Annie Scott Dill Maunder 1868-1947

By Michael Kennedy, Strabane History Society

Did you know that there is a crater on the surface of the moon named after a Strabane lady from the Derry Road?

ANNIE SCOTT DILL MAUNDER

Annie Scott Dill Maunder

On 14th April 1868, a baby girl was born into the family of William Andrew Russell, the minister of the Presbyterian Church at the Manse at Derry Road in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland and his second wife, Hessy Nesbitt Dill. It must have been written in the stars because this young lady was to become an accomplished mathematician, and one of the most outstanding astronomers of her time. Indeed, the Maunder crater on the moon has been co-named after this Strabane lady and her husband, Walter.

Annie was the oldest of the family of four, two boys and two girls. Rev. William had two children from a previous marriage. One of her brothers, J. Dill Russell, also became a distinguished astronomer.

ANNIE SCOTT DILL MAUNDERHer father William, son of Alexander Russell of Burnside Cottage, Raphoe, was ordained on 30th January 1846 and spent 36 years in the ministry in Strabane. According to David Killen, there were 102 communicants in the congregation of the 2nd Strabane church, some from the town and many from Lifford and rural areas. Praise for the congregation was contained in a letter from Major Humphrey, the land agent of Abercorn and father of Cecil Frances Alexander, who described Russell as:-

“…..one of the most excellent and hard-working Ministers of the General assembly….”

In 1854 Russell reported that £122-10 had been raised for the church and the building of the new manse at Derry Road. The foundation for the house was laid in 1860 and it was in that house that his daughter Annie was born on 14th April 1868.

Strabane Girls’ Presbyterian School

Strabane Girls’ Presbyterian School

Annie’s early education would have been at the “head of the town” at the 1st Strabane Girls’ Presbyterian School, Meetinghouse Street. She would have been taught by Misses Mary and Jane Henderson, and Martha S. Black (the school has since been referred to as Black’s School after the principal, Miss Black). Girls remained at elementary school till the age of 14.

Strabane Academy School in 1883

Strabane Academy School in 1883

William retired in 1882, though he was listed as Senior Trustee and Secretary of the Board of Strabane Academy School in 1883, around the time Annie was ready for her secondary education.

ANNIE SCOTT DILL MAUNDERShe attended the Ladies Collegiate School, Belfast, founded in 1859 by Mrs Margaret Byers. The school quickly acquired a high reputation for academic excellence and provided a boarding department at Drumglass House in which, no doubt, Annie would have stayed. (in 1887 the college was renamed, by Royal Command, Victoria College, in honour of the Jubilee Year of Queen Victoria).

From early days in her studies she proved to be a formidable student, and in 1886 she gained the prize for outstanding achievement; she entered the Girton University open entrance scholarship examination, and was awarded a three-year scholarship to Girton College, Cambridge University. In 1889 she was awarded her degree with honours from Girton, having achieved top place in mathematics and ranked Senior Optime in her university list. However, it must be noted that, at this time, as a female student, she was not permitted to receive or accept her B.A. degree award.

ANNIE SCOTT DILL MAUNDER

In 1891 she started her work as a ‘lady computer’ in the solar department at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in London. Lady computers were skilled assistants who were paid a miserable sum of £4 per month. She carried out routine calculations to turn raw observations into usable data. She was trained to use a telescope and part of her responsibilities was to track the movements of sunspots and to photograph the Sun.

telescope

In July 1892 she discovered a giant black spot on the sun which resulted in a magnetic storm. The significance of this phenomenon was not fully understood at the time, though by 1894 she had devised the Solar Maximum by which she had tracked and identified a high number of sunspots. In this year she joined the British Astronomical Society and soon was appointed as editor of the society’s journal, a position she held for 35 years. She often followed solar eclipses in different parts of the country, and later she travelled to India and other countries to pursue her research.

In 1895 she married her boss, Edward Walter Maunder, and, according to Civil Service rules, had to resign her research post as a result. However, she continued to collaborate with Walter and together they established the correlation between the variations in sunspot numbers and the climate of the earth. This finding continues to inform weather forecasters to this day.

shipdeck

In 1897 she received a grant from Girton College in recognition of her invaluable research work. She used the money to design her own short-focus camera with 1.5 inch lens. This camera was used to great value on 22 January 1898 while on an expedition to India. There she photographed the image of the solar corona during the total eclipse of the sun

In 1908 she published many of her remarkable findings and images of the sun and the Milky Way in a book called “The Heavens and their story” (still available on Amazon from £10-£33) Her outstanding research led to her election as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916, the first female ever to be admitted to the Society.

telescope2

Annie discovered that, from 1645 to 1715, a period of 70 years referred to as the ‘mini-ice age’ sunspots on the moon were scarce, thus leading to few magnetic disturbances and auroral displays (northern lights). From this she concluded that the variation in the number of sunspots had a direct impact on the climate of the earth. This phenomenon known as the Maunder Minimum is used in debates about climate change to this day.

ANNIE SCOTT DILL MAUNDERLittle was known of the research work of Annie and Walter until ‘the butterfly diagram’, a depiction of the 11 year sunspot cycle which shows the latitudes of sunspots change with each cycle, was identified by Dr Tom Bogdan. In 2000 Bogdan, of the High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, had the original drawings restored and realised the significance of the research work carried out by Annie Maunder.

Walter and Annie did not have any children, although she helped to bring up the five children Walter had from a previous marriage.

Up to 1916 most of Annie’s research work was published under the name of Walter. During these years of World War I Annie went back to work at the Greenwich Observatory.

Walter died in 1928, aged 76, and Annie survived until the age of 80. She died in Wandsworth in London on 15th September 1947.

Without doubt the name of Annie Scott Dill Maunder, from Derry Road, Strabane, is written in the stars.

The Life & Times of ‘Half-Hanged’ MacNaghten 1724-1761

Article Author: Michael Kennedy

MacNaghten Family CrestWhen John MacNaghten shot Mary Anne Knox in the coach at Cloghcor near Strabane on 10th November 1761, accidently or otherwise, he was hunted down by Captain Caldwell and his men as a brigand and a scoundrel. By the time he fell from the scaffold at Lifford, half-hanged, he was a romantic figure set in the folklore of his time. 250 years on the tale still abounds. Legend has it that the story was often told in front of an open hearth in many of the ‘big houses’ around the North West.

Romeo or rogue, brigand or beau, like him or loathe him, but remember him, you will! The name will attract the attention of even the not-so-curious. Not hanged, but HALF-HANGED! And when recounted to modern day primary school children they are enthralled. Frequently retold by raconteurs, or acted out on stage and television, the story is worth the telling!

On the Great Road between Lifford and Strabane on a dark December day in the year 1761 the hangman slipped the rope over the head of the nobleman, John MacNaghten. A large crowd had gathered from the surrounding hinterland of Counties Coleraine, (as County Derry was then known) Tyrone and Donegal. The story of MacNaghten had caught the ear of many a curious citizen; he had a certain romantic debonair presence and many came to sympathise. And so it was that, sent swinging from the gallows high with such force that the rope broke he came crashing down and landed among the crowd. Many in the crowd willed him to escape, claiming that this was a clear sign of divine providence. But he defied the public mood of the people with the never-to-be-forgotten words “I vow that no one will ever speak of me as Half-Hanged MacNaghten.” He returned himself to the jurisdiction of the hangman and, with a new rope, was despatched into the arms of eternity.

