Select McElroy Miscellany

Here are some McElroy stories and accounts over the years:

McElroys and McIlroys in County Down

Both the McElroy and Mcilroy names appeared in county Down.  The earliest record was of a John McGylboy who was the Canon of Dromore around the year 1406.  Six McIlroy families were recorded living in Kilkeel parish in the 1659 census.  The table below lists some names in the 18th century:

Elloner McAlroy
marriage to Leonard Dobbin
James McElroy

will probated
John McElroy
a Protestant at Banbridge
Alexander McIlroy
leased land from Lord Annesley
James and John McIlroy
flax growers

Among later names in county Down were:
  • Archibald McIlroy, a JP from the Drumbo parish.  He later emigrated to Canada but was killed when the Lusitania was sunk in 1915.
  • and James (Gus) McElroy of Drumnaquoile.  Born in 1892, he was a renowned fiddler and still performing with his three sons on his 80th birthday in 1972.

Henry McElroy and the 1798 Uprising

Henry McElroy was born in 1774 in Drumgooland parish in County Down.  As a young man he lived through the 1798 uprising.  He and his family were Protestant Episcopalians and were loyal to the Government in Dublin at the time.

But other McElroys were not.  There was a record of the McElroys near the Mournes being taken as suspects.  Hugh and John Mcllroy had been among the Protestant Dissenters (i.e. Presbyterians) listed for Drumgooland in 1775.  Most of those who took part in the uprising were either Presbyterians or native Irish. Richard McElroy of Kilkeel parish sold his home in 1800 and was thought to have left for America.

Sarah McElroy of Bucks County

Sarah McElroy of Bucks county in Pennsylvania was a very beautiful and popular young woman.  In 1798 she was the occasion of a fatal duel between two army officers.

In the burial ground of St. James' church in Bristol, a stone marks the grave of Captain John Sharp of the Tenth United States Infantry, the challenger.  Nearby is the grave of Sarah who died unmarried

James McElroy and His Three Wives

James McElroy who arrived in Australia on the James Fernie in 1856 was married three times and he apparently outlasted all three of them.

The first was named Margaret and they lived at Ballymore in county Armagh.  She must have died by 1856 as he departed for Australia with his son by her, James, and with his second wife Rachel nee Trouten.  They settled in Maitland, NSW and raised nine children.  Then Rachel died.  James married a third time, to Susan nee Armstrong.  However, a year after their marriage Susan McElroy drowned in the Hunter river.

James Elroy of Drumnaquoile

In 1972 there was an 80th birthday celebration in Castlewellan for the fiddler James McElroy.  Traditional musicians came from all over the county and a large crowd of guests from other parts of Ireland, England and America.  It was obvious that this man and his family were held in high regard.  But then the musical McElroys of Drumnaquoile were indeed a legend in these parts.

Old James McElroy learned the fiddle from his uncle Frank of Legannany and he in turn taught many young fiddlers around county Down.  He acquired the nickname of Gus at an early age because he used to imitate the local stage comedian Gus McCormick.  He was so good at it the name stuck.  He was good also at mimicking animal sounds.  Once he used this trick to make two dogs fight each other.  He would also call cows in from the fields by mimicking a calf.

Gus played the fiddle for the usual ceili dances and the Polka Mazurka and Highland Fling.  Gus and his sons were always 'wild for dancing.'  When not playing music themselves, the McElroys would travel all over for a dance or a céilí.

His son Dan was still farming the original McElroy holding at Drumnaquoile, now completely livestock-based. All the McElroys have memories of an agricultural lifestyle that has now completely disappeared - growing barley, potatoes, flax; harvesting the flax and putting it in water holes to rot; cows calving and calves dying; their mother made butter at home and travelled on the bus to Newcastle to sell it around the doors. They were all born in the same tiny bedroom 'beyond the low room.'

Reader Feedback - Matthew McElroy in Liverpool, NSW

I am searching for my ancestor Matthew McElroy, baptized in 1794 in Dundalk Louth, who was transported to NSW. in 1817 on the Chapman.  He was married to Sarah McGoveran in 1824 by the Rev. Thierry in St. Mary's church in Sydney.  They had one daughter Mary Ann, born in 1822, and lived on York Street in the 1828 Census. 

Matthew was a contractor of the Parramatta roads and earned his pardon in 1821.  He was friends with a Michael Dwyer (a policeman buried at Waverly cemetery with his wife) and a Michael Conroy.  They lived in Liverpool, NSW.  

I am having a hard time to find his and wife Sarah's burial date.  No one seems to know. Mary Ann married a John Tindall in 1839 the All Saints Roman Catholic church in Liverpool


Janet Pritchard (

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