Glendarragh is one of the larger Victorian villas which were constructed on the edge of Londonderry during the nineteenth century. It is situated just off the Letterkenny Road and is approached via a long private driveway. There is a distinct whiff of the Italianate about the property which is probably accentuated by the external white paintwork. It was constructed on lands which belonged to the Honourable the Irish Society by a Matthew McClelland for his own use. This gentleman was a builder by profession and operated his business from Sackville Street.
As originally constructed the property provided commodious accomodation for its owner. On the ground floor there was a drawing room, a morning room, study and dining room as well as a kitchen, pantry, scullery and various stores and a servants' dining room and a servants' sitting room. The first floor rooms comprised six bedrooms for the family and four servants' bedrooms together with a linen room, a bathroom, a store and toilets for the family and domestic staff.
The initial lease from the Irish Society to Matthew McClelland was for a total of 4a 35p. He was granted an eighty year lease from 29th September 1878. The lease was dated 10th March 1880 and reserved a ground rent of £21.10.00. Subsequently a further 6a. 2r. 22p was leased for the same term at an additional ground rent of £1.00 pa. The map above shows what was the full extent of the holding.
Unfortunately Matthew did not enjoy his new property for very long. He passed away on 21st December 1880, being survived by five children. His house was left to his eldest son, Matthew McClelland Junior. There was at least one other child but that child had had the doubtful accolade of being the first interment in Londonderry's City Cemetery. As an aside it is perhaps interesting to note that Matthew McClelland was the builder involved in the original construction of the Apprentice Boys Hall in Londonderry.
Ownership of the leasehold estate in the property remained in with Matthew McClelland Jnr. until his death. He left the entirety of his estate to his friend Hope Watson for life with remainder to his children. This lady sold the residue of the leasehold term to the Londonderry Corporation on 30th March 1944. It is believed there was an intention to use the house as a quarantine facility in connection with the Port in succession to a property near Moville. The Corporation sublet the outbuildings and approximately an acre of ground on a short term lease to a William Mitchell of Foyle Street and a Patrick J Kelly of 144 Fahan Street Londonderry for use as a pig rearing establishment. These entrepreneurs had a contract to collect the swill from the various military and naval establishments around the City.
In 1951 the Corporation purchased the freehold reversion in the property from the Irish Society. Ownership by the City Fathers was only retained until 29th December 1955 when the entire property was sold to Elizabeth B Gordon, Kathleen Moody and Samuel Moody by way of a 999 year lease reserving a ground rent of £1.00. Since then the ground rent has been bought out and the original holding now has three distinct ownerships.
Returning to the McClelland family. Matthew McClelland Snr settled the sum of £2,500 on each of his three daughters. One of the girls, Lydia Matilda McClelland married a Dr. James Acheson McCullagh who was the City Medical Officer. This gentleman was to serve as Mayor of the City for three years in the last decade of the nineteenth century and was ultimately to receive a knighthood for his services to medicine. His sister was Lady Emily Glenavy. Another of the McClelland girls, Mary Elizabeth McClelland married William Ellliott Cairnes who at the time of the marriage was a Lieutenant in the South Staffs Regiment. As well as the £2,500 from her late father the marriage settlement comprised some 760a of lands in the Parish of Piercetown, Barony of Upper Dunlech and County of Meath. Elliott rose to the rank of Captain but his importance rests with his writings which were to contribute to the army reforms during and post the South African War. He held Lord Roberts in great esteem and produced a rather eulogistic biography entitled, " Lord Roberts as a Soldier in Peace and War."