A relative of one of Larne’s most prolific business leaders has made an emotional trip to the town to pay tribute to his memory.
Audrey Mahony – a direct descendant of James Chaine, who founded Larne Harbour and built the local railway – travelled to Larne from her home in Dubai with her husband Sean to lay a wreath at Mr Chaine’s grave.
The trip also provided an opportunity to see a new plaque which has been erected at the family grave in memory of Audrey’s,mother, Denys Chaine-Nickson and uncle Michael Henry Chaine Nickson. Michael was killed in action in Normandy on July 27, 1944.
Audrey confirmed that James Chaine had been buried upright “in full yachting attire” because he “loved to sail”.
Also buried in the elevated plot are James Chaine’s wife Henrietta, their sons James and William, his wife Christina and Audrey’s grandparents Rachel and Augustus Chaine-Nickson. Augustus was a nephew of James Chaine, who changed his surname by deed poll.
James Chaine died in the Olderfleet Hotel, in May 1885, from pneumonia, aged 44.
During their visit, the couple were given a tour of Chaine Memorial Tower, known locally as “The Pencil”, accompanied by Larne mayor Councillor Martin Wilson, his wife Margaret and Linda McCullough, council director of development.
The party climbed a spiral metal staircase to the top of the tower, finishing their ascent by ladder.
Construction of the tower was funded by donations from the people of Larne as a commemoration to Mr Chaine’s contribution to the development of the town. It was completed in 1888. The Commissioners of Irish Lights converted the tower into a lighthouse in 1899.
Mayor Wilson said: “Such a memorial is an indication of the high esteem in which James Chaine was held.”
Mrs Mahony said that Mr Chaine could be credited with bringing prosperity to Larne through providing employment at Larne Harbour.
Mr Chaine bought Larne Harbour, including the lands of Curran and Drumalis, for £20,000 from the Agnew family, in 1866. At the time, the harbour’s annual income was just £50.
However, James invested heavily, refurbishing its quays and facilities, promoting Larne as a port and re-establishing the Larne-Stranraer passenger service in 1872. A mail route was established in 1875 and a trans-Atlantic service between Glasgow, Larne and New York began in 1873. Using the renowned State Line vessels, this service continued until December 1889.
In 1878, the railway was extended to the harbour and, to provide travellers with accommodation, he opened the Olderfleet Hotel.
Mrs Mahony said that Mr Chaine hated to sleep, a trait she says has been inherited by other family members. She indicated that he also had plans to build a castle at Cairncastle.
At a reception in the Mayor’s Parlour, the visitors were presented with a gift of boxed linen, which was particularly fitting as the family once owned a prosperous linen business in Belfast.