The November meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society was addressed by Dr. Dermot Devlin of Magherafelt and the N.U.U. on the subject of “The Bell of the Testament” – the bell in question being the bell of St. Patrick on which oaths were sworn at one time and which is now in the National Museum in Dublin.
Dr. Devlin told his audience that it is mentioned in the Annals of Ulster as early as the year 521. St. Patrick set up a Diocesan system of government in the church at a time when there was great competition for supremacy between Derry and Armagh.
Thereafter the monastic system prevailed for many years when the monasteries were not only a source of religion but of teaching and healing also. In the eleventh century there was even a woman bishop, St. Trea, who ruled a monastic church. The family of Mulholland was very important in early times and it was Henry Mulholland who when dying, told a Mclean where to find the bell of St.Patrick which he had hidden.
History does not give Irish scholars of this time enough credit for their erudition and Dr. Devlin stated that the two main languages in Ireland at that time were Latin and Irish. Scribes who were involved in the work of writing a Latin version of the Bible often wrote very interesting and touching notes in the margins in Irish. The Mallons were also a very important family and when deprived of their land and sent ” to Hell or Connaught” one of them wrote a very forgiving poem in Irish pointing out that spiritual values were more precious than possessions.
Dr. Devlin’s talk was greatly enjoyed by his large audience and he was thanked by the Chairperson Mrs Mary Breslin. She also reminded members of the Society’s book “Life in the Past” which would make a very acceptable Christmas present for relatives now living in other countries and which is on sale at The Bawn, the Vivo and Costcutter supermarkets in Bellaghy, at The Bridewell, O’Briens and Andrews in Magherafelt and at the Monastery in Portglenone. She reminded members that the speaker at the December meeting would be Mr. Alec Blair on his very informative and amusing topic ” Ulster Dialects”.