Turtle Bunbury

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Michael O'Halloran’s wife Mary McDonnell is believed to have been connected to one of the two lines of the Antrim clan of McDonnells who were living in Clare at this time. Both were Church of Ireland and both regarded themselves as reasonably close kinsmen of the Antrim branch. The quest is somewhat complicated by the variations of the McDonnell name and, in the course of the hunt, the family name has also been written as M'Donnell, MacDonnell, McDonald, M'Donald and MacDonald.[i]

On 15 April 1828, a notice appeared in the Belfast Newsletter about a brig called John Echlin sailing for Jamaica. Interested parties were to apply to George S and Richard Halloran in Belfast. The ship was commanded by Lieutenant Thomas W. McDonnell, RN. (1788-1864), a remarkable nautical figure of that age who was, among other things, sometime British Resident for the Hokianga District, New Zealand. He may well have been a brother or nephew of Mary O’Halloran (nee McDonnell).



Our sole reference to Thomas’s birth and baptism came from an invaluable accompanying note in his naval files at Kew that read:

"We the Church Minister and Wardens of Portafery [sic] in the Parish of Ballyphilip do hereby Certify that it appears to us by the Register Book of the said Parish that Thomas McDonnell, Son to Captain Thomas and Elizabeth McDonnell, was Baptised on the 11th Day of December 1788. Given under our hands in Portaferry this 13th June 1809. James Morewood, minister of B’philip. John Donning, Thomas Glass, Church Wardens.'

In all likelihood, Thomas was born where he was baptized - unless Elizabeth McDonnell gave birth to him on a vessel under her husband’s command and he was merely baptized when the ship docked in Portaferry. (Click here for a brief history of Portaferry and Strangford) No record of his baptism could be found when Fintan Mullan and Mrs Smith checked through the Ballyphilip registers in July 2018.[i] On the plus side, Fintan did identify a baptism for an Alexander, son of Thomas McDonale (or McDonall), mariner, and his wife ANNE (not Elizabeth), who was born 18 January 1785 and baptised the following day. Could Alexander have been an brother or step-brother of Thomas?



The maiden name for Elizabeth, the mother of (Commander) Thomas McDonnell remains unknown. It may be relevant that Thomas later named one of his sons George Annesley McDonnell; George was baptized in 1834 in St Mary's, Marylebone, Bryanston Square - Church of England. Annesley is certainly as likely a maiden name for Elizabeth as any. It is to be noted that a ship called ‘Annesley’ left the Custom House in London for Bordeaux on 5 September 1818, under the command of ‘M’Donnell.’ [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 7 September 1818.]


Saunders's News-Letter of Saturday 10 July 1784 records the death of ‘Capt. M’Donnell, at Portaferry’ but this is four years before Commander McDonnell’s baptism. Could this have been a grandfather, or an uncle perhaps? It's complicated because there were so many M’Donnells based in and around Portaferry and neighbouring Strangford during the 18th century. As such, it has not yet been possible to identify which, if any, connect to Commander M’Donnell. The search is inevitably confused by the alternative spellings of McDonnell, MacDonnell, McDonald and such like. [For a synopsis of the M’Donnell family, see Appendix 1]. No specific Captain Thomas M’Donnell of Portaferry has yet shown up but I'll home in on the most likely candidates below.



On the night of 18-19 November 1785, a shop belonging to James M’Donnell of Portaferry was robbed of money and hardware ‘to a considerable value.’ Among the thirty-six prominent townsmen who subsequently offered a substantial reward for information were five M’Donnells – James senior, James, Alexander, Thomas and Robert. The reward notice appeared in the Belfast Mercury or Freemans Chronicle on Friday 25 November 1785.

One is inclined to think that James M’Donnell, senior, was the father of the other four. Thomas M’Donnell may feasibly have been Captain Thomas M’Donnell. The second James M’Donnell is listed at the end of the list below, offering a reward of £5-13-9, which was only matched by Patrick Savage, the town’s foremost citizen and likely colonel of the Ards Independents. As such, one assumes that this James M’Donnell was the unhappy shopkeeper.



The movements of an Andrew M’Donnell on the ship Betty show that the M’Donnells of Strangford voyaging to and fro on the Irish Sea, viz.

‘SHIPS arrived at LIVERPOOL since our last: May 7 Betty, M'Donnell, Tallow, Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 19 May 1767)

‘Goods imported at the Port of Liverpool, 29 July -5 August 1768: Samuel Johnson 30 Quarters Wheat, 5 Pots Butter. In the Betty, Andrew M'Donnell, Strangford. (Manchester Mercury - Tuesday 09 August 1768).


WILLIAM M’DONNELL - ‘WILLIAM & JOHN’ (Strangford / Portaferry)

A report for the Irish House of Commons in 1774 into ‘all vessels that have obtained the Bounty for fishing on the Coasts of this Kingdom’ lists seven ships from Portaferry, all of which paid their bounty in Strangford. * Of most interest is the 47-ton William and John, which was owned by John Reed and sailed under its master, William M’Donnell. The ship’s measurements were given as 44.3 in length, 16 wide and 8 deep, and she carried a crew of eight seamen. It looks like John Reed paid a £47 bounty, allowing M’Donnell to fish from 7 October 1771 to 1 January 1772. He then paid a further £47 Bounty so that the William and John could fish from 22 Sept 1772 – 7 January 1773, again under William M’Donnell, master. William and John could have been a joint enterprise between William M’Donnell and John Reed. [For more on John Reed, see Appendix 2.]

A sample of records of the ship’s cargo follows:

‘Samuel Johnson 47 firkins 17 crocks butter In the William and John, Wm. M‘Donnell, Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury, 16 August 1774).

‘Samuel Johnson 45 firkins 25 mugs butter 5 tc[?] pork 2 sacks linen cloth Mess Nicholsons 3 truffes linen yarn. In the Wm and John, Wm M’Donnel, Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury, 9 May 1775).

‘Goods imported at the Port of Liverpool, 22-29 September 1775: William Wallace 300 quarters barley. In the William and John, William M'Donnell, Strangford.’ (Chester Chronicle, 2 October 1775).

‘W. Ewing, 53 firkins butter, 1 brl. broken glass. S. Johnson, 13 firkins, 41 crocks butter. In the William and John, Wm. M'Donnel, from Strangford.’ (Chester Chronicle, 9 August 1776).

* Extracted from Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, Volume 16 (1774), p. 329. The other five Portaferry ships on the 1774 Bounty List are Thomas Watson’s Andrew (Hugh Savage, master), William Galway’s Ann (James M’Creedy, master), Charles Crawford’s Echlin (of which he was also master), Alexander Caughey’s Peggy & Polly (Henry Wardlow, master) and William Brown’s Peggy (Henry Murray, master).



A possible connection from 1792? - Extract of a letter from Cork. "Friday morning several letters from Grenada arrived, forwarded by a vessel bound for Lancaster, which passed the harbour’s mouth.—Those letters bring the melancholy news that the warehouses in the town of St. George, in said island, took fire by accident, and were entirely consumed, together with goods and provisions to the amount of one hundred thousand pounds!” We are extremely sorry to hear of some eminent Dublin merchants suffering a considerable loss by the above fire — a cargo of provisions, linens, &c. which was lately sent to that island, in Captain M'Donnel’s vessel, having been destroyed. [Dublin Evening Post, 5 July 1792]



On 3 October 1796, the Northern Star carried an advertisement from a Thomas M’Donnell stating that he had brought a ship called the Shillelagh into Belfast from London four weeks earlier, from which he had unloaded miscellaneous goods including black pepper, Spanish indigo, white ginger and a variety of teas from China and Ceylon.

Another advertisement for ‘New Garden Seeds’ carried in the same paper on 18 January 1796 indicated that Thomas McDonnell was based on North Street, Belfast. In the Belfast Street Directory for 1805 he was recorded as a "grocer" at 11 North Street. In 1806 and 1807 he was listed as a “merchant" and by 1808 he seems to have moved to 13 North Street. He is thought to have been the Secretary of the Linen Hall Library by the time of his death, circa 1818.

Another record published in the Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 19 July 1806 read: ‘THOMAS MCDONNELL HAS Per the Ship American, from New-York, 60 BALES of New Orleans and Upland Georgia COTTON WOOL, which he will dispose of on very moderate Terms. Belfast, July 17.’

I also found a record that begins ‘Thomas M’Donnell and James McCleary have received by the Johanna Frederica from Rotterdam … 95 Hogshead of Flaxseed.’ I can’t read the rest of it or find a date at but a James McCleary is listed as one of John Reed’s business partners on the Portaferry salt works in 1783. (See Appendix 2). The Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty (11 December 1778) also recorded a James McCleery operating as a Woollen-Draper and Carpel Manufacturer on High Street, Dublin.



In 1802, a Captain Alexander M’Donnell is listed in the Belfast Newsletter (19 January 1802) as master of The Draper, with a cargo of linen. Listed alongside him is a ship called The Shillelagh, presumably the same vessel Thomas M’Donnell landed into Belfast six years earlier, now under the command of Captain Chambers. The passage of Captain M’Donnell and the Draper is recorded perhaps ten times in the Irish News Archive between 1802 and 1807. The Draper was no stranger to Portaferry; on 19 October 1807, for instance, M’Donnell sailed her into Portaferry, albeit ‘in consequence of contrary winds’. [Belfast Newsletter, 23 Oct 1807.]

Both the Draper and the Shillelagh appear to be sailing on behalf of Henry Haslett, agent, of Delap & Co. There was a prominent United Irishman (and Freemason) in 1798 by name of Henry Haslett; the name is sometimes spelled Hazelett. Delap may have been the Banbridge merchant-inventor Robert Delap (Dunlap).



Family lore held that Thomas McDonnell was a younger son of the Earl of Antrim.[iv] It is not clear which Earl of Antrim he was supposed to have been a son of but, alas, such a proposition seems unlikely. [See Appendix 3] That said, perhaps his father or grandfather was a son of the earl.

Another possibility is that he was a brother or kinsman of Edmund McDonnell (nee Phelps), the son of an auctioneer father from Plymouth and a milliner mother. Hector McDonnell writes: ‘In his youth, circa 1805, Phelps, a very talented musician, bettered himself by being a chorister in Birmingham and then founding its music school. He was then given £2000 pounds to get out of the country by a gent whose daughter had fallen in love with him. He spent this money on buying a shipload of musical instruments (pianos organs etc) which he took to the recently acquired colony of British Guiana and made a handsome profit out of them. He also married a native woman and had a son, who later came to visit him at Glenarm ... he then returned to be a musical secretary for an English peer, who fancied himself as a composer, and while employed by him met Lady Antrim, in London, and married her within months. He then made her go back to Glenarm and put his efforts into making the place run financially successfully, which would of course have included looking after the quarries.’

In 1813 the lowly Edmund caused a considerable rumpus when he became the second husband of Catherine, Countess of Antrim, eldest daughter of the Marquess of Antrim. It was after this that Edmund took on the surname of McDonnell (by royal sign manual, 27 June 1817) and settled in Glenarm. An article in the Northern Whig from 1844 indicates that George Halloran was a contact for Edmund McDonnell. Edmund and his Countess did not have any known children before her death in 1834; Edmund survived until 1852 when Glenarm passed to the aforementioned Hugh Seymour.[v]

Given the nautical career of McDonnell and O’Halloran, it should also be noted that Lord Mark Kerr, husband to Charlotte, Countess of Antrim - a sister of the aforementioned Catherine - was a Royal Navy veteran who fetched up as a Rear Admiral. Malcolmson described him as ‘a landless seaman’. What makes all this particularly relevant is that in 1845 G S Halloran launched the Lady Louisa Kerr, a schooner named after the daughter of Lord Mark Kerr and the Countess of Antrim.


There is an intriguing possibility that Commander M’Donnell may have been a kinsman of Alexander M’Donnell, a celebrated 19th century chess-master, although this conjecture has been as complicated to work out as a game of chess with Alexander himself must have been.

James O’Fee of the Bangor Chess Club has studied this in great detail. (See here). Alexander used several variants of his surname – M’Donnell, McDonnell and MacDonnell. He is regarded as the first great English-speaking Chess Master, celebrated for his series of matches in 1834 in London against the French champion Charles Louis Mahé de la Bourdonnais (1795-1840), the world's strongest player. Alexander was born in about 1798 and was in ‘extensive business in Demerara’ from about 1820 to 1830, during which time he published "Negro Slavery" (1824), arguing strongly for its continuation. It might be noted that the general sentiment of Belfast merchants was against slavery. Indeed, as James O’Fee observed in an email to me, dated 15 December 2017, ‘it had a very active anti-slavery movement and in the early 1790s was described as "the most radical town in the three kingdoms" when the town went en fete to celebrate the anniversary of the Fall of the Bastille.’

Described as a committed Whig, Alexander served as Secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants from about 1830 until his premature death in 1835. [Taylor, Michael (2014). "Conservative Political Economy and the Problem of Colonial Slavery, 1823–1833". The Historical Journal. 57 (4): 980.] The slave trade had been abolished across the British Empire since 1807 but there was a major clampdown on slavery itself during M’Donnell’s time as Secretary. It is to be noted that Commander Thomas M’Donnell, then a young man, was also operating in the Caribbean throughout Alexander’s time there, apparently serving with the East India Company.

Alexander M’Donnell was stricken with Bright's disease before his contest with de la Bourdonnais could be completed, although the Frenchman was leading by four games to one. He died aged 37 on 14 September 1835 at a boarding house in Tavistock Square, London, where he resided. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. Remarkably, de la Bourdonnais, who died in 1840, is also buried in Kensal Green. ‘McDonnell died wealthy; besides chess he was interested in political economy on which he wrote half a dozen books or pamphlets.’[‘The Oxford Companion to Chess’ (David Hooper & Kenneth Whyld, Oxford University Press, 1984)]

It was previously thought that the chess-master was a son of Dr Alexander McDonnell, a surgeon. This can possibly be traced to an article by G. H. Diggle in an issue of the British Chess Magazine of 1934, written to celebrate the Centenary of the McDonnell-de la Bourdonnais match. [Hooper & Kenneth Whyld]. However, James O'Fee believes Alexander M’Donnell was actually the son of Belfast merchant Thomas M’Donnell / McDonnell, who died circa 13 February 1818.

Alexander also had two older brothers Robert and Thomas, and a sister Elizabeth, known as Eliza. The ‘Dictionary of National Biography’ and ‘A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland’ both state that the chess-master’s sister Eliza or Elizabeth McDonnell, the wife of Andrew Mulholland, was the daughter of Thomas McDonnell of Belfast - and the Dunleath family records support the claim.

It might be noted that when James M’Donnell of Portaferry was robbed in 1785, the four other M’Donnells who offered a reward for information were James, Alexander, Thomas and Robert. Also of possible relevance, Commander Thomas M’Donnell’s mother was called Elizabeth.

However, such excitement must be tempered by the fact that the chess-master’s brother Thomas McDonnell, K.C. (who was also an executor of his will) was a barrister, not a sailor, and lived at Eglantine House, Hillsborough. Co. Down.

Elizabeth / Eliza M’Donnell, the chess-master’s sister, was also born in about 1798 and may have been his twin. On 13 February 1818 she married Andrew Mulholland (1792-1866), merchant and Presbyterian, a son of Thomas Mulholland and Ann Doe. The marriage took place at the Rosemary Street Presbytery (possibly the First Belfast Presbyterian Church) in Shankill, Belfast. It is thought she was given away by her childless brother Thomas McDonnell, KC. Eliza was also described as Presbyterian, which suggests her family were likewise. It is notable that a pair of Mulhollands, mentioned in the chessmaster's will, were in business in Liverpool, very likely in trade with the West Indies, and that their company went bankrupt when slavery was abolished. Thomas seems to have been heavily indebted to the Mulhollands at the time of his death.

Andrew Mulholland was elected Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1845 and bought Ballywalter Park in County Down the following year. Ballywalter lies on the coast of the Ards Peninsula facing Scotland, about midway between Donaghadee and Portaferry. Eliza died on 1 October 1876. Her son John Mulholland (1819-1895) was involved in the Mulholland family cotton and linen industry and also represented Downpatrick in the British House of Commons from 1874 to 1885. In 1892 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Dunleath, of Ballywalter in the County of Down.

NB: Dr Alexander McDonnell, MD, had a brother James. Both boys were sent to Edinburgh to study medicine in its renowned medical faculty. James achieved recognition as "the Father of medicine in Belfast" (see here). He founded the Belfast Fever Hospital, precursor to today's City Hospital. He would regularly treat the town's poor for no pay. He was on the committee that produced the Belfast Harp Festival in 1792 Dr. Alexander M’Donnell was the man who pronounced Henry Joy McCracken dead in 1798. There is more detail on the brothers here, including his bust. Dr John McDonnell’s sons - Sir Alexander and Dr John - were part of the Protestant (Anglican) establishment.



Given his birth at Portaferry or Strangford, Thomas M'Donnell may have been a kinsman of the M'Donnells of Tullycross, subject of the following records:

1797 - Deaths: At Tullycross, near Portaferry, Mr. James M’Donnell, late of Belfast. (Dublin Evening Post, 5 January 1797).

1830 - Robert, John and Samuel M’Donnell with address at Tullycross named on a ‘List of Applications received by the Clerk of the Peace for Co. Down to register freeholds at Newtonards. (Newry Telegraph, 15 June 1830).

1839 – ‘On the 23d ult. at Tullycross, near Portaferry, in the 75th year of her age, Margaret, relict of the late Mr. Alexander M‘Donnell.’ (Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 2 February 1839). The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Volume 11, of 1813 referred to a Belfast draper named Alexander M’Donnell.

1840 – ‘On the 17th inst. by the Rev. Hugh Moore, Mr. Alex. M'Donnell, of Tullycross, to Jane, youngest daughter of Mr. Michael Lowry, of Ballyrca, near Newtownards.’ (Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 21 March 1840).

1798 – “The Portaferry Yeomanry, on the 11th Instant, under the Command of Captain Matthews, made a most gallant Defence against a large Body of the Rebels, who attacked the Town of Portaferry; the Yeomanry having taken Possession of the Market House, from which Post they repulsed the Rebels, who left behind them above 40 dead; many more were carried off. Capt. Hopkins, of a revenue cruizer, brought his guns to bear on the town, and was of great service in defending it.” [Bulletins of the Campaign, 1798, p. 97.]

See also Thomas M’Donnell of Portaferry in The Northern Star from Belfast, on January 18, 1796, p. 3.

Elizabeth McDonnell was born in Portaferry in 1785 and married in Portaferry on 6th November 1810 to Samuel Wilson. She died in Portaferry on 21st September 1852, aged 67. Her children were Samuel Wilson, Hugh Wilson, Thomas Wilson, Robert Wilson, Archibald Wilson and Esther Wilson. Could she have been a sister of the Commander?

James McDonnell was born about 1817 in Portaferry. He married Rachel McGiffert; their son William McDonnell was born in Portaferry in about 1847.

John Theodore Wentworth (1854-1916) a descendant of William Wentworth, an early settler in New Haven Colony, was born at Saratoga Springs, New York. His mother Frances (McDonnell) Wentworth, was the daughter of Thomas McDonnell of Portaferry, who came to America toward the close of the eighteenth century, married Frances Halsey of New York, and soon settled at Saratoga Springs. JT Wentworth “spent the first seventeen years of his life at Lake Geneva.” Extracted from ‘Obituary record of the graduates of the undergraduate schools, deceased 1920" (New Haven, 1920).

Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland (1848) refers to Andrew M’Donnell, a tallow chandler and soap boiler based in Portaferry, and a James M’Donnell, librarian, at Portaferry Library. The will of James M’Donnell, Portaferry chandler, dated 1872, is mentioned here.

In the late 1800s a William M'Donnell and James M'Donnell were “prominent Presbyterians” in Portaferry, according to a US family website.

Letter written by Rev. John Orr, Portaferry, to his son John M. Orr, USA, dated 3rd May 1848: ‘Thomas McDonnell is setting up in the house formerly occupied by [Wm?] Wallace near the Church Road. He also writes: ‘Robert McDonnell the school master in Kearney, has absconded and gone off to America greatly in debt. I have heard between £200 & £300. He was thought to be doing well in the world. He has turned out a complete swindler. He owes John Lawson about £80. Capt. Brown £12 Margt. Donnan £8 [and?] James McDonnell £7 - Mich. [Michael?] Burns £4 - besides large sums to people in Downpatrick and in the country. Should he take your direction I wish to put you on your guard - Had he asked me for a certificate some time since I would have given him a very good one.’ And later he writes: ‘Andrew McDonnell is still living - that is all I can say about him - only I trust he is a sincere penitent.’[Ulster-American Folk Park Archive 9702057]. Is Orr perhaps a kinsman of William Orr?




James McDonnell of Portaferry was born in about 1854, a son of John McDonnell (farmer) and Sarah (nee McCormick). He emigrated to New Zealand in about 1880 and settled in Matamata. Family lore holds that he was one of three brothers, one went to America and the other to Australia. In 1887 he was married in New Zealand to Sarah Elizabeth (Lizzie) Moreland, a Portaferry girl. I emailed both Claire Louise Warnock (clairelouisewarnock1990@gmail.com) and Wendy McDonnell (scampr@i4free.co.nz) but neither address worked.

The Belfast Gazette, 28 Sept 1928, references a Thomas McDonnell who held 29.1 acres at Priest Town, Upper Ards, Portaferry, Co. Down, for £25.5 on 15th August, 1911.

1931: David John McDONNELL of Portaferry area; a farmer ; son of Thomas McDonnell (a farmer ); aged 23, married Mary Elizabeth McMurray of Cookstown 18 Feb 1931 at Ballyblack Presbyterian Church, witnesses were Samuel McMurray & Jeannie McMaster.[Detail from ‘Parish or Church Register for Ballyphilip & Newtownards’ via Ros Davies “Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site” (2001)]




On 11 July 1785, a Thomas M’Donnell was recorded as secretary to the Ards Independents in County Down, of which Colonel Savage was colonel; they had lately taken part in a review at Killileagh. [Belfast Evening Post, 15 July 1785.] The following year, following the Down Review, Thomas M’Donnell once again thanked Colonel Savage for his kind entertainment and also ‘those gentlemen of Portaferry, who so liberally treated them on their march to it.’ [Belfast Evening Post, 17 July 1786].

The Ards Independents was a regiment raised and initially commanded by Marquess of Londonderry (then Colonel Stewart) had been colonel in 1782 when they took part in a sham-fight in Belfast, with the Ards Independents forming the van of the invading army. The Marquess’s thirteen-year-old son Robert Stewart, later Viscount Castlereagh, commanded the light infantry of the Ards Independents at the event. The company consisted of boys not much older than himself. Everyone was blown away by how realistic it was, especially the young fellows.[ii]



A Timeline of Thomas McDonnell's Early Service Record (1804-1808) via Susan Leggett

8 Mar 1804 - appeared/entered onboard HMS VETERAN at Chatham, Kent as "Volunteer", aged 14 (ADM36/16615)
27 Jun 1804 - assigned on HMS VETERAN in Port Royal, Jamaica as Midshipman (ADM36/16615)
31 Jul 1804 - appeared on Ships comp., HMS VETERAN (ADM36/16616)
17 Jun 1806 - discharged from HMS VETERAN in Port Royal, Jamaica as Midshipman (ADM36/16618)
18 Jun 1806 - joined HMS HERCULE in Port Royal, Jamaica as Midshipman (ADM36/16367)
24 Jul 1806 - Rank changed to Able Seaman (ADM36/16367)
10 Oct 1806 - discharged from HMS HERCULE in Sheerness (ADM36/16368)
11 Oct 1806 - assigned/entered HMS NARCISSUS in Sheerness as Midshipman (ADM36/17394)
13 Oct 1806 - appeared on Ships comp., HMS NARCISSUS (ADM36/17394)
13 May 1808 - discharged from HMS NARCISSUS (ADM37/2437) Note - ship at sea and last known landing point Cork; see remarks above.
25 March 1808 - On board HMS HERO. (ADM37/1163, /1164, /1165; ADM37/2106 & /2107.
17 July 1810- Discharged from Hero.
1810-1812 - OPOSSUM (ADM37/3115 & /4697).
1813 to 1814 - VALIANT (ADM37/4176 & /4177; ADM37/5178).


HMS VETERAN (1804-1806)

Thomas McDonnell was born in either Portaferry or nearby Strangford in 1788 and baptised that December. On 8 March 1804, he was commissioned into the Royal Navy as a Volunteer, taking his place on board HMS Veteran, which was then in Chatham in south-east England. Rather confusingly his age is given as 14 at the time of his joining the ship yet, if he was born in 1788, one would have thought he was closer to 16. Veteran's pay book also confirms his place of birth as "Strangeford". The mystery is how and why a young boy from Strangford ended up in Chatham, Kent, in order to become a Volunteer on board a Royal Naval vessel in 1804. A young boy was unlikely to have got from Ireland to Chatham unless it was via one of the naval training schools such as Chatham or Greenwich, etc. Sadly, the school records for these establishments for this time are not particularly numerous in their survival rate. In September 2018, Sue Leggett conducted a search through the surviving Admission Papers of the Royal Greenwich Hospital School (just a stone's throw from Chatham) but they revealed no McDonalds, McDonnells or any similar spelling variant so Thomas probably did not go through the School at Greenwich. That said, as Sue observed, Greenwich School was 'normally for boys of sick, injured or deceased Seamen and Marines from the Royal Navy, while Thomas's father is more likely to have been a Merchant Trader than a Royal Navy veteran.'

Veteran, a 64-gun third rate ship of the line, was launched in 1787 at East Cowes. She was designed by Sir Edward Hunt, and was the only ship built to her draught. [Brian Lavery, 'The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850’ (Conway Maritime Press, 2003), p. 182]. In 1801, Veteran was present at the Battle of Copenhagen, as part of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker's reserve fleet. Thomas remained with Veteran until 17 June 1806.

The first muster table for Veteran begins on 23 Feb 1804 and details all ten muster roll calls up to and including 29 April 1804, showing the location of the ship each time a muster was called. By 29 April, Thomas was at the Downs, an area at the end of the Thames estuary in the South East of England. [ADM36_16615_1] Between 2 May and 26 June 1804, they sailed from the Downs to Dungeness (also on the South East coast of England) and also to "Boulonge", probably Boulogne in France, across the English Channel from Dover. [ADM36_16615_4 through to _6]. Durng the next muster of 2 July until the ship was paid off at Dungeness on 28 August 1804, Veteran sailed once more to Boulogne and Dungeness. His Lieutenant's certificate states that he was promoted to Midshipman (ie: an apprentice officer) on Veteran on 31 July 1804. [Susan Leggett observes: 'Sadly, there are very few surviving records in respect of Midshipmen's promotions although there are occasional references throughout various Admiralty minute books but these can often be quite arduous to find.'] The details in Veteran's pay book for Thomas in that muster at Dungeness include "D" (for Discharged) on 30 July 1804, and also states that he was given two months pay in advance, totalling 18 shillings and 4 pence. [ADM36_16615_7 through to _9; ADM36_16615_10; DM35_2524_3 and _4] It is notable that Thomas is shown with the surname McDonald, so a further clue that both variants of the surname spelling were accepted.

Veteran remained at sea until 30 May 1805 when she docked at Port Royal in Jamaica. A week later, the ship was at the Old Harbour and then shortly afterwards, returned to Port Royal before setting sail again. (ADM36/16617) The Ships Musters for May 1805 also show that Thomas was a 14-year-old from Strangeford when he joined the ship and that he had come from "B.1st Class No. 4" so this explains he was originally on the Boy's 1st Class list of the crew before being allocated to the full Ship's Complement, where he was registered as no. 492. A notice in his files that he owed 13 shillings and tuppence for clothing supplied by the Navy confirms he was already onboard before being assigned to the Ship's Complement. He remained onboard for the entire period between 7 May and 30 June. By the time the ship had another muster call at Port Royal in July, Thomas had purchased an additional 10 shillings and six-pence worth of "Dead Mens Cloaths”, meaning the clothes of recently deceased crew members; the money raised was sent on to their next-of-kin. Veteran then left Port Royal and remained at sea for the next few months. It is highly unlikely that the ship was involved with Admiral Nelson’s famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 as the next muster was taken ten days later, on 31 October 1805, when the ship was in the waters around Jamaica; the only change to Thomas's circumstance was that he had purchased some additional clothing from the Navy and his bill now stood at 19/9d. They were back at Port Royal for Christmas 1805 and remained in and around the area for the next six months; the only change to Thomas's entry was the purchase of yet more clothing, taking his bill up to £1.4s.7d. Thomas attended his final muster for Veteran at Port Royal on 15th June. Two days later, he joined HMS Hercule. HMS Veteran was broken up in 1816.



On 18 June 1806 Thomas transferred to HMS Hercule, a 74-gun third rate ship that had been captured from the French Navy on her maiden voyage in 1798. There is a fine painting of Hercule in 1809 by by Louis-Philippe Crépin. One of her former lieutenants was Lieutenant William Woolsey whose capture of a French sloop man-of-war in Jamaica in April 1805 was replicated in the film Master and Commander. On 24 July 1806, he was promoted from Midshipman to Able-Seaman.

Thomas remained on Hercule until October 1806 when he joined HMS Narcissus at Sheerness, off Kent, as a Midshipman once more. (Hercule was broken up in 1810). Narcissus was a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate launched in 1801. She was at Sheerness from 7 and 31 Oct 1806; Thomas was assigned to the ship on 11 October at no. 317 but did not appear onboard until two days later. Thomas was away from the ship from 21-25 October, with a leave of absence and a specific allowed purpose, approved by the Captain/Admiralty, although we don’t know why this was. Over the course of November and December, the ship moved from Sheerness to Portsmouth. She left Portsmouth on or shortly after 1 Jan 1807, reaching Plymouth by 6 Feb. In a muster from this time, Thomas is shown at no. 517. By the time the ship left Plymouth on 25 March, he had purchased some more clothing, some bedding and possibly his own hammock. It is unclear where the ship sailed over the next six months but she was at Plymouth on 12 Nov 1807 and back at sea shortly before 6 December. (At a muster in Nov 1807, it claimed he had joined the ship in May 1807, an error that is repeated in all subsequent musters to June 1808!) By January 1808,he was in Cork. He went on approved leave during March and April, although its feasible he may have started his leave from Cork on 1st Feb. He was discharged from Narcissus on 13 May 1808, at which time he made his way to HMS Hero.

Narcissus was converted to a convict ship after 1823, and sold 1837.


HMS HERO (1808-1810)

On 14 May 1808 he transferred to HMS Hero as a Midshipman. From 14 December 1808 to 7 February 1809 he was also recorded as a Midshipman with Hero. [ix] The ship was serving in the Home Waters and the Baltic Sea at this time. [vi] On 1 January 1810, according to his Admiralty exam report of 5 April 1810, he was promoted to Master’s Mate, although there is some disrepancy about this date as from 8 February 1809 to 17 July 1810 he was also recorded as Master’s Mate with Hero. [x] .

Many midshipmen took positions as master's mates at this time in return for an increase in pay and responsibility aboard ship. It may be that he was now the master's mate with the highest seniority, in which case he would have been appointed the head of the midshipman's berth and given responsibility for teaching mathematics, navigation, and sailing lore. Master's mates had to keep detailed logs similar to midshipmen. They were also responsible for the division of the crew that included the petty officers.

Master's Mates were generally experienced seamen, and were usually selected from the ranks of the quartermasters, who they supervised. As a Master's mate, he was now allowed to command the vessel, walk the quarterdeck, and mess in the gunroom with the other warrant officers. His responsibilities would have included fitting out the ship, making sure they had all the sailing supplies necessary for the voyage, assisting the master in navigating the ship and directly supervising the quartermasters in steering the ship. He also oversaw the hoisting and lowering of the anchor, as well as the docking and undocking of the ship. His daily ritual would have been to notify Hero’s master of any problems with the sails, masts, ropes, or pulleys. He executed the orders of the master, and was ready to step in and take command in the master’s place if he was sick or absent. He would probably have worked on a three-watch system, with the lieutenants, so that one served as the deputy to the lieutenant on each watch.

Hero, a 74-gun third rate ship, had been launched less than five years earlier at Blackwall Yard.[vii] She took part in Admiral Robert Calder's action at the Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1805, as well as the capture of four French ships in the aftermath of the battle of Trafalgar.[viii] From 1808 until her tragic finale in 1811, Hero was commanded by Captain James Newman-Newman (1767–1811), a veteran who had chased the French fleet off the coast of Ireland when they attempted their invasion in the summer of 1798. The ship was in the North Sea during 1808.

On 25 February 1809, Hero was one of five ships (along with Theseus, Revenge, Triumph and Valiant) who joined Rear Admiral Stopford off the Chasseron lighthouse on the Biscay coast of France, where he was blockading a French fleet in the Basque Roads. Hero did not take any active part in the ensuing battle which started on 11 April. Thomas M’Donnell was presumably also involved when Hero’s launch served with Captain Cockburn's flotilla during a ferocious attack on the Dutch port of Flushing in August 1809; they had one killed and two wounded. [xi] This was during the Walcheren Campaign, an unsuccessful British expedition to the Netherlands.

Having served at least three years as a midshipman or master's mate, Thomas was now eligible to take the examination for lieutenant. He duly ‘passed for Lieutenant’ on 5 April 1810 and was formerly promoted to lieutenant on 18 July 1810. [xii]

In 1811 Hero, was tasked with escorting a large convoy from the Swedish port of Gothenburg to London, that included other ships of the Baltic Fleet. Returning in late 1811, the convoy was struck by a terrible storm which wrecked over 30 merchant ships and, on 24 December, claimed the flagship HMS St George and HMS Defence along the coast of Jutland. Hundreds died, including Admiral Robert Carthew Reynolds. The following day, Christmas Day 1811, Hero herself was driven ashore on the Haak Sands at the mouth of the Texel in the Frisian Islands of north Holland. The weather was so appalling that no rescue boats could be launched and the ship went down, with the loss of all but 12 of her 530 crew, bringing the total loss of life from the storm to over 2,000. Captain James Newman-Newman was among the dead.



A document issued by the Navy Office [ADM107_42_1 through to _7], dated 27th February 1810, listed Thomas's service thus:

VETERAN - Volunteer Class - 8th March 1804 to 30th July 1804.
VETERAN - Midshipman - 31st July 1804 to 17th June 1806.
HERCULE - Midshipman - 18th June 1806 to 23rd July 1806.
HERCULE - Able Seaman - 24th July 1806 to 12th Oct 1806.
NARCISSUS - Midshipman - 13th Oct 1806 to 13th May 1808.
HERO - Midshipman - 14th May 1808 to 31st Dec 1809.

It concluded:"THESE are to Certify, that Mr Thomas McDonald is borne on the Books of His Majesty's Ships above mentioned, the Place where born, Age at time of Entry in each Ship, Time, Qualities, and Cause of Discharge, as therein expressed, being Five years, ten months, two weeks and five days. "

A statement shown as page 318 was attached and showed: "We the Church Minister and Wardens of Portafery in the Parish of Ballyphilip do hereby Certify that it appears to us by the Register Book of the said Parish that Thomas McDonnell, Son to Captain Thomas and Elizabeth McDonnell, was Baptised on the 11th Day of December 1788. Given under our hands in Portaferry this 13th June 1809. James Morewood, minister of B’philip. John Donning, Thomas Glass, Church Wardens.

Thomas was examined on 5 April 1810 at the Admiralty Office, Chatham Dockyard where he was reported to be "more than Nineteen Years of Age" and had been to sea for 6 years, 1 month and 2 days. The first ship's details showed his age as 14 and gave his place of birth as Strangford. His Lieutenant's Passing Certificate concluded: "He produceth Journals kept by himself in the VETERAN, HERCULE, NARCISSUS & HERO and Certificates from Captains King, Lyford, Newman, Malcolm Taylor and Evans of his Diligence and Sobriety : he can splice, knot, reef, take in and set Sails, Moor and Unmoor, Work and Manage a Ship in the various Situations in which she may be placed ; calculate the Tides ; keep a reckoning of a Ship's way by Plane and Mercator's Sailing ; observe the Latitude by the Sun and Stars and also find the same by double Altitudes of the Sun ; ascertain the Variation of the Compass by Azimuths and Amplitudes ; and is well qualified to take Charge of a Watch on board any of His Majesty's Ships." (ADM6/108, page 159)


HMS OPOSSUM (1810-1812)


On 9 December 1810, Thomas M’Donnell became Lieutenant on board the copper-bottomed HMS Opossum, 10-guns, described by a contemporary newspaper as a ‘brig-sloop of a very handsome construction’. The Cherokee class ship was built at Gillingham (Chatham) in 1808 and armed with 8 x 18-ppunder carronades and 2 x 6-pounder long guns. Between 1808 and January 1811, Opossum voyaged to places such as Surinam, Halifax, Jamaica and the Caribbean under the command of Captain William Henry Byam, an old comrade of Jane Austen’s brother Charles.[xiii] Command of the ship then passed to the Plymouth-born Captain Thomas Wolridge.

In 1811 and 1812 the ship was recorded at the Leeward Islands in the north-eastern Caribbean Sea. During this time, Thomas would have learned the appalling news about the sinking of Hero, his former ship. He remained on Opossum until 25 June 1812, his service lasting for one year, seven months and four days. This period coincided with the Anglo-American War of that period (misleadingly known as the War of 1812).


HMS VALIANT (1813-1814)

On 2 January 1813, Thomas was appointed Lieutenant on HMS Valiant, remaining on the ship for one year, seven months, three weeks and a day. Since 1811 she had been under the command of Captain Robert Dudley Oliver. The ship had just been refitted at Portsmouth and departed for North America on 14 January. A couple of days later, contrary winds and stormy weather obliged her to put into Cawsand Bay, Cornwall, but she then set sail once more for Halifax. On 31 March 1813 Valiant was in company with HMS Hogue, when Thomas would have beheld the exciting view of the Nymphe re-capturing the brig Eliza, from St. Kitt's, laden with rum. By 7 April, Valiant, Hogue and Nymphe were all watering at Block Island, off the coast of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. On 1 Jun 1813, operating out of Halifax, Valiant joined HMS Acasta in chasing three US ships (United-States, Macedonian and Hornet), which had just departed from New York, into the port of New London, north of Long Island. [xiv]

On 18 June 1813, Valiant participated in a successful 100-mile chase of Porcupine, a 20-gun American brig sailing from Bayonne on the south-west coast of France to Boston with 72 men on board. Captain Oliver, who became the senior officer in Long Island Sound, penned a letter to Admiral Sir J. B. Warren explaining the good news that they had captured the enemy brig off Cape Sable, Florida, and said of Porcupine: ‘She is a beautiful vessel, of more than 300 tons, only eight months old.’ Valiant was at Bermuda by the end of January 1814 and then headed back to Plymouth via Havana, arriving on 28 March. Thomas left the ship on 7 August 1814, shortly before the ship was due to sail to Brazil. Valiant was subsequently docked and refitted at Portsmouth before being taken out of commission in 1816 and broken up in 1823.[xv] Captain Oliver’s letters may be worth sourcing as they may give further insights into Thomas’s activities.



Discharged in 1814, Thomas McDonnell then commanded a ship for the East India Company, working the Caribbean Trade, which suggests his involvement in slavery or sugar. According to one account, he ‘served in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, travelled in India and fitted out an opium clipper for trade in China and the Islands.’[xvi] One wonders whether he was the Captain M'Donnell named in this report from the Morning Chronicle of 9 October 1823:

‘PENANG, MARCH 4.-We understand that Captain M'Donnell has brought from Siam a most valuable and rare collection of curiosities; among which is a band of music, containing every instrument used by the people of that country, and presented to him by the young Prince Chow Fa, all of which, with a small state boat, are now in the possession of Sir Stamford Raffles. Captain M'Donnell has also procured a number of sacred and other Siamese books, which we trust may throw a light upon the history of a nation so little known to Europeans, and we look forward with impatience to the period when Sir Stamford will gratify the literary world with their translation. The Siamese, we understand from Captain M'Donnell, were erecting a fifty-gun battery on the shoal opposite to Pachame, near the entrance of the river. This intelligence confirms the former report. By private information received at Malacca through a Siamese junk, we learn that Captain Thistle, Commander of the grab brig Dudalby, has been scalped at Siam. On the 11th ult. at sunrise, minute guns, to the number of 48, corresponding with the age of his Excellency the Governor of Malacca, were fired from the ramparts of Fort Cornwallis, conformable to the Government order.’[xvii]

He is said to have visited Sydney in 1828-29 and commanded a brig in the China Seas. [xviii] According to an article by James Belich in the ‘Dictionary of New Zealand Biography’ (under the entry for his son Thomas McDonnell): "By 1828 he was a merchant and ship owner trading in various goods, including Chinese opium.” A notice in the Belfast Newsletter of 15 April 1828 shows that Captain McDonnell was sailing for Jamaica in a brig called John Echlin; interested parties were to apply to George S and Richard Halloran in Belfast. Similarly, in April 1832, the Halloran brothers of 39, Donegall Quay, Belfast, were the people to consult if interested in sending freight or passengers on the brig Adventure, bound for Jamaica via Antigua under Captain William Wilson. Providing an important link back to Captain M'Donnell's birthplace, John Echlin was the name of a prominent Poratferry landlord, who lived at Thomastown, just outside Portaferry, as recorded in William Wilson’s The Post-chaise Companion: Or, Travellers' Directory Through Ireland (1786).

TE HOREKE (1830-1843)

In 1830, Thomas M’Donnell purchased the Te Horeke shipbuilding yard by Hokianga Harbour from Messrs Jones and Walker, the trustees of Messrs. Raine, Ramsay, and Brown, ‘then bankrupts.’ He also acquired their property at "Rau Rau," in the Hokianga district, along with the buildings thereupon, a quantity of timber, and a new ship of 400 tons, namely the Sir George Murray, more of which anon. How could he afford this? Had he made a fortune trading opium and such like, or was he perhaps supported by other investors? Given that he arrived with ‘a party of settlers,’ as well as his family and servants, there may well have been ‘the lure of cheap land held out to fellow speculators.'[xix] The colourful notion that he was perhaps financed by the wealthy McDonnell kinsmen in Ireland has sadly been vetoed by the McDonnell Family in Glenarm (Earls of Antrim) who state that he received no traceable money from them as at that time as, in 1830, all of their funds were tied up in developing their lime works and other properties in Glenarm. [xx]

Over the ensuing decade, he extended his purchase, made roads, cleared the land, erected buildings, formed extensive docks and converted Te Horeke into a trading depot that also served as the principal timber-trading station on the Hokianga throughout the 1830s. [xxi] His acquisition of these extra lands would be the subject of his 1856 petition.[xxii] Regarded as the first industrial site in New Zealand, it duly became known as "the Deptford of the South". He had also reportedly ‘discovered a mine of Cobalt’ by 1831 and is said to have traded with the Maoris for kauri spars which were rafted down the Hokianga Harbour. [xxiii]

Among the ships built at Horeke was Sir George Murray, a 392-ton barque which M’Donnell bought at an auction in Sydney in January 1831 for STG£1300.[xxiv] According to an article entitled 'First Commercial Shipyard in Horeke’ on hokianga.net.nz: "McDonnell fitted out the barque, and on 30 March 1831, with his family, servants, and a number of settlers, sailed for Hokianga … Sir George Murray was [also] rumoured to be sailing under a foreign flag.” On 9 July 1831, he set sail from Hokianga for Sydney on Sir George Murray with his wife, two children, Mr Weller and a cargo of ‘Lading, Planks and Spars’.[xxv] As well as timber and flax, he also apparently carried cobalt and ‘several specimens of silver and copper ore’.

In early August 1831, he sailed the ship into Sydney where it was noted: ‘Capt. M'Donnell joins former travellers in eulogising the great natural riches and commercial advantages of New Zealand, and as one engaged in the trade generally, seems to relish the idea of a Russian war with reference to the flax trade. And if a Baltic war should follow, the spars of New Zealand as well as her flax, would rise in value. New Zealand abounds with harbours, and with a savage, but hardy industrious people, capable of great exertions in loading vessels with timber and flax.’[xxvi] Moreover, as the Sydney Herald observed, the foreign flag was in fact the New Zealand flag, and Thomas is credited with being the first person to exhibit them on the masthead:

‘Captain M’Donnell of the Sir George Murray hoists the New Zealand colours at the mast head; they are the English St George ensign, the ground of one quarter being blue, and having a half moon at its centre. This is, we believe, the first time these colours have ever been exhibited.’[xxvii]

He commanded the Sir George Murray on its voyage back to New Zealand, departing from Sydney on 5 October 1831.[xxviii] In 1833 he bought the American schooner Chinchilla.



Thomas was married twice but the name of his first wife is as yet unknown. She is said to have died at Hokianga.[xxix] They had at least one daughter by his first marriage, namely Anna McDonnell, who was born at Hokianga on 21 May 1828. She went on to marry Yorkshire-born bank clerk Edward Spofforth. Their son Fred Spofforth (1853–1926) was the celebrated ‘Demon Bowler’, regarded as the Australian cricket team's finest pace bowler of the nineteenth century, as well as being the first bowler to take 50 Test wickets, and the first to take a Test hat-trick in 1879.[xxx] Born on 9 September 1853, Fred Spofforth also spent his early childhood in Hokianga along with his brother Edward Arthur Spofforth and sister Ann (or Anna).[xxxi]

Thomas’s son Thomas McDonnell (1832-1898) was born to his first wife on 15 September 1832. Thomas Jnr was baptized in St Mary’s Church, in the parish of St Mary-le-Bone, on 25 January 1834. His date of birth is recorded on his baptismal record while his parents lived as 16 Dorset Place, Dorset Square, London. The baptism was conducted by the Rev. R. H. Millington.[xxxii]



On 11 January 1834, the widowed Thomas M’Donnell was married secondly to Anna Pattenson (1804-1853), the thirty-year-old daughter of John Edward Pattenson of Melmerby Hall, near Penrith, Cumberland, by his wife, Mary Anna Frances Antoinetta (nee Harris).[xxxiii] The wedding took place at St Mary-le-Bone, London, was conducted by the Rev. Bryant Burgess, Curate of St Mary-le-Bone, with William George Pau, clerk to the church, and John C Stamps (?) as witnesses.[xxxiv]

John Pattenson served with the Bengal Civil Service, then run by the East Indian Company. In June 1801 he was appointed first assistant to the British commercial resident at Dacca, Bengal (aka Dhaka, Bangladesh). [xxxv] This was at a time when there was a high demand for Dhaka muslin which grew, according to Dr James Taylor in 1800, in ‘a tract of land … twelve miles southeast of Dacca, along the banks of the Meghna.’[xxxvi] It appears that John was the second son of Thomas Pattenson of Melmerby Hall and that he died at Dacca on 21 March 1817, shortly before the Commercial Residency was abolished.[xxxvii]

Anna’s widowed mother died at Melmerby Hall on 7 November 1837; she was described in the Bristol Mercury as ‘formerly of Clifton’.[xxxviii] Her eldest sister Mary Jane Pattenson married the Rev Edwin Jacob, professor of Classics and principal of the King’s College at Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; she died at Mapledown in the New Brunswick parish of Douglas on 18 August 1866.[xxxix] One of her brothers, the Rev. Robert Cane Pattenson, was rector of Melmurbury for over forty years.

Thomas must have dashed back to New Zealand soon after his wedding because it is recorded that on the afternoon of 19 June 1834, ‘on his arrival from New Zealand’, Lieutenant Thomas McDonnell, RN, attended His Majesty’s Levee at St James’s Palace, London, where he was presented to King William IV by the Right Hon. Lord Lyndhurst.[xl] Lord Lyndhurst was Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer at this time and went on to serve as Lord Chancellor to Robert Peel. In 1834, Lord Lyndhurst was mourning the death of his first wife, Sarah, a daughter of Charles Brunsden and widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Thomas, First Guards, who was killed at Waterloo.

In 1834, Thomas M’Donnell presented a paper on New Zealand to the Royal Geographic Society, which was published in December 1834 in The Athenaeum, Vol. 34.[xli]



Thomas McDonnell returned to New Zealand in late 1834 or early 1835, with ‘twelve Europeans’ who he put into Te Horeke at his own expense.[xlii] He also now held the honorary appointment as Additional British Resident, under contract to the British Admiralty. By 3 August 1835, he was back at Hokianga.

In November 1835, he set out in the Tui to explore the Kaipara Harbour on the West Coast of the North Island.[xliii] The 35-ton schooner Tui is thought to be the only vessel built at Te Horeke during McDonnell's ownership of whom any details survive. According to Brian Hooker’s work "Early Pacific Ships and Personalities", McDonnell is unlikely to have sailed the schooner further than northern parts of the North Island. McDonnell investigated as far as the entrance of the Mokau River, which he named “Tui Bay” in a chart he compiled for the London mapmaker James Wyld the Elder (1790–1836) in 1834. Hooker notes that while M’Donnell ‘is often credited with having visited many parts of New Zealand … his highly inaccurate chart suggests the improbability of his having done this.’

Colonel Wakefield briefly described the Kaipara expedition while McDonnell penned two longer accounts – the first a report to the British Resident, James Busby, and the second, a letter to the Royal Geographic Society, London, in which he claimed that he had opened the harbour at Kaipara to European shipping. The latter account appears in ‘Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum’, Volumes 7-9 (1970), p. 124. He was closely involved in mapping New Zealand at this time - as per records in National Archives - but apparently his maps came in for criticism for being inaccurate and causing shipwrecks.[xliv]

Between 1832 and 1842, he spent over a decade based in a house that was originally built for Captain David Clark, the superintendent of Raine, Ramsay, and Browne's shipyard at Te Horeke. Clark, who also built Sir George Murray, was drowned in November 1831, aged 65. The house was then briefly occupied by the shipyard owner Gordon Davies Browne, before M’Donnell moved in.[xlv] M’Donnell is said to have ‘lived in some style, with a large house, imposing gardens, and several pieces of cannon. He was indeed by virtue of birth, experience, possessions, and pretensions the leading settler in the Hokianga.’ [xlvi]

His life was certainly not without excitement. In December 1835, for instance, he oversaw the capture of a brigantine Industry which had been taken over by a mutinous crew who had murdered their commander on passage between Van Diemen’s Land and Hokianga. He observed that the mutineers had since ‘suffered the extreme penalty of the law.’[xlvii]

He appears to have had frequent arguments with his superior, the main British Resident, James Busby, ultimately leading to his resignation before the close of 1835. It may have been after this that he became Agent for Lloyd’s.

On a more peaceful note, ‘McDonnell was a keen horticulturist and among his other introductions to New Zealand was the Norfolk Island pine, the well-known trees at Waitangi and Te Wahapu in the Bay of Islands being the sole survivors of a box of seedlings given by him to Mrs Mair in 1836 or 1837. The large pine in front of the Horeke hall was probably planted about the same time, in what was then McDonnell's garden.’[xlviii]



On 15 June 1838, ‘Thomas M'Donnell, late additional British resident at New Zealand, had an interview with Lord Glenelg … at the Colonial-office, on his return from that country.’[xlix] Lord Glenelg had been Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in Lord Melbourne’s cabinet since 1835. Some of their talk may have concerned a subject which reared its head in September 1838 when a man by name of Baron de Thierry claimed to have established a settlement on New Zealand. Thomas M’Donnell sought to redress what he felt was a ‘grievous injury’ in Thierry’s claims, including an allegation that he was fond of brandy.

Writing to the editor of the Morning Chronicle from Dorset-place, Thomas wrote: “I have been for years a resident on the spot, invested with official authority by the British Government, the owner of a large tract of territory in the immediate vicinity, and in habits of friendly intercourse and possessing extensive influence ever all the native chiefs within an extent of several hundred miles. These circumstances, with the addition of a familiarity with the customs and character of the aborigines, and a partial knowledge of their language, the result of years of close observation, will, I think, entitle me to pronounce an opinion as to the justice of the territorial claims set up by the person calling himself the Baron de Thierry, and the probabilities of the ultimate issue of his visionary projects of colonization, which must have the effect of opening the eyes of the British public.’[l]

On 5 December, M’Donnell had another ‘long conference with Lord Glenelg … at the Colonial-office, on business connected with New Zealand.’[li] Lord Glenelg resigned as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in February 1839.

M'Donnell’s time in London was not inactive. On 29th April 1839, his wife had a baby boy at their home on Dorset Place. News of his birth was notably carried in both The Spectator and the Limerick Chronicle.[lii] He also had to contend with a footman in his service who was caught stealing a gold-watch and some silver cutlery from his home.[liii]



Disaster struck in 1842 when McDonnell’s home in Te Horeke was utterly destroyed by fire, after which the shipbuilding yard went into rapid decline. The Bay of Islands NZ Gazette & Wellington Spectator (12 November 1842) described the totality of the fire: ‘It is with much regret we announce the total destruction of Captain M'Donald's dwelling-house at the Hourake [sic], Hokianga. The fire was not discovered in time to save the slightest vestige of the building, or the valuable property which it contained.’[liv] Among the documents destroyed are thought to have been McDonnell's Maori deeds of sale.[lv]

He evidently remained at Hokianga, as the following report published by the Morning Chronicle on 11 January 1845 suggests: ‘The population of Hokianga is stated by Lieutenant M'Donnell at from 250 to 300. This comes pretty near the government return quoted above. The lay- settlers are principally engaged in cutting and shipping wood. No whalers resort to Hokianga. A good many vessels have been built there. The Wesleyan Missionaries have done little in the way of cultivation; but the lay- settlers have considerable patches of cultivated ground about their dwellings.’ Elsewhere it is noted that William White, the Wesleyan missionary, was Thomas M’Donnell’s inveterate enemy.[lvi]

On 4 October 1846, Anna McDonnell had a baby girl, thought to have been Clementine McDonnell.[lvii] Anna McDonnell passed away in 1853, at age 49

Under pressure from Maori and other settlers in the Hokianga, he moved to the Whangarei District in 1858. During these later years with the Royal Navy, he may well have spent short periods on Half-Pay. His entry in the book "Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815" seems to point to him not retiring until 1852. He was made Commander on 14 January 1862. He died on 13 September 1864 at the Pa near Onehunga, Auckland, having sustained severe injuries when thrown from his horse in the Khyber Pass Road.[lviii] His death was reported in the Quarterly Naval Obituary section of the Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service on 1 April 1865.


COLONEL T. W. McDONNELL (1832-1898)

McDonnell’s son Colonel Thomas W. McDonnell (1832-1898) was commander of the police force at Patea during a particularly violent period, as per the following report in The Scotsman of 27 August 1868:

DISTURBANCES IN NEW ZEALAND . —The New Zealand correspondent of the Times writes on July 8: — "Native matters have again cropped up painfully , four Europeans and two natives having been murdered on the west coast in the Taranaki province . At Patea and its neighbourhood the land is occupied here and there by a few military settlers, who received grants from the Government of small blocks of sixty or eighty acres for services rendered. All the land is confiscated land, and the murders are known to be acts of retaliation, and not the result of any organisation—just such murders as that of Mr Featherstonhaugh lately in Ireland. The particulars are as follow —

On the 9th June, a settler named Cahill was engaged with two others, named Clark and Squires , in sawing timber for a house they were erecting, when they were suddenly fired on by a concealed party of natives , and either killed or wounded. The natives then hacked them in pieces with their tomahawks, and decamped. Some friendly natives gave information, and the bodies were next day recovered. A few days afterwards one of the armed constabulary, named Smith, was out catching his horse, when he fell into an ambush, and was shot, his body being mutilated and partly carried away. This occurred within range of the glasses at the stockade occupied by the constabulary. Alarmed at these proceedings, a friendly native endeavoured to remove some property he had in the neighbourhood, but met with a similar fate in doing so. Another friendly native has since been murdered, the details of which are not, however, known. The burning of a couple of houses completes the doings of west coast rebels for this month. Colonel M'Donnell, in charge of the armed constabulary at Patea, numbering 110 men, immediately came into Wellington to consult the Government and obtain reinforcements. The necessity for doing something was apparent, but the cost of raising reinforcements, so near to the opening of the Assembly, made Ministers hesitate. Colonel M'Donnell wanted a force of 500 men for six months, but only eighty were ordered to be newly raised for three months, and eighty-five of the Waikato and Tarauaki constabulary brought down to Patea. With these and some fifty natives, Colonel M'Donnell will do the best he can to punish the tribe who are fostering the murderers. If not fettered, we believe he will do his work well, but much precious time has necessarily been lost. Two natives, supposed to be in complicity with the murderers, have been arrested. At Hokianga, a quarrel between two tribes, resulting in the shooting of one oi their number, has been quietly settled, after assuming unpleasant appearances for the peace of that district, and the man who shot the deceased given up to justice."

Colonel M’Donnell married twice. By his first wife Rose Von Dadelszen (or Dadelsen / Dadelzen), he was father to Alexander William McDonnell (1866-1938), Violet Orfeur McDonnell and Hilda Bernadine McMurdo. Alexander became a bookseller in Auckland and is thought to be the same as Tamatea Meeke Tanera, Kai Ta me te Kai Panui hoki, Free Press Printery, 355 Queen Street Auckland. A biographical note from the Auckland War Memorial Museum quotes a news report from the Evening Post of July 1938 which stated:

"Mr. Alexander Francis McDonnell has died in Wanganui; of injuries received when he was knocked down by a motor vehicle. Mr. McDonnell was a son of the late Colonel T. W. McDonnell, who played a prominent part in the Maori wars along the west coast. After his mother died he was taken to live with a Maori family in the Waikato and stayed with them until he was 18 years of age. Because of his youth with the Maoris he was perhaps one of the greatest European authorities on the race in New Zealand. In "his younger days Mr. McDonnell was private secretary to the Hon. Hori Kerei Taiaroa, M.L.C., a prominent Otago chief, and later married his daughter. He went to Wanganui from the Hawke's Bay, district about eight years ago and entered business as an interpreter and. adviser to the Maori people. He was recently elected chairman of the Maori Welfare League.’[lix]

One of Colonel McDonnell’s men during the Taranaki campaign was his cousin George Stewart O'Halloran (1845-1910), who spent the period 1863-1872 in the Militia and Armed Constabulary and was Captain of the Patea Cavalry. An extract from George’s autobiography reads as follows:

"Here are the instructions I received, written in pencil on a fly-leaf of the Colonel's pocket-book whilst he sat on his horse before starting for the front.
'Captain O'Halloran will proceed to Whanganui with as little delay as possible and if necessary stop the press and have the following advertisement inserted.- Cavalry Volunteers for the Front. Captain O'Halloran has instructions to raise in Whanganui about 30 men for the Patea Yeomanry Cavalry. Conditions etc will be explained to the men by Captain O'Halloran.
Signed Thomas McDonnell, Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Patea Field Force August 3rd 1868'

Captain O'Halloran and Lieutenant Bryce were both mentioned in dispatches for the part they played in the battle of Handley's Woolshed in which eight natives were killed in a cavalry charge. The Patea Cavalry also fought in the Battle of Ngu-o-Te Manu on 7 Sep 1868 (George's 23rd birthday) in Von Tempsky's Division. Alan Martin was presented with George’s cavalry sword by a cousin and has since passed it on to his nephew who is a policeman in Wellington.

Other Ulstermen involved in the Taranaki campaign who also received promotion were John Ballance (who became Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Lieutenant John Boyce, of the Kai-Iwi Cavalry (who, as Minister of Native Affairs, will oversaw the storming of Parahaki Pa in 1881).


Courtesy of James O’Fee.

The MacDonnells are an Irish branch of the Scottish Clan Donald. The clan is one of the largest and most important of Scottish clans, so large that it divides into several parts.

The MacDonalds trace their descent from Somerled, who was killed in 1164 fighting King Malcolm IV of Scots at the Battle of Renfrew. The clan takes its name 'Donald' from a grandson of Somerled, who took the title of 1st 'Lord of the Isles' - he died in 1269. Clan Donald supported King Robert the Bruce in his struggle against the English and, after Bannockburn, the King proclaimed that Clan Donald would always occupy the place of honour on the right wing of the Scottish army.

After 1300 John Mor MacDonald, chief of the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg, married the Norman heiress Margery Bisset (shades of Jacqueline!) of the Glens of Antrim. Vast lands in Ireland entered thereby the MacDonald sphere - but the clan is Ireland uses the spelling 'MacDonnell', which no doubt reflects the local pronunciation. The Glens of Antrim lie on Ireland's extreme north-east coast, where the distance to the Mull of Kintyre narrows to only 16 miles.

The MacDonnells became a local power in Ulster. They opposed the O'Neills under Shane O'Neill. The leader of the MacDonnells at this time was Sorley Boy MacDonnell. Sorley (Somhairle) is 'Charles' and Boy is 'yellow' or "blonde".

The clan's position straddling the channel meant that it could readily send reinforcements to either Ireland or Scotland in case of need. The converse was that refugees could flee across the water in times of need to kinsfolk. This happened, for example, when Clan Donald in Scotland came under pressure from the rising Clan Campbell. The massacre of Glencoe is the best-known incident, but the enmity between the two clans was longstanding and the MacDonalds lost much rich land to the upstarts.

Under Sorley Boy, the Irish MacDonnells were essentially Scots living in Ireland. The form of Gaelic spoken until recently in the Glens, and in Rathlin Island, was Scottish Gaelic. Of course, Scottish and Irish Gaelic have a common origin, if you go back some centuries, and people understood each other well enough. I shall resist the temptation to detail how the Scots came to Scotland from Ireland, notably from the same part of Ulster which fell later to the MacDonnells.


APPENDIX 2: JOHN REED – ‘KITTY’ (Portaferry)

Could the ship William and John have been a joint enterprise between William M’Donnell and John Reed, as reflected in her name? John Reed, the owner of the William and John, appears in the same list as the owner of Kitty, a slightly smaller vessel, with a crew of seven, commanded by Nicholas Conway. No further record of Conway has been found; it’s unlikely but he could be connected to his contemporary, Sir Nicholas Conway-Colthurst. Kitty had been under Conway since at least 1770 and remained under him until at least 1778.*

Kitty’s cargo was frequently imported into the Port of Liverpool, as follows:

‘Clay and Midgley 8 half truffes 1 bag 1 bundle linen yarn. William Haliday and co 13 casks calves skins. Samuel Johnson 3 casks tallow. Thomas Whitaker 1 cask calves skins. In the Kitty, Nicholas Conway, Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury, 12 June 1770)

‘Samuel Johnson 3 firkins 4 crocks butter. In the Kitty, Nicholas Conway, Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury, 5 May 1772).

‘Wm. Wallace 86 quarters wheat. In the Kitty, Nicholas Conway, Strangford.’ (Chester Chronicle, 10 July 1775).

‘Bailie and Lloyd, 524 firkins butter, Samuel Johnson 180 firkins 8 crocks butter, John Southart 61 firkins butter, Philip Pibson [?] 2 casks calve skins Robert and Matthew Nicholson 6 truffes linen yarn 1 pick linen cloth. In the Kitty, Nicholas Conway; Strangford.’ (Manchester Mercury, 11 January 1774).

* Kitty was also clocked in Dublin under Conway at various times between 28 March 1777 and 6 January 1778. Saunders's News-Letter, 1 April 1777; Saunders's News-Letter, 30 July 1777; Saunders's News-Letter, 6 January 1778. See also Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, Volume 16 (1774), p. 332. Also of note was J Conway, master of the Jane and Kitty, which arrived into Manchester from Strangford in November 1796 with 9 boxes of linen cloth for Johnson and Withington. Manchester Mercury, 15 November 1796.

In 1783, John Reed was one of four men granted a lease for ‘the free and unmolested use of the sea water [by Portaferry] for salt works’ by Patrick Savage; the other three grantees were William Galway (owner of one of the other Portaferry vessels listed in 1774), James McCleary (possibly M’Donnell’s partner on the Rotterdam shipment alluded to above) and William Brown. “Salt was an essential commodity in a community dependent on agriculture and fishing. It was used for the preservation of fish, meat, butter and hides for domestic use and trade.”

In 1783, John Reed, Esq, was a subscriber to ‘A History Of Ireland. From The Earliest Period, To The Present Time’, in a series of letters addressed to William Hamilton, Esq., by William Crawford, A.M., one of the Chaplains of the 1st Tyrone Regiment. This was published in Strabane in 1783. The other three Portaferry subscribers were Francis H. Stafford, Esq., the Rev. W. S. Dickson and Robert Chermside, apothecary. Robert Chermside, surgeon, of Portaferry, died on 17 November 1803 aged 56; his widow Elizabeth (nee Jackson) died on 1 June 1830 aged 73. It is to be noted that their son John Reed Chermside was born in 1791; he died on 30th May 1852 aged 61. This suggests a connection between the Reed and Chermside families. The Chermsides are buried in Ardkeen Church of Ireland.

