consider to be my property, because I made it, and that at any time, upon seven days' notice, I am liable to be ejected through the caprice or arbitrary conduct of the landlord".....
I think if you give a constitutional remedy for these social wrongs, you would cut up crime by the root and establish order on the basis of justice. [NOTE how contemporary this approach sounds.]  …Justice is the only firm basis of public order. The oppression of rack rents and of extra police taxation, punishing the innocent for the guilty, exasperates and disturbs the community and drives multitudes away to a land where labour finds its reward.[He is referring here to America.]

The Indian Question – Irish Tenant Right. Karl Marx. London, June 28, 1853.
A tenant having incorporated his capital, in one form or another, in the land, and having thus effected, an improvement of the soil, either directly by irrigation, drainage, manure, or indirectly by construction of buildings for agricultural purposes, in steps the landlord, with demand for increased rent. If the tenant concede, he has to pay the interest for his own money to the landlord. If he resist, he will be very unceremoniously ejected, and supplanted by a new tenant, the latter being enabled to pay a higher rent by the very expenses incurred by his predecessor, until he also, in his turn, has become an improver of the land, and is replaced in the same way or put on worse terms. In this easy way a class of absentee landlords has been enabled to pocket, not merely the labour, but also the capital of all generations, each generation of Irish peasants sinking a grade lower in the social scale, exactly in proportion to the exertions of sacrifices made for the raising of their condition and that of their families. If the tenant was industrious and enterprising, he became taxed in consequence of his very industry and enterprise. If on the contrary, he grew inert and negligent, he was reproached with the “aboriginal faults of the Celtic race”. He had, accordingly, no other alternative left but to become a pauper – to pauperise himself by industry, or to pauperise by negligence. In order to oppose this state of things, “Tenant Right” was proclaimed in Ireland – a right of the tenant, not in the soil, but in the improvements of the soil effected at his costs and charges.

The fight for tenant rights in Ireland is all part and parcel of where this quaigh, as a thing has taken me. I have since found out that Browne’s great-grand-uncle Rev. James Kirkpatrick (1676-1743), was another one of Browne’s many opinionated Presbyterian ministerial relations. Like Browne, he was not a supporter of violent or unlawful methods, but he was devastating when he aimed his rhetorical guns - essays and sermons - at the powers that be. He was a brother of Browne’s great-grandmother Christian Boyd née Kirkpatrick, and he was not only a Presbyterian minister, but also – like his brother-in-law Dr. Joseph Boyde –a practicing physician. In 1739, he wrote: An Account of the Success of Mrs. Stephens's Medicines for the Stone. It was, however, his “anonymous” publication, An Historical Essay Upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians, that created the biggest waves:

Note that the authorship of James Kirkpatrick was inked-in sometime post-publication. In the 600 pages that follow, Kirkpatrick sets out the history of Presbyterians in Ireland, as well as his extensive rationale for opposing their persecution by the Established Church.
The complexities of the various theological wars that played out in England, Scotland and Ireland from the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s can be as hard to grasp as the philosophical writings of Heidegger, so I will leave that part of the conversation to those who are better qualified. My focus in this post, as in other such posts, continues to be: follow the money – a less lofty focus, but no less revealing. After all, the pursuit of financial power usually goes hand-in-glove with the persecution of religious minorities (one example would be to follow where the land went after the Salem witch trials). The persecution of others also piggybacks on the tendency of many of us to feel more united and strong when we have a common enemy.

When it came to money, one of the burrs under the saddles of the Established Church bishops at this time was the Regium Donum, or the King’s Gift. This was an annual donation of £1,200 per congregation which was initiated and funded by King William. It galled the bishops that he had done an end run around Parliament by funding it from the royal purse – not as a result of a vote in Parliament. Unlike the Established Church parishes, Presbyterian parishes had no authority to levy tithes as a source of income. This grant also conferred legitimacy upon them.

As is so often the case in such matters, the bishops acted as if their main grievance was theological and was also fueled by concern for the safety of their communities. What they really feared was legitimizing Dissidents and risking the possible future erosion of their right to income from tithes. Their chosen weapon was the Test or Act of Conformity. This rule was applied to all appointees to public office. They all had to take Communion, within three months, in an Episcopal Church – a visible community act – or else they would lose their positions. It meant that all devout Presbyterians could forget about being a school-teacher, magistrate, post-master or local councilor. Not only that, but the lease to their farm might not be renewed, and their land could be seized without recompense.

