The Echlinville Distillery is appealing for information regarding the history of The Echlinville Volunteers – a branch of The United Irishmen who are believed to have played an active role in the 1798 rebellion in County Down.
The Echlinville team hope to include an exhibition on The Echlinville Volunteers in the distillery museum, which will be housed in their newly planned visitors’ centre. They are also seeking old Irish whiskey memorabilia for the museum, particularly anything relating to the Dunville’s Irish Whiskey brand.
The Echlinville Volunteers and the 1798 Rebellion
Anne-Marie Clarke from The Echlinville Distillery said: “The Echlinville Volunteers comprise an interesting but relatively unknown part of the rich history of the Echlin family, from whom our distillery takes its name.
“The Echlins first arrived in the Ards in 1613 when Bishop Robert Echlin, from Fife in Scotland, was appointed by King James I as the Bishop of Down and Connor and tasked with establishing the reformed church in this part of Ulster. He built his first church at the Abacy Road, just a couple of miles from where our distillery stands.
“In 1735 Robert’s great grandson Charles bought Rubane House outside Kircubbin, where our distillery is now located, and renamed it Echlinville. In 1779 Charles founded The Echlinville Volunteers, a section of The Society of United Irishmen. Established in Belfast in 1791 and inspired by the French Revolution and the new democracy of the United States, the United Irishmen brought together ‘Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters’ with the aim of removing English control from Irish affairs. They led the rebellion of 1798, which was concentrated in counties Wexford, Antrim and Down with battles in Ballynahinch and Saintfield.
“We at the distillery are keen to find out more about The Echlinville Volunteers and their role in the 1798 rebellion. We haven’t been able to uncover a lot of detail on the volunteers – who they were, their role in the rebellion and what became of them afterwards. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any information on the volunteer or indeed on the United Irishmen and the 1798 rebellion in the Ards, and would ask them to contact the distillery on 028 4273 8597 or email [email protected]”
Call for old Irish whiskey memorabilia
Already well established on the Irish whiskey tourism scene through its weekly distillery tours, the next phase in the distillery’s development will be a new visitors’ centre, which will be housed in the 17th century stable buildings in the original courtyard of the Echlinville estate, where Captain Charles Echlin would most likely have kept his horses.
Anne-Marie continued: “Our planned visitors’ centre will include a museum, which will showcase the rich history of the Echlinville estate and the Echlin family. But it will also tell the story of the iconic Dunville’s Irish Whiskey brand, which we produce here at Echlinville.
“Dunville’s Whiskey was originally produced by the Dunville family (of Redburn House in Holywood) at The Royal Belfast Distillery, just behind where the Europa Hotel now stands. Once among the premier whiskeys of the world, the closure of The Royal Belfast Distillery in 1936 meant that the Dunville’s brand all but disappeared.
“When we established our distillery in 2013, it was one of our founding goals to revive the Dunville’s name and restore it to its rightful place as a cornerstone of Irish whiskey heritage. Since its revival in 2015, Dunville’s Irish Whiskey has gone on to win a number of major accolades including an unprecedented five World Whiskies Awards.
“To help us tell the exceptional story of Dunville’s whiskey, we are searching for memorabilia from the original Dunville’s era of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Merchandise at the time would have included everything from ornate mirrors to whiskey jars and from glassware to playing cards. We are keen to hear from anyone who may have any such items.”
Anyone with information, documents or artefacts relating to The Echlinville Volunteers or Dunville’s Irish Whiskey should contact The Echlinville Distillery on +44 (0)28 4273 8597 or email [email protected]