Monday, 28 December 2009

Alexander Knox MD

In 1875 Alexander Knox MD (1802-1877), a retired medical doctor who was then living at Strandtown, published a History of the County of Down.  The book has been out of print for many years but recently I came across a copy in the Assembly library at Stormont.  The staff had been reorganising some of the books and this volume, which had been in a store, was put out on the shelves. 

There are a number of interesting things in it including the following observation (p 617,618) about the homes of the people living in Ulster after the settlement at the start of the 17th century.
Subsequently to the settlement of Ulster, a better class of buildings succeeded, constructed according to the ideas of the different residents. The English settlers, adopting the style of their native country, erected their houses to the height of two stories, with sash-windows and roofs of slate. The Scotch limited their buildings to one story, having glazed leaden windows, and coverings of thatch, whilst the Irish were content with cabins, sometimes built of mud, which, though humble in appearance, were still a marked improvement on the creaghts, which preceded them.

Although the book was written back in 1875 Knox was very well aware of the 'three traditions' in Ulster, which is so essential to a proper understanding of subsequent history.  In fact he had a better understanding than many contemporary writers.

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