William Waring's portrait hangs proudly at the top of the stairs of the house that he built in 1667. He is seen as the patriarch of the family dynasty that was so influential in the development of the area, the province and of the country. His father John had left his home in Lancashire and settled in the Barony of Toome; he chose a property close to Glenavy on the shores of Lough Neagh. John married Mary Peers the daughter of the Rector of Derriaghy and together they seeded and firmly rooted the tree of the Irish Waring family.
In 1619, William the eldest son was born; it was a time of great strife and insecurity in Ireland. The ‘Nine Years War’ that signalled the practical demise of the old Gaelic order and the country was preparing for what was to be the last hurrah in 1641. He was brought up with strong Christian ethics at a time when Christian considerations were clearly missing from the treatment of Irish citizens. The 60,000 acres of land that stretched from Antrim down to the Lagan valley had been taken from the Gaelic O’Neil family by the English regime and given to Fulke Conway; there he settled English and Welsh ‘stock’ including William’s father John.
A great deal can be known about this William Waring and what influenced him in his life, from the rich legacy of his letters, diaries and aide-memoires that have been preserved in his home. What is most striking about this man was his humanity and ability to garner loyalty from all sections of the community. He was acutely aware of his English roots and his apparently privileged position as a Protestant juxtaposed to that of his Catholic English extracted compatriots who had settled, with similar aspirations, only a couple of generations earlier. He was born Irish and he along with everyone else was subject to the penal trade rules that England used to protect it’s financial interests from competition from Ireland. To William there were only two ‘classes’ of people who were resident in Ireland – the landowners, who were recent settlers, old adventurers or Gaelic chieftains and the other ‘class’ were those who worked the land.
The modern populist view is that religion was the primary driver that created the ‘broken’ Ireland that William witnessed and we inherited. My extensive research on the three main branches of my Irish ancestry leads me conclusively to a very different view. The people of Ireland were instead divided by their aspirations; on the one side were those who wanted autonomy to live in peace and build resources and a future for their descendants in a country that they could influence the administration of and on the other side those who saw the resources of Ireland as an opportunity to create wealth or influence for themselves in England. The American colonies faced the same dichotomy, which they resolved in 1776.