Millican, Milligan, Millikan, Milliken, Millikin, Mullican, Mulliken, Mullikin etc

Early Traditions relating to Ballyskeagh, Banbridge and Dromore

Counties Antrim and Down

(Currently under construction)

For Millennia, the Irish Sea between the north of Ireland and the west and southwest of Scotland has been a major maritime and seafaring route for people migrating between both countries, often seeking a better way of life, employment, or simply fleeing as refugees from the civil, national and religious wars in Scotland and Ireland. For others, they became fugitives outlawed by the courts or in many cases banished, a medieval penalty practiced on both sides of the Irish Sea. Whatever the reasons, there were periods when the scale of movement soared in unprecedented numbers, creating a cultural transformation that would have a lasting legacy, in much the same way, large scale migration from seventeenth century Europe onward to North America, created over the centuries a society and culture identify from which would emerged a new Nation. Although, in a smaller scale, Ireland experienced similar rifts in culture identity, when ships were sailing from the seventeenth century onward with new settlers, English, Scots and Welsh as part of a government policy to resettle the northern province of Ireland, the historical Ulster.  


From the southwest of Scotland, two of the oldest "M" traditions speak of families settling in Ulster in the first half of the seventeenth century and these find their origins in Co. Down.  For the purposes of this article, they are known as the Banbridge and Ballyskeagh traditions. In the first, the ancestor of the Mulligans of the district of Banbridge are said to have "descended from two brothers of the name of Millikin who during the inter-racial broils of Scotland emigrated to Ireland and landed at Bangor in County Down, one brother moved into the Ards peninsula and the other directed his course towards Belfast and settled in that neighbourhood and after sometime married the sister of [John] Stewart of Ballydrain House" in the parish of Drumbeg.  It goes on to narrate that at the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, this man came to the defence of Ballydrain House.  By his marriage to the sister of John Stewart of Ballydrain, Milliken is said to have had a son called James who after sometime made his way to the neighbourhood of Banbridge and settled in the townland of Ballievy north side of the River Bann.

John Stewart of Ballydrain House married Anna Wilson, daughter of John Wilson, laird of Croglin near the little village of Tynron in Nithsdale, Scotland. There is a romantic story about how this couple met. It is said, Anna had been visiting Ireland and on her way to Dublin about 1640, she stopped at the Bell Inn, Drumbeg. The Inn being full, at the innkeeper’s suggestion, she went to Ballydrain and was met with every kindness by the housekeeper of John Stewart. At the time, he wasn’t at home, but during the night, he returned unexpectedly and met Anna, fell in loved and eventually married her. In later years, to commemorate their meeting, the couple erected a small house by the entrance to Ballydrain, where they had a stone inscribed ‘A Free Howse 1675’ over the door. The laird of Croglin was a neighbour and relative of the Mulligans, otherwise, Amuliganes in the parish of Tynron in Nithsdale, and raises the possibility that members of this family also settled in and around the district of Belfast.  

In my own family tradition, my ancestry is traced to five brothers, said "to have removed from Scotland to Ireland during the wars between the Scotch and English, three of whom settled on the river Bann and two at Ballyskeagh" near Newtownards.  This tradition echoes the Banbridge tradition, for in both the ancestors in question emigrated during the civil war between Scotland and England, or to be more precise, the Covenanters and Supporters of King Charles I.  In another tradition, it is said of James Milliken of Ballyskeagh, better known as Gentleman James, that sometime during the 19th century he made a visit to meet James Milliken of Ravara and both by comparing notes, concluded that they represented the descendants of the two brothers who were believed to be called Robert and James Milliken.  In the Ballyskeagh tradition, the father of the five sons is said to have been knighted, an allusion to a much older tradition.

