County Down, Ireland

[The church is] a Church of Ireland parish church, first built in 1626 and rebuilt in 1833. The Marks are buried in its churchyard, and WML's mother, Mary Ann (Mark) Leonard had the tombstone erected to commemorate her parents -- our great-great grandparents. New Street is one of the two original streets of the town, and family history says WML was born in one of the little houses. You can read a bit more about the church and town at:

I never wrote up my trip to County Down as a narrative, but I can make a stab at it here... I stayed in Donaghadee several days, in June 1971, and went to Newtownards to look up local birth records in the Registry Office there, where of course I found WML recorded as simply WM because his mother wasn't married. I believe I also found one of his siblings, but I'd have to check my letters from that time - it must have been his older sister, as his younger brother Frank was born in Manchester (?)

I went to the right church first simply because it dominates the skyline. The sexton was very friendly, knew at once where the Mark gravestone was and looked for marriage records in his church office but could't find any. (Apparently the Protestant denominations were flexible about which church they used, as this building was Church of Ireland, and the Marks were Methodist. Or perhaps there simply was no Methodist church in town in the 1800s; I haven't investigated that.)

The town itself was charming and I don't think has changed much. They were building large modern houses outside the town, along the coast road when I was there, for rich folks from Belfast, but the town itself had no new buildings of any size. I think they take care to leave old city centres intact in the UK, for the tourists and for themselves too. There was a carpet factory just outside Donaghadee that was a main source of employment, and I think closed down only a few years ago ( I saw an article on BBC world news.)

The harbour is most impressive, with its long, wide stone breakwater you can walk to the end of, enclosing a large area of still water, and a big lighthouse. When I took the ferry back to England from Belfast, I could see the lighthouse light for a long time (it was early evening). And there's The Moat, at large 18th or 19th century building surrounded by a moat, right in the centre of town that has a story I can't recall at the moment. I remember walking to the top of the mound.

The other side trip I took was up to the north (Antrim) coast to see the Giant's Causeway. Grandfather had talked to his kids about both the lighthouse and the Causeway and Mom had passed on these stories to us, so I was curious. The north coast is stunningly beautiful and the Causeway ( a geological formation that juts out into the ocean and points toward Scotland, 21 miles away, hence the name) unique as far as I know. There is one section of cliff known as the Giant's Pipes because they resemble the columns of a pipe organ. I stayed at a hostel on a huge, curving white sand beach, also worth a visit.

April 2, 2005