Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect and mason, active in Cos. Down and Derry. James McBlain worked for Wills Hill, first Earl of Hillsborough, at Hillsborough, Co. Down, in the 1760s and early 1770s. This work included the spire on Hillsborough church, which.he built with his son DAVID MCBLAIN DAVID MCBLAIN . Later in the 1770s he was engaged on building the spire of the Protestant cathedral at Derry for Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry, and by the end of the decade he was working on the Bishop's new house at Downhill, Co. Derry. He was still working at Downhill in 1786, when he was facing the house in freestone, and in 1791 he contracted to face the inner walls of the courtyard similarly.(1) He died aged sixty-two on 28 April 1792 and was buried in the family tomb in Dunboe old churchyard, Downhill, with the remains of his wife Jane, who had died on 21 April 1784 at the age of fifty-three, and a three-year-old granddaughter.(2) The Bishop of Derry pronounced himself 'heartily sorry' for the death of 'an honest man - not a double-tongued one, like some ungrateful scoundrels whom I raised from dirt'.

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References

All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from C.E.B. Brett, Court Houses and Market Houses of the Province of Ulster (UAHS, 1973), 70, and Peter Rankin, Irish Building Ventures of the Earl Bishop of Derry (UAHS, 1972), 15,22,23,28,33,40,50,53.

(1) Information from Peter Rankin, letter to IAA, 6 Dec 1999. In the interval between 1786 and 1791 James McBlain may possibly have returned to Hillborough; according to Brett, a James McBlain was on the Hillsbrough rent books in 1787. Brett suggests that there were two James McBlains, father and son, of whom the latter produced 'drawings…for numerous projects for the 2nd and 3rd Marquesses..till at least 1819'.
(2) Inscription on grave kindly supplied by Peter Rankin.


4 work entries listed in chronological order for MCBLAIN, JAMES


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Building: CO. DOWN, HILLSBOROUGH, CHURCH OF ST MALACHI (CI)
Date: 1775a
Nature: Spire designed and built by JB with David McBlain.
Refs: P. Rankin, Irish Building Ventures of the Earl Bishop of Derry (UAHS, 1972), 10 ;  C.E.B. Brett, Buildings of North County Down (UAHS, 2002), 39(illus.),40.

Building: CO. DERRY, DERRY, CATHEDRAL OF ST COLUMB (CI)
Date: 1778a
Nature: Work on spire, for Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry became unstable and had to be rebuilt)
Refs: Letter from Michael Shanahan to Lord Bristol, 22 Jul 1778, in PRONI, D2798/2/8 (see PRONI e-catalogue);  T.G.F. Paterson, 'The Edifying Bishop', BIGS 9 (Jul-Dec 1966), 70(illus.); P. Rankin, Irish Building Ventures of the Earl Bishop of Derry (UAHS, 1972), 10

Building: CO. DERRY, DOWNHILL
Date: 1778ca-1785ca
Nature: Various works including setting of stone of courtyard gate, 1778, quarrying and hewing stone for mausoleum, 1778 or 79, possibly lodge at Bishop's Gate, 1784, facing of house, 1785ca
Refs: Letter from Michael Shanahan to Lord Bristol, 22 Jul 1778, in PRONI, D2798/2/8 (see PRONI e-catalogue);  T.G.F. Paterson, 'The Edifying Bishop', BIGS 9 (Jul-Dec 1966), 70(illus.),72(illus.); P. Rankin, Irish Building Ventures of the Earl Bishop of Derry (UAHS, 1972), 22,23,28,33

Building: CO. OFFALY, EDENDERRY, MARKET HOUSE
Date: ?
Nature: Proposed market house, for Marquess of Downshire.
Refs: Undated designs in PRONI, Downshire Papers, D671/P6/1-14E