The muster rolls of Ulster c.1630 provide the earliest substantive listing of British settlers with the names of tenants listed under their landlord, the type of arms or a note to say they were unarmed.  They do not cover all the estates in Ulster, for example, the muster rolls covering most of the manors belonging to Sir Arthur Chichester,  earl of Donegal, are either missing or were never included in the muster rolls. Chichester held a large area of land in south Antrim, which took in the towns of Belfast and Carrickfergus.  Others are mentioned such as Archibald Edmonston’s lands of Broad Island, and William Redding, Peter Hill (son of Sir Moyses Hill of Malone) and John Dalway’s land near Carrickfergus, all in the barony of Belfast. Had they been preserved, it would have revealed a unique insight into the English and Scottish population in south Antrim.  It may also have highlighted if there were already Millikin or Mulligan settlers in the area, as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms came to a head in Scotland in 1638 with the signing of the National of Covenant against the introduction episcopal rule over the Presbyterian Church by Charles I, King of England and war broke out the following year. It became known as the First Bishop’s War and the Second taking place in 1640. Sometime during 1639 or 1640, the brothers left behind their family and friends, but who were these brothers?

Two years after the out-break of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, an epidemic of disease swept through the towns of Belfast, Carrickfergus, Coleraine and Lisburn, claiming the lives of many soldiers and settlers who had remained in Ulster during the early years of the civil war in Ireland.  Robert Mullikin (styled Millikine in his Will) was one such settler who died in Belfast in 1643.  There are two copies of Robert’s original Will, which was destroyed in 1922, one the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and the other in the Bodine Manuscript compiled by Gustave Anjou.  Robert made his ‘last will and testament’ on 15 August, 1643, and in it, he his beneficiaries, which include the names his brothers, Roger, James, Gilbert and John. To his wife Janet, he left all his moveable and unmoveable belongings, that is, his land, house and it’s contents, and to his brother John, he left his five yards of broad cloth, sword, duffel coat, saddle, pistol and a cloak. To his sister Bessie, he left a suit of black cloth.  His will was witnessed in the presence of William Clugston, [merchant of Belfast], and [Roger?] Mullikin and [William?] Adair.

"The inventorrie of the goods of the said Robert ther is tenn cowes and a heifer and a cowe ….. from my leetenant in Dromor Lieut Dobbin is due to me twentiefive shillings sterling and the half of on browne cowe that was vallued to twelf shillings sterling for my shaire due by the said Lieut James Dobbin, ther is also a black horse and a gray meare vallued to five pounds sterling: both one acker of sowne land with corne vallued to fourtie shillings ster ther is due to my by John McClelland the younger for wine and expence …ther is due eight shillings to me ..

I leave my brother Roger M [paper torn away here] one cowe and another to my brother James Millikin the Elder [paper torn away here] ……to my sister bessie a shuit of black cloathes to my brother Gilbert [paper torn away here] I leave to my brother John five yardes of broad cloath with my sworde and duffle coat and sadle and pistoll and a cloak

Debts due by me to William Clugstone seventeen shillings and foure pence sterling, likways I am due to Philip Moores wyfe some little money that I cannot call to mind I leave it to her owne discrettion likways due by me to my brother John seven shillings sixpence

I leave to my wife Janet almoveables and unmoveables whatsoever belonging to me excepted what I have within written left to my friends".

Dated at Belfast this present day 15 August 1643 in presence of us witnesses

robert milliken [his mark]

William Clugston

[paper torn]  igan

[paper torn]  ndair

[There is no note of Probate]

On the back of the Will is written the following:-

"as for the black horse he sould him before he decesed and the grea mare she died taken more of the goods paid to Docter Sheile three pounds sterling mor paid to Docter Hearne nine shillings foure pence more a cowe that was divident in Dromore was not gotten at this taken of the Will of Robert Mulligan deceased."

[Extract: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), T.731/1]

The second copy of Robert’s Will, which is almost identical to the PRONI copy, is found in the Bodine Manuscript compiled by Gustave Anjou a professional genealogist who researched the family history of the Bodines of Philadelphia, USA, in 1902[1].  There are two minor differences between the Bodine and PRONI copies.  In the Bodine copy, Robert had "tenn cowes, and a heifer and a cow to be recaivie from my lietenant coronell in Dromor", whilst he left "one cow and another to my brother James millikins childr".  The word "coronell" doesn’t appear in the PRONI copy, which simply refers to "my leetenant in Dromor".  Anjou believed the word Coronell referred to the surname of a Lieutenant in the army, but could never identify anyone by this name.  In the second, the word "childr" (children) is mistaken for "elder" and should read as James Millikin the Elder, indicating Robert’s brother had a son also called James.

