The Dennison Family of Drimdutton

This document refers to the Dennison family of Drimdutton, Carrigart, Co. Donegal, descendants of the Rev. John Denniston and/or his family, who came to the area around 1746. The main source of information on the early members of the family are quotations from the books of the late Dr. Leslie W. Lucas. These are based on research by Dr. Lucas, family tradition, and the recollections of neighbours. What follows are quotations from these books and some independent research by family members. For sources please see the bibliography page.

Dennison otherwise rendered as Denniston, Deneston, Denison among others, is a fairly common surname in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. It is comparatively rare in the rest of Ireland. The family is most likely Scots-Irish in origin and some sources give its origin as central Scotland where there is today a district on the Clyde called Dennistoun. The name is now also widespread in the U.S. It is likely that the branch of the Dennison family, which came to Carrigart, arrived in Ireland with the Plantation of Ulster about 1609 or later during one of the frequent changes of regime in England (Cromwellian rebellion, etc) between then and 1690. The Denniston family is said to be descended from a Captain Denniston who fought for King William III at the Boyne, where he showed great bravery, riding into the ranks of the Jacobite troops and putting his horse's hoof through one of their drums. This appears to be no more than a family legend and no supporting evidence for it has been found. It is possible that there were Dennistons at the Boyne (there was at least one in Derry during the Siege and it is know that many of the beseiged followed the Williamites to the Boyne)

The Rev. John Denniston was the son of James Denniston and was born in Co. Tyrone. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, as sizar, at the age of 19, on May 26, 1733, and took his B.A. degree in 1737 and his M.A. in 1740. He was ordained a priest of the Church of Ireland in 1741, and was curate of Ramoan in the Diocese of Connor (1748) and of Greyabbey in the Diocese of Down. In 1752 he was living in Ballynester in the latter parish. In 1750 "Todd granted to John Denniston the lands of Glenree and Coole, together with Derryfad, Drumnakilly, Cashell, Ruskey, Dunlowey, Lynagh and Dore, which lie outside the parish of Mevagh". On May 23, 1752, Denniston leased to Philip Graham of Glenree, the lands of Glenree and Coole. A John Denniston, possibly the same man, was curate of Aghanunshin, near Letterkenny, in 1773. The Rev. John Denniston appears in the Clements Estate Maps, 1779, as lessee from Drimdutton, Kill, Umlagh, Glenkeo and Drimnamona; James Denniston is given as occupier of Kill.

George and William Dennison, Drimdutton appear in the Tithe Applotment Books of 1827. In the Ordnance Survey Field Books, 1839, Miss Denniston is given as landlord for Kill. John Denniston (possibly the Rev, John) was living in Rosapenna House in 1786. In 1858 George Denniston had a house, offices and land in Drimdutton; Letitia Denniston had two houses in Carrigart, she was sexton of the church there. This branch of the family is now (nominally) Roman Catholic. [From Mevagh Down the Years, 3rd. Edition, p 77] The origin of this parcel of land is also described in Mevagh Down the Years. The account also gives some idea of the value of the land at the time: In 1710 Harrison granted to Edward Evans the lands of Glenree, Coole, Derryfad, Drumnakilly, Cashell, Ruskey, three parts of Downlooey, one third of Dore, one third of Lynagh or Cyany, now in the possession of Edward Evans, for the term of 31 years at £354 per annum. This lease was renewed in 1715 for 61 years at £340 per annum. In 1714 the Hamilton estate granted to Robt. Evans of Glenree, gent., the lands of Umlagh and Glencho at £324 per annum. In 1730 Alexander Sweeney sold Tirlachy to Edward Evans for £350. Edward Evans appears to have surrendered his lease between 1743 and 1750 , and his land was then taken over by the Rev. John Denniston. Evans died about 1783. [From Mevagh Down the Years, 3rd Edition, p 65]

In 1746 Elizabeth Evans transferred to the Rev. John Denniston her title to the leases of Glenree, Drim, Umlagh, Glenkeo and Kill and other goods and chattels belonging to her brother Edward Evans for £35 a year. She retained a quarter of Glenree for her lifetime. This deed was witnessed by George Swenny of Dunmore and Edward Cawther of Carrigart, Horse Breaker. In 1751 or 1752 the Rev. John Denniston came to live in Glenree. His wife's name was Charlotte, and he apparently had at least three sons, William of Drumdutton, James of Roshin and Edward of Cocksheath, and a daughter Ann, but Edward may have been a grandson. In 1752 he let Dunlewey to James Finlay of Killult and this later passed to Robert Finlay of Cashell. In 1762 Denniston is described as "of Birdfield, Co. Donegal", and in 1779 he was living in Rosapenna House, where he seems to have died, sometime between 1786 and 1795.