The MacNaghten family can be traced back to the twelfth century in Scotland with clan lands in Argyll and the Moray district. Some family members fought with John Balliol against Robert Bruce, while one fought at Flodden Field with James IV. The Irish connection arrived in Ireland in 1580 when Shane Dhu was appointed secretary to his grand-uncle Randal MacSorley MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim. He lived at Ballmagarry, in Co. Antrim, about a mile from Dunluce Castle. His son Daniel built a house along the Antrim coast at Benvarden in 1636. Ownership of the house and estate passed to Daniel’s son, John who had two boys, Edmund and Bartholomew. Edmund had been born on 10 August 1679 and was taken to Derry by his mother at the time of the siege for protection from James II’s troops. He inherited an estate at Beardiville in Co. Antrim, while Bartholomew took ownership of the estate at Benvarden. Bartholomew was a merchant in Derry and a magistrate for Co. Antrim. He married the daughter of Alderman Henry McManus from Derry and had two sons, Bartholomew and John. John was born in 1724 (though Sir James Caldwell (Ref.1) claims he was born in 1722).

Prior School Raphoe

Royal School in Raphoe in Co. Donegal by Kenneth Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13694538

John received his early education at the Royal School in Raphoe in Co. Donegal. He graduated to Trinity College, Dublin in March, 1740. In Dublin John adopted a cavalier life style and spent more time gambling than studying. Sadly in August 1740 his father died and John inherited Benvarden, a substantial and fairly prosperous estate with an annual income of £600. His studies were curtailed and he left Trinity the following year, 1741. He continued to gamble heavily and, in order to repay his debts, he had to sell and mortgage large parts of the estate.

His fortunes were somewhat restored when he met and fell in love with Sophie Daniel from Co. Down. Sophie was the daughter of Richard Daniel, Dean of Down and, on marrying her, MacNaghten was able to pay off his accumulated debts with the substantial dowry inherited by Sophie. With the promise of reforming his gambling ways the newly weds set up home in Dublin. (Note 2)

But alas, he was unable to sustain his pledge to her and soon returned to his gambling ways. By 1756 he had accumulated significant debts and a warrant was issued for his arrest. In the confrontation that ensued the sheriff had to smash down the door to access the house, to take John into custody. His wife, Sophie, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy, was so upset by the incident that she died in the commotion. It is said that MacNaghten was heart-broken and contemplated suicide. Friends and family rallied to his support. Sophie’s brother-in-law, Lord Massarine, used his considerable influence to have MacNaghten appointed to the post of collector of taxes for the borough of Coleraine, a job which paid him a salary of £200 per year. John however had not changed his ways and soon had accumulated debts of £800. He was guilty of embezzlement of some of the tax money, was caught and lost his job. Massarine and friends had to repay the deficit.

In his hour of greatest need John MacNaghten was offered the hand of friendship from a life-long acquaintance, Mr. Andrew Knox of Prehen, an estate on the south side of Derry City, on the road to Strabane. Andrew was the M.P. for Donegal and had two children, George aged 18 and Mary Anne, aged 15. Macnaghten, in his desperation, had made several attempts to solve his solvency problems by unsuccessfully seeking the nomination for Parliament for the constituency of Bath. Success in this would have left him immune from arrest for debts.

Benvarden House Co. Antrim

Benvarden House Co. Antrim by Kay Atherton, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13545310

It so happened that Mary Anne Knox, who was a fine looking young lady, with light fair hair and fine complexion would, on marriage, inherit a dowry of £6,000. Mary Anne was greatly impressed at the attentions shown to her by this handsome, witty and sociable gentleman. Her mother Mrs. Knox was also impressed by MacNaghten and viewed him as a possible son-in-law. Benvarden House, Co. Antrim

According to Caldwell’s account of events it was at this point that circumstances seemed to accelerate for John and Mary Anne. MacNaghten believed that an offer of marriage would find favour with Mary Anne’s father so he approached Andrew with his proposal. Mr. Knox, who had by now become fully acquainted with MacNaghten’s past, turned him down. John asked that no further mention should be ever made of this offer, but he continued to woe Mary Anne and indeed led her to believe that her father had agreed to the match, though the agreement had to remain secret.

Mary Anne Knox

Mary Anne Knox

Shortly after this an event was played out which had a Mary Anne Knox significant influence on the plot. At the home of Joshua Swetenham in Derry MacNaghten and Mary Anne play-acted a marriage ceremony, reading the words of the service which were witnessed by a seventeen year old Andrew Hamilton. From that moment on that John MacNaghten claimed that this was a true marriage ceremony. Mary Anne, however, countered this claim by saying she had repeatedly added during the mock ceremony, “only if my father gives his consent”.

