Blue Plaque tribute to Larne-born novelist who became ‘significant 19th century literary figure’

A Blue Plaque will be unveiled during Ulster Scots Language Week in tribute to a Larne-born novelist who introduced the first Ulster-Scots family to American literature.
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Dr. James McHenry, who was born in Larne in 1785, became a novelist, editor and playwright in the United States, but returned to live in his native Co Antrim.

It was while engaged in work as US Consul for Londonderry that he caught a chill which led to his death in 1845. He is buried in the Smiley family plot at St. Cedma’s cemetery in Larne.

McHenry is regarded as one of the founders of ‘American frontier Gothic’ in literature, and as an editor he was one of the first to introduce the literary world to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The plaque will be located at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre. Photo by GoogleThe plaque will be located at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre. Photo by Google
The plaque will be located at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre. Photo by Google

Another of his claims to fame is that he was the first novelist to introduce an Ulster-Scots family into American literature, which he did in 1823 with the Fraziers of Co Londonderry in the novel The Wilderness.

His novel O’Halloran, or The Insurgent Chief, was based on the events of the 1798 Rebellion, which he witnessed at first hand as a young boy in his native Larne, where Presbyterians played a major part in the insurgency.

He and his wife and family lived in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and among his acquaintances was fellow-writer Edgar Allan Poe.

The plaque in McHenry’s honour will be the 271st blue plaque unveiled by the Ulster History Circle and will be located at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre by Jane Allen DL, Deputy Lieutenant of Co Antrim, on Friday, November 24, during Ulster Scots Language Week.

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Sponsored by the Ulster Scots Agency, representatives of the local civic community and Ulster Scots groups are among those expected to attend.

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “James McHenry’s life is bookended by his birth and death in Larne, but it was in America that he became recognised as a significant 19th century literary figure.

“The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this Ulster-American writer and U.S. Consul with a blue plaque in his native town. The Circle is particularly grateful to the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support, and to Larne Museum and Arts Centre for their kind assistance.”