The diaries of James Harshaw, Esq., of Donaghmore, Co.Down

Repository: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Identity Statement

TitleThe diaries of James Harshaw, Esq., of Donaghmore, Co.Down
Archive ReferenceGB 0255 PRONI/D4149
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1818-1997
Extent Medium6 volumes


Creator(s): Harshaw, James, b 1797 Robie, Marjorie Harshaw

  • Administrative History ↴

    James Harshaw was born in 1797 and married Sarah, daughter of William Kidd of Kiddstown in 1816. They had twelve children, whose names and dates of birth are recorded at the start of volume 4. The Harshaws were a prominent family in the locality of Donaghmore and James Harshaw was a central figure in the community. The diaries reveal that he was an elder in Donaghmore Presbyterian Church, treasurer of Donaghmore Dispensary, and a well to do farmer. He also served as a local legal figure arbitrating in land disputes, acting as a witness, and executing wills.
  • Archival History ↴

    The diaries of James Harshaw of Donaghmore consist of 6 volumes dating from the 1830s to the 1860s. They were deposited in PRONI during the autumn of 1996 by the efforts of Marjorie Harshaw Robie, an American who descends from one branch of the Harshaw family. It seems that the diaries had been recently re-discovered in the United States and their historical importance recognised. They were offered to PRONI as the most obvious home for records which had such relevance to Northern Ireland. Thus their deposit was a final home coming for the diaries. It has been suggested that the diaries were taken to the United States by James Harshaw's youngest son, Samuel, in 1865 and after his death they were passed onto various family members. However, the volumes were used as a major source by Rev. J. Davison Cowan, rector of Donaghmore for his history of the parish which was published in 1914. It appears that he may have travelled to America during his researches for the book. After this it seems that they lay forgotten in a bank vault until fortuitous circumstances brought them back into the public domain and initiated their return to Northern Ireland.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Harshaw, James, b 1797 Robie, Marjorie Harshaw ↴

    The six volumes provide a wealth of information about the daily life of James Harshaw and his activities. They reveal an intimate and perhaps unique insight into the pattern of life as experienced by a fairly wealthy farmer during the mid-nineteenth century. The diaries are of immense value to anyone interested in social and economic history, and also to the local historian as he reports on virtually every aspect of rural life. The volumes record the daily farming activities and practices relating to flax, oats, potatoes, a host of vegetable crops, cattle, etc., etc. The diaries also contain interesting accounts for scutchers, ‘streekers’, beetler and attendants, farm labourers and for goods sold, etc. These accounts give details of the work done by farm labourers, how many days were worked and how much they were paid. The pages are full of information about local baptisms, marriages and deaths, and regularly mention families emigrating to the United States or Australia. This personal account provides useful material for professional genealogists or anyone tracing their family history.
    Religion was of central importance to James Harshaw, and it occupies a prominent part of the diary. The famine in Ireland is also covered by the diaries. The appearance of disease amongst the potatoes is first noted by James Harshaw, on the 7 August 1848 [see volume 1] and he also mentions efforts of a local relief committee.
    The sixth diary of James Harshaw concludes in January 1864, however, their story does not end there. It turned out that PRONI had a microfilm copy of the final diary, MIC39, which contains the last entries of James Harshaw and a sketch by Andrew Harshaw, a son of James, telling of his father’s illness, death and funeral. Thus the story is complete.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    D4149/A Diaries
    D4149/B Photograph
    D4149/C Newspaper print-out
    D4149/D Typescript diaries

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions The collection can be consulted in the reading room in PRONI in accordance with PRONI's rules and regulations.
Conditions Governing ReproductionItems may be copied for personal research use only. If a researcher wishes to publish any documents from this collection, a request must be submitted in writing to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Creation Dates1818-1997
Extent Medium6 volumes
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids A descriptive list is available to search online at: Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialMIC39 Ewan (Newry) papers and Hardshaw diary

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NotePRONI Archivist
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997. UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
Date of Descriptions41699