Bringing history alive at Glenarm’s Walled Garden

Bridget McNeill with local historian Felix McKillop at the art exhibition in the Walled Garden, Glenarm Castle. INLT 31-606-CON
Bridget McNeill with local historian Felix McKillop at the art exhibition in the Walled Garden, Glenarm Castle. INLT 31-606-CON

A NEW art exhibition showcasing the Scots-Irish connection of many Glens families has gone on display in Glenarm.

Bridget McNeill, who lives near Dunoon in Argyll, is a frequent visitor to Co Antrim, where her family ties go back generations. Originally acclaimed as a landscape painter exhibiting at the Syon Gallery in London, she has more recently become established as Scotland’s foremost historical artist.

Having worked on emigration from the remote island of Barra, the clan seat of the McNeills, Bridget was inspired to explore her own family’s emigration back and forth to Co Antrim in the 14th and 18th centuries.

Driven by her passion and love of the Glens and its people, who are part of her story and identity today, Bridget has decided to depict her ancestral link to the Glens by hosting an exhibition in the Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle.

She said: “I have researched the Scots-Irish connections of many families of the Glens. Members of my family have lived in the Glens of Antrim since coming from the island of Gigha along with the MacDonnells of Islay in the 13th century.

“The principal Gaelic names in the Glens are MacMullan, MacNeill, MacAllister, MacAuley, Kennedy, Kilpatrick, MacBride, O’Neill, Hamill, MacDowell, MacConnell, MacCormack, McKeown, MacKay, McSparran and MacDonnell. These families, coming to the Glens along with the McNeills and the MacDonnells, are still found in the Glens today. For example, the family of the late great historian, Malachy McSparran, one of the founders of the Glens of Antrim Historical Society in 1965, came to the Glens from Gigha.

“As both an artist and storyteller, I am very privileged to be able to preserve the unique social and ancestral history of the people of the Glens to prevent the past being forgotten.”

Bridget points out that history is repeating itself in the Glens, as due to lack of employment here at home, young people are once again emigrating to the Americas and Australasia in search of work.

As well as the art on display at the Walled Garden, there will be story telling, period costume and artefacts. The exhibition will run until August 31.