The Blacker Diaries were written by William Blacker (1777-1855), M.A., J.P., D.L., of Carrickblacker, Lieut. Col. of the Armagh Militia and of the Seagoe Yeomanry, High Sheriff 1811, Vice Treasurer of Ireland 1817-1829.
The so called Diaries are not diaries in the true sense, in that they are not events recorded from day to day, but rather William Blacker's thoughts on various subjects - a record of events which took place both in the past and during his lifetime. He was obviously of a religious turn of mind, for many of his writings are on the scriptures and other religious subjects. One would gather that he must have been reasonably tolerant in his religious views, for despite being a founder of the Orange Order in Co. Armagh, he purchased a Silver Crucifix in Paris for the new Roman Catholic Chapel erected at Lylo in 1915.
There are, in all, seven 12½" x 8" volumes written in William Blacker's own hand. The writing is large and not faded to any appreciable extent. It is however. very difficult to decipher and very severe on the eyes. With a little experience and knowledge of the subject and the way he expresses himself, one can get most of the meaning. but here and there you are left with words and sentences you just cannot follow. The first two volumes only are covered in this article.
William Blacker wrote a funeral hymn with the direction that it would be sung at his funeral by the children of Hacknahay School. An original copy of the hymn still survives. It was printed on a black-edged sheet and was to be sung to the tune 'Martyrs' or 11th Psalm. The hymn is composed of 10 verses. First and last verses are as follows:
A friend is gone, his loss we mourn
Behind in sadness left,
Yet sorry not as those forlorn
Of every hope bereft.
And may he in that awful hour
A sav'ed one, mercy find
Through him the sinner's only stay -
The saviour of mankind.
There is a footnote to the hymn.
No date - but "he was taken to his Sabbath of Eternal rest" on Sunday the 25th of November, 1855, in his eightieth year.
William Blacker was buried in the ruined Protestant Church in the Old Seagoe Cemetery.
My Grandfather, William Blacker was married in 1735, he had 21 children, the youngest Geo: born in 1764 - of that family there are 6 females still living, Nov. 1835, viz:
|Barbara, Mrs. Oliphant||93|
|Jane, Mrs. Fleming||84|
|Alicia, Lady Stewart||82|
|Letitia, Hon. Mrs. Stafford||75|
|[Average Age (Ed.):||83]|
I question whether any family can exhibit a similar return in the way of longevity.
How different is the case with respect to the generation immediately succeeding - of 16 children born to my Father, I am the sole survivor - they have fallen around me "like leaves in wintry weather," six of them have left families of whom are now living in 1835:
|Letitia - Mrs. Studdart||4||2|
|Sophia - Mrs. Hamilton||1||0|
|Louisa - Mrs. Rea||0||2|
My only surviving Uncle by marriage is Genr. Sir James Stewart, Bart., aged 91, being born 16th August, 1744.
My Uncle Henry Blacker who survived all his brothers and died Sept. 1827, was a worthy man but somewhat passionate. He had been for many years in the 62nd Regiment. He was taken prisoner with Burgoyne at Saratoga during the American War and had a mortal antipathy to the principal actor (Washington) in that Revolution. He had a fine young horse called Wellington on which he mounted me one day. and on my return asked my opinion of the animal. My thoughts as he approached me had reverted to his early days and in the confusion associated - answered that Washington had carried me famously. It was 'fire to flax,' he blazed in a moment and I don't think he forgave the hasty misnomer - for months after.
I was in Paris in 1815 at the time when Napoleon landed from Elba. I shall never forget the effect produced by this event upon the Parisians who flocked to support their returned Emperor, who immediately started to recruit a new army with which to continue the armed struggle with his erstwhile enemies.
The great roads, from Tandragee to Lurgan, and from Banbridge to Portadown, after meeting and crossing each other at Drumlin Hill, run parallel for the distance of about a mile - they are connected near the gate of Carrick by a narrow road called the Long Lonan (Long Lane), in those days not only very solitary from there not being an inhabited house throughout its length, but also labouring under a bad character from the superstition of the neighbours; in many a home have I heard, and in the Nursery at hearing tales of the black dog and the man without a head who were supposed to be at their nightly perambulations - he was accounted a hardy chap who would venture to traverse it alone after the day was completely done.
It is now bordered by five or six comfortable farm houses however, and many a night I have heard it made vocal, delightfully vocal, by the children of my singing class returning; from their lips a psalmody of praise at the School of Hacknahay, but to return.
The first house in this lonan was first built and covered in, but the walls have not been perforated for the windows so that all was as dark within as any conspirator could desire. The proverb says "walls have ears."
I can only say that if these had any such organs they must have resembled those of a Newfoundland dog after a duck hunt for they were dripping wet. In this dreaded abode and within these damp walls, the first Orange Lodge in this quarter, holds its meetings, and there on the first night of its formation did I and sundry others join it.
This house was built by Alex Patten and is the same now occupied by Thomas England on the face of the hill on the lonan. It was a scene not unworthy of the pen of Scott or the pencil of Salvador Rosa to view the group of men young and old collected upon these occasions - as far as could be seen by the light of a few small candles, some seated on heaps of sods or rude blocks of wood, more standing in various attitudes-most of them armed with guns of every age and calibre, long Queen Annes and pistols of low degree, to which the term 'patent safety' might be applied with greater truth than to many of the same no bear it in England, in as much as rust and antiquity had blighted the spring of their days into an utter incapacity to strike fire.
There was a stern solemnity in the reading of the lesson of scripture and administering the oath to the newly admitted brethren which was calculated to produce a deep imposition, and did so. There was a fixed steady fervency to the cause which brought them together which I heard their adhesions to it was the result of deliberation not of imposition of principle.
They did not rush blindly or under the influence of mean example, into the order - they had pondered the matter and had become convinced of the absolute necessity of a defensive union among Protestants.
This feeling was in no small way held by men (some of whom was in existence in the country) of very advanced age who had in the early period of their lives lived with those who had been at a still more remote period witnesses of, or partaken in, the war of the Revolution in 1688 and who had heard from lips of those Patriarchs of the Boyne and Aughrim of the sufferings which had driven them to the field in arms.
One of these ancient worthies resided on Carrick estate, his name was William Lutton, a most respectable old man. He was born in 1710, only 20 years after the Battle of the Boyne, so that at twenty he might have had a conversation with many who had been stout young fellows from 25 to 30 in that memorable action and at the time of his conversing with them, men of clear intellect of from 60 to 70 years of age - often and often have I sat by his side listening to his tales of those "Boys of Boyne" as he used to call them. He died in 1802 aged 92.
The Farmers and linen dealers in the county, where business called them to the markets and sometimes detained them there until a late hour were not slow to avail themselves of a society which promised them protection upon these occasions. In fact matters had come to such a pitch that a Protestant who ventured up the road alone after nightfall was not safe, and neighbours were obliged to make up parties and wait for each other on fair and market days. Upon this state of things the victory of the Diamond and the foundation of Orange Lodges had a speedy and beneficial effect.
Very few of the resident gentry of the county joined us in the first instance - of these were my old friend Jos. Atkinson, already mentioned, the Rev. George B **** of **** afterwards Dean of Leithrim, Capt. Clarke of Summerisland, and all the young Verners of Churchill.
Old Mr. Verner never joined us in affiliation, though he took interest in the proceedings of the order. That excellent man, the venerable and beloved Viscount Northland of Dungannon, was the first nobleman who fostered by his example the infant institution.
Mr. Brownlow of Lurgan, who had succeeded his distinguished father in his estates and in the representation of the county in 1794, also took an interest in our welfare and became one of us, as did old Major Waring of Waringstown, a veteran of George the II's wars.
In the month of October, taken to Dublin to enter College and my father having removed for the Winter months into the city of Armagh, I escaped being an eyewitness of those scenes which took place in the country about that period and which cannot be referred to without pain, exaggerated as were the accounts of them.
Happy had it been for the Protestant name if the Protestants had been content with the defeat of their enemies at the Diamond and the formation of the protection society. Unhappily, it was not so, and a spirit of vengeance and retribution had sunk too deeply in many of their minds to be thus easily satisfied. Many, it is true, had a long account of wrong to suffer in after which they wholly overlooked the divine declaration "Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord."
This mode of payment and determination was expressed by driving from this quarter of the country the Roman Catholic population. It is true, a great proportion of these had taken an active part as 'Defenders,' and persecutors of Protestants, still there were many who were quiet in the land and had taken no share in such proceedings, but revenge like ***** is blind.
Strange to say we are indebted to O'Connell for the only mode of expression by which these deeds took place. It is when over the bloody deeds of Tipperary and Kilkenny, we find him declaring on "the wild justice of revenge." The mode of administering this 'wild justice' in the day I speak of was that a written notice was thrown or fastened upon the floor of a house warning the inmates in the words of Oliver Cromwell, to betake themselves "to Hell or Connaught."
The name "Oliphant" appears a number of times in this article - it has been suggested that the name is actually "Olpherts". The following information was kindly provided by Benjamin Adams.
Numerous sources including Burke's and Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland as well as the family history note the marriage of Barbara Blacker, daughter of Sir William Blacker to the Rev. Rich. Olpherts esq. Of Armagh. Additionally, in Angus MacNachten's "The Chiefs of Clan MacNachtan" we are presented with Anne MacNaghten, married to Rev. Richard Olphert, first cousin once removed to his wife through his mother, Barbara.
The genealogy is a bit tormented but it is pretty clear that Barbara Blacker married Richard Olpherts. ( Granddaughter Eliza Jane Olpherts married Rev. Theodore Edward Dunkin, son of John Henry Dunkin, nephew of Letitia Dunkin MacNaghten, and grandson of Sir William Dunkin)
Obviously it is possible that Blacker remembered the name or wrote it as Oliphant. But I would be most interested in learning if the Olpherts anglicized the name at some point. Certainly, Sir William "Hellfire Jack" Olpherts, who is from the same area and likely of the same family continued to be known as Olpherts long after the time the diaries were written.
The William Lutton 1710-1802 referred to would probably have been an ancestor. The writer, S. C. Lutton, is the ninth generation of the Lutton family to have lived in the townland of Breagh.