Pinkerton Papers

Collection of original papers relating to the Pinkerton family, tenant farmers from Seacon More, Co. Antrim, 1795-1921. One section of the collection deals largely with family and estate matters and includes: a 1795 lease 'to John Pinkerton, the elder, Secinmore'; various Pinkerton wills including that of Samuel Pinkerton, Senior, Secon 1811; an account book, 1870-1908, relating to the Pinkerton property; photographs of members of the Pinkerton family and other individuals, c.1860- c.1914.

The main interest of the archive, however, lies in the papers and correspondence of John Pinkerton (1830-1908) who was M.P.for Galway, 1886-1900. Pinkerton rose to local prominence as a member of the Ballymoney Debating and Agricultural Societies, and as a radically minded member of the Coleraine Board of Guardians. In 1885 he stood as an Independent candidate for North West Antrim, where despite defeat, he so impressed the Parnellites that he, a Protestant tenant farmer, was adopted as the party candidate for Galway in 1886. During his career as an M.P. he appears to have been an exceptionally active 'political missionary', and was frequently called upon to speak in favour of Land Reform and Home Rule at Liberal demonstrations throughout Scotland and England. His papers reflect his prominence in all these areas and include correspondence relating to the Ballymoney Agricultural Society, 1876-78 and his role as a member of Coleraine Board of Guardians. Above all, though, his active and significant role in politics is displayed in the papers. Many political issues are covered including: Pinkerton's work towards a Bill for the temporary relief of agricultural tenants in Ireland and the admission of certain leaseholders to the Land Act of 1881'; various election campaigns; and the appointment of a Catholic President for Queen's College, Belfast in 1900.

Of much added and important interest is the inclusion in the Pinkerton collection of 13 letters of the famous Irish Nationalist, John Mitchel, 1815-75. In his first letter, 1834, he writes to his father of his dissatisfaction with his post as a bank clerk in Londonderry. The remaining letters, 1848-74, are all written to his sister, Matilda Dixon, in Dromore, Co. Down, from his exile in Bermuda, Tennessee, Washington D.C. and Paris; the American letters are of particular interest in that they reflect Mitchel's sympathy with the South and with Southern institutions during the pre-Civil War period. He did, indeed, at this time, 1854, set up and run a newspaper in New York called the 'Citizen' which strenuously opposed the abolition movement. In one letter, written to his sister on 10 April, 1859, he declared 'I am saving the South with all my might - indeed so violently that a great part of the south (besides the whole north) think me mad '.


The papers are particularly useful for students of Irish political history during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Physical characteristics

c.150 items comprising a range of documents, volumes, newspapers, printed pamphlets and photographs occupying the space of five PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference D/1078 for catalogue of the papers. The catalogues are available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


Accrual Policy
Accrual Periodicity
Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 25 August 2018