Anjou apparently did not realise that the word "leetenant" is an old Scots term used to describe a rented portion of land with a dwelling house.  It comes from the French word lieutenant, lieu meaning "place", and tenant, "holding held by tenure".  He was correct in assuming, however, that "Dromore" refers to the town of Dromore, which lies several miles south of Hillsborough Castle in Co. Down, the seat of Colonel Arthur Hill of Hillsborough.  It is evident Robert was still in active service as a soldier when he died in 1643, but it is not clear to me if he actually lived in Belfast or was simply garrisoned there.  The reference to "my leetenant in Dromore" clearly indicates Robert held property in this town, which was the seat of the bishopric of Dromore.  In 1611, the Plantation Commissioners reported that Dromore was a small settlement with only a few recently built houses, yet by 1630 it had a population of 184 and was a flourishing market town. However, the land around it was described by Sir William Brereton in 1636, as being poor and unsuited for tillage (see Raymond Gillespie’s Colonial Ulster: The Settlement of East Ulster 1600-1641 (Cork, 1985), pp.  21-22)

"Robert Mulligan”, and three of his brothers, Gilbert, James and John are listed in the troop of horse lead by Maj. Edmund Matthews in Col. Arthur Hill’s troop of horse, which was mustered at Malone near Belfast on 26 April, 1642. Matthews appears to have been appointed lieutenant-colonel of a company of foot in the regiment of Sir Arthur Chichester of Belfast by September 1642. Robert’s brother, “Roger Mulligan”, along with “Hugh Mulligan”, were soldiers in Matthews’s company of foot. Matthews also continued to hold his troop in Hill’s regiment, and after the disintegration of Chichester’s regiment in May 1644, he was granted a post in the Marquis of Ormond’s forces around Dundalk. He came from the town of Dromore, where at the out-break of the Rebellion, news of the uprising reached him on 23 October,1641, the same day it reached Sir Arthur Chichester at his house in Carrickfergus. The news was received with incredulity, but the next morning Matthews took out as many of the town as he could get to go along with him, which were about twenty, on little nags, and rode towards the Newry area, to hear what news he could discover and learn about the rebellion.

“When he had rode about four miles to the side of the Bann, he saw near him, on the other side of that river, a party of the rebels of about five hundred men; upon which he made an halt with his men, and sent one of them over to demand the cause of their assembling, and what were their intentions. The rebels sent him word, their design was to fire all the protestants out of the country; and as a specimen of what was to be expected from them, immediately set an house on fire, which was the first that was burnt in those parts. The colonel hereupon returned to Dromore, where he found the bishop, (who had in his absence received certain intelligence of the rebellion) and all the inhabitants preparing to quit the town, and carry off their families and goods; and it was with great difficulty that he prevailed with the bishop (after he had sent off his lady and children) to stay himself, and thereby encourage others to do the like. Colonel Matthews made it his business to get together all the horses of service that could be found in the country; and on Monday morning having intelligence that five or six hundred of the enemy were advanced to a place in the neighbourhood, he made up about one hundred horse and eighty foot; these he divided into two parties, took one under his own command, and put the other under one Crawford, with orders to meet him on a spot of ground which chanced to be possessed by the rebels. Crawford arriving at the place before him, was startled at the number of the enemy, and began to retreat, which encouraged the rebels to pursue him in a disorderly manner; but the colonel coming another way with his horse, and falling upon them, scattered as they were, they immediately betook themselves to their heels, and were hotly pursued by the horse, who killed about three hundred of them without the loss of one man on their own side. The colonel ran some danger in the action, being closely engaged with two of the rebels, but was relieved, and both his adversaries killed. When he returned to Dromore, he found the town in a manner deserted, the bishop and all the substantial inhabitants (except one Boyd a merchant)having taken the opportunity of his absence to march off with bag and baggage, and the poorer sort ready to follow the example; nor could he prevail with these to stay, without Boyd, whom he was forced to put in prison, when he could not persuade him by fair means to stay”.

