Programme 2015-2016

Tuesday, October 13th Anne Casement: The Buildings of Garron Tower

Tuesday, November 10th Bruce Clark: The Linen Industry

Tuesday, December 8th Launch of Bellaghy Historical Society Website

Tuesday, January 12th Thomas McErlean: The Coalfields of Ballycastle

Tuesday, February 9th left open for members’ suggestions

Tuesday, March 8th Clive Scoular: Easter Rising 1916

Tuesday, April 12th Northern Ireland Screen: 1916

Tuesday, May 10th Alec Blair: Ulster Dialects

Bellaghy Historical Society: November 2015: Bruce Clarke: Linen Industry

Linen is one of the first fibres known to man and was widely used in ancient Israel, Egypt and Ireland.

In the case of divorce under Brehon Law, 5/6 of the flax crop went to the man but the linen yarn or cloth was split 50:50 between both parties.

In Tudor times, before the Plantation, Ireland was an exporter of linen yarn, not linen cloth.

Because of the expanding British economy, Britain decided in 1698 that Ireland would not export wool but linen: 800 million yards per year were needed, 10 million of which came from Ireland. Flax seed came from the US colonies, especially Pennsylvania – some 50/60 ships a year.

The Hugenots who settled near Lisburn grew, spun and weaved linen more efficiently.

By the 1700s, the whole process was household based. The growing of flax through to the finished bleached fabric took a year. The flax was grown in 100 days; then it was harvested, rotted,scutched, combed, spun, beetled and bleached. Cow manure or buttermilk was used in the bleaching process. It was womens’ work until it became a more valuable industry at which point men took over.  As the industry grew, the process was broken into different stages which were done by different classes of society. Beetling was the first stage to be mechanised using water harnessed machinery.

Drapers were merchants of cloth. They began buying brown cloth from the farmers and then finished the cloth for market: this is where the money was to be made. The women spinners were poorly paid while the male weavers faired better.

The late 1700s saw the arrival of cotton. Belfast was more of a cotton city than a linen city then.

1785, the Belfast Linen Hall was built.

1820- machine spinning of flax yarn became economical.

1828- the local Mulholland mill was burned down but was rebuilt as a linen mill.

1830- cotton spinning mills of Belfast converted to linen spinning. The linen industry thrived in Belfast because if the U.S.  civil war and subsequent shortage of cotton.

1900- Belfast was the linen capital of the world: it produced more than half of the linen being then produced in the world.


Bellaghy Historical Society: February 2015: Tom Mc Erlean Land Organisation in Late Medieval Douth Derry 1200 – 1609

Townlands are a legacy of pre-1600 and there are 1300 of them on Co. Derry alone, with 61,402 in all of Ireland. Most consist of  200-400 acres. The townland was the basic unit of administration and landholding.

In Ulster, 16 townands made up a ballybetagh. Each ballybetagh was divided in four. Each of the four units were four ballyboes. Each ballyboe was the equivalent of a townland.

The Baroney of Loghlinsholin (lough of the island of the O’Lins) consists of four territories/lordships. Each territory consisted of a number of ballybetaghs.

In the early medieval landscape there were ring forts or raths, homesteads of the townland owner, which had one or two houses and outhouses. Some raths had round ditches – a status symbol and defence against cattle raiding, e.g., Dunclady, a royal site, has three ditches and Tullyheron Fort, Maghera, which has two ditches.

In Ulster, crannógs were popular from the 5th to the 16th century and were for kings or those of high status, e.g., ballymacpeake Upper.

The Gaelic lordship- O’Neills, Mac Mahons, Maguires, O’Donnells, Mc sweenys, O’Boyles, O’Dohertys…had very little Anglo-Norman influence until 1609.

The agricultural system was mixed: wheat, barley, oats, cows (Kerry and Hexter) (used for milk and for currency), pigs and sheep. In South Derry, pigs (which thrived on acorns) were second to sheep because of the oak woods. No hay was made in the summer but the low-lying grass was preserved for winter use and mountain pastures were used instead. Booleying- boys went with the cattle to the mountains Easter – October.

The Nine years War, 1594-1603 saw the end of the old Gaelic system.

1607-Flight of the Earls


The 1609 Bodley Maps showing the townlands and territories within the Baroney of Loghinsholin was compiled after the Flight of the Earls by asking old men in each area to orally describe where they lived.

1613-Charter of the London Companies


Bellaghy Historical Society: Thomas Mc Erlean Church Island. January 2015

Located on Lough Beg, Church Island, or Inis Taoide, consists of seven acres.

It’s patron saint is Taoide or Thaddews (var. Tadhg). His feast day is 7th of September. There would have been relics of him on the island and pilgrims would have crossed the water for up to eight days before the feast day to get a rub of the relic. The Ordnance Survey 1836 has a drawing of pilgrims going to the island for cures: there is a “bollán” or stone with an indentation where water gathers which was said to have miraculous properties- it is still venerated. People in pagan times worshipped stone, water and trees. On Church Island, pilgrims with eye infections or warts ( in the 18th and 19th centuries, turf fires would have caused eye infections) would have dipped a rag in the water and hang it on the rag tree-it is still done.Nowadays, pilgrims make the twenty minute walk across the marshy ground to the island on the first Sunday of September.

In the 8th and 9th centuries estates belonging to monasteries took up 1/3 to 1/4 of the landscape. There would have been a monastic settlement on Church Island. It would have had it’s own tide mill, a scriptorium- where biblcal works were written and possibly a round tower. There may have been a high cross on the island but it would have been expensive  to commission masons.

Church Island has never been excavated. There is no evidence that the Vikings were ever on the island but the Maghera and Conor monasteries were raided in 832 and 820s, respectively.

There is a double border quay and infill which dates to the 7th/8th century on the western side of the island. There are also traces of a road up from the quay.

In the Annals of Ulster, Gilla Mo-Chonna Ua records the plundering of Inis Taoide by the Ulaid where Mac Lochlainn, son of the High King of Aileach was slain. (Kings often kept valuables in monasteries).

The Mulhollands of Tamlaghtduff were keepers of  St. Patrick’s Bell from the 9th/10th century on which was kept as a relic  on the island.

The 12th century saw the reform of monastical estates where half was given to the church and half to the monastery. The Scullion family claimed origin to St. Taoide and were let stay on the lands. The monastic church became the parish church. The church on Church Island is quite large and is on the site of several earlier wooden ones. The main door is to the south and not the west as would have been more usual. The church could have accommodated 3-400 hundred people. Niches on either side of the altar held cruets. The western window shone light on the altar. The large and small stoned walls are well limed.

Bishop Hervey had the church tower, which is identical to that at the Church of Ireland Church in Bellaghy, built in 1788. Michael Keenan was the builder and Shanahan the architect.

There are no visible graves within the church. The graves outside are to the west, near the altar!, where members of the Scullion (nearest the altar), Diamond and Keenan families are buried. Graves of the 18th century lie on top of those of the 6th century. In 1985, the South Derry Historical Journal published a map of the graveyard indicating 51 graves. There were burials on the island up until the 1950s.

There was a refuge church in case of bad weather at Aughnaheglish- on the mainland.

1306- saw the introduction of Papal Taxation and Church Island was subject to this.

1397- Archbishop Colton’s visit to the island.

1600s- with the Ulster Plantation, the island and it’s monastery were abandoned.

Because of the Bann drainage Scheme, Church Island is no longer an island.

During World War 2, 15/15/42, a plane crashed into the steeple.

Today, the island is cattle-ridden, especially at the “bollán” area. The vegetation is out of control-tree roots are damaging the archaeology and general fabric of the church.

The NIEA is charged with maintenance of built heritage.

Tom Mc Erlean, Maritime Archaeologist, will undertake a survey of Church Island as part of a project funded by The Lough Neagh Partnership.


Anne Casement: The Buildings of Garron Tower

Anne Casement opened the new season with an informative talk on the buildings of Garron Tower.

Frances Anne Tempest, second wife of Charles Stuart, Marquis of Londonderry, built the castle at Garron Tower 1848-1850, as a summer residence, with monies left to her by her mother, Countess of Antrim.

Plans were drawn by Louis Bouliam and the builder/architect was Charles Campbell and his son William.

The site of the castle is in the townland of Dunmor. The lands had been leased to the MacAllister brothers. There were seven houses and 50 people cleared to make way for the castle. The MacAllisters were compensated with £400 to invest in land elsewhere. The families got work on the building site and in the castle/on the estate, once finished.

The famine hit north Antrim by 1845 – the Marquis established a local relief committee; distributed grains and vegetable seeds.

Work on the castle began in 1848. 15 men were employed. The weekly wage bill was £40. By 1850, 84 men were employed.
Most of the materials – slate, glass, brick, paint, alabaster – were sent to site by sea. Basalt from Glenarm Quarry was used, it was expensive to cut and shape. Sand for mortar came from a local beach owned by a Mr. Turnley. Lime was burnt in a kiln on site. Fuel for the kiln was coal from Glasgow.

1849 – additions such as the service yard and alterations were made.
– there was a partial collapse of the rampart during a sever storm. It was rebuilt with stone arches, not earth.
– a site was found for an ice house in a mound of earth moved for the moat at a cost of £114. It is still there.
1850 – The builder C. Campbell died and John Fitzsimons took over.
– a grotto was built for picnics in an existing cave, fitted with benches, decorated with shells.
1850 – house warming, including a 21 gun salute with the canons for the Lieutenant of Ireland.
1850-52: the public road (1.5km) was moved westwards in two stages to put distance between it and the castle’s windows. The cost was £470 plus £50 for digging up the old road.
1852 – a new ballroom was planned at a cost of £1283 plus £97 for panelling.
– 3 wrought iron gates were built at a cost of £141. The materials came from England.
1853 – contract with Kirkwood to build waterworks at a cost of £422.
1859 – Langon and Lynn, architects, drew up plans for a new stable block at £2000.

5 acres of gardens – formal gardens, rose gardens, fish pond, glass houses (for exotic fruits), walks and drives were developed.
Local people worked as paid domestics in the castle, in the gardens, in the limeworks (established by Lord Londonderry) in Carnlough.
Annual wages bills came to £72 in 1850; £396 in 1853.
Local fishermen and farmers sold their goods and services to the castle.
Bathing lodges and the hotel, The Londonerry Arms, were established by Lady Londonderry.

1865 – Lady Londerry died and left Garron Tower in trust for her grandson, then aged 3.
1887 – the castle was furnished to let.
1899- it was developed into a hotel with golf course by Henry O’Neill. He later converted the stables to provide accommodation at a cheaper rate.
World War 2 saw the end of the hotel.

1957 – St. Mac Nissi’s school was established. It is now known as St. Killian’s.

Programme of Events 2014 – 2015

Bellaghy Historical Society  2014-2015

October, Tuesday 14th
Jim Winters – Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt: 300 years

November, Tuesday 11th 
Clive Scoular – The Road to the Somme

December, Tuesday 9th
T.P. Hickson – An Evening of Song

January, Tuesday 13th 
Thomas Mc Erlean – Church Island

February, Tuesday 10th 
Thomas Mc Erlean – Gaelic Estates in Medieval South Derry

March, Tuesday 10th
Clive Scoular – The Freemantle Mission

April, Tuesday 14th 

Digital Film Archive – Ireland 1912-1915

May, Tuesday 12th 
George Mc Intyre – Local Photographs: Then and Now

All talks to commence at 8pm, Old School Centre, Castle St., Bellaghy.

Bellaghy Historical Society Programme 2014-2015

October, Tuesday 14th
Jim WInters – Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt:300 Years

November, Tuesday 11th      
Clive Scoular – The Road to the Somme

December, Tuesday 9th  
T.P. Hickson – An Evening of Song

January, Tuesday 13th
Thomas Mc Erlean – Church Island

February, Tuesday 10th                            
Thomas Mc Erlean – Gaelic Estates in Medieval South Derry

March, Tuesday 10th
Clive Scoular – The Freemantle Mission

April, Tuesday 14th                
Digital Film Archive – Ireland 1912-1915

May, Tuesday 12th  
George Mc Intyre – Local Photographs: Then and Now

Bellaghy Historical Society – October 2014

A.G.M and

The Chairman, Seamus McErlean, welcomed members to the first meeting of the new
season, and to the A.G.M. The Treasurer reported on the financial position of the Society,
The Chairman drew membersʼ attention to the Societyʼs website (which is almost ready) address and
new e-mail address.
He then introduced the speaker, Jim Winters and asked him to preside over the election of
Chairman, Seamus McErlean, proposed by Mary Breslin, seconded by Patricia Lowry.
Vice-Chairman, Pat Brenann, proposed by Seamus McErlean, seconded by Eamon
Secretary, Ciara Nic Gabhann, proposed by George McIntyre, seconded by Eamon
Treasurer, Patricia Henry, proposed by Isobel Beattie, Seconded by George McIntyre.
Committee, patricia Lowry, Mary Breslin, Sam Overend, Dermot Keenan, Ena hammond,
margaret Evans, george McIntyre, Philomena Scullion, Peter McKenna-re-elected en-bloc,
proposed by Tony McGurk and seconded by Kathleen Kearney.
There followed an interesting talk by Jim Winters on the history of the Rainey Endowed
School, Magherafelt-Hugh Rainey wrote his will 1707 (and died shortly afterwards), in
which he stipulated the ethos of the school to be set up for poor Presbyterian boys (8 new
students to be admitted each year), where each graduating boy would be given 50
shillings and a new suit. He even stipulated the layout and furnishings for the kitchen and
bedrooms; what was to be spent on meat, clothes, apprentice fees; profile of teachers, etc.
By 1758, the money had run out. The school closed for a few years for “renovations” as
disagreements between the (C. of I) Archbishop of Armagh and William Ashe Rainey over
the governance of the school were insolvable.
Over the 100 years, the Raineys sold off various lots of land and property to settle debts.
1849, the school came under the control of the Rector of Magherafelt, the Rev. Charles
King Irvine. The Salters of London gave assistance in exchange for property and land.
1886, the Salters its interest in Derry except for its connection with the Rainey-it continued
to give £66 each year. This connection continues to this day: The Salters Cup is awarded
each year; the head boy and head girl and headmaster attend the Salters A.G.M. in
London each year.
Having survived the Williamite Wars, the Famine, Home Rule, Partition, World Wars 1 & 2
and the Troubles, there are now 725 boys and girls attending the Rainey Endowed