Marriages - Mr. John Reed, of Liftenatrunk, to Miss Sarah Brown, of Brown’s-gate, near Lisburn. (Dublin Evening Post, 29 November 1785). This might not be the same person. I have not yet found any further record of Liftenatrunk, Lissenatrunk or of Brown’s-gate.

In 1789, John Reed, a ‘merchant’ in Portaferry, bought the seven-year-old 39-ton sloop Blessing on 17 April 1789 from the Liverpool mariner Matthew Scallion. The ship was built at Pwllheli in Caernarvonshire. He bought it in conjunction with two other Portaferry merchants, William Masland and John Kelly, as well as John Auchinleck, a merchant from nearby Strangford. [Liverpool Registry of Merchant Ships’, Robert Craig, Rupert C. Jarvis (Manchester University Press, 1967), p. 73.]

In 1793 John Reed, Esq., was one of five Portaferry men listed as subscribers to John Anketell’s Poems on Several Subjects. The other four were the Rev. Mr Blacker, Rev Dr Dixon and two of John Reed’s salt-works colleagues, William Galway and Patrick Savage.

1819 J. Reed named as Surveyor at Carlingford.

1844 - John Reed Allen, of Mount Panther and Dunover, becomes High Sheirff of County Down. He was a son of John Allen of Portaferry, who died on 2 May 1816. JRA died on 14 Apr 1875; his son George Allen was High Sheriff of Co. Down in 1885 and died on 12 Jun 1929. Could he be connected?

I do not think John Reed is connected to the following man but it is worth noting: “William Reed, one of the Founders of the [Nelson Masonic] Lodge [in 1809], was the second son of John Reed, of Ballymoyer, Co. Armagh, and was born at Ballymoyer [County Armagh] in 1784. He was twice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth, he had two sons and one daughter. The daughter, Miss Anne Reed, of Cloughmore, Warrenpoint, although in her 94th year, is still alive and in the full enjoyment of all her intellectual faculties. By his second wife, Letitia (who died 28th November, 1870), a younger daughter of Isaac Glenny, of Littleton, Seneschal of Newry, he had five sons and seven daughters. He died, 28th August, 1872, at Alma Terrace, Portadown, and is buried at Loughgilly. He was for nearly sixty-seven years a Justice of the Peace for the County Armagh, and was Agent for Lord Gosford, Sir Walter Synnot, and others. He raised and was Captain of "The Ballymoyer Yeomen," originally known as " The Baleek Rangers," a corps which did much excellent service in preserving the peace of the country in those disturbed times. Bro. Reed never held any office in the Lodge. The History of Nelson Masonic Lodge No. XVIII Newry (1809 to 1909), p. 124.



Regarding the claim that Thomas M'Donnell was a son of the Earl of Antrim, there is certainly no mention of him in the section on the Earls of Antrim in Burke’s Peerage or, specifically, in John Lodge’s Peerage of 1789. For it to be true, his father would presumably have been the 5th or the 6th Earl as the 4th died in 1721. Alexander McDonnell, 5th Earl Antrim, was born in 1713 and was onto his third wife by the time of Thomas’s birth in 1788. The 5th Earl was reputedly only survived by his son, the 6th Earl, and two daughters, but it is possible he sired an illegitimate son.

Randal McDonnell, 6th Earl Antrim, was born in 1749 and married in 1774 to the Hon. Letitia Morres, eldest daughter of the 1st Viscount Mountmorres and a widow of Arthur Trevor, only son of Arthur, Viscount Dugannon. They had three daughters before Letitia’s death in 1801 – the twins Catherine (later Countess of Antrim) and Letitia, born in 1775 (who died in 1797), and Charlotte (also later Countess of Antrim), born in 1779. There is no record of any son although if Thomas was born in 1788, he may have been illegitimate. It is to be noted that in 1785 the 6th Earl secured a new patent, dated 19 June, by which, because he had no male heirs, he was created Viscount Dunluce and Earl of Antrim, ‘with remainder to his daughters primogeniturely and their male issue.’

Moreover, on 18 August 1789, he was advanced to the Marquessate of Antrim, but without any special reversionary grant. There is a suggestion that he was ‘addicted to Drinking’.[See notes handwritten at foot of page 214 in John Lodge, Mervyn Archdall, The Peerage of Ireland: or, A genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom, Volume 1 (J. Moore, 1789)] When the Marquess died in 1791, all his honours ceased except the patent of 1785, which devolved accordingly on his eldest daughter Catherine, Countess of Antrim. Her husband Sir Harry Vane Tempest was a very wealthy man and a large-scale entrepreneur who was developing coal mining on his estates in Durham. It is assumed he was responsible for starting up the large-scale quarrying on his wife's county Antrim estates. Sir Harry died in 1812 (circa), leaving a daughter by Lady Antrim, who inherited all his property and [check] money. At length, the 6th Earls grandson Hugh Seymour succeeded as Earl.



CORK, Nov. 8.—In the ship Thomas, Captain Frazer, now at Cove, on the prosecution of her voyage New South Wales, is the celebrated New Zealand Chief, Tippahu Cupa. This warlike native of the Southern Hemisphere has experienced some hospitality in the neighbourhood of Passage; at one gentleman’s house, he displayed a courtesy and politeness at dinner, that would not have disgraced European nobility. He has shown an instance of the happy effects of that civilization, which the Church Missionary Society has so laudably introduced in his fertile island, where, to a very late period, human flesh has been considered a great delicacy. On Sunday last Tippahu attended at Cove Church, where his demeanour was in every respect agreeable to the usages of civilized life. (Dublin Evening Post, 10 November 1825)

HISTORY IRELAND. A FEW Sets of O‘HALLORAN's HISTORY of IRELAND, in two Volumes Quarto, Price, in blue Board, 1d. 6s. to be had of T. M'DONNEL, Bookseller, No. 32, New-row, Thomas-street. An Apprentice wanted. Enquire as above. (Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 2 August 1784)

A BAD WIFE. NOTICE is hereby given that Mary M'Donnell, wife to Henry M'Donnell, of the county of Cavan, has eloped. Therefore I do hereby warn the Public not to credit her one farthing on my account, for I will not pay any debt she may contract. HENRY M'DONNELL. Dated this 19th day of April, 1802. (Saunders's News-Letter, 31 July 1802)

Thomas McDonnell, a Volunteers captain tied up with Castlebar in 1783. (Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 26 March 1783).

Thomas McDonnell, Steward of Mr. Leigh, M. P. massacred at Scullabogue in 1798, left a widow and six children. Sounds like a Wexford man.

One wonders was Thomas related to this man who died at Slevoir near Terryglass, and who also had antipodean links?: ‘Melancholy Death of Randal M‘Donnell, Esq., from Drowning. —A most distressing accident, which resulted in the death of Randal M‘Donnell, Esq., of Slevoir, occurred on Thursday, and has occasioned very general regret amongst a large circle of friends and acquaintances, with whom the deceased gentleman had made himself highly esteemed and respected. Mr. M‘Donnell was much devoted to aquatic pursuits, and had made several voyages to Australia and other countries, and had only recently returned from a visit to relations in America. He was the proprietor of a yacht, which was moored in the River Shannon, opposite Slevoir, in the County Tipperary, and, as was his habit when at home, he proceeded, it appears, in a small boat, and got on board the yacht. After remaining some time, when stepping into the skiff, to return to Slevoir, it was capsized, and the unfortunate gentleman was thrown into the water. He was very lusty, and he soon disappeared. A peasant from the bank of the river witnessed the fatal occurrence, and ran to Slevoir-house and gave the alarm, when the Rev. Francis Synge and others hastened to the spot. Drags and boats were immediately procured, and after some time the body was discovered, but life was quite extinct. An inquest was held, this day, on view of the body, before T. T. Abbott, Esq., coroner, northern district of Tipperary, when, these facts having appeared in evidence, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death." Mr. M‘Donnell was brother-in-law to the Rev. Francis Synge, Luckeen glebe, and was nearly related to the members of other highly respectable families. His remains will be interred on Monday morning. It is stated that a brother of the deceased’s also perished some time ago by drowning. —Saunders' Newsletter. (Quoted in Newry Herald and Down, Armagh, and Louth Journal - Tuesday 09 February 1858).

With thanks to Maria O’Brien, Alan Martin, Susan Leggett, Fintan Mullan and James O’Fee.

See also 'An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand' (1966), edited by A. H. McLintock.


[i] ‘Portaferry and Strangford’ by G P Bell, C E B Brett and Sir Robert Matthew, published by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society in 1969 (reprinted 1973). James Morewood, was minister of Ballyphilip when Thomas sat for his Lieutenant’s Passing Certificate in 1810; John Donning and Thomas Glass, were the Church Wardens.

A Thomas Jackson was identified as one of the churchwardens in 1812. That was when he offered a reward for information on the perpetrators of malicious damage to a Portaferry ship called Bounty down the coast at Newcastle Quay in early May 1812. Belfast Commercial Chronicle, Monday 31 August 1812. Thomas Jackson is assumed to be the same person as the Portaferry auctioneer Thomas Jackson, who oversaw an auction of 230 tons of American pine, which landed into Portaferry in April 1809. (Belfast Newsletter-Tues 18 April 1809). The Bounty was probably a sloop that had been formerly based across the water from Portaferry in Strangford. (Belfast Newsletter-Fri 24 Oct, 1788).

Ballyculter is the civil parish for Strangford and Kilclief is the other civil parish nearby. Fintan Mullan also checked Ballyculter and found nothing. Unfortunately Kilclief’s earliest registers were destroyed.

[ii] William Steel Dickson, ‘A narrative of the confinement and exile of William Steel Dickson, D. D., formerly minister of the Presbyterian congregations of Ballyhalbert and Portaferry, in the county of Down, and now of Keady, in the county of Armagh.’ (Printed for the author, by J. Stockdale, 1812), p. 13-14:

“One circumstance of which I was a witness had a most powerful effect on the public feeling The sham fight was a representation of an approach to and attack on the town of Belfast The Ards independents commanded by col Stewart, now earl of Londonderry, formed the van of the invading army By them the advanced guard of the defenders of their country was completely defeated. In their flight they left a small party with one piece of cannon on a rising ground to cover their retreat. To drive in this party and take possession of the cannon the younger Robert and his boyish band was dispatched and the affair was so conducted on both sides that some officers who were present declared that it bore the strongest resemblance to real action That a great majority of our youthful heroes believed it to be such I am fully convinced. When the defendants gave way and abandoned their gun, young Stewart rushed forward in the ardor of his soul, grasped it in his arms, then mounted its carriage, waved his cap and, with tears of triumph, huzzaed to the main body and called them to come on. This circumstance had a most powerful effect on the then ardent mind of the multitude present and their account of it excited high expectations of and a warm attachment to the rising Robert through the whole county. From that day many began to look forward to and speak of him as their future representative. “If such be the boy what may we not expect of the man” was to be heard in almost every company …

[iv] "Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand" by C A Lawn (New Zealand Institute of Surveyors), via https://books.google.ie/books/about/The_Pioneer_Land_Surveyors_of_New_Zealan.html?id=eyMsnQEACAAJ&hl=en

[v] The image file includes a number of documents relating to Edmund as well as a file of relevant pages from a book by Anthony Malcolmson called ‘The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840'. (https://books.google.ie/books?id=_WavuZbI41UC&pg=PA259&dq=Edmund+McDonnell%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qsCSVZmRDsaZ7AbCm4bABA&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Edmund%20McDonnell%22&f=false)

[vi] UK National Archives, Order number: 1427449. Catalogue reference: ADM 196/5/266. Master's mates were experienced seamen, and were usually selected from the ranks of the quartermasters, who they supervised, or from the ranks of midshipmen who wanted more responsibility aboard ship; they were less commonly selected from other mates of warrant officers and able seamen. Master's mates were allowed to command vessels, walk the quarterdeck, and mess in the gunroom with the other warrant officers.