[The Life of James Duke of Ormond (Oxford, 1860), Vol. 1, pp. 374-75]

The muster rolls of c.1630, list the names of 156 British tenants of Theophilus Buckworth, the “Lord Bishop of Dromore dwelling on his land and in the town of Dummoore, with others residing in the Lower Euvagh”, which include the names of "John Mulligan", and “Walter McMulligan”, each only had a snaphance (R. J. Hunter’s ‘Men and arms’ (Belfast, 2012) p. 171). Walter’s name immediately follows John and it seems, McMulligan was probably intended to imply Walter was John’s son. I am of the opinion Walter is a mistake, and could be William or even Robert. The lands held directly by the Bishop were spread across the town and parish of Dromore and other parishes.  In Buckworth’s report of the diocese of Dromore in 1622, reference is made divers other small tenements in Dromore and some parcells of land adjoying leased to several tenants at will or small terms (see E. D. Atkinson’s Dromore, An Ulster Diocese). During his search, Anjou apparently uncovered a certain document found in the "Dromore Collection", which recorded a conveyance of land made by "the widow of Robert Millikine, deceased" to her son John for "one acker of sowne land in Dromore" dated 8 June, 1653.  The Dromore Collection appears to refer to the documents related to the Bishopric of Dromore, apparently destroyed in 1922.

If the 1653 reference to the widow of Robert Mullikin conveying one acre of land to her son John is in fact authenticate, and at present, I have no reason to doubt it isn’t, it would directly link Robert to the town of Dromore in 1641. There is another old "M" tradition in Ireland, which is found in the Rev. Ridlon’s book.  It narrates how that Robert John Milliken was a native of Ayrshire and scion of an old and respectable family of agricultural pursuits who early established themselves on the southern border of Caledonia.  Inconsequence of religious persecution Robert with others of the name, when a young man removed to the north of Ireland and sat down not some distance from Dromore in the county of Down. This tradition differs in detail from the Banbridge and Ballyskeagh, and seems to refer to a family who settled perhaps settled later in the seventeenth century. The will of Robert Mullikin very much supports the fact five brother had already settled in Co. Down, and interestingly, Robert, Roger, Gilbert, James and John Mullikin all served under the command of Lieu. Col. Edmund Matthews, who was a recognised military leader in the town of Dromore in 1641.

Robert’s brother Roger Mullikin is known to have lived in Dunmurry and leased a farm in the townland of Ballyfinaghy near Belfast from the Earl of Donegal.  Roger had two known sons, Robert and Thomas; the former died in June 1678. The 1669 Hearth Money Rolls of County Antrim list the names of the Wid. Millekin and Thomas Millekeyn (1666, Mulliken) in The Falls, Patrick Millikin in Lower Malone and Gilbert Millikin (1666, Mulliken) in Upper Malone all in the parish of Shankhill (Belfast), Gilbert Mathew and Saunders (Alexander) Millikin in the parish of Drumbeg (John Stewart paid 2 hearths one property and 2 on another one) and John Millukin in the parish of Lambeg (S. T. Carleton’s Heads & Hearths: The Hearth Money Rolls and Poll Tax Returns for County Antrim 1660-69 (PRONI, 1991), pp. 39). The widow was probably Roger’s wife, and she is believed to be the sister of Gilbert Mathew of Dunmurry. Of Robert’s remaining brothers, Gilbert could possibly be identified with Gilbert Mullikin in Upper Malone, whilst the identities of John and James Mullikin are less certain. We know of others who also lived on the County Antrim side such as David Mulligan of parish of Derryaghy in 1675, Robert Mullikin of Lisburn, and Thomas Mullikin and Andrew Milligan in the parish of Blaris between 1665-1710, but none of their names appear in the 1669 hearth money rolls.  Across the river Lagan, on the County Down side, the hearth money rolls have not survived, yet it is evident from the baptismal registers for the Presbyterian Churches of Lisburn and Drumbo, several families lived in these parishes.

To be continued ….