Belfast Telegraph

Home Archive People

Was Teddy Roosevelt an Antrim man?

Document suggests former US First Citizen had his roots in east Antrim hamlet

By Eddie McIlwaine

If you blinked driving through Gleno, nestled in the splendid east Antrim countryside, you could miss this picturesque little hamlet altogether.

The population is less than 100 and the greatest sound on a busy day is the rippling of its waterfall.

Indeed, the nearest thing to an argument you'll hear in the street is whether the name should be spelt Gleno or Glenoe. To some people that final 'e' is important .

But Gleno - or Glenoe - apparently just might have one claim to fame: could it be the ancestral home of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909?

I only mention this Roosevelt connection today because memorabilia collector and historian Gary Campbell has come across a yellowed paper in an old book about Larne which comes up with the information that Theodore could trace his stock back to a family called Bullock in or near to Gleno.

"But the facts are sketchy," admitted Gary. "I'm intrigued by this scribbled information in a tattered old volume I received in a bundle, from whom I haven't a clue.

"There must be a plaque somewhere about presidential connections.

"I know a few occupiers of the White House were associated with this district."

My research hints that Theodore, who was born in New York City, had a regard for the Irish and was planning a trip to Ireland in his retirement. Only ill health prevented him making the arduous sea journey.

Don't forget that many Irish settled in New York, which might explain a Roosevelt connection.

Politican Roy Beggs, who will retire from Larne Borough Council in March, is also intrigued by the suggestion of a Theodore connection with Gleno, where he lives.

"It is a fact that President Andrew Jackson (in office 1829-1837) had connections with east Antrim and especially Carrick," he told me. "And President Andrew Johnson's (1865-1969) family came from Raloo, just up the road from Gleno.

"I have never heard of the Roosevelt connection, but who knows everything about those olden times?"

Roosevelt retired from politics in 1884 when his wife Alice died giving birth in February that year and his mother died in the same house on the same day.

He was brokenhearted and took up cattle ranching. But he made a comeback to become Governor of New York and from there made his way to the White House.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

But what about his Gleno connection? Will we ever know for sure?

Relative confusion over familial relationship between two Presidents

Still more on the Roosevelt name. It has always been a puzzle to me trying to work out if the two Presidents of that name were related even though there were years between them.

Yes, I know that any sixth form history student will give me a ready answer. But there has always been a doubt and not just with me.

For example, in one pub quiz I witnessed, the answer was that Theodore and Franklin D (FDR), the wartime leader and friend of Churchill, were related to each other in some distant way.

Then, weeks later at another quiz, the quizmaster was adamant that there was no connection.

So, there you are - I know that historians everywhere will now be in touch to provide me with an answer. But will they be right or wrong.

Actually, I will not be losing any sleep on the matter one way or another.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph