A mile outside Carrickfergus you will come to Boneybefore, the ancestral home of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States. The sign on the Causeway Coastal Road is too small and easily missed but a visit to the cottage is both interesting and unique. If you want to go inside you have to make an appointment with Carrickfergus Council or visit on a Friday or Saturday between 11 and 3pm when it is manned by voluntary staff from Kragfergus, a local living history group.
The restored cottage was originally built in the 1750s and one of a dozen similar cottages in the locality. It is not where his parents emigrated from, unfortunately the identical cottage was demolished to make way for the railway in 1860 and stood fifty yards away from this one, today a blue plaque marks the spot. His parents Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson emigrated to America in 1765. Andrew Jackson (junior) was born two years after his parents had arrived and settled in the Waxhaws on the border of North and South Carolina. His father tragically died in February 1767, three weeks before he was born after injuring himself lifting a log, he was aged 29.
Also attached to the cottage is an exhibition dedicated to the United States Army Rangers. They first entered the European Theatre of War in 1942 when the 1st Ranger Battalion was recruited, trained and billeted in Carrickfergus. They saw active service in North Africa and Italy, the majority of the 500 volunteers came from the 34th Infantry Division and of those 500 only 87 survived the war.
Along the road a short distance on the opposite side is 'Fool's Haven', a well kept thatched cottage which dates to the same period as the Andrew Jackson Cottage. On the wall is a blue plaque to Ruddick Millar (1907 - 1952) Titanic Orphan, Journalist, Author and Playright. His father Thomas Millar had been employed by Harland and Wolff as a engine fitter and worked on the engines of both the Olympic and Titanic. He then joined the White Star Line and after one voyage aboard the 'Gothard' was assigned to the Titanic as a Deck Engineer. His wife Jeannie who is buried in Victoria Cemetary, Carrickfergus, died in January of 1912 leaving Thomas with two young boys. Thomas decided to go out and settle in New York where he would continue working for the White Star Line and bring the boys out when he had set up home. While this was happening the boys were being taken care of by their Aunt Maud at the cottage in Boneybefore. Before he left he gave each of them (William Ruddick and Thomas) a new penny and told them not to spend them until he came back. Sadly Thomas Millar was lost with the Titanic and his body never recovered. He is remembered on the Titanic Memorial at Belfast City Hall and also on his wife's grave in Carrickfergus. The two pennies he gave to his sons are still with the family.
For those who are interested at Ballynure which is approximately a nine mile drive inland, in the old graveyard opposite Christ Church (Church Road, Ballynure) there is a plaque to the author Jonathan Swift of 'Gulliver Travels' fame. He was responsible for and ministered in the church at Kilroot. Although he lived at Kilroot, the church there was said to have been in ruins at the time, the other church which he preached in was at Templecorran, Ballycarry.
In the graveyard at Ballynure you will also find an ancestral connection to Mark Twain, the pseudonym of the author Samuel Leghorne Clemens. One of the oldest headstones belongs to Ellinor Clements, the daughter of Alexander Dallvay (Dalway) who died in 1698, aged 35 ,she was married to Edward Clements. The Clements were originally known as Clemens and their history in the area goes back to the time of King John (1210) when lands were granted to the family. Nearby you will find Clements Hill (between Straid and Ballynure), this is the ancestral lands of the Clemens and to which the author refers in his writings.
Another famous American, Sam Houston, is connected to the townland area of Ballyboley which is three kilometres from Ballynure. A plaque at the entrance to Ballyboley Forest on the Shane’s Hill Road marks the area where his ancestors came from. John Houston and his family emigrated to Pennslyvania in 1735, they later moved to Timber Ridge, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. Sam Houston was the great, great grandson of this John Houston. His father was Samuel and his mother Elizabeth Paxton. He was born in Timber Ridge, Virginia in 1793 and died in 1863 at Huntsville, Texas. During his life he was Governor of two States, president of Texas twice and a US Senator. He was a friend of the Cherokee Indians all his life and with whom he lived for six years. Most people will know him and his association to the Alamo and the struggle for Texan Independence when he led the Texan Army to victory and turned the tide against the Mexican army. The city of Houston is named after him. It is amazing to think that here within a few miles we have the ancestral roots of three great Americans.