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A Short History of Altnacree Castle and the Ogilby Family

89 Longland Rd, Donemana - just outside the small hamlet of Liscloon
by C. Kathy Buchanan
Courtesy of
West Sperrin Family History Group
westsperrinfamilyhistory[at]gmail.com
Altnacree (Ogilby's) Castle in a photo of a beautiful watercolour by Tina Wilson.
More work by Tina can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tinawilson/
Courtesy Google Maps

Altnacree Castle, known locally as “Ogilby’s Castle”, [aka Altinaghree Castle or Liscloon House] was built in 1860 by William Ogilby. Ogilby was born in 1805 in County Londonderry to Leslie Ogilby, who owned a bleaching green at Lackagh in the Parish of Dungiven. Though an illegitimate child, William was named as his father’s heir and inherited his father’s estate in 1845. [Dr. William Roulston writes that Leslie Ogilby of Dungiven purchased the estate in 1829] [William Ogilby was a barrister in London, England for many years at Lincoln’s Inn as well as having a passion for zoology.]

William had been a zoologist by trade, having regular access to the specimens of the British Museum, the Zoological and Linnean Societies, and the East India Company. William also travelled and studied the taxonomy of animals in Paris and Berlin.

 
 
 

When William’s father died in 1845, he left behind his life in London as the Secretary of the Zoological Society and returned to Ireland. This was at the beginning of the Irish Famine, and William believed his focus should be on his people rather than his zoological career. He became a member of the Local Relief Committee and was granted a loan of 6000 pounds (circa 748,355 pounds in today’s currency) from the Commission of Public Works. With this loan, he reclaimed some of the land on his estate for agriculture. This allowed William to employ 300-400 hands, work which provided much needed money and food to many people who would otherwise have starved.

In 1830, William married Matilda Doria, daughter of a Neapolitan refugee. Unfortunately, Matilda died at the age of 40. Such was his love for his first wife, William named a beautiful species of antelope “Antelope Doria” after her.

A year after the death of Matilda, William married Adelaide Douglas, daughter of the local Anglican rector, the Honourable Charles Douglas, and niece of the Earl of Morton. He went on to become the High Sheriff of Tyrone and expanded his land to have holdings in Omagh. Soon, he began working on building a house, one that would become known as a “castle”. There had already been a house pre-existing in Liscloon (Liscloon House), and this was the foundation on which he would build his castle. Sadly, William died in 1873, soon after the completion of the Castle.

The stones of the castle were brought by horse and cart from Dungiven in County Londonderry and Stonecutters were employed from the Baronscourt Estate. When finished, the banquet hall in the castle was renowned as the largest in the area. The lavish Estate had listed in its buildings a piggery, a granary, a cow house, a garden house, stables, and a steaming house. It was this luxurious Estate that Claude William Leslie, son of William, inherited.

Claude, like his father, also married a Douglas. He married Bessie Henrietta Douglas, daughter of Captain William Douglas, in 1875. Claude died at the age of 43 from kidney failure caused by years of chronic alcoholism, a sad ending to the succession of the estate and castle in Liscloon.

It should be noted that Claude had already vacated the castle six years prior to his death. In fact, records in 1888 stated the building was dilapidated, it having been abandoned in 1885. Very sadly, the castle was valued at approximately 5 pounds which in today’s currency totals circa 651 pounds. By 1909 a note read that the floors and windows were gone and that the building was a ruin. Further, by 1910, the castle was completely deleted from records.

The younger brother of Claude went on to be a famous Ichthyologist in Australia. The story of James and his love is often recited as a love story against the odds to this day. He is said to have met Mary Jane Jamieson (daughter of James Jamieson and Eliza Ruth, land owning farmers in Glenagoorland) on his way home from Donemana. The two began a romance, however both families opposed such a union, possibly due to Mary Jane’s young age. Nevertheless, the two continued to meet in secret. According to much loved local mythology, the two left love letters to one and other in a hole in the bough of a nearby tree. To end the affair, James was sent away by his family to the USA, where he wrote a catalogue of birds in Navarro Texas for the Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society.

In 1884, James followed his father’s love for zoology and was appointed a scientific assistant to the Australian Museum in Sydney. However, before he would leave Ireland behind, he returned and married Mary Jane, purportedly at the urging of her maternal grandmother, Jane Ruth. Contrary to common legend , the two did not elope but were married in St James Parish of Donagheady on November 24th 1884. Neither family attended.

James and Mary left for Australia after they were married, where James would proceed to be a famous Ichthyologist, his marriage certificate naming him as the Curator of the Sydney Museum. The couple were happy. Nonetheless, tragedy befell them, and Mary Jane died in 1893 of tuberculosis aged only 29. Though James continued his career in Ichthyology, he drank profusely much like his older brother for the rest of his life, dying an alcoholic in August 1925. He was buried in the Church of England Section of Toowong Cemetery, almost having been forgotten until recent years. Yet, his story was revived in recent years by the work and interest of local historians and genealogists.