by NEIL GREENLEES
of Northern Ireland's best known travel writers received his
initial inspiration for a book about the River Lagan after
enjoying a much needed glass of cold clean water from one of the
fountains supplied to the City of Paris by Lisburn aristocrat
Sir Richard Wallace. A thirsty Ian Hill had come out of a jazz
club on the French capital's left bank in the early hours of a
summer morning some decades ago and saw a young man drinking
from an elaborate fountain by the Pont Neuf. He was assured the
fountain, one of the 50 surviving 'Les Wallaces' was safe to
drink from and he learned 'Les Wallaces' had been given to Paris
by Sir Richard during the Prussian siege of 1801.
"Later, back home, I discovered much more about this m'Lord
and his Ulster connections and vowed there was a book to be
written about him," Ian continued. "But years were to pass
before the idea for a book about the whole run of the Lagan, 'My
Lagan Love', would offer the opportunity to return Richard the
favour he'd done me, one hot night in Paris."
Ian explained Sir Richard was the son of the Marquis of
Hertford and either the ballet dancer Maria Frangipani or Scots
woman Agnes Jackson, described as a 'daughter of the regiment of
the 10th Hussars.
"Whatever his provenance Dick, a dapper man given to brocade
jackets and a Parisian accent, inherited much of Piccadilly,
Paris and Lisburn," Ian continued.
'A generous landlord, he lowered Lisburn's rents, improved
its housing and left it an elegant courthouse, the Assembly
Rooms, Wallace Park and the 'University and Intermediate School'
which became Wallace High, plus his own stylish home, Castle
House, which later became 'The Tech'."
Writing the book also allowed Ian to answer for himself the
question 'who do you think you are'?
He explained while working as Director of the NI Tourist
Board he received a package containing "an elegantly scripted
family tree, tracing the Hill family from the founding of
Hillsborough, 'on a Lagan tributary', right up to the present
day. "Seductively, on two distant branches of the heraldic
chart, stood my own name and that of Anna Hill of Ormeau,
overlooking the Lagan, mother to the Duke of Wellington," he
"There were also un-proven legends linking my mother's
family, the McCartans, with that of General Charles De Gaulle,
President of France. If you know him for nothing else, he was
the extremely tall chap in uniform threatened with assassination
in Frederick Forsythe's novel and film, The Jackal."
Research for 'Lagan Love' took Ian to the Public Records
Office, the online 1901 census and the shelves of the Linen Hall
and Ballynahinch Libraries.
"I found P.J. Clarke's memoirs of Drumaroad which proffered
the clues which, as it were, completed the circle, confirming
the lineage of the McCartans of Slieve Croob, the Lagan's
source, from Anthony's departure for France after backing the
loser at the Battle of the Boyne to De Gaulle's death in 1970,"
he explained. 'My Lagan Love' contains fascinating facts and
stories about the river and people who have lived close to its
The book, published by Cottage Publications, was launched
recently at Lisburn City Library.