Bellaghy Historical Society – May 2014

TUESDAY 13th, MAY 2014
Real name, William James McBride (he has a brother John), born 1940, the second youngest of five on
a farm in Moneyglass. His father died in 1944. The family kept the farm.
He helped milk the cows before school, walked three miles to school at Dineen. Children of all religions attended that school. The clergymen of the different churches visited the school.
He recalled some boring jobs like pumping water from the long-armed pump in the yard.
He remembered the hayricks in the fields; haymaking; work horses – there were no tractors.
He helped sow flax (lint), look after it, pull thistles – there were no sprays then; pull (not cut) the flax, put it in the dam with stones on it, filled it with water – how it stank! They would then lift the stones, lift the flax and spread it on the field the same day – as it dried on one side, it was turned with sticks; it was then taken to the mills where it was spun/carded into linen.
Farming then was very labour intensive.
It would take two horses and plough two weeks to work a 6 acre field!
Lunch was bread and a pint of buttermilk.
The scythe was used to reap the corn; a stoop of corn was made of 4 sheaths.
If work had to be done on Sunday, cutting corn, feeding hens, milking cows, it was done after midnight, so as to observe the Sabbath!
Potatoes were gathered with the help of Tony Mc Coyʼs father! They were taken out of school for this job – a job which Willie hated! The neighbours were good to each other-helping to gather the potatoes, thrash the corn…
Fr. Mullen gave great advice and help.
All farmers killed their own pigs – the pig man came to do it. His mother would give the livers to the neighbours.
A lorry would collect eggs – the egg-man would give groceries as payment.
The fish-man from Toome would call.
Tillage payment was made to the RIC.
During winter, they would sit around the fire. They never had much money but always had good food.
1950s saw big changes as the family bought a tractor and a car.
Once a year, he would go to Portrush with half a crown in his pocket.
Sport didnʼt feature in his earlier years and there was no sport in his family. His first sport was pole-vaulting. He taught himself using the roost in the hen house and bags of sand! He won medals at Ulster Schools level -clearing 9ʻ9ʼʼ in his second year in competition. He travelled to the finals by train from Ballymena to Belfast, then trolley bus to City Hall and another to Cherryvale Grounds – with his own 12ft long pole!
At 18 years of age, he played rugby in his last year at school. He then applied for a job at the bank.
He played a few games for Randalstown – he would cycle there. They had to lift cowpats & sheeps droppings from the field (given to the club by Lord OʼNeill) before each game – except when playing a  Belfast side!
He played with Ballymena all his sporting life. The changing rooms (Nissan huts) had showers but if they were frozen, they would wash in the Braid river!
One of the older Ballymena members told him how to cope with disappointment, how to be successful,…
Farming stood to him – it gave him physical and mental strength. He never wanted to be second best, but the best. When he was with the Ulster team, he wanted to go for the Irish trials & the Irish team; when he achieved that, he wanted to be on the Lions team – he was in South Africa for 4 months, 1962.
His mother attended one game; his brothers, farmers, attended 2/3 games.
Travel and rugby broadened his mind and he learned a lot about life and how to get the best out of people -and he brought that to banking.
1971 – he transferred (bank) from Coleraine to Belfast.
He has lived in Ballyclare for 40 years. He loves to keep busy – he keeps chickens and gardens three acres there. He is often asked to travel /cruise all over the world with sporting groups; and is often asked to speak at functions.

Bellaghy Historical Society – January 2014

This was a particularly interesting talk on the origin of place-names, with special
references to local-place names. Dr. Toner of Queenʼs University, Belfast, gave an indepth
analysis of local place-names.
He published a book as part of the Place-Names of Northern Ireland Project, 1996-Volume
V, County Derry 1: The Moyola Valley.
Generally, places are named according to their position within the landscape/local
topography; after family names; in Gaelic and with Anglicised versions.
Dr. Toner started with the Baroney of Loughinsholin; parishes within that Baroney and then
towns, villages, townlands, fields, etc.
There was an input from the audience in regard to very local place-names.