Although there is no authentic record of the Dill ancestry in Ireland, it is commonly understood that they were of German or Dutch descent and that the first of them, David Dill, came over to England as a soldier in the army of William, Prince of Orange.
David obtained a grant of a large district of country, extending from Rye, near Rathmullen, to the bottom of Fannet. Tradition says that the region being so barren, his large flocks and herds which he had brought along with him, perished from want of proper sustenance.
Disheartened and discouraged, David gave up the grant as worthless and settled in a place called Aughadreena. It would seem that here prosperity attended him so that he became a person of note and influence in the neighbourhood.
About 1640 David married a Miss Catherine Sheridan. Catherine was a regular heroine and a person of good position, who had, when the town of Drogheda was besieged, stole away at midnight with her servant, through a window and in nightdress and on horseback fled to the north of Ireland.
Together David Dill and Miss Sheridan had three daughters and four sons. One son was Francis Dill b 1675.
Their property in Aughadreena was divided in four equal parts between their sons.
The second son, was described as a man of most remarkable amiability of spirit. He married Miss Rebecca Anderson in 1720 and apparently had need of all his amiability of temper as his wife was a lady of very high spirit, who transmitted a good share of her own character to her posterity.
However, together they produced three daughters and two sons. Their eldest daughter was Peggy, who died 6 weeks after her marriage, from a fever caught from one who had been at her wedding. On her deathbed, Peggy made her Mother Rebecca, give both of her hands and promise to watch over her temper. There was a visible change afterwards, though to the last, even when paralysed, Rebecca kept a stick, to the great terror of all her children, who did not know when a crack would come off their skulls. One child, a son being John Dill b 1726.
John Dill was noted as being of splendid physique and of such high character, that when Mr Patton of Springfield Manor House in Fannet was leaving the country, John was offered the opportunity to lease the property at a nominal rent. This offer was too attractive to be rejected, but such was John’s affection for his brother Marcus, that contrary to the advice of Mr Patton, he divided the farm between Marcus and himself and took up residence there.
Springfield Manor was a large three-storied, sixteen-roomed manor house and very valuable farm, consisting of about 300 acres of mountain and arable land, exceedingly fertile, resting on a limestone bed and producing crops of every kind in great abundance. The situation was beautiful, commanding a view of the finest scenery and the most magnificent landscape. The house itself was a fine old mansion, its walls were six feet thick and so grouted as to stand for ages, its apartments were large and capacious and the grounds were tastefully laid out. A very high and gently sloping hill stood behind the mansion. On climbing to its top as all visitors to the place and neighbourhood were sure to do, you beheld a landscape unsurpassed in beauty and magnificence; behind, the broad Atlantic, its waves rolling and murmuring on its rocky coast; on the left the beautiful Lough Swilly, with its sandy beach and stretching right in front, the Mulroy, winding in its serpentine course along the dark blue mountains of Rossgull away to Milford.
In summer a variety of wild flowers decked every nook. The approach to the house was through a long broad avenue, lined on both sides with immense elm trees whose branches meeting and intertwining formed a beautiful arcade. Every hill and piece of rocky ground was planted, extensive orchards and gardens were well cultivated and contained fruit trees of all kinds, bearing all manner of fruit in the greatest perfection. It was in this grand old mansion and in this fertile spot that the two brothers settled down. Unfortunately, Springfield became ruinous and was demolished in 1968.
John and Marcus Dill’s descendants had a very significant theological and academic impact in Ireland producing doctors, lawyers and ten Presbyterian ministers. The Dills have been potent in the Irish Presbyterian Church for over 80 years, their mark has been clear upon the general work of the Church. It is said that John Dill of Springfield survived an assassination attempt by a redcoat soldier. The Dills were suspected of being secret members of the United Irishmen.
John was a very superior man, a description of him by his grandson Professor S.M. Dill in a memoir says: “He belonged to that middle class of society which combines, perhaps more than any other, the qualities of energetic industry with mental culture and a severe morality. To the cultivation of a large farm he added the business of tanning, occasionally engaging in some mercantile speculations and was always in very comfortable circumstances. He was remarkable for his great physical strength and agility and stories are still told in the district of wonderful feats performed by him. All his domestic arrangements were made on the grand old Puritan plan. Thrift and industry were sanctified by the work of God and prayer. Family worship twice a day, consisting of the reading of Scripture, singing of psalms and prayer was felt to be as necessary as the daily work or the daily meal. The same Puritan strictness characterised the observance of the Lord’s Day.”
John Dill married Susanna McClure on 10th October 1764. Susanna was from a highly respectable family who lived near Convoy and who have been distinguished in the persons of Sir Robert McClure, the Artic explorer.
Both John and his wife lived to a good old age having produced eight children (6 sons and 2 daughters). Almost every member of this family was highly celebrated for their reasoning powers, their quick perceptions and acute logical powers, more than by their eloquence, that they excelled most of the other ministers in the Synod of Ulster. The very fact that they saw their way so clearly to all their conclusions, caused them to have strong wills; but their strength of will was closely connected with a desire to do what they believed to be right. Hence, it came to pass that when they had formed an opinion that a certain principle was truth, or that a certain course was right, no fear of man, no ties of friendship, would deter them from advocating what they believed to be a Divinely-revealed truth, or from pursuing the course which they were persuaded was the path of rectitude and justice. One son being John McClure Dill. b 10th September 1774.
John McClure Dill
was the fifth child and fourth son of John Dill and Susan McClure. It is said he was a man of much intelligence and remarkable humour. He married Anna Scott of “Oakbank” Ramelton County Donegal. It was here at “Oakbank” where the couple settled down and produced four children. One of those children was Anna Scott Dill b c 1800.
Anna Scott Dill
married Mr Gamble at “Oakbank” Ramelton County Donegal c 1825 and together produced four children. Their second child and second son was our