Letitia Coll, otherwise Denniston, known locally as Leitis an Bhell, was sexton of Mevagh parish church Carrigart (Church of Ireland), for 40 years. She was a grand-daughter of Dr. Theaker Wilder, Oliver Goldsmith's tutor in Trinity College, Dublin. She died on August 23, 1863, aged 88 years. [From Mevagh Down the Years, 3rd Edition, p 202]

Letitia Denniston (c.1775-1863), who was sexton of Mevagh parish church, may have been the daughter of James of Roshin.

In the Register of Deeds in County Donegal, William Denniston is given as having the freehold of Drumdutton in 1768 [From Mevagh Down the Years, 3rd Edition, p 76]

George Dennison is given as living in Drimdutton in the Ordnance Survey Field and House Books, 1837 [From Mevagh Down the Years, 3rd Edition, p 159 note change in spelling of surname]

Edward Denniston married Anne Hodson about 1795 and they had three children, but the marriage was not a happy one, for in 1808 they came to a full and final resolution to live separate and apart from each other. Edward was dead in 1820 and had succeeded by his son, John.

The will of Ann Denniston, Creeslough, was proved in 1840. Ann was James's daughter and the Rev. John Denniston's niece (according to a short obituary in the Londonderry Sentinel).

In 1796 Edward Denniston let to Christopher Graham of Devlin, farmer, Drumnamonagh, bounded on the north by the sea, on the west by the part of the lands of Umlagh commonly called Lime Park, McNutt's Umlagh and Spamount, on the south by Glencho and on the east by Carrigart, together with all Lands, Moss or Turbary formerly possessed by Richard Moore, for the lives of John Graham, Robert Graham and Richard Graham, at a rent of £319.6.9, renewable on payment of a fine of one Barley Corn. John Graham was then aged 12, Robert 4 and Richard 3, they were all sons of Christopher Graham. This lease was witnessed by Robert Martin of Carrigart and James Meenan. Another deed of 1809 was witnessed by Thomas Grier and Thomas Martin, both of Carrigart.

William Denniston is said to have married Molly Stewart from Faugher, Port-na-Blath, Co. Donegal; he died about 1831. He was probably the father of George Denniston, who was living in Drumdutton in 1827.

George was succeeded by his son Manus (1829-1887) (called Manasses on the headstone inscription), who was in turn succeeded by his son, George. This George was followed by his son, Manus, who died in 1943, and was followed by his son, also named Manus. [From More About Mevagh, 2nd Edition, pp15-16]

In 1878 Neil Friel signed an agreement with the Leitrim estate as a yearly tenant for houses in Carrigart. He ran a public house there, but when he married Rose Coyle he moved to Downings, and his property in Carrigart was taken over by his brother Michael, who built a small hotel there about 1890. He married Catherine Denniston of Drimdutton, built the present Carrigart Hotel in 1910, and died in 1916. The hotel was run by the Friel family for some years after this. In 1934 it was taken over by Miss M. A. Maguire. [From More About Mevagh, 2nd Edition, p51]

Bohunny School in Dunmore was established on March 4, 1844 ... James O'Donnell taught from April 22, 1879, to May 31, 1880, and was followed by Sarah Kerfoot, who was still there in 1882. The teacher in 1886 was Mrs S. Dennison (Sarah Kerfoot married George Dennison in 1886). A new building was erected in Umlagh that year and on Nov 15, 1887, the school was transferred to this and re-named Carrigart school. The land for the new school was granted by James Watt of Claragh, and vested in trustees for 65 years at 1d. per year. On the 31 December, 1887, Sarah Dennison left. [From More About Mevagh, 2nd Edition, pp58-59]