These kinds of rules held sway because Established Church bishops, all of whom owned land, held the balance of power – about half the seats - in the Irish House of Lords. They whipped up fear amongst others by conveniently equating the refusal to sign the Oath with treason. Some Dissenters were even executed for their refusal to sign. In this focused attack on their faith, Presbyterian ministers were also banned from offering Communion to their parishioners, and if caught were fined £100. In spite of this, a covert underground movement made barns available for religious services, and gave shelter and sustenance to ministers.  Dozens of anonymous essays were published, and passed hand to hand, much like samizdat texts in Soviet Russia.

In Kirkpatrick’s  Loyalty of Presbyterians, you can practically feel the steam coming out of his ears as he defends the right of all Presbyterians to practice their version of Christianity, as well as their innocence of the charge of seeding sedition. He also notes the hypocrisy of his accusers. (The bolding in the text is mine.)

The first Presbyterians never sent any Minister to any place but at the desire and Invitation of People of their Persuasion there. The Principal Occasion of their Preaching in several Places, where there were no Meetings before, is, that many parts of the Country were laid Desolate by the late War; whereupon, several Protestant Landlords (and even some of the Established Church) encouraged those of our Persuasion to settle themselves and their Families on their Estates, formerly occupied by Irish Papists. And to draw 'em to such New Settlements, have assisted them in Entertaining Ministers of their own to Preach amongst them; and they hope it can neither appear reasonable, that such Protestant Dissenters shou’d be derived of the same Liberty of Worshipping God in their own way, which their Brethren everywhere else enjoy nor that it will be thought dangerous to Church or State, that British and Protestant Inhabitants, tho' Dissenters; shou'd be settled in Places that before had feared any but Papists.

In his posthumous essay, A Defence of Christian Liberty, published in 1743, one of Kirkpatrick’s concerns is with the fight against arbitrary power. The fight for this was the same as triggered the American, French and Irish civil wars and uprisings which followed. It was also central in the later ongoing fight, by Browne and others, for the rights of tenant farmers in the mid to late 1800s. As Kirkpatrick put it:

Civil Liberty has been always supported by invincible force of Argument; and, Civilized Nations have never reckoned it too dear a purchase, when they could gain and secure it at a vast expense of Blood and Treasure … and with a just Zeal for the Right: of Mankind never to be Sacrificed to Arbitrary Power in any Shape.

Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
The inscription on the handles of a hand raised in blessing represents the blessing of Christ, but it is also a feature of the Boyd family crest. This makes it likely that the B refers to Boyd – but if that is the case, then what do the letters F and E refer to? I don’t yet know. The next step is to find out how old it might be, but we are somewhat stymied in this because there are no silver marks on the base. What we do know, is that not only the quaigh, but also the passion for justice which was indeed passed down from generation to generation, from the Boyds of the late-1600s to the Victorian era Rev Daniel Gunn Browne, and then on to his protégé, Sir Thomas Jackson. It may seem like an oxymoron to some, but Sir Thomas Jackson was an ethical banker.

One last thought. I wonder if the staves have shrunk, or if this quaigh could still hold whiskey without leaking. Just curious. I must ask my cousins, or better yet, try it out on my next visit. In the meantime, there is a bocce party coming up next weekend – the last of its kind since the house of the friends who host it has recently been sold. Maybe in the distant future, one of these bocce balls will become a thing, and oh my goodness, the tales it will tell – depending on who tells them. As Julian Barnes notes, in The Sense of an Ending:

That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.

Note the technique - the wine glass is level.

NOTE: Thanks to the many people on Facebook who gave me useful suggestions about what the symbol of the hand might mean, but especially to Venetia Bowman-Vaughan for finding the connection to the Boyd family crest.
SEE ALSO Kirkpatrick Archives and A Dictionary of National Biography Vol 31. 1892 p220. It mentions that there was (at least in 1892) a copy of Rev. James Kirkpatrick’s portrait in the First Presbyterian Church of Belfast. Maybe someone in Belfast could find it for me.


  1. Sharon, this is a really good essay, and explains the vex questions of the early 1700s as clearly as is possible! In my article on James Kirkpatrick in the Dictionary of Irish Biography, I noted the possibility that there was a family relationship between Kirkpatrick and his successor in Ballymoney, Robert McBride, who was father of the notable David McBride that I posted about yesterday on Facebook. All kinds of coincidences and connections!

    1. Thanks Linde. I just saw this. Dunno why it didn't come up for me before.

  2. Sorry, a correction; Robert McBride was successor of James's father Hugh K, in Ballymoney.

  3. Nicely done, Sharon, as always. I tend to agree with the frequent to-ing and fro-ing bit. cheers, Alison
    p.s. I have found a deed (1735) about Mary Jackson who married James Templeton of Stewartstown, and will forward a transcript soon.