Why am I posting an image of trees on this week’s Thursday Doors? If you look closely, you’ll see strange decorations on some of those trunks.
These are ‘fairy’ doors, placed there by some children, a practice that has been going on for some years now. I posted about Glenbower Woods in Killeagh back in 2015, when I called it my Happy Place. On this visit, my daughter came along to take some photographs for a project she was working on as part of her Art course. Oh, there she is……
It seemed that every time I went to take a shot, she photo-bombed it while taking one of her own. Glenbower has that effect on you, it’s beauty and tranquility absorbing all your thoughts. The sound of a river running through the woods only adds to the peacefulness of the place. Oh, there she is again……
By now, you’re probably wondering what a woodland in Ireland has to do with a place in Canada. In 1786, a group of Irishmen in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) founded a society to provide relief to those reduced by ‘sickness, old age, shipwreck and other misfortunes,’ whether they be Catholic or Protestant. It was called The Charitable Irish Society of Halifax and its first President was Richard John Uniacke, who was born in Castletown, Glenbower Valley in 1753. In the 1980’s, the society celebrated 200 years continuous charitable works, honouring Richard Uniacke by erecting a plaque in the woods of his birthplace.
The Uniake family has a long connection with Killeagh parish and Glenbower. Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) has this to say about it; ‘Mount Uniacke, the seat of Norman Uniacke, Esq. It is an ancient family mansion, situated among mountains which have been brought into cultivation, and is surrounded by a grove of fine trees, and commands extensive views of the sea and the vale of Imokilly.’
Originally Roman Catholics, the Uniacke family suffered a lot of repression during the periods of Tudor and Cromwellian rule in Ireland. However, by the early 1700’s they had become staunch Protestants, adhering to the British crown. At the age of sixteen Richard John Uniacke was influenced by a priest who opened his eyes to the unjust treatment of Catholics. This did not go down too well with his Protestant family and he was sent to Dublin to study law. While there, Richard joined the Irish nationalist movement, which sought greater political autonomy for Ireland. This caused more damage to his already fragile relationship with his father and his allowance was cut off. The young man refused to return home and as he was penniless abandoned his studies to seek his fortune elsewhere.
He arrived in Philadelphia in 1774 and formed a partnership with a trader from Nova Scotia, Moses Delesdernier. After a dangerous voyage they arrived at Hopewell Township where Delesdernier became an agent. In 1775, Uniacke married Delesdernier’s 12-year-old daughter, Martha Maria (yes, she was only twelve years old) and was apparently devoted to her until her death in 1803. They had six sons and six daughters.
Richard joined the American rebels in the Battle of Fort Cumberland in 1776. They terrorized those of the local population who were loyal to the British and while trying to commandeer supplies he was captured and sent as a prisoner to Halifax. He faced being charged with treason and if found guilty could have been hung but, possibly due to the fact some of the military officers in Halifax had been stationed with his brothers, he was released. Providing evidence for the crown also helped in sparing his life.
Some years after the American Revolution, Richard Uniacke became a member of the House of Assembly. As an abolitionist, he wanted to emancipate not only Catholics but also those who were still slaves in Nova Scotia. Having lost his first wife in 1803, he married Eliza Newton in 1808 and they had one son. Three of his sons were lawyers and one became a clergyman.
The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says this about him; ‘Contemporaries remembered Uniacke mostly for the sheer force of his character and his exuberance. He loved life, and family and friendships were essential to his existence. His was a personality of exaggerations and his judgements of men and events were sometimes clouded by raw emotion. He was ambitious for himself and his children, and although his ambitions were never entirely fulfilled, he achieved more than most men. Nowadays, Mount Uniacke Estate in Nova Scotia is a museum and open to the public.’ *
Richard John Uniacke died at Uniacke House, Mount Uniacke, Nova Scotia in 1830 and had been an Attorney General for thirty-three years.
I’ll finish off this post with a photograph of a ‘proper’ door and a red one, at that. It was taken from the car on our way to Glenbower Woods.
If you’ve enjoyed this little bit of history (and the door photos) have a look at what Norm has shared about some more Irish-Canadian connections, on his Thursday Doors post.