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Irish planters & merchants: McCalmonts

The McCalmonts had an involvement in Berbice from as early as 1799, when McCalmont, Crafts & Co owned two plantations on the west sea coast. ‘H McCalmont’ was a signatory of an address to the Governor of Berbice in 1803 but in 1805 [van Batenburg, Kort Historische] his interests there were represented by John McCamon.

This appears to be Hugh McCalmont (1765-1838) of Abbeylands, Co Antrim.

A series of letters to Hugh McCalmont from a Dr John Crawford in Baltimore, written between 1798 and 1805, are addressed to him variously at Demerara and London [Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, ms 1246]; and other letters are addressed to him at London from 1803.

In 1814 one of McCalmont’s slaves, February, was rewarded with a silver medal, presented by the Court of Policy of the colony, for his role in revealing a plan for an uprising of enslaved Africans. February was a slave on Plantation No 19 on the west sea coast.

From 1819 a Hugh McCalmont owned plantation Hope & Experiment (lots no 15 & 16) on the west sea coast, with 285 slaves. The returns were made on his behalf by John Maclennan but a Hugh McCalmont was certainly in the colony in 1823 when he wrote the following letter:

Since I last wrote you I was on a Bush expedition for twelve days in search of Quamima (of Pln Success) & other ringleaders in the late insurrection, on the Morning of the fourth day we fell in with an immense Camp they had made - Corn & Rice were beginning to spring all round it - they fled long before we reached having a large swamp area to cross they seen us - we destroyed everything & came back to the back of Pln Mon-Repos & renewed our search the next day - when we fell in with him & six more - We shot him & took him - the other, Richard - a head ringleader got away & is not yet taken. We gibbeted Quamima in front of Success Estate - all the others have since been hanged.

[Hugh McCalmont to this namesake, Nov 28, 1823, unpublished private letter in the author’s possession: Empire, enslavement, and freedom in the Caribbean, Michael Craton, (Kingston 1997)]

Quamima hanging at Success [Joshua Bryant, 1823]

This letter was from a Hugh McCalmont to a Hugh McCalmont, suggesting that by this date it was a younger relaton who was managing the family’s interests in Guyana. In 1826 there is a letter from a James Calley, manager of a plantation in Berbice, to the owner Hugh McCalmont in Belfast [National Galleries and Museums on Merseyside, Maritime Archives and Library: 1995 Accessions (DX/1544)]

Hugh McCalmont's family [link to family tree on Ancestry.com - subscribers only]

Hugh McCalmont (1765-1838) married Elizabeth Allen Barklie in 1807. There son Hugh McCalmont (1810-1887) was, at his death, one of the richest men in the country, leaving over £3m, acquired through the merchant bank McCalmont Brothers of London.

This latter Hugh McCalmont was an uncle of the Unionist politician Hugh McCalmont MP (1845-1924).