Unaware of these events Andrew Knox approved of MacNaghten and Mary Anne travelling to stay with a friend, William Wray, at Ards in Co. Donegal. They were due to stop at the home of John McCausland at Strabane and it was here that, according to the London account of 1762, John MacNaghten claimed his right to consummate the marriage. McCausland naturally refused, sent word of the affair to Andrew Knox at Prehen and forbade MacNaghten from travelling onwards with Mary Anne. MacNaghten followed after her and made the same claims at Ards. At this stage word had reached Andrew Knox. Mary Anne was sent home under escort and John MacNaghten was forbidden from visiting Prehen ever again.

There followed a series of claims and counter claims in the newspapers as John MacNaghten claimed Mary Anne was his rightful wife. When MacNaghten came to live with his cousin, Charles McManus in Derry, Mary was sent to Sligo as the family feared she might be abducted. MacNaghten followed her to Sligo where he encountered a friend of the Knox family, John Magill, M.P. for Rathcormick. They fell out and MacNaghten challenged Magill to a duel. Due to the influence of drink the aim of both was poor and John MacNaghten was shot in the leg.

Andrew Knox now brought the matter to the attention of the Ecclesiastical Court in Derry to ask that the alleged marriage be declared void. MacNaghten refused to allow Andrew Hamilton to act as witness but instead asked that the case be referred to the Metropolitan Church Court in Armagh. The case eventually arrived at the Court of Delegates of Ireland and Knox won the ruling and was awarded damages of £500. Writs were issued against MacNaghten by the Knox family in relation to threats made against them. The Lord Chief Justice issued another writ against MacNaghten because of further threats made against Justice Scott after he had ruled in favour of Knox.

MacNaghten fled to Bath in England to avoid the writs and fines. He still had aspirations of becoming an M.P., this time by seeking nomination for the borough of Carrickfergus. But his reputation and behaviour ruled against him and he once again began to accumulate debt through gambling. It was at this time that he had gone to stay with a friend, William Hickey. Hickey recorded in his memoirs that his mother considered John MacNaghten capable of committing violent acts!

While in Bath John received word that Mary Anne was in Swanlinbar, Co. Cavan, to ‘take the mineral waters’. John made his way there dressed as a sailor, wearing a short white wig, a checked shirt and coat tied with a rope. He found lodgings in a cabin on Mary Anne’s route to the well. The landlady, however, discovered gun powder and shot hidden in the sleeve of his shirt and reported him as a robber. A warrant was issued for his arrest but on giving himself up to the bishop of Kilmore John MacNaghten soon became a celebrity around Cavan. He explained to the bishop that he had been driven by passion and love for Mary Anne to claim what was rightfully his. He persuaded people that he had been wronged by the Knoxs. His sad story, his personality and charisma won him many friends and supporters in high places.

MacNaghten had always held out hope of inheriting the large estate of Beardiville from his elderly uncle Edmund. To his dismay Edmund, aged 80, had found a young bride and was intent on producing an heir of his own. According to Caldwell this persuaded MacNaghten that he was left with only one option, the abduction of Mary Anne Knox.

Cloghcor Inn

Cloghcor Inn

On 10th November 1761 Andrew Know was due to depart from Prehen on his way to Dublin for the opening of Parliament. It was John MacNaghten’s intention to intercept the Knox party at Cloghcor, five miles outside Strabane, at a point where the road narrows. Using the alias Smith for fear of detection he had gone to the area with his trusted Cloghcor Inn servants, George MacDougal, James MacCarrel and Thomas Dunlap and had taken lodging with a hearth money collector called Irwin on the banks of the Dennett river.

From information received from some of his staff that MacNaghten had been seen in the area Andrew Knox had reason to believe that an ambush was imminent and so he mustered a strong protection party to accompany him. Andrew Knox’s brother, James and a servant rode in front, followed by Mary Anne’s brother George Knox. Locals, however, believe that many of the party’s weapons, including blunderbusses and pistols, had been rendered useless by servants in the pay of MacNaghten.

Horse Cart

The post chaise pulled in at the Coach Inn at Cloghcor before 11.00 a.m. for a change of horses and refreshments. As the group resumed the journey the coach passed the cabin belonging to the Keyes family: John MacNaghten and two others ran out from behind a dunghill, armed with pistols, into the middle of the road and demanded that the coachman halt the coach. One of Knox’s loyal servants, a blacksmith by the name of McCullough, attempted to intervene and was shot in the hand by MacNaghten. He was further shot in the knee and groin. At this point Andrew Knox drew his pistol but it failed to go off. MacNaghten then obtained reloaded pistols from the cabin and aimed them at the carriage. Mary Anne threw herself over her father to protect him just as MacNaghten discharged a pistol shot which struck the young girl. As this was going on a Mr. Love emerged from behind a turf stack and injured John MacNaghten with swan shot ( type of shot discharged from a blunderbuss). John and his companions realised the gravity of the situation and decided to make their escape from the scene of the ambush.

George Knox left the scene at a gallop to seek The Knox’s Coach help from Caldwell’s Enniskillen Dragoons stationed at Strabane. Dr. Law was sent for to tend to Mary Anne who had been removed from the carriage to the floor of Keyes’ cabin. She died four hours later. The dragoons arrived within the hour and set off in all directions in pursuit of John MacNaghten and his companions. A reward of 100 guineas was offered for his capture.

MacNaghten was much closer to the scene than the soldiers realised. He had found refuge in a hay loft in Sandville belonging to a bleacher, Thomas Winsley. It was reported that two local soldiers, Private Reed and Corporal Caldwell, had noticed Winsley’s carrying food across the farm yard to the loft. They followed her and found MacNaghten hiding above. He was taken by cart to Lifford Jail. Dunlap was later caught near his home in Ballybogey. MacNaghten was kept in confinement at the insistence of Andrew Knox as there were rumours that locals would attempt to free him. MacNaghten’s brother Bartholomew visited him in Lifford jail and paid for food and medical treatment for his wounds.

On 7th December 1761 John MacNaghten was carried on a bier into the great courtroom in Lifford. MacNaghten defended himself by claiming that he had never intended to harm Mary Anne or any other person; his intention was merely to take her away. He claimed in his defence that Mary Anne had written asking him to intercept the postchaise but the prosecution denounced the letter as a forgery. Throughout the trial MacNaghten referred to Mary Anne as his wife. He also begged that the life of John Dunlap be spared as he was an innocent man acting as a loyal servant. Legend has it that many in the court were brought to tears by the pleading and oratory of John MacNaghten.

Lifford Courthouse

© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The evidence against John MacNaghten was overwhelming. It was claimed in court that MacNaghten was heard to shout ‘Shoot! Shoot Mary Anne!’ The jury took little time in returning a verdict of guilty on both MacNaghten and his faithful servant Dunlap. Judges Mountainy, Scotard and Smith pronounced the death sentence and many in the courtroom sobbed. The high sheriff declared that the execution would be held on Tuesday 15th December 1761. MacNaghten was returned to his cell in Lifford jail and was visited by his brother Bartholomew again. The brother also called with the local minister and paid him the sum Lifford Jail & Courthouse of three guineas for the cost of burial.

According to the Belfast Newsletter account, MacNaghten was taken from the jail at 1.00pm on the 15th and remained calm as he was taken to the place of execution. It was said locally that no one would volunteer to build the gallows and members of the Knox family themselves erected the structure. It was further claimed that no blacksmith could be found to remove the fetters from his wrists. Indeed a hangman was brought in from Cavan to perform the hanging. MacNaghten made no speech from the gallows but had been assured that his head would not be displayed like a common criminal at the front of the jail.

Following the successful second attempt at the hanging MacNaghten was taken from the gallows and laid to rest in an unmarked grave at the rear of Patrick Street graveyard. The man who vowed not to be remembered as Half-hanged was thereafter immortalised in his own words.

Ref 1

One of the accounts of the life of JohnMacNaghten was printed anonymously in London in 1762. It has recently been established that the source was Sir James Caldwell. Caldwell was born c. 1720 and lived near Beleek in Co. Fermanagh. After spending time in France, Italy and Austria he returned to Ireland in 1748. In 1760 he formed a company of Light Horse Regiment and was based in Strabane. He had taken an interest in the case of MacNaghten and Knox. It was his troopers who captured John MacNaghten at Sandville.

Ref 2

Information regarding the MacNaghten family, the different spellings of the name, and reference to Sophie Daniel has kindly been provided in the following reference by Angus MacNaghten, great, great, great grandson of Edmund of Beardiville, John MacNaghten’s uncle:- Letter from Angus MacNaghten, Ascot, Berkshire to David Canning 9th May 1990

Ref 3

A concise dissertation on the human passions exemplified in the life and untimely death of John MacNaghten Esq; (lately executed for the murder of Miss Knox in which the particulars of this trial and a narrative of his conduct and behaviour, are faithfully recited. Written in Ireland by an impartial observer) London 1762

Ref 4

Some authentic particulars of the life of the late John MacNaghten Esq (of Benvarden who was executed in Ireland on Tuesday 15 December for the murder of Miss Mary Anne Knox; only daughter of Andrew Knox, Esq. of Prehen, representative in the late and present Parliament for the County of Donegal. Compiled from papers communicated by a gentleman in Ireland to a person of distinction of that kingdom now residing here. London printed: and Dublin reprinted by G. Faulkner in Essex Street, MDCCLXII. . London & Dublin 1762

Note – Recently it has been established that the author was most likely Sir James Caldwell due to the intimate details of minor characters and his defence of Mary Anne Knox)

Printed Sources

  • Half-hanged MacNaghten, David Canning in ‘Mourne Review’, Strabane History Society 1991
  • Half-hanged MacNaghten, Darinagh Boyle, 1993 Guildhall Press
  • Half-hanged MacNaghten Project, David Canning & Michael Kennedy, Strabane Teachers’ Centre 1989 W.E.L.B.
  • Andrew Knox, Bishop of Raphoe & his Descendants, Hempton (Publisher), Derry 1892
  • A concise dissertation on the human passions exemplified in the life and untimely death of John MacNaghten Esq; London 1762
  • Belfast Newsletter:
    • 14th November 1761
    • 15th November 1761
    • 22nd December 1761
  • Derry Journal:
    • 12th April 1968
  • Some authentic particulars of the life of John MacNaghten , London and Dublin 1792

Recruits & Families

Strabane History Society has been researching local newspapers of 1914/1915; Strabane Weekly News and Strabane Chronicle.

We have recorded entries found in these newspapers of those who were involved in WW1 for the period from approximately August 1914 to December 1915. We have also included data from other websites which we consider refer to the people mentioned.

We accept that there may be discrepancies in this initial research and hence the reason why we need your help.

We are trying to gather more background information on these people documented and would encourage those who have relevant additional individual and family information to come forward and help us to improve this database.

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Please contact any member of the Project Group via the Strabane History Society’s Contact Us form. We will take the appropriate steps to update the database which you can view by clicking here.

Thank you.

Project Contributors

John Dooher William Allen Hugh McGarrigle
Michael G. Kennedy Jimmy Johnston John Rogan
Pat McGuigan Ronnie Johnston

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Strabane Flood 1987

At 1:55am on the morning of 22nd October 1987, the banks of the River Mourne at Lower Main Street of Strabane burst causing a flood. It destroyed local homes and businesses.

Aidan McKelvey shot a short video on the day where he interviewed various local people who were directly affected by the flooding and those who were helping to rescue others.

You can view the video below via the Strabane History Society’s YouTube channel.

The Strabane History Society would like to thank Aidan McKelvey for the use of the video.