Sentry Hill – Northern Ireland History portrayed in a Family Home

I had a lot to learn about Ireland. I soon realized Ireland, the island, is divided in two.  Check the map.  Ireland is composed of  Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland which is independent of the U.K. If you say only “Ireland” then most of the population in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland thinks you mean the Republic of Ireland – the big dark green part.image

Maybe you didn’t know but the Republic of Ireland was neutral during World War 2 though many Irish did join the allied forces.

If you plan to visit Ireland or Northern Ireland its best to understand a bit about Irish history before you say anything stupid.  We tried not to let our ignorance show but I occasionally said “Ireland” when I meant Northern Ireland.  Carrickfergus is near Belfast in Northern Ireland.

All of Ireland has had about two dozen wars with the English.  Most of the time the English came out on top through better funding, more people under arms etc.

At times Ireland has been a refuge from the English. Many  highland Scotts escaped  to Ireland to avoid English persecution. (England was set against the clan system of Scotland after several uprisings in the 18th century ).

One family that left Scotland for Northern Ireland were the ancestors of William Fee Mckinney who build the house we visited near Belfast, Northern Ireland called Sentry Hill House.  At the time McKinney settled he leased his land from an English landlord, as did of 97 % of Ireland.  The landlords were almost all absentee owners who hired agents to collect the rents.  Those agents often divided the land into smaller units in order to pocket the money themselves.  There were lots of abuses.  Unless there was a written agreement between the landlord and the tenant, the agents could charge what they wanted.  Mckenny was fortunate to acquire his land with a low rate written agreement and was eventually able to purchase.

William Fee Mckenny had invested his hopes for his farm  in his son Tom who had attended agricultural school.  World War I ended those plans when Tom was killed in the Battle of the Somme (in which 60,000 men lost their lives).  After Tom’s death and the death of Mckenny the house and most of its contents were frozen in time. Though a grandson lived in the house until the late 90’s most of the items displayed are from the late 19th and early 20th century.  When you visit you will see a video that features this grandson “Dr. Joe”.  As we watched the video we realized we could not understand a word Dr. Joe was saying but we could recognize that it was English and not Gaelic.  Just as we thought were were getting the hang of the accent too!    Later we thanked the museum operator but noted we couldn’t understand Dr. Joe.  He smiled and said “Nobody can understand him.  He wasn’t wearing his false teeth and, if you notice in the film that’s a glass of whiskey he has in front of him”

Because William Fee McKinney was a collector the house has an amazing number of well organized collections.   The web site to visit is

Author: talks2trees

I'm a recent writer and retired teacher. Married for more than half my life to Ariana I am content now to travel with her to warm places while snow swirls around our home in upstate NY where we live two houses away from my son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Our daughter lives just a block away so our decision to travel is not without a consequence. However we have taken very few vacations in our married life so this journey, that starts in Costa Rica, is very new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *