John C. Stewart’s Diaries

On His Visit to the Irish Grimshaws in 1865

(Note: Webpage in preparation)

Michael Stewart is in possession of diaries written by his great-grandfather, John Cunningham Stewart, during a visit to Belfast in 1865. He has apparently provided a portion of these diaries to J.R. Colclough who has published them on a website. These diaries provide fascinating detail on the life of the Grimshaws in Ireland in the mid 19th century.


Webpage Credits


Webpage Credits

Thanks go to Michael Stewart for making available the text of a portion of his ancestor’s diaries and to J.R. Colclough for publishing part of the diaries on the internet at the following website location:

From: “Mike Stewart” <>

I am copying you 3 days of a travel diary written by my Great Grandfather, John Cunningham Stewart on his return to the Belfast area, where he was born. He was travelling with his new bride Geraldine, and meeting his relatives and old family friends. I am researching the various people he meets and describes, and someday may publish the diary. If you know the people and have other comments to make, please feel free to make your suggestions and additions. – Mike.

The diary portion:

Thursday, 1st June 1865. Looks like rain in the morning, but turned out a fine, pleasant day. I finished my letter to Arthur, and Ellen wrote a note also. I had sent him a couple of Whigs. I went to town in the 11.30 omnibus, and posted letters and papers. I also took Arthur’s photographs for Annie to Magill’s to be framed. I went to see Thomas Johnson, whose office is in

Victoria Street

near the Post Office. He is not much changed. He knows nothing of Uncle Robert Arthur, except that he has no practice and no office. His name is on the entrance door at the Victoria Chambers, but his office there has been long closed.

I bought a set of enamel studs, and a necktie today, as we dine at Mr. Conway Grimshaw’s. I went again to the Graveyard, and saw the Sexton, who went with me to the grave. He can not, nor can I, he says, possibly find out by the books, in which graves in the lot, the different bodies are. I can find, on application to the Steward at the Poor House, who are in the lot, but not who lie in the separate graves. He cannot get the grass to grow anywhere in the graveyard this spring. He cannot account for it. I see this for myself – the new growth being very scanty everywhere. I have not time to go to the Poor House today, having to go to Whiteabbey by train to see Mr. Cunningham.

I had been at Mr. Cunningham’s office in the Linen Hall this forenoon but he was not there, & the office was closed. I also went to Mr. Ward’s (the Stationer’s) but could not find an old Peerage to get the information about Grand Papa Stewart that I was in search of.

At 2 I walked down from the Graveyard to the York Street Station, and went down first class to Whiteabbey. Nicholas Grimshaw and his wife were in the train, on their way to Port Rush, & I got into their carriage. Passed Greencastle & Whitehouse, Longwood, etc. at Whiteabbey at 2.13 pm. Walked back to Macedon about 3/4 mile. Mr. Cunningham is in Scotland, so I left a card and returned to Station where I waited 1/2 hour. Back to Belfast at 3.30. Walked back to Fernville – and dressed for dinner, and with O’D. Ellen & Geraldine to Mr. Conway’s for dinner. Toby Bushell & Mrs. Bushell & Dr. Thomson were there, Annie did not feel able to go, so her place was empty beside me at dinner. After dinner the gentlemen retired to the little breakfast parlour for their punch. Then tea in the drawing room. Home at 11. I remember Mrs. Bushell perfectly. She has a regular Belfast face and voice. She is a jolly good natured woman, I think.

Tuesday, 6th June 1865 [NB: Pasted at the top of the page is a newspaper clipping: “On Tuesday, the 6th inst, Mary Frances, daughter of William Wilson, Jr, M.D. aged 22 1/2 months”]

Very fine day. In the morning I wrote to R. McClelland, asking Robt. Stewart’s address, also to Sir Bernard, Ulster King at Arms, in Dublin, asking about the restoration of our names to the Peerage. Annie & Geraldine wrote to Jane. I had a letter from Aunt Catharine from Newry. She is going to Londonderry, & will come by Belfast and see G. & me, on Saturday next. At twelve Annie, Ellen, Geraldine & I drove to town. I got my new boots from Coey’s – we then drove down to the Grove, & paid a visit to the Sinclair’s. I saw Jeannie for the first time. She is a nice mannered little thing, not pretty, but nice looking. Major Wethered was there for lunch. We then drove down to Longwood, & saw Mrs. Cameron, & Annie Dunnville and Araby Cameron – a tall girl of 14, whom I remember as a little child of 2 years of age. They were all very stiff & dignified. They were going to have a croquet party, & were evidently horrified at the idea of having to ask an extra party of four to lunch. Some of the people came in when we were there. A Mrs. Mitchell, & the Duffin girls – great tall things, whom I remember as little children. Annie D. has fallen off very much in her looks, & manner too. Jane is still faithful to her, but Annie says she is not the same honest jolly girl she used to be. The last time I remember being in their drawing room was an evening when we had charades, & I kissed Annie D. under the very pillar she sat beside today. The horse was put up in the Longwood Stable, and we walked to Whitehouse. Miss Nancy & old Mr. James are alone now. The House is being prepared for Mrs. James & the children. Miss Nancy is just the same – she seemed really glad to see me. She had only heard of our arrival that very morning. Poor old Mr. James is very shaky. He is now 95, and cannot, I think, last much longer. He seems perfectly clear in all his faculties, – but old age alone will, I fear, soon prove too much for him. He still attends to the office in the Mill. Miss Nancy took us around the garden. It is in beautiful order, & it too is being prepared for the children’s return. I remember every walk in it. It is painful for me to be here, and to miss the children’s voices. The place is the same, but the whole feeling & atmosphere of the place is altered. It is almost like being in a graveyard. Mr. James, Alicia, and Johnny are dead, since I saw them all. Miss Nancy gave us some lunch, a bag full of gooseberries, a huge bouquet of flowers – and strongly pressed Geraldine and me to go and stay with her for some days before we go back to England. She is indeed a good kind soul & seems very glad to see me –

Why, I’m sure I don’t know. It is very strange to walk through the old rooms that I know so well, & yet to find all so altered. It almost makes me resolved to not go to see old places any more. I don’t think, that when I return to Canada, I shall have the same longing to see the old places, any more. The people are changed, or gone altogether. Home at six. Geraldine has a letter from Jane. O’D. goes back to town this evening. Anthony Trollope is here from London and the local Inspector as well, so O’D. has been busy for some days. He goes to town about 10 – leaves the office again at 5. He has not really hard work when there.

His salary, he & Annie tell me, is about £330. Then he has about £100 for the sale of Postage Stamps, & about £140 from the insurance business, and about f100 from rents – making about £650 to £670 a year, so that they are very comfortably off.

In evening, we walked and sat in garden. Mr. Conway & Mary came over – we walked home with them at 8. Annie had cockles for tea on my account. They were cooked, & I ate almost two quarts of them. O’D. came home a little after nine. We were all tired, & went to bed early.

Wednesday, 7 June 1865 Lovely bright warm day. Not a cloud in the sky. I did not go out all morning, but made up my diary which was far in arrear. Mrs. Murphy was here again today & Mrs. Chas. Duffin called on Geraldine. I wrote to Aunt Mary at Ballymena, – and to Jane. The Post Boy takes the letters to town.

Not out all day – even in the garden, until dinner time. Ellen went in the Bus a and returned at  O’Donnell is having a workshop built at the end of the house – wood with a brick foundation, and the workmen are here all day long. Dinner at 6 – then dressed, and all, except Ellen, went to Mrs. Bushell’s for tea. They have a very nice house. Mr. & Mrs. Charles Duffin (she was a sister of Weston Grimshaws) & 4 girls, Mary Staveley, & 2 Miss Davidsons & ourselves were there. Very warm evening. Windows all open. Talked, music, & Toby Bushell sang a couple of comic songs. A set of Quadrilles. The 2 eldest Duffin girls I must have seen at Longwood. The second says she remembers me, but I don’t recollect either of them. Home at eleven.


Greencastle: Nicholas Grimshaw, progenitor of the many Grimshaws noted in this diary, would have lived at Greencastle, where he had a bleechgreen and where some of his children were born 1777 through 1782. He had a bleach green there. The younger children were born at Whitehouse. His son Robert owned property there when it was referred to as Green Castle in the Parish of Shankhill (Griffith’s Valuation index 1848-64). Hilary Tulloch writes in July 2000 “It looks as though it has been more or less wiped out by the M2/M5 motorway junction on the way into Belfast from the north. It is on the coast, just south of Whitehouse. There is a Greencastle Close and a Greencastle Place, small roads off Shore Road. Cave Hill is to the west and McArts Fort is situated just to the south east of the summit of Cave Hill (1,182 feet). Belfast Castle was built on the slopes of Cave Hill in 1870. The grounds of the castle are open to the public. ‘There are five caves on the hill and an earthwork called McArts Fort where Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen took their oaths of fidelity prior to the failed 1798 Rebellion.'” (Belfast, Street Atlas Guide, 4th ed. (Aug 1999), Belfast: Causeway Press (N.I.).

Graveyard – The New Belfast Graveyard –  Clifton St, Belfast.

Macedon, seat of John Cunningham.

Fernville, the home of O’Donnell (O’D.) Grimshaw & his wife Annie, who was the sister of the diarist, John Cunningham Stewart.

O’Donnell was the son of Mr Conway, or Mr Conway Grimshaw, son of Nicholas Grimshaw and Mary Wrigley.

Bushell, Ann Jane, nee Cunningham, wife of Theobald Bushell and the daughter of Ellen Cunningham and Adam Duffin. Her brother, Charles, married Theodosia Grimshaw; another brother married Maria Murphy, sister of Joseph Wiliam Murphy who married Lizzie Grimshaw. Theobald and Ann Jane Bushell did not have any children. (Cunningham pedigree, PRO Belfast T1116/11)

Bushell, Theobald, husband of Ann Jane, was a wine and spirit merchant, a commission agent and share broker, 35 North St., Belfast, and lived at Strandtown Cottage, in the parish of Holywood, Co Down (Slater 1845; Index to Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864).

Thomson, Dr. Charles Wyville (1830-1882). Born at Bonsyde near Linlithgow, and baptized Wyville Thomas Charles, the son of Andrew Thomson, surgeon in the East India Company’s service, Wyville Thomson was educated in Scotland, though he did not complete his studies at the University of Edinburgh (1845-50), he lectured first in Botany (Aberdeen, 1851), then at Marischal College at Aberdeen in 1851 where in 1853 he was granted an honourary LL.D. Dr Thomson then was appointed a professor at Queen’s College at Belfast where he remained till 1869/70 (Natural History 1853-54; Natural History and Geology 1860-70). Following his appointment at Queen’s, he was a professor at Dublin, 1869 and Edinburgh University, 1870-82. In 1868, Thomson organized expeditions to the north of Scotland, 1868; and round the world 1872-76, the basis of two books published. F.R.S. 1869; knighted 1876, when he formally took on the name Charles Wyville Thomson. Thomson married in 1853, Jane Ramage Dawson – their only son, Frank Wyville became surgeon-captain in the 3rd Bengal Calvary. (DND, vol XIX p. 716-7, 1937-8; History of Queen’s University)

The Duffin family included Charles (1814 – 1886) son of Adam Duffin and Ellen Cunningham, and Sarah Theodosia Grimshaw, the daughter of Edmund Grimshaw and Elizabeth Taylor. Theodosia, Mrs. Charles Duffin, then aged 54, had 8 children, 5 of whom were female – and it was unlikey that any were married by 1865, only Charlotte and Molly were to eventually marry. While it is not possible to state for certain which 4 of her 5 daughters came for tea at the Bushell home this afternoon, likely it was the four eldest, young Molly at 12 would not have ‘come out’ into society and was likely to have been at home. Theodosia was then 22, Bessie 19, Ellen 17, and Charlotte 16. Not mentioned were three sons, Edmund (1840-1870), Adam (1841-1924) and Charles (1850-1915).

The Cameron family. Robert Grimshaw and his wife Arabella Duffin had seven children but only Susan and Mary lived to adulthood. Susan (born circ 1812) became Mrs. Cameron in 1849 having then married Donald Meint Cameron and Mary (Margaret Mary) Mrs. Dunville, having married Robert John Dunville. Annie Dunville and Araby Cameron, daughters of these two sisters and granddaughters of Robert Grimshaw and thus were cousins. (See also Grimshaw, Robert)

Mr James. Refers to Mr James Grimshaw, of Whitehouse. (9 July 1772- 23 March 1866), son of Nicholas Grimshaw and Mary Wrigley.

Mary Stavelley: ran a school in Belfast, in 1865.

Webpage History

Webpage posted August 2004.