Master's mates were responsible for fitting out the ship and making sure they had all the sailing supplies necessary for the voyage. They hoisted and lowered the anchor, and docked and undocked the ship. They would examine the ship daily, notifying the master if there were problems with the sails, masts, ropes, or pulleys. They executed the orders of the master, and would command in his place if he was sick or absent.

Normally master's mates worked on a three-watch system, with the lieutenants, so that one served as the deputy to the lieutenant on each watch. Master's mates generally assisted the master in navigating the ship and directly supervised the quartermasters in steering the ship. The master's mate with the highest seniority was appointed the head of the midshipman's berth and was responsible for teaching mathematics, navigation, and sailing lore. Master's mates had to keep detailed logs similar to midshipmen. They were also responsible for the division of the crew that included the petty officers.

[vii] Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.

[viii] Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy - http://www.ageofnelson.org/MichaelPhillips/info.php?ref=1128

[ix] UK National Archives, Order number: 1427449. Catalogue reference: ADM 196/5/266. A midshipman is a subordinate (pre-commissioned) officer of the junior-most rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Canada (Naval Cadet), Australia, Bangladesh, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. In the 17th century, a midshipman was a rating for an experienced seaman, and the word derives from the area aboard a ship, amidships, either where the original rating worked on the ship, or where he was berthed. Beginning in the 18th century, a commissioned officer candidate was rated as a midshipman, and the seaman rating began to slowly die out. By the Napoleonic era (1793–1815), a midshipman was an apprentice officer who had previously served at least three years as a volunteer, officer's servant or able seaman, and was roughly equivalent to a present-day petty officer in rank and responsibilities. After serving at least three years as a midshipman or master's mate, he was eligible to take the examination for lieutenant. Promotion to lieutenant was not automatic, and many midshipmen took positions as master's mates for an increase in pay and responsibility aboard ship.

[x] UK National Archives, Order number: 1427449. Catalogue reference: ADM 196/5/266.

[xi] Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy - http://www.ageofnelson.org/MichaelPhillips/info.php?ref=1128

[xii] UK National Archives, Order number: 1427449. Catalogue reference: ADM 196/5/266.

[xiii] Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy - http://www.ageofnelson.org/MichaelPhillips/info.php?ref=1635 See also: William Henry Byam at Royal Naval Biography (1823) by John Marshall.

[xiv] Most of these details come from http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/18-1900/U/04953.html

[xv] London Courier and Evening Gazette, 27 April 1814.

[xvi] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xvii] The same article appeared in the Morning Advertiser, 10 Oct 1823 and the Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser, 13 Oct 1823.

[xviii] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xix] Stuart Park, January 2016 email, 'Ruth Ross (Encycl. NZ 1966)

[xx] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xxi] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell See also See 1856 petition at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/VP1856-I.2.1.80

[xxii] See 1856 petition at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/VP1856-I.2.1.80

[xxiii] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xxiv] ‘A “register” supposedly issued to him later that year by the Hokianga chiefs Patuone and Te Taonui stated that the vessel was "three hundred and ninety two 64/94 Tons English measurement", with two decks and three masts, 109 ft in length and 28 ft 8 in. in breadth, barque rigged, with a standing bowsprit, square sterned, carvel built, no galleries, and a scroll figurehead.’ Quoted in 'First Commercial Shipyard in Horeke’ on hokianga.net.nz:

[xxv] Sydney Herald, 8 August 1831.

[xxvi] Sydney Monitor, 6 August 1831.

[xxvii] Sydney Herald, 22 August 1831.

[xxviii] Sailed, from Sydney, New South Wales, Oct. 5 [1831], the Sir George Murray. M'Donnell, for New Zealand. (Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 21 March 1832). According to hokianga.net.nz: ‘In 1833 [Sir George Murray] obtained an East India Company clearance at Macao, and this was endorsed in 1836. Her subsequent fate is unknown.

[xxix] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xxx] See further details and photographs of Fred at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Spofforth)

[xxxi] On 25 June 1874, Ann Spofforth was married in Sydney to Charles Farquhar Clive of Collaroy, Merriwa, New South Wales.[xxxi] He was a son of George Clive, MP, and Ann Sybella Martha Farquhar. The Clives had a daughter Kathleen Clive (who married William Milner Ratcliff, son of D. R. Ratcliff, on 9 July 1896) and Archer Spofforth Clive (born 15 November 1879, married Ethel Wilson Ryan, daughter of Thomas Henry Ryan and Ellen Rhoda Milham, on 26 December 1910, died on 31 August 1941 at age 61).

[xxxii] The entry in The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (as well as all family trees on Ancestry) erroneously state that Thomas McDonnell (1832-1898) was the son of Thomas McDonnell and Anna Patterson/Pattenson but the older Thomas was recorded as a "widower" at the time of his 1834 wedding to Anna. Moreover, Thomas was born on 15 September 1832. Thomas was described as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy at this time.

[xxxiii] Anna’s eleven siblings included Robert Cane Pattenson and Mary Jane Pattenson Jacob. See https://www.myheritage.com/names/anna_mcdonnell and Pattenson of Melmerby

Hall http://www.therowleyestates.com/halls/melmerby-hall/

[xxxiv] Pau recorded as clerk of the church in Evening Mail - Friday 01 March 1833 and was the Registrar for Births and Deaths in the parish of St Mary-le-Bone. He lived at No. 16, Upper Baker-street, Regent’s Park. (Morning Advertiser, 17 August 1837)

[xxxv] The Asiatic Annual Register (1803), Civil Appointments, p. 96.

[xxxvi] ‘Our Story of Dhaka Muslin’ by Khademul Islam, Aramco (May/June 2016). Taylor penned ‘A Sketch of the Topography & Statistics of Dacca’, published by G.H. Huttmann, Military Orphan Press, in 1840.

[xxxvii] Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser, 2 December 1817.
[xxxviii] The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies, Volume 24 (Black, Parbury, & Allen, 1837), p. 308; Bristol Mercury, 18 November 1837.
[xxxix] Whitehaven News - Thursday 11 October 1866.
[xl] Morning Chronicle, Thurs 19 June 1834.

[xli] Morning Post - Saturday 27 December 1834, p. 1.

[xlii] See 1856 petition at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/parliamentary/VP1856-I.2.1.80

[xliii] ‘Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum’, Volumes 7-9 (1970), p. 124. His neighbours included the sportsman and Talavera veteran Colonel Peter Hawker who died at Dorset Place in 1853.

[xliv] See http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/58544a4c-4527-4e97-8a20-0cdb2da50a85 or http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6743951 or http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C3477406

[xlv] Not the Prime Minister! hokianga.net.nz

[xlvi] Comments from the journals of Edward Markham, Buller, quoted in ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[xlvii] SHIP NEWS. Extract of a letter from Lieutenant Thomas M’Donnell, Royal Navy, Agent for Lloyd's at New Zealand, dated 30th September. "My letters of the 4th and 31st of December, 1835, will have acquainted you of my recovering the brigantine Industry, from her crew, who had murdered their commander on their passage from Van Diemen’s Land to this port, with the steps adopted by me to secure the murderers (who have since suffered the extreme penalty of the law), and to place the vessel and cargo under the Van Diemen’s Land Government. (Morning Advertiser - 24 July 1837; Western Courier, West of England Conservative, Plymouth and Devonport Advertiser - 2 August 1837)

[xlviii] Quoted at hokianga.net.nz It is claimed that he also named Port McDonnell in Hawke's Bay on the east coast of the North Island, but I cannot find Port McDonnell in that bay. Please advise if you know more!

[xlix] Morning Chronicle, 16 June 1838.

[l] He wrote the letter on 12 September; it was published on 19 September. See attached article.

[li] Morning Chronicle, 6 December 1838. ‘Mr Thomas M'Donnell had a long conference with Lord GleneIg yesterday, at the Colonial-office, on business connected with New Zealand.’

[lii] On the 29th ult., the Lady of Thomas M'Donnell, Esq., of Dorset Place, Regent's Park, of a son. The Spectator, 4 May 1839, p. 414; Limerick Chronicle, 8 May 1839.

[liii] ‘At Marylebone office yesterday Joseph Hedge, a footman, in the service of Mr. M'Donnell 16, Dorset-place, New-road, was finally examined and committed to Newgate on a charge of having stolen a gold watch, and a number or silver spoons and forks, the property of his master. The particulars of the robbery have already appeared. Many of the articles traced to the prisoner were produced, and identified by Mr M’Donnell.’ Central Criminal Court - Morning Post, 13 August 1839. In other reports, Thomas is wrongly named as Thomas MacDermott.

[liv] Note that McDonnell was often referred to as 'McDonald or M'Donnell while 'Horeke' is also variously referred to as 'Hourake or 'Te Horeke'.

[lv] See Auckland Museum records on Thomas McDonnell papers.

[lvi] ‘Pre-1839 foreigners in NZ’ via https://sites.google.com/site/pre1839settlersinnz/home/more-details-3/thomas-mcdonnell

[lvii] BIRTH -New Zealander 24th October 1846. On the 4th instant at the Horeke, Hokianga, the wife of Thos. McDonnell Esq.,of a daughter.
Editor's note this is possibly Clementine McDonnell.

[lviii] THOMAS MCDONNELL - ACCIDENT ONEHUNGA, Southern Cross 8th September 1864
(Noted in the 1966 Encyclopedia of NZ Died of injuries 13th September 1864) ......

A very serious accident happened to Captain McDonnell, of the Pa, near Onehunga, a few days ago. He was riding homewards from Auckland, and when in the Khyber Pass Road, his horse threw him and he suffered some very severe injuries.

[lix] Evening Post (Volume CXXVI, Issue 22, 26 July 1938, Page 13) See Alexander William McDonnell’s papers at http://natlib.govt.nz/items?i%5Bdecade%5D=1860&i%5Bprimary_collection%5D=TAPUHI&il%5Bcollection%5D=McDonnell%2C+Alexander+Francis%2C+1866-1938+%3A+Papers