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Andrew Mulholland (1791 - 1866):
Linen producer; civic dignitary; philanthropist


Andrew Mulholland was a member of one of the most prominent linen manufacturing families in nineteenth-century Ulster. He served a term as Mayor of Belfast.

He was a son of Thomas Mulholland (1756-1820) and Ann Doe, who were married in Belfast in 1784; Thomas was described as a “dealer”; he bought two houses in Belfast, Upper Church Lane, in 1803 (he signed the requisite papers with an “X”) and in 1815 the family entered the cotton business, purchasing a mill, from McCammon, Milford & Bailey, in Winetavern Street, Belfast. Thomas’s sons successfully continued the concern; building an large mill in the York Street district; this was destroyed by fire in 1828, but turned out to a blessing in disguise, as the Mulhollands – Thomas’s sons Thomas, Andrew and St Clair, with the support of their partner John Hind, son of a prominent cotton spinner in Manchester - decided to rebuild the premises to produce not cotton but linen, using the recently discovered “wet spinning” process (of flax); the Mulhollands concentrated on the mercantile side of the business, Hind the more technical. The new linen mill was opened in the spring of 1830 with 8,000 spindles; in 1852 800 workers were operating 16,000 spindles and by 1856 with 25,000 spindles it was one of the biggest mills of its kind in the world.

Andrew had married Elizabeth McDonnell in 1818; they had one son, John, and four daughters. The Mulhollands as well as being among the leading linen producers were also civically minded, and while St Clair was a Justice of the Peace for County Down and High Sheriff of County Louth, Andrew was elected Mayor of Belfast for the year 1845. In his speech of thanks he undertook to initiate many civic improvements in the town but the catastrophe of the Great Famine broke, and little came of his plans. He did though contribute personally hundreds of pounds (an appreciable sum at the time, equivalent to a five-figure sum in 2014) to aid famine relief. In 1846 he retired from business leaving his son John as sole proprietor.

One notable monument to Andrew Mulholland’s philanthropy was the splendid pipe organ he presented to the Ulster Hall. That Hall, which opened in 1862, had been outbid for the instrument they had originally wanted, by St Paul’s Cathedral, London. However, an anonymous donor provided the necessary funds for what remains one of the finest instruments of its kind, constructed by Wiliam Hill & Son. The identity of the donor prompted the instrument to be known as the Mulholland Grand Organ, donated "to give an opportunity to the working classes to hear from time to time the best music from a truly splendid instrument, at such a rate as would enable the humblest artisan to enjoy advantages which even the opulent could rarely purchase until now." The instrument underwent a thorough and successful restoration in the early 1970s, overseen by Mulholland’s great-great-grandson, Henry Mulholland, 4th Baron Dunleath (the 1st Baron having been Andrew’s son John), a keen restorer of organs.

Mulholland had a Georgian house at Ballywalter on the Ards Peninsula, County Down. Originally Springvale House, substantially rebuilt to an Italian palazzo style design by Sir Charles Lanyon, the eminent architect whose outstanding work included the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, Queen's College (now Queen's University) in 1849, the Presbyterian Theological College in College Park, the Custom House, Sinclair Seamen's Church, Corporation Square and the Ulster Club. Ballywalter Park was completed in 1852 and remains in the family in the twenty-first century. It saw some years of deterioration in the later twentieth century, but after years of thorough and careful restoration became a stately home full of various objects of interest and in demand as a location for television and film shots. It was described by eminent Ulster architectural historian Sir Charles Brett as “Arguably the grandest of all the private Stately Homes of North County Down”.


Born: 2 February 1791
Died: 24 August 1866
Richard Froggatt
Bibliography:

Kathleen Rankin: The Linen Houses of County Antrim and North County Down: The story of their families (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2012; CEB Brett quotation p171 from his Buildings of North County Down, Belfast, 2002); www.ballywalterpark.com; www.bbc.co.uk/history/places/ulster_hall; www.proni.gov.uk/introduction_dunleath