Jackson cottage is a key tourist site, and deserves its makeover

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Several American presidents have had close Ulster ancestral links.

A larger number have had more distant, but nonetheless traceable, connections to the north of Ireland (as it was when their forefathers set sail).

Of them all, Andrew Jackson is the closest that we have to a Northern Irish president of the United States.

He was born in 1767, his parents having left Carrick in 1765.

There is even a theory that the time lag between boat departure and his birth is shorter than that, and that he was conceived on the westward journey to the New World.

The Andrew Jackson cottage, in Boneybefore near Carrick, is a small attraction, yet one of the most interesting and important historical sites in Northern Ireland today.

The cottage itself tries to recreate the essence of the 1700s, and is alongside a minor, modern museum annex that looks at wider connections between the east Antrim area and the US (for example during World War Two, when many American soldiers were based in Northern Ireland prior to D Day.

Tourism is growing in Northern Ireland steadily each year, to a greater extent perhaps than almost anyone thought to predict even as recently as 20 years ago.

With Americans a key component of those visitors, the Andrew Jackson cottage is deserving of the £250,000 that has been spent on it to give the site a makeover, including restoring the thatched roof and the traditional wooden beams.

Our daily serialisation of Belfast News Letters from 1739, exactly 280 years ago, has been a constant reminder of the Ulster-America link. It was a time when boats were beginning to head out across the Atlantic with significant regularity, around two such journeys a year (later in the 1700s to become much more frequent). This was before the major waves of Italian and Irish immigration and is one reason why the Scots Irish played a pivotal role in the emerging colonies.

It is a fascinating historical link to a global superpower that we are right to